Shortly after moving to Payson, while fishing at Green Valley Lake, a guy with a Payson Flycasters Club hat and a Trout Unlimited shirt struck up a conversation with me. Besides inviting me to the next Gila Trout Chapter of Trout Unlimited/Payson Flycasters Club (GTTU/PFC) monthly meeting, he gave me a back-handed compliment for being a pretty good fly caster, even if I was a lefty from Pennsylvania. That was my introduction to Tom Herman, Payson Flycasters Club co-president.
I have often witnessed his generosity and willingness to give fellow fly fishers the flies that are working well for him, and even showing folks how to tie favorite fly patterns.
That camaraderie was certainly my initial attraction to joining GTTU/PFC. I learned information about the lakes and streams in Rim Country, and was happy to find a group with similar fishing interests.
What I hadn’t realized when I joined was that the members do so much more than fish. When one hears of Trout Unlimited, perhaps the natural assumption is that all this group cares about is trout, but the vision statement of Trout Unlimited shows their work extends beyond trout.
It reads: “For communities across America to engage in the work of repairing and renewing the rivers, streams and other waters on which we all depend.”
While our members like to fish, and trout are one of our favorite fish to catch, in our chapter, many members spend more time doing a great deal of community work than actually fishing.
Our members have been involved in several projects over the years to improve the streams in Rim Country. We helped with the funding for the stream and bank improvements on the East Verde River at Flowing Springs, 2nd Crossing, 3rd Crossing, and the Upper East Verde near Washington Park.
We also planted willow saplings to provide cover for trout at 2nd and 3rd Crossing, and were part of the team of volunteers that helped AZGFD, USFS and Natural Channel Design install four stream improvement chevrons in the Upper East Verde to enhance the habitat in a barren rock ledge section of the creek that now provides wonderful cover for trout.
Trout Unlimited volunteers have assisted on projects on several other Rim Country streams as well.
Lower Canyon Creek was devastated by the Rodeo-Chediski wildfire. The tremendous run-off from that fire required extensive stream improvement work that we helped provide. A part of that project also included the construction of enclosures to reduce the impact of elk browsing on the recovering vegetation. When we helped remove the fencing a couple years ago, the willows and other stream vegetation growth are now thick enough to withstand elk browsing. These tracts now provide shade to large sections of the creek that cool the water to improve conditions for trout.
Our chapter has purchased and helped install several stream temperature monitors that AZGFD uses to assess stream temperature trends on several streams throughout the year. With the help of the Payson Water Department, we also put temperature monitors in the Green Valley Lakes to help confirm the best window to stock trout in all three lakes.
You might have noticed the orange buoys in Green Valley Lake 3. The buoys mark the site of fish structures. In all, 15 were deployed by the Payson Water Department and paid for with a grant to improve the lake. The construction of those fish structures was accomplished by students in the after school fly fishing classes at Julia Randall Elementary School and Rim Country Middle School taught by members of GTTU/PFC. Chilled fish tanks provided by our chapter as part of the Trout in the Classroom program allow children in schools in Rim Country, on a rotating basis, to raise rainbow trout from eggs provided by AZGFD throughout the school year. This helps children understand the importance of cold, clean water for trout and allows teachers to use this hands-on science activity to engage children in a variety of content areas.
Involvement and leadership with the 4FRI stakeholders group and the C.C. Cragin watershed protection efforts are an important contribution that our volunteers make to help improve the health of our forests, minimize wildfire danger, and enhance watersheds in the area.
Our members provide fly fishing instruction through the Payson Parks and Recreation Department three or four times a year for anyone wanting to learn how to fly fish. One of our activities that we are honored to host, and look forward to usually twice a year, is working with Project Healing Waters (PHW) veterans who come up for coffee and doughnuts, a morning of fishing with our members at Green Valley Lake, and a lunch that we provide. Our next PHW event is coming up in November.
To say that the members of the Gila Trout Chapter of TU are excited about the Canyon Creek Gila Trout Propagation Program does not begin to capture our enthusiasm for the tremendous work that is being accomplished by AZGFD to bring recreational fishing for Gila trout to Rim Country waters for all anglers to enjoy. We, along with other fly fishing clubs and TU chapters in the state, have helped raise over $8,000 to support this program. Our chapter recently commissioned a painting of a Gila trout by local artist Roxanne Almblade, and intends to sell prints of her beautiful Gila trout painting to benefit the Canyon Creek Hatchery Gila Trout program.
The week of Sept. 25 through Oct. 2 is recognized by Trout Unlimited as Trout Week. It is an opportunity for non-members to learn about Trout Unlimited.
A regular activity of our members is to engage in clean-up of Rim Country lakes and streams. Our next clean-up is scheduled for Tuesday, Sept. 28 to coincide with Trout Week. We intend to do some clean-up and then some fishing on Tonto Creek. We will meet at the Home Depot parking lot by the roundabout exit at 1 p.m. We would love to have you join us and learn more about GTTU/PFC.
This would be a great opportunity to clean up a favorite trout stream, and if you haven’t fished Tonto Creek before, be sure to bring your fly rod as there will be several members happy to give you some tips to help you land a trout on a fly rod.