Here we are at the start of October and I am thinking about big rainbow trout in Silver Creek, which is located just outside of Show Low. This year, stream conditions have changed significantly due to monsoon flows.
Silver Creek is fed by springs that maintain a constant temperature that supports trout all year. Unfortunately, the rains caused heavy flows in this watershed that resulted in substantial damage to sections of the creek.
So waters that anglers who regularly fish Silver Creek know quite well will likely look very different. There is also a lot more reed growth to contend with this year even though the Arizona Game and Fish Department has worked hard to provide angler access.
The flows were so strong that many of the trout, including some of the really large 3- to 10-pound fish, were washed out. AZGFD is busy working on stocking for the upcoming catch-and-release season that runs from Oct. 1 through March 31. During this season, only single point barbless flies or lures may be used, and no bait is permitted.
In the past, many anglers would fish the waters above the footbridge near the parking lot, while others would walk 30 to 40 minutes up the trail along the creek to the deeper upper section that typically held the larger fish.
This year anglers will do better exploring the whole creek from the footbridge to the upper section as the fish that AZGFD will be stocking will be spread throughout the entire creek. They will be stocking 700-800 two-pound trout, mostly in the 16- to 18-inch range. The department is not planning to stock any Apache trout in Silver Creek this year, and instead will stock Apache trout in other designated White Mountain streams.
A two-pound rainbow trout in Silver Creek can be a challenge under perfect conditions, but with the increased reed growth, and potentially slicker banks due to all the rain this year, bringing in a big fish could be even tougher.
Silver Creek is a stream that is fished from the bank, which is sometimes several feet above the water. The creek, especially with all of this rain, often runs muddy. Don’t let that fool you, there are a lot of trout in the water; many closer than you think.
Since you are fishing from the bank, anglers need to make some decisions before casting. Be sure that your footing is good. I always have a long-handled net, and often wear muck boots and use a wading staff even though I never go in the creek. Most critically, be sure that where you fish, you can safely net and successfully release the trout unharmed quickly.
Many times, I have seen fish or splashes from fish that are within easy casting distance, but are between reed-choked banks I know will be the first place the trout will swim. I don’t make that cast. Instead, I look for access points where I can work my trout to the net, maybe get a quick photo with the trout in the water in my net, and then a successful release.
I would suggest a 4x tippet to allow you to put a bit more muscle into the rod as you bring the fish in. This will help you reduce the time that the fish is fighting on the line. It doesn’t happen to me often, but it is quite uncomfortable sprawled on your stomach over a steep bank reviving a trout in the creek. By quickly bringing in and releasing a fish, it allows the trout to swim off in great shape.
The fly selection on Silver Creek seems to depend on the day. Sometimes it didn’t seem to matter what I offered, as the fish were very cooperative. There were other trips that I changed flies 20 or more times, searching for the fly that would turn my luck.
White San Juan worms or chamois worms in size 10-12 are often my first choice. Small dark midges in size 14-20 also work well at times. I have had success with dry flies and wooly buggers too, so be willing to change flies if what you are using isn’t working.
One of the nice aspects of fishing at Silver Creek is that other fly fishers are generally very helpful in sharing what is working for them. Just ask. Be aware that access may be more limited under these tougher stream conditions, so be sure to allow enough distance between anglers to avoid disturbing another person’s fishing.
If you haven’t fished Silver Creek before and are interested in learning the flies and the techniques, there are some slots left in the Payson Parks and Recreation Introduction to Fly Fishing class on Oct. 9. You can sign up for that class online at paysonrimcountry.com. I will be happy to show you the rig that I use, how I fish it, and some flies that I think you might want to try. The techniques we work on in this beginning class are very useful in Silver Creek.