Trout stocking on the local streams has been going on since the first week of April on the more popular waters of Tonto, Christopher, Haigler, Canyon, and the East Verde.
The health in water flow is excellent thanks to a great snowpack and frequent rains that have helped charge the aquifer. The pumps for the East Verde ran for just a few days in April and were off at this writing with the expectation of being turned on again after Memorial Day.
The smaller tributaries of the East Verde all have water flow that is actually entering the river in various locations. Cold Springs, Dude Creek, and Webber are healthier than they have been in over a decade. Without the pumps operating, the East Verde was running clean gin-clear water from the Third Crossing downstream to East Verde Estates and the Tonto Fish Hatchery has been stocking it with 9- to 11-inch rainbows for the recreational anglers.
A majority of the trout stocked in any of these waters is caught within the first three days and respond to any bait just as they would in one of the raceways at the hatchery. Those that survive the onslaught actually take on some defensive mechanisms such as fleeing at the sign of an unusual movement and develop some wild fish tendencies.
In clear water streams, which are all the creeks under the Rim, the best approach is from downstream and preferably in a crouch or kneeling position casting upstream to likely trout hideouts. Trout face upstream waiting for the next morsel to float by when they are in a feeding mood. Using a boulder or a tree trunk to hide one’s body as you cast will pay big dividends in enticing a rainbow or brown to strike your fly or spinner.
If the water is clear I might sneak a look with polarized sunglasses, which would pinpoint my next cast at an unsuspecting trout. Wild trout will flee at the first unusual motion and I correlate it to hunting elk or deer with a bow, the key is no visible motion to the target. Even a vibration of a rock moving or clumsy footwork will alarm a fish, especially one that has lived its entire life in that little creek.
Even if no fish are visible, they may be hiding in the shadow of a boulder, downed log, or a bank undercut waiting for the next meal to float by. It is important to stay hidden and cast to those locations a number of times before moving to the next spot upstream. I have often given up on a spot and made a move only to see a trout dart from one hiding spot to another.
As the trout stocking season progresses and the water flow remains good, surviving stocked trout will move up and downstream, which actually makes stream fishing much more enjoyable with the chance of catching a rainbow almost anywhere on the creek. It is an opportunity to get away from the crowds at the popular holes where the stock truck makes its weekly stops.
Equipment may vary with my preference being a 7-foot 4-weight fly rod where I can dabble a dry fly or beaded nymph and feel every motion as the trout strikes and begins his fight to get away. If a spinning rod is your cup of tea, then a 5-1/2-foot ultralight with four-pound test on an open-faced reel is the perfect combination. An underhand cast with a size 0 Mepps spinner or Panther Martin with a quick retrieve will do the trick.
It is important to remember, rattlesnakes often lurk during the summer in Arizona near water. Watch every step you take as you are rock hopping or walking in the stream to your next fishing spot.
If you are going off the beaten path, always let someone know where you are going and the approximate time of your likely return. Cell phone service is minimal, even at some of the more popular fishing holes in the Rim Country so take all the precautions necessary.
This week take a friend fishing and enjoy the great outdoors, God’s creation.