It was a normal morning that started off like every other guide trip. I was guiding Todd from Connecticut and picked him up at the Lazy Trout Motel at 7:30 am. We stopped off at Circle K for coffee and were on our way.
Todd really got to see what Arizona has to offer. On our route, we saw Bighorn Sheep, deer, and Elk. While on the road to the stream, we came upon a red tail hawk eating a kill on the side of the road. When we approached he tried to fly off but was struggling to get air and we almost hit him, I was on the brakes and he hovered about two inches off of the windshield. It was really cool to see him that close and glad I didn’t hit him. I suspect that if you kill a hawk, you might not have a good day of fishing. Once we got to the water we saw two tom turkey chasing hens.
When we arrived at the stream, there was a cardboard box in the middle of the road. I stopped and was thinking about picking it up and a man ran up waving his arms. It turns out that his battery was dead and he had been stranded down there for a couple of days. This was April and that time of year it is good to be prepared since there are very few people in the forest during the week. While we were giving him a jump, he was telling us stories about “fish as long as your leg”. He had fished lower on the stream than I was planning on going but we made a quick change and decided to fish some of the water he was talking about. It is water I have fished in the past but it had been a few years. We did a quick hike and the water was pretty flat with shallow runs. I wasn’t feeling it and suggested that we fish a few pools and then back to my original plan.
We drove upstream a bit and started fishing. We hit some good deep runs with great structure. It was tough and we went a while without anything happening. Even though Todd said he hadn’t fly fished for a year, he had some skills. We continued working the water knowing that at anytime something could happen. Fishing in the spring can be either great or terrible. The water is still cold and flows are high but we did have good “fish karma” from helping the stranded motorist so we kept a good attitude”
We came to a stretch where we were at the end of a run and the water dropped off into about three feet of water. You could see a big boulder submerged. Since Todd was coming from out of state, he didn’t want to bring his gear so I provided everything. Right before he made the cast into this pool, the drag on the large arbor reel he was using decided to malfunction. It was free spooling. I happened to say “you are going to hook into a big trout and the drag is going to fail”. Todd made a cast and got the flies to run a the edge of the rock. The indicator stopped and he thought he was stuck on the rock. If I am completely honest, I would say that I believed the same thing. I was standing a little higher up the bank and could see into the water. Todd started trying to roll his flies off the rock and I saw a big head come out. I yelled “it’s a fish”. He said “what?” and rolled slack into the line again. Once again I said “It’s a fish, a BIG fish”. At that moment the fish swam out and Todd got a good look. I knew he didn’t get a good hook set so I waded to the middle of the stream which was about hip deep. During the fight, the drag wasn’t working but Todd was able to work through it. I netted the fish and it was a 24 inch wild brown.
Todd asked me “are all the fish you have here this big”? I laughed and said “no, you just caught a fish of a lifetime. Anglers fish Arizona stream all of their life and never see anything this big”. His reply was “but you were so calm”. I told him that my job is to remain calm. If I get all crazy and excited it transfers to him and sometimes we end up losing the fish.
We headed to the truck and had a celebratory beer. Both of us were on a “big fish high” and needed to calm down a bit.
This was the only fish we had caught. There was another much smaller fish that flashed at the end of the day but that was all the action we saw. When you catch a trout like this, you don’t need to see other fish.