7 Sep
Arizona, August, 2010, summer monsoon season was upon us, not only was it hot, but humid as well with dew point readings very high. The National Weather Service posted excessive heat warnings and excessive ozone warnings almost daily. Weather was not fit for fish or fly-fisherman. Fishing may best be described as a sweat-filled quest for sporadic fish. Due to the heat and other factors, I was only able to average 2 ½ days a week of fishing.
I knew that the size of any species caught would be getting smaller and smaller as the heat grew worse. So, to compensate, I adjusted my tackle accordingly. My equipment for the urban lakes was a 6 foot ultra-lite Fenwick Ferrulite Rod ( 2 5/8 grams), a Panther-Martin # 63 lite reel, Cortland 444 floating 5 weight double taper line and at least a 9 foot leader ending in an 8X tippet. In addition, I finished field testing a new rod. The review will be posted shortly.
At least in the coming weeks, I can look forward to temperatures below 100 degrees and hopefully better fishing. I hope the following fishing journal encourages you to beat the heat and wet a fly.  

Veterans Oasis Lake, August 29th seeing a distant hot air balloon stirs memories of cooler temperatures.

LOWER SALT RIVER, Maricopa County, AZ

With the heat and humidity, tubing pressure was great on the Lower Salt. As such, I usually ended my mornings of fishing by 10:30 or 11:00 am. Fishing was sporadic at best. Catches were mainly bluegill and small bass. There was dry fly action to be found in the early morning, particularly between the hours of 5:30 and 6:30. The two patterns that produced were a # 16 Adams Irresistible and a # 16 Purple Haze (parachute style hackle). Fishing conditions was so difficult that I often drafted my dog Chloe, a fish-finding Min-pin, to act as a guide.

Chloe helps locate fish on the Lower Salt River.

The deviation in water flows were less dramatic than in July, but there was an occasional spike or two. Here is the August water flow chart for August obtained from WWW.Watershedmonitor.Com.

Lower Salt River water flows for August, 2010.

My equipment list for the Lower Salt generally included longer rods. I used either a 7 ½ foot Cortland Pro-Crest or an 8 foot Fenwick Ferrulite. I also interspersed a 9 foot rod that I was field testing. With all three rods I used a Cortland Pro-Crest reel throwing a # 6 floating weight forward line. My leader was always 9 foot ending in an 8X tippet.

On the Lower Salt River wearing the official Fly-fishing Dojo logo T-shirt.


Many of the people I have met while fishing the Arizona Urban Lake Program are surprised to see a fly-fisherman. Most people that I encounter fishing these lakes are bait fisherman and a few make use of artificial lures. The majority find a spot on a lake, set up shop and generally spend most of their time fishing in that one spot. They may fish in another spot or two before calling it a day.

My SUMMER tactic for the urban lake program is to cover as much water as possible. It is a tactic that goes back to my days of tournament bass fishing. During those days I would cover water fast with either a spinner bait or a crank bait until fish were found and then fish productive water slowly. Applying that concept to fly-fishing, I quickly cover water with a double set-up of wet flies and nymphs to find fish.

Patch from my time as a member of the Bassing America Grand National Tournament Circuit.

Generally, once at my desired lake, I fish my “honey-holes” first and begin to make my way around the lake. In this manner, I can cover the entire shoreline of a lake in about 1 to 1 ¼ hours. It is “aerobic fly-fishing”. During this stage I am looking for bluegill. If I find that bluegill are present, then I concentrate my fishing for any bass that are present. I especially concentrate around the reeds that are found in the lakes, sub surface vegetation and the moving water found at the point at which the lake is filled via the recharge system. The goal is to find an catch a few bluegill. The thrashing of the caught fish excites the remaining bluegill and usually lures a bass or two out from within the reeds. Then the trick is to entice the bass to the fly.

VETERAN’S OASIS PARK LAKE, Chandler, AZ (See Note # 1)

As my “go-to” fishing location, this lake still produced, but it took some work. Bluegill were always plentiful and eager to take a fly, including a few dry flies. As the heat increased throughout the month, the bluegill provided the only tug on my line. Early in the month, average size bass could be seduced into taking a variety of flies ranging from size 14 Woolly Buggers, # 14 Tellico nymphs, size 16 Ju-ju Bee nymphs and wet flies in the Adams, Blue Dun and March brown patterns in size 14.

August 4th an average size bass on a # 14 Woolly Bugger.

As the month progressed, lake levels fell and the size of bass taken dramatically decreased.

Veterans Oasis Park Lake levels by August 17th were low.

By 7:15 most mornings, I was already soaked with sweat from walking the lake looking for first bluegills and then the bass that hopefully were within the same location. On the ultra-lite equipment and tippet, even small fish made the hot mornings semi-bearable.

A small bass poses with the Fly Fishing Dojo logo

WATER RANCH LAKE, Gilbert, AZ (See Note # 1)

Water and fishing conditions on this lake were generally like the conditions at Veterans Oasis Park. I will note that the bluegills found at Water Ranch tended to be more aggressive. On a few occasions, I actually landed doubles. Admittedly, the fish were small, but again with morning temperatures skirting triple digits, relatively high humidity and ultra-lite equipment, even a double of small bluegill are fulfilling. Hey look at it this way, it beats sitting home.

Small bass on a # 16 Adams Irresistible Dry Fly fished close to the reeds.

One highlight of my fishing at Water Ranch is looking for the large Koi that inhabits this lake. This Koi, which is well over 24 inches is a bit of an urban legend. I nicknamed the Koi “Oishi” after the leader of the rebellion by the 47 Ronin.

Water Ranch Lake. The urban legend on film - a rare photo of the Koi I call “Oishi”.

Another highlight of my fishing was meeting the noted author, Al Schneider. Al is another former New Jersey resident who found his way out west to Arizona. He would come by often and we would talk a bit as I fished. One day he surprised my with a signed copy of his breakout book, There’s A Better Place. Thanks Al. It is definitely a recommended read.

Many thanks, Al. See you next week.


I found about this lake from a friend. It is the newest park and lake constructed. It was finished in or around December 2009. My understanding is that it will be part of the Arizona Urban Fishing Program. There are two man-made lakes at the park. Both are relatively small. These lakes differ from the other Urban lakes that I fish. The lakes mentioned above have a natural bottom and mostly natural shoreline with a portion being concrete walkway and access points. The lake in Discovery Park appears to have a concrete bottom. On the two visits to this lake, I was able to temp small bass into taking a fly. Like a fine wine, fishing and size should improve with aging.

Small bass on a # 16 Wet March Brown.

Until my September report, I hope you continue to enjoy the articles I post on this Blog. Keep your flies in the water.

Sensei John


1. These lakes are part of the Arizona Urban Fishing Program. The program which provides man-made fishing lakes in close proximity to major population centers is celebrating its 25th anniversary.

Please feel free to shop unique Fly Fishing Dojo logo wear by clicking on the “SHOP” tab at the top of this page.

Please feel free to view my other blog dedicated to exploring martial arts ideology and concepts as they can be applied to daily life. You may visit the blog at WWW.SenseiJohn.Wordpress.Com.


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