3 Dec

Arizona, Valley Of The Sun, November, 2010, this surely is the time of year we desert-dwellers suffer all summer for. Gone are the mornings of flicking flies to skittish bluegill and bass while flicking sweat from your brow. No longer is it necessary to pack almost a gallon of water to survive few hours of fishing. With pre-dawn temperatures now in the low thirties, an extra layer of clothing has replaced a slathering layer of 45+ sunblock. And the fish we offer our feathery flies to? Ah, let’s get to those fish, but first an announcement.

Please see the “Video & Media” page for videos on “Thanksgiving on The Lower Salt River” and “An Homage To The Arizona Urban Lakes.”

Now, as I sit in the pre-dawn hours, outside in my yard, sipping a steaming cup of coffee, under a starry sky dominated by The Big Dipper and Orion, let me compose and type the words that will tell you about the fish I came to catch & release this past month. Incidentally, to facilitate your sensation of the winter season, we have added a falling snow effect to this weblog – yes, it can “snow” in the cyber-Arizona-desert. Sit back, stay warm and enjoy.

PLEASE NOTE: Unless otherwise indicated, all fish were safely released after being photographed.

LOWER SALT RIVER, Tonto National Forest, AZ

With drastically decreased water levels, the Lower Salt River is again the province of fisherman. Used and somewhat abused by river tubers, she offers a diminished aspect of herself to those that ply her waters for a more etherial pleasure, a sense of communing with her natural beauty. She is again a mistress, once prostituted, but again restored to her quasi-virginal self.

My joy in fishing the Lower Salt River is the total emersion in a natural environment that is to be found. Though I do fish the more popular areas, I enjoy taking long hikes down her meandering banks in search of prestine waters unknown to others. Many days I hiked as much as I fished.

Hiking, I mean fly fishing, along Coon Bluff.

As such,when I make reference to a location, it is for informational purposes. More often than not, the reference is to the recreation area where the official FLY FISHING DOJO vehicle was parked rather than a specific location fished.

Phon D. Sutton Recreation Area is always a popular location and saw much action. The various offshoots from the main river were very productive early in the month. As water flows decreased many of the productive areas no longer contained water; let alone fish.

As referred to in our Thanksgiving Video, 4 days after this fish was released, its once aquatic home was a dry bed.

The area around Coon Bluff offered a challenge to finding sufficient water for fish. I did find one little guy sulking in only about five inches of water that was more than happy to be “introduced” to a nymph named Bloody Mary.

Once skulking, this little guy meets a nymph named "Bloody Mary."

I also came across an unbelievable sight on November 13th when I was hiking, I mean fly fishing, this stretch of water. I came across a deep pool with ultra clear water. In its depths were, at least, twenty-five large catfish with literally hundreds of fry about five inches long. Surely, a good omen of a healthy river and good cat fishing for the summer of 2011.

The area of Sheep Crossing provided a few memorable days on the river. This particular parking area was closed on the days I was on a the River. To access this area, I parked at the Blue Point Recreation Area and hiked down and across the river.

Largemouth bass were particularly susceptible to # 10 Sparkle Shad Streamer with a # 14 Shrimp as a dropper. The Sheep Crossing Recreation Area is covered in our Thanksgiving Day Video, a link is available on the “Video & Media” Page above.

Good fishing was also had at the Water User’s Recreation Area. This area contains two large pools that hold Largemouth Bass on a consistent basis and a smattering of Rainbow Trout. More often than not one must approach the shoreline carefully as fish are often in the deep water weeds just a few feet from shore. Stealth and caution is the catch phrase for fishing this stretch of river. My fly of preference when casting to these finicky fish is either a # 10 Lite Brite Zonker streamer, # 10 Beadhead Sparkle Olive or Claret Wooly Bugger or a # 10 Sparkle Shad Streamer. All would have a # 14 Bloody Mary as a dropper. Fish did not necessarily have a preference as to the streamer or dropper; they took the Bloody Mary as often as the streamer.

Below is the water flow chart for the Lower Salt River for the month of October from WWW.Watershedmonitor.Com.

The river flow chart looks like a medical monitor that isn't good for the patient.


I would hazard a guess that, by far, the Urban Lake System is the most popular and consistently utilized resource in the Arizona Fishing System. With the stocking of Colorado farm-raised trout that first occurred the week of November 15th, the Urban System again basks in its popular status. As well as offering the chance to hook a magnificent shimmering mass of rainbow trout, the system recognizes a desire of fisherman to (hopefully) selectively harvest these fish.

According to the AZ Fish & Game 2010 Urban Fishing Program booklet, “(Rainbow) Trout can not reproduce in lakes.” (See Endnote # 1). On December 1st, I happened to chat with an AZ F & G representative and asked about the trout’s inability to reproduce in the Urban lake System. Such inability, WITHIN THE URBAN SYSTEM, stems from the rainbow trout’s inability to tolerate the heat of the summer months, an insufficient quantity of insect forage and predation of any fry by other species, notably the largemouth bass. It was also noted that more and more angler’s seemed to rely on these trout as a food source. This is understandable during such economic times (a result of the recent census was the revelation that Arizona is the second poorest state in the Nation, Mississippi is number one). Notwithstanding an “economical meal”, harvesting these rainbows should still be guided by prudence; harvest what you will immediate consume. There is a daily bag limit of 4 trout in urban lakes, 2 trout in urban ponds for adults and unlicensed juveniles under age fourteen may only keep one-half of the bag limit. (See Endnote # 2).  My personal preference is to harvest one rainbow for my supper and release the rest for others to enjoy.

Of the five rainbow trout caught, one was harvested for supper.

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

I fish the Urban Lakes almost daily. Of the various urban lakes, this one is my favorite. It not only seems to readily yield the cacophony of fish that dwell in its waters, it offers a very pleasing aesthetic sense of beauty. My favorite area to fish is adjacent to the inflow from the recharge lake; particularly at dusk. The sun sets directly across the lake painting the sky with a palate of colors derived and mixed from deep within the cosmos. While the sky is painted by an unseen hand, a symphony of relaxing sound is played from the water that cascades down the rocks.

The sole interruption of this cosmic display is the sudden, heart-stopping, soul-penetrating splash of water as a rainbow or a largemouth bass breaks the water’s surface after having dined on the feathery entree cast from the fly rod held in my unworthy hand.

My favorite offering at this location usually involves a Bloody Mary Nymph, a Rainbow Warrior Nymph or a Beadhead Rooks Blueberry Nymph, all in size 14 or 16.

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

This lake also envelopes one with a pleasing natural aesthetic. As the shoreline is smaller than Veteran’s Oasis Lake, I like to cover a lot of ground; often fishing while walking. In this manner I can cover a lot of water. Invariably I settle in either around one of several reed-lined banks or at the point where recharge water enters the lake.

During the month there were regular catches of Bluegill (they revert me back to my childhood days & will always put a smile on my face) and small largemouth bass. Both species patiently biding their time by eating themselves to adult size; waiting for summer when they will once again dominate the lakes.

A small bass on a # 12 Claret Wooly Bugger.

On one memorable day, I was startled out of my fly fishing revery by a large bird of prey (too quick for me to identify) that dive-bombed the middle of the lake and erupted from the water to fly off with a fish in its talons. What a sight!

RED MOUNTAIN LAKE, Mesa, AZ (See Endnote # 1)

I was only able to fish this lake twice in November. The # 10 Lite Brite Zonker with a # 14 Bloody Mary dropper sporadically produced a small sized largemouth bass.

A # 14 Bloody Mary nymph seduced this little guy.

Otherwise fishing, as I experienced it, was slow. These words perhaps do not do this lake justice, as I always enjoyed being at this lake. Perhaps, I simply need to visit it more frequently so as to learn its secrets.


Due to time constraints, I was unable to visit some of the other lakes that were addressed in fishing reports in the past. I regret this in so far as some of these lakes provided a memorable repast to the summer heat. I think that with the cooler temperatures, shorter days and the need to earn my financial keep, I fished lakes that are closer to home during the week and preferred to spend my weekends answering the Syren’s call of my sweetly seductive mistress named the Lower Salt River.

Again, please feel free to view my first two video offering by clicking on the “Video & Media”page tab above. I hope to increase my video, editing and voice-over skills so as to offer more enticing and enjoyable videos. I also hope to be able to synchronize the video camera with some of the larger fish caught; but that is a story for another day.

Until my next submission, I hope you continue to enjoy the articles I post on this weblog. Keep your flies in the water.

Sensei John


You can follow the DAILY adventures of FLY FISHING DOJO on FACEBOOK, See the Video & Media Page for details.


  1. 2010, 25th Anniversary Urban Fishing Program booklet at page 21.
  2. Id.

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Please feel free to view my other weblog dedicated to exploring martial arts ideology and concepts as they can be applied to daily life. You may visit the weblog at WWW.SENSEIJOHN.WORDPRESS.COM.


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