Tag Archives: Arizona Urban Lake Program

Arizona Urban Lake Guide Part 1

8 Feb

community fishing sign  I’ve had a few comments on my You-Tube videos asking for information on where I fish on a specific Urban Lake. The answer isn’t necessarily where I fish on any one of the Urban Lakes, but how I fish the lake. In the next few articles, I’ll try to share my techniques and hopefully make your Arizona Urban Lake fishing (now called “Community Lake Fishing”more satisfying.

Sunrise, Veteran's Oasis Lake, Chandler, AZ

Sunrise, Veteran’s Oasis Lake, Chandler, AZ

First and foremost, I loved the Arizona Urban Lake program. In fact, having relocated back to New Jersey it is probably the one thing I miss the most about living in Arizona. The Urban Lakes were my go-to fishing water. Any time I could spare even as little as an hour I would be on one of the lakes. And that is the first consideration as to how I would fish any of the lakes; time.

If I had two hours to travel and fish I would fish the Urban Lakes with a “Once-around” strategy. On days that I had three to four hours to fish (again with about and hour travel), I would either fish one of the lakes with more attention to detail or plan on fishing two of the Urban Lakes. Days where I could devote at least five hours to fishing, I would fish the “big-waters” – Lower Salt River, Canyon Lake or Apache Lake.

"Super-Moon" at Veterans Oasis Lake

“Super-Moon” at Veterans Oasis Lake

What is my “Once-around” fishing method?

As to Urban Lake selection, the three closest lakes to my home which was in San Tan Valley were: Veteran’s Oasis, Water Ranch and a small Urban Pond in Gilbert. I do not name it here as fishing pressure really put a damper on fruitful days spent there; however, those that are curious can read any of my past fishing journals and get the name. Generally speaking, these lakes were more often than not my “once-around” lakes.Additionally, depending on where my work took me, I would get some fishing in on another Urban Lake. For example, if I had to be in Mesa, I would fish Red Mountain Lake before my work. Lastly, time of day was not a factor, if my mornings started too early to fish, then I would fish at night.

Stocking Rainbows at Red Mountain Lake - see video page for more

Stocking Rainbows at Red Mountain Lake – see video page for more

Prior to fishing, I would have three fishing rods prepared and ready with all lures tied and set. My usual rod set up was;

   CIMG1161  Any species:

Fly Rod – 7-8 foot with a 5-6X tippet depending on time of year. I always start with a wet fly combination involving a streamer with a small nymph dropper fly. If fishing is super slow, I’ll change this to a small dry fly and fish bluegill instead of skunking out;

I would also pre-rig two bait casting rods. The pre-rig would depend on the species.

  CIMG3943   Largemouth Bass:

In addition to the above fly rod:

Bait caster # 1 – this will have a fast exploratory lure, usually a rattle trap in a weather appropriate color. In summer months; however, and if I’m on the water by sunrise, this rod will be outfitted with a top water proper;

Bait caster # 2 – usually with a spinnerbait or a soft plastic lure to use as a follow-up to rod number 1.

   CATFISH-3  Catfish:

In addition to the above fly rod:

Bait caster # 1: curved hook heavily weighted and baited with week old shrimp that I would salt.

Bait caster # 2: rigged for Largemouth bass to fish while my bait was in the water waiting for catfish.


chloe-fish Rainbow Trout:

In addition to the above fly rod:

Fly Rod # 2: a 7 foot fly rod with a 6X tippet with a dry fly and dropper combination. The dry fly is usually a hopper, or large ant pattern.

Spinning Rod # 1: In-line spinners

Once on the water, I start on the water as close to the parking lot as possible. I usually start with the fly rod to see if there’s any fish around. I hope for blue gill or small bass that may provide forage for larger fish. After a few casts, I’ll follow up with the rattle trap or popper. In all instances I start closest to shoreline and work my way out. After six to ten casts I move on a few feet. You MUST be careful walking the edge of the Urban Lakes as many times fish will hold close to shore and be easily spooked! In this manner I work my way around the entire lake. In most instances this takes about an hour.

To this general strategy I would add:

If I find good size fish, I’ll stay on that area longer and stay with that lure or fly. Once I feel I got what I can out of that area, I’ll resume my walk;

Based upon my experience, I have my “honey-holes” on each lake. Naturally I’ll fish them a little longer than other areas. But, the key concept is to fish as much water in the time available as possible.

If I loose confidence in any of my pre-rigged lures, I’ll change them. Circumstances may also dictate this. For example, if I’m catching small bass on a red streamer and have a chrome blue rattle trap on my bait caster, I’ll change that to something that is either red or includes red such as a “bleeding” pattern.

That basically summarizes my “Once-around” strategy for those days when I really do not have a lot of time to fish. If its one of those days when I really want to fell a tug on the line, I’ll spend the last few minutes of an outing with the fly rod playing with, catching and releasing blue gill. After all they decades of fishing, they always put a smile on my face on otherwise fish-less days.

Featured Video:

Please visit my video page for many videos on the Urban Lakes: https://flyfishingdojo.com/video-media/

In part two of this Urban Lake series, I’ll review my strategy for days that I can more time fishing the Urban Lakes. Until then, “Tight lines.”

Sensei John

Sensei John Szmitkowski

© Copyright 2017 Issho Productions & John Szmitkowski, all rights reserved.

sunsu-cactus   You may wish to view my martial arts blog at https://senseijohn.me



9 Jan

New videos released this month:

The following videos were released during this month. Convenient links are provided below. Hereafter, the links will be archived on the “Video & Media” Page.

  1. Sanchin Kata For Fly Fisherman. Link: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3ncZJ0s0HNI
  2. Urban Lake System, December, 2010 Supplement. Link: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LFTgzXg1E58

Arizona, Valley Of The Sun, December, 2010, the sometimes wild winter weather heralds wild fly fishing. December saw tempestuous swings in temperatures ranging from average highs in the mid-seventies early in the month to highs of only in the fifties later on. There was even one week of record high temperatures in the low eighties. In addition, rain, fog, winds and a winter storm all contributed to the atmospheric excitement.

By New Years Eve, there was snow on Four Peaks

Fishing was equally turbulent. Early in the month, there were good catches of largemouth bass. Throughout the month, thanks to a biweekly stocking program, there were excellent catches of rainbow trout. I was even surprised to see an occasional catfish caught by bait fishermen despite the lower temperatures. On and around Tuesday, December 14th early risers were treated to a spectacular celestial show courtesy of the Geminid Meteors. I was awe struck as I watched this dramatic, cosmic display.

Fly patterns that produced well this month were those that had some flash or sparkle. The following patterns worked nicely: Nymphs: JuJu Bee # 14, Rainbow Warrior # 14, Myosis Shrimp # 14, Perfect Scud (pink) # 14, BH Bloody Mary # 14 and Swimming Roe # 8. Wet Fly: Alexandria # 14, and McGinty # 14 Streamers: Sparkle Shad # 12, Sparkle Claret BH Wooly Bugger # 12, and Hot Flash Minnow # 12. I always fish these pattern in tandem, usually with the streamer at the head and the nymph as a dropper. On the Lower Salt River, I would dead drift them while on the Urban Lake System, I would retrieve them with a twitch of the rod tip and a pause. More often than not, the fly was taken on the pause.

Without further fanfare, here’s a synopsis of the waters Fly Fishing Dojo fished. PLEASE NOTE: Unless otherwise indicated, all fish were safely released after being photographed.

LOWER SALT RIVER, Tonto National Forest

Fishing the Lower Salt River continued to be a joy. Each trip I made was one enraptured with the spectacular natural environment.

I will; however, note one disturbing trend. Those familiar with the Lower Salt River know that during summer months, she is used and abused by recreational water craft users. Last month I wrote that with the colder temperatures and the end of river tubing season, she was, finally, being restored to her quasi-virginal self. Now, it seems that some selfish persons, who purport to call themselves fisherman, are electing to use her as a depository for their negligent disposal of waste.

fishing waste is replacing the empty beer cans of summer

Again, as a few of the recreation areas are closed, 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. These areas included: Water User’s Recreation Area, Bluepoint Recreation Area (provided parking for the down and across river hike to Sheep Crossing), Phon D. Sutton Recreation Area and Granite Reef Recreation Area.

Using the fly patterns referred to above produced reliable catches. Largemouth bass and nice sized bluegill were to be found at Water User’s, Sheep Crossing and Granite Reef. Rainbow trout were found at Water User’s (on occasion) and Phon D. Sutton.

Water flows remained low, but consistent. Below is the water flow chart for the Lower Salt River for the month of October from WWW.Watershedmonitor.Com.


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

This lake continued to provide a regular respite from my daily routine. Early in the month, largemouth bass and bluegill would regularly take a fly, particularly a rainbow warrior or perfect scud nymph. As the temperatures decreased, these fish moved to deeper water, but could still be lured to a fly late in the day, about and hour before sunset.

While trout fishing on this lake is always enjoyable, one or two days in particular were truly memorable. The first memorable day was the morning of December 23rd when the lake was enveloped in a shroud of fog.

That particular morning, while standing on the shoreline casting into an etherial vapor that rose from the lake, I almost had the feeling of being in a vintage horror movie where surely a sinister creature dwelled within the fog.  Naturally, such was the result of my overactive mind at work. In reality, the only creature that dwelled within the depths of the smoky water was a nice, playful rainbow.

This was 1 of 2 fish harvested in December for supper.

The other memorable day was the first day that a huge school of baitfish, that I believe to be shad, first appeared.  From that day, about mid-month, and continuing to the day this report is being generated, this huge school could regularly be seen. A welcome indication of a healthy eco-system. There is a brief clip of a small portion of this school of baitfish on video link above.

The morning of New Years Eve was fun at this lake. Temperatures were in the mid to high twenties. The cold temperatures made for difficult casting as ice built up on the rod guides. Yes, ice on the rod guides, in the desert, in the Valley of the Sun!

Yes, its ice on the rod guides.

Rainbow trout fishing was slow on this particular morning; however, for some unknown reason, fair sized bluegills were extremely active. In a period of about twenty minutes, I had caught and released about a dozen on a BH Bloody Mary Nymph, size # 14. That was fun especially since I could only spare an hour and a half to dedicate to fishing. It proved to be a fun way to end 2010.

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

In my August, 2010 fly fishing journal I wrote about a unique inhabitant of this lake. That inhabitant is a large Koi that I nicknamed “Oishi” after the leader of the infamous 47 Ronin of Japanese history. I am happy to advise that, although I personally have not seen Oishi recently, several people I spoke with have reported seeing him. This month I can report of another unique inhabitant. It is an osprey. Several people, including myself having been shaken from our dogged fishing determination by a loud splash upon the otherwise calm surface of the lake. Seconds later, the lake erupts with the osprey rising from its depths with a fish in its talons. Now thats a real “FLY”-fisherman! When fishing this lake, remain vigilant and you may be treated to a remarkable sight as nature unfolds its drama.

Fishing at Water Ranch proved relatively consistent with catches of small largemouth bass and rainbow trout. The later being particularly susceptible to taking a fly, particularly a sparkle shad streamer, in the first few days after being stocked.

I was fishing Water Ranch Christmas Eve morning and was greeted by a truly beautiful sunrise on that auspicious day. Prior to sunrise, I also received an early gift from Santa when I happened upon a school of bluegill lurking in the reflected light under one of the park lights. Casting a # 16 JuJu Bee Nymph in the pre-dawn dark I caught and released about a dozen and a half palm-sized bluegill in a twenty minute period. Not big fish, but, as I said previously, “Catching and releasing bluegill consistently will make an otherwise dull day of fishing.”

Water Ranch Lake was also the location for my first video in the “Fly Fish Like A Karate Master” series entitled “Sanchin For Fly Fisherman.” You can view this video by clicking the link at either the beginning of this article or on the “Video & Media” Page tab above.

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

I did notice a marked decrease in the number of largemouth bass that I was able to catch and release at this lake. In fact, such catches were unremarkable. Rainbow trout provided good sport in the first few days after stocking with decreased numbers being caught about a week after a stocking. The rainbow trout at Red Mountain Lake seemed to favor a # 14 Myosis Shrimp fished behind a # 12 Sparkle Shad Streamer. Each fly was taken equally.

KIWANIS LAKE, Tempe, AZ (See Endnote # 1)

I fished Kiwanis Lake on December 11th with okay results. I had lost one rainbow trout due to a “quick release” and caught and released another in about an hour and a half time period walking around the shoreline. Static fisherman, those sitting on the shore casting bait or scented baits, reported mixed results. There were; however, a few static fisherman with catches of three and four supper-sized rainbows.


I had not fished this lake in two months. So, one rather slow morning at Veteran’s Oasis Lake, I decided to take the twenty minute ride down Greenfield Road to see if I could discover fish at Discovery Lake. All during the drive I thought of the many monumental largemouth bass that I had caught and released all summer. In the extreme heat of summer, this small, almost swimming pool in appearance, lake unveiled a cornucopia of “bass-tastic” delights. I wondered if such finned opulence would still be present. Upon arriving at Discovery and fishing for about an hour and a half, I soon discovered that the lake was a small remnant of itself. The water was filled with dead and decaying leaves, branches and reeds. The natural decay was highlighted by man-made decay in the form of the occasional plastic bottle bobbing on the water’s surface. Even a bloated football and a half deflated soccer ball played upon the surface of this watery field. Gone were the largemouth bass of summer. The melodramatic metamorphosis of this lake from summer to early winter was distressing “. . . It was as though a young person had died for no reason.” (See Endnote # 2).

And so, this concludes another monthly fly fishing journal. It is now 2011, what natural wonders will reveal themselves as we continue to flick our feathery flies in pursuit of finned quarry? 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

Again, you may wish to view the video supplement to this month’s journal by clicking the link at the beginning of this article or on the “Video & Media” page.

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


1. For exact locations, please see the 2010, 25th Anniversary Urban Fishing Program booklet.

2.  Hemingway, Ernest, A Moveable Feast, (Touchstone, New York, NY, 1996) p. 45.

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