Gila Trout in Arizona

Thanks to Covid-19 I’ve been sitting on a planned trip to Arizona and New Mexico to fish for Apache and Gila trout for two years. That trip was finally realized by Blake and I over an extended Memorial Day weekend earlier this year.

Joseph R. Tomelleri

The benefit of having to wait so long to make the trip was the opening up of wild Gila trout fishing in Arizona on May 1st of this year. It had been a few years since one could legally fish on a wild Gila trout stream in the state, but there was one stream that was recovered enough that AZGFD decided they could open it up for angling. That’s where we started our trip.

We flew in late on a Friday and drove straight to where we’d fish in the morning, with a brief Wal-Mart run for supplies. We threw up a quick camp near where we’d start our hike in. The campsite location was not ideal, but it worked for us as we wanted to hit the trail early in hopes of being the first folks on the water. I knew this would be a tiny stream that wasn’t too far from a metropolitan area (Phoenix) and the only wild Gila trout water open in the state, so I wasn’t sure how crowded it would be over the first holiday weekend after opening. I was trying to make absolutely sure we weren’t fishing water that had already been flogged.

I was also a little nervous because I really didn’t know much about the stream. It was added to our itinerary kind of last minute as we just got word it was opening in May. I sought out some help and the info I got was pretty odd, it was basically to find the dry creek bed and walk up until you hit water, soon after you’ll find the trout. An ephemeral trout stream just doesn’t compute to me, but I trusted the local knowledge.

It’s an strange feeling walking up a dry creek bed to fish for trout, but my guess is it’s not that strange to the anglers who frequent Mogollon Rim streams in Arizona. Eventually we found water and soon enough there were pools deep enough to hold fish.

It didn’t take Blake long to connect with the biggest Gila of the morning. Mine wasn’t quite as long, but I caught my first Gila shortly after. It hit a beetle pattern that I fished the majority of the morning.

The fishing would continue to be pretty solid as we worked our way upstream, most of the good looking pools held fish, so lots of hungry little Gila trout were brought to hand, with all of mine coming on surface flies.

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I wasn’t sure what to expect fishing for Gila trout in Arizona, but our morning definitely exceeded what expectations I did have. As lunch time neared we hiked back to our campsite. We needed to pack up and drive three hours east to fish for what I wanted to target next. Our destination was the White Mountains and the native Apache trout that call the streams there home.

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