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Scouting

After finishing first in the fly division of the BCKFC/Massey’s CPR kayak fishing tourney last year I have been brainstorming ways to spend the store credit I was awarded. Without actually going to the main store in New Orleans and seeing what I could walk out with this was proving fruitless. So one rainy Sunday in late June I trekked my way to New Orleans to do a bit of shopping. The first stop though was to City Park to try and catch a Rio Grande cichlid. It had been quite some time since I last targeted them so I was a bit rough around the edges.

A distant waterspout is a sure sign of good luck, right?

I started off near the New Orleans Museum of Art and didn’t venture too far from there as I was on fish from the start. They weren’t the target species, but I was catching a LOT of bluegill, as they got bigger things got more exciting.

Fishing a popper/dropper I got into a few coppernose hammers. They were manhole covers compared to their native cousins. I caught a couple other species too, but no Rios, so I started to walk around and check out some other spots.

Eventually I did find a Rio cruising the shallows and after a well placed cast and a casual eat I had my target fish to hand. Man, these things are pretty!

At this point I needed to make my way to Massey’s before they closed. I found a few things I’d had my eye on but never wanted to spend my own money on, I walked out feeling like I robbed the place. Store credit might be the greatest thing I’ve ever won in a kayak tournament! Let me expand on that a bit and make my case below.

Big kayak tournaments typically give a kayak to the winner, sometimes awarding kayaks to the top three places. That all makes sense. It’s a big prize, has a bit of a wow factor for the crowd, but does it make that much sense? Let’s be honest, the winners of kayak tournaments already own kayaks. They likely own really nice kayaks or they paddle for one brand or another, meaning they likely HAVE to use that particular brand kayak. So what happens to the kayaks they win? Well, they hit craigslist or Facebook marketplace and get sold the next week for cold, hard cash. It’s a bad look for the local clubs and I fail to see what it does to help the local shops that sponsor these events, outside of the pub they get at the awards ceremony.

Now, I don’t know that store credit helps the shops either, that would probably depend on what gets bought as the margins are different for different items. But as someone who has won kayaks in the past, this was a very welcome change as it gave me an opportunity to upgrade some of my other gear and purchase merch I’ve been gun-shy to buy in the past. Shoot, I’ve been pedaling the same bike for the last 20 years, but not anymore, and I still have credit remaining too!

I don’t want to sound like I’m being picky, as I will always be happy and appreciative of anything I’m awarded for placing in a tournament, but I can definitely get behind store credit taking over as the main draw. Big thanks to Massey’s for continuing to sponsor the BCKFC CPR tournament, the fly division is always one I enjoy competing in.

After a short drive over from New Mexico we set up camp one more time in Arizona. This would be our last night in the hammocks as I thought it would be wise to get a hotel the following night. The other folks on the plane would probably appreciate it and I could really use a real bed for a decent night’s sleep. We managed a campsite on a river, a tributary to where we’d fish tomorrow, that held wild brown trout and stocked rainbows according to AZGFD. We were short on daylight and the skies were threatening rain so we opted to fish in the campground and hope for the best.

Fishing was great for the hour or so we were on the water. We fished dry-dropper rigs for a little while before realizing that the trout were only hitting our surface flies. The Adams trude was my fly of choice as it stayed afloat, I could see it well, and they were smashing it.

It ended up being a great evening on the water, which surprised me, I guess I had low expectations going into it. I figured those campground trout see everything, but we found a lot of hungry fish and had a good time. Tomorrow we’d target more wild browns, wild rainbow trout too, and hopefully complete Blake’s Arizona wild trout challenge.

As a native trout nerd, it would be hard to live with myself if while I was on a trip to the White Mountains in Arizona I didn’t sneak off one day to chase Gila trout in New Mexico. We were planning on switching campgrounds anyway, might as well trek into New Mexico in the morning and see if we can chase down some Gilas first. New Mexico is the state I most associate with Gila trout, for Arizona it’s Apache trout.

Looking East off Hwy 180 south Luna, NM

It was about a two hour drive to get to a trailhead where we could hike along a stream that held Gila trout in it at some point upstream. Much like the Gila trout stream in Arizona, this creek was ephemeral, bone dry at the trailhead, so we’d be hiking until we made it to water that was suitable for trout to live in. The valley we drove into was very unassuming, even as we parked, but it didn’t take long during our hike for it to transform into one with spectacular scenery.

In about a quarter mile we entered into a narrow slot canyon with steep vertical walls composed of volcanic rock of many different colors, colors that I don’t typically associate with the rocks where I find trout, but not at all out of place in the desert southwest. It was an amazing landscape of sandstone and rock spires with a trickle of a creek running through it.

Our day was made just experiencing this canyon on our feet. Having a fly rod in hand was lagniappe. We made it to a point on the creek where small waterfalls cascaded into pools that were several feet deep; it started to look like good trout habitat. The water was crystal clear, some of the clearest water I’ve seen in a stream. Lots of small fish could be seen in each pool, not trout at first, but other smaller species, longfin dace being one of them as I’d come to later find out. It wasn’t long before the trout showed up as well.

We fished the pools we could with pretty good results, no shortage of fish brought to hand. The places that looked like they should hold trout did. We had a good time bouncing from one hole to the next. Eventually though the holes dried up and we had run into a couple of other anglers walking out that said as much. I didn’t realize we’d hit a dry run on the creek and I didn’t know how long it would last so we had to make a decision of whether it was time to hike out or keep going. We hiked up a little ways trying to find water again and all we found was a little pocket, but that pocket had about a dozen trout in it with some being noticeably bigger than what we had caught thus far. It was exciting watching Blake work a small streamer in the hole, dancing it around, especially when a bigger fish darted out from under the rock on the right and smashed it.

I pulled one out too and then we made our way back to the vehicle stopping to fish a few holes we passed on the way up.

You always hear “pictures don’t do it justice” and that line fit the bill here. It truly was an amazing experience hiking and fishing in this canyon and it’s still hard to wrap my head around the fact that these trout continue to persist in this fragile, arid ecosystem. Drought and wildfire will always be a threat to wipe out their existence and that’s just crazy to think about. It was time for Blake and I to head back to Arizona and find a new place to camp, hopefully on the water or at least close to where we’d access the next place I wanted to fish in the morning, which from everything I read promised to be the best wild trout river in the state of Arizona – how could we not fish there?!