Archive

Tag Archives: Glass is not dead

The view southwest at the top of the Mogollon Rim

We made the trek east to the White Mountains and set up camp at a very clean campground with a very welcoming host. This site would be our home for the next two nights. Campgrounds out west are always inevitably better cared for than those we have back east. I’m inclined to believe it’s because the people who utilize the resource here actually respect it as opposed to just taking advantage of it, like they tend to do back home. We may be polite to each other in the South, but we’ve historically been terrible stewards of our environment and it’s a real bummer at times.

Joseph R. Tomelleri

After setting up camp we set out on a local creek to search for Apache trout before dark. The scene was a high alpine meadow with a little meandering creek full of cut banks, what I would consider to be the perfect habitat for high country trout.

As it tends to always work out Blake struck first, with an Apache who looked like he’d been hooked before. Fishing would prove to be slow though as we continued to work upstream.

Finally I had beaten the water enough to finally land the World’s smallest Apache. Beggars can’t be choosers, so I was happy to get the skunk off my back. We pressed on and eventually made it into the tree line with Blake catching a couple more fish, including a brook trout.

I generally plan trout trips out west with goals in mind and this one was no different. First and foremost I wanted to catch the native Gila and Apache trout. I didn’t know it would be when I planned the trip, but that one was kind of low hanging fruit as it was accomplished on our first day of fishing. The next goal I had in mind was to complete the Arizona Wild Trout Challenge. To do that we had to catch a wild Gila, Apache, brook, brown, and rainbow trout, so Blake was off to a great start.

We fished into the trees a bit, but as the light began to fade and it grew darker the further we got into that valley we decided it was time to head back to the vehicle. We stopped to fish a couple holes along the way and in one spot I was able to upgrade my Apache trout to something a little more respectable.

We didn’t catch many fish here, but the picturesque setting more than made up for it. We headed back to camp to ready to cook up some dinner and have a celebratory beer. The Apache trout here left me wanting more so we planned to target them again tomorrow and hopefully the fishing would pick up.

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.

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.

Blake and I completed the Mobile Basin redeye bass slam a couple weekends back, catching the 4 native redeye bass of Alabama – the Tallapoosa, Coosa, Warrior, and Cahaba.  It was an awesome road trip through the state where we fished and camped on all sides of Birmingham.  The trip was every bit as fun as the cutthroat slam trip we took in Utah last fall.  A bit of backstory for anyone interested:

Earlier this year my buddy Matt published a book about fly fishing for redeye bass.  It was a good read about a fish that a lot of people down south overlook – the redeye bass.   The book brought back memories of the fishing I did when I lived in Northern Alabama for a year after college.  Admittedly though I never caught many redeye bass as I lived in the Tennessee River watershed.  Fishing dominated my life then and has been a passion of mine ever since.  The book profiled the redeye bass and the work that’s being done to define the species into seven further distinctions.  A redeye bass trip was moved higher up the idea list for me after reading the book, but then in March, it was moved to the top as Matt and a few other folks got together and came up with the idea for a redeye slam, and y’all know I just love a slam trip.  So after details of the Redeye Bass Slam 2018 were released I went ahead and began planning to complete the 4 species Mobile Basin redeye slam in Alabama and then finish the full 7 species redeye slam with a trip to Georgia at a later date.

Of course any time I’m planning a fishing trip I ask Blake if he wants in and usually it doesn’t take a whole lot of convincing to get him aboard.  After that it’s just picking a date to go and then we hope for the best.  We settled on early May to at least complete the Alabama portion of the slam as we’d be hammock camping and anyone from the south knows the further you get into summer the more unbearable it is to be outside, let alone try to sleep.

 

One thing that the redeye book lacks is any kind of range map of where you may find the fish, so embedded above is a map I created of the watersheds where redeye bass live in Alabama.  One thing to note is that redeye bass aren’t found below the Fall Line so don’t waste too much time on water below an imaginary line that runs from Tuscaloosa – Montgomery – Columbus.  I included the range of the Chattahoochee bass as well since it slips into the state.  I don’t know that they are found in any streams in Alabama.  We will target Chattahoochee bass in Georgia later this summer.  In order to try and catch the 4 different Mobile Basin redeye species in a 4-day trip we set out before dawn on Thursday and drove 6.5 hours to where we’d fish that afternoon for our first redeye species, the Tallapoosa bass.

Tallapoosa_bass

IMG_5256

We fished a tributary to the Tallapoosa River that was loaded with shoals and grass with lots of shallow and deep water throughout – great river bass habitat.  We’re small water guys and even though this was a tributary it initially felt like big water.  Neither of us has ever fished shoals like this, so it was a new experience for both of us.  The water really didn’t feel that big once we started fishing and it didn’t take long to get into fish.  In fact the first set of shoals we fished were the most productive.  Blake got on the board first with a decent Alabama bass.

IMG_5252

IMG_5254

Soon after I caught my first Tallapoosa bass, who took a buggy olive stonefly imitation I was hanging off the back of a hopper pattern.

IMG_5257

I followed that up with another Tallapoosa bass, this one though was loaded with iridescent blues, it was a beautiful specimen, no doubt the prettiest fish of the day for me.

IMG_5263

IMG_5262

Blake soon caught a Tallapoosa bass of his own and the pressure of getting that first fish of the slam was off for both of us.

20180503_131857

After that it didn’t take long for Blake to upgrade his Alabama bass.  His dropper rig was hammered in some slower water toward the bank where a tree provided the perfect cover.  The big Alabama bass would be the largest fish of the trip that was caught and if you’ve been following the blog the past few years that’s just par for the course for “Big Fish Blake”.

IMG_5283

IMG_5280

20180503_140224

The action slowed down after the big fish, Blake and I did manage to pull out a few more redeye before the day was done, including one by Blake that pushed the 12″ mark.  At least that’s what we estimated it to be, we measured it against the rod, but truth be told I’m not sure we ever went back and measured the rod.  Either way, it was a fine fish.

IMG_5285Mountain laurel (Kalmia latifolia)

IMG_5286

20180503_144622

20180503_144633

IMG_5289

20180503_161450

After things went flat we got off the water and hit the road toward our first campsite.  We had an hour drive ahead of us to the Talladega National Forest where we’d camp in the shadow of the tallest point in Alabama, Cheaha Mountain.  Ribeye and beers that we bought at Filet & Vine in Montgomery were calling to us from the Orion cooler in the back of my truck.  We were in such a rush to get fishing that afternoon that we neglected to make or pick up lunch, so hunger was almost an afterthought at this point.

IMG_5296

20180503_202157

I’m happy to report we were able to successfully set up camp and get a fire going before dark and before long we were tearing into some seriously good steaks.  Big thanks to Josh Rhodes who met us at the campsite with more beers, butter, and for helping collect wood for the fire.  Day 1 was a success and we had another big day planned for Day 2 where we had the Coosa bass in our sights and then a trip up to the Bankhead National Forest to camp.