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  • Rusty and Cindy Stimmel

Arizona Fish: Apache Trout.

There are three native game fish in Arizona according to Arizona Game and Fish: the Apache Trout which is native to the White Mountains; the Gila Trout which is native to the Sky Islands in Southeast Arizona and the Round Tail Chub which is native to the Verde River watershed.

We were in Arizona for almost three months trying to avoid snow and cold weather this winter. During that time, we fished for the Round Tail Chub and the Apache Trout. The Gila Trout was the fish we eventually caught in New Mexico.

The Round Tail Chub is a chub which grows to about 18 inches and is a hard fighter. The Round Tail Chub is catch and release only as it is a threatened species. We went to the Verde River area to try to catch a Round Tail Chub while staying in Rancho Verde RV Park and Dead Horse State Park near Sedona, in mid-March. The water was very high and muddy in the Verde River making fishing difficult. Round Tail Chub have dining habits similar to trout, so the same flies and techniques are used. I tried fishing with several nymphs and caught two stocked rainbow trout on stone fly nymphs. I also caught a smallmouth bass on a woolly bugger. I did not have any success on round tail chubs. I talked to several locals and they told me to come back when the water was lower.

We went to Show Low to fish Silver Creek for Apache Trout in April. The Fish and Game website has Silver Creek as Apache Trout water. Several years ago, all of the Apache Trout in Silver Creek got sick and died. They have not been reintroduced as the cause of the disease is still present in Silver Creek.

We went to the White Mountains in mid-May to fish for Apache trout. Apache Trout are native to the high mountain streams in the White Mountains. They are only present as a self-replicating population in some remote headwaters. Apache Trout are stocked in several areas for a put and take fishery. One of the places where Apache Trout are stocked is the Little Colorado River near Greer Arizona. We camped at Winn Campground near several waters stocked with Apache Trout. We hiked to the Little Colorado River about a mile below the crossing of the Little Colorado River and Arizona Highway 293. Rusty fished for about 2 hours with no success. He tried dry flies, and droppers and nymphs with no success. After about 2 hours, he waded through several good lies and did not spook any fish.

We decided to fish the Little Colorado River where it crossed AZ 293. We went down stream about 100 yards and Rusty started fishing. He sight-fished an Apache Trout hiding under an overhanging willow. He was able to hide behind a bush and repeatedly drift a brown Double Helix fly over the fish. After about 100 drifts, the fish slammed the fly. After carefully leading the fish to the net, Rusty saw that the fish had inhaled the fly and was hooked in the gill, so it was kept for dinner. We moved up stream and Rusty continued to fish several areas of the stream which were over-grown, forming a tunnel over the stream. Rusty fished those with a bow and arrow cast, catching one fish. As we worked up stream, we spotted several fish in the stream, and Rusty fished for them. Some were active and feeding, most of those he caught and released. Some were not biting or were spooked. The best place Rusty found to fish was behind a small log, where several fish were holding. He could cast a dry fly over the log and get about 3 feet of drift. That was all that was needed as he could catch a fish, rest the area for 5 minutes, than catch another fish.

All of the Apache Trout Rusty caught were stocked. There are natives available to people who can hike several miles in the elevations above 9000 feet. With Rusty’s COPD and Cindy’s Asthma, we will not be doing any long-distance hiking at high elevations.