Ice out is a much awaited time for everyone after a long winter. Here in AZ the winters aren’t so long and sometimes they’re not so…well, wintery. This is usually the first trout trip of the season for me and because of the unusually warm temps in Feb. it was a full month earlier than normal. This really was messing up my whole bass spawn trip schedule, but I was able to deal with it accordingly.
My buddies and I have a list of set trips into certain places at certain times of year and this trip was one of them. This trip included a fairly long, but not too brutal, hike into a back country lake in the bottom of a very significant canyon. Hauling float tubes in was a requirement for fishing the lake, but we were more interested in the spillway and the creek below the dam. During the runoff, if the lake is spilling over into the creek the fishing for rainbows is off the charts.
This is a yearly trek we try to make at least once or twice during the runoff. This trip found the temp at 44F at the top of the hill by the truck. Half an hour into the hike down, it was much warmer… We found the lake spilling over the spillway just as we hoped. We dumped the boats, geared up and headed down to an area we passionately call “the aquarium”. The first time we discovered this spot, the fishing was unbelievably fast and easy. The fish seemed to hold in just one spot and would slash at whatever fly we dumped on top of them. If I’ve ever had a 100 fish day between the two of us, that was the day.
The fishing here usually isn’t too technical and the average fish is a thick, colorful and overall healthy looking 14-16” rainbow. Occasionally a brown will show up to surprise you and they are generally smaller, although huge browns are known to populate this lake. Being an AZ lake, the crawdad population dominates the food source throughout the year, and anything brownish under an indicator or stripped close to the bottom gets hammered. This trip most action was with simi seals, buggers, red copper johns and of course my infamous crawdad that was partially developed for this particular water.
When we finally caught enough fish from the creek side (a few dozen let’s say) we hauled it up the short hill to the lake and launched the tubes where…usually, the strike fest continues. Today the wind was whipping up the waves a little more than I like but we managed to get into about a dozen or so. Up on top its indicators again and slow sinking or intermediate lines stripping in, again, anything crawdad-like.
The hike back out sucked as much as it always does, especially since its five times longer than the trip in and the boats and gear are at least three times heavier. At my age I’m still making the march out in a reasonable time and as long as my legs and lungs are young enough to make up the hill, I’ll still be making trips into the “aquarium”.