The Cursed River

I’ve found a river that has no fish in it.


At least that’s that what I’ve come to believe. Allow me to explain:

It all started in 2010.


That was the first time I fished the Lower Salt River. Angie and I were looking for a place to break in her Christmas present, a new spinner rod and reel (EDITOR’S NOTE: Brave Christmas present choice, Past Max). After a few WHO-MOVED-MY-TACKLE-BOX accusations, I managed to dig through the mountains of fly gear that filled the fishing closet to find my long lost spinning rod. It was like meeting and old friend.


An old friend who got tangled a lot and refused to catch any fish. All told it was a long day, with lots of fish feeding off the top and a wife whose new rod and reel was not bringing the bacon. Self assured, I blamed the lack of luck on our primitive methods and promised to return next time with some tackle for the more discerning fish.

We’ll, I’ve been back a few times since then, but every time it is exactly the same thing.

Top water,


Top water,


Top water,


Beautiful wife,


No fish. And that’s when I realized the Lower Salt River has no fish in it.

All of which brings us to last weekend. After an amazing trip fishing my Tenkara Rod Co. Cascade (rod review HERE, fishing story HERE) on the the East Fork of the Black River, Curry finally broke down and bought a rod of his own. He settled on the Sawtooth, a nice all around choice and we were itching to break the sucker in. Unfortunately I’d burned much goodwill on THE GREAT DEER HUNT OF 2016, so we needed someplace close. The Lower Salt beckoned again.

We arrived at dawn, fishing more upstream than I had in the past. As we approached the first fishing hole we paused to asses the situation. Then I saw it: a monster attacked the top, breaching fully. Dry flies it is.


Looking around we couldn’t see an obvious hatch, so we started with our beloved and reliable Arizona Wanderings mini-hoopers,


Nothing. Then we fished parachutes,


Nothing. Then we fished wulffs,


Nothing. Finally it was time for a real change of tactics. Maybe they were feeding on the bottom too, we thought, Old wooly booger, don’t let me down!


Nothing, Nothing, Nothing. Which makes sense, because the Lower Salt River has no fish in it.

Yeah, this probably all sounds crazy: After all, I’ve seen fish there, and AZGFD stocks the bejeezus out of the place, but I’m telling you, there simply cannot be a fish in that stretch of river. Hear me out:

I’ve fished all over this state,

And yes, I’m a bit of a small stream specialist. The Salt is  just big enough to push me out of my comfort zone, so maybe that explains this all.

But, but, but, it’s been 4 years since I’ve fished someplace other than the Lower Salt River and come up completely skunked. These are almost always small fish, but still they are something.

So, after six years of fishing it and coming up empty there is only on reasonable conclusion: There are no fish in the Lower Salt River.


Or maybe there are.

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Max Wilson is a graduate student studying ecology at Arizona State University. He writes here at Lesser Places, occasionally for, and even more occasionally for scientific journals. You can follow him on twitter @maxomillions.

7 thoughts on “The Cursed River

  1. Hi Max, I just discovered your site and I am really enjoying it. It reminds me of my own (mis)adventures while hiking and fishing. And your wife seems to be just like mine – she enjoys hiking and fishing with me, but not for *quite* as long as I do : ) In any case, I used to get skunked on the Lower Salt and swore there weren’t any fish. I know the exact spots you’re fishing from your photos, and while I’ve pulled small bass from those areas, they’re full of carp and suckers, which are notoriously hard to catch. There are places further upstream that hold monster bass, bluegill, and catfish. Just keep at it! I’ll use the ‘About’ page to let you know privately where to look for the honey holes.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks for reaching out and for all the kind words! You got a perfect read on Angie, happy to come, hates to be left behind, but doesn’t want to stay out forever.

      I keep toying with the idea of trying to pull some suckers out of those holes on the fly, but it sounds like I need to take a look upstream for the spots you mentioned first. Thanks for the tip!

      See you on the water.


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