Over the rainbow(s): Fall Fly Fishing on the East Verde

Things have been nuts for our little family lately. Our youngest, Henry, was born just a couple of weeks ago, and since then I’ve been sticking to family time. We’ve been lucky enough to have Angie’s Mom helping us out for the past couple of weeks, but she will be leaving in a few days so I decided to take a quick morning fishing trip before we lose our extra set of hands. With such a little one at home I wanted to stick to someplace that I knew well, which is how I ended up at an old haunt, the East Verde River.


To be honest, I wasn’t really sure how the area would fish. Generally speaking the lower sections of the East Verde are a put and take rainbow stream. However, the stream had a horrific and deadly flash flood over the summer, which, on top of being unbelievably sad, caused the area to be temporarily closed. Between the flooding and the closure, how the stream would fish was a real mystery.

The answer was “okay.” My favorite hole, which has produced a great many trout over the years, yielded one good sized rainbow, but the rest of the morning was silent. After a couple of hours I decided to cut my losses and move upstream to the smaller water I prefer.

Near its headwaters the East Verde is a completely different animal. Ankle deep and gin clear, this is technical fly fishing at it’s very best– not many fish, difficult casting, but unbelievably rewarding when you pull it off.


Unlike the lower stretches where a the sycamores were just showing yellow, fall and fallen at the bottom of the rim. I worked my way down the micro-stream, freezing my toes to the bone and catching fingerlings in just about every good hole.


People look down at these little fish, but I’ve never understood why. In water this tiny winters are cold, summers are hot, and the clear water offers little food and no hiding places.  These fish are tough, and every time I see a tiny trout take on a nymph the size of it’s head I can’t help but smile.

You’d be forgiven for assuming this stream only holds tiny fish, but lunkers are lurking if you know where to look. One hole in particular has provided surprisingly good fish every single time I have fished it. Running short on time, I made a bee line for my favorite spot, dropped my fly into the plunge pool from above, and boom:


One of my favorite fish ever came from that hole. Unfortunately he managed to tangle himself in the cheap net I was using at the time, and I just about killed him. I can’t say for sure whether the fish I caught on this trip was the very same one, but they sure look eerily similar. I hope it was. It would be good to know he made it.

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

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