Frozen Beards and Fat Fish

Every once in a while you need to do something dumb. A few weeks ago, 36 hours after the storm of the Century, Curry and I felt the urge and took off towards Silver Creek to fight the snow and find some fish.

When we started it was cold.

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Really really cold.

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Silver Creek can be a bit of a bore. The fish are big and plentiful, but it looks a little more like a ditch than a creek and the upper section that holds the big lunkers has almost no flow velocity at all (Editor’s Note: The term “fish in a barrel comes to mind.”). That being said, if you are going to go to Silver Creek and want it to still be somewhat adventurous leaving the morning after Show Low gets two feet of snow is the day to do it.

We tied on winged midges (tied by Jake at 928 Fly Tying) and within a moment of hitting the water my thingamabobber plunged. After a short, but vigorous fight, a beautiful 16 inch Apache Trout was in the net. Native fish deserve extra careful handling in my book, and with the cold weather I decided it best to forgo a picture and get the fish back in the water.

Next cast I hooked into something bigger. Much bigger. Surprisingly this fish didn’t fight as hard as the relatively diminutive Apache Trout, but the pure weight put quite a bend in the rod. The steep dropoff between the bank and the water’s surface made landing the lunker quite the challenge. After a couple of tries I decided to throw caution into the wind and make a lunge for it.

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Success.

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A beautiful winter Rainbow.

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We only had the fish out of the water for a moment, but with the cold I was still worried about it. My fears were misplaced and after just a few moments in the water the beaut was swimming calmly back to the deep.

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The rest of the morning was a collection of good sized Rainbows and Apaches. After catching more than our fair share of fish, Curry and I decided to try some weird stuff. Though the fish were (amazingly) eating off the surface, Curry had no luck with a dry. I, on the other hand, did manage to pull in a decent Rainbow on one of Arizona Wanderings’ Little Stoneflys.

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Curry was still fish-less, and with the sound of voices coming up the trail it was time to get serious. We tied on one of the winged midges that had been working so well earlier, set him up at the most promising spot, and in a couple of moments…

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His 12 foot Tenkara completely doubled over. It was clear that his net wouldn’t be able to handle the fish, so I ran over to help with landing. On the line was a wonderful Apache trout, which, again, was fighting harder than the bigger Rainbows we had caught throughout the morning. With all the thrashing we were having trouble landing the fish, and, like an idiot, I instinctively grabbed onto the line. With one good trash the fish broke the tippet and was gone.

We were getting pretty sick of the cold and could hear some voices coming up the trail. Rather than spend any time re-rigging his gear, I handed him my set up. Two casts later he locked into the biggest fish I had ever seen. By pure miracle I lunged into the stream and netted the fish as it took off upstream. This was great for the fish, since we didn’t wear him out with a long fight, but he had so much energy left that he was impossible to handle. A quick wiggle and a splash, suddenly he was gone.

Curry was a good sport about me botching the landing of two fish for him. I guess that is the good thing about having good friends.  Four hours later we were back home. The last howl of winter bit hard but a Spring full of trips beckoned. The next trip always beckons.



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Max Wilson is a born and raised Arizonan with a love for all that is beautiful and strange about the Southwest. He studied at Arizona State University, where he received his PhD in ecology. He writes here at Lesser Places, occasionally for Backpacker, and even more occasionally for scientific journals. You can follow him on twitter @maxomillions.

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