All posts by Ben

Ben Smith is an avid fly fisherman who is stuck in the desert of Arizona. Most weekends, his understanding wife loses him to the mountain streams to chase wild trout on the fly. Ben keeps a journal of his explorations at AZWanderings.com
The Curtis Creek Manifesto2

One For The Library: The Curtis Creek Manifesto

The Curtis Creek ManifestoMy copy of The Curtis Creek Manifesto is starting to look a little worn and tattered. Every time one of my friends or family is seriously interested in getting into fly fly fishing or need a bit of help after a rough day on the creek, I let them borrow my “well-loved” copy.

The Curtis Creek Manifesto, written by Sheridan Anderson, is arguably one of the greatest tools for the beginner fly fisher who is overwhelmed by the world of fly fishing. This fully illustrated guide takes a light-hearted and humorous approach to the main tenants of fly fishing. Don’t get me wrong. Even though funny and cartoonish, this book is packed with rock solid information, from tackle and fly selection to Sheridan’s famous “eleven commandments of fly fishing.”

One of the things that I like most about the Curtis Creek Manifesto is that it focuses more on what you as an angler should be doing, rather than gear that you should be buying. Anderson spends a good deal of time talking about stealth, casting, and other tactics that go a long way in improving the success of the angler.

By no means is The Curtis Creek Manifesto a definitive guide to every facet of fly fishing, but it is truly amazing that a 48 page book written in 1978 can so succinctly cover all of the basics of fly fishing. In my first year of fly fishing, I read and reread it’s pages over and over again, and each time I found some new bit of information that I could work on the next time I was fishing.
Whether new to the sport or a veteran fly fisherman, The Curtis Creek Manifesto deserves a spot in your fly fishing library.

Fishpond Road Trip Fly Tying Kit Bag

Holiday Gift Ideas: Fishpond Road Trip Fly Tying Kit Bag

I know most guys complain about their in-laws, but I have to say, my in-laws give some of the greatest gifts. A Christmas or two ago, I ripped off the wrapping paper to find the Fishpond Road Trip Fly Tying Kit. Fishpond definitely hit one out of the park with this bag and it goes with me on any out of town fishing trip so that I can tie a few extra flies after a long day on the water..

What I like -

Organization – there are more pockets and compartments in the Fishpond Road Trip Kit than you can shake a stick at.

  • Padded internal storage pocket for your vice and tying tools.
  • 2 small storage pockets
  • Four large “see through” zippered mesh material pockets
  • Two 9” clear tubes for thread spools
  • One 4.5”x9”x1” molded plastic organizing box for hooks, beads, etc.
  • Nine 4”x6” resealable, clear, poly bags with Velcro binding attachment
  • Nine 3”x4.5” resealable, clear, poly bags with Velcro binding attachment

Before any big trip, I sort through the different pockets and make sure I have the right materials for area that I’ll be fishing. Most of the bags, boxes, tubes are velcro attached and can therefore be rearranged to fit whatever your needs are for a particular trip. It never ceases to amaze me how much I can actually fit into this case.

Fishpond Road Trip Fly Tying Kit Bag10Construction – The case is built out of the Fishpond Diamondtech fabric, which makes it extremely durable. Being constructed of fabric and with dimensions of 12” x 9.5″ x 4”, The Road Trip Kit is just the right size to squeeze into a suitcase or gear bag.

The Fishpond Guarantee – “At Fishpond, our goal is to build a reputation for unmatched quality among the outdoor enthusiasts using our products. Our soft goods are covered by a lifetime guarantee.”

What I don’t like

The thread spool tubes - Nice idea that doesn’t really stand up. The tubes hold multiple spools of thread, but have a tendency to pop open and have them fall out everywhere. I ended up using a piece of tape to keep it securely shut.

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Bottom line – The Fishpond Road Trip Fly Tying Kit is an essential piece of gear to keep you organized and churning out flies when you’re on the road. A must have for the traveling fly fisherman.

Check out the Fly Tying Kit by clicking HERE

Sage One Humidor

A Midday Break: Sage One Humidor Review

There’s nothing much more enjoyable than taking a break midday from fishing and smoking decent cigar. All the craziness of life fades into the background as the river continues it’s run downstream through the haze of cigar smoke.

Although there are several different options of transporting your sticks to and from the river, Sage really hit one out of the park with their Sage One Humidor. Here’s what I like about it

1. Protection – The aluminum tube keeps your cigars safe from danger so you can focus on your fly presentation. Also for those that wade a bit deeper, fear not. The screw on lid of the case is lined with a water tight gasket to keep the water out should you take an unsuspecting dip.

2. Plenty of room – The Sage One Humidor has a 2” diameter. Depending on your choice of cigar, you can carry multiple cigars on the water so you can share with a buddy or smoke like a chimney all day long.

3. Humidor – There’s nothing worse than the anticipation of a good cigar only to find a crispy, dry stick instead. The inside of the Sage humidor is lined with cedar and on the lid is a small little humidifier that you can add some distilled water too, so you’re cigars will be kept in that optimum environment.

Bottom line: The Sage One Humidor is an excellent option for the fly fisherman who enjoys a nice cigar on the water.

For more info on the Sage One Humidor please click Here.

 

Desert Trout Oasis

The Plight of a Desert Fly Fisherman

Nothing short of “ironic” describes the situation that I find myself in. I am a fly fisherman and I live in the desert. I grew up in the Adirondack Mountains of upstate New York, home to the heritage brook trout and the fabled waters of the Ausable River that were haunted by the likes of Fran Betters. Although I spin fished the lakes for pike and bass, I curse myself now for the years I wasted not fly fishing, while living in that East Coast trout-Mecca. After bumping around the States for a year or two after college, I settled in the Sonoran Desert of Arizona, married, and put down roots…then I discovered fly fishing.

Finding myself in this predicament, just means that I have to get creative. Arizona is a large state and despite popular opinion, is not just a giant sandbox with saguaro cacti and rattlesnakes. Here are a couple of fly fishing options that feed the insatiable hunger that most fly fisherman are afflicted with.

Urban Water – The greater Phoenix area is spotted with scores of golf courses and housing developments that have urban ponds full of warm water species of fish from bass, bluegill, tilapia, and even some roughfish for those interested in brownlining. The Arizona Game and Fish stocks their urban ponds with trout in the wintertime, which offers a great opportunity to introduce a young angler to the joys of fishing.

The Warm Water Lakes – Several rivers have been dammed up in a couple areas to create reseviors of water to keep Phoenix hydrated during the long hot summers.  These lakes include Lake Pleasant, Roosevelt Lake, Saguaro Lake, Canyon Lake, Lake Mead, and Lake Havasu just to name a few. These lakes are pretty amazing ecosystems with a plethora of warm water fish most notably the big strippers that often grace the pages of the Arizona Game and Fish website.

The Mogollon Rim – One of my favorite places to run to on a weekend is the Mogollon Rim. Not only are the cold water lakes, like Woods Canyon Lake and Willow Springs Lake, growing big trout, but the Game and Fish stocks several small streams that can offer the small stream nut some remarkable views and fishing.

Oak Creek – This little creek that flows cold and clear through the Red Rock country of Sedona is full of willing stocked rainbows, but has an impressive population of brown trout that are as spooky and smart as any trout you are likely to find. As long as you wait till the summer crowds are gone, a day on Oak Creek will offer an amazing day of fly fishing in one of the most unique settings in the United States.

The White Mountains – The White Mountains of Arizona are home to some of the most beautiful and magnificent waters in the Southwest. A mixture of tribal and public land, the White Mountains suffered from one of the worst fires the state of  Arizona has ever seen. Although the Wallow Fire ravaged a good chunk of this area and priceless timber and ecosystems were destroyed, there is still hope for this area and many of the streams and lakes were spared. When you hear of big trout being caught in Arizona, 9 times out of 10, they were caught somewhere in the White Mountains. Apache, Rainbow, Brown, Brook, and Cutthroat trout along with Grayling are present in different waters in the White Mountains and gives the angler a wide range of fish to present flies to.

Although being stuck in the desert is most likely a fly fisherman’s worst nightmare, all hope is not lost. If you know where to look and are willing to put some miles on your boots, fish, even trout are findable in Arizona.

Map

Maps

Living in the state of Arizona, most people don’t think about trout fishing. Truth be told, there is more than rattlesnakes and saguaros in this desert state, and with a bit of work, some very respectable fish can be found.

The one key tool that any respectable fisherman needs when exploring in Arizona is a good map. A good map can take many forms, and often times, the best type is a topographical map. Topos are worth their weight in gold when trying to find an access points into the rugged canyons through which Arizona’s creeks flow. That same map that was beneficial accessing the creek can be a lifesaver when trying to get back out to the truck, as steep rock walls seem impenetrable.

Although the topographical map is arguably the most accurate, it may not be the best tool for the job. The most valuable maps are often drawn by hand and exchanged with a solemn oath to never spill their secrets. Typically, they include hastily scribbled odometer readings, forest road numbers, and notes that read “if you see burned tree next to the dinosaur-egg-rock, you’ve gone too far.” These hand drawn diagrams are treasure maps where “X” marks the spot full of hungry trout ready to gobble up a well-placed fly. Fly fishermen don’t share these readily and typically after a trip or two, they are left in a safe place at home, lest they fall into the wrong hands.

Every state and locale has their honey holes that only the locals know, but it seems in this digital age that more of these locations are being leaked.  I married an Arizona girl and will likely be here for life, and I can tell you quite easily, those hastily scrawled maps are tucked away in the safe next to car titles, birth certificates, and the rest of the other valuables only to be passed on to the next generation of Smiths.

Big Fish

Pyramid Lake

Pyramid Lake Ladder Line

We drove the truck onto the beach of Pyramid Lake while it was still dark. Several campers were already parked on the beach, but there were no signs of movement from the dark interior of the trailers. The four of us quietly exited the truck with our waders and Goretex jackets swishing as we gathered our gear. We donned headlamps and secured stripping baskets, gloves, and our fly rods before we finally pulled our ladders out of the back of the truck. Pyramid Lake is a lake in western Nevada known for big Lahontan cutthroats where fishermen perch on top of a ladder and fish the lake’s large drop off.

With headlamps bobbing in the darkness, we waddled our ladder out into the dark lake, feeling the water rise from our boots, past our knees and then to our mid section. Knowing the lake floor makes a sudden drop, we positioned our ladders and waited patiently for the earth to spin a bit more so that the sun could fight off the darkness of night. Waiting with fly rods in hand, other headlights started to appear on the beach, and within moments, more fishermen were walking ladders into the dark water.

The dark sky turned gray and fly rods were put to use, heaving heavy shooting heads and flies into the choppy water. Within moments the first of our group raised a bent fly rod high into the air. We all admired the pulsing line and the eruption on the water’s surface as a heavy Lahontan cutthroat thrashed its way into the net.

In truth we are all there looking for a big fish, and although we never laid a hand on any of the big 10 pounders, we each held very respectable fish. But as much as Pyramid Lake is about the lake, there is also something socially binding about the ladder line. We stand like soldiers in a formation. Your comrades to the right and left hold the line and continue to throw flies in to the biting wind and all pray for the tug of a fish and the glory that comes with it. Fishing at Pyramid Lake is truly an experience, not only for the shot at a big fish, but for the friendships built on the ladders