Here's the latest Arizona fishing report as we sink into winter.
Lee’s Ferry - Excellent
If you're looking to get your trout fix in during the winter, tailwaters are a great option. Flows remain solid on Arizona's premier tailwater -- the Colorado River at Lee's Ferry. Rainbows will continue spawning, so watch your step and keep an eye out for redds, especially when wading.
Continue targeting fish with small flies. Midges, worms, eggs, and scuds all work well in this system.
Rim Creeks - Good
Although often surrounded by snowy banks, the rim creeks can fish quite well during the winter months. Watch for storms that will elevate these small creeks with runoff -- this usually triggers a better bite.
When the water is higher and stained, target soft pockets and edges, no matter how small. Use tungsten beaded flies to get them down in the water column. This time of year, conditions on the rim are often cold and wet. Keep everything dry with our favorite waterproof pack - the Filson Dry Sling Pack
Oak Creek - Good
Like the rim creeks, Oak Creek can flash hot after a weather system moves through. This is a great time of year to strip and swing streamers in the larger pools along the canyon.
When fishing the runs, smaller bead head nymphs will produce fish on Oak Creek. If fish are being picky, try adding a leech or an egg to your rig.
The top of Oak Creek Canyon is often 10-15 degrees colder than Sedona. Make sure to dress warm. When winter weather moves in, we like the Orvis Ultralight Storm Jacket as a good shell.
Silver Creek - Good
Ever caught a rainbow that's pushing double digits on the scale? Try heading to Silver Creek. The catch and release season continues through March. The fish have seen quite a few flies at this point in the season, so be stealthy when approaching the water. Cast double nymph rigs fished under a small indicator. If you're not having any luck, try downsizing flies.
Verde River - Average
February fishing on the Verde will look pretty similar to January. Target trout by drifting bead head nymphs through riffles and or swinging nymphs and soft hackles through runs. Bass can be caught by stripping leeches and buggers.
Rainbow trout stocking continues on the Verde. Bookmark this page to stay up to date on the AZGFD fish stocking schedule.
San Juan - Excellent
Fishing the San Juan can be chilly this time of year. With air and water temps in the 40s, it's essential to dress warm -- especially when wading. But if you're able to stand the cold, you'll have one of the West's best tailwaters mostly to yourself compared to warmer times of the year.
While the water temperature remains the same year-round, fish behavior still changes in the winter months. Look for fish in slower moving water and target them with double nymph rigs fished under an indicator. These flies are very small so make sure you've added enough weight to get them into the strike zone! If you get tired of tying small flies with frozen hands, remember that streamers can still be productive here as well.
If you're heading to the San Juan, stay dry and dress warm! For the best in wader technology, check out Simms G4Z Waders.
Salt River - Excellent
Trout stocking will continue on the Salt throughout the winter. Catch these fish by drifting nymphs through riffles and swinging nymphs and soft hackles through runs. When the bridge area gets crowded, don't be afraid to move up or down stream. Stocking takes place at multiple locations and the fish have moved through much of the system. Everything upstream of the confluence with the Verde at Phon D Sutton is fishing well.
Sucker and carp seasons are in full swing on the Salt! These fish offer a fun alternative to trout fishing and are primarily caught while sight fishing. Use a tall rock or steep bank to spot cruising suckers and carp. Tip: Using colorful fly patterns will help tremendously when sight fishing.
Dead Horse Ranch- Average
This state park has great access and is an awesome spot to learn how to fly fish or hone your casting skills. Catch a variety of species, from rainbow trout to channel catfish and largemouth bass. Slowly stripping wooly buggers and leeches is a great technique to hook up with multiple types of fish. Put these flies under an indicator; after a short strip, let them rest. Bites will usually come in between strips. Colorful egg patterns and mop flies will catch fish as well.
White Mountains Lakes - Poor
You'll have to break out your ice fishing setup if you want to fish lakes in the Whites this time of year. While fish can be caught through the ice, you won't need your fly fishing gear until the spring.
Black River - Poor
Roads to the Upper Black River are not maintained over the winter, making access difficult. Expect cold water and slower-moving fish. In the depths of winter, fish often won't eat unless something is directly in front of their face. Nymph seams thoroughly before moving to the next spot. If you do make it to the water, try throwing weighted stonefly nymphs on deeper rigs.
Canals - Good
SRP is conducting regular winter maintenance on the Phoenix area canals, which is dropping water levels in many areas. Fish can still be caught but are especially spooky when the water becomes low and clear. Check here for the SRP canal maintenance schedule. Pro tip: Low water levels allow you to spot structure that you might not otherwise see. Use this time of year to mentally map out good spots when the water levels return.
That's a wrap on the February Arizona Fishing Report.