Monday, November 15, 2010

Cow Creek- Gila National Forest still continued

Quickly enough I saw trout,and not particularly small ones either,given the very tiny stature of this stream. The water was low. It's been a dry, warm fall. The oasis like creek bottom still had a bit of summer left in it: green grass and the streamside alders still leafy and green. I hobbled along downstream casting into the deepest pools.Unfortunately, the fish were only in these pools, and they were clear and still as glass. I've seen this before on other small streams during the fall and spring dry outs. The fish will not venture out of the deepest water. The approaches made me feel like some clumsy giant along a Lilliputian river. Somehow I managed a few hook-ups,and finally a healthy 8 or 9 inch trout. It looked much like the hybrids I've caught in Sapillo Creek: mostly like a rainbow,but with some Gila trout showing through. I didn't get very far when I realized I needed to pack out.I had fished for 2 hours that went by like 10 minutes. I had a long hike ahead and an even longer drive back to Las Cruces. I knew I couldn't go back up the ravine I'd come down( there were several pour offs that would be very difficult to climb up and around). Luckily, I found a deer path that led up the grassy ridge. It was steep, but I made great progress initially. As I looked back on the dry,dry juniper studded hillsides on one of my many air breaks, it seemed hard to believe that any kind of permanent stream exists in this corner of the Gila, let alone one with a trout population. That's what made Cow Creek a magical place. Despite the difficulty, I couldn't definitely say that I would never go back.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Cow Creek-Gila National Forest continued

At least I remembered to bring a second pair of boots,knowing that the first pair would be soaked without time to dry for my second day's outing. But it would've been better if I had forgotten. My second pair,grayish green LL Beans that I'd picked up barely used at my mom's thrift store, had only been worn once or twice and not very happily at that. Still, I was wanting to believe I'd made a great deal picking up some 120 dollar boots for almost nothing,and was willing to give them another chance.They felt too tight from the get-go but I didn't want to entertain the idea of just wearing my liner socks without my thicker hiking socks(although that's eventually what I had to do) because I was worried about blisters. I didn't remove my liner socks either,which would've helped. I just thought they would stretch as I went on. Down I went on the Sheep Corral trail until I reached the junction with the Snow Canyon trail,where I continued east and uphill. I turned northeast on a old road on the mesa top. When the road ran out I quickly decided to get down into the rocky,but relatively open arroyo,rather than slog it out in the brush. Mistake. Now as I stumbled,hopped and stomped down the dry streambed the pain in my toes began,then increased,and then increased some more to the point where I was in moaning,swearing,nearly in tears agony with almost every step. But I wouldn't stop to rest or evaluate and attempt to fix my situation. " I'll stop when I get to the water" I thought. When I did reach the water I took off my boots,but not my socks. I didn't want to see how bad it was. I didn't need to. I could feel it.

Monday, November 8, 2010

Cow Creek-Gila National Forest

The first time I tried to venture down into Cow Creek, a small trout holding tributary to Sapillo Creek, I hadn't lived here very long and in naivete thought I could amble down one of the dry branches from FR 282( Sheep Corral Road) until I saw water and fish. I actually started out one fall morning too, stumbling steeply down into a dark pine forest,hoping to pick up some kind of trail. But then the clouds rolled in and the thunder started. The temperature dropped and I thought better of the whole idea and drove to Sapillo Creek, where I'd never fished, caught a couple of nice rainbows in the sunshine and found a mainstay of Fall fishing for the next 10 years. Now,why I would have picked Cow Creek, because truthfully most people wouldn't, first over a more obvious,accessible destination like Sapillo Creek, has everything to do with Rex Johnson Jr. and his book Fly Fishing Southern New Mexico. More on that later. Suffice it to say I put Cow Creek way on the back burner and I thought that only if I was ever camping nearby or staying in Silver City would attempting it even be feasible. No matter how I looked at it on the maps it was a 8 to 10 mile round trip hike just to access the stream for a few hours and that wouldn't be counting any miles hiking along while I was fishing. Well the opportunity arrived last week. This time I was prepared with waypoints downloaded from topo map software onto my GPS, a hearty breakfast from the Econolodge in Silver City and blissful ignorance of the exact nature of the terrain of the cross country segment of my hike. The Sheep Corral Road was crappier than I remember and I kept waiting for the low tire light,but luckily it never came on. I parked and headed down the trail. It was still pretty dark in the narrow section of Sheep Corral Canyon even at eight o'clock,which gave it a forbidding feeling. I saw bear scat and perhaps lion or coyote scat which also added to my anxiety as I pressed jauntily on. But it was not bears or wolves or mountain lions that I needed to fear. It was my boots. More to come.

Thursday, November 4, 2010

West Fork Gila River- Gila Wilderness

I fished the West Fork of the Gila River,from the Cliff Dwellings bridge to about three or so miles upstream(just past the small alcove ruin on the south side of the stream).The West Fork may be better further upstream,but in the lower reaches I've had much better luck on the Middle Fork. Much of this section of the West Fork is wide and shallow and appears to be prone to frequent changes of course as evidenced by the many abandoned gravel and cobble channels along both sides of the river. Also, there are many beaver dams now in this section that have formed shallow silty ponds, which are not being frequented by fish of any kind as far as I could see.In the still pools at the bends, there were large suckers. It's always a bit startling to see these fish and think for a second that they're trout. Speaking of startling, I did startle a large bull elk who was relaxing on a sandy bank in the middle of day. I also saw deer, ducks, and javelinas, and of course once I was a couple of miles in, the scenery is spectacular.The numbers for the day: 3 decent sized rainbows, 1 small brown and one chub. Pretty slow I guess,but I was thinking this was going to be about the one that got away after I hooked, but lost what I was sure was a good sized brown on my way back downstream. Happily, within about 5 minutes I caught my best rainbow and began to think maybe the one that got away was a chub after all.