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Weather Plays A Big Part In Arizona Angling

It’s time to get into a thunder bumper frame of mind.
By Rory Aikens
AZGFD

Afternoon rain showers in the high country can be the key to catching fish right now, whether trout in the higher mountain lakes or bass in places like Fool Hollow and Willow Springs lakes that have multiple fish species.

You might even tie into some huge northern pike, such as the one pictured from Upper Lake Mary. As those cumulonimbus clouds start billowing up toward the high heavens above the pine country, the barometer will start dropping, flying insects will become very active and hold just off the ground and water. More important, fish can become increasingly active and feed aggressively at the top of the water column.

Weather_Plays_F2PHOTO1.jpg

This opens up a superb window of opportunity for anglers to catch actively feeding fish. But, if there is lightening, you don't want to have a high carbon fishing rod in your hand — they make excellent lightening rods. In fact, I have an old Hank Parker fiberglass fishing rod for such occasions.

‘Match The Hatch’

Fly anglers have a term called "match the hatch," which simply means to identify what the fish are feeding upon and then mimicking those forage items.

Weather_Plays_F2PHOTO2.jpg

If the fishing are actively feeding on insects, even if you are a spin angler, you can still use flies such as woolly buggers. Simply get something like a casting float (typically fills with water) and run a small leader (you can even use fly line) with a fly connected.

Or, you can also employ another technique — using reaction baits. When trout, bass, pike and walleye are actively feeding, a little bit of what I call "flash and dash" can often work well, such as inline spinners. Try Mepps spinners, Rooster Tails and the like. Also try casting spoons, such as Z-rays (made in Arizona) or KastMasters. Sometimes, for the larger fish, especially trout, try using Rapalas in silver, gold or rainbow trout colored. These crankbaits can sometimes be the ticket for larger trout, as well as bass and walleye as well.

Mix it up. Experiment. Have fun.

More To Consider

Don’t forget about the “cool water” fish such as walleye and northern pike. I have received some really good reports lately of anglers catching big walleye and some nice pike at Upper Lake Mary in Flagstaff.

In the lower-elevation lakes, building T-storms and a dropping barometer can create an exciting window of fishing opportunity for my favorite type of angling — topwater.

Weather_Plays_F2PHOTO3.jpg

Largemouth bass or even striped bass can start feeding aggressively on threadfin shad at or near the water’s surface as T-storms roll across the desert. You’ll want to use lures that mimic wounded shad, such as poppers, stick baits and buzz baits.

Spoons can also work — quite often the really big bass hang around the bottom to gobble up pieces of shad following surface feeding frenzies.

Position your boat to cast past the surface melee, then work the lure back through it. My favorite is the Zara Puppy or Zara Spook and doing what’s called “walking the dog,” which is making the lure go back-and-forth in a zigzag pattern like a wounded shad flittering across the surface.

And, If There’s A T-Storm

However, a lot of anglers, myself included, can find themselves in a ticklish situation — the surface feeding can keep getting better and better, often reaching a crescendo right as the T-storm crashes across the lake.

Next thing you know, winds are whipping up the waves, lightning is flashing all around you, and you are being pelted by wind-whipped rain or even hail.

Don’t wait too long. But, just in case, be sure to have rain gear. Head protection from rain and hail can be essential. I always carry space blankets.

Sometimes, it’s just not possible to make it to the boat ramp. If not, at least make it to shore in cove or a place where waves are not crashing up against the land mass and find whatever shelter is available. Carry a long length of line so you can tie up your boat.

Arizona Boating & Watersports/Western Outdoor Times
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