Not fly fishing in the desert

After complaining (OK, grousing incessantly) for months about the lousy weather here in the Pacific Northwet, Mrs. UA booked us a flight to Arizona for the week of Schpanky’s Spring break. I fully acknowledge that we were all in need of some Vitamin D, but I’m convinced that her underlying motive was to get me to shut up. It worked, temporarily.

This was not, obviously, a fishing vacation. But every time I go anywhere, I have a tendency to ponder the area’s possibilities for wetting a line. My conclusion is that the Phoenix area is not exactly a hotspot for fly fishing. Certainly if one is willing to drive a fair distance they can find water that holds fish, and in fact many of the area golf courses have ponds with some sort of fish. There are a lot of golf courses in Arizona so if you like golf it’s probably akin to Montana for fly anglers. But I don’t golf. In fact, I loath the game.

For most of the week we simply relaxed and did a lot of nothing, which was fine by me. The cement pond in the back yard provided the closest thing to fishable water that I would see the entire time we were there. With plenty of time to sit and think, I formulated some thoughts based on observations:

The AZ desert is a cruel place inhabited by evil shrubbery that will hurt you if you let your guard down. There are cacti known as Jumping Cholla that do appear to jump on you if you get too close. This did not happen to me, but my brother-in-law was describing it and ended up with a shoe-ful of prickly spikes. They’re harder to remove than a barbed treble hook. The last photo is not someone I know, but serves as another good reason not to ever golf.

Jumping Cholla

A minor case of having been jumped by Cholla.

A major case of being jumped by Cholla.

While different than the species that have been driving me crazy in the Pacific NW, the desert has wood peckers. The peckers around my home seem to like the wood on our house, and our rain gutters. In the desert nearly all the homes are built with something resembling stucco, and a rain gutter contractor would go broke for lack of business, so I am not sure what the birds bang their peckers on. I didn’t see many trees, either, but I did see a lot of saguaro cacti with holes created by birds. Likely the peckers are to blame for this.

Arizona woodpecker.

We don’t have In-N-Out Burger joints up here in our corner of the nation, but they do have them down in Arizona. I’d never eaten there before but have been told the burgers are good. We ate there twice and while it was good both times, I wouldn’t say that it warrants a trip to Arizona for the sole purpose of eating at In-N-Out Burger.

Phoenix has a Major League Baseball team: the Arizona Diamondbacks. The team is referred to as the D-Backs,  for short. Or so I thought. What I discovered is that the local sportscasters affectionately refer to them as the “D-Bags”. I kid you not. The first time I heard it on a television newscast I was sure I’d merely heard what I want, and not what was actually said. And then I heard it repeated over and over: D-Bags. Clear as day. Go figure.

The Arizona D-Bags

Fishing for coldwater species is not big on the list of things to do while in Phoenix, nor apparently, is fly fishing. A visit to Dick’s Sporting Goods revealed a very limited selection of fly tackle: a single Pfleuger starter kit. However, there was a ready supply of other fishin’ poles.

Even though fly fishing may not be big on the list of recreational activities in the desert, this does not prevent people from driving the #1 Stupidest Fly Fishing Car from 2011. Which reminds me, it’s probably time for the 2012 list, although I’m confident the Nissan Cube would take top honors. Stupid car.

I was privileged to see my first real, live roadrunner while in Arizona. I was disappointed to learn that the birds are not purple, nor do they make a call that sounds anything like “Meep-Meep”. You can imagine that I felt like a child when they discover that Santa Claus isn’t real.

Fence post runner


Arizona nights are clear, and good for star gazing. Mrs. UA is very proud of the app on her iPhone which tells you exactly what you’re looking at when you point the phone toward the dark heavens. I’m not a big astronomy buff, but I never tire of sophomoric humor. Ever.

It's funny every time.


It was a nice change of pace and change of scenery, but after a few days I felt trapped, like a fish out of water. The desert is too dry; too hot. Not enough of the stuff that I complain about back home.

Inadequate fish passage.


Like the fact that it’s 50 degrees and raining today.


  1. Dave

    My wife visited family out there a few years ago. She came back wanting to move to Arizona. I vetoed that idea before she finished the “We should move to..” sentence. I to see my seasons change, it’s the Midwesterner in me.

    • Kirk Werner

      I agree, I like seeing the seasons change. Here in the PNW, we have a very short summer that resembles a mild Spring in most parts of the country, to cool rain to cold rain, and if we’re lucky another short summer. In the desert they have sun.

  2. One Bug Is Fake

    Fence Post Runner gave me that short yet, obnoxious laugh that has no warning and scares people in your direct vicinity.

    • Kirk Werner

      It’s good to keep those people at bay. They can’t be trusted to get too close.

  3. Bob Gilson

    Kirk, I really enjoy your blog and read it regularly. That having been said, you need to drink better beer. You are in micro-brew heaven in the Pacific North West. The next time you show us a photo of a brew sky, please let it be something we all long to try.

    Keep up the good work.


    • Kirk Werner

      Bob, don’t think for a second that I don’t appreciate you reading, but I have to be honest: I am genetically predisposed to cheap beer and my body rejects “good” beer. If you’re going to sit down and drink 24 beers you don’t want to get filled up by heavy micro-brews anyway. Right?

  4. Derek Young

    Kirk, this was a good read – peckers, burgers, and dark planets. And, you waited until the last photo to go topless – it would have been more interesting to see a sunburn though – an overdose of D. I agree with Bob, you’re famous for drinking terrible beer – AZ has some good microbrews I would imagine. Did you go Animal Style at I&O?

    • Kirk Werner

      I actually did get a little burnt the first day- fell asleep in the sun for an hour without sunscreen. I think my nipples may have even peeled, but nobody wants to see a photo of that. AS for beer, at least I’m consistent: on or off the water, it’s the same. Set a clock by my beer predictablity. If I coulda gotten a beer at I&O it woulda been something fancy, like Michelob.

  5. kp

    Good thing I didn’t end up meeting up with you, huh? Wish I would have made the trip, but seriously, I have a weird phobia with woodpeckers and cacti.

    • Kirk Werner

      Next time, Kyle. Bring a 6 wt and we’ll go sight fishing for carps. I’ll bring the beer.

  6. Ross aka the flytyinfreak

    Nice read Kirk. Next time you hit a In and Out Burger joint “go animal” its a secret menu for the true I/O burger connoisseur. As for AZ in general: Cactus do suck, golf is an obsessive sport which is why i concentrate on fly fishing/tying and stay away from places with barbie fishing poles. Im tryin to get my blogger skill up and running so I figured I’d start with someone who knows his business. Good stuff man

    • Kirk Werner

      Thanks, Ross. Appreciate you stopping by. I realize now the meaning of “going animal”. I have a lot to learn about the ways of the I/O Burger. Good luck getting your blog on, and be sure to let me know who that someone is who knows his business. Pretty sure it ain’t me 😉

  7. Ross aka the flytyinfreak

    I’ll message you over at the Zuckerturdville or the book of faces for a little more indepth explanation of my bloggin aspirations.

  8. Flathead Lake Angler

    True. When most people think of trout fishing the last state that comes to mind is Arizona, mainly because of the fact that Arizona is known as having an incredibly hot climate and as every experienced trout fisherman knows, trout and hot temperatures don’t go together very well. In fact hot temperatures are very detrimental and often fatal to almost all species of freshwater trout.

    • Kirk Werner

      Indeed.But apparently there are places in AZ where trouts can be sought. But not in the greater Phoenix area, that’s for sure. Thanks for stopping by with a comment.

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