This is a rough sketch of some of the stories that are forth coming. They have not been completely edited or thoroughly thought-out but they are true. The names are real and only used to persecute the guilty. If your name is included therein, well, that is was you get for enjoying nature with the Wagner’s. For now that’s all. As the late, Former Arizona Governor Williams would say to close out his weekly radio address “It’s another beautiful day! Leave us enjoy it!”…
Dad took Rick and me on a weekend fishing trip to Christopher Creek when we were both in our early teens. I was thirteen Rick was tenteen. At the time, the trout bag limit was ten for an adult license holder and five for each young fisherman under fourteen.
The creek was flowing like a large irrigation ditch and where we camped was fairly straight for about twenty five yards both upstream and down. Beyond that, it was very rugged with boulder and fallen trees creating rapids and pools. The leaves of the few oaks scattered amongst the ponderosa pines started to turn yellowish orange and red now that the night time temperatures of early autumn were dipping below freezing. There were enough leaves that had fallen to make a quiet walk on the creek side trails a little noisy with the shuffling of our PF Flyers as we worked our way up the stream.
Dad taught us early on, how to sneak up on a fishing hole or bend in the creek where the bank may be under cut and the bottom dug out from the summer monsoon floods that violently recreate Arizona’s water ways each season. These are the best locations to find the cunning, wiry, trout. Our goal would be to quietly position ourselves behind some sort of cover just below these choice trout habitats. We would cast our lines upstream as far as we could without getting hung up in the tree branches covering the creek or on the rocks, bushes or grassy areas above the target.
As we would cast our line, we had to be ready to immediately maneuver our lines to keep the slack out allowing us to feel the hint of the strike and then to set the hook before it was rejected out of the trout’s mouth. This split second timing is what makes trout my favorite fish to catch.
After your bait or lure pass the pools there is one more chance to have success. That is in the area just below the pool but above the barrier of rock, fallen tree limbs, trunks or branches harvested and constructed as a dam by the beavers. This water tends to slow down because of its depth created by the restriction. It gives the fisherman time to catch up with the winding of the surplus line and then wait as the slow …
Everyone should have an Uncle Pete, or a relative like my Uncle Pete. My early memories of Uncle Pete are when he would bring his family over for a visit. With his kids similar in age with me and my siblings, made great family visits.
Uncle Pete seemed to always have a project outside of his work, on the burner. He was an auto mechanic and I know he worked as a carpenter on the Glenn Canyon Dam construction project. But I was too young then to understand what exactly he did there. I remember when my Aunt Hilda would take my brother Rick and me and her boys to the Boy’s Club not far from their home. We had great times there. Uncle Pete would be the one to pick us up when it was time to go home. He always had a smile on his face when he would greet us. ·vou boys had a good timer Not waiting for an answer, we would drive off in his old Hudson.
Sometimes just the ride in his car could be a great adventure. Like when my brother Rick wanted to check out what Uncle Pete had in the trunk of the Hudson while we were driving home. He used the hole in the hat shelf behind the back seat that was contained a radio speaker. Well Rick’s head went into the hole all right, but his ears kept him from taking it out. So there we were, driving down the street with Rick’s head in the trunk. It’s a good thing that Uncle Pete didn’t stop quick or hit something. Rick’s head could have stayed in the trunk without the rest of Rick. Pete Rick with the help of his cousins got his ears tucked in tight and he was rescued.
Then there was the time that on the way home from the club, Cousin Jim was sitting in the front passengers seat when Uncle Pete went around a corner. The passenger door flew open and Jim was hanging on to it for dear life with his feet hooked around the front jamb. He was saved when the car completed the corner and swung back closed.
Uncle Pete was way ahead of his time. One afternoon he picked us up about thirty minutes late. As we jumped in the car he told us he had car trouble on the …
Fishing for me has been a progression of the various means and ways to get fish out of the water, from a boat or on the shore. I have tried all kinds of baits including worms, salmon eggs, marshmallows, waterdogs, shrimp, stink baits (that’s a story all by itself), dough balls, grubs, corn, baked beans, lunch meats, chewing gum, chicken livers, grasshoppers, crickets, mealy worms, hellgrammites gathered form under rocks at creek side, minnows, crayfish (crawdads), and parts of other fish. I think I have tried them all. But fly fishing is my favorite.
When my brother Rick and I were in our early teens, our Grandfather gave us an old tackle box he acquired with some other junk from a house he purchased. He was more interested in the property for a future retirement home for his church than the buildings on it. The junk he found in a stand alone garage that was filled to the rafters with stuff. The old saying •one man’s junk is another man’s treasure” was again proven correct as my grandfather passed all the junk along to people who would appreciate the treasure. Rick and I were recipients of this old tackle box that was someone’s fly tying kit. To us, it was a treasure. To our Dad, it was junk and he didn’t want to see feathers all over the place. Rick and I fashioned a few flies out of the materials that caught our eye as we probed through the small, brown bags labeled in pencil as to the contents inside. We would clamp a large hook in the kit’s homemade tying vise and started tying. Knowing nothing about the art of tying flies, the products of our imagination looked like something out of an old ·9″ rated, science fiction movie. I could almost imagine the title •Miniature Mutated Birds, with Sharp Stinger On Attack.”
My first real experience with fly fishing was with my friend Mark Tomich. We had been on many fishing and hunting adventures and were both open to any new opportunities to get out of doors. We were planning our next fishing trip when the subject came up about fly fishing. I can’t remember which one of us heard about a class being given by the Arizona Fly Casters Association, but we both agreed to go. It started out as a casting class at one of the …
It is always good to practice when your are planning to do something new or change the way you have been doing it in the past, to be certain when you come down to actually doing it. you will do your best. Sounds like a Boy Scout motto, •Do Your Best”. Or was that Cub Scouts? By the way, not many people know I was a Boy Scout. Never got out of Tenderfoot, which is an entry level of the Boy Scouts. I lasted less than a month when I found out the only reason the other scouts in my squad just wanted me to join was that they wanted to have the weekly meetings at my house because I had three beautiful sisters, or was it because I could already tie a square knot.
Back to practice. My dad was planning a weekend trip to Oak Creek Canyon. It’s a great place for all types of outdoor activities like camping, hiking, rock climbing and fishing, my favorite. I had just purchased a new ultra light fishing rod & reel that was going to change my old habits of fishing with the so called garbage baits like cheese, salmon eggs, worms, marshmallows and corn. Almost sounds good to eat, except for the salmon eggs and worms. As a matter of fact, I remember times when would be out fishing for trout and getting a little hungry, we would cut off a piece of the Velveeta Cheese and pop it into our mouth or smelling the kernels of canned corn and couldn’t resist a small hand full for a snack. Anybody can usually catch fish using these baits in the process I called •Garbage Fishing”. My Dad and brothers did it for years along with using different fishing lures. I always did enjoy fishing lures the best. So I decided to go the ultra light, spinner bait route and wean myself off the garbage bates. The theory was that it takes more skill to land a fish, after selecting the right lure, casting at the right place and retrieving the lure at it’s correct speed for the right action and then setting the hook with the right pressure at the instant you detect the strike and then using the flex of the rod. the correct drag of your reel and finally your own knowledge f habits of the fish when hooked. …
My Dad was a man of many skills he acquired during his years in the air conditioning business. Spin off skills in addition to his metal working skills were his hobby interest in wood working from cabinets, bunk beds, tables, widow ledges, wood paneling of walls. He loved refinishing some antique furniture, buying and reconditioning damaged furniture from damaged freight outlets or he and mother enjoyed going to auctions to find things there that the could us as is or repair. He was also great at repairing things like motors, wash machines and clothes dryers. He was a “Jack Of All Trades” and mastered quite a few.
He also had a mind to construct things like taking salvaged steel beams and structural trusses and building new buildings or expanding others. He was great at planning to buy a industrial building that was to be demolished and move it to the industrial property he and my mother purchased years before. One metal building he had brought in and has set on a new slab that was split into two pieces to make a new 40′ x 50′ building with lights, evaporative cooling and office air conditioning. Another building had the corrugated metal siding removed and the roof section jacked up by a building moving company. Dad laid out and cut lines and torched the steel columns off so that the 40′ x 100′ roof section could be moved to their property. The movers left it on it on wood timber blocking just height enough to work a small tracker underneath the structure. Then he had the concrete floor poured and then the roof section lifted up high enough for the legs to be reattached. After it was set back down and secured, he and his boys finished out with new metal siding, doors, widows, electrical, plumbing and new interior walls and ceiling for offices and restroom. These were amazing feats.
Because of his love for the outdoors and his interest in hunting and fishing, he and I bought some land in the White Mountains. It was a great deal and a good investment. Years latter he found an “A” framed cabin on a farm in Litchfield / Goodyear Arizona, some 200 miles form Lot# 63 at Sky Hi Retreat near Pine Top, Arizona. Dad developed a plan to put additions cross member beams and special fabricated brackets the he had me …
Canyon Creek, a real fisherman’s paradise, originates at a spring in one of the many canyons that, when viewed on a topographical map, resembles a ten toed dog paw print in the mud made by a giant canine. The top of the rim is at 7600 feet above sea level and the sheer, solid rock walls drop 1000 feet to their base, in other words, straight down.
The trick is to get down to the creek below when considering that you are only three miles away from your destination, that is, as the crow flies. With the help of the Valentine Ridge’s gradual decline, we near the edge of the rim, where there is a sharp, hairpin curve and then down we go. This dirt road is in pretty good shape most of the year, but becomes a little ragged during heavy rain and snow storms. The view out the cars passenger window, you find yourself looking down on the top of forty foot pine trees that appear to be forming a natural guard rail should your vehicle suddenly leave the roadway.
Canyon Creek’s spring water is supplemented by rain storm run off and snow melt along with additional similar creeks increasing its flow. With this pure, cold spring water supply, it was chosen as a perfect environment for a trout fish hatchery at it origination. The fish hatchery was built at what is called Upper Canyon Creek. Nestled at the base of the Mogollon Rim, it makes for a picturesque backdrop for camping, hunting, hiking and most importantly, fishing.
My first trip to Canyon Creek was with my wife Carol, son Jeremy and nephew Brad. We were traveling in our 1990 Mazda 929 which is another story for another time. In a nut shell, it was totaled, purchased at an auction, repaired and then sold to me by our friend George. It was a great, luxury road car in its prime with the engine in front and real wheel drive. It was a real comfortable ride all the way to the Young road turnoff. This was where the pavement ends and the bumpy, dusty dirt road begins. Just before the descent from the top of the rim down to Young Arizona, we turned due east and follow the small road cut through the pines on the top of Valentine Ridge. At the end of the ridge, we make the …
In 1966 my Dad was pulling our boat to Roosevelt with his new Jeep Wagnoneer. It wasn’t quite brand new, but a 1965 demonstrator model he bought with only 13,000 miles on it. It was a great car for towing the boat with its 327 cubic inch, V8 motor and three speed automatic transmission. We turned off the Bee Line Highway onto a familiar dirt road that led to the lake. It was a downhill grade from the highway for the first five miles. The drop in that distance in about 1,000 feet which was gradual most of the way except one big drop off at the base of Baker Mountain. That is where the road becomes extremely rutted due to the •wash boarding• effect caused by the rain water falling on a road surface and washing the dirt away in little rivulets ( my word for mini rivers) running parallel to each other, perpendicular to the roadway. Besides the bumpy ride, the tires of the car and trailer if you are towing one start jumping up and down and actually leaving the road surface on the up motion. Then you lose steering control of the car as it slips sideways. If you a pulling a trailer, it tries to pass you in a maneuver called “Jackknifing”. To prevent all these bad things from happening, you best slow down to a speed that you feel you can control the car at. Sometimes the wash board sneaks up suddenly and you don’t have a chance to slow down. Dad was going about twenty-five to thirty miles an hour when suddenly we hit the wash board. Looking out the drivers side, back window we saw a boat just like ours trying to pass us. Dad had two choices. One was to let the car slide in the jack knifed position off of the roadway and down the steep embankment until it came to rest on its own accord or to drag the side of the car the opposite side of the road where the mountain was cut away leaving a rocky sheer wall. Well, he chose dragging the mountain but it took two time hits to get the car and trailer straightened out. The good news was that we were still on the road. The bad news was that the back fender of the Wagnoneer was completely creamed. Dad didn’t let this …
Another one of fishing experiences that Dad had to endure happened on Lake Pleasant in 1966. Dad, Rick and I were fishing the shore lines for bass or anything else that would take our lures. This time, we all were using a newly introduced lure that mimicked a large minnow, a favorite bass food. It was called a Reppela and made in Sweden out of a light wood painted with glossy minnow colors & patterns, a plastic water wing attached to the front underside to make it dive deep and two sets of treble hooks, one in front behind the wing and one in the back at its tail.
We would cast this lure up toward the shore line where it would float until you started to retrieve it. The water wing would send it down like a submarine with the shape of its body making it wiggle like a live minnow. Being so light, it would take a lively whip of the fishing rod with good wrist action to get it to sail through the air for the maximum distance. That is how it is supposed to work in theory.
My brother Rick had another theory. If he could swing his rod back and then use his arm and body strength to project this lure through the air, then he would cast it much farther than using the finesse of rod and wrist action. The only problem with his method is it is a little out of control. If you were in a boat by yourself, this wouldn’t be that much of a problem. When you are in a boat with two other fishermen, look out. Well, I didn’t look out. Rick reared back on his rod and let it rip. The double trebled hooked, hand crafted in Sweden, lure caught me it the forehead with one of its back treble hook barbs. Rick kept trying to cast and couldn’t figure why his rod wasn’t coming forward. He looked back to see what he was snagged on and saw me grabbing the Reppela and trying to pull it out with both hands. Nothing doing, I was hooked good and wasn’t going to get away. Dad stopped me from pulling so he could assess the situation. He tried backing the hook out with his fingers, but the hook was planted pretty deep and barb on the end of the hook …
One of my Dad’s favorite places to fish was Lake Powell. My brother Rick and I used to accompany him on long weekends to that beautiful lake. Glen Keith from Dad’s office would also come join us. You might recall, he had a problem with night vision. When the sun would start going down, he would have to use a flash light to get around. Something about the rods and cones not right.
I remember when they first started filling it up after they completed the Glenn Canyon Dam in 1963. We would put our boat in at the Wahweap Marina and cruise for miles to find a place where we could actually get out and explore or just for shore leave if you know what I mean. Its sheer canyon wall rose 1000 feet straight up. To find a place to camp on the lake was a challenge in itself.
These early trips to Lake Powell were fishing bonanzas. We all were required to have not only an Arizona fishing license, but also a Utah license because much of Lake Powell was located in Utah. The big advantage for us was with two licenses we were each catch two limits of trout and bass. We were mostly fishing for trout and but there was an abundance of both fishes. Trout were found in the deep, colder water while the bass preferred the warmer, shallower waters.
We enjoyed setting up camp in the brand new camping area near the Wahweap Marina. There wasn’t much shade yet, but the newly planted trees gave promise for future camping. But the sparking clean restrooms were most appreciated.
Our favorite fishing spot was up near the Glenn Canyon Dam. We would spend much of the day trolling at the base of the sheer canyon walls until we came to the floatation barrier that keeps boaters away from the dam’s face which could be a dangerous place at times. At that point we would drift in these deeper waters and allow our lures and baits sink lower until we catch something. Then we would try to find the same level again.
On this trip we had one of Dad’s company’s electronic thermometers us plus Keith’s fish locator that he made from a “do it yourself” electrical kit by “Heathkit” It was a mail order house that put together kits for TVs Stereos, short wave radios, …
In the summer of 1963, my dad planned a fishing trip to Hell’s Gate located at the confluence of Tonto and Haigler Creeks. Both of these creeks cut through steep canyon walls and form pools that are ideal habitat for trout. It is a tough hike but made more difficult carrying camping and fishing gear on your back.
Joining the party was his business partner, Bud Burnett, his long time employee, hunting & fishing partner, Joe Savatone, and me, a young high school kid looking for adventure. We planned that trip weeks before departure. Back packing equipment was not readily available so we improvised the best we could with what we had. Much of it was army surplus and our standard camping gear including a two burner Coleman stove, lantern, and our combination camp kit with four complete table settings, two pans, one skillet, coffee pot and all of the interchangeable handles. We had visquene plastic for ground cover or protection if we had inclement weather. One backpack was dedicated to food and kept cold by the frozen steaks reserved for the last night’s meal. Other foods were your standard canned foods like beans. corn, peas, spam, soups, coffee, hot chocolate, soda pop and beer. Breakfast foods were breads, rolls, carefully packed eggs, frozen bacon and fresh fruits like apples and oranges. Fritos and Oreo cookies were in plentiful supply because of their tight mass and pack ability. A lot of taste in such a small morsel. Our noon meal staple, lunch meat wasn’t frozen but would be kept cold by the steaks and bacon. Dad found two simple back pack frames for us at the Yates Army Navy Surplus store. We attached some old army packs on them and then lashed everything else with nylon cord. On top of the pack we secured our sleeping bags. We would wear our heavy jackets to help cushion the bumps and ridges of the gear and besides, there was no other place to put them. We all were loaded to the hilt.
Bud drove his own car and brought his Bassett Hound along. He was going to head back to town a day early. Joe came along with us in dad’s sport utility vehicle, a 1962 Chevy station wagon. Since 1954 his cars were always station wagons.
We met at 7:00 AM at the Knotty Pine Restaurant in Payson were we all …
In the summer of 1962 my dad encouraged me to sign up for a Maricopa County Youth Work Program as a summer job. The county would randomly pick several hundred young men to work somewhere in the county park system over the summer in work sessions of four weeks for each youth. I was lucky enough to be drawn along with thirty other young men to work on Lake Pleasant for our session. They would have several other groups working one month intervals at different locations during the summer break from school.
This was my first real job other than mowing lawns, making label tags for my dad’s air conditioning company, or chopping weeds and sweeping floors and other chores at Dad & Mom’s industrial property in South Phoenix.
My five day a week work detail started the first week of July. My father would drop me off at Central High School in Phoenix at 6:45 AM each work day. With a sack lunch in hand, work gloves in one back pocket and a blue, cowboy type bandana in the other, I would board a school buss with the other young men along with our straw bosses who were about a year older and had worked the summer before as rookies and were invited back this year to supervise the new recruits. We also had two adult leaders and a bus driver. At 7:00 AM sharp we were off. If you were late, you would have to have your family take you to the lake or you missed out on a day’s work. I don’t recall anyone being late.
We would arrive at the Lower Lake Pleasant camp ground close to 8:00 AM. There was a snack stand with picnic tables near by that they used for headquarters. We didn’t have snack bar privileges before 12:00 noon each day. Our job was to extend the existing campground into an area that was adjacent to the lake but overgrown with underbrush and a wild mesquite forest. You could barely see through this tangled straw and twig fortress. One of our adult leaders was my P.E. coach from my former grade school. Unfortunately he recognized me and acknowledged that fact by calling out •How are you doing Wagner? You will help man the wheel barrels along with you, you, you, you and John; pointing at five other boys. Next he picked out …
When I was in second grade, my family made a cross country vacation to the town where my Dad was raised, Dunedin, Florida, just north of Clearwater. What a long ride that was even in the new 1954 Ford Station Wagon with a forced air, evaporative cooler mounted on top of the front passenger’s windowM. y mother was in control of the temperature regulator. No, it wasn’t a thermostat. It was a rope that, when pulled, rotated a spring loaded cylinder filled with an absorbent material that rotated into a built in basin of water. With the absorbent materials soaked with water, the cord was released and the spring would return the cylinder into a position that allowed the forced air provided by the cars forward motion, to evaporate the water creating a cool breeze that would flow through to the passengers. It worked until we hit Texas and then it seamed the hot, humid air stayed with us all the way to Florida making the evaporative cooler not as effective.
Visiting with Dad’s family was OK and staying in a motel on the beach was nice, but I enjoyed fishing the best.
My Dad took me and an old friend of his out into the Gulf of Mexico. Since we were already on the ocean shoreline it would take only a half an hour to get to the marina. It started out as a bright, sunny day. The little boat we rented had two oars, one concrete coffee can on a rope for an anchor, two small coffee empty coffee cans and a small, red gas tank connected to the outboard motor mounted on the back of the boat. I sat in the front seat, my Dad sat in the middle and the old man sat in the back and was going to pilot us to the fish. This was my first experience fishing on the ocean. We headed to some sort of concrete wall up against a bank of dirt or sand. I’m not sure of its function, but Dad’s friend said he catches a lot of fish there, but they were small ones. We stayed there for a short time and then headed out to sea. I looked back at Dad and the old man and saw that they were intently looking straight ahead, kind of like leaning forward to make the small boat go faster. The …
Angling has been around since God first made the earth, splashed on some water, threw a few fish in it and then created mammals, birds and man. We here in the US of A call it fishing. It seamed logical to me that since God covered two thirds of the earth with water, we are to spend two thirds of the time we have here fishing. I haven’t quite figured out how to do that yet, but since my early years, I have been programmed to get to some body of water to fish every chance I get. Sometimes it is at great cost and peril.
My first fishing experience came in the early 1950’s, when my Dad and Mom would take our family to Encanto Park in Downtown Phoenix on Labor Day. Mom would pack a picnic lunch that she would serve on a large blanket under a shade tree. There would be entertainment at the old band shell and periodic announcements about the traditional fishing contest in the lagoon, how to enter, categories of the contest like biggest fish, littlest fish, etc., and description of the prizes. They had prizes galore! One traditional prize was a new bicycle plus fishing gear and stuff like that.
The Encanto Lagoon was originally created as a dual purpose resource. It made great recreational water for canoeing, fishing or just strolling on the dirt paths on each side of the lagoon. What many people didn’t know was that it served as part of the air conditioning system for Saint Josephs Hospital. For all air conditioning systems to work there has to be some method to reject heat. On small air conditioning units, it is an outdoor coil with a fan blowing through it. On large buildings it would sometimes be a cooling tower with water pumped up to a distributor where the water cascades over louvers with a blower increasing evaporation which cools the water by rejecting heat created during the refrigeration process. Refrigeration is the process of taking heat out of something and putting it somewhere else. In this case Encanto Lagoon was used to reject the heat. It’s water was sucked into the hospitals equipment room through a large underground piping system, where it cycled though a heat exchanger that would increase the water temperature twenty to thirty degrees and then it would be sent back to the lagoon where …