Julia Just chiming in. Looks like much good advice, and remember we all started somewhere. I can remember when my wife and I would process a full yard or more for 3 small flakes and were squealy happy. Well we are much better now due to much help from our chapter and other members.
One tip that worked for us that may work for you.
Acquire, yes buy some pay dirt that you can run for a test. Use the gold for test runs, in your sluices, learn how to setup, pan and classify the test material, use a tub to recirculate the water to ensure you are not losing your gold. With practice and time it helped us to really learn our systems. You can use some #8 to #9 lead shot also. If you can catch this you can catch gold for sure. It is basic physics, high to low pressure and a heavy substance that is dropping out. Keep it simple. Ensure proper angle of fall, side to side level, ripples place in correctly, proper water flow. Add the others advice to ensure good recovery.
Patience and proper equipment setup is key. If your not careful you can spend yourself into oblivion. A sluice simulates the high pressure to low pressure drops (heavies fall out) in a stream or river. Panning the concentrates into the river can be an issue if you are panning the gold back into the river. Appears no gold present.
Keep up the effort, you'll find it,
Karen and I would be glad to take you prospecting with us if you ever get to Arizona.