First, don't get discouraged... Prospecting is both challenging and rewarding.....and folks that don't give up early usually do the best in the long run.
One of the first rules of prospecting today and having success, is to research, go where gold has already been found. The old timers were pretty smart, worked hard, walked the hills, canyons, gulches and found a lot of the areas gold was to be had. They didn't get it all...moved on when it wouldn't pay, left a LOT behind for us today to find.
Not sure where you live, BUT planning to pan & sluice in Arizona my be a bigger challenge due to dry conditions, lack of water. Lots of folks tend to metal detect or drywash in the desert Southwest.
If you're willing to drive to Kalifornia (The People's Republik of) and want to go gold prospecting there in the Mother Lode country, there's LOTS of places to hit... I go once a year.
One of my favorite spots that's open to the public, which keeps you out of trouble with private property owners and claimed public land is the Auburn Recreation Area. It's state land closed to claiming BUT open to prospecting with other than motorized/powered equipment. That means panning, sluicing, crevicing, bedrock busting, etc. are all good to go.
Google up the Auburn Rec Area and look at the boundaries. I suggest you work the North Fork American River. I have found very little on the Middle Fork.
You can go to "The Confluence" of both forks just East of Auburn, CA. Walk up the NF American.
Or, you can go to Mineral Bar just East of Colfax, CA. Or, you can go to Ponderosa Way just East of Weimar. Be sure to take some time walking UP or DOWN river to get far enough away from where everyone else stops, digs, prospects. The areas close to the road/access points have all been hit real hard over the years.
Maybe check out some of my California Trip Reports on my Gold Adventures web site Forum?
Look under "Western Gold States" for the last few years and "Trip Reports" for the ones from say 2009 and before.
Randy Witham "C-17A" www.goldadventures.biz