We asked outdoor columnist Dennis Pirch to rattle off Rim Country's 10 best fishing holes to help our readers afflicted with a need to spend the day standing around in a beautiful place wondering why the inexplicably fickle and temperamental fish lurking out of sight have such contempt for the lure/power bait/dry fly/nymph/ or whatever else is attached to the ends of their lines.
Here are his suggestions.
Please bear in mind that the U.S. Forest Service is predicting that the incoming weather system may actually dump some snow up on the Rim this weekend, so check with the ranger districts to make sure some of these higher elevation spots are open and accessible.
On the other hand, for people who actually live in Rim Country and have all year long to putter about, this is actually a terrible weekend to plunge into the lemming hoards of flatlanders. So we suggest you tuck this list away and head up there the middle of next week, when you can actually hear the plop of fish that steadfastly refuse to nibble your hook.
So here are the Rim Country's 10 best fishing holes, according to Dennis Pirch who has made a study of standing around doing not much of anything in beautiful places.
1 Roosevelt Lake may be the best warm water bass fishery in the Southwest for the next four years. The lake is at its highest level in the history of modern-day Arizona.
The spawn this year was phenomenal for bass and crappies, which means great fishing for catchables next spring. There is currently a healthy population of fish above the slot limit of 16 inches.
The best bet for baits in the late spring and summer are jerk baits made by Rapala and Luckycraft. If you are on the water early and late, try topwater lures like a POP R or RICO.
2 Woods Canyon Lake for trout at the cool summertime elevation of 7,500 feet. This lake is stocked weekly, but there are a high number of carryovers from the previous year which creates the possibility of catching a 14- to 16-inch rainbow.
During the summer, the best time to fish the lake is during the week in the early morning hours trolling a fly or late afternoons with a small panther martin.Shore fishermen can always catch fish with Berkley Power Bait, worms or corn.
3 Black Canyon Lake is an hour and 15 minutes from town and seven miles off the pavement, which means less fishing pressure from now through the end of summer. The smallest of the Rim lakes, it nonetheless has a very healthy population of catchable rainbows. This is an ideal fly fishing lake in the late afternoon until dark because of the daily hatch of insects.
4 Bear Canyon Lake is 10 miles beyond Woods Canyon on a gravel road that also cuts down on fishing pressure. There is a quarter-mile downhill hike from the parking lot, which obviously means a tough quarter-mile hike up hill back to your car. Might be the most scenic of all the Rim lakes.
5 Willow Springs Lake is only one mile off Highway 260 and very accessible. Best fished with a boat, and in the summer months it has a good hatch of insects, which makes fly fishing a good possibility. There is also a healthy population of largemouth and smallmouth bass that can be caught if you can make a long cast, which is necessary because of the clarity of the water.
6 Knoll Lake is literally in the middle of the Rim on the Forest Road 300, which may make it a little more difficult to access.There is a simple boat launch and the lake is very good for rainbows and a few German browns. Even on summer weekends, it is very fishable and not crowded.
7 Chevelon Canyon Lake is almost a two-hour trip from Payson. It is a lure and flynly lake with a slot limit. This means any trout caught between 10 and 14 inches must be immediately released back into the water.There is a quarter mile walk from the parking area to the waters edge. The lake has a few trophy browns and rainbows that are caught earlier in the spring. The best fisherman on this lake is Pat Haynes of Payson who has caught more trophy trout in the five-pound plus category than anyone else I know.
8 Blue Ridge Reservoir is a very deep lake and fishermen have very limited access due to the steep canyon walls. The best way to approach this lake is with a small boat and an electric trolling motor. There are not as many fish as some of the other Rim lakes, but the size of these rainbows are typically 13 to 16 inches.
9 Tonto Creek is very much a put and take stream that is stocked weekly with lots of catchable rainbows and a few bonus fish which are always thrown in by the Tonto Fish Hatchery. The best time to fish these waters is during the week. The stream offers a quick getaway after work for an hour or two of relaxation.
10 Canyon Creek is another stream that also has a fish hatchery nearby, which creates the possibility of a few more fish in the stream. The eight-mile trip on a gravel and dirt road also cuts down on the fishing pressure.German browns and rainbows can be caught in the same pools, which creates an added interest.There is a four-trout limit from its source to the OW Ranch and it is catch-and-release from the ranch to the reservation line. This is a fly fisherman's delight.