The Rim Country is synonymous as a trout fishing destination because of all the lakes and streams within a radius of 30 miles of the Payson area. The elevation of all these waters varies from 5,000 to 7,500 feet, which can create quite a climate change, especially at this time of year.
The mild fall weather has made it possible to enjoy the Rim lakes on most days, with daytime temperatures still in the 60-degree range. I know it is hard to believe, but winter is not far away on these higher-elevation waters, and the trout fishing can be excellent right up until the snow and ice make them inaccessible to the angler.
There are plenty of holdover fish in these lakes, and these hatchery-reared trout are gaining weight and taking on many characteristics of their native cousins. The color markings are much brighter, and the flesh actually takes on a pinkish hue because of the food sources available. If you enjoy a good fight on an ultra-light or fly rod, now is the time to make a trip.
The conditions at 6,000- to 6,500-foot elevation are a bit milder, and these waters include the streams of Canyon, Haigler, Tonto and Christopher. These creeks received their last stockings of catchable rainbows in early October, so fishing can be a little tougher, with fewer fish because of the angling pressure. These trout can also be difficult to catch as they adapt to a wild fish environment.
Shadows, motions and noises will create an alarm mechanism, and these fish will quickly find cover under a bank or any large boulder in the streambed. I walked a couple hundred yards of Tonto Creek last week and saw about a dozen fish that exhibited these wild fish characteristics.
In these limited stream waters, I would encourage you to practice catch and release at this time of year, because these creeks will not be stocked again until early April.
Remember, try not to handle the fish, but if you must, keep your hands wet from the stream water and always use needle nose pliers when taking the hook out of the jaw. That rainbow can provide another great fight for a later winter angler.
The last destination is our own Green Valley Lake, which is located within the city limits of Payson and is a popular fishing hole all year long. The urban fishing program stocks the lake with trout every two weeks until May 1. An urban license is required for those anglers 14 years and older, which allows for a four trout possession limit. Children under this age are not required to have a license, but their limit is only two trout.
Green Valley Lake, the jewel of Payson, is the perfect destination to begin a child’s outdoor experiences with a fishing rod in hand. There are so many opportunities to identify wildlife, especially in the winter months with all of the migrating waterfowl using the lake. Parents, take a little time after work or on a weekend and take your children on a stroll of the lakefront and don’t forget the fishing equipment. This can be family fun enjoyed for a lifetime.
Mike Huckabee of Fox television said it perfectly, “Every child in America should have the opportunity of fishing with Dad or Mom. It will be time well spent.”
This weekend, enjoy the great outdoors, God’s creation.