Visiting Woods Canyon Lake On A Hot, Summer Weekend


John Forbes’ healthy catch shows you can still get in good fishing at Woods Canyon Lake on the weekend - just plan to get up an go very early in the day. It’s the best time to get on the lake and avoid the Valley crowds.

John Forbes’ healthy catch shows you can still get in good fishing at Woods Canyon Lake on the weekend - just plan to get up an go very early in the day. It’s the best time to get on the lake and avoid the Valley crowds.

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Weekends at Woods Canyon Lake can be hectic — even when in a boat. There are certain times during the day that a stoplight would be appropriate to regulate the flow of boat traffic!  Summer weekends are for the visitors from the Valley trying to escape the scorching 100-plus temperatures.

Well, John Forbes and I went anyway.  But, the only difference is we decided to get an early start and leave Payson at 4:30 a.m., which would put us on the water easily by 5:30, just as the sun was rising in the east. Much to our surprise, the parking lot was nearly empty, with only one other truck and empty boat trailer. 

The water was glass-calm with numerous trout dimpling the surface, feeding on an insect hatch that was in full swing. That view certainly increases the excitement of launching a boat and getting the rods ready for action.  Our plan was to slow troll small lures and within 100 yards of the launch, the first fish had already taken the bait. This action continued for about an hour before the bright sunlight started to make the fish go deeper and slow the bite.

By 6:30 a.m. the parking lot and launch area were beginning to get hectic with anglers vying for position along the shore and a lineup of vehicles ready to put boats in the water. This process continued and with increased human activity and sunlight, the fishing really began to taper off by 8 a.m. and it was time for us to go home for breakfast.

The only regret we had was that we should have started the early morning trip a bit earlier because we missed the first 30 minutes of the gray dawn excellent trout bite. Make sure you try size 0 or 1 in a Mepps spinner, Panther Martin, or any other small flashy lure. If fly-fishing is your choice, then have a good supply of woolly buggers, woolly worms and peacock ladies using a very slow retrieve and it will work well.

Ultralight spinning gear with 4- to 6-pound test is recommended because the smaller diameter line is supposedly harder for a fish to see in the water. With smaller lures, the action of the bait improves with lighter line.  Catching a 10- to 12-inch trout on lightweight gear can be a challenge and is so much fun to feel the fighting action of the trout.

Woods Canyon Lake is stocked weekly by the Tonto Creek Fish Hatchery to meet the heavy demands of the thousands of weekend visitors who want to catch a rainbow trout. It is no doubt, the most popular of the Rim Lakes because of its easy accessibility, boat rentals and cool, alpine climate at 7,500 feet in elevation. Even on a summer weekend, it is possible to beat the crowds at least for a little while by making the trip in the dark and being at water’s edge by gray dawn. There are two hours of absolutely fantastic fishing. That 36 miles from Payson to the lake is all elk country and at that time of the morning they are close to the roads, eating the grasses in the bar ditches, so be careful. 

This week, take a new friend fishing and enjoy the panorama of the Rim Country, God’s creation.

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