Fall has arrived, and that often dictates storing the fishing equipment and breaking out the hunting gear. Many archers have been in the field for a couple of weeks attempting to tag a deer, while archery elk season is just beginning. The quail, duck and turkey seasons will begin in early October for the shotgun enthusiasts, while the rifle permit holders for deer and elk will follow later in the fall.
Just a reminder, the months of October and November can be some of the very best trout fishing on many of the Arizona high mountain lakes. The seven Rim lakes that are within an hour’s driving time or less from Payson have long emptied from the summer crowds and now even Willow Springs or Woods Canyon Lake can offer picture perfect solitude. As the water temperatures cool, the trout become more active and their feeding pattern continues throughout the day, preparing for the winter freeze.
The average 9-12 inch summer stocker has grown a bit and has even taken on some wild fish tendencies, which include color markings as well as fighting ability on ultralight fishing gear. A typical stocked rainbow that has been feeding on natural food for a few months will have meat that will take on a pink or orange look depending on its food intake.
Of course, there is always the chance of catching a trophy-sized trout in the two-pound category with a few being even larger. This time of year also increases the chances of catching the elusive German brown that may be trying to spawn in any of the small tributaries that feed a lake with fresh water. During the summer, these golden trophies live in the deepest part of the lake and are seldom caught. But, in the fall they begin to cruise the shoreline looking for food and are vulnerable to minnow shaped Rapala or Bomber crawdad crankbait.
Keep in mind, the higher the elevation of the lake, the sooner the water starts to cool, which triggers the fish to bite more aggressively. Trout waters such as Reservation, Sunrise and Big Lake, which are at over 8,500 feet in elevation, will turn on a few weeks sooner than the Rim lakes which are at about 7,000 feet. These waters also provide the opportunity for an angler to catch a trophy cut-throat or brook trout.
If you venture to any of the Arizona high mountain lakes in the fall, it would be wise to layer your clothing. It is normal to need a heavy jacket in the early morning hours before the sun has warmed the air. By mid-day, on comfortable fall days, maybe only a sweatshirt is needed during the peak heating times. Whether you choose a Rim lake or travel to the White Mountains, the summer crowds have long gone and the fishing can be nothing short of spectacular. Always let someone know where you are fishing and the approximate time of arrival back home, because most of these Arizona lakes have little or no cell service.
This weekend, take a friend fishing, enjoy the Rim Country, God’s creation.