We are fortunate in Payson to be able to fish for trout in the Green Valley Lakes through mid May.
We are also lucky to have several streams and the Rim lakes close by to give us great trout fishing options all summer.
The first week in April marks the start of the spring/summer stocking schedule that includes streams like Tonto Creek, the East Verde River, Christopher Creek, Haigler Creek and Canyon Creek, as well as the Rim lakes — weather and road conditions permitting. They are often stocked late in the week throughout the season to prepare for weekend fishing.
This early in the year, I’d suggest starting your stream fishing on Tonto Creek and the East Verde River. They are both easy to access on paved roads.
I haven’t been to Canyon Creek or Haigler Creek this spring to know what the condition of those dirt roads are.
As you are considering where to fish, there is a page on the Arizona Game and Fish Department website that lists stocking locations and dates.
This is particularly helpful if you are planning to fish a stream that is new to you.
When you open the stocking schedule and click on the name of the stream, it will display a map that denotes all the stocking locations on that particular stream. This is important because AZGFD studies have determined that the stocked fish generally don’t move very far from their stocking locations.
If you fished a stream last year, it may have drastically changed with all the rain and snow we have had since last fall. I enjoy seeing changes on the streams as it causes me to rethink how I will need to fish a particular pool.
Be prepared to look for fish in different locations than you might be used to.
I drove up to the East Verde River this week to take a look at First, Second and Third crossings, Water Wheel and the 87 Crossing.
I was thrilled to see so much water. I missed fishing the East Verde last summer when it essentially dried up.
When I stopped by the Water Wheel parking area, it was clear that the damage caused by the fire will continue to impact the river for years to come.
The river level had crested several feet higher than it is now. It was a powerful reminder that we all must be prepared for flash flood conditions on these streams, especially those that fire damage has affected somewhere upstream in their watershed.
In these higher water conditions, the fish are often found in eddies or the slow water near the main currents. They do not want to work very hard in this cold, fast water, but want to be ready to grab any aquatic insects that drift by.
Remember that if you are fishing the eddies that the trout are faced into the current, so may actually be facing downstream in the eddy looking for food circling out of the main current into the slower water.
During these colder, faster water conditions be especially cautious. The banks are slippery and the pools are deep. I always fish with a wading stick even though I do my best to stay out of the water.
If you are planning to wade, hip boots are a good choice.
The flies that I use in the summer are generally a bit smaller than what I use now with higher, more clouded water.
This time of year, I will use bead-head wet flies (size 12-14) with an indicator about three feet above my fly. Wooly buggers (size 8-12) are a good option as well. Black, brown, and green are my preferred colors.
Occasionally a fish will grab my indicator! When that happens I will often put on a small Royal Coachman dry fly or Elk Hair Caddis to entice a strike.
I’d also suggest that you check your fishing license and be sure that it is current. Licenses are good for a full year from the date of issue. It is important that children 10 years and older buy a license too. The license for kids is $5.
My older grandson feels proud that he is contributing to the trout stocking program and helping with efforts to improve habitat for fish.
This is a great time to get out and enjoy fishing the streams in Rim Country. Good luck!