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Southern Arizona Fly Fishing Destinations

By Chris Bonn

AZOD Contributing Writer

Many fly fishermen are anxiously waiting for the perfect opportunity to fish some of the most pristine creeks and stillwaters in the country.  During this past winter, Arizona has been blessed with an abundance of winter moisture and snow.  As we prepare our fishing gear and dress our fly lines this is also a great time to explore and visit some of the other fishing opportunities that our great state has to offer.

Living in Southern Arizona my entire life, one would believe that I have been excluded from bountiful fishing.  Tucson isn't as blessed with the abundance of urban lakes, canals and state lakes that surround our state capital.  We don't have the trickling streams, flowing rivers and Stillwater lakes that popularize our high country.  We aren't even close enough to the grand Colorado River system and all of the tributaries that quench our desert thirst.  Considering our location, we have some of the most remarkable and scenic fishing opportunities in the state and we are even more blessed that most the population isn't aware the fishing possibilities in our neck of the woods.

Throughout the winter and early spring I have racked up the mileage on my new Chevy truck visiting some of the most scenic waters in the state.  I have taken the time to perfect my casting and fishing ability with the hope of catching that trophy rainbow or brown.  Most importantly, I have spent time in the outdoors enjoying the flora and fauna that makes our state so unique.

Who would think that Parker Canyon Lake, located 78 miles south of Tucson would have great trout fishing?  Since I was a child, I can remember catching hundreds of trout on my old spin casting rod and lures.  Several years later I return to find the fishing even more exciting on my fly rod.  Traveling south on Interstate 19 towards Nogales, takes you past Pena Blanca Lake and Patagonia.  Pena Blanca has turned into a great family lake because of the winter trout stocking.  Recently it has become a trophy bass fishery with mercury advisories and less people harvesting the bass.  Quite often, you will hear reports of people catching fifty to a hundred large crappie a day in both Patagonia and Pena Blanca.  A few miles west on Ruby Road, past Pena Blanca is Ruby Lake, located inside the famous ghost town of Ruby, for a nominal fee, you can fish these lakes and catch monster sunfish and bass (this is fun on my 3wt).  Ruby is also a great family destination.  You can set up a tour and learn a little about the history and enjoy a picnic surrounded by large mountain peaks and oak forests.  Continuing west on Ruby Road, you come to one of Arizona's most remarkable fishing conservation recovery stories.  Arivaca Lake, located southeast of the town of Arivaca and West of Pena Blanca, Arivaca is just 45 minutes from Tucson and fishermen will be rewarded.  Hundreds of bass in the one-pound category, huge Redear Sunfish, Bluegill and Sunfish and an occasional trophy at this recovering catch and release lake.  Rose Canyon Lake in the Santa Catalina Mountains is a high altitude lake that was recently drained renovated and refilled by the Forest Service and Game and Fish.  Getting to this fishery requires traveling only twenty minutes from Tucson, to 30 degree cooler temperatures and an altitude of 7,000 feet.  Continuing south on Interstate 10 toward the town of Safford, one might be rewarded for some early brown action at Riggs Flat.

As many can see, there are several fishing opportunities in scenic and varied landscapes of Southern Arizona.  Many lakes aren't far from the Tucson and receive considerably less fishing pressure.  With improved fisheries management strategies, these waters are turning over a new leaf and offering fishermen everywhere that chance of catching a trophy or just a afternoon of solidarity with the family or by yourself.  Just because the weather isn't always optimal on The Mogollon Rim or White Mountains, and the lakes that make up the Salt River drainage, near Phoenix are crowded with recreationalists doesn't mean you have to let your fishing gear get dusty.  Take a trip south and see what this portion of the state has to offer.  Keep fishing and make sure to compliment the contributions our game biologist, fishing clubs and local conservation groups. These are the parties that are responsible for enhancing our state’s resources and insure that our children will also have the chance to enjoy them.  Arizona is truly an outdoors Mecca for sportsmen that deserves the respect and appreciation of all who use it’s resources.  Tighlines and God Bless.

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