Arizona Fly Fishing 5 min read

DIY Guide to the Best Fly Fishing in Arizona

Ken Sperry

Posted by Ken Sperry

August 8, 2015

Disclosure: DIY Fly Fishing may receive a commission for purchases made through links in this article, at no additional cost to you.

When you think of the state of Arizona, often the first thing that comes to mind is the desert landscape, incredible scenery, relaxing spas, and the amazing golfing opportunities. Well, here’s a little secret about the state: it’s also an ideal place to take part in fly fishing. In fact, you can make a real vacation out of it and tie the fishing in with other outdoor recreation activities. The fact that Arizona stays warm all year round makes this a flexible destination for anglers as well, as you’ll never find yourself having to fight the cold outdoors.

So, let’s take a closer look at what makes Arizona such a great destination for fly fishing.

Arizona Trout Fishing Map

map of places to fish in Arizona

Get Directions to the Fishing Access Points shown above with the DIY Fly Fishing Map

Best Fly Fishing in Arizona

The state of Arizona offers a large number of creeks, streams, and lakes that are ideal locations for fly fishing. What’s really unique about the fishing here is that some of these waters are located in urban cities. This is a stark difference compared to what most anglers may be used to. It’s hard to cover off all the spots in the state but there are a handful that really stand out and are not to be missed.

Lees Ferry

If you’re planning to check out the Grand Canyon while in Arizona, then Lees Ferry can act as the perfect spot for fishing. This is located not far from Page, near the head of the canyon.

Here, the Colorado River offers great fishing any time of the year as the water temperature stays very consistent. You’ll also love the fact that the water is so clear.

As far as what kind of weather to expect, in the winter the temperatures dip as low as 20 degrees, and in the summer they hit as high as 110 degrees. With that said, spring and fall tend to be the most comfortable times to visit the area.

This is the perfect river for catching rainbow trout. Some of the gear and equipment you’ll want to bring along includes dry flies for use in the summer, or you can always opt for streamers which will get you through all four seasons. As for leaders, it is recommended you go with nine feet.

The Imperial Reservoir

If it’s bass you’re after, then you can find them at the Imperial Reservoir. This reservoir is located upriver in Yuma County by passing through the Cibola National Wildlife Refuge. It is a man-made reservoir. It’s not unusual to find bass weighing in at a lofty 12 pounds or more.

Oak Creek

People often pick Sedona as a destination when traveling to Arizona, which can also be thought of as a great spot for trout fishing. Oak Creek runs through the middle of the town and the water in the creek comes straight from the Oak Creek Canyon, which is spring water.

Trout, in particular rainbow and wild brown trout, love the cold temperatures of the creek, and anglers love how clear it is. If you’re looking for a challenge, you can visit the pools and riffles, which give you an opportunity to try some advanced techniques.

It’s hard to just provide a blanket statement when it comes to your equipment and gear as it really depends where you plan to fish along this 42 mile long creek.

You can pick a nine foot rod where the creek is wide, but then you may need a shorter one for other sections. A good rule of thumb if you want to experience the full creek is to take a few different rods. You can enjoy fishing any time of year here, but the peak season is summer in case you’d rather visit during slow season.

The White Mountains

This area of the state is notorious for its towering fir and pine forests, and the elevation is about 6,500 feet. With a bit of trekking you can enjoy fishing that can be at up to 10,000 feet, giving you a true alpine experience.

You can enjoy fishing in these waters any time of the year, but usually the best time is in the fall. As for what kind of fish you’ll be catching, it will mainly be trout but you can also catch catfish and bass.

As a special treat, you can catch Apache trout. What makes this fish so special is that you can’t catch it anywhere else in the United States. They can be found in the Black River at the West Fork.

The White Mountains ensure the fish stock stays high by using a fish hatchery system. The system is employed by the Arizona Game and Fish Department.

Apache Lake

While this lake may not be as well known to others, it’s actually a wonderful spot for fly fishing. The lake can be found in central Arizona right on the Salt River. It is explained as a canyon lake that is very deep. It’s actually formed from runoff coming from the Salt River.

It’s fairly accessible from Roosevelt Dam, which is to the south, or Apache Junction which is on State Highway 88. The lake is pretty clear as it’s not high in vegetation or brush. The fish you’ll find are smallmouth bass and largemouth bass.

You’ll find the water levels change up quite a bit here, from shallow to deep. It is recommended you use a light line due to the fact that the water is so easy to see through.

In the deep water, weighted streamers and nymphs are good choices. Meanwhile, if you’re planning to stick to shallow waters, opt for dry flies, nymphs and unweighted streamers.

Best Time to Fly Fish in Arizona

Thanks to the Arizona climate, no time is a bad time to go fly fishing in the state. There are always options that will offer fish. Instead, it’s more about the type of weather you prefer to be out in, and whether you want to fish without a crowd.

Winter is the least crowded of all the months, but then you need to keep in mind it can be chilly depending on where you are. Most tend to agree that if there is a “best” time to fish in Arizona, it is during the fall, thanks to the comfortable air temperatures, the cool water temperatures, and the decrease in the crowds.

As for the hatches, these happen throughout the year depending on the insect. The midges, worms, shrimp, and eggs continue all year round. Meanwhile, the caddis is from about February to September, and the terrestrials are June through September.

Gear Recommendations

The fishing equipment you’ll want to pack is largely dependent on the depth of the water and the width of the water. Opt for longer nine foot rods if you have lots of space, and small rods for the more narrow streams and creeks in the state.

Typically, you’ll be able to fish from the shore in most of the areas. In fact, in some places the shore is the only option. You may also want to pack a pair of good quality waders that are hip height. This is great for the more shallow creeks and rivers so you can get right in.

Be well aware of the temperature variances through the year so you can dress accordingly.

Best Flies for Trout Fishing in Arizona

As for the type of flies to use, again it depends on the fish you’re planning to catch. If you’re fishing for trout, the usual dry flies, nymphs and streamers will work. 

Largemouth bass will respond to top water patterns and streamers. You can use large nymphs for smallmouth bass, as well as streamer flies that are meant to look like minnows.

Need flies? 

The Fly Crate offers a great selection of dry flies, nymphs and streamers that will catch fish just about anywhere.  Premium, high quality, hand-tied flies at a great price!

fly fishing flies from The Fly Crate

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Arizona Fishing Regulations

Of course, if you plan to do any fishing, you’ll need to purchase a general fishing license, which can be done through the Arizona Game and Fish Department.

Any person who plans to fish who is 10 years of age or older will require this license. It also needs to be carried with you while you are actually fishing. This license is available to residents of the state as well as non-residents.

Keep in mind, as with any state, it’s also important to ask questions about restrictions and any catch and release laws.

Trip Planning

Arizona is really a state all among itself in that it offers such a diverse selection of landscape and terrain that you can enjoy fishing in. It doesn’t matter if you’re a resident of the state just looking for a quiet day of fishing, or you’re with a group of buddies looking to combine a week of fishing with sightseeing and other outdoor activities. This state has all the basics covered and then some.

Looking for more places to fish?  Check our DIY Guide to the Best Fly Fishing Destinations in the U.S.