May 25, 2015

Streams near Payson for fun and fishing

Payson Insiders Guide to Streams: Live Like a Local

There are many streams around the Payson rim country area to fish or just have fun in the water. While many different water areas are available and accessible, I want to invite you to live like a local at the nearby fishin & swimming holes.


East Verde River
While technically not a stream, it is still a flowing body of water near Payson that many of the locals romp around in. This river is 3 to 4 miles north of Payson. Take Hwy 87 for 4 miles north of Payson to the East Verde River. Turn left (west) on East Verde Park Estates Road/Forest Road 622 and drive 1/4 a mile to the river.  If you are going there to fish, this river is home to Rainbow Trout, Brown Trout, Smallmouth Bass and Sunfish - although the standard picnic areas don't have a lot of the fish because of all the activity.

Tonto Creek
Tonto Creek is less than 30 minutes from Payson. Exactly 21 miles east of town, turn left at the sign for Tonto Creek Fish Hatchery to reach an improved campground with restroom facilities, picnic tables, and barbeque pits—and Tonto Creek. In the vicinity of the campground, 1.3 miles of beautiful water spills over softball-size rocks with intermittent gravel. The stream bubbles along under a canopy of trees whose limbs can prove somewhat hazardous to fully loaded fly boxes.

Horton Creek
About 1 mile from the highway, along the road to the Tonto Fish Hatchery, the Horton Trailhead marks the beginning of a 2-mile hike down to the pocket water stretches of Horton Creek. This beautiful, pristine stream twists and turns through limestone cuts covered by a branched canopy. Recent drought years and low water levels have taken their toll on Horton Creek’s population of wild brown trout and these days, anglers must probe the pocket water stretches to find the few browns remaining.

Christopher Creek
Twelve miles from the turnoff to Tonto Creek, Highway 260 crosses Christopher Creek. For access, head into the city of Christopher Creek and turn north onto Forest Road 284 to reach Sea Canyon. The Arizona Game and Fish Department (AGFD) stocks this part of Christopher Creek bi-weekly from spring until fall, creating fairly good fishing from May 1 through late August or early September. Little more than a thread of water, this tiny brook begins at about 8,100 feet on the rim and runs for 3.3 miles. Its banks are shaded by poplar and spruce, which offer ideal shady cover for stealthy anglers.

Haigler Creek
Six miles north of the town of Young, Highway 288 crosses Haigler Creek, which eventually dumps into Tonto Creek at Bear Flats, near the boundary of the Hellsgate Wilderness. Haigler offers rainbows and browns all year long. At a slightly lower elevation than other rim creeks, Haigler produces reliable dry fly fishing even during the winter.

Canyon Creek
Down 260, take the turnoff for the town of Young (Colcord Rd.) to get to Canyon Creek: another fine fishery—indeed, in my opinion, the best trout stream in Arizona. To find it, head south onColcord Rd, then turn east on Forest Road 33, and continue on that road which heads northeast, and soon crosses the creek at Upper Canyon Creek Campground.

Chevelon Creek
A small stream flowing from Chevelon Lake located on top of the Mogollon Rim, Chevelon Creek holds wild rainbows and browns. Black bears and mountain lions frequent this neck of the rim, testifying to the area’s wildlife. The stream corridor is vegetated by typical high-desert plants, with sporadic areas of arboreal canopy shading the water.