You might not have thought it but the fly fishing in Arizona is some of the most unique in the United States.
When you consider the landscapes the babbling trout streams flow through and the possibility of catching Apache trout as well as browns, rainbows, and brookies, it’s a place every fly fishermen should fish once in their life.
In this article, I will run through everything you need to know about fly fishing in Arizona from the best fishing spots to where to fish on them with maps and even what flies to have in your waterproof fly box.
By the end, you’ll be able to plan a fly fishing trip to Arizona while standing on your head. Let’s dive in!
1. Salt River
Situated only 25 miles from Phoenix, the Salt River is an incredible rainbow trout fishery, and while they aren’t wild trout, these Arizona trout know how to pull some line.
The Salt River, technically the lower Salt River, is a tailwater than flows out of Saguaro Lake which provides an unending supply of cool water which provides great trout fishing year-round, but especially in winter.
If you want to head south and do some fly fishing in Arizona over your winter break, the Lower Salt River is the place to go.
The river even has a cold water supply from the extreme depths of Saguaro Lake during the summer but dry conditions can make the fishing hard.
The river is stocked every year over the winter. You will want to check when the fish are stocked in the fly fishing in Arizona Report and plan your fly fishing for a few days later once they have settled in. Another great time to fly fish the If there is a good amount of rainfall.
Where To Fish On The Lower Salt River
Only a few segments of the river support trout populations. Some of these include the Phon D. Sutton, Coon Bluff, and the User’s Water Recreational Area. An excellent access point is on the map below but don’t be surprised if you find a few other fly fishermen there too.
The coolest thing about fly fishing here is that you’ll be catching trout in the desert, which is pretty unique in the fly fishing world.
Recommended Flies For The Lower Salt River
- Pheasant tail nymph
- Elk Wing Caddis
- Blue Winged Olives
- Prince Nymphs
- Copper Johns
- Hare’s Ears
2. Black River
The Black River runs through the White Mountains and is a place every fly fisherman should fly fish in Arizona and it is home to the rarely found apache trout. Apache trout are a native trout species, technically a cutthroat trout, and catching one is on everyone’s trout fishing bucket list.
About an hour outside of Phoenix, the White Mountains offer a cool respite from the heat of Phoenix and they are stunningly beautiful. Even if you don’t catch fish, spending time in the White Mountains is worth every minute.
The Black River offers some of the best Arizona fly fishing you can find and the 114 miles of fishable river is a paradise for every fly fisher. The Black River is a beautiful freestone stream that isn’t just home to Apache trout but also to brown trout, largemouth bass, and smallmouth bass too.
The Apache trout tend to stay in the upper reaches of the Black River while the brown trout and bass sit in the lower reaches.
You should fly fish this river in spring, summer, and fall but every fly fisher should know it will lose water during summer and fall so some finesse tactics will be needed. Fly fishing on this river is quite technical as there are lots of bushes and snags to get tangled up in. Speaking of trout bucket list, don’t forget to go new mexico fly fishing as it offers great places for your trout adventures.
Where To Fish On The Black River
Most of the parts of the Black River are accessed by forestry roads as the White Mountains are quite remote. The map below will take you to the west fork of the Black River and just downstream is where the east fork meets it.
This is a great place to fly fish as you can pick either fork or fish below the confluence. This area is good for apache trout fishing too.
Recommended Flies For The Black River
- Royal Wulffs
- Various Nymphs
- Griffith’s Gnat
3. Lee’s Ferry Area of Colorado River
All guides about Arizona fly fishing feature information about the Lee’s Ferry area of the Colorado River and for good reason as it is one of the best trout fishing places to fly fish in Arizona.
While fly fishing Arizona you have to head to this section of the Colorado River as it is simply mind-blowing. This part of the Colorado River is a tailwater fishery that flows out of Lake Powell and it stays cool all year round.
The setting is one that no fly fisher will soon forget. Casting flies next to the huge red sandstone cliffs is simply enchanting and there is nothing quite like seeing a wild rainbow trout sip your fly off the surface.
There are about 15 miles of fishable water where you can catch rainbow trout. The river is crystal clear all year and full of beautiful features including bars, riffles, and deep pools. It is nothing short of an exceptional Arizona fly fishing experience.
You can fly fish in the Lee’s Ferry Area all year round as the cool water ensures the rainbow trout are always happy.
Summer is the busiest time of year as the cold water makes this area one of the few Arizona fly fishing spots that work in the heat. Fly fishing in spring can be challenging because of the melting snow around Lake Powell.
Visit the river in the off-peak months and you will avoid the crowds of summer fly anglers.
Where To Fish On The Colorado River
The best access point to this area of the Colorado River is Lee’s Ferry. Plan your visit around late fall or early winter, when wading to the lower reaches of the river is effortless.
Recommended Flies For The Colorado River
- Zebra Midge
- Black Stonefly Nymph
- Dawkins’s DD Midge
- Midge Nymphs
4. Oak Creek
Oak Creek is a spectacular Arizona fly fishing destination that every fly fisherman should cast a line on once in their lifetime.
Oak Creek flows through the Oak Creek Canyon and it is located in Sedona. The Oak Creek Canyon is one of the most beautiful Arizona fly fishing areas and when you combine this with the crystal clear waters of Oak Creek, every angler will think they have left Arizona and gone to heaven.
This trout stream is stocked with brook trout as well as rainbow and brown trout too and it’s one of the only places you can find this when fly fishing Arizona. Being able to catch brown and rainbow trout as well as brook trout in one trout stream is a real treat.
The Page Springs Fish Hatchery is responsible for restocking the stream to maintain the trout population on Oak Creek. The fish live quite happily in the stream but they start fighting for survival around Grasshopper Point where the water gets too warm for them.
If brook trout fishing is what you are after you will need to go up to the North Fork which has more elevation and thus cooler water for brookies. Anywhere up from Grasshopper point will hold healthy populations of rainbow and brown trout.
The nearby West Fork Trail is for single or barbless fly fishing. So, for fly anglers looking for catch ‘and’ release prospects, West Fork Trail is the best. It will hold more brown trout and rainbow trout as the fish are released but you might find them to be a bit smarter than others.
Where To Fish On Oak Creek
As I mentioned earlier, trout fishing starts on this stream from Grasshopper Point and upwards. You can start your fly fishing there and work your way up to the most productive section, the West Fork.
You’ll find Grasshopper Point on the map below and you can park there with ease.
If you want to go straight to the West Fork of Oak Creek you will need to follow the West Fork Trail which is on the map below. This stretch will hold more rainbow trout and brown trout than all the others plus the rugged mountain scenery is to die for.
To catch some brook trout keep following the main flow up the road until you get to the north fork featured on the map which sits below the fish hatchery. Be sure to practice your short casts as there is a lot of foliage to get snagged on.
Recommended Flies For Oak Creek
- Blue Winged Olive
- Wooly Bugger
- Pheasant Tail Nymph
- Copper John
- Prince Nymphs
- Elk hair caddis
5. Canyon Creek
Canyon Creek is a tributary of the Salt River that stretches for 50 miles from the Tonto National Forest to the White Mountains Apache Indian Reservation.
Over the years, the creek has been undergoing restoration, thanks to the Arizona Game and Fish Department and Trout Unlimited.
If you like fly fishing in remote areas away from lots of people then this might be the creek you have been looking for. I love to get off the beaten track and with 50 miles of river to explore through the seemingly unending wilderness, this spot is hard to be when it comes to a fishy adventure.
You will find two fish species in this creek which include brown trout and rainbow trout. The fish are very willing to take flies as they are stocked but anglers can also use artificial here so try to get away from easy access areas.
The best place to fly fish in these parts is from the OW Bridge toward the Apache Indian Reservation. Fly fishing on native land requires a permit from the reservation though so make sure to get that before you walk across their land and cast a line.
Where To Fish On Canyon Creek
An excellent play to start fly fishing is just below the fish hatchery as this part of the river is guaranteed to hold good trout populations and it is very easy to access too.
Fly fishing closer to the confluence with the Salt River is also a great spot and you will find the OW Bridge I mentioned above on the map below.
Recommened Flies For Canyon Creek
- Parachute Adams
- Prince Nymphs
- Pheasant Tails
- Hares Ears
6. Little Colorado River
The Little Colorado is a small stream in the White Mountains on Mount Baldy that eventually joins the Colorado River in the Grand Canyon.
If you planned for your fly fishing Arizona experience to be a proper wilderness adventure then the Little colorado river has what you have been looking for.
The best fly fishing on this river requires hiking across the wilderness and to the west fork with all your fly fishing gear. I would suggest going with a fishing buddy and camping out for a few nights.
You will find complete peace and quiet with no other anglers in sight if you hike in properly and the river is stunning. You’ll find blue water flowing through the red canyons and it will simply blow your mind.
This river is home to wild rainbow trout, brook trout, brown trout, and apache trout too. Apache Trout are rare so you are lucky if you catch one and you’ll want to fish the headwaters to find them.
You can also go fly fishing on the east fork of this river where it flows out of the Colter Reservoir and flows into Greer. You’ll find brown and rainbow trout here but these spots are crowded with locals so I would highly suggest hiking in.
Now that we’ve mentioned Colorado, you can see our guide here on fly fishing colorado.
Where To Fish On The Little Colorado River
If you’re interested in the fly fishing Arizona adventure I described above head to the access point on the map below. You can fish the river right there but I would hike for a few hours before starting to get away from areas that have been fished a lot.
If you do want to fish the tailwaters on the east fork you can find them on the map below. Get there early to secure a spot or walk downstream a bit so you can get some space.
Recommended Flies For The Little Colorado River
- Blood Midges
- Various Nymphs
7. Silver Creek
Stretching only two miles, Silver Creek is yet another fantastic destination located near Show Low. It is owned by the Arizona Game and Fish Department and it is home to a high population of trout as it is a catch and release fishery half of the year from October to March.
The creek is home to both apache trout and rainbow trout and you will be able to find some trophy fish in here as catching fish over the 20-inch mark is a regular occurrence.
Most of the fly fishing here is done from the banks of the river since wading is quite demanding so be sure to take your time walking the banks.
A 4wt fly rod is more than enough on this creek and if you want to fish it when you can take a trout home then be sure to be there between April and September.
The best time to visit Silver Creek is October through the end of March as this is when the waters are cooler but it can be a great escape from the valley heat during the summer months too.
Where To Fish On Silver Creek
Accessing Silver Creek is very easy as you can park up next to the fish hatchery and choose to walk upstream or downstream from there. I would personally fish upstream as the water gets shallower and you might even get a chance to do some sight fishing.
This is also a popular fishing spot for locals too so arriving early and walking up the river will give you some space plus the fish might not have seen so many flies up there either.
Recommended Flies For Silver Creek
- Blood midges
8. Bright Angel Creek
Located within the North Rim of the Grand Canyon is Bright Angel Creek. It is a great place for high elevation trout, albeit challenging to gain access to.
The South Kaibab Trail can take you there, but it is a seven-mile-long hike with a 5,000-foot elevation change but well worth the hike.
Just imagine hiking through the stunning Grand Canyon to come out of the desert landscape and find a crystal clear trout stream? It would be mind-blowing!
You may have to overnight in the canyon to get an entire day to fly fish for the wild rainbow trout and brown trout that frequent this stream but that only adds to the adventure in my eyes.
What an adventure it would be plus you can’t really go to Arizona and not see the Grand Canyon so why not combine it with some awesome fly fishing? The trout in Bright Angel Creek are plentiful and hit 18 inches often plus they have almost zero fishing pressure.
Also, the water is crystal clear so imagine casting to rainbow and brown trout you can see in the middle of the Grand Cayon. This is an Arizona fly fishing spot I would have at the top of my list.
Where To Fish On Bright Angel Creek
The entirety of Bright Angel Creek offers excellent fly fishing but if there is one spot that might hold a trophy fish it is at the stretch where Ribbon Falls enters the creek. This spot is marked on the map below and you will also notice a campground nearby too.
Bring a load of pesto and pasta plus a water filter since you won’t want to leave once you start fishing this incredible trout water. Camping for 2-3 nights once you’re there is highly recommended.
Recommended Flies For Bright Angel Creek
- Pheasant tails
- Copper Johns
- Prince Nymphs
Local Fly Shops In Arizona
Whenever I fish somewhere new my first port of call is always a local fly shop. The staff has a wealth of information about how the current fishing is and they will stock you up with all the local flies you need. Here are some good ones to go to:
Recommended Fly Fishing Guides In Arizona
If you are new to fly fishing or want to fast forward working out the Arizona fly waters then booking a guide for day 1 of your fishing is a great idea. They will have you throwing the right flies in the right places and you can copy this approach for the rest of your trip.
Arizona Fishing Licenses & Regulations
A valid combination or fishing license is mandatory for residents and non-residents who are 10 years of age or older in order to fish on any public accessible water in Arizona. Luckily buying a license is easy and inexpensive.
As you’d expect, licenses for Arizona residents are more affordable but non-residents don’t have to pay too much more. You can buy your licenses online here.
There are quite a few fishing regulations to follow in Arizona and to go through them here would take far too long. Here is a PDF of all the regulations you need to follow. You should also check to see if the specific waters you are fishing have different rules.
One more thing to be wary of is fishing on the Apache Reservations. Do not do so without paying the reservation fee as it is illegal to fish on the reservation without doing so.
Thanks very much for reading my article about Fly Fishing In Arizona. As you can see, this state has a lot to offer when it comes to fly fishing and my favorite thing about it is the incredible scenery you get to do it in.
From casting a line in the White Mountains to hiking through the Grand Canyon to find a creek teeming with trout, the possibilities of adventure are simply mouth-watering. Get planning your trip to fly fish Arizona now!