Fly Fishing the Upper West Fork Outside of Alpine, AZ

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Well… I’ll admit it – I routinely get turned on to the best fly fishing in the White Mountains region. Our designated broker Bob Pollock at Greer Land & Investments is a legendary fly fisherman in the Greer area with over 25 years experience. In addition, my wife Wendy Krueger has been guiding fly fishing in the Alpine and Greer area for the past 9 seasons. Between the two of them, they have covered as much of our surrounding water as anybody else…

I enjoy fly fishing tremendously, but I usually gravitate towards the Yellowstone, Gallatin and Madison Rivers in Montana. I like big water dry fly fishing with plenty of room for my backcast. Unfortunately outside of Lees Ferry on the Colorado River, there are very few areas in Arizona that get me really excited about fishing. Sure, I’m okay with whiling away the day down on the Lower Black River south of Wildcat Crossing wet fly fishing for Brown Trout – but I’d much rather have surface strikes and plenty of them. When I feel the urge to snag a few large hook jaw Brown Trouts off an Elk Hair Caddis, I head to the Upper West Fork of the Black River.

Directions – From Alpine take US 191 (formerly US666) north of town 1 mile and turn off at Big Lake Road or Forest Road 249. Travel west approximately 16 miles past the Sierra Blanca Ranch, then the Three Forks Area to Forest Road 249E. Continue travelling west past the Indian Springs trail head, around the back side of Big Lake past South Cove, down a big hill to the junction of Forest Road 116. Turn left (west again) on Forest Road 116, you’ll drop into the drainage with an old cabin on your right, continue another 1/3 mile and there will be a Forest Service Ramada parking area. Directly south 100 yards will be the Thompson Trail trail head and the Upper West Fork of the Black River.

There is a culvert right at the road which is okay for a dip of the line, but I like to head directly south down the trail. After 1/4 mile there will be a fish barrier to protect the Apache Trout, you cannot fish in this area, travel another 1/3 mile and there will be another fish barrier, you may begin fishing below this area. Everybody likes to fish a little differently, my style is to hike as far back as I feel like that day – then begin fishing back up river against the stream.

I generally hike for 45 minutes down the trail which is about 3 miles. The first 1.5 miles of the hike is fairly wooded along the river, there will be a small meadow opening, then the meadow will open up to a larger meadow. Continue south along the Thompson Trail which is actually an old railroad grade, about halfway through the big meadow the trail will dip down low (probably an old bridge location). Hike through the dip and after a few hundred yards you will notice that the trail veers off to the west, begin hiking cross country directly across the meadow in a southeasterly direction. You will be travelling slightly downhill and angling toward the obvious bottom of the meadow.

There is a great camping and picnic spot where the meadow ends and this is where I usually assemble my rod. If I’m travelling alone, I carry a sidearm, an old habit from Montana. I’m generally concentrating so much on the water that I may walk up and startle a bear or mountain lion… (although I’ve had no experiences myself with those critters in this area). If we’ve been getting a lot of rain, especially during monsoon the pools are pretty cloudy. These are good for a few casts, but I have had far better luck casting directly upstream, usually around corners on my side of the stream, and having my dry fly float blindly along the edge of the river. I routinely catch nice Brown Trout in this manner using a variety of flys including hoppers. I generally fish the entire large and small meadows in about 2 hours and catch and release quite a few fish.

If you want to fish this area successfully, you need to be an early riser. I like to be on the water around 6AM. This means I leave Alpine about 4:30AM in the summer, drive for 45 minutes and then hike in for 45 minutes. I have tried fishing the area later in the morning and in the afternoon with limited success. I figure if your goal is to catch fish, you should be there when they’re feeding.

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