Apache Trout Angling

Black River
  |  Gorp.com
Black River Practicalities
Species: Brown, rainbow and Apache trout.

Gear: A 3- to 5-weight rod. Wade wet or wear hip waders.

Flies: Elk Hair Caddis (#12-#18), Quill Gordon, (#14-#18), Trico (#18-#22), Blue Winged Olive (#16-#20), Yellow Sally (#10-#14), Stimulator (#8-#12), Adams (#12-#20), Hare's Ear Nymph (#10-#18), Caddis emergers (#14-#18), Pheasant Tail (#12-#18), Stonefly nymph (#8-#12).

Regulations: The Black River has sections that are subject to catch-and-release regulations. A tribal permit is required.

Directions: From Phoenix, travel east on US 60 (also known as Superstition Freeway) through Glove to Show Low, then southeast on Highway 60 to Springerville. If you want to access the West Fork, take a look at the national forest map or DeLorme. You can take several routes but one way is to travel south on FR 273 to FR 116. Access is by way of dirt roads and a four-wheel drive vehicle is the only way to go. Forest Road 116 is the easiest way. If you want to access the East Fork, continue south from Springerville on 180/191. You can then access the river easiest from Hannagan Meadow or from Alpine on several forest roads. You can also reach the East Fork as it crosses Forest Road 249, and as it parallels Forest Road 276 further south.

Lodging: Alpine is the closest town but you'll probably want to stay in Springerville: Springerville Inn, (520) 333-4365. If you do want to stay in the immediate Alpine area, wild as it is, Mountain Hi Lodge, (520) 339-4311, or Hannagan Meadow Lodge, (520) 339-4370. You can also stay in Greer if you plan to fish the West Fork of the Black and the Little Colorado. Try the Red Setter Inn, (520) 735-7441, or Greer Lodge, (520) 735-7216.


I once caught so many fish upstream of Burro Creek, a tributary of the Black River, that I got tired of fishing. I know that sounds crazy but I set down my rod, took out a sandwich, sat on the bank and enjoyed the wildness and angling success of the Black River.

I went through all my Adams Parachutes (I had three left, sizes #12, #14 and #16) and when they tore those up, I tied on a tan Elk Hair Caddis. They tore that up. Anything I put on, the trout attacked. The meadows were alive and green. Hoppers flew up from the grass as I walked along. I fished clear, deep beaver ponds.

I didn't see another human all day long. And I think the middle canyon section of the Black's West Fork has better habitat and bigger fish. So imagine the kind of trip you can plan.

This gem of a trout stream forms the border between the San Carlos and White Mountain Apache lands and requires a special daily permit for fishing and camping. Most of the best fishing on the Black River is to be found in the spruce and fir forests in alpine settings in the White Mountains.

One of the side benefits for the angler is that the Black River is one of the best smallmouth streams in the state. The trout fishing ain't bad either.

Apaches, Rainbows & Browns

The Black River runs through some of the harshest, loneliest and most scenic country in the West. You have a good chance of seeing deer, elk, bear and even bighorn sheep. In the summer, the two forks, the East and West Forks, are usually low and clear.

Apache trout inhabit the upper stretches of the rivers, rainbows and browns in the middle sections, brown trout in the lower mountain stretches, and a mix of bass and trout in the lowest stretches.

The East Fork is the most popular and in stretches, you will feel relatively crowded. Hit the upper reaches of the East Fork to get away from it all and fish in pristine water. The East Fork is brushy in spots and is punctuated by riffles and pools, some long, still pools, and lots and lots of rocks.

The West Fork of the Black River is a mountain headwater and is brushy, sometimes difficult fishing for spooky rainbow and brown trout. Some Apache trout are found in the upper area.

Published: 30 Apr 2002 | Last Updated: 15 Sep 2010
Details mentioned in this article were accurate at the time of publication


Sign up to Away's Travel Insider

Preview newsletter »