Apache Trout Angling

Blue River
  |  Gorp.com
Blue River Practicalities
Species: Brown and Apache trout.

Gear: You'll need nothing bigger than a 4-weight on this intimate stream. Wade wet or wear hip waders or wade wet.

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: On the Blue River, near the border, a New Mexico fishing license is required for the upper two miles of the river.

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, then south on 180/191 through Alpine, then south on Forest Road 281. The Blue River runs alongside FR 281, also known as Blue River Road. The Blue is easily accessible from a crisscrossing of roads from Alpine to Pigeon Creek. The Blue River Road parallels the river for most of its run. With this much access, you'd think the river would be inundated by anglers but it's not. Even with the road beside the river, I always feel like I am secluded, out away from it all.

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.


One hot summer day on the Blue, Kenny and I had thrown everything we had at the trout and came up empty. We sat on big streamside boulders reflecting on what factors conspired against us and were on reason 41 when we noticed in the distance a dark storm rising up from the afternoon swelter.

The storm was long, flat and rectangular, hanging over the high desert floor like a big black block of coal. Lightning flashed out in long silver lashes. With its weird shape and pitch blackness, the cloud looked surreal. It was an impressive sight, one that was moving toward us with increasing swiftness.

We sat in the car less than ten minutes later, the heavy anvil of the storm dumping rain on our truck, lightning dancing all around. In epiphany, I looked at my brother-in-law and exclaimed,"Darn. I should have gotten out my camera and got some shots of the storm as it moved toward us."

Kenny thought for a minute and said, "You know, the storm will always be more vivid in here," as he tapped his head with his finger. And he is right. I can still see the powerful weird storm over the Blue River today. This is wild country and you will take some of it with you always.

Wild Trout Country

Technically, most of the Blue River runs through the Blue Range of far eastern Arizona, but enough of it runs through the White Mountains to deserve inclusion here. The Blue River always seems to run shallow when I fish it, and suffers from many problems including overgrazing and erosion, sediment buildup, warm summer temperatures and the fact parts of the upper river can dry up in lean snowpack years.

The river hasn't been stocked with trout the last few years so it's up to the wild trout to reproduce in adequate numbers (and they will, as wild trout will always do when returned to a natural cycle on lightly fished rivers). The fishing is so spotty in the Blue that without a guide or local advice on current conditions, it's a crapshoot on whether or not you'll have success.

But the Blue does boast more than 50 miles of trout water running through stunning mountain scenery. You won't run into another angler all day. The brown trout are stream-bred. And in places, for instance the upper Blue near the New Mexico border or near the Strayhorse Creek confluence, the fishing can be phenomenal.

The Blue River is best fished in the spring and fall when the heat of the summer and the low flows can make fishing inconsistent at best. You will mostly catch brown trout but might catch an occasional rainbow trout. And if you walk past the herds of cows and find a beaver pond or a section with deeper water, you have a good shot at getting into some heavy-bodied fish.

Be respectful of private property, which tends to be well-marked. My suggestion is to pencil the Blue into your plans before you make the trip and only write it in permanent ink if the White Mountains are in a wet year. If that's the case, stick to the Blue and its numerous tributaries and stay away from the crowds on the White River.

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


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