Small Stream fishing is more than just fishing. It is the part of living in America we all love - the freedom of wide open spaces.  Getting out to the woods, away from the city and forgetting about time, satisfies our deep desire for peace and quiet. Rim Country stream fishing is an anglers dream, with Brown and Rainbow trout that will not disappoint!  The next time you get the urge to put on the hip waders or just throw a line from the bank, think the Rim Country, you'll be glad you did.

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

Farther east down highway 260, past the turnoff for the town of Young, Canyon Creek is another fine fishery—indeed, in my opinion, the best trout stream in Arizona. To find it, head south on Forest Road 288, then turn east on Forest Road 33, and continue to a left turn on Forest Road 34, which heads northeast, and soon crosses the creek.

Chevlon 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. 

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Parks, Recreation & Tourism Department
1000 W. Country Club Dr.

Payson, AZ 85541  |  928-472-5110

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