The Mountains

Fly Fishing in Greer

| Zack Newsome |
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Arizona isn’t known for its trout fishing. Much of the landscape doesn’t allow for the ideal conditions for trout to grow big. But in Arizona’s White Mountains, there is some really fun fly fishing in Greer, Arizona.

Growing up, some of my best memories were fishing with my dad.  We weren’t very good fishermen, but the reward of landing a fish was a feeling unlike anything else. Back then, we were lazy fishermen, usually resorting to some sort of smelly bait left on the lake bottom overnight.  We would wake in the morning hoping that a catfish was on the other end of the line.

As an adult, my interest in fishing waned.  The time and effort required was no longer worth the reward.

As I had my own kids, I wanted them to experience the thrill of landing a fish and my interest in fishing grew again. This time though, I wanted to approach fishing differently.  I had begun to fall in love with the outdoors, looking forward to camping, hiking & exploring the wild areas around me. A camping trip on the Dolores river in Colorado, I tried fly fishing and have never looked back.  That first time, I had no idea what I was doing, but the skill required captivated me. That first trip, I spent hours each day on the water.

Since then, I’ve picked up some better gear, learned more about bugs, and have a lot more experience.  I’m still not very good at fly fishing, but my love for it has only grown.

Arizona’s White Mountains

For years, I have heard that the White Mountains held some of the best trout streams in Arizona. The village of Greer was often mentioned as the ideal place to base to explore the nearby fishing. Greer is a beautiful little town that sits in a small valley with the Little Colorado River running through the center of town. Along with the Little Colorado, the Greer area has 3 lakes, multiple creeks, and more private stocked ponds than you can count.

This summer, I stayed in a small rental cabin in the heart of Greer to try to explore as much of Greer’s fly fishing as my time would allow. In the few days I was in Greer, I fished only a small portion of what Greer has to offer, but here are my thoughts.

Greer Lakes in Greer, Arizona
River Reservoir (left) & Tunnel Reservoir (right) in Greer, Arizona
Fly Fishing in Greer, Arizona
Fly Fishing at River Reservoir

Greer Lakes

Just a few miles north of the town of Greer, lie the Bunch, Tunnel, and River Reservoirs – otherwise known as the Greer Lakes. Surrounded by the Apache-Sitgreaves National Forest, these lakes are absolutely gorgeous and uniquely peaceful. A lot of water can be covered quickly at these smallish lakes. I don’t have a float tube, so I casted from the shoreline on all 3 lakes.

Tunnel Reservoir

I had no luck at my first stop, Tunnel Reservoir (the smallest of the Greer Lakes), but really enjoyed having the lake to myself for the morning.  Next, I walked about 10 minutes to Bunch Reservoir.

Bunch Reservoir

Bunch is a bit bigger than Tunnel and some of its small cliff shoreline makes it difficult to fly fish.  I landed a small rainbow at Bunch and noticed a large amount of wildlife footprints at the water’s edge.

River Reservoir
Little Colorado River in Greer, Arizona
The LCR downstream of River Reservoir

My final stop was River Reservoir, easily the largest of the 3 lakes, and in my opinion, the most beautiful. Bunch and Tunnel mostly spring out of flat terrain, but River Reservoir has more of a small canyon-lake feel. The water in River is held back by a 30-40ft rock dam, from which the Little Colorado continues on the back side of.  This span of the LCR north of the dam is dazzling. I’ve heard there are some big browns back there, but my time spent fishing it yielding nothing.

River reservoir was really fun to fish.  I netted a few small bass here that were fun to catch on my fly rod. I was not fortunate enough to run into the rainbows that the float tubers here seems to be constantly hooked up with. The fish are there, but as with all 3 of these lakes, fishing from out on the water is the way to go.

While the Greer lakes aren’t the best fly fishing in Greer, the experience  this water provides is a great way to spend a few hours. If you’re more interested in “catching” than “fishing”, bring a float tube or other type of boat to get out to where the fish are.

The Little Colorado River (in town)

Molly Butler Lodge in Greer, Arizona
Molly Butler Lodge: A great spot for a break in fishing

One of my favorite parts of Greer is the path that winds through town known as the Greer Village Walkway.  The northern part of the walkway starts near where the LCR crosses under the main road.  There are a number of spots which you can throw your fly here. In the summer months, AZ Game and Fish stocks the Little Colorado in Greer. I’ve seen fish holding near the walkway, but haven’t had much luck netting any.  The great thing about this section of the LCR is how easy it is to access.  It was a short 5 minute walk from my cabin in the middle of town, so I found myself fishing these stretches when I only had a few minutes.

Another great part of this area is that you can take a break and grab a beer at Molly Butler Lodge which is a 2 minute walk away.

Note: you can’t park or fish from the bridge. There is a small area you can park for short period just north of the bridge on the west side of the road.

The West Fork of the Little Colorado River

In the middle of the town of Greer, the West Fork of the LCR meets the East Fork. Both of these stretches are Apache trout recovery streams which means they hold Apache Trout – one of only two trout species native to Arizona. The Wallow fire devastated much of the area in 2011 and the trout population of the East Fork of this river was severely damaged. Fortunately, the West Fork fish sustained minimal damage and it’s a destination to fish for Apaches in the Greer area.

I fished the West Fork right on the edge of town where Highway 373 dead ends.  At the end of the 373 lies is the Government Springs Trailhead and includes parking and a bathroom.  The Government Springs Trail travels upriver along the West Fork and it is specularly beautiful. This trail is lush and green in the summer months. It can be followed for just over 5 miles to Sheep’s Crossing – an area next on my list to fish.

The water of the West Fork can be difficult to access.  The brush along the water grows thick and is dense, but just following the trail further will yield plenty of spots to throw your line. Honestly, I’m not sure sure if the best approach to this area is to “bring your rod along on your hike” or to “get some hiking in while you fish”.  Either way, this is an area not to be missed while fly fishing in Greer.

Searching for Apache Trout

Apache Trout in Greer, ArizonaWhen I visited, I did more hiking than fishing, but searching out the holding fish was the highlight.  The Apache trout in these waters, while not overly abundant, exist in enough quantity to assure you’ll catch one. In the summer months, this water is stocked regularly with Apaches.

I’ve had success here both fishing pockets of deeper water and shallower riffles that I didn’t think were holding fish.  The water runs really clear and can be pretty shallow at times, so prioritize your surprise to be most effective.

Wild Hops from Greer, Arizona
Wild hops harvested from the Government Springs Trail

I’ve caught a number of apaches here and have spent hours roaming this trail. From what I’ve seen, this is my favorite place to fish in Greer.  Even if the trout aren’t biting, you’ll enjoy yourself.

Note: we found an abundance of wild hops growing along the Government Springs trail last time we visited.  I’m planning on home-brewing some beer with the wild hops I harvested soon.

Private Stocked Ponds

Greer has countless small ponds, many of which are stocked with trout.  Many of the cabin rental properties have stocked ponds.  I did not have a chance to check out the fishing in any of these, but I plan to visit the Greer Meadows Lakes on a future visit.  There is a cost involved, but I’ve heard of large trout being caught in the private ponds in Greer. Guides are also available at Greer Meadows Lakes to ensure your success.

Greer has become one of my favorite places in Arizona. It’s the highest elevation town in Arizona giving it perfect summer temperatures and snow-filled winters. The best part is the area’s abundance of nearby water to fish – often just steps away from your rental cabin.

If you do explore fly fishing in Greer, I highly recommend Antler Ridge Resort Cabins. I stayed in the Mountain Vista Cabin (#4) while I explored Greer.  Antler Ridge is perfectly located in the middle of town, steps away from the walkway, Molly Butler’s and the Little Colorado. They have cabins of all sizes and if you make Antler Ridge your choice for your next trip to Greer, you won’t be disappointed.

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