River: The Black River in Arizona – Chasing Brown, Apache and Rainbow Trout

Apr 3, 2019

With the main stem flowing with lush trout habitat for dozens of miles and two forks lofted in the White Mountains of Arizona, you’ll want to get your bugs wet in the Black River! Some would say this river is worth spending a day fishing if for nothing more than to enjoy the secluded scenery and peaceful alpine landscape. Make no mistake, however, serious anglers will love landing the various trout species that are highly active from May to July.


Arizona’s Black River, quite ironically, runs through the White Mountains.

While the river totals over 100 miles the upper 40 or so miles, as well as East and West Forks, are the most loved by anglers. Most will recommend fishing the river upstream from the reservations (which require permits to fish) at which point the Black makes a soft transition to smallmouth territory.

Pro Tip: Avoid the East Fork during popular times – it gets crowded. Instead, look for Apache Cutthroat near the headwaters of the West Fork.

Aquatic Species

  • Rainbow Trout
  • Apache Trout
  • Brown Trout
  • Smallmouth Bass

Food by Season:

Bug – Royal Wulffs
Season – May through June
Sizes – 12 – 16

Bug – Humpys
Season – May through June
Sizes – 12 – 16

Bug – Deer Hair Hoppers
Season – June through August
Sizes – 10 – 14

Bug – Parachute Beetles
Season – June through August
Sizes – 12 – 14

Bug – Quick Sight Ant
Season – June through August
Sizes – 14 – 16

Bug – Dave’s Cricket
Season – June through August
Sizes – 10 – 12

Bug – Wooly Bugger
Season – May through September
Sizes – 10 – 12

Fishing Techniques

This mountain stream is an area that is as unpredictable as it is hard to access. While there is hardly a consensus on techniques or bugs, here are a few tips to get started:

Keep them small: On the upper stretches the trout are small and may be reluctant to gobble up bigger bugs. Whatever you throw, start out smaller rather than bigger and work your way up if you feel the need.

Streamers: Streamers may be a good trick to go for when other bugs fail. Streamers can be a good craw imitator in darker colors but, again, keep the size small on upper stretches. On the middle or lower waters streamers may land larger Browns and Smallmouth.

Terrestrials: Because most of the upper water is surrounded by tons of overhanging brush and trees (particularly the brush-crowded West Fork) terrestrial bugs can be a good option. Fish likely snack on bugs falling off these grasses and plants during the summer so trick them with your own bugs!

Gear: Keep it small and light(er) especially if you want to fish the narrow and secluded waters of the West Fork. Go with a 5wt setup and rock some nylon tippet with those terrestrial bugs to keep ‘em floating.


Tired of crowded trout streams and worrying about snapping other anglers with your back cast? Take a drive up into the White Mountains and escape the crowds if you’re willing to put in the effort.

Keep in mind that access is limited to Forest Service roads and in some locations, 4WD might be necessary. Access through any of the tribal land downstream requires a permit so planning is crucial.

In Arizona, the Black River is waiting for you to try your hand at coaxing the unpredictable and challenging headwater trout into bending your rod. Grab your hiking gear, get ready for an adventure, and stock up on BugClub bugs to show those trout you’ve got what it takes.

Sign up for a FREE bonus starter kit box from BugClub and get a jump start on organizing your gear! We’ll also send you four seasonal boxes with everything you need to match the hatch in Western Region fisheries. You’ll have all the bugs you need to fool these Black River trout into a bite! Click here to learn more.


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