The Apache Trail

The Apache Trail

I’ve driven the Arizona State Highway 188 many times on my travels to various south western desert sessions. This scenic highway runs along the 18 mile southern flank of Theodore Roosevelt Lake passing small communities, many stunning vistas, fishing spots, marinas and campsites...

I’ve fished Roosevelt a few times too in recent years but I have to say that the shore fishing has suffered in recent years due to the drought and massive crayfish armies getting to the bait before the fish do. The drought conditions of the last 6 years, has been helped considerably by the 2016/17 winter rains and excellent mountain snow packs so hoping a planned Spring 2018 trip will see a marked different and positive results.

This reservoir of massive proportions (21,491 acres) is located about 80 miles north of Phoenix and was formed by building the world’s highest masonry dam on the Salt River between 1906 and 1911. Commissioned by the then, newly formed federal reclamation program, the building of this dam was probably the largest contributing factor in the early settlement of Central Arizona due to the irrigation waters it held, it’s flood control properties and the fact that it was also designed to create a moderate amount hydro-electric power for the surrounding areas… It's worth restating that the scenery is extremely impressive along this highway with Saguaro cactus, Yuccas and many other desert scape plants and animals on view along it’s route.

As impressive as the afore mentioned AZ 188 route is, the real jewel of the area can be found after taking a sharp right hand turn just over the bridge when traveling east onto AZ 88, otherwise known as the Apache Trail.
The paved section of this amazing trail takes you up, past the dam and associated hydro-electric power distribution plants to a couple of look out points. From the first point, you get a great view of the bridge with Roosevelt lake in the background! And the 2nd lookout point looks down into the valley, the other side off the dam.

There are plaques describing in detail much of the areas’ fascinating history, including very informative pictorial descriptions of early dam construction and early settler life. Those guys & gals were unbelievably hard core!!

Carrying on, the Apache Trail soon changes character, loosing it’s black top paving and revealing one breathtaking vista after another along it’s steep winding, cliff hugging, white knuckle, dirt road trail that really isn’t wide enough for two golf carts to pass side by side. The drive through the mountainous, desert regions follows another lake in the Salt River project; Apache Lake and it’s here that the rest of this story will concentrate on…

Apache lake first came to my attention back in the early 2000’s when I heard about the Salt River Project lakes contained Small Mouth and Black Buffalo; these Phoenix area lakes being the most westerly population of these awesome fish. A 6 hour drive to Phoenix, Arizona certainly beats a 22 hour drive to Austin, Texas from my home in Los Angeles to catch Buffs…

The Salt River is dammed in several places along it’s flow to create, Saguaro, Canyon, Apache and Roosevelt lakes. It took me another 10 years to finally get around to exploring these lakes but once I got round to it, I was hooked.
I must fess up right here and now before we get into the fishing, I have still yet to catch any specie of Buffalo from these waters after a good many trips….That fact stings a little…naw, it actually stings a lot! lol…and keeps me coming back to these waters nearly every Spring and Fall year after year. There is one more lake on the chain that goes by the name of Town Lake. It's located in Tempe, Arizona but that’s will be the subject of a separate article very soon…

Having fished all the lakes on the Salt River bar Saguaro at this stage, I have to say that Apache is by far my favorite, particularly because the area is just remote enough to keep the campgrounds rustic and so not too popular for the Glamping crowds. Although there are rooms for rent at the marina along with a restaurant, the two or three camp sites on Apache are very basic with only toilet facilities and a stand pipe for water. I advise purchasing the required $8/day Tonto forest passes to cover your stay before you enter the park, then all you have to do is to ship in your living/fishing supplies, do ya fishing and then bag-up your trash and take it out with you when you’re done…Easy, simple and my kind of place to fish where you can forget about the city or town life and keep in touch with why it is that you started fishing in the first place…

Brutally hot during the summer months, the Spring and Fall seasons bring gorgeous weather and amazing fishing opportunities.  I’ll let the following short video do the speaking for the sessions we’ll get into here today….



The whole Apache Lake/Apache Trail area is nothing short of breath taking with abundant wildlife and excellent fishing opportunities around every corner. None of the fish so far have been massive but they were all extremely, hard fighting, fit as a butcher's dog, river fish!!

Although we've caught fairly steadily throughout most of the session days fished, we could almost 100% guarantee that the Carp would come by every morning in huge shoals, just as the sun was rising! It'd be nothing to have runs on both rods 3 or 4 times in a row during what I called the mad hour. As you can see in the video, the Channel Cats also got in on the action too....

I love exploring and fishing in the South Western States and I hope this presentation has wetted your appetite for doing the same whenever you're in this neck of the woods. Good Luck out there!!

Best Wishes, Wayne



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