Many years ago my brother Phil heard about a place to fish that was deep in forest and without any trails to lead the way. He picked a parking spot along the dirt road heading to Big Lake. We were in the middle of a grass covered meadow where in the past we could spot a heard of elk moving out of the nearby ponderosas or antelope in the safety of the open meadow. Armed our fishing gear, we headed due west through the tall grass. It was late in the afternoon on a warm summer day. At an elevation of 9,000 ft. above sea level, warm was in the low 70’s. We could see what appeared to be short pines ahead with taller pines that appeared to be marching up the mountain slope behind. Short pines were very uncharacteristic for this higher elevation. As we reached them we realized that we were seeing only the tops of giant ponderosas, firmly planted on the rocky slope dropping down 300 ft. to the blue ribbon of water below. “We’re going down there?” was the big question on everybody’s mind but not lips. We were real macho fisherman with no fear! Gulp! As we slid or I should say traversed down to the bottom of this gorge cutting through the earths crust, we discovered a large pool of cool, clear water.
The sun was sinking fast now and we were down in the depths of this canyon. Without wasting any time we rigged our fishing poles and started the casting and retrieval of our individual lures and baits. Mine was a Size Ought (zero) Gold Mepps spinner secured to the two pound test line on my wife’s Garcia Ultra Light rod and Mitchell 408 open faced spinning reel. Sounds like a lot of detai I, but this was my favorite rod & reel for fifteen years. I gave this rig to my wife shortly after we were married and it is know on loan to me for this trip. That is also about the same time I quit catching fish using the next heavier duty rod & reel. But for now I have my wife’s ultra light rig using very lightest test line on ultra light fishing poles, making the landing of a trophy fish an effort of skill and some degree of luck. It has been years that I was doing what was called “garbage fishing” where I would use heavy weight line, stiff rods, large weights and a chuck of processed cheese, worms or salmon eggs. You could catch a lot of fish without the finesse, but I do remember eating better back then.
So there we were. Sun going down, the surrounding vivid colors fading and yes, there were trout starting to rise to the natural May flies landing on the water after a short flight following their hatch. There I stood without my fly rod, but I did have Carol’s ultra light. So not to waste this moment, I cast my lure across the pool and of course, I hit the shore on the other side. This is a no – no. I started retrieving it in hopes that my shinny gold lure with those very sharp barbs would find water without snagging something permanently on the shore line. Luckily it took a little jump, and plopped right into the waters edge, perfect! I could see that it was spinning correctly with help of the few remaining rays of sun. Then without warning a nice sized trout came to the lure in a flash and sucked the tremble hook into its mount and just as suddenly, I set the line gently but as luck would have it, my two pound line snapped. I missed my chance for a trophy. You do realize that when you lose a fish like that, it is naturally a trophy no matter the size. It is some kind of fisherman’s law.
Well, we caught a few fish that we released to grow for another time. Satisfied with the experience, we headed up the rocky slope that is now 600 ft. high and back to the car.
Years later I discovered that his gorge was the beginning of the North Fork of the White River and the eastern start of the Mogollon Rim.