Articles Documents Equipment Events Links Membership Miscellaneous Scrapbook Targets What's New

Campout on the Rim August 2020
Dan Martinez  

Getting a newsletter out usually depends on one thing: having a feature story. Since the virus problem hit, I’ve been doing a decent amount of geocaching out in the wild, but not really any “sportsman” stuff. I’ve asked the guys at the last couple of shoots if they had any stories to share, but the silence I received in answer was profound.

OK well, I finally have a little something to share, and it’s sort of a follow up to my last story. In the kayak story, I mentioned that Ben and I were planning to get out to the White Mountains to fish Big Lake in our little boats. That didn’t happen, but we did get out to another of my favorite lakes up on the Mogollon Rim: Woods Canyon Lake.

The trip was really more of a combination geocaching and fishing trip. My wife, Jodi is not into fishing, and Ben is not really into geocaching anymore. I’ll try to focus on the camping and fishing, but let me get started rambling as I do, and we will see where we end up.

In October of last year, Jodi and I were driving back into town after a day of geocaching in the wild desert southwest of Buckeye, when the idea popped into my head to stop in at Tom’s Camperland out in Surprise. That was where I got my little A-frame pop-up camper in 2015.

The A-frame suits me well as a mobile hunting cabin, but it’s not so good to take Jodi camping. Her favorite comeback to me whenever I ask her if she would like to go camping is, “Running water, flushing toilet.” The A-frame has running water but not a flushing toilet. I have taken her camping in it a couple of times to campgrounds that have a restroom that you can walk to, but if that’s not available, I’m either going alone or with one of the boys.

We had been thinking in the back of our minds about one day upgrading to another RV - something with a few more amenities. So at Tom’s, we wandered around a bit, poking our heads into various trailers in the 20 foot range. They all seemed very similar, variations on a theme. Nothing really grabbed our attention. That is, until we walked into a Keystone Outback model 240URS. Now this was something different.

Most of the variations on a theme that we had walked through featured a slide that came out the side, usually hosting the dinette and/or perhaps a couch or some reclining chairs. The Outback had a slide that came out the rear. This slide hosts a king-size bed. That meant that the main passageway through the trailer was narrow and we would have to squeeze past each other, but the trailer also had one more outstanding feature that no other trailer on the lot had: It had a toy hauler garage up front.

The garage loads through a side ramp door. As a toy hauler, the garage is not big enough for a side-by-side UTV as a conventional rear entry toy hauler could handle, but it was big enough to accept the two-seater quad ATV that we already owned – just barely. The very front of the garage features two fold-down bunk beds, so when not serving as a garage, this room can also serve as a kids bedroom.

We wandered around a little more, looking at a few other RVs, but after seeing the Outback, it was obvious that this was the one for us. It was a little bigger than I had imagined we might get. It is a 24 foot box, 28 feet long from tongue to spare tire on the rear. The slide extends 5 feet, so at a campsite, it ends up being 32 to 33 feet long.

I checked the weight – GVWR is 7590 pounds. My truck is rated to tow 10,320 pounds. So while the weight is up there, I had a safe margin. The cargo carrying capacity of the trailer is 2123 pounds with a full tank of fresh water. The weight of our quad is 705 pounds dry weight. Tongue weight and the truck’s cargo capacity also had to be considered. All these numbers had to be understood and considered before making the decision to pull the trigger and make the purchase.

The bunks have a max weight capacity of only 150 pounds each, so when we host another adult in that room, we fold up the bottom bunk against the wall and make the guest sleep in a cot. Since we no longer have small children, and no grandchildren yet, we have only used the bunks as storage shelves.

Though I am now retired, Jodi is still working. One of the main reasons is so that we still have medical insurance. Jodi was able to request a Monday and a Tuesday off from work. Ben was able to get Wednesday and Thursday off. Me? I’m pretty flexible .

Jodi and I drove up to the Rim on a Sunday. On the way up, we saw what we were hoping to see: a crowd of RVs and other campers heading back down to the valley while we were heading up! The left turn in Payson to go south on State Route 87 from Highway 260 was totally backed up, practically out to Star Valley.

I was aiming for an officially designated “dispersed camping” area that Ben and I had camped at before. Though it is a dispersed camping area, there are designated and numbered sites. You are supposed to camp within 50 feet of a “camp here” sign. OK, it is not totally wild boondock camping like I prefer, but here we had quick and easy access to both Willow Springs and Woods Canyon Lakes.

With the two 10 foot long boats stuffed into the bed of the truck, strapped to a low crossbar that I had fabricated for the rear of the truck bed, the boats were well clear of the trailer being towed behind.

On Monday, Jodi and I went out to Willow Springs Lake to find a number of geocaches. Actually, I found most of the geocaches on this day. This was Jodi’s first time in a kayak. She was in Ben’s orange Old Town Vapor. The Vapor has a larger cockpit than my Ascend FS10, so she had our pup with her in her boat. She was quite nervous about tipping over, so stayed near the boat ramp the whole time trying to get the hang of making the boat go where she wanted with a dog practically in her lap.

On the other hand, I ended up paddling some miles over almost every nook and cranny of the entire lake. After about two hours, I decided that I had better check on Jodi and the pup. I found them back on land at the boat ramp, having had no mishaps.

The next day, Tuesday, we went to Woods Canyon Lake for some more paddling geocaches. Today Jodi decided not to get out on the water with the boat at all. Instead, she and the pup would walk to whatever geocaches she could get to from the area of the store and boat ramp.

It had been quite a few years since I had been to Woods Canyon Lake. In past years, I always had decent luck fishing here. It’s just that my interest in fishing had waned over at least the last decade. But as I mentioned in my last kayak story, getting this boat has reignited my interest.

As I was cruising the lake, something caught my attention. From the kayak, I saw individual fish, yes trout, plus a few schools of trout! I turned around to reach for my pole – oh, yeah, I didn’t bring it today.

The plan was to concentrate on geocaching for the first two days with Jodi, then forget about geocaching and concentrate on fishing for the next two days with Ben.

Ben arrived in Jodi’s Cherokee around 7:30 pm that evening. For one night we would all be together. Jodi would drive back home with the dogs first thing on Wednesday morning (Ben came up with his dog, Gabby). Jodi needed to be at work around 1:00 PM on Wednesday.

At camp that evening, I told Ben of the fish I had seen at Woods Canyon. I told him to be prepared for us to catch our limits! Jodi said that she had seen the hatchery truck come to the lake while she was out walking with the dog.

About a month earlier, Ben and I had brought our boats up to Willow Springs to fish for the fabled Tiger trout. Tiger trout are a forced hybrid of Brown and Brook trout. Hybridization occurs naturally between these two species, but very rarely. Hatcheries are able to reliably force the hybridization process. According to Wikipedia, “This is done by fertilizing brown trout eggs with brook trout milt and heat shocking, causing the creation of an extra set of chromosomes and increasing survival rates from 5% to 85%.”

Tiger trout are aggressively piscivorous, meaning that they love to eat other fish. This makes them good sport that are relatively easy to catch using lures that mimic fry fish. However, the hybrid fish are sterile, so they cannot reproduce and take over a fishery.

Woods Canyon and Willow Springs are two of four lakes in Arizona that Tigers are stocked into. The other two are Carnero and Becker lakes in the White Mountains. I had never seen one, never caught one. They are very striking in appearance from the photos I have seen.

Anyway, on our previous try, Ben and I were skunked. But today here at Woods Canyon, I had seen trout with my own eyes. Ben asked if I thought that they might be Tigers. I had to tell him that I really couldn’t tell.

In the morning, we bade Jodi farewell, and Ben and I were able to get out on the water by around 7 am. The lake was beautiful at this time of day. The water was like glass, and there were few other boaters on the lake.

Woods Canyon is a very popular lake, especially in midsummer. By the time that Jodi and I got off the lake yesterday, there were boats and people all over the place. And that was on a Tuesday, not even a weekend! Thankfully, boats are restricted to human power or electric motor only.

I took Ben to the area of the lake that I had seen schooling activity the day before. We decided to start by trolling. Ben put on a jointed Rapala, and I tied on the small blue and yellow spinner that had interested the Bluegill on Blue Ridge reservoir.

As I was making a turn to start going back the way I had just come, I found myself gliding over a small school of trout! As I was fairly close to shore, I decided to park the boat on land and try something different.

Expecting to be able to catch some trout for dinner, before Ben came up, I texted him to bring a frying pan, some butter, and something for a side dish. I suggested that he bring a can of corn. But corn as a side dish was not the only thing that I had in mind. I had heard of people using corn for bait, though I had never tried it. I had an empty jar that used to hold Berkley Power Bait. I had cleaned it out and I filled it with corn from the can.

The school was still swimming around in front of me. As quickly as I could, I snipped off the spinner, threaded a water bobber on the line, pinched a small split shot both above and below the bobber, about 24 to 30 inches from the end of the line. I tied on a number 12 treble hook. I attached two corn kernels to the treble hook, hooking one of the kernels with two points of the hook, the other with only one.

I cast past the circling school. I then slowly retrieved my bait through the school. I had some nibbles, lost some kernels, but on about the third or fourth cast, fish on!

In the time that I had been changing my rig, Ben had joined me at the shore. I had forgot to bring a net, but Ben had one. He tried to net it, missed a couple of times, then finally captured it!

Right on! It had been a long time since I had caught my last trout. This was a very nice one. He was a Rainbow, about 12” long, thick and chunky. It took a minute or two to get him under control. I pulled the chain stringer from my tackle bag and clipped him on. The other end of the stringer I clipped to the perimeter bungee on my boat.

I gave Ben about half of my corn. We were planning to head back to camp for lunch where I could refill my jar.

I was able to pull another two trout out of the lake that morning using the corn and bobber rig. One was about the same length at around 12 inches, but this one was not quite as chunky. The third was a little smaller than the other two. Ben was not able to pull any trout out of the lake before we headed back to camp. The good news was that we would definitely be having fresh caught trout for dinner tonight! They were all Rainbows, no Tigers.

After lunch at camp, we got back to the lake in the late afternoon. I decided not to fish again, but Ben headed out for a little over an hour. His primary mission was to go lay out his crawdad trap, using my fish heads and guts for bait. The plan was to leave it out overnight.

In the morning, Ben was disappointed to find no crawdads in his trap. They had definitely been munching, as all the guts were gone. He had a broken spring on the door, and he figured that they were able to just walk away after their meal. The fish heads were still in there.

Around 8:00 am, I saw some consistent fish jumping near a large flat rock. I decided to go park and fish from the top of that rock. The little boat makes it easy to get to just about anywhere you want. Even though there is a trail that goes all the way around the lake, some parts of the lake are rarely fished from shore because either it’s a real long walk from parking, or the approach to the shore from the trail is very steep.

After a few casts, I was able to pull another trout out of the lake from the area of the jumpers. I fished there a while longer, but I was fully exposed to the sun and was getting cooked. I decided to go look for a shady spot to fish from. At that moment, shade was more important than finding fish.

I love that lawn chair style seat that can be removed from the boat. On shore, it provides comfortable seating with back support. I think that this may be one of the best ways to use this boat to fish. Use it to take you away from the maddening crowds to fish from a quiet shore.

On the water, if you stop, you immediately start drifting and/or spinning, so if you are trying to target a particular spot, you have to keep messing with your paddle, which means that the rod is not in your hands.

After about 45 minutes in the shade, I noticed more schooling and finning activity at the surface near me. Once again, I cast over the school, then dragged the bait through the school. Fish on!

On the second day, my score was two more Rainbows, but it was time to get back to camp for lunch and to pack up to head home. When Ben pulled the trap out of the water, he had three crawdads, so he wasn’t totally skunked, just no trout. But he, Jodi and I all had a great time getting out of the August Valley inferno for a few days.

© Honeywell Sportsman Club. All rights reserved.

The Honeywell Sportsman Club is a small group of shooting and outdoor enthusiasts in the Phoenix, Arizona area. Our website is ad-free and completely free to use for everyone. But we do have expenses that we need to cover, such as the web hosting fee and our liability insurance. If you enjoyed visiting our website, found it useful in some way, or if you enjoyed reading this story, please consider tipping us through our PayPal donation jar below. Thanks for visiting, and come back soon.

Back to Articles
  Articles     Docs     Eqpt   Events     Join
   Links     Misc     New     Pix   Targets