Frye Mesa reservoir, home of the rare Gila trout, is 40 miles southwest of the small town of Safford, which the urban dictionary describes as “a small town in Eastern Arizona with a large Mormon population, a large Catholic population, and a large tweaker population.” We were in Safford in November, just in time for the South Eastern Coyote Calling Challenge, a sick euphemism for a coyote hunt. While in the sporting goods store asking about trout, we saw a poster for the Coyote Calling Challenge and asked for details. The kid behind the desk gave nothing away, fearing–he said–that we were with PETA. Strangers in town.
If you want to know more about this disgusting “sport,” you can check out this disgusting video, but I don’t recommend you do: Disgusting video about “calling” coyotes.
Just outside of Stafford, on the drive to Frye Mesa and the Gila trout, we found a fine outdoor shooting couch. Outdoor shooting furniture and Confederate flags are two things Arizona and Idaho have in common. You might want to relax here while calling coyotes in to the slaughter.
Not everyone in Safford was a coyote murderer. We made ourselves at home at The Station Laundromat. Larry spread wet, muddy canoe gear all over the parking lot while I washed a few loads of road-weary laundry. As we were packing up to leave, the woman who managed the laundromat gifted us two of her handmade hats. Mine is a fuzzy critter of mysterious lineage, and Larry’s is reminiscent of the hair he once had.
But I digress. It was Gila trout–not coyotes and hats–that brought us to Safford and nearby Frye Mesa reservoir.
The Frye Mesa dam was built around 1928. The reservoir is is stocked with Gila trout and is the only place you can fish for this threatened species in Arizona. They also live in three Arizona streams, all closed to fishing, and are hanging on in several New Mexico streams in the White Mountains, just across the Arizona border.
Fishing for the wily Gila is allowed in Frye Creek that feeds the reservoir.
The White Mountains that straddle the central Arizona/New Mexico border are home to two native trout subspecies: the Gila (Oncorhynchus gilae gilae) and the Apache (Oncorhynchus gilae apache). The Gila exhibits iridescent gold sides with small, profuse spots mostly above the lateral line.
You’ll find old rock projects on Frye Mesa, small check dams in the arroyos and this cistern.