Friday, March 29, 2013

Two Lakes On Ruby Road, A Fly Fishing Odyssey Entry

For the first time this year I had a whole day to go fishing! I have been looking forward to doing this for over a week now, and I was about as excited as I get. I mainly wanted to get out and test my newly acquired fly fishing skills on the giant bluegill that always seemed so plentiful in Arivaca Lake, but fishing of any kind would do. I was out of bed a full half hour before the time I had set my alarm clock for. I started a pot of coffee and made some toast for breakfast before I went to work loading up the truck. I packed my brand new fly rod and tackle bag into the cab of the truck, and loaded my bait casters and a spinning rig in the bed with a folding chair and my large bass fishing tackle box. Arivaca is a bass lake after all, and being stuck on the shore I wanted to be prepared for any situation I might come across.  Then with the previous nights rain still falling in the form of a slight mist I pointed my old pick up truck south on interstate 19.

Arivaca Lake From the Boat Ramp
The weather had been rainy for the past two days, and I was a little worried about the conditions of the dirt roads that cross several sandy washes before getting to the lake, but that worry faded quickly when I pulled off of the main road and waived to the Border Patrol agent sitting in his truck on the corner. The next three miles of muddy dirt road went by uneventfully enough for me to enjoy the cloud faded sunrise and scenic canyons and vistas that precede the small dirt parking lot. when I pulled into the parking lot my heart sank as I peered through my windshield at a boat ramp that lead down to a rather grassy field and a dry ditch. The water line had receded a good 500 yards or more toward the dam at the other end of the lake leaving a large area of  lake bed over grown with weeds.  I had been hearing that the water was low, but on the rise due to the good amount of winter rains we had been getting. A little saddened at what I was seeing, I shrugged my shoulders, grabbed my gear, and went hiking toward the water.

About fifty feet from the waters edge I started sinking into the mud far enough to worry about getting stuck. I had to alter my course and head for the far side of the lake where the ground was rocky and hard. When I finally got close enough to the water I noticed a couple of likely spots and started to cast toward them while at the same time scanning the water for any sign that there were fish nearby. I slowly made my way around the lake as far as I could before I had to climb the steep bank up to where a trail had been made when the water was 10-15 feet higher at this point. I couldn't get a line in the water any more, but across the lake there was a series of stickups I wanted to fish so I followed the trail around until I was basically on a rock shelf half way up a cliff looking down on an inlet that I couldn't cross or get down to. At this point I got frustrated and decided to go over to Pena (peenya) Blanca Lake.
A Rather Sad Warning All Too Common To Southern Arizona

The choice of directions to go was rather split. My first choice (and the one most people would chose) could either go about 15 miles back to the interstate and then about another 15 miles to Pena Blanca Lake taking about an hour to drive the total distance, or I could take the 17 mile dirt track known as Ruby Road. This particular area is heavily used by smugglers known as "Coyotes" for both human and drug related smuggling activities so taking the back rout is a hair more exciting, though probably safer, than the freeway. I really didn't want to go all the way back up to the interstate to go a little bit further south, and I  had never been down Ruby Road before. I was feeling adventurous and had time to kill and with nobody to tell me I can't, I let my rebel spirit take over and turned left onto Ruby road and headed toward the Mexican border through the rugged Arizona back country and past the ghost town of Ruby Arizona. I couldn't resist stopping and taking a couple of pictures of it from the road.

Having lived in the area my whole life I had heard stories about the old town of Ruby, but I had never taken the time to visit it. Ruby died out in 1941 leaving behind a torrid and violent history in the empty buildings and collapsing mine shafts. If you are interested in the history of this old western ghost town, Legends of America has a great write up of the town's history, and the murderous crime spree that makes it one of the legends of Arizona. The town itself has been held in private hands since the post office closed in 1941 so it is extremely well preserved, and is even being renovated a little bit to preserve the remaining buildings and stabilize the decaying mine shafts. For a small fee you can visit ruby and get a short history from a family member of the towns owners and the only permanent resident left in the town along with a map and explanation of what the various buildings are. There is even an opportunity to go fishing for catfish, bass, and bluegill in the towns water catchments.  
Ruby Arizona From The Main Road
Continuing on from the town of ruby took me over hills and along ridge lines in some of the most spectacular country there is for several hundred miles. The rolling hills and desert grasslands often hide a surprising array of canyons and mountains all begging for a little exploration, but today I was after fishing and made a beeline for the lake. I was almost relieved when the single lane dirt track turned onto a paved highway and I saw the sign announcing the lake was one mile further down the road. I pulled into the first parking lot I came to and parked the truck in the surprisingly empty and overgrown parking lot of what used to be the boat ramp.

Penya Blanca Lake
I thought the boulders blocking off the ramp were a little peculiar, but I didn't have a boat so it really didn't bother me all that much. I grabbed my gear and started following the path I thought led to the lake. I soon found myself walking along a dirt embankment that had separated from the rock cliff face and had water on both sides. The path ended with no real access to the lake except a view of a broken fishing pier floating eerily by itself about thirty feet from the end of the embankment and ten feet or so from the cliff face. with no opportunity for fishing from where I was I went to the next parking area and found another path. This one led a way down to the main lake along a small cove and had a few wide spaces  for bait fishing, but the trees and cliff face prevented me from breaking out my fly rod.

There were a couple of guys across the cove catching trout one after another on bait rigs so, I grabbed a chair and my spinning rod baited a small hook with blue/rainbow Power Bait and relaxed for a while listening to nature. That set up brought me the only fish of the day and allows me to say I wasn't skunked, but I can't count it towards my odyssey because I caught it on bait. , but I was a little disappointing in the lack of accessible shoreline in the two different lakes I went to. Pena Blanca especially let me down because of the fact that it was recently renovated and should have been a top notch fishing lake. I have also decided that I need a kayak or a small canoe to go fishing in these little lakes. Even with the limited shore access, I had a great day of fishing, history, and exploration.
My One Fish For The Day. A Cute Little Rainbow.


  1. Glad you were able to land the bow and get the shrunk off your back--enjoyed the post. Thanks sharing

    1. Thanks Bill, It was definitely a slow day of fishing. It seems that shore fishing just isn't an option in these canyon reservoirs. Sorry it took so long to get back to you, its been a busy week.