Day Trip to the (AZ) Outback

The wind had let up and the sun was already behind the low-lying hills to the west. As dusk began to settle over Alamo Lake, the surface ripples were replaced by a smooth, glassy appearance. I made one more cast from the shore, not expecting much as my Rapala lure broke the still surface and I began a slow retrieve.

It had been quite a few weekend fishing trips since I had caught anything. I was beginning to feel a bit like a landlocked version of Santiago in the “Old Man and the Sea.” Hemingway’s hero had gone 84 days without catching a fish, and the other anglers believed he was a jinx until he hooked a giant marlin on the 85th day. While Alamo Lake contains no marlin, it does have a reputation as a good bass fishery in Arizona. After two hours of trying a variety of baits, I still had no proof of that fact.

Alamo Lake in Arizona is known as a good bass fishery and attacts many anglers.

Fishing from the shore at Alamo Lake in rural Arizona as darkness falls.

Fishing from shore in the lakes of the desert Southwest can be a challenge. Anglers are limited to the length of their casts, and oftentimes the fish are lurking in deeper water, much more accessible by boat. Even Santiago headed way out to deeper ocean water before he hooked his prize marlin.

Suddenly I felt a sharp tug on my spin-casting pole. Instinctively I pulled back on the rod and then began to retrieve faster. In response, the fish broke the lake’s surface with a violent splash, and I knew I had a bass on the line. Anyone with angling experience knows that largemouth are among the best fighters, and this fish, although on the smaller side, was no exception. After a few minutes, I landed the roughly 11-inch bass and then set it free again.

By that time it was nearly dark, and time to wrap up our family day trip. Besides being happy to have finally caught a fish, the trip to remote Alamo Lake was a pleasant experience. Travelers looking for a day trip that’s out of the ordinary might enjoy this hidden jewel located in what is known as Arizona’s Outback.

It’s a good two to three hours from the Phoenix area, depending where you’re traveling from. We drove west on I-10 to Salome Road, which in itself is a unique experience. This very straight highway runs northwest for nearly 40 miles through a fairly desolate part of the Sonoran Desert. Frequent signs painted right onto the pavement, warning of cattle crossings ahead, help break up the monotony, not to mention the frequent dips and rises simulating a mini-roller coaster. My son enjoyed those, my wife not so much.

Wild burros.

Wild burros are a common sight near Alamo Lake in west central Arizona.

Wildlife is plentiful. On this late spring outing, we witnessed everything from the cattle (yes, they really do cross the highway, so be ready to brake) to

jackrabbits. When we arrived at the lake, which is nestled in a remote valley amid jagged desert mountains, we also witnessed some of the wild burros the region is known for. And on the way out from our fishing spot, we had to dodge a juvenile rattlesnake that was already out for the evening.

If you go, make sure you have a full tank of gas and, of course, bring plenty of water. There is a gas station and small general store in nearby Salome, and a few other businesses in Wenden. It’s a place I think Hemingway might have enjoyed. Travelers from Phoenix can get to Alamo Lake either by taking I-10 or U.S. Route 60 via Wickenburg.

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