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New Mexico Fly Fishing Report & News
New Mexico fly fishing report, current local water and fishing conditions along with general fly fishing news and information.
Animas River Toxic Mine Spill:
Over the last few days lots of folks have contacted us to ask about the terrible toxic spill that entered the Animas River in Colorado last Wednesday, 8/5/15 and its impact, if any, on the fishing here in our area of northern New Mexico and southern Colorado. The good news for us is that none of the locations that we fish were affected. The only river in New Mexico that the spill entered was the San Juan below the confluence with the Animas. This is about 40 miles downstream from Navajo Dam and the quality waters on the San Juan River (see map below). The end of the red line in the map shows where the toxic flow had reached as of Sunday, 8/9/15. As of this afternoon it has traveled well into Utah.
Today the yellow, toxic water in the Animas River is dissipating but the long term ramifications of this accident are still yet to be determined. We really feel bad for all of the folks that live along and work on the Animas River and for all of its wildlife that depends on a clean and healthy river - what a mess. Here are a few links to some recent news reports on the whole incident and the current situation:
NM Fishing Report ~ AUGUST 13th, 2015:We're still getting good rains throughout northern New Mexico and southern Colorado and the rivers are in the best shape we have seen in years. With all the water we have had this spring and summer, the trout are as healthy as could be for this time of year and the fishing is great! Another added bonus the rain has brought is that the countryside is as green as it gets. The grass is high and, especially in the alpine meadows, the wildflowers are blooming everywhere. What an amazing gift these rains have been. At the rate things are going, the conditions and fishing in August and the early fall should continue to be really, really good.
As always, don't hesitate to contact us for up to date information, if you have any questions and/or would like to book a trip. To learn more about all of the private ranches we guide on check out our Private Water page.
CHAMA & LOWER BRAZOS: We have had great fishing all through July on the Chama. The fishing below El Vado Dam has been very good and consistent. As is always the case in the summer at this location, we have had to work around the water releases out of the dam, especially on the weekends due to the higher releases for the boaters. The fishing is the best when the flows are lower than 500-600 cfs (cubic feet per second) with lots of fish to be caught. The water is still cold, a touch off color and the fish are super hungry. There are also a fair number of Rio Grande cutthroats in this section. All types of nymph rigs and streamers are bringing fish to the net.
The upper sections of the Chama are also fishing quite well with the only issue being water been levels and clarity changes due to rains. This is a small price to pay as there is more water in the river which is helping the overall conditions immensely. The lower part of the Brazos is still fishing decently but it is a bit more spotty than it was in early July. It is still possible to have a great day if you are willing to cover some ground. Dry-dropper rigs have been the go-to rigs for us on this stretch of the river recently. The Chama below Abiquiu dam is still running very high and dirty - wait until September.
Upper Picture: Russ P. with a large Rio Grande Cutthroat - Nice! Lower Picture: There are some big rainbows in the upper Chama. Way to go John T. (Noah holding the fish).
HIGH TIMBER RANCH: This is probably the most incredible place we have been fishing at in many years. The meadow stretch is still quite good and the canyon sections of the river have been off the charts. There is one pool after the next and, if you are on your game, a 40 to 50 fish day is not out of the question. Dry-dropper rigs have been the best set-ups but straight dry flies have been almost as good. The hike into the canyon section is a bit of a challenge but well worth the effort. The water levels have been holding up very well and the fish are hungry and healthy.
There are lots of fish in this stretch of river and they are all wild. There are rainbows and brook trout throughout the whole five miles of water up at the High Timber Ranch. The rainbows, which typically run from 12" up into the 20+" range, are very fat with beautiful white tips on their lower fins. The brook trout are a bit smaller than the rainbows but we have landed 3 or 4 in the 16" to 17" range so far this season - that is a really nice sized brookie!
Comprised of canyon stretches and big expansive meadows, this is probably one of the most incredible spots we go to. It is a long but beautiful drive to get to the ranch and well worth it when you get to the river. We suggest that you base out of the Chama area if you are interested in fishing on the High Timber. Note: After the first of September the available fishing day will be limited so please consider fishing this month if you would like to go to this spot.
Upper Picture: Jeff M. above one of the canyon stretches. Check out the wildflowers - beautiful.
Lower Picture: A nice High Timber Ranch rainbow. Well done Chuck R.
THE OSO PICCOLO RANCHES: The fishing on the La Barranca ranch has slowed down a bit in the last couple of weeks and is best early in the morning and/or later in the afternoon. There are still lots of nice sized fish to be caught in this section of the Chama river; it's just that with the warmer days, they don't bite as well during the middle of the day. The rains have helped a lot with the water levels and they are still very good for this time of year. We have had a few days where the water has been quite off color due to a rain storm but the fishing has stayed on track. On the days with the off color water, small streamers coupled with a bright nymph or squirmy-wormy have still brought fish to the net. The good news is that Wolf creek is fishing very well and has been in great shape all season. As is almost always the case every summer, small, single hoppers have been bringing some gorgeous wild browns to the surface throughout the whole length of the ranch's water. The wildflowers in the meadow and along the stream are more abundant and beautiful than ever and the grasses are as high and green as could be. It is absolutely gorgeous up on the Wolf Creek ranch right now. If small alpine pocket water and meadow fishing is your thing, this is the spot for you. This is probably one of the prettiest sections of water we guide on.
Comprised of two sections of water on two separate rivers, the Oso Piccolo ranches offer anglers the opportunity to fish on both of these completely different fishing locations in one day. The first ranch, known as La Barranca, has 1.5 to 2 miles of the upper Chama River and the second ranch (the Wolf Creek Ranch) has 3 miles of a gorgeous, high mountain tributary of the Chama called Wolf Creek.
Picture: A chunky, wild Wolf Creek brown that gobbled up a small hopper last week.
SAN JUAN: On July 24th the flows were bumped up to their current levels in the 675 cfs (cubic feet per second) range. The fishing is still good and with the higher flows, there are more possible spots to fish. We have done a couple of trips over on the Juan in July but we usually try and avoid it what with the heat and the crowds - these higher flows should alleviate some of this problem. With more water in the river, there are a lot more places to fish so don't be afraid to cover some ground and try some different, less typical areas. The water is still very clear and, with the lower flows we have had up until now, the fish have become a bit more cautious and picky than is often the case. Try using smaller flies (#26s) and lighter tippet (all 6X). As the fish spread out and settle into new locations, they should become a bit less wary and start to bite with more conviction. As the air cools and the kids go back to school, the fishing should get even better, for all of the obvious reasons. Baetis in September and browns in October - keep it in mind.
If you are interested in fishing the San Juan this summer and would like to stay in the area, we offer a fishing and lodging package. For more information and pricing please go to our "Fishing Packages" page or give us a call.
Picture: Letting a nice Juan-bow go - Brought to the net by George S.
QUINLAN RANCH: The fishing on the Quinlan Ranch lakes has been great all summer long. For the last few weeks, the higher altitude lakes (Pete's and Honeymoon) have been producing lots of nice fat fish throughout the day. The water in the lower altitude lakes (Don's and Willow) has warmed a bit but they are still holding up well but are fishing best in the mornings and evenings. The fish in Willow have grown incredibly this season and there are some real lunkers in there now. Once the water starts to cool in early September it will be game-on for the rest of the fall! All manner of set-ups are still working both sub-surface and on top with the "Hippie Stomper" really leading the pack in the dry fly group.
We are still booking our 4 night/3 day packages up at the ranch. If you are considering a trip this late summer or fall please contact us about available dates. Space is limited in October and November. The Quinlan is a great place to base out of to fish Northern New Mexico and Southern Colorado. Please check out the "Fishing Packages" page for more information.
Picture: A big Quinlan Ranch fish - Good job Russ P. with that lunker!
ABEYTA RANCH & CONEJOS RIVER: All the rains have really helped the Conejos and the fishing has been great. In the last week since the water has warmed and cleared and the fishing has become a bit more technical. Lots of fish to be had but 6X is becoming a necessity in the middle of the day. Small mayflies and stonefly nymphs have been working well for us recently along with some pretty big, gaudy hoppers. For some reason it seems that dry-dropper set-ups aren't having as much success as either a straight nymph rig or a straight dry fly rig; who knows maybe they are more wary of the dropper in this clearer water? Also smaller indicators are a good bet. The Abeyta Ranch has been good throughout the summer so far with only a few days that were blown out from high water.
Recently it seems that we're catching many more browns than rainbows but there isn't anything wrong with that. There are also some really nice sized Snake River cutthroat coming to the net - don't know where they came from but we'll take em'!
Upper Picture: Nice rainbow landed on the Conejos - good stuff Larry A.!
Lower Picture: Tom S. with a big Snake River cutthroat on the Abeyta Ranch.
PECOS: The fishing on the Pecos has been very good recently with the exception of a couple of days when the river was too high from heavy rains. Aside from these days, we have had some great trips up there this summer. Lots of smaller, hungry fish with the odd bigger fish thrown in for good measure - Joey had a client land a 23" brown last week; what a whopper for the Pecos! Dry-dropper rigs have been producing very well for us along with standard indicator/nymphing set-ups. A good thing to keep in mind is that depending on the water levels and clarity, we have been adjusting our depths accordingly. A slight change in depth and weight makes a big difference as the water conditions have been changing almost daily. Keep switching things up until you find the best system for the location and the day.
Picture: Sean H. with a wild brown from the Pecos - way cool!
BAR X BAR RANCH: The Pecos area is still getting a good amount of rain and the lakes on the Bar X Bar ranch are in great shape. All five of the ranch's lakes are full of water right now and the fishing continues to be excellent. At this rate the fishing should be good for the rest of the season. Dries, streamers and mayfly nymphs under an indicator have all been working well. With the great water conditions, the fish become very fat and strong. The Bar X Bar Ranch offers super-easy fishing and is the best private ranch to fish close to Santa Fe; a little under an hour drive from the Plaza.
Picture: Feisty Bar X Bar fish. Happy Birthday Howard E.!
SMALL STREAMS & THE VCNP: August is typically one of the best months to try some of the dozens of smaller streams and the Valles Caldera National Preserve (VCNP). Getting up into the mountains and high meadows of northern New Mexico and southern Colorado is a great way to beat the heat, see some beautiful country and find some solitude. As well, if the bigger rivers are too high and dirty from a rain, you can almost always find good water and fishing up higher on the smaller drainages. We have been doing a fair number of trips on many of our smaller streams and the fishing has been a blast. You won't catch any monsters but lots of small, wild fish on the dry makes for a terrific day. Right now most all of the fish in these areas looking up so any small terrestrial, caddis or standard dry fly pattern will bring voracious trout to smash you bugs. Three weight rods, light tippet and stealth are a good key to success while fishing in these types of spots. The locations and names of the smaller creeks are too many to list - feel free to get in touch for more information.
Picture: One of many smaller streams we have been on so far this summer...
THE MK & SPEAR U RANCHES: The fishing on the Spear U Ranch and MK Ranches on the Navajo river has been great when the water conditions have allowed. The only drawback to all the rain we have been getting is that the river has been high and/or dirty for a lot of the last couple of months. The good news is that the fish are in great shape and the fall should be epic. Give us a call for an update on the current conditions.
Picture: Rainclouds forming on the Banded Peaks above the upstream section of the MK Ranch last week.
RIO GRANDE: The flows on all of the Rio are still really high and the water is very dirty so not much point in fishing there right now - good for the rafters right now.
Rainbow Trout On The Comeback Throughout Colorado:
DENVER, Colorado – After being devastated by whirling disease in the 1990s, rainbow trout populations are increasing in most major rivers in the state thanks to a 20-year effort by Colorado Parks and Wildlife aquatic scientists and biologists.
"It's been a long road, but bringing back populations of fish that were essentially extirpated from Colorado can only be called a huge success," said George Schisler, CPW's aquatic research team leader who is based in Fort Collins.
The comeback is positive news for anglers who can once again fish for rainbows and brown trout in Colorado's big rivers and streams. For the past 15 years brown trout have dominated most of the state's rivers. But since last summer, anglers have reported that they are catching nice size rainbows in the upper Colorado, Rio Grande, upper Gunnison, Poudre, East, Taylor, Arkansas and Yampa rivers and others.
The whirling disease problem started in 1986 when a private hatchery unknowingly imported infected rainbow trout from Idaho that were stocked in 40 different waters in Colorado. The disease eventually spread throughout the state and even infected CPW hatcheries which caused more waters to be infected.
Whirling disease is caused by a spore that infects the spine of very young fish. The infection deforms the spine causing the fish to swim in a whirling pattern. They die shortly after becoming infected. When whirling disease hit Colorado's rivers, natural reproduction of the species virtually ended. That allowed brown trout, which are not affected by the disease, to become the dominant sport fish.
By the mid 1990s rivers in Colorado and other western states were thoroughly infected.
At a national conference on whirling disease in Denver in 2002, a German researcher presented information that showed trout at a hatchery in Germany, operated by a family named Hofer, were resistant to the parasite. Colorado's aquatic staff moved quickly to import eggs from Germany which were hatched at the University of California at Davis. The fingerlings were then brought to CPW's Bellvue hatchery near Fort Collins.
The fish grew quickly and their disease resistance was proven. By 2006 Schisler stocked some of the Hofers in two reservoirs west of Berthoud. Anglers reported that the fish hit hooks hard and were easy to catch. This made them ideal for stocking in reservoirs where anglers expect to catch fish.
The fish in the picture to the right are hatchery raised fish, all the same age. The larger fish are the Hofer strain.
But because the "Hofers" had been domesticated in a hatchery for generations, Schisler and his colleagues knew that the fish did not possess a "flight response" to danger. They would have little chance in creeks and rivers where they need to avoid predators and survive fluctuating water conditions. So CPW researchers started the meticulous process of cross-breeding the Hofers with existing strains of trout that possessed wild characteristics and had been stocked in rivers for years.
After three years some of the crosses were ready for stocking in rivers –- with the hope that the fish would survive, reproduce and revive a wild, self-sustaining population of rainbows. Biologists first stocked 5-inch Hofer-crosses, but they didn't survive. Then in 2010, fingerlings were stocked in the Colorado River near Hot Sulphur Springs. When researchers returned to survey the area 14 months later they learned the experiment had finally paid off. They found good numbers of 15-inch rainbows and evidence that young fish were hatching in the wild.
CPW biologists have been stocking fingerling Hofer-crosses throughout the state at different sizes and times of year to optimize survival. The young fish are surviving and Schisler is confident that Colorado's rivers and streams are again home to truly wild rainbows.
The Hofers are also providing other benefits to CPW and Colorado's anglers. Because the fish grow much faster than standard rainbow strains, state hatcheries can raise more fish in a shorter amount of time. They can also be crossed with CPW's various trout strains and are well suited to reservoirs where they don't reproduce naturally but are ideal for still-water anglers.
In the late 1990s many CPW scientists worried that truly wild rainbow trout would disappear. Now a new chapter for sport fishing in Colorado is just getting started; again.
Cold Waters Video:
At the end of the 2014 fishing season, five respected fly fishermen – Craig Mathews of Blue Ribbon Flies, Yvon Chouinard of Patagonia, Steve Hemkens of Orvis, Tim Romano of Angling Trade and Todd Tanner of Conservation Hawks – came together to fish for wild trout and share their thoughts on angling and climate change.
COLD WATERS was shot in Montana in October, 2014. It celebrates the joy and passion of fly fishing, and educates anglers on the threat we face from global warming. The film, which is a collaboration between Conservation Hawks and the cinematic team at Conservation Media, focuses on our responsibility to protect cold, clean waters and healthy landscapes, and to stand up for future generations of Americans.
Orvis/TU 1,000 Miles Campaign:
HOW A CULVERT REPAIR IMPROVES A STREAM: In many rivers throughout the U.S., outdated and environmentally unsound culverts block fish passage, in essence creating a series of dams on small tributaries to larger rivers. These culverts negatively impact fish spawning, block fish passage into these tributaries, and take away miles upon miles of fishable water. By repairing existing culverts, or by replacing these culverts altogether, fish are once again able to swim upstream. The process is simple and highly cost effective. In place of small, often elevated culverts, larger culverts are buried halfway into the streambed and filled with a natural bottom. This creates a more ecologically friendly passage for fish, and opens up miles of spawning grounds, habitat, and fishable water.
RECONNECTING STREAMS ACROSS THE US - CREATING MILES OF SPAWNING HABITAT & FISHABLE WATER: Help the Orvis-Trout Unlimited 1,000 Miles Campaign reach its goal to reconnect 1,000 miles of fishable streams by repairing or replacing poorly constructed culverts throughout the U.S. Culverts are significant impediments to fish passage and survival - just as significant as a major dam - but the solution is dramatically simpler. Many need to be removed or modified, the cost is minimal, and the overall impact to many watersheds is significant. Funds raised by the Orvis-TU 1,000 Miles Campaign will go toward the engineering and removing of culverts, with the goal of reconnecting over 1,000 miles of fishable habitat. Presently, there are projects that involve culvert improvement or removal on Kinne Brook in Massachusetts, the upper Connecticut River in New Hampshire, the Shenandoah valley in Virginia, Big Slough Creek in Wisconsin, the Deschutes River in Oregon, the Bear River in Wyoming, and many others.
You can help reconnect rivers throughout the US by giving to the Orvis/TU 1,000 Miles Campaign in 2014. Orvis is donating another $90,000 in matching funds so that every $100 you donate will become $200, for a total of another $180,000 in 2014. Every dollar you donate will be used to improve these streams, and the impact will be felt by fish - and anglers - all across the country for years to come.
Please send your check payable to Trout Unlimited (Memo: "1,000 Miles Campaign"), c/o The Orvis Company, 178 Conservation Way, Sunderland, VT 05250 or donate online by clicking on the link below:
Rio Chama Flow Optimization Project:
The Chama River needs our help. The best way that we, as individuals, can do something to help the situation on the Chama River is to become involved. On May 10th, 2011 a group called The Rio Chama Flow Optimization Project (RCFOP) was formed to address the many issues facing the river. The primary focus of the RCFOP is to band together concerned individuals and organizations and establish a collaborative effort to manage streamflow/discharges in the Chama River system. The project's primary goal is to reinvigorate natural functions of the Chama river while satisfying water management objectives and improving fishing and whitewater recreation. The RCFOP is funded by a grant from the River Ecosystem Restoration Initiative and managed by Rio Grande Restoration.
Please take some time to read the following report/article on the conditions on the Chama River this fall. On the last page you will find contact information for the Rio Chama Flow Optimization Project - please consider supporting them in whatever way you can. Click on the link below to open the report (PDF file):