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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.
NM Fishing Report ~ October 4th, 2014:It seems as though the summer has been lingering, but over the last few days it feels as though fall has finally arrived and the fishing is getting really good. The nights have started to cool and we have had our first couple of frosts in many of the higher altitude spots. It actually snowed a bit in the mountains above Chama last weekend, which should really help to cool the water temperatures and make the rainbows start their pre-winter feed and the browns think about procreating. The aspen leaves are all gold in the high country and the cottonwoods are turning on the Conejos - this is the most beautiful time of year to fish in Northern New Mexico and Southern Colorado. Sorry it has taken this long to get this fishing report out but hopefully our excuse is understandable - the weather is nice; the landscape is gorgeous; the fishing is excellent and we have been on the water most every day for the last month.
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: The fishing on the upper Chama has been very good and, with last month's rain, the water temperatures have dropped and the water levels are bit higher than they have been in August and early September. Dry-dropper rigs have still been the ticket for the last few weeks, with lots of fish being caught both on top and on the nymph. With the cooler weather, we are starting to see the brown trout starting to get "colored up" for the fall spawning season and they are getting much more aggressive. The fishing in the sections of the river below the dams is starting to get really good as well. The releases out of El Vado and Abiquiu dams have been reduced in the last few days and right now the flows are at perfect levels for great fishing. The next four to six weeks is prime time on the Chama and this fall season is looking like it will be a good one in many locations on the river.
The lower Brazos is still fishing fairly well, depending on the water levels. The fishing is a bit tricky when there is lower, clear water but much better after a rain water the water is higher and a little off color. If you are willing to cover some ground, you can still have a great day on the Brazos - it should be good throughout the rest of the month. Shallow nymph rigs have been the most successful set-ups on the Brazos lately with a dry-dropper rig still bringing some fish to the surface on warm, sunny afternoons. October and November are the best months to fish on the Chama and the Brazos; don't miss it!
Upper Picture: Ras inspecting a beautiful 22" rainbow from the upper Chama.
Lower Picture: Lynn G. with her first fish on a fly rod - a nice wild brown on the Brazos.
THE MK & SPEAR U RANCHES: Located on the Navajo River in southern Colorado, these two ranches have been fishing exceptionally well for the last month or so. The fishing on the small lake on the Spear U ranch has been "off the charts", with some incredibly large, fat rainbows and browns being caught. The river on both ranches has been staying quite clear on most days and the fishing has been good and should only get better as the fall progresses. Hoppers on top and nymph rigs have been the set-ups of choice and should continue to be productive through mid-October. Towards the end of the month nymphs, streamers and egg patterns should take over as the terrestrials will be done for the year.
The month of October is the best time of year to fish the MK and Spear U ranches. Early November can still fish well on the Navajo River, depending on how cold it gets.
These ranches offer some of the most beautiful stretches of water in the area and they both have large, resident browns and rainbows that become quite turned-on this time of year.
Upper Picture: Bruce B. with a fat, healthy 26.5" rainbow from the small lake on the Spear U Ranch.
Lower Picture: Bruce B. (again) with a 24" brown that fell for a "Rasta Bugger" - also on the Spear U Ranch; what a day!
ABEYTA RANCH ~ CONEJOS: We have had epic fishing on the Abeyta Ranch (on the Conejos River) so far this September, with lots of really nice browns, rainbows and the odd Snake River cutthroat being caught. There have been a fair number of trips of 25 to 35 fish for the day caught - per angler! The fish this season are healthier than ever and the size level is amazing with lots in the 18" to 25" range coming to the net. The Conejos River Valley has had some good rains last month so the water levels in the river are perfect. The fishing has stayed consistent throughout the summer and is getting progressively better as the fall season gets into full swing. The water flows have been ranging from the 70 to the 150 cubic feet per second (cfs) range which makes for good fishing and easy wading. As is always the case this time of year on the Abeyta Ranch, many different types of nymph set-ups and hopper-dropper rigs have been enticing the fish to bite. It seems the browns right now want smaller mayfly nymphs and the rainbows are looking for bigger, brighter patterns. In the last few weeks, we have been catching lots of really nice browns that are starting to get their fall colors. The cottonwood's leaves in the bosque are turning gold, the nights are cold and the days are warm. All of this bodes well for a couple more months of great fall fishing on the Conejos.
Picture: Andrea V. with a beautiful 23" Abeyta Ranch rainbow - biggest fish of the day; NICE!
PECOS: The Pecos has been fishing very well for the last few weeks with lots of smaller, hungry browns being caught along with a few larger rainbows and the occasional cutt-bow coming to the net. We are still getting a fair number of fish to bite on the surface on dries but nymphs seem to be producing more and more fish everyday as the fall season progresses. The upper river is in fine shape and most of the crowds have gone. If you are lucky you can have many spots on the river to yourself, especially during the week. With the leaves starting to turn, the Pecos is one of the prettiest spots in Northern New Mexico to fish right now.
Picture: Pecos River cutt-bow trout (note the orange under the gill plate).
SAN JUAN: As of this writing, the release from Navajo Dam has been reduced down to 318 cfs (cubic feet per second). We have been over to the "Juan" a fair number of days in the last month and the fishing has been good, depending on the water conditions. There still have been some very heavy rains over on the San Juan recently which has caused the river to be quite off-color on occasion. The section of the river below Simon Canyon is still pretty much unfishable due to the heavy siltation from the flooding event that happened last month. Apparently there is a large flush/release out of the dam being planned for the near future in attempts to clean the silt out of this section of the river. The upper sections of the quality water are still in fine shape and it looks like we will have some great fall and winter fishing this year. As always, the standard array of lava, pupa and midge patterns are working. We have yet to see many fall baetis but they should start to pop any day which usually brings on some incredible fishing. We still seem to be having better success with smaller sizes; we're mostly fishing size 24 and 26 flies. With the lower flows right now and the silt in the lower section of the Quality Waters, wade fishing may be a bit better choice than fishing out of the drift boat. As the fall progresses, the flows may be increased and the float fishing should become an equally good bet. Either way, from now until the first of the year is one of the best times of year to fish on the San Juan.
Picture: Nice Lower Flats bow caught on a size 26 black emerger last week - go Johnny L., go.
QUINLAN RANCH: The fishing on the Quinlan Ranch lakes is still quite good. The water temperatures have cooled and the fish are starting to bite throughout the day. There isn't much top-water action but streamers and nymph rigs have come to the fore as of late. The fish are still looking great and holding up quite well. We should have good action on the lakes at least until mid-November; maybe even longer if the days stay fairly warm and sunny.
We have been doing lots of our 4 night/3 day packages up at the ranch. The Quinlan is a great place to base out of to fish Northern New Mexico and Southern Colorado. If you are interested in specific dates, please don't wait too long to get the ball rolling on making a reservation. Due to the elk season, there is limited availability in September, October and November. Please check out the "Fishing Packages" page for more information.
Picture: Paul D. with a fat Pete's Pond rainbow that fell for a damsel fly nymph.
RIO GRANDE: In the last few weeks we have started to do a few trips on the lower Rio between Taos and Velarde and the fishing has been good. The water conditions have improved since the summer and should only get better over the next couple of months. Our most recent trip produced a bunch of nice rainbows, a couple of browns and good sized small-mouth bass. Nymphs and smaller streamers are the way to go; the water is still too dirty for any good dry fly fishing right now. Give us a call anytime for an update on the river and fishing conditions.
Picture: Up in the gorge last week - the water looks good.
THE OSO PICCOLO RANCHES: The fishing on the Wolf Creek Ranch is still good but recently the water has been low and clear which makes for tricky fishing with stealth being important for success. This being said, the browns are starting to become more fired up during their pre-spawn period and should start to get less wary as they become more interested in spawning. The water levels on the La Barranca Ranch on the Chama River (which had been drastically reduced by the irrigation ditches above the ranch) have come back up a bit with all of the rain we have been having. The fall fishing should be good if the water levels stay up.
Picture: Looking down at the head of the "canyon stretch" on Wolf Creek in early September.
BAR X BAR RANCH: The Bar X Bar is pretty much finished for the season and won't be worth it until ice-out in the early spring. March, 2015 will be great time to think about the Bar X Bar Ranch's lakes again.
Rio Grande Cutthroat No Longer an Endangered Species Candidate:
SANTA FE - October 1, 2014: New Mexico's state fish, the Rio Grande cutthroat trout, no longer is a candidate for listing under the Endangered Species Act, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service announced Tuesday.
Since 2008, aggressive conservation efforts by the New Mexico Department of Game and Fish and it's partners have enhanced or restored pure-strain native cutthroats in 127 streams that are open to public fishing. Rio Grande cutthroats now occupy about 700 miles of stream habitat.
After reviewing current scientific information about the cutthroat's populations, genetic diversity and habitat conditions in its historic range in northern New Mexico and southern Colorado, the federal agency deemed that the fish is in no danger of extinction. The Rio Grande cutthroat was designated a candidate for listing in 2008, mostly because its habitat had dwindled to 11 percent of what it once was.
"Tuesday's decision is a tribute to the hard work by the department and its public and private partners to conserve our state fish and keep it off the endangered species list," said Paul Kienzle, chairman of the State Game Commission. "It also ensures recreational public fishing opportunities for Rio Grande cutthroat trout for years to come."
Cutthroat restoration partners include Trout Unlimited, New Mexico Trout, Colorado Parks and Wildlife, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, U.S. Forest Service, Turner Enterprises Inc., northern tribes and pueblos, and others.
The most impressive restoration effort has been the ongoing project to restore pure-strain native cutthroats to the Rio Costilla watershed, which consists of more than 150 miles of streams, 25 lakes and the Costilla Reservoir. More than 70 miles of streams have been restored and more than 33,000 native fish have been stocked in those waters since that project began in 2007. This year, the department plans to stock another six miles of restored waters.
All of the stocked Rio Grande cutthroats come from the department's Seven Springs Hatchery in the Jemez Mountains, which raises nothing but genetically diverse, pure-strain fish for restoration and recreation.
"Keeping native trout in our state's streams and lakes is extremely important to us, not only because it's the department's mandate to protect native species, but also because it's our goal to provide anglers with opportunities to catch them," said Bryan Bakevich, the department's Rio Grande cutthroat trout biologist. "The Rio Grande cutthroat is found only in one place in the world - northern New Mexico and southern Colorado. We need to keep them around."
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:
Trout Unlimited Praises NWF Climate Change Report:
WASHINGTON, D.C. - September 5th, 2013: Trout Unlimited today praised a report released by the National Wildlife Federation (NWF) that details the most current information available regarding the climate change impacts on, and threats to, America's valuable fisheries resources, and the potential impact to fishing.
TU's science team contributed to Swimming Upstream: Freshwater Fish in a Warming World. The report, which builds on past reports by TU and a coalition of fish and wildlife conservation groups, is a strong science-based call to arms to address harmful and nationwide threats to trout and salmon resources, and angling opportunity all across America.
Trout and salmon are on the front lines of the climate change battle. Trout and salmon depend on cold, clean, plentiful water to survive, all of which are threatened by predicted changes in air temperature and precipitation. Increased wildfire risk, decreased snowpack, droughts in some places, and intense floods in others, will radically impact trout and salmon habitat in the years to come. As the nation's premier organization for protecting, reconnecting and restoring coldwater fisheries, better understanding these changes directly impacts Trout Unlimited's core mission. Today's report confirms that by mid-century, the future for trout could be bleak-as much as 50 percent of suitable habitat for trout in the West could be lost, and a dramatic reduction of brook trout habitat in the East, including complete elimination from iconic watersheds such as Shenandoah National Park, could take place.
Using tools like the Conservation Success Index, TU's scientists are working to integrate predicted changes in the climate with current threats to trout and salmon habitat.
"Climate change is just another factor that greatly complicates the existing problems facing coldwater habitat," said Jack Williams, senior scientist for Trout Unlimited. "We were happy to work with the National Wildlife Federation to spotlight how challenging it will be to protect, reconnect and restore trout populations for future generations as the climate continues to warm. Adaptation projects that increase the resistance and resilience of our streams to impacts from climate change is an emerging focus for our organization. This is what TU has always been good at-implementing on-the-ground conservation strategies that keep cold water cold and plentiful to the benefit of fish and fishers alike."
TU projects that range from very large-opening a 1,000 miles of habitat on the Penobscot River with our coalition partners in Maine, to the very small-fixing culverts and removing small dams in Virginia-help to build resilience to climate change in fish populations. Working with landowners, farmers, ranchers, industry and government agencies of all shapes and sizes, TU specializes in these types of projects. However, the report also correctly calls for tackling the root of the climate change problem, greenhouse gas emissions-without meaningful reductions in emissions, much of TU's work could be outpaced by warming trends.
"NWF has long been one of TU's best conservation partners," said Williams. "We look forward to working with NWF to further enhance our understanding of climate change impacts on the nation's fisheries and our angling opportunities, but most importantly, fulfill the report's roadmap for curtailing climate change impacts on our fisheries."
Below is a link to the full NWF report. Whether or not you beleive in climate change, if you have any concern for the future of fly fishing it is a must read. Click on the link below to open the report (PDF file):
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):