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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.

Please scroll down the page to see all of the articles. Good luck fishing!

NM Fishing Report ~ December 21st, 2014:

As of today, winter is officially here and we have been getting some much needed snow. The weather has been cold but with nothing too brutal yet - below freezing at night and up into the 40's and 50's during the day. The fishing is still good in most of our tailwaters and in some of the lower streams and rivers. For the next few months, the weather can be an issue but the fishing can be great. Probably the biggest benefit to fishing this time of year is that, in popular locations such as the San Juan River, anglers can often have the water to themselves. The winter is also the very best time of the year to target large pike on the Rio Grande and cuttbows on the Red River. During the winter the fish don't say they are done for the year - just a lot of the fishermen do. Don't get stuck to the couch!

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.

All of the Fishing Report pictures were taken within the last 1 to 6 weeks...

San Juan River Browntrout
SAN JUAN: The fishing on the San Juan has been very good recently and there are a lot less fishermen on the water. During the week we have had many locations on the river completely to ourselves - pretty amazing for the "Juan". We are still mostly doing wade trips these days as it seems that many of the bigger fish are still above the Texas Hole (this area is not accessible by the boat). As has seemed to be the case throughout the late summer and early fall. We still seem to be having better success with smaller sizes; we're mostly fishing size 24 and 26 flies. The water in the river right now is still very clear but, with another week or two of cold weather, Navajo reservoir should "turn over". This will make the water a bit less clear so larger brighter flies and heavier tippet will be the way to go; a pleasant change from size 26 flies on 6X.

San Juan River Rainbowtrout
One neat thing is that recently there has been some great top-water action using midge cluster patterns (i.e. Griffith's Gnats and Dead Chickens). There is still the chance of some good action using baetis and blue-winged olive patterns as well. As the winter progresses into early spring, the rainbows will start to think about spawning which makes many of the larger fish very aggressive. The B.O.R. has held the flows coming out of the dam at a steady 350 cfs (cubic feet per second) for the whole fall, which has made for great wade fishing, and it appears they will stay at this level for at least the next few months. The winter is our favorite time of year to fish on the San Juan - very often in January, February and March we won't see anyone else and the fishing is off the charts.

If you are interested in fishing the San Juan this winter 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.

Upper Picture: Letting go beautiful San Juan River River fall brown trout.
Lower Picture: Big bow that came to the net on the Juan last week.

Chama River Trout Dance
CHAMA & LOWER BRAZOS: The fishing in the tailwater sections of the Chama has been good for the last few weeks depending on the weather (sunny warm days are the best) and the particular spot on the river one is fishing. It seems that in many locations the fish are quite bunched up and you will fish along without a bite and then hook a lot in one hole. The brown trout spawn is pretty much over in most spots but you still need to be very careful about walking on spawning beds. Keep your eye out for round areas of cleaner gravel, typically 2 to 3 feet across, and avoid stepping in them. Since our last report in mid-November, the flows coming out of Abiquiu and El Vado dams has been increased up to the 225 - 250 cfs which is a perfect level for fishing these locations.

Late Fall Brown Trout
With the colder weather, the water is clearing up nicely and the visibility has improved substantially over the past week or so. Depending on how cold it gets, these sections of the river should continue to offer up good fishing opportunities throughout the rest of the winter.

The fishing on upper part of the Chama (above El Vado reservoir) and anywhere on the Brazos is pretty much over for the year. There is a fair amount of ice in the sections of the rivers and the water is very cold. Best to wait until spring.

Upper Picture: Josh L. doing his "Dances with Trout" thing with a nice Chama fish.
Lower Picture: And the end result to the dance; a healthy, fall-run Chama brown trout!

PECOS: The Pecos has still been fishing well recently but it does seem that the fish have stacked up in the deeper spots in the river. The Pecos canyon is at a pretty high altitude and doesn't get a lot of sun in certain spots so sunny days will be the best choice to be on the river this time of year.

Red River Winter Fishing
RIO GRANDE & RED: The flows on the lower/Pilar stretch of Rio Grande are flowing in the 450 - 500 cfs range which is still pretty high but better than they have been. Over the next few weeks the flows should drop a bit more and the fishing should improve. This the time of year to try your luck at pike fishing. As with most of our fishing locations this time of year, warmer, sunny days will probably be more productive. One spot that is fishing well right now is the Red river, which is a tributary of the Rio. This time of year the cuttbows move up out of the Rio into the Red to spawn. If you don't mind a bit of a hike, this is a great area to try over the next 6 to 8 weeks. Please feel free to give us a call for more information.

Picture: A beautiful plunge pool on the Red in early December.

Ice at the Abeyta Ranch
ABEYTA RANCH ~ CONEJOS: The ice on the Conejos and the Abeyta Ranch has really started to form over the last couple of weeks so this river is pretty much done until early spring. One could certainly do a trip on the Conejos but it would entail trying to find pools that were not iced over. Depending on the weather, mid-March on the Conejos is usually when the fishing starts to pick up again.

Picture: Netting a fish over the ice shelf at the end of November. Nicely done Andy L!

Chromo CO Fly Fishing
THE MK & SPEAR U RANCHES: Pretty much the same report for the Conejos will apply to the Navajo River and the MK and Spear U ranches. The river and lakes on both of these ranches are icing up quickly and there is already quite a bit of snow higher up on the MK Ranch. The Spear U could still be fishable if we get a stretch of warm weather where the nights aren't too cold - this probably won't be the case though. Typically late March into early April is when we will start fishing these spots again.

Picture: Gene S. with a big rainbow from the lake at the Spear U Ranch in November.

QUINLAN RANCH: The lakes on the Quinlan Ranch are almost completely iced over so there won't be any fishing on the ranch until "ice-out" this coming spring. What a great fishing season we had on the Quinlan Ranch in 2014 - we can't wait til' next season begins!

We are already booking a fair number of our 4 night/3 day packages up at the ranch for the 2015 season. If you are considering a trip next year and are interested in specific dates, please don't wait too long to get the ball rolling on making a reservation. 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.

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; great time to think about the Bar X Bar again.

THE OSO PICCOLO RANCHES: The fishing on these ranches is done for this year and a great year it was for them, especially on the Wolf Creek Ranch - we're very excited about 2015 up at the "Wolfy".

Senate Passes Public Lands Measure:

San Antonio VCNP
WASHINGTON, D.C.- On December 15th, 2014 the Senate voted to approve a number of important public lands measures, two of which are in New Mexico, that were attached to the federal defense reauthorization bill, including measures that will protect vital fish and game habitat in four western states and ensure fishing and hunting opportunities remain intact for generations to come. The package of bills is on the way to the White House for President Obama's signature.

The approved legislation includes measures to designate new locally supported wilderness areas in Colorado, New Mexico and Nevada, as well as legislation that would protect lands in the North Fork of the Flathead River drainage in Montana from hard-rock mining and future oil and gas drilling and fracking.

"This package of bills represents the culmination of years of hard work by our staff and our volunteers on the ground and our partners all across the West," said Trout Unlimited President and CEO Chris Wood last week when the package passed the House. "It's proof that, even with the political fractures that plague Washington these days, anglers and hunters can get important work done through local efforts to apply common sense to common problems for the common good. This is proof that conservation is a bipartisan value shared by hunters and anglers regardless of their political views."

The bill details changes to two areas in New Mexico:

Management of the 90,000-acre Valles Caldera National Preserve in the Jemez Mountains of northern New Mexico-a spectacular volcanic caldera containing outstanding fish and wildlife habitat-would shift from a board of trustees to the National Park Service, which would implement a plan to improve public recreation access, including for hunting and fishing.

The Columbine-Hondo Wilderness Protection Act, which will protect fish and game habitat in the Sangre de Cristo Mountains north of Taos, N.M. The bill, introduced by U.S. Sens. Tom Udall and Martin Heinrich, and Rep. Ben Ray Lujan in 2013, protects 46,000 acres of backcountry in the Carson National Forest, including prime deer and elk habitat and headwater streams that host important populations of native Rio Grande cutthroat trout and provide clean drinking and irrigation water for downstream communities. The Columbine-Hondo area offers an array of recreation and economic benefits, including hunting and angling, livestock grazing, mountain biking, hiking, horseback riding, wood-gathering and tourism.

"Each of these bills has one important element in common," Wood said last week. "They were all crafted locally, with input from anglers and hunters who understand that quality fishing and hunting only happen if intact habitat is available for everything from trout to elk. Sportsmen matter, and Congress has recognized their contribution to these important conservation measures."

Upper Picture: San Antonio Creek on the Valles Caldera.
Lower Picture: Early spring elk in the Valle Grande on the Valles Caldera.

Rio Grande Cutthroat No Longer an Endangered Species Candidate:

Rio Grande Cutthroat
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:

Please watch this video and then read the article below...

Culvert Repair
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.

1k logo
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:

Orvis/TU 1,000 Miles Campaign

Trout Unlimited Praises NWF Climate Change Report:

High Mountain Lake
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):

Swimming Upstream NWF Report

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):

Report/Article on Low Flows Below El Vado Dam - Fall & Winter, 2011/2012

Fly fishing guides for the Santa Fe, Chama, Taos, Los Alamos and San Juan River areas.
Fishing trips on all the best streams, rivers and private ranches in Northern New Mexico.
San Juan River • Rio Grande • Red River • Chama River • Brazos River • Pecos River • Costilla Creek • Rio Vallecitos • Cimarron River
Cow Creek • Rio de Los Pinos • Jemez River • San Antonio Creek • Guadalupe River • Rio Pueblo de Taos • Conejos River • The Valles Caldera

Phone: (505) 629-5688 or (505) 927-5356   ~   Email:   ~   Land of Enchantment Guides: PO Box 55 Velarde, NM 87582