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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 ~ June 23rd, 2015:The run-off is tapering off and is almost finished in most spots, the stoneflies are hatching and the fishing is great! Along with the stoneflies/salmonflies, in most rivers and streams the hoppers, caddis and beetles have started to make a strong showing and we’ve been having some great dry-fly action recently. With all the rain we had this spring, the lakes are fishing extremely well and should continue to do so for the rest of the summer. From now through July is one of the best times to fish in Northern New Mexico and Southern Colorado, not to mention it is almost time to wet wade in many locations; what more could you ask for?
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.
HIGH TIMBER RANCH: A one word description would suffice for a recent report on this Brazos Meadows Ranch: Amazing! We have made 4 or 5 trips up to the High Timber in the last week to 10 days; the fishing has been great and the views are out of this world. The flows are perfect right now and the fish are quite ravenous. There has been great action both on top and below the surface. The hoppers are still quite small but the fish are looking up, especially in the afternoon. There have been some incredible caddis hatches in the early evening with large swarms of them forming on the river’s bank.
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.
Upper Picture: Bruce B. running down a nice fish in the meadow (Noah hooting and hollering).
Lower Picture: Big, deep pool at the up-stream end of the first canyon section.
CHAMA & LOWER BRAZOS: In the last week or so, the flows on the upper Chama and the lower Brazos have dropped to perfect levels and the fishing is great. The water is still cold, a touch off color and the fish are super hungry. We have had some great days fishing all manner of nymph rigs and streamers throughout both of these sections of water. The fishing below El Vado Dam on the Chama has been very good as well - we just have had to work around the water releases out of the dam, especially on the weekends. When the flows are lower than 500-600 cfs (cubic feet per second) you can have some excellent fishing. As has been the case for the last couple of months, larger, heavier nymphs followed by something smaller and a bit flashy seem to still be the key to success in this stretch. The Chama below Abiquiu dam has been running very high and dirty. We haven't fished this section of the river for well over a month; who knows, it might be worth a shot?
Picture: A fat, upper Chama River brown that came to the bank last week.
THE OSO PICCOLO RANCHES: We have just started to fish on the La Barranca ranch this past week and have been catching some really nice browns and rainbows with a fair number in the 20"+ size range. The browns look as healthy as we have seen in quite a few years - praise the lord for the rains we have had! As is usually the ticket on the Chama this time of year, most of the takes have been on nymph rigs and Wolf-Eagles; "go Wolfy go"! This section of river runs through a big meadow so the casting and walking are quite easy. The drawback to this is that the water in this part of the Chama warms up pretty drastically by the beginning of August so now is the best time of year to fish it.
We have fished a few days up on the Wolf Creek so far this month and it has been lots of fun. Small, single hoppers have been bringing some gorgeous wild browns to the net throughout the whole length of the ranche's water. The water levels are dropping and it has cleared up quite a bit so the fishing should be great for the rest of the summer. 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.
Upper Picture: The "Austin Barrister" with a big La Barranca brown that ate the black leech - NICE!
Lower Picture: Dry-dropper fishing on the lower meadow stretch of the Wolf Creek Ranch.
QUINLAN RANCH: The fishing throughout May and June on the Quinlan Ranch lakes has been nothing short of exceptional. Every lake has been producing lots of fish, many of them being quite large and fat. So far this season, 25 to 40 fish per angler days have not been uncommon. Willow and Pete's pond have been very dirty due to all the rain so we haven't been fishing them as much as the other lakes. They are starting clear quickly and look out when they do - considering that they haven't really been touched so far this year; the fishing should be off the charts. All manner of set-ups are working both sub-surface and on top and the fish are very feisty. All of the boats are in the water - there are three ClackaCraft drift boats and three aluminum skiffs spread between the five lakes we fish on the Quinlan Ranch.
We are already booking a lot of our 4 night/3 day packages up at the ranch for the 2015 season. If you are considering a trip this 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.
Upper Picture: The Atlanta Gang with a nice double on Don's Lake.
Lower Picture: One of the many big bows Jason D. landed last week - all smiles (Shane holding the fish).
SAN JUAN: We have been doing quite a few trips on the San Juan in the last month or so and the fishing has been really good. The flows being released out of Navajo Dam have been holding steady in the 300 - 350 cfs (cubic feet per second) range and the wade fishing has been excellent. The water has completely cleared and we have had some great dry fly action and sight fishing to bigger fish. Fishing double-dry rigs has been a hoot! As always, the standard array of midge lava and pupa patterns are working but the baetis and mayflies have really come on in the last few weeks, especially in the afternoons. The faster riffles are producing some very nice fish with many good sized browns in the overall mix. Though there are more folks on the water than in the early spring, weekdays have still been quite un-crowded and we have had lots of days with whole sections of the river to ourselves. The only negative is that it has been pretty hot walking to and from the river. This is a small price to pay for such good fishing.
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: Larry B. with a big San Juan brown - well done!
BAR X BAR RANCH: The Pecos area and the Bar X Bar Ranch got some much needed snow and rain in April, May and earlier this month which really helped the conditions out on the ranch. All five of the ranch's lakes are full of water right now and the fishing is still very good. The fish are cruising the edges looking for damsel fly nymphs and taking beetles and mayfly dries on the surface. The water levels are much better than last season's conditions so we are hoping the fishing should stay good throughout the summer. 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: Robert C. with a nice fish and a "thumbs up" from Shane. Boy that kid can fish!
ABEYTA RANCH & CONEJOS RIVER: The flows on the Abeyta Ranch and the lower Conejos are still very high but dropping steadily. We had great fishing on the Abeyta Ranch up until a couple of weeks ago and can't wait until the flows get back to a fishable level, hopefully within the next four or five days. There are lots of big fish in this stretch of river this year with quite a few in the 20"+ size range. If we are lucky, we'll catch the stonefly hatch when the flows come down. Give us a call anytime for an update on the water levels and fishing conditions.
Picture: 2 weeks ago before the flows came up too high, the fishing was great - Nice fish Scott R.!
PECOS: The flows on the Pecos have come down to very fishable levels over the last week and recently we have had some great days on the river. There are stoneflies coming off as well as mayflies and the odd caddis. Dry-dropper rigs have been a good technique to try along with standard indicator/nymphing set-ups. We have been catching tons of smaller fish but every trip we have done this spring and early summer has brought a hook-up or two on some really nice sized rainbows, some in the 20"+ range. What a nice surprise after landing a bunch of smaller ones.
Picture: A chunky Pecos rainbow that ate the dry.
THE MK & SPEAR U RANCHES: The fishing on the Spear U Ranch (on the Navajo river) has been fair to good with the lakes being the best bet. All manner of setups are working in the lakes - streamers, nymphs and midges but sight casting with bigger dry flies is starting to really work well. The flows in the upper Navajo are still really high and basically unfishable so the MK Ranch won't be a good bet for at least another week or two. These high flows are making the river at the Spear U very dirty as well, even though they are not too high to fish (most of the water from the upper river is being diverted to the Heron Reservoir). The conditions on both of these ranches should be perfect within a couple of weeks.
Picture: Early morning riser on the big lake at the Spear U Ranch - sluuurp.
RIO GRANDE: All of the Rio is flowing really high so not much point in fishing there 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.
TU launches the Wild Steelhead Initiative:
Trout Unlimited is launching the Wild Steelhead Initiative and Wild Steelheaders United, an ambitious and hopeful effort to protect and restore the wild steelhead. The goal of the Initiative is to, organize, activate and educate.
The passion to catch wild steelhead is a bond that unites anglers young and old, urban and rural, liberal and conservative, gear or fly. Wild steelhead have inspired thousands of anglers to become conservationists. Until now, those conservation efforts have been primarily local, focused on specific rivers and led by small groups of dedicated volunteers. Never before has there been a broad initiative that effectively focuses the conservation efforts of the large, impassioned community of wild steelhead anglers. Chances of conservation success are greatest if we have the backing of as many individuals as possible. This is why Wild Steelheaders United is critical.
Management strategy and policy for wild steelhead is being shaped today that will affect steelhead populations over the coming decades. Meanwhile, changing climate conditions are reducing streamflows and steelhead habitat in many watersheds, and state and federal budget shortfalls are likely to lead to increased scrutiny and closure of hatcheries. Without a coherent strategy, planning, and sustained action by the people who care the most about this iconic fish, factors such as possible future ESA listings and potential overcrowding onto already limited resources could take our wild steelhead fisheries beyond the tipping point.
Today, 70 percent of the major steelhead populations in Oregon, Idaho, Washington and California require federal protection and opportunities to catch wild steelhead have diminished dramatically in many rivers. At the same time, we are seeing wild steelhead make a comeback, in rivers like the Elwha and Eel. We believe that the future of wild steelhead - and angling opportunity for these incredible fish - cries out for coordinated action across their native range.
Take a look at their website and consider giving them your support. To go to the website please click on the link below:
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):