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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 ~ January 28th, 2015:

Well here it is towards the end of January and, for the last month or so, we have had some amazingly diverse weather. Last week we had some really cold temperatures and a good snow storm. Today it is super warm and sunny with temperatures in the high 50's and low 60's - full on winter one day and like spring the next. The snowpack in the mountains is still a bit below average but better than last year. Hopefully there will be some major snowstorms throughout the rest of the winter and into early spring; keep your fingers crossed. The fishing, has been great in a few spots and good in many others, if you go to the right locations. The Chama is still fishing very well and the San Juan has been excellent for the five to six weeks. The winter is the very best time of the year to target large pike on the Rio Grande and cuttbows on the Red River. We have been picking our days within the constraints of the weather but are still getting out on the rivers quite often. 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 4 weeks...

Brown Trout Chama River
CHAMA & LOWER BRAZOS: The Chama River tailwater sections (the areas below the dams) are still fishing quite well with the best bet being below Abiquiu Dam. The flows/water releases out of the dam are currently at 51 cfs which makes for easy wading. There have been tons of rainbows stocked over the last month or so and they have been very easy to catch. We are still hooking into a few really nice browns as well. The section below El Vado Dam is in full “winter fishing mode” with some snow on the banks and much colder water coming out of the reservoir. The flows here have been holding steady in the 100 cfs range
Fly Fishing Below Abiqui
since the first of the year; hopefully this is where they will stay until spring and the brown trout eggs have hatched. If you are able to get to this spot on the Chama under the right conditions - warmer, sunny days - you can still have a very fun time. Large, heavier nymphs followed by something small and flashy have been the key to success in both areas.

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 these sections of the rivers and the water is very cold. Best to wait until spring.

Upper Picture: Beautiful El Vado brown on New Years Day. Way to go Jeff L.
Lower Picture: Clear water and blue skies on the Chama River, on a warm sunny day last week.

San Juan Winter Fishing
SAN JUAN: Nothing much has changed since out last report and the "Juan" is probably the most productive spot to fish right now. We have been doing a lot of trips on the San Juan River in the last month or so and it has been really, really good. This should be the case throughout the rest of the winter. As of this writing, the flows being released out of Navajo Dam have been holding steady in the 350 cfs (cubic feet per second) range. This flow level has made the fishing great for both floating and wading. We are doing well fishing the deeper water spots from the boat and then getting out and wading in the shallower areas - the best of both worlds. One thing that has changed since our last report is that the reservoir has "turned over" making the water clarity pretty low with about 16 to 24 inches of visibility. This means that
Big Winter Trout NM
anglers can get away with much heavier tippet than usual (4X shouldn't be an issue) and larger flies are producing lots of fish. The fish are hanging in the deeper water early in the day but as the sun gets overhead and the bugs start to appear in the shallower sections, the fish are moving up into the flats and riffle sections to eat. Recently, along with the standard array of lava and pupa patterns, fishing streamers, leeches and egg patterns has been a great bet and these bigger flies are bringing some very large fish to the net. This time of year the crowds are gone and you can have the river to yourself in many locations. On our last few float trips we basically had the San Juan all to ourselves seeing only one or two other boats throughout the whole day.

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: Ian A. with a nice bow on the Upper Flats - give that man a hat!
Lower Picture: Grippin' and grinnin' on the Juan last week. Good job Derek W.

Rio Grande Pike Fishing
RIO GRANDE & RED: The flows on the lower/Pilar stretch of Rio Grande are still flowing in the 450 - 500 cfs range - no change from our last report. We have had some decent pike fishing but the trout have been pretty slow. As with most of our fishing locations this time of year, warmer, sunny days will probably be more productive. The Red river, which is a tributary of the Rio is still fishing well. 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 spot to try over the next 4 to 6 weeks. Please feel free to give us a call for more information.

Picture: Putting the Boca to a nice pike on the Rio Grande a couple of weeks ago - well done Chris P.!

PECOS: The Pecos has not been that productive recently. It is very cold throughout the river and the fish are definitely hunkered down for the winter. This being said, on a warm sunny day, you could still have fun and catch a few. The best spots to try will be in the deeper holes in the lower sections of the river.

ABEYTA RANCH ~ CONEJOS: The ice on the Conejos and the Abeyta Ranch has really started to form over the last couple of weeks so the fishing on this river is effectively 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.

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.

QUINLAN RANCH: The lakes on the Quinlan Ranch are 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 lot 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; a 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 what a year it was for them, especially on the Wolf Creek Ranch - we're very excited about 2015 up at the "Wolfy".

TU launches the Wild Steelhead Initiative:

Be Steelheaded Logo
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:

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

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