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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 ~ AUGUST 3rd, 2016:It has been a while since we have posted a fishing report. Why? The fishing for the last month or so has been terrific and, in all due candor, we have been on the water most days - a reasonable excuse. Almost all of our rivers, streams and lakes are fishing well and the water conditions are still good overall. Some sections of a few areas are a bit low, warm and clear but we are starting to get some really good rains and they are bringing much needed cooler water back to most every fishing area. The only real issue we have had this summer has been fishing on the lakes in the Chama area. When it was really warm in July, the fish would turn off in the afternoons and head to the depths. On cloudy afternoons and with the rains, this is changing quickly and the fish are now starting to stay up higher in the water column and eating throughout the day. August is looking to be a great month and, if we keep getting some decent rain showers, the fishing in September should be phenomenal.
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 upper parts of the Chama River (from below El Vado Dam all the way into Colorado) are fishing very well right now with lots of really nice browns and rainbows coming to the net. The only consideration is that you pick your spot according to the weather conditions. If you are going to fish areas that are slower moving and not shaded, try to hit them either early or late in the day and then target spots with shade and faster water at mid-day. Though the flows below El Vado Dam have been a bit high - currently at 703 cfs (cubic feet per second) - if you are willing to fish with a bit of extra weight, the fishing has been decent. Depending on the water levels and clarity, all matter of rigs have been working on the Chama; streamers and bigger nymphs below El Vado and smaller stuff and dries as you move upstream.
The lower sections of the Brazos have been really good so far this summer. Mostly smaller rainbows but we have had a few really nice browns in the deeper pockets. As the water has become low and clear, we have had to go to pretty light tippet to have consistently good fishing. Smaller mayfly nymphs have been the best bet, fished either under a hopper or with an indicator. In the afternoon a single dry has been brining a fair number of fish to the surface as well.
Upper Picture: Jose D. (the high-stick master) with a gorgeous Chama River brown - well done!
Lower Picture: A 6 to 7 lb. rainbow in clear, low water landed on 6X tippet. Leon K. is da' man.
HIGH TIMBER RANCH: The fishing at the High Timber ranch has been nothing short of superb so far this summer. Recently we have had anglers land incredible numbers of fish in a day on both dries and/or nymph rigs. Earlier on in June and July we had great fishing in the meadow stretches with lots of really nice rainbows and brookies being caught. As is usually the case when the temperatures warm up, many of the bigger fish have moved into the pocket water and canyon stretches of the ranch. Single hoppers and dry-dropper rigs have been the ticket for the last month or so. The fish on this ranch are all wild and have very little fishing pressure; typically they are not bashful and very aggressive with their takes.
With 5 miles of the Upper Brazos River running through the Brazos Meadows, this is one of the most amazing spots we go to. It is quite a long drive off the paved road (about 1.5 to 2 hours) so we recommend that, if you would like to fish the High Timber Ranch, that you spend the night in Chama the day before your trip. Please give us a call for more information.
Upper Picture: Ira G. with a beautiful High Timber Ranch brook trout. 17 inches on the tape - nice!
Lower Picture: The pocket water below the first canyon stretch; if you can hike, this is the place.
VALLES CALDERA NATIONAL PRESERVE: The "Caldera" has be fishing quite well throughout the summer and incredibly, we have had folks get into some really decent sized fish. On almost every trip we have done out there this year someone gets into a 16" to 18" fish, which is monster for such small water. Recently there has been lots of top-water action with small hoppers, beetles and parachute Adams being the go to flies. When the water is off color after a rain, light nymph rigs are working well with smaller Prince nymphs and red copper-johns being a great choice.
Last October the National Park Service (NPS) took over the management and operation of the VCNP and it is now officially a National Park - the VCNP is an amazing place and well worthy of National Park status. Comprised of almost 90,000 acres of pristine landscapes, it is one of the most beautiful spots in New Mexico. The three major fishing locations are San Antonio Creek, the East Fork of the Jemez and Jaramillo Creek. All of these streams flow though large alpine meadows, offering anglers many miles of great fishing and easy access. Along with many types of wildlife, there is a large elk herd on the VCNP and if you are lucky, you will see a fair number of them. Land of Enchantment Guides is now the only guide service permitted by the VCNP and the NPS to take people fishing on the Valles Caldera.
Upper Picture: Dropping a small hopper into tight quarters on San Antonio Creek.
Lower Picture: A beautiful 17" wild brown that fell for the hopper - good work Alex B!
THE MK & SPEAR U RANCHES: The fishing on the MK "Momma Kern" Ranch has been great so far this summer. The water is still quite cool and the fish are in good shape and very fat and healthy. The only issue is that the water is super clear so a bit of stealth to one's fishing is in order - no bright clothes or stomping around the river (see the article below the fishing report). For those who are careful, the river is giving up some great fish on both nymph rigs and single dries. This year there are lots of cased caddis on the rocks which are one of the prime food sources for the trout in this stretch of water. Small warden's worries, caddis nymphs and smaller gray mayflies have been the most productive nymphs; hoppers and elk hair caddis have been the go-to patterns on top.
We haven't been to the Spear U Ranch this season. They are doing some major stream improvements to their stretch of river which should hopefully be finished up this fall. What an amazing piece of water the Spear U will be in 2017. Both of these ranches are located in southern Colorado on the Navajo river. The Spear U Ranch has 3.5 miles of river and two small lakes that are full of big fish. The MK Ranch is higher up with about 4± miles of river. These are some of the most beautiful places we fish at.
Upper Picture: One of many chunky rainbows Chris O. landed at the MK Ranch. What a great angler she is!
Lower Picture: Keith I. with a nice 20" rainbow that ate the dropper. Note how clear the water is...
ABEYTA RANCH & THE CONEJOS: The run-off wound down on the Conejos at the beginning of July and the fishing on the Abeyta Ranch and the lower part of the river has been very good ever since. We didn't have an epic stonefly hatch but the mayfly and drake hatches have been super-good. As is usual, for late July/early August, the flows are low and the water is clear so the fishing is a bit tricky but there are still lots of fish being caught. Hoppers on top and smaller mayflies down deep in the middle of the day have been the best rigs. In the mornings and evenings, you can get away with some bigger stonefly nymphs and squirmy-wormies fished deep in the faster water. As with many of the rivers and streams in our area, a couple of good rains will make the fish less skittish. Similar to the MK ranch, a bit of stealth, smaller flies and light tippet will be a big key to success on the Conejos right now.
Picture: A beautiful Abeyta Ranch rainbow that came to the net last week for Rick O. - well done.
SAN JUAN: The "flush" is done and the river is in as good shape as we've seen in the last 4-5 years! The fish are looking incredible and seem to be a bit fatter than usual, maybe from the river being cleaned up and scoured by the month long flush. We have done a fair number of wade and float trips in July, both with great success. The flows are still a bit high (they are in the 800 cfs range right now) but, if you go to the right locations, the wade fishing it is still good in many spots. Small, very thin midges and a few smaller baetis patterns seem to be the best rigs right now with no particular color standing out as the go to - just keep changing it up throughout the day. Foam ants and big "splat bugs" are bringing aggressive strikes on top, especially fished to the shore from a boat. The only drawback to fishing the San Juan right now is that it is hotter than heck unless you are wading. If you don't mind sweating, go now - if you would rather be more comfortable, go to the mountains and wait on the "Juan" until fall.
If you are interested in spending a few days on the Juan, check out our Fishing Packages. For more information and pricing please go to our "Fishing Packages" page or give us a call.
Picture: Dustin M. with a nice fish on the Upper Flats - check out how fat and healthy it is after the flush.
QUINLAN RANCH: We have had great fishing on the Quinlan Ranch's lakes up until about mid-July when it just got too hot for fishing in the middle of the day. As we said in the introduction above, this is beginning to change as the rains are now cooling the surface water down and bringing the fish back up to the top. The fish are beginning to feed throughout the day and we're looking at great August and early fall fishing. The fish in the lakes have been doing very well in spite of the warm July and are quite chunky; there are also some real brutes lurking just of the edges. It won't be long before they start to terrorize the baitfish, chasing the minnow into the shallows - it will soon be time for Rasta Buggers and Wolf Eagles fished close to shore!!!
The Quinlan Ranch is a wonderful place to base out of to fish Northern New Mexico and Southern Colorado. We are starting to book up our 4 night/3 day packages up at the ranch for the summer and fall. If you are interested in specific dates or have any questions, don't hesitate to give us a call. Please check out the "Fishing Packages" page for more information.
Picture: The El Paso Gang working the structure and edges on Pete's Pond at the Quinlan Ranch.
PECOS: The Pecos has been fishing decently so far this summer with all manner of rigs producing fish. Dries, dry-droppers, nymph rigs and small streamers; there is no real "silver bullet" set-up, they're all working. The real key to success is to get away from other anglers - don't be afraid to move around, walk and try and find some water that hasn't been fished for a while. Though the bulk of the fish in the Pecos aren’t very big (usually in the 8 to 12 inch range), there is always a chance of landing a good sized fish. The Pecos is a beautiful little river and, if you go with the attitude of just enjoying a day on the water, you'll have a wonderful time.
Picture: Young Joe R.'s first day fly fishing ever - he is into it and already respecting the fish.
BAR X BAR RANCH: The Bar X Bar Ranch is still fishing very well and the water levels are holding up in fine form this year. The amazing thing is how good the top-water action has been over the last couple of weeks. The fish are near the surface and really smacking dry flies right now - what fun! There are lots of 12" to 16" trout to be caught and, if you are lucky, a fair number of 20"+ big boys to be had as well. The real issue to catching the bigger fish is having them get to you flies before the smaller ones do; really not a bad problem to have. If you are willing to strip large streamers or fish big dragon fly nymphs just of the bottom, you can get locked up with a real monster. The Bar X Bar Ranch offers great fishing and right now, this is the best location to fish that is close to Santa Fe; a little under an hour drive from the Plaza.
Picture: A typical Bar X Bar fish that ate a small hopper on top. Well done Mike P.!
THE OSO PICCOLO RANCHES: The La Barranca ranch was great until the middle of July with lots of big fish coming to the net. Because this stretch of the Chama River flows through a large meadow it is quite warm. As of right now the only time worth fishing here is at sunrise or sunset. This will change with the rains and as the water cools into the late summer and fall. The Wolf Creek Ranch on the other hand is fishing quite well, especially in the canyon sections. Small, single hoppers and beetles are all you need to have a great day of dry fly action, catching multiple wild browns and rainbows.
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 Wolf Creek, wild brown trout, dry-dropper double; Jeff M. got them both in the net!
RIO GRANDE: The flows on the Rio have come down to a very fishable level (280 cfs at Taos Junction Bridge) and the fishing has been fair. If you are willing to cover a good bit of ground and try lots of spots you'll probably have a good day. Smaller streamers and brighter nymphs have been the best bet for us recently. In all honesty, we haven't been fishing the Rio that much this summer - the fishing has been better in other locations. This will probably change as we get into September and October...
Now Is The Time Of Year To Be Stealthy:
With lower, clear water this time of year it helps to be very aware of how you fish - stealth is often the key success. As we talked about in the above fishing report, on many of the locations we are fishing you can do very well if you are careful with how you approach each spot you are fishing. Using lighter tippets is only a small part of the equation. The below article was recently published in the Gink & Gasoline newsletter and blog. It is one of the most thorough lists of things fly fishermen should try to keep in mind when on the water, especially this time of year. Gink & Gasoline is a great source of information and stories about fly fishing - there is a link to their website at the bottom of the article.
Picture: Big fish feeding on a sandy gravel bar in mid-July - any little thing wrong will spook em'!
How often do you think anglers miss opportunities catching trout because of the lack of stealth? The more educated trout populations are in a stream, river or lake you're fly fishing, the more important it is for fly anglers to mimic the way a hunter stalks game in the field. I estimate that I give away upwards of 50% of my trout catching opportunities due to my lack of stealth. Below are 8 common mistakes fly anglers make on the water that blow their cover and success.
1. Moving too fast in and out of the water:
Trout are amazing at picking up on the subtle movement of objects around them. Movement is often perceived by anglers as being more important than noise by trout when it comes to them detecting danger. Eagles, osprey, heron and anglers all fit the bill for danger by trout when they see movement. Don't just pay attention to your movement in the water either, it's just as important to pay attention to the movement we make out of the water. I've got a wild trout stream a couple miles from my house where the trout are known to spook from anglers walking along an access road high above the river 50 feet or more away. Make no mistake, trout can see very well out of the water, particularly if the water is calm and clear.
2. Too much noise equals unsatisfactory stealth:
Never be in a rush to get into position so you can make a cast into that tasty looking trout water. If anglers move too quickly, they're going to increase the noise they make during their approach and greatly increase their chances of alerting trout. Studies show that sound can travel as much as 70% farther underwater. With metal studs and metal tipped wading staffs the norm these days, we're making more noise than ever on the water. A rule of thumb that I use on the water to help me maintain stealth during my approach is to move twice as slow as my gut feeling is telling me to.
3. Leave your "bling" at home:
One of the worst things a fly fisher can do to alert fish to their presence is wearing brightly colored clothing and flashy "bling" on the water. When you wear bright clothing you're going to stick out like a beacon to trout. I know this is fly fishing 101 stuff but I continue to see anglers ignoring this every year on the water and felt obligated to mention it in this post. Flashy jewelry (watches, necklaces and rings) is another no-no on the water. New Zealand guides are notorious for having their clients leave their flashy "bling" at the car before they hit the water. If the sun catches your flashy accessories just right, it can cause bright flashes of light to hit the water and alert trout.
4. Stay as far away from the trout as you can:
It's amazing how fast anglers can find themselves standing out in the middle of the stream right on top of trout shortly after they've started fly fishing a spot. I call it the shuffle foot syndrome. Many novice fly fisher's shuffle their feet during their false casting, which draws them in closer and closer to the trout without them realizing it. The closer you position yourself to trout, the more likely you're going to miss out on catching them. Don't fall victim to the chronic shuffle foot syndrome. Pay attention at all times where you're positioned relative to the trout and make sure you have your feet anchored to the stream bed when you're fishing. It's also important to note that when anglers are wading from one spot to the next that they should always wade as far away from the trout as they can. When possible, stay out of the water when repositioning. This will decrease the noise you're making when you're wading and keep you off the radar.
5. Keep the sun in your face when possible:
Pay attention to where the sun is located in the horizon and what side of the water you're approaching a hole to fish throughout the day. Doing so, you'll greatly eliminate the chance of your shadow being cast on the water and alerting fish. Moving shadows that are cast onto the water by anglers during wading and fly casting will almost always spook trout to some level and make it harder for you to get them to eat your fly.
6. Don't line the fish with your fly line:
Pay attention to the distance and the angle of your presentation cast. Both can blow your cover by you landing your fly line too close to the feeding trout. Try to work trout with just your leader when possible (lengthen it if you needed) and try to target trout from a 45 to 90 degree angle if you can. This will make it much easier for you to just drift your flies over the trout and not your fly line also.
7. Don't hit the fish on the head with your flies:
Most of the time if you land your fly rig too loud on the water or too close to a trout you'll end up alerting or spooking it. A lot of the time this happens because the angler didn't have enough fly line stripped off their reel in the first place before making their initial cast, and that has them ending up falling short of their target. Fly anglers have two main objectives when they've moved into position and are ready to make their first cast. The first objective is to get their fly/flies to land where the trout will be able to spot them during their drift. The second, is to cast far enough ahead of the trout so the sound of their rig hitting the water doesn't spook the trout. Pay attention to both of these when you're on the water fly fishing and you'll catch more trout.
8. Don't fly fish like you're firing a machine gun:
When fly anglers are dealing with educated trout and small strike zones that require pin-point accuracy and drifts, they often will find more success if they focus on making quality presentations over quantity. A prime example of this would be when a fly angler has spotted a trophy trout but can't get it to bite. A big mistake rookie anglers make in this situation, is firing one cast after another, over and over, like their firing a machine gun. I've found the more times you cast over a big fish the less chance you'll generally have of catching it because you'll usually alert the fish at some point to your presence from the repeated casts. Next time you find yourself in this situation, take your time and make one presentation and drift at a time, then pause for a minute or two in between. You'll find by slowing down, your focus will increase, your accuracy will be much better and you'll greatly decrease the chances of the trout getting spooked. I've witnessed anglers on Flat Creek in Jackson, WY landing giant trout when no one else was because they had the discipline to locate a big trout and only make one cast to it every 15-20 minutes until they caught it. That's probably a little bit overboard, but there are situations when trout will stop feeding for several minutes when they've witnessed danger.
Kent Klewein - Gink & Gasoline
Mora Hatchery Gila Trout Spawning Report:
Mora National Fish Hatchery's Gila trout spawning season has ended in 2016 on a high note. The Federal facility spawned 560 captive and wild pairs of Gila trout yielding 122,423 eyed-eggs. Given the expected high survival rate in the hatchery, the eggs should result in nearly 80,000 young trout that will be stocked in the wild in autumn, reaching five inches at stocking time. More than 10,000 Gila trout have already been stocked in 2016 into waters of the Gila National Forest.
"It's been great going at Mora," said hatchery manager, Nathan Wiese. "We expect to double the number of Gila trout this year over what we stocked in 2015. Fishery managers in New Mexico and Arizona have identified 20 streams suitable for Gila trout stocking this year. This is up from nine water bodies from last year."
Of the expected 70,950 young trout, 18,825 will go to Arizona waters, and 52,125 will be stocked in New Mexico. Many of the trout will be placed in streams closed to fishing at present so as to help bolster the fish's conservation status. Those trout produced this year in excess of that needed for recovery purposes will be placed in waters open to fishing.
The Gila trout is considered a threatened species under the Endangered Species Act, and occurs naturally only in the headwaters of the Gila River system of New Mexico and Arizona. The trout had been closed to fishing for more than 50 years. Conservation work by the New Mexico Department of Game and Fish; Arizona Game and Fish Department; U.S. Forest Service; U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service; Trout Unlimited; University of New Mexico, and the helping hands of dedicated citizen-conservationists improved the status of the rare trout. It was the Nation's only endangered trout until 2006. Gila trout populations were opened to angling in 2007.
That year also marked the first stocking of Gila trout when Mora National Fish Hatchery produced a comparatively small 3,024 trout. Today's successes come from past experience notes the hatchery's manager. "The Gila trout is not an easy species to raise," said Wiese. "It's one of the rarest trout species in the world and we have had to learn as we go. Our successes now are built on what we have learned from the past."
This rare trout consists of five distinct populations coinciding with five distinct and widely separated headwater streams in the Gila National Forest. The hatchery holds Gila trout from each population in captivity. Each population is intensively managed in the hatchery to preserve robust genetics unique to each stream.
"Mora is not your run-of-the-mill hatchery," said Wiese. "Gila trout in a hatchery is akin to captive-rearing other highly imperiled organisms. The hatchery is a safeguard—and it's a jumpstart—while habitat restoration is underway. The quality of the trout matter most, ensuring as best we can that the imprint of nature remains in the genes of these trout. It's a great time to be a Gila trout angler."
Mora National Fish Hatchery is one of 70 national fish hatcheries located across the country. The facility is entirely indoors and operates with a state-of-the-art water circulation system. The hatchery also holds a small population of endangered bontyail, a fish found naturally only in the Colorado River system. The hatchery is open to visitors. Contact: Nathan Wiese at (575) 387-6022.
Hank Patterson Explains Trout Unlimited (TU):
Hank Patterson shares his understanding of Trout Unlimited and the importance of membership with a couple new clients. What hoot! Are you a TU member?
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.
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):