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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 ~ NOVEMBER 18th, 2015:Fall fishing is now in full swing and we have had some great trips recently. The flows coming out of the dams on the Chama and in the Rio Grande have been in a constant state of flux for the last week so we never know where we’ll be fishing from day to day. The only caveat has been the weather - when the sun is out, the fish are voracious; when it is cloudy they are much more finicky and a bit harder to entice into eating a fly. This scenario is typical for late fall fishing but the good news is that this time of year is when we tend to catch the largest fish of the season. The exception to the water flow/weather issues has been over on the San Juan River where the flows have been holding steady and the fishing has been great, no matter if it is cloudy, sunny, warm or cold. We had our first real snowstorm on Monday and Tuesday which dumped a lot of the white stuff up in the mountains and at the higher altitudes. What a great start to the early winter! All of the snow levels in our mountains and basins are currently well over the averages for this time of year (to see current snow levels you can click on this link: SNOTEL). Hopefully this will keep up and we’ll have a great snow-pack by next spring, making for great conditions in our rivers and streams next year.
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.
SAN JUAN: On November 12th the flows coming out of the Navajo Dam were dropped from 430 cfs (cubic feet per second) down to 365 cfs where they should hold for the next few months. This is a perfect water level for either wading or fishing out of the drift-boat and both methods have been producing lots of fish recently. The baetis and BWOs are here in full force and we are seeing some great midge hatches as well. The good news is that the number of anglers has diminished so there is a lot more room to fish these days than there was earlier this fall. Shane did a float trip last Saturday and, though there were still a fair number of folks wading, he was one of few boats on the river - pretty cool for a weekend.
The water is still very clear so 6X is still in order but the fish are not as spooky as they have been and we are getting away with a little bigger hook size than we were using in October. RS2's and pheasant tails are working well in the afternoons, especially below Three Island Run. The browns are starting to stage for the spawn so keep your eyes out for their redds (spawning beds) and don’t be afraid to try an egg pattern, an Oompa Loompa midge or a Wolf Eagle - keep your drag a little loose and get ready to run! 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. The late fall and throughout the winter is (in our opinion) the best time of year to be on the "Juan".
Upper Picture: Nice sized fish eating emergers at the edge of the foam line.
Lower Picture: A chuncky San Juan brown trout that fell for a chartruse and purple Oompa Loompa.
PECOS: The fishing on the Pecos is still holding up very well and there are comparatively very few folks fishing. The river is in great shape with the flows fluctuating between 30 and 60 cfs. Nymphs with the odd egg pattern thrown in for good measure have be the best producers. Though we haven't been getting into many larger fish, there is still a really good chance to have a lot of fun landing a bunch of smaller fish. A sunny afternoon is the best time to be fishing but on warmer days the fish are starting to turn on by mid-morning. Fishing the open areas early and the canyon sections later in the day is a good strategy to keep in mind.
Picture: Mike V. working the edge of a canyon wall on the Pecos last weekend.
CHAMA & LOWER BRAZOS: Up until about a week ago, the flows being released out of the dams on the Chama were at a great level and the fishing was terrific. Recently the flows have been bumped up into the 500 to 800 cfs range which is making the fishing a bit trickier. This being said, we have still been having some good days this week with the higher flows. According to the Bureau of Reclamation the releases from the dams will be at these levels until sometime after Christmas. Another factor to keep an eye on in the stretch below El Vado dam is that Los Alamos County is trying to bring a new turbine at the dam online at some point in the neat month or so. They are going to be doing a series of tests which will require different release amounts ranging from 400 cfs up to 1,300 cfs. Make sure you know what their testing regimen is before fishing at El Vado over the next few weeks - getting caught downstream after the flow is bumped up to 1,300 cfs would not be a good thing! The fishing should still be good in all of the Chama's tailwater sections if you fish a little deeper than usual and hit the best holding water. As with most spots this time of year, sunny days will probably be a bit more productive than cloudy ones.
The upper sections of the Chama River have been fishing incredibly well but, with the snow and colder weather over the last few days, we are seeing a lot of ice forming and the fishing is only good from the middle of the day until about 3:30 p.m. The amazing thing is the size of some of the fish our clients have landed this fall, both browns and rainbows. It has been tricky fishing as these bigger fish have been really spooky with the cold, clear water. If you can get on them (full stealth mode may be required) and make a good presentation, they'll eat; then look out - they are big brutes - strong, healthy and feisty. Lighter tippets are in order. A Warden's Worry with Dread Lion behind it is all you'll need. Jesse took some folks up to the Brazos to check it out a few days ago and it was cold, low and clear with a fair amount of ice already formed. The fishing was very slow; the Brazos is probably just about done for the year.
Upper Picture: Sammy T. with a nice brown from below the dam last week.
Lower Picture: 24" monster Chama rainbow (Noah holding it) - Way to go Bruce B.!
RIO GRANDE: In last month's fishing report we were touting how the flows had come down on the Rio and how good the fishing was. Well, the flows on the lower sections of the river where we usually fish in the fall, have bumped back up into the 600 to 700 cfs range. The fishing is still decent but not what it was a few weeks ago. We have been to the Rio 4 or 5 times in the last few weeks and have had good fishing using wolly buggers and bigger nymphs, mostly targeting the tail-outs and slower water. Hopefully the flows will start to come down a bit as we get into December. If you do go to the Rio now, be careful where you are wading. Even with the higher flows, this is still a great time of year to be fishing on the Rio Grande.
Picture: Looking up the Rio Grande a few weeks ago.
ABEYTA RANCH & CONEJOS RIVER: The Abeyta Ranch and the Conejos River is in full-on late fall fishing mode. The water is cold and clear and the fish are starting to bunch up in the deeper pools and runs for the winter. They are still pretty hungry and willing to eat, especially in the afternoons. The fishing this fall on the Abeyta Ranch has been a bit challenging (what with the clear water) but the rewards for using light tippet, small flies and being sneaky have been nothing short of amazing. The average size run of fish this year has been really big and we have had many days with lots of 20+ inch fish. The fish are also very fat and heavier than we have ever seen them - we weighed a 22" rainbow on the Abeyta Ranch last week and it was a little over 6 pounds! We are still catching mostly rainbows but there are more browns starting to eat as they are now finished spawning. Small mayflies and stones have been our go-to setups with good presentations being very important. If we don't get an extended cold spell, fishing on the Abeyta Ranch and the lower Conejos should stay good though at least mid-December. Give us a call anytime for an update on the fishing conditions.
Picture: Beautiful November Abeyta Ranch rainbow - making Bill M. happy.
QUINLAN RANCH: The fishing on the Quinlan Ranch lakes is slowly winding down for the year. The fishing on the lower lakes is still good but it has gotten pretty cold and the upper lakes are beginning to ice up - they are at 9,500 feet. There is still a chance of having a great day fishing from shore with streamers and chironomids on Don's and Willow lakes. The larger fish are still cruising the edges looking for minnows and they are hungry - the weather will be what shuts it down. The fall fishing on the Quinlan Ranch has been very good this season with lots of really nice, big fish coming to the net. We are already thinking about next spring and ice-out.
The Quinlan Ranch is a great place to base out of to fish Northern New Mexico and Southern Colorado. We are starting to book our 4 night/3 day packages up at the ranch for 2016. If you are interested in specific dates for next year or have any questions, don't hesitate to give us a call. Please check out the "Fishing Packages" page for more information.
Upper Picture: A beautiful, colored-up rainbow that Rick I. caught in Pete's Pond at the end of October - awesome!
Lower Picture: Early November sky over Willow Creek Lake on the Quinlan Ranch.
THE OSO PICCOLO RANCHES: The Wolf Creek Ranch is pretty much done for the season and La Barranca Ranch is only fishing well in the afternoon on warmer days. If we keep getting god amounts of snow this winter, both ranches should have great fishing next season.
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.
BAR X BAR RANCH: It gets cold very quickly up at the Bar X Bar Ranch - ice out next March is looking really good. We'll keep everyone posted as to when it starts. 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.
THE MK & SPEAR U RANCHES: The fishing on the MK Ranch is done for the year and the Spear U might have a few more weeks of good fishing, depending on how cold it gets. 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. Give us a call anytime for an updated report.
HIGH TIMBER RANCH: At an altitude of 10,000 feet, the High Timber Ranch is done for the year. What an incredible season we had up there. Next year we will be doing all-inclusive, 2 to 4 night packages up at this ranch. We should have the details and pricing worked out by the first of the year; we'll keep you posted.
Thank You To Everyone That Helped With The Chama C & R Initiative:
All of us here at Land of Enchantment Guides would like to thank everybody that has helped us with our efforts to get catch and release areas created on the Chama River. The first and hopefully the biggest step toward making it happen has been completed. On November 5th we met with Mike Sloane and Kirk Patten of the New Mexico Department of Game and Fish (NMDG&F) and presented them with 486 signed surveys, all of which were in complete support of catch and release areas on the Chama. Along with the surveys we also gave them 22 letters of support from organizations, clubs, fishing businesses and stores. As well, they told us that the NMDG&F had received many emails requesting that catch and release areas on the Chama be included in the Draft Fisheries Management Plan. According to Mr. Sloane and Mr. Patten the next step will be for them to do some of their own research and "due diligence" and then, with a little luck, catch and release areas on the Chama can be added to the Draft Fisheries Management Plan which will be brought before the Game Commission at some point in the next few months.
The best thing we can do right now is to be patient and let the NMDG&F do what they need to do. We will stay in touch with them and do our best to let everybody know how things are progressing. Keep your fingers crossed - we are guardedly optimistic that catch and release areas on the Chama River will become a reality.
None of this would have happened without all of your support. Thank you so much to everybody that filled out and signed the petitions and wrote letters and emails to the NMDG&F. Thank you, Thank you, Thank you!
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.
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):