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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 ~ SEPTEMBER 1st, 2015:Though it still feels like summer, we are starting to see the first hints of the seasons changing and the fish are just beginning to show signs of the fall coming. The brown trout are starting to get "colored up" and some of the males are getting their kipes (the hook on the bottom jaw). The water in the higher altitude rivers and streams has started to cool and there has already been a frost up in the high country at over 9,500 feet of altitude. With the cooler water and the days getting shorter, the rainbows are also becoming more active and aggressive - time to start thinking about putting on some weight for the winter. All of this has made for some great fishing recently, which will only get better as the fall arrives in earnest. September, October and November are possibly the three best months to fish here in northern New Mexico and southern Colorado.
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.
ABEYTA RANCH & CONEJOS RIVER: At the beginning of August the fishing on the Abeyta Ranch was good but pretty technical. The water was low, clear and warm making the fish pretty spooky and 6X tippet almost a necessity to get the bite with any consistency. In the last week or so, that has started to change. The water has begun to cool a bit and it seems that the fish are beginning to come out of their mid-August doldrums. We have had some great trips on the Conejos in the last week to 10 days with lots of really nice sized fish coming to the net. All manner of techniques are working; from deep nymph rigs to dry-dropper setups to just straight dry flies. There are still lots of grasshoppers around so we have had quite a few fish hooked on pretty big yellow bodied hoppers; pretty cool to watch a big brown come up and whack one! All of the fish look quite fat and healthy so the fall fishing on the Abeyta Ranch and the Conejos should be terrific this season.
Picture: Isabela V. with a beautiful Abeyta Ranch Rainbow - good stuff!
CHAMA & LOWER BRAZOS: We have had great fishing below El Vado Dam on the Chama through the middle of August. On August 14th the water releases out of both the El Vado and Heron Dam were increased and have been held between 750 to 1,000 cfs (cubic feet per second) and 550 to 600cfs respectively. These high flows have pretty well shut off the fishing in both of these locations. The silver lining to this is that the flows should be lowered to very fishable levels within the next couple of weeks with much of the debris in the river washed away and the fish spread out throughout the system. The fishing should be great for most of the fall, especially below El Vado Dam. The section of the Chama below Abiquiu Dam has been pretty much unfishable for the same reason as below El Vado. Hopefully the same scenario of reduced flows by mid-September will be the case for Abiquiu and the fishing will be on!
The upper sections of the Chama River have been fishing quite well throughout the summer. The first few weeks in August were a bit challenging due to the lower water conditions but we still had quite a few good days. Right now the water temps are dropping fast and the fish are becoming much more active. Nothing too tricky about the set-ups - Warden's Worries and small Prince Nymphs are all that you need. On days when the conditions allow, larger hoppers with or without a dropper have also been very productive. The lower part of the Brazos has started to fish quite well in the last few weeks. Dry-dropper rigs have been the go-to setup for us on this stretch of the river recently. Lighter nymph rigs with smaller mayflies have been bringing fish to the net as well.
Upper Picture: Owen T. with a beautiful Rio Grande Cutthroat (Jesse Lee helping) - way to go!
Lower Picture: Upper Chama brown (note the kipe jaw). Well done Bill M.
THE OSO PICCOLO RANCHES: The fishing on the La Barranca Ranch on the Chama River has started to pick up and we are anticipating a great fall fishery. The rains we have had throughout the summer have helped a lot with the water levels this year and both the fish and this section of the Chama are in great shape. Mid-September through mid-October should be prime time for the bigger browns and there are some big ones in there! Wolf creek is still fishing well but it is quite low and clear making full on stealth mode the only way to go. Small, single hoppers are still bringing some gorgeous wild trout to the surface especially in the deeper pockets of the lower "canyon" section. September on Wolf Creek can offer great fishing. Once the browns get a bit fired up about procreation, they get a lot less spooky. Also this time of year in the late afternoon, the elk start moving down to the creek and it is not uncommon to see large bunches of them at the tree line at the edge of the meadow.
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: Another nice sized, wild Wolf Creek brown that came to hand a couple of weeks ago.
SAN JUAN: We have been doing lots of trips over on the "Juan" this August and the fishing has been great. Incredibly it hasn't been all that crowded - even though it didn't affect the San Juan River where we fish, maybe the Animas River spill turned some folks away? The flows have been holding steady in the 600 cfs (cubic feet per second) range for the last few weeks which has definitely helped to make many more spots available to fish. The water is still very clear but the fishing is great as there has been much less fishing pressure than is usual for this time of year. We are still using smaller flies (#24s and #26s) and lighter tippet (mostly all 6X). The baetis have started to show and small RS2's and pheasant tails are working well, especially in the afternoon. We have also been having some great dry fly action in some of the back eddies. As the air cools and the kids go back to school, the fishing should get even better, for all of the obvious reasons. If you are interested in spending a few days on the Juan this fall, check out our fishing and lodging package for the San Juan River. For more information and pricing please go to our "Fishing Packages" page or give us a call.
Picture: Carson H. with the rare "Brown-Bow" trout he caught on the upper flats - a once in a lifetime fish!
RIO GRANDE: The flows on the Rio have finally come down to good fishing levels and the fishing is starting to pick up. From the Embudo section all the way up through to the Wild & Scenic Rivers area there is the option to have a really good day. The fishing will only get better as the fall progresses. Right now we are using mostly heavier nymph rigs but we're pitching the occasional dry fly if we see any rising fish. Small, black leeches have been bringing some nice small mouth bass to the net as well. Within the next month or so the lower sections should clear up substantially and fishing should be great in these areas.
Picture: Afternoon in the Rio Grande Box last week - the conditions are getting just about right.
QUINLAN RANCH:The fishing on the Quinlan Ranch lakes has been terrific all summer long. For the last few weeks, the higher altitude lakes (Pete's and Honeymoon) have been producing lots of nice fat fish throughout the whole day. The water in the lower altitude lakes (Don's and Willow) is starting to cool and they are beginning to pick up with some of the bigger fish cruising the edges. By mid-September when the nights get colder the bigger fish will get really aggressive and we should have amazing action through mid-November. All manner of set-ups are still working right now both sub-surface and on top. Dry damsel flies have begun to take the lead as the go-to topwater pattern. As the fall progresses, the streamers will become the key for the bigger fish.
The Quinlan is a great place to base out of to fish Northern New Mexico and Southern Colorado. We are still booking our 4 night/3 day packages up at the ranch. If you are considering a trip this late summer or fall please contact us about available dates. Note: It is still possible to do a Quinlan Ranch package during the month of September. There is very limited availability during October and November due to the elk hunting season. Please check out the "Fishing Packages" page for more information.
Upper Picture: Will P. with a Pete's Pond bruiser - way to go!
Lower Picture: A very big Quinlan Ranch fish from Willow caught by John M. - nice!
PECOS: The fishing on the Pecos has been very good recently with the exception of a couple of days when the river was too high from heavy rains. Aside from these days, we have had some great trips up there during August. Dry-dropper rigs are still producing very well for us along with standard indicator/nymphing set-ups. A good thing to keep in mind is that depending on the water levels and clarity, we have been adjusting our depths accordingly. A slight change in depth and weight makes a big difference as the water conditions have been changing almost daily. Keep switching things up until you find the best system for the location and the day. After Labor Day weekend, the number of people on the river should diminish greatly and the fishing this fall should be very good.
Picture: Karl D. having fun on the Pecos (guide Joey Hart holding the fish for Karl).
BAR X BAR RANCH: The Pecos area had two or three good rains in August and the lakes on the Bar X Bar ranch are still in great shape. All five of the ranch's lakes are full of water right now and the fishing continues to be excellent. At this rate the fishing should be good for the rest of the season. Dries, streamers and mayfly nymphs under an indicator have all been working well. With the great water conditions, the fish become very fat and strong. 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: A beautiful Bar X Bar fish. Check out the rise in the background out on the lake...
THE MK & SPEAR U RANCHES: The fishing on the Spear U Ranch and MK Ranches on the Navajo river has been great and the water in the river has cleared. Also the fish in the lakes are still looking up (see the picture). We have done a couple of trips on these ranches in the last couple of weeks and had good success. September and October is prime-time for the Navajo River and, due to the dirty water throughout the summer, the fish have had very little fishing pressure so far this season. Give us a call anytime for an updated report on either of these ranches.
Picture: Big rainbow hitting a large drake dry fly on the Spear U lakes in mid-August - what a splash!
HIGH TIMBER RANCH: The High Timber Ranch is pretty much done for the year (we have to stay out of the way of the elk hunters). 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.
Picture: Fighting a nice rainbow at the mouth of the canyon stretch at the High Timber Ranch on the upper Brazos River.
Animas River Spill Update:
The toxic plume of 3 million gallons of water that was released from the Gold King Mine and went into the Animas River has dissipated and flowed downstream and with it so has much of the public's awareness of the long term effects of this disaster and who is ultimately responsible for it. "Out of sight, out of mind"? Not entirely...
The EPA is now finally admitting to the fact that they caused the spill but they are being quite evasive on producing requested documents and on providing any restitution for damages caused - they are now facing a lawsuit from the Navajo Nation. As well the EPA and its role in the accident will be examined by both the Interior Department and a US Senate committee. Hopefully something good will come out of all of this. Vamos a ver; I wouldn't hold your breath waiting for resolution. Here are a few links to some current news reports on where things stand:
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):