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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 and videos. Good luck fishing!

NM Fishing Report ~ OCTOBER 4th, 2016:

Fall is just about here and we are getting psyched up for our favorite time of year to fish in northern New Mexico and southern Colorado. Due to the amazing amount of rain we have had at the end of August and throughout most of September, all of our rivers are in the best shape we have seen in quite a few fall seasons. The fish and insect populations are extremely healthy which has us anticipating an incredible couple of months on the water this October and November. Over the last six weeks, we have had very good, consistent fishing with many large fish coming to the net. Just in the last week or so, it looks like the browns in some spots are starting to get colored up for their fall spawn and are getting into their usual state of aggressive frenzy. Everything is lining up for some great fishing over the next couple of months!

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 6 weeks...

Chama River Bow
CHAMA & LOWER BRAZOS: The upper Chama River from above Heron Dam all the way into Colorado has been quite steady with some great dry-dropper fishing to be had. We have had to work around some days of off color water due to the rains, but when it is clear, the fishing has been very good. As the nights cool down and the rains slow, the bigger browns will come out to play and the action in this whole stretch of river will be epic. The flows below El Vado Dam have been reduced and, as of today, they at 200 cfs (cubic feet per second) which is a perfect level for this section of the river - they should be at this general amount for at least another 6 weeks. This being said, we have had some very good fishing at the previously higher flows here over the past few weeks and now the fishing should
Shirley H El Vado
be terrific. 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 section below Abiquiu Dam is still running a bit high (290± cfs) and dirty but soon it will be time to look at this spot - keep an eye on the releases from the dam as it should be reduced somewhat as we get into October.

The lower sections of the Brazos are still fishing quite well and should continue be good until at least early November. We have still been catching mostly smaller rainbows but over the last week or two more and more decent browns are coming to the net. Smaller mayfly nymphs are the best bet, fished either under a hopper or with an indicator. In the afternoon a single dry is still bringing a fair number of fish to the surface as well. On either set-up, think 5X or 6X tippet when the water is clear and low.

Upper Picture: Frenchy Fuqua (the Euro-nymphing master) showing off an big upper Chama rainbow - well done!
Lower Picture: The browns are getting feisty! Shirley H. caught this beauty below El Vado (Jake her guide holding it).

ABEYTA RANCH & THE CONEJOS: Both the Abeyta Ranch and the public Conejos are fishing well these days. The fishing is a bit tricky what with the lower, clear water conditions but with a good drift and lighter tippets, many fish are being landed. The best set-ups are still the same as we discussed in our last fishing report - 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 we get further into the fall, the bigger browns should start to get "fired-up" and the rainbows will start to think about putting on some weight for the winter. November should be really good on both the Abeyta Ranch and the rest of the Conejos.

Picture: Ben W. with the Abeyta Ranch fish of the summer; boy this young man sure can fish!

VALLES CALDERA NATIONAL PRESERVE: The fishing on the Valles Caldera has been very good and consistent throughout August and September and should stay good throughout October. This is also the season when the largest fish of the year are easiest to catch. Recently we have had some great dry fly fishing using single hoppers, beetles and ants. The only time we have had to go to the nymphs is when the water is off color - smaller Prince nymphs and red copper johns are still a great choice. This the time of year there are less folks out on the Caldera and the elk are starting to move; there is a good chance of seeing a big group of them at the end of the day.

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: It ate a beetle! Ben H with a chunky, wild VCNP brown.
Lower Picture: Alan M. working a stretch of the middle part of the San Antonio.

THE MK & SPEAR U RANCHES: The leaves are starting to turn, the water levels are perfect and the browns are getting fired up on the MK "Momma Kern" Ranch - this is our favorite time of year to fish on the Navajo River. The water has cooled down and the fish are in good shape, very fat and healthy. The water is still very 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: Dry-dropper rainbows are great - way to go Andy C.!
Lower Picture: Fishing the "Ladies Pool" on the MK Ranch - it gave one up for the men.

San Juan
SAN JUAN: The flows have been bouncing around a bit on the San Juan over the last couple of months, fluctuating between 400 and 800 cfs. The fishing has been good with the exception of the days right after a major flow increase. Right now the flows are at 469 cfs which is a perfect level for both wading and floating. As is usual for the fall season, we are starting to see a fair number of baetis and BWOs in the afternoons. 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. It is also getting to be time to think about trying some egg patterns, leeches and maybe a wolf eagle or two; you never know...

Bent Rod San Juan
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.

Upper Picture: Beautiful colors on a Juan-bow going back to his home.

Lower Picture: A good bend in the rod at "Trouty-Pouty" run, just below the Navajo Dam in mid-September.

WIllow Creek Lake
QUINLAN RANCH: The water in the Quinlan Ranch lakes has cooled down substantially over the last few weeks and the fish are starting to really turn on! Both stripping streamers and fishing buggers mayflies and chironomids under an indicator have been working well - whichever suits your fancy. We are also seeing incredible amounts of smaller minnows in the shallows along the edges of the lakes. This is drawing the larger trout up from the depths and they are starting to cruise the edges and crashing the pods of baitfish. When fishing from the shore, we have been getting hits on streamers almost at the rod tip; pretty exciting stuff. The lakes on the Quinlan Ranch should fish well throughout the end of November.

Quinlan Ranch Mountains
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.

Upper Picture: The illustrious Bill C. strikes again with a nice Don's Lake rainbow.
Lower Picture: The colors are starting to pop - high up on the Quinlan Ranch last weekend.

PECOS: The fishing on the Pecos has been holding up well throughout the summer and getting better as we head into the fall season. All manner of rigs are still bringing fish to the net right now. 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: Fun day on the Pecos fishing dries. Way to go Sarah H.!

BAR X BAR RANCH: The Bar X Bar Ranch is still fishing very well and with all of the rain we had in September, the water level in all of the lakes is perfect. The fish are still looking up and the top-water action is terrific, especially on sunny, warm days. The fish are really smacking dry flies right now - what fun! There are lots of 12" to 16" fish 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 one of the best location to fish that is close to Santa Fe; a little under an hour drive from the Plaza.

Picture: Steve A. with a nice top-water fish on the Bar X Bar lakes; well done!

THE OSO PICCOLO RANCHES: With the shorter days and cooler weather, the La Barranca ranch is starting to fish well again. There seems to be a wide spectrum of fish sizes on the ranch right now - we are catching everything from small ones up to some really nice fish in the 20" plus range. Right now we are fishing primarily nymph rigs and the occasional hopper-dropper setup in the afternoon. The Wolf Creek Ranch is starting to wind down a bit for the year but there is still the chance of having some great fishing, especially on warmer, sunny afternoons. Small hoppers are still working, along with a dropper in the deeper pools.

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 beautiful mid-September brown trout from the La Barranca stretch of the Chama.

Rio Grande Rainbow
RIO GRANDE: The flows on the Rio are at a perfect level (220 cfs at Taos Junction Bridge) and the fishing has been great for about the last two weeks. We have been doing a fair number of trips on the Rio and have had some banner days with lots of fish coming to the net. All types of fly patterns have been working with smaller streamers and brighter nymphs still being the best bet. The size run of fish this fall on the Rio is also very good with a few bigger guys in the 18 to 20 inch range - way cool!

Picture: How about that for a Rio Grande rainbow? It fell for a Red Copper John last week...

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. Give us a call about our all-inclusive, 2 to 4 night packages we have started doing up at the ranch.

Now Is The Time Of Year To Be Stealthy:

Big Fish Clear Water
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 Hatchery
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):

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.
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