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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 ~ March 10th, 2015:Early spring is here and the fishing is beginning to pick up as many of our rivers and streams are slowly coming out of last winter’s freeze. We are starting to see the ice breaking up a bit in the upper Chama/lower Brazos areas as well as on the lower Conejos river. The weather for the last couple of months as been variable, to say the least. We were wearing T-shirts for a few days in February and then by the first part of March we had a two or three major snow storms along with some really cold weather. The good news is that the high country got a terrific amount of snow which brought many locations up to an average or slightly above average snow-pack for the year. After the last couple of winters of lower snow levels, this is a real blessing and bodes well for some good water levels in our rivers, streams and lakes this spring and summer; what a relief!
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: The fishing on the San Juan River has been very good for the last month or so. We have been doing mostly wade trips recently as the bigger fish all seem to be in the upper sections of the river. The flows being released out of Navajo Dam have been holding steady in the 350 cfs (cubic feet per second) range all winter and the wading is very easy. The water clarity is still in winter-mode with about 16 to 24 inches of visibility. The water does appear to be clearing slightly and should get progressively clearer as the days get longer and the temperatures rise. The fish are still hanging in the deeper water early in the day but, as the sun gets higher in the sky and the bugs start to appear in the shallower sections, the fish are moving up into the flats and riffles to eat. In the last few weeks, we have had some incredible action using small emergers on midge hatches in the early afternoon.
Recently, along with the standard array of lava and pupa patterns, fishing streamers, leeches and egg patterns has been a great bet and these bigger flies are bringing some very large fish to the net. There aren't that many folks fishing on the San Juan this time of year and you can often have whole sections of the river to yourself, especially during the week. On our last few float trips we were basically alone most of the time, seeing only one or two other boats throughout the whole day.
If you are interested in fishing the San Juan this winter and would like to stay in the area, we offer a fishing and lodging package. For more information and pricing please go to our "Fishing Packages" page or give us a call.
Upper Picture: Alex B. and a nice Juan rainbow last week. Cold as heck but catching the crap out of them!
Lower Picture: Per H. came from Denmark to tussle with our San Juan, NM trout - way to go.
CHAMA & LOWER BRAZOS: The Chama River tailwater sections (the areas below the dams) are still fishing quite well with the best bet still being below Abiquiu Dam. The flows/water releases out of the dam have been holding steady in the 50 cfs range which makes for easy wading. There have been tons of rainbows stocked throughout the winter in this stretch of the river and they have been very easy to catch. We are still hooking into the occasional nice brown as well. There are lots of folks fishing this area of the Chama so going on weekdays usually will be a better option. The fishing in the section below El Vado Dam is just starting to pick up a little bit but the water is still very cold and the bugs and the fish are not moving that much.
This should change as the spring progresses. Since our last report, the water flows coming out of El Vado dam have been reduced to the 50 cfs range and have been at this level for about a month. If you are able to get to this spot on the Chama under the right conditions - warmer, sunny days - you can still have a very fun time. Large, heavier nymphs followed by something small and flashy have been the key to success in both the Abiquiu and El Vado stretches. It is still too early to fish on the upper part of the Chama (above El Vado reservoir) and anywhere on the Brazos River. If we continue to get warmer weather these spots should start to become productive, probably within the next month or so.
Upper Picture: Jake holding new guide in training Ras (with the blue collar) while watcing the fish.
Lower Picture: Shane showing Ras a nice Chama brown trout; "looks yummmy". Notice that Jake is wearing a T-shirt in late February - it was pretty warm.
ABEYTA RANCH ~ CONEJOS: The ice on the lower Conejos River and the Abeyta Ranch is just starting to break up. Right now you can have decent fishing on warm afternoons but, barring a major cold snap, it should be really, really good by the last week of March. The fish will be aggressive and hungry after the long, cold winter.
QUINLAN RANCH: The lakes on the Quinlan Ranch are still iced over so there won't be any fishing on the ranch until "ice-out" occurs, maybe by early April. The ranch got a lot of snow in the last few storms so the lakes should be in great shape this season.
We are already booking a lot of our 4 night/3 day packages up at the ranch for the 2015 season. If you are considering a trip next year and are interested in specific dates, please don't wait too long to get the ball rolling on making a reservation. The Quinlan is a great place to base out of to fish Northern New Mexico and Southern Colorado. Please check out the "Fishing Packages" page for more information.
PECOS: The Pecos is just beginning to pick up a bit. It is very cold throughout the river especially in the upper sections. This being said, on a warm sunny day, you could still have fun and catch a few. The best spots to try will be in the deeper holes in the lower sections of the river.
RIO GRANDE & RED: The flows on the lower/Pilar stretch of Rio Grande have bumped up a bit and are flowing in the 575 - 650 cfs range which makes for pretty tough fishing and wading. There are a few trout to be had and there is still a good chance at catching a pike. As with most of our fishing locations this time of year, warmer, sunny days will probably be the most productive. The Red river, which is a tributary of the Rio is still fishing well. The trout fishing is good and there are still a few cuttbows in the system. If you don't mind a bit of a hike, this is a great spot to try over the next 2 to 3 weeks. Please feel free to give us a call for more information.
THE MK & SPEAR U RANCHES: The Navajo River on the Spear U ranch is starting to open up but the lakes are still iced over. Typically late March into early April is when we will start fishing this ranch. It will be at least a couple of months until we can get up to the MK Ranch on the upper section of the river.
THE OSO PICCOLO RANCHES: As soon as the upper Chama River opens up the La Barranca Ranch will be worth a try. This should be by the end of the month. The fishing on the Wolf Creek Ranch is still a couple of months away - lots of snow up there; yay!
BAR X BAR RANCH: The Bar X Bar should be fishable by April 1st - we'll keep you posted.
TU launches the Wild Steelhead Initiative:
Trout Unlimited is launching the Wild Steelhead Initiative and Wild Steelheaders United, an ambitious and hopeful effort to protect and restore the wild steelhead. The goal of the Initiative is to, organize, activate and educate.
The passion to catch wild steelhead is a bond that unites anglers young and old, urban and rural, liberal and conservative, gear or fly. Wild steelhead have inspired thousands of anglers to become conservationists. Until now, those conservation efforts have been primarily local, focused on specific rivers and led by small groups of dedicated volunteers. Never before has there been a broad initiative that effectively focuses the conservation efforts of the large, impassioned community of wild steelhead anglers. Chances of conservation success are greatest if we have the backing of as many individuals as possible. This is why Wild Steelheaders United is critical.
Management strategy and policy for wild steelhead is being shaped today that will affect steelhead populations over the coming decades. Meanwhile, changing climate conditions are reducing streamflows and steelhead habitat in many watersheds, and state and federal budget shortfalls are likely to lead to increased scrutiny and closure of hatcheries. Without a coherent strategy, planning, and sustained action by the people who care the most about this iconic fish, factors such as possible future ESA listings and potential overcrowding onto already limited resources could take our wild steelhead fisheries beyond the tipping point.
Today, 70 percent of the major steelhead populations in Oregon, Idaho, Washington and California require federal protection and opportunities to catch wild steelhead have diminished dramatically in many rivers. At the same time, we are seeing wild steelhead make a comeback, in rivers like the Elwha and Eel. We believe that the future of wild steelhead - and angling opportunity for these incredible fish - cries out for coordinated action across their native range.
Take a look at their website and consider giving them your support. To go to the website please click on the link below:
Senate Passes Public Lands Measure:
WASHINGTON, D.C.- On December 15th, 2014 the Senate voted to approve a number of important public lands measures, two of which are in New Mexico, that were attached to the federal defense reauthorization bill, including measures that will protect vital fish and game habitat in four western states and ensure fishing and hunting opportunities remain intact for generations to come. The package of bills is on the way to the White House for President Obama's signature.
The approved legislation includes measures to designate new locally supported wilderness areas in Colorado, New Mexico and Nevada, as well as legislation that would protect lands in the North Fork of the Flathead River drainage in Montana from hard-rock mining and future oil and gas drilling and fracking.
"This package of bills represents the culmination of years of hard work by our staff and our volunteers on the ground and our partners all across the West," said Trout Unlimited President and CEO Chris Wood last week when the package passed the House. "It's proof that, even with the political fractures that plague Washington these days, anglers and hunters can get important work done through local efforts to apply common sense to common problems for the common good. This is proof that conservation is a bipartisan value shared by hunters and anglers regardless of their political views."
The bill details changes to two areas in New Mexico:
Management of the 90,000-acre Valles Caldera National Preserve in the Jemez Mountains of northern New Mexico-a spectacular volcanic caldera containing outstanding fish and wildlife habitat-would shift from a board of trustees to the National Park Service, which would implement a plan to improve public recreation access, including for hunting and fishing.
The Columbine-Hondo Wilderness Protection Act, which will protect fish and game habitat in the Sangre de Cristo Mountains north of Taos, N.M. The bill, introduced by U.S. Sens. Tom Udall and Martin Heinrich, and Rep. Ben Ray Lujan in 2013, protects 46,000 acres of backcountry in the Carson National Forest, including prime deer and elk habitat and headwater streams that host important populations of native Rio Grande cutthroat trout and provide clean drinking and irrigation water for downstream communities. The Columbine-Hondo area offers an array of recreation and economic benefits, including hunting and angling, livestock grazing, mountain biking, hiking, horseback riding, wood-gathering and tourism.
"Each of these bills has one important element in common," Wood said last week. "They were all crafted locally, with input from anglers and hunters who understand that quality fishing and hunting only happen if intact habitat is available for everything from trout to elk. Sportsmen matter, and Congress has recognized their contribution to these important conservation measures."
Upper Picture: San Antonio Creek on the Valles Caldera.
Lower Picture: Early spring elk in the Valle Grande on the Valles Caldera.
Rio Grande Cutthroat No Longer an Endangered Species Candidate:
SANTA FE - October 1, 2014: New Mexico's state fish, the Rio Grande cutthroat trout, no longer is a candidate for listing under the Endangered Species Act, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service announced Tuesday.
Since 2008, aggressive conservation efforts by the New Mexico Department of Game and Fish and it's partners have enhanced or restored pure-strain native cutthroats in 127 streams that are open to public fishing. Rio Grande cutthroats now occupy about 700 miles of stream habitat.
After reviewing current scientific information about the cutthroat's populations, genetic diversity and habitat conditions in its historic range in northern New Mexico and southern Colorado, the federal agency deemed that the fish is in no danger of extinction. The Rio Grande cutthroat was designated a candidate for listing in 2008, mostly because its habitat had dwindled to 11 percent of what it once was.
"Tuesday's decision is a tribute to the hard work by the department and its public and private partners to conserve our state fish and keep it off the endangered species list," said Paul Kienzle, chairman of the State Game Commission. "It also ensures recreational public fishing opportunities for Rio Grande cutthroat trout for years to come."
Cutthroat restoration partners include Trout Unlimited, New Mexico Trout, Colorado Parks and Wildlife, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, U.S. Forest Service, Turner Enterprises Inc., northern tribes and pueblos, and others.
The most impressive restoration effort has been the ongoing project to restore pure-strain native cutthroats to the Rio Costilla watershed, which consists of more than 150 miles of streams, 25 lakes and the Costilla Reservoir. More than 70 miles of streams have been restored and more than 33,000 native fish have been stocked in those waters since that project began in 2007. This year, the department plans to stock another six miles of restored waters.
All of the stocked Rio Grande cutthroats come from the department's Seven Springs Hatchery in the Jemez Mountains, which raises nothing but genetically diverse, pure-strain fish for restoration and recreation.
"Keeping native trout in our state's streams and lakes is extremely important to us, not only because it's the department's mandate to protect native species, but also because it's our goal to provide anglers with opportunities to catch them," said Bryan Bakevich, the department's Rio Grande cutthroat trout biologist. "The Rio Grande cutthroat is found only in one place in the world - northern New Mexico and southern Colorado. We need to keep them around."
Orvis/TU 1,000 Miles Campaign:
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):