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New Mexico Fly Fishing Report & News
Northern New Mexico and southern Colorado fishing report, current local water and fishing conditions along with some general fly fishing news and trout fishing information.
NM Fishing Report ~ April 18th, 2019:
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 that we take anglers to, check out our Private Water page.
ABEYTA RANCH & THE CONEJOS: The Abeyta Ranch and the lower Conejos have been fishing amazingly well so far this spring. The ice and snow along the lower sections of the river and at the Abeyta Ranch has pretty much melted off. The fish are looking very healthy and we have been getting into some real beauties. For the last month or so the water flows have been at a perfect level, holding quite steadily in the 100 to 300 cfs (cubic feet per second) range and the water clarity is still quite good, having the perfect brownish-green springtime tint to it. We’ve been up on the Abeyta Ranch at least three or four times a week recently and have had some banner days with many large fish landed.
Bigger, flashy nymphs, Pat’s rubber legs and worms have been the
go-to patterns and look out; the fish aren’t being very shy about hitting
the rigs! From mid-day on, don’t be afraid to try some smaller mayfly nymphs (size 16 to 18) and/or any smaller caddis pupa patterns. If you want to target just the bigger fish in the river, fishing large streamers is a great bet right now, especially as the flows increase. This is the time of year is when we catch the biggest rainbows on the Conejos and there are some real brutes to be had - 2X or 3X tippet is in order. With the current rate of snowmelt and the releases out of Platoro reservoir, these fishing conditions on the Conejos should hold for at least a few more weeks. Feel free to give us a call for daily updates on how the river is doing.
Upper Picture: Gary S. with a big springtime Conejos Rainbow that liked caddis pupas - Nice!
Lower Picture: Awesome double hook-up; double species for the double Gary team.
BAR X BAR RANCH: Do to the abundant snow pack this year,
the five lakes at the ranch are in excellent shape and there is more water in them than we have ever seen before. With the warmer weather, all the ice is completely gone and the fishing has been nothing short of excellent for the last few weeks. The fish are fat and happy, in incredible shape and made it through the winter in fine form. They are really hungry and are aggressively taking streamers, jigs and nymph rigs throughout the day. On sunny afternoons we are starting to see some surface action - who knows, it might be time to try some dry flies; we had a fish or two take a swipe at an indicator the other day.
Located in a high alpine valley with great scenery at just under an hour drive from the Plaza in Santa Fe, the Bar X Bar Ranch is a great place to get a springtime fly fishing fix for you or your group while you are in the area. It is super-easy fishing and currently this is the best location to fish that is close to town.
Picture: Myrna B. showing us how it is done with a nice spring rainbow at the Bar X Bar.
SAN JUAN: Spring runoff has arrived on the rivers that feed
Navajo Lake/Reservoir and this is affecting the water conditions in the San Juan River right now. The upstream runoff is bringing massive amounts of muddy water and debris into the lake which is passing through Navajo Dam and turning the water in the river a tanish brown color with very little visibility. This dirty water has made the fishing on the San Juan very slow for the past 3 to 4 weeks. The water has started to clear a bit over the last few days and the fishing this week has started to pick up a little - we are beginning to bring some nice fish to net again.
With heavy hatches beginning around mid-day in the faster riffle water, the spring Blue Wing Olive hatch has started. Foam wings, RS2’s, natural pheasant tails and root beer baetis patterns are all
working well. Midges are hatching in the afternoons and midge larva and pupa patterns with a little flash will start to get the bites; Jako Yankov-Wilhunkie’s Estonian flasher midge and silver ribbed zebra midge patterns (size 20 to 24) are a good bet. With the off colored water conditions, the fish are having a hard time seeing the smaller sized patterns so you should try to slow down and really cover the water right now - you basically have to bump them on the nose with your flies. Don’t be afraid to try large dark colored leeches or bright colored egg patterns followed with a red or orange larva. Jig patterns suspended just off the bottom with a large indicator and dead drifted like a nymph rig is also a good technique to try on the San Juan during these muddy water conditions.
The water flows out of Navajo Dam should start to increase as we get into May and this should improve the visibility and water conditions dramatically. The mayfly and midges hatches will continue well into late June bringing some epic fishing days on the San Juan River - the fish are sure to be very hungry! 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: Peter M. with a nice "Juan-bow" on a float trip last month - Well done!
Lower Picture: This healthy brown trout didn't seem to mind the off-color water. Good job Bobby B.
CHAMA & LOWER BRAZOS: The spring run-off has started on all of the Chama River and it is beginning on the Brazos. The flows coming out of both Abiquiu and El Vado reservoirs are very high and these sections of the Chama are pretty much unfishable right now. With the excellent snowpack we have this year, the high water we are experiencing should cause much of the silt that has built up on the river bottom over the last few years to be flushed out. With the resulting cleaner gravels, the insect hatches are likely to be very prolific this summer - more food for the fish and better fishing conditions. We are expecting the fishing from the mid-June through November, on both the Chama and Brazos rivers, to be the best it has been in many, many years. We did get in a few days on both the upper Chama and the lower Brazos before the run-off started and had some decent fishing and got into some really nice fish. Once the flows back off a little, the fishing should be epic in both of these rivers!
Picture: Late March on the lower Brazos - John D. got into some really nice browns.
QUINLAN RANCH: The lower lakes on the Quinlan have opened up and the fishing has begun to get really good. We haven’t been able to get to the upper lakes yet due to the snowdrifts and muddy road conditions but this should change within the next week or so. Once the water warms up a little bit more the bite should really be on at the Quinlan, probably by the end of this month. Right now streamers and chironomids are the ticket but as the bugs start moving a bit more, all manner of rigs will be working. Like most of our lakes in northern New Mexico and southern Colorado, just after ice out (when the ice melts) is an incredible time to fish on this ranch. Keep this in mind for some great spring fishing. There is an amazing amount of water in all of the ranch’s lakes this spring which bodes well for a great fishing year up at the Quinlan.
As we mentioned in our last fishing report, we are already booking a fair number of our multi-day packages up at the ranch for the 2019 season. If you are considering a trip this 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.
Picture: Hooked-up on Don's Lake last week. The fishing is getting really good on the Quinlan Ranch!
PECOS: The Pecos River has been fishing well this spring and so far, the run-off hasn’t been affecting the fishing all that much. We have made a few trips out to the Pecos over the last week or two and had some very good luck. With the higher flows, the fish are bunched up a bit and in the deeper pools, back eddies and slower runs. One thing we have noticed is how colorful and healthy the browns are for this time of year. There is also a good chance of hooking into a large rainbow as they move up and down the river staging to spawn. If you see one of these bigger fish, put on some heavier tippet and strip a good sized streamer in front of them. The river looks great and the landscape is as beautiful as ever with all of the leaves getting ready to pop. Brighter nymphs, worms, small streamers and jigs have been the ticket to success.
Picture: A beautiful early April afternoon on the Pecos River.
RIO GRANDE & RED: The fishing on the Rio Grande has been fair for both stocked rainbows and wild brown trout. Olive and black streamers (size 8 to 10), indicator nymph rigs with egg patterns, beads and worms and a mayfly or caddis as a trailer fly are catching some nice fish. The flows in the Pilar area have been holding steadily in the 600 to 700 cfs range and the water is still not too dirty, yet. The Red was fishing well in March but as the water levels have risen, the fishing has slowed substantially. It should be a great bet as the run-off subsides.
As the snowmelt continues into May, we expect that the flows on both of these rivers to increase to much higher levels. Keep an eye on temperatures going up and down and the stream flow gauges; there will be days throughout the spring where the Rio and the Red are at fishable levels and other days when the water will be just too high.
VALLES CALDERA NATIONAL PRESERVE: We are almost ready to start going to the Valles Caldera. The roads into San Antonio Creek don’t open until May 14th, so right now you can only fish the East Fork of the Jemez on the Valles Caldera. The streams on the Caldera should in terrific shape this season – we can’t wait to get out there!
THE MK & SHAHAN RANCHES: There is still a bit of snow on the ground, especially up on the MK Ranch,
but it is melting quickly. The river itself is open now and should be fishing well within a couple of weeks. As with all our higher altitude fishing locations, we’ll just have to keep an eye on the snowmelt coming off the mountains. There should be good flows and water conditions on the Navajo well into the fall this year. We are going to go give these spots a try within the next week or so to see how the fishing is.
Located at the upper end of the Navajo River valley upstream of Chromo, the Shahan Ranch has 2± miles of river with some terrific stream improvements and deep pools. The MK Ranch is further up upstream with about 4± miles of river. These are some of the most beautiful places we fish at with incredible views of both the Navajo and Banded Peaks. If you are considering booking a trip with us on either of the spots, we would encourage you to base out of either Chama, NM or Pagosa Springs, CO, at least for the night before your day of fishing.
THE OSO PICCOLO RANCHES: As with all of the sections of the upper Chama, the river at the La Barranca Ranch is running a bit high right now for good fishing. Once the flows start to drop, the fishing should be off the charts. Because of the higher elevations at the Wolf Creek Ranch, there is still a bit of snow on the ground but it should be clearing off in the coming weeks and it will be a good bet to give this spot a try.
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 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.
HIGH TIMBER RANCH: This season the fishing on the High Timber Ranch on the upper Brazos River should be nothing short of epic. This winter brought the most snow we have seen in the high country for quite a few years so the rivers and creeks in these alpine meadows and canyons will be perfect this summer.
There are rainbows and brook trout throughout the whole five miles of water up at the High Timber Ranch. The rainbows, which typically run from 12" up into the 20+" range, are very fat with beautiful white tips on their lower fins. The brook trout are a bit smaller than the rainbows but we landed 2 or 3 in the 17" to 19" range in 2018 - that is a really nice sized brookie! Comprised of canyon stretches and big expansive meadows, there is almost every type of alpine fishing you could ask for. It is a long but beautiful drive to get to the ranch so we suggest that you base out of the Chama area if you are interested in fishing on the High Timber Ranch.
Trout Unlimited Has a New Website:
Trout Unlimited has just launched their new website which is fresher and much more mobile friendly. As well, it seems much easier to use and navigate - very cool. Take some time to check it out. You can get to it by by clicking on the link below:
The State of Public Access to Water in America:
Do you worry that your access to your favorite waters may be in jeopardy, or are you confused about the access laws in other states you may visit? The good folks at Backcountry Hunters & Anglers have put together a comprehensive report, “Stream Access Now,” on the state of public access across the country.
What you might find most useful is the chart that lists every state’s access laws, including definitions of “navigability,” whether there is public floating access through private lands, streambed access through private lands, and the right to portage above high water mark.
Read up on your state’s access laws, starting on page 14, and then visit backcountryhunters.org to learn more and support this new effort. Sign the Stream Access Pledge and join others who are committed to upholding our rights to access America’s streams.
"All Americans should have the opportunity to enjoy our nation’s great outdoors. Access to our public waters is crucial to upholding our outdoor traditions. While private property rights must be respected, I believe that everyone should be able to access our rivers and streams. The ability to hunt, fish and float these waterways should not depend on an individual’s economic means or social standing. I pledge to defend our opportunities to access America’s waterways and to join others in sustaining our outdoor legacy."
Fly Tyer Magazine Article about L.O.E. Guides and the Flies We Tie:
The autumn issue of Fly Tyer Magazine did an article on Land of Enchantment Guides featuring 16 of the custom fly patterns that Shane, Jesse and Noah tie. Many thanks to Fly Tyer editor David Klausmeyer for thinking enough of us to do the article - we are very flattered. You can read a printout (.pdf) of the article by clicking the link below:
Fly Tyer is the best publication on the market on all types of fly tying and materials. Though primarily a magazine on all things concerning fly tying, it is an equally good source of many fishing skills and techniques. We highly recommend that you pick up a copy at your local fly shop and/or consider getting a subscription. For more information you can go to their website: www.flytyer.com
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):