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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 ~ DECEMBER 7th, 2016:
Though winter isn't here yet officially, we have been getting some much needed snow in the mountains and the weather has cooled substantially in the last week. The weather has been cold but with nothing too brutal yet - below freezing at night and up into the 40's and 50's during the day. The fishing is still good in all of our tailwaters and in some of the lower altitude streams and rivers. Over the next few months, the weather can be an issue but the fishing can be great. Probably the biggest benefit to fishing this time of year is that, in popular locations such as the San Juan River, anglers can often have the water to themselves. The winter is also the very best time of the year to target large pike on the Rio Grande and cuttbows on the Red River. During the winter the fish don't say they are done for the year, just a lot of the fishermen do. Don’t get stuck to the couch!
MERRY CHRISTMAS & HAPPY NEW YEAR! All of us at Land of Enchantment Guides would like to wish you a very merry Christmas, a happy New Year and a wonderful holiday season.
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.
CHAMA & LOWER BRAZOS: The sections of the Chama River below the dams have been fishing very well. The water is still a bit off color but it should start to clear a as the water temperatures in the reservoirs drop. The fishing has been good throughout the fall and hopefully will stay that way until at least early February. Overall the fishing below Abiquiu Dam has been quite consistent with lots of smaller rainbows and a few nicer browns coming to the net. The water below Abiquiu looks great - wintery green and slightly off color - and the flows, which are currently in the 190± cfs (cubic feet per second) range, are at a perfect level. All manner of brighter nymphs, streamers and midges are working well. Try fishing deeper when it is cold and cloudy and higher up in the water column when the sun is out. The flows below El Vado Dam have been holding steady in the 200± cfs range for the last couple of months and the fishing this fall
has been quite good. The same as below Abiquiu, all matter of sub-surface rigs have been working in the stretch below El Vado Dam. Closer to Cooper's we have been getting into lots of smaller rainbows but above and below "Coop's" we are seeing lots of decent browns and some really nice Rio Grande cutthroats. The fishing should continue to be very good in these tailwater sections into early January when the flows out of the dams will most likely be reduced a fair amount; we'll just have to wait and see what happens after this.
The fishing on the upper Chama has slowed substantially and we are starting to see a lot of ice beginning to form in the slower sections and along the river's edges. On warmer, sunny days there is still a chance of having some pretty good fishing but things on the upper river have definitely wound down for the season. The fishing in the lower Brazos has slowed dramatically as well and is probably over for the season. The river is very low, clear and cold and only producing the odd fish for a day's fishing.
Upper Picture: James D. with a beautiful Chama River brown in early November - well done and happy birthday! Lower Picture: Check out the colors on this Rio Grande cutthroat from below El Vado; sweet.
SAN JUAN: The "Juan" is fishing very well right now and the crowds thinned out dramatically. We are primarily doing wade trips these days as it seems that many of the bigger fish are above the Texas Hole (this area is not accessible by boat). As always, the standard array of lava, pupa and emerging midge patterns are working well. The baetis and blue-winged olives are still around so smaller RS2s and pheasant tails are bringing fish to the net as well. To change things up, don't be afraid of an egg pattern. As is usually the case throughout the late fall and early winter, we still seem to be having a little better success with smaller sizes; we've mostly been fishing size 24 and 26 flies. At the beginning of this month the flows out of the dam were reduced to 250± cfs so the wading is really easy right now.
These water levels should hold in this range for at least a couple more months. It also looks like the reservoir is starting to "turn over" as the water in the river has become slightly off-color in the last couple of days. This typically happens about this time of year and in couple of weeks we'll be able to get away with bigger flies and heavier tippets - yay! The late fall and winter is our favorite time of year to fish on the San Juan. Very often during January and February we won't see any other anglers and the fishing can be off the charts.
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: A nice rainbow from the driftboat last month in 3 Island Run. Way to go Johny D.
Lower Picture: Robert S. fishing in the Cable Hole last week... we had it all to ourselves.
RIO GRANDE: The flows on the Rio have come up a bit since our last report and have been fluctuating between 350 and 600 cfs (today they are at 438 cfs± at Taos Junction Bridge). The fishing has been holding up pretty well, even with the changing flows and colder weather. Right now you want to be trying to fish on warmer, sunny days and at flows lower than 500 cfs if possible. Afternoons are better than the mornings as well. All types of fly patterns are working with smaller streamers and brighter nymphs being the best for trout. We're still getting into some decent sized fish in the 16" to 18" range. Not much happening just yet with the pike but by mid-January it should be on. Give us a call if you would like to try for some of these big, bad boys - Jesse Lee is the Rio Grande pike master!
Picture: Alan H. with a chunky Rio Grande Rainbow on a beautiful, early November afternoon. Nice!
PECOS: The fishing on the Pecos River is winding down a bit but it still worth a shot on nicer days. Now is the time of year to target deeper runs and pools in the lower sections of the river. Smaller nymphs and midges on light tippet have been our go to rigs recently. Occasionally we are still bringing a fish to the surface with a smaller dry fly but sub-surface is definitely the most productive way to go. Pick your days and target the right water and you'll have fun.
Picture: This is the type of water to look for on the Pecos during the late fall and winter - a deeper run with good cover and sunlight.
ABEYTA RANCH & THE CONEJOS: We fished the Abeyta Ranch a couple of weeks ago and there was a fair amount of slush ice in the Conejos which didn't clear out until mid-morning. The fishing was good but the window of opportunity was rather short, from mid-day into the early afternoon. There is still a chance of getting in a day of fishing on the Abeyta Ranch and/or the Conejos River but realistically this would have to be after 4 or 5 exceptionally warm, sunny days. The best bet will be to wait until early spring just after the ice clears - a great time to fish on the Conejos and when we catch some of the biggest rainbows of the year. We'll keep you posted.
Picture: A cold, late November afternoon didn't stop this beautiful rainbow from eating a size 22 zebra midge on 6X. Good job Andy J.!
QUINLAN RANCH: The lakes and ponds at the Quinlan Ranch are starting to ice over and the fishing is done for the year. We had some great fishing this fall and the fish looked to be in great shape heading into the winter. We're already thinking about ice-out next April!
The Quinlan Ranch is a wonderful place to base out of to fish Northern New Mexico and Southern Colorado. We are already starting to book our all-inclusive packages up at the ranch for the 2017 season. 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.
Picture: Bob B. with nice, fat fish on Willow Creek Lake this October. Next spring should be terrific up on the Quinlan Ranch's lakes and ponds!
VALLES CALDERA NATIONAL PRESERVE: The fishing on the Valles Caldera is all done for this season - what a great year it was out there! As soon as the roads are passable next spring we'll be headed for the "Caldera". This past season we got into some really nice fish and during our last few trips in the fall, the amount of brown trout redds (spawning beds) we saw was amazing. This bodes extremely well for a great future of the fishery.
Picture: Brown trout redd on the lower San Antonio this October.
HIGH TIMBER RANCH: We had an incredible season up at the High Timber Ranch, fishing on the upper Brazos River and the smaller tributaries. Located in the upper Brazos Meadows at 10,000 feet, this is the most beautiful and remote place we go to. The river is full of truly wild rainbow and brook trout and offers some of the best dry fly fishing in the west. There is a small cabin on the High Timber that we are now using to do multiple day trips up on the ranch. Give us a call about our all-inclusive, 2 to 4 night packages for the 2017 season.
Please check out the "Private Water" page for more detailed information about the fishing on the High Timber Ranch.
Picture: Lower canyon stretch of the Brazos River in July at the High Timber Ranch.
THE MK & SPEAR U RANCHES, THE BAR X BAR RANCH & THE OSO PICCOLO RANCHES: We're waiting for the spring...
Trout Unlimited launches digital report ~ "We are Public Lands":
The United States has 640 million acres of public lands that belong to every man, woman and child lucky enough to call themselves Americans. Today, that birthright is under threat from private special interests that want to sell them off under the guise of “transferring” them to the states.
In honor of National Public Lands Day and National Hunting and Fishing Day on Saturday, Sept. 24, Trout Unlimited released a new digital report that focuses on America’s public lands and the people who use them, as well as the effort to transfer and sell these lands to the highest bidder.
“The truth is that the distance between the effort to ‘transfer’ public lands and to sell them is very short,” TU President and CEO Chris Wood writes in the report. “Many of the states that would manage these lands have already sold significant portions of their formerly public state land to the highest seller. And we, as a country, have nothing to gain by such actions.”
The interactive digital report, “We are Public Lands” shows importance of public lands to the American people. The report is part of a larger project—“Thirty Days of Public Lands”— a month’s worth of original content on the TU website to honor America’s connection to these lands that all citizens own. Thirty Days of Public Lands includes features from across the country, including short pieces from well-known writers and conservationists, videos profiling some of the most avid public land users, photos and a chance for readers and viewers to tell Congress why public lands matter to them.
Also, as part of the launch, TU has put out a short film, “Birthright” (see above) which focuses on the people who use public lands and the effort to keep these lands in common ownership today, and for generations to come.
Now Is The Time Of Year To Be Stealthy:
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 re-positioning. 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
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):