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New Mexico Fly Fishing Report & News
Northern New Mexico and southern Colorado fishing report, current local water, weather and fishing conditions along with some general fly fishing news and trout fishing information.
NM Fishing Report ~ July 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 & Conejos River:
The fishing on the Abeyta Ranch and on the public stretches of Conejos River have both been been nothing short of phenomenal so far this year - there are some really big fish being caught; both rainbows and browns with the occasional cutthroat thrown in. The run-off/snowmelt flows this spring and early summer have been higher and have lasted longer than is typically the case - they are just starting to come down now. Larger nymphs fished deep under an indicator (with the odd worm or egg pattern occasionally thrown into the mix) have been the set-up of choice. Now with the flows diminishing (they are currently 725 cfs and dropping
every day) the fish have begun to key into dry flies and some smaller nymphs. The drake hatch has kicked into full swing which is bring some very large fish to the surface. If you see any rises, size 12 and 14 gray drake patterns are a good place to start. Trailing a dropper nymph 2+ feet below your dry fly will often be very productive as well, especially if the fish are eating emergers under the surface. This is a great time of year to fish the Conejos; the water is still high enough and cool to make the fish quite aggressive and not too spooky. The fish are still somewhat “bunched up” so if you get on a good spot, you stand the chance of landing multiple nice fish out of one pool or run. Don’t forget your mosquito repellent! Feel free to give us a call for daily updates on how the river is doing.
Upper Picture: Big bows on dry flies - gray drake deluxe. Way to go Esquire!
Lower Picture: Jim A. landed this amazing cutthroat on the Conejos late last month.
Bar X Bar Ranch:
Wow! The lakes on the Bar X Bar are still fishing amazingly well and the water levels are holding up better than usual for this time of year. The fish are still very hungry and are coming to the surface readily, with all types of dry flies bringing voracious strikes. Recently, on calmer days, we have been able to fish a single dry fly (with no dropper) all day and have non-stop action. Streamers and nymphs are also working well, especially if it gets breezy or the fish settle a bit during the middle of the day. We have also made a few runs down to the Bar X Bar Ranch stretch of Cow Creek which is full of wild
browns and a few larger rainbows. This section of the creek has tight fishing conditions, but it is very beautiful and rewarding if you want to a bit of adventure.
Located in a high mountain valley with great scenery and just under an hour drive from the Plaza in Santa Fe, the Bar X Bar Ranch is a great place to get in a fly fishing trip 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.
Upper Picture: John P. (with guide Clay holding fish) caught lots at the Bar X Bar!
Lower Picture: Dry fly eating rainbows all day - well done Garland S.
Chama & Lower Brazos Rivers:
Except for the stretch below Abiquiu Dam, all the sections of the Chama River have been fishing well so far this summer. The fishing below El Vado dam has been quite consistent, even during the periods of higher water releases. The BOR (Bureau of Reclamation) has begun doing weekend rafting releases and the water is still off color but the fishing is quite good, especially during the week if/when the flows are lowered. Bright nymphs and small streamers and woolly buggers are working the best in this area right now. Most of the Chama River above El Vado Dam all the way up into Colorado has been fishing quite well. The water in these areas has cleared substantially, is cooler than usual for this time of year and the fish are big, strong and healthy. Along with the standard two fly nymph set ups, we are fishing lots of hopper-dropper rigs in this section of the river. The fish have spread out through all different types of habitats and are in shallow riffles as well as the deeper pools. If you are fishing the upper sections of the Chama these days, try all possible holding locations in the river
The lower Brazos River has been quite consistent for the last two week or so, producing lots of nice rainbows and browns using hopper-dropper and shallow nymph rigs. As is usually the case, it got seriously pounded during the 4th of July weekend, but the fish are settling back into a peaceful routine these days and are slowly becoming more willing to come out and play. The water has cleared so lighter tippets will be helpful.
Picture: A gorgeous upper Chama River fish, before heading back into the pool.
San Juan River:
The flows on the San Juan right now are around 1,000 cfs (cubic feet per second) which is double the average flow for this time of year. The water is starting to clear up a bit and there has been a good “ant fall” so now is a good time to break out the big foam top-water flies. Chernobyl Ants, Fat Alberts and Cartoon Hopper type foam flies in size 6 and 8 are starting to move fish to the surface. Be sure to use 4X or heavier tippet on these flies as the strike can be very aggressive. Every year around the first two weeks of July a heavy rain fall during the night will flood the dens of the honey pot ant that lives in the cliffs that the San Juan River flows through. This heavy rain
will flush large numbers of ants out of their dens and into the water where they will float on the surface, making quite a meal for fish that typically see very small midges and mayflies. To say it is dry fly pandemonium is an understatement, the well-educated trout of the San Juan abandon their normal caution and go into an ant feeding frenzy. These ants are the number one terrestrial pattern for the San Juan and with the start of ant season the fish will be looking up for them for at least a few more weeks.
With the water starting to clear up, 5.5X or 6X tippet for
indicator rigs is a must. Both mayfly and midge nymph patterns are working well in the late morning and early afternoon in the riffles when the hatch is on. Size 20 and 22 chocolate or gray mayfly nymph patterns and size 20 to 26 midge larva and emerger patterns in gray, chocolate, olive and cream are all working. Also, with the arrival of the ants, a sunken ant on an indicator rig can be very effective.
Fishing the river from a driftboat has been productive, but wade fishing is the way to go right now. With the ant fall/dry fly action going on, the bigger fish are “looking up” and wading allows you to slow down and stalk individual fish that are feeding on the surface.
Upper Picture: Sandy P. tussling with a nice fish; her guide Aaron D, ready to net it.
Middle Picture: In the net. Yeaaa!
Lower Picture: The end result - great job Sandy!.
The Oso Piccolo Ranches:
As the flows on the upper Chama have subsided, the fishing on the both the La Barranca and Wolf Creek Ranches has been good for the two or three weeks and looks like it will hold throughout the rest of the summer and fall. The size run of fish on La Barranca has been quite good with a fair number in the 20"+ size range. We started out in late June using streamers and big nymphs but now with the lower water, we are using lots of straight dries and hopper-dropper rigs which are bringing some large fish to the surface - what a hoot!
Wolf creek is also fishing well and, with the heavy snowfall this winter and spring, is in good shape. As is almost always the case every summer, small, single
hoppers have been bringing some gorgeous wild browns to the surface throughout the whole length of the ranch’s water. The wildflowers in the meadow and along the stream are more abundant and beautiful than ever and the grasses are as high and green as could be. It is absolutely gorgeous up on the Wolf Creek Ranch right now. If small alpine pocket water and meadow fishing is your thing, this is the spot for you.
Comprised of two sections of water on two separate rivers, the Oso Piccolo ranches offer anglers the opportunity to fish on two 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.
Upper Picture: David A. showing off a beautiful fish - Nice!
Lower Picture: Letting a brown go so he can grow at La Barranca. Well done George A.
The road into the “back country” and San Antonio Creek on the Valles Caldera (VCNP) finally opened up at the beginning of this month. We have done a fair number on the VCNP over the last couple of weeks and the fishing has been decent. It seems that the creeks are already somewhat low and warm, so the fish are getting quite skittish and a bit harder to catch. As well, they are starting to bunch up in the deeper pools and in the faster riffles. Right now, we are having lots of top-water action with small hoppers, beetles and parachute Adams being the go-to dry flies. Small nymph rigs under an indicator have also been the productive set-ups but no matter what method you are using, stealth is very important. Hopefully we will start to get some decent rains out at the Caldera which will help the water conditions and the fishing a great deal. No matter what, the VCNP, with its expansive alpine meadows and gorgeous views, is one of the most beautiful locations we fish.
Picture: Working up San Antonio Creek on the Valles Caldera.
The lakes on the Quinlan Ranch are finally starting to clear after the snow and run-off we had this spring and early summer and the fishing is good in almost all of the spots on the ranch. We have been catching lots of nice rainbows and browns with a fair number in the 20+ inch range. All manner of set-ups have been working - beetles and hoppers on top along the edges; nymphs, midges and scuds under an indicator and stripping and dredging with streamers and boobies. As the season progresses into the late summer and early fall, the fish should start cruising the edges again and chasing minnows as they do in the spring. We have drift-boats to fish out of on most of the lakes but walking the edges and fishing the shoreline is also a lot of fun and can be very successful.
As we mentioned in our last fishing report, we have been booking a lot of our multi-day packages up at the ranch and the rest of the summer and fall is filling up fast. If you are considering a trip this year and are interested in specific dates, please don’t wait too long to get your dates reserved. 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: A big rainbow cruising the shallows on Don's Lake looking for a minnow snack.
The MK & Shahan Ranches:
These ranches on the Navajo River in southern Colorado have started to fish very well over the last few weeks. The run-off is almost finished, and the river is in the best shape we have seen in many seasons. The water on the MK ranch, which is above the diversion just below the Banded Peaks, is still quite cold which is a blessing for this time of year. The fish made it through the winter in fine form and are fat and healthy. We have had great luck with both nymph rigs (especially Warden’s Worries) and single hoppers on top. On the Shahan Ranch we have been fishing mostly nymph rigs with all manner of caddis patterns, but this is changing quickly as the fish have started to key into dry flies this past week. Pretty soon we’ll be able to spend the whole day fishing on top - we can’t wait!
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 3± 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.
Picture: High-sticking a slot on the Shahan Ranch on the Navajo River.
The flows on the Pecos have been dropping steadily since the beginning of July and now are at a perfect level (94 cfs at Pecos as of today). The fishing has been good and we have had many clients land some amazing numbers of fish over the last few weeks. There are a few nice sized hold-over rainbows and the odd, decent sized brown coming to the net. This coupled with substantial numbers of smaller fish makes for a very good day. Smaller mayflies and stoneflies have been the best nymph patterns and all manner of dry fly patterns have been productive for us recently. As with the lower Brazos, we avoided the Pecos over the 4th of July weekend but have started to do a few trips there over the last two weeks. If you are willing to hike a bit, you can have many spots on this beautiful stream all to yourself.
Picture: Fishing the runs and riffles last week on the Pecos.
Rio Grande:Unbelievably, the water in the Rio Grande is still way too high for good fishing - as of today it was flowing at 1,930 cfs at Taos Junction Bridge. Maybe by September it will be down to more reasonable levels?
The Pecos is Fishing Great... For Now:
The Terrero area on the Pecos River could be mined again, this time by Comexico LLC, a subsidiary of Australia-based New World Cobalt. The company has applied for a permit to conduct exploratory drilling on the Santa Fe National Forest in hopes of finding promising deposits of precious minerals in what has always been one of New Mexico’s most popular public recreation areas.
We strongly encourage everybody to read the terrific article by Toner Mitchell on the TU website. Thank you Toner for bringing this issue to everybody's attention. Please click on the link below to read the article:
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 Land of Enchantment Guides:
The Autumn, 2017 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. Check out 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.