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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 ~ October 20th, 2017:
We wait all year long for October, November and early December fishing here in Northern New Mexico and Southern Colorado. The summer crowds have diminished; the water in the streams and rivers has cooled off; the hot days of summer are gone and the fish really start to turn on. The brown trout become very aggressive, getting ready for their spawning season and the rainbows are trying to put on some weight to get through the winter. This is the only time of year when you can consistently find and catch the larger fish that often seem to be non-existent throughout the rest of the year. The leaves of the cottonwood trees turn golden, making the banks of many rivers a wash of bright color. In the high country, the leaves of the aspens have turned as well, producing brilliant yellow spots among the dark green pines. At the beginning of this month and in September we had some amazing rains, a late monsoon, which has made the water conditions this fall absolutely amazing. Almost every stream and river we are fishing these days has really good flow levels. The weather is nice, the landscape is gorgeous and the fish are really biting - this is the best time of year to be out fishing!
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 RIVERS: It's "Chama Time" right now. The flows are at great levels from below El Vado Dam, which are at 250 cfs (cubic feet per second), all the way up through into the upper river below the Colorado border. The stretch below El Vado is fishing quite well with lots of nice fish coming to the net. The bigger browns are just beginning to get fired up so the fishing should continue to get better throughout the rest of this month and into November. The water, as is always the case this time of year below El Vado Dam, is off-color so bigger and brighter flies are a good place to start. For wet flies we have been
using mostly warden’s worries, psycho princes, worms and some egg patterns. Streamers and small buggers are a good bet as well with our go-to patterns being hirudos, wolf-eagles and rasta buggers (check out the article from Fly Tyer below on some of these patterns).
The upper sections of the Chama River are still fishing quite well and the water is clear and at a great level. Nothing too tricky about the set-ups; warden's worries, flash back pheasant tails and small prince nymphs are all that you need (don't be afraid to try a turd or a squirmy). On days when the conditions allow it, hoppers are still bringing a fish or two to the surface. The lower part of the Brazos is still full of fish and though the water is very low and clear, they are still pretty ravenous. Lots of smaller fish but lots of fun. Dry-dropper rigs have been the best rigs for us on this stretch of the river recently.
Lighter nymphs and smaller mayflies under an indicator have also been bringing many fish to the net as well.
Upper Picture: A nice brown trout hen on the upper Chama River; good job Tommy Trout!
Middle Picture: Jim B with a really cool fish on the middle part of the Chama; the Kokanee are moving these days.
Lower Picture: A beautiful late September afternoon on the lower Brazos and the fish were eating dry flies.
ABEYTA RANCH & CONEJOS RIVER: The flows on the Conejos River near Mogote are in the 200 cfs. range right now which is absolutely a perfect level for fishing this river. Due to the heavy rains we had earlier this month, these flow are almost double the 100+ year average for this time of year. Typically the water is much lower making the fish quite spooky - this is not the case this fall! We have had some great trips on the Abeyta Ranch recently, with many really nice sized fish being caught. We are still catching mostly rainbows but have been getting some really good sized browns in the 20+ inch range as well. All of the fish still are quite fat and healthy. We are mostly fishing nymph rigs with smaller mayflies but on warm afternoons there is a good chance of getting a fish or two to come up
to the surface - yellow and dark brown foam hoppers still seem to be one of the best dry fly patterns on the river these days. Once the browns start to spawn, please keep your eyes out for their spawning beds and avoid walking and/or fishing on them (see the article below). The fishing for the browns should pick up right after the spawn is done, usually around the middle of November. The way things are looking, the fall fishing on the Abeyta Ranch and the Conejos should be terrific though at least mid to late December.
Upper Picture: Betty & Joe B. showing off a beautiful rainbow on the Abeyta Ranch - quite a team.
Lower Picture: Guide Jesse Lee coaching Patti W. on landing a Conejos River brute; she got it!
SAN JUAN RIVER: We have been over on the "Juan" at least once or twice a week for the last month or so and the fishing is excellent. Right now there are tons of fish throughout the quality waters with the wade fishing above the Texas Hole being a bit more productive for bigger fish recently. Float trips are still good bet but, for us anyway, it seems that the larger fish are more congregated in specific spots so we are anchoring up more than usual. The baetis and BWOs have started to come on in fine form and they should only pick up as the fall progresses. The flows have been holding steady in the 500 cfs range since the beginning of the month which make for both good wading and floating. The water is still clear so 5X or 6X tippet is in order and we are still using smaller flies (24s and 26s).
Small RS2's, foam wings and pheasant tails trailed by a red annelid has been a great rig these days. With the browns getting ready to spawn, don’t be afraid to try an egg pattern of some sort. From now throughout the winter is our favorite time to fish the 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: Greg S. is all smiles with another nice "Juan-bow".
Lower Picture: One of many browns that are coming to the net on the San Juan these days. Good job Kyle C.
RIO GRANDE: The flows on the Rio have finally come down to a good fishing level - in the 382 cfs (cubic feet per second) range at Taos Junction Bridge - and the fishing is starting to get really good. In the last few weeks we have fished from Embudo all the way up through to the Wild & Scenic Rivers area had some really good days. Right now we are using mostly heavier nymph rigs but we are still pitching the occasional dry fly if we see any rising fish. Smaller, black leeches and wooly buggers are also working well for both trout and the occasional small mouth bass. Along with catching lots of mid-sized, 12" to 16" fish, we have had a more than average number of very nice sized browns
and rainbows come to the net so far this fall. The fishing on the Rio Grande should stay good at least until the first of the year. Keep an eye out for the sheep; we’re seeing lots of them – pretty cool!
Upper Picture: The lower section of the Rio Grande is in great shape with lots of fish coming to the net.
Lower Picture: Joey Hart got this great picture of a bighorn sheep on the rim above Pilar at the beginning of October.
PECOS RIVER: The fishing on the Pecos is still very good and, with the Rio and Chama picking up and the kids back at school, it is noticeably less crowded. Dry-dropper rigs are still producing very well for us along with standard indicator/nymphing set-ups. There still lots of smaller browns and rainbows to be had with the occasional 18 to 20 incher coming to the net. It seems the middle and upper sections of the river are the best these days. As the temperatures drop into November, it will be time to start looking at the lower, sunnier areas of the river. Go on a week day and you may find that you have it pretty much to yourself - a rarity on the Pecos.
Picture: Earlier this month on the Pecos; it is as pretty as it gets.
BAR X BAR RANCH: The Pecos/Bar X Bar area had two or three good rains again in late September and early October and the lakes on the ranch are still in great shape. All five of the ranch's lakes are full of water right now and the fishing continues to be excellent. At this rate the fishing should be good well into November with warmer sunny days being the best bet. Dries, streamers and mayfly nymphs under an indicator have all been working well. Stripping a streamer along the edges has been the ticket for catching the bigger fish, and there are some “real big uns' in them lakes”! With the great water conditions we have had throughout this year, the fish have become very fat and strong.
The lakes offer super-easy fishing and currently this is the best location to fish that is close to Santa Fe; a little under an hour drive from the Plaza.
Picture: A nice 19 inch rainbow swims off after a battle on the Bar X Bar Ranch.
QUINLAN RANCH: The fishing on the Quinlan Ranch lakes is decent right now. The water temperatures in all of the lakes has dropped and the fish are very active. The bigger fish that have been hiding at the bottoms of the lakes throughout August and September are now up and cruising the edges looking for minnows and crayfish and they are hungry! Streamers are the best bet but a big dry fly splashed down along a grassy edge is still bringing on some voracious top-water hits from large fish. The option to fish on the Quinlan Ranch is limited during October and November due to the elk hunting season.
The Quinlan Ranch is a wonderful 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 bent rod on North Lake, fighting a nice brook trout.
VALLES CALDERA NATIONAL PRESERVE: The fishing on the Valles Caldera National Preserve (VCNP) is still decent with an above average amount of water in the streams for this time of year. As it starts to get colder, the fishing will begin to wane - it is still a good bet on warmer days. With its expansive alpine meadows and gorgeous views, the VCNP is one of the most beautiful locations we go to and the fall is one of the prettiest times of year to be there.
THE OSO PICCOLO RANCHES: : These ranches are still fishing decently but it won't be long before it is too cold for Wolf Creek. The water on “Wolfy” is low. cold and clear; stealth-mode for sure. Nymphs on the La Barranca and small hoppers on Wolf Creek are still a good bet.
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.
THE MK & SHAHAN RANCHES: As with the Wolf Creek ranch, the fishing on the Shahan and MK Ranches on the Navajo river is beginning to wind down for the year. We have done a couple of trips on these ranches in the last couple of weeks and had good success. October and early November can still offer great fishing on the Navajo River but going on warmer sunny days is important. Give us a call anytime for an updated report on either of these ranches.
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. We are starting to do multi-day, all inclusive trips up at the ranch. Check out the "Private Water" page for more detailed information about the fishing on the High Timber Ranch.
Don't Target Fish on the Spawning Beds and Watch Your Step for Redds:
The Fall is when the brown trout spawn. This causes them to become very aggressive and protective of their area of a stream or river. Fishing for them during their "pre-spawning" time can be some of the best fishing of the year. Once the fish go up onto the spawning beds and gravel, we don't directly fish for them and try to leave them alone. This time of year if you keep your eyes out in shallower water which has gravely bottom with some current and oxygenation, you often can see pairs or groups of brown trout spawning. We encourage everyone to leave these fish alone and let them do their thing. As well, during this time of year, we try and be more careful of where we walk, especially in areas that look as though they could be spawning beds or gravels.
When a female brown trout gets ready to lay her eggs, she will scout out a shallow, oxygen-rich piece of sandy gravel river bed to deposit her eggs into. She will then carve out a small trench called or spawning bed called a “redd” by sweeping out the gravel and sand with her tail. Once the redd is complete, the female will deposit her eggs and wait for a male to fertilize them with his sperm. Upon completion of spawning, the female will cover the redd with loose gravel and sand, providing the her eggs and future hatchlings with shelter. Redds look like areas where the river bottom has been swept or cleaned and often the gravel in the redd is a slightly different color and finer than the surrounding bottom. Typically they will be from one to three feet long and often have a slight depression to them, though this is not always the case.
As you are wading in the rivers this Fall and Winter, watch out for redds and try to avoid walking through them. Disrupting them will harm the trout's eggs and hurt the future of the bio-mass. A good rule of thumb while wading is to try to avoid walking through spots in a river that might make good spawning beds (i.e. smaller, sandy gravel bottom; shallow, oxygenated; riffling water; the tail ends of large flat pools; etc.) or any area where you see small pieces of the bottom that look as though they may have been disturbed. If you don't fish directly for spawning fish and avoid disturbing redds, you will be helping to protect the future of the fishery for everyone.
Upper Picture: This is a picture of a redd on San Antonio Creek at the Valles Caldera. It is about 30" long and 16" wide - note the cleaner gravel.
Lower Picture: The areas circled in blue show a group of redds on a gravel bar on the Conejos River.
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 reccomend 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
Chama River Catch and Release Area Now Established:
With the beginning of the new licensing period on April 1st, 2017, the new catch and release area on the Chama River below El Vado Dam was implemented and became a reality. The New Mexico Game and Fish Commission (NMDG&F) approved catch and release regulations on this section of the Chama River at its November 17, 2016 meeting in Grants. The new regulation, as written by NMDG&F staff, applies to a three-mile stretch of the river that starts 1.3 miles below the El Vado Dam. The first 1.3 mile section of the Chama directly below the dam was left out of the proposal because it includes the Coopers El Vado Ranch and areas upstream that are popular with "catch and keep" anglers fishing on the Chama.
The new catch and release area begins about 1/4 mile below Cooper's where the gauging cable crosses the river and then runs downstream to the confluence of the Rio Nutrius/Canyon - a distance of about 3 river miles. Anglers willing to walk a moderate distance downstream from Cooper's should have the opportunity for larger, stream-bred trout. The new catch and release regulation for this section of the Chama River mandates that all fish must be released with a tackle/gear restriction of using only single barbless hook and artificial lures. At some point in the next few weeks signage will be installed on the riverbank at the upstream and downstream boundaries of the new catch and release area (the picture above is of the signs that will be placed on the upstream boundary).
All of here at Land of Enchantment Guides would like to thank all of the individuals, organizations and business who supported and helped to make the catch and release area on the Chama a reality - we couldn't have done it without your efforts. Hopefully over the next few years, this section of the river will become the great fishery that it has the potential to be.
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.
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):