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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 ~ AUGUST 1st, 2018:
We have been getting some decent rains over the past few weeks - Halleluiah! The Valles Caldera and all of the national forests have been opened up (they were closed due to fire danger) and almost all of our rivers, streams and lakes are fishing well again. The water conditions are back to being good overall. Some sections of a few smaller rivers and streams are still a bit low, warm and clear but the recent rains are bringing much needed cooler water back to most every fishing area. On days with cloudy afternoons, the fish are staying up higher in the water column and eating all day long. August is looking to be a great month and, especially if we keep getting some decent rain showers, the fishing in September and October should be phenomenal.
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.
Above Picture: Nice rains; great fishing - all smiles!
CHAMA & LOWER BRAZOS: With all of the rain we have been getting, the Chama and the Brazos rivers are coming back to the fore. The flows below El Vado Dam in this tailwater section of the Chama have been reduced to a more typical level for this time of year and running between 300 and 600 cfs (cubic feet per second) which are very fishable levels. The fishing here is quite good with some nice browns and lots of decent sized rainbows coming to the net. Depending on the water levels and clarity, all matter of sub-surface rigs have been working in this location; just add more weight and set your rigs deeper at higher flows. Flashy nymphs and buggers are always a good bet and stripping big streamers has brought some large fish to the net for us recently. With the cooling water temperatures
due to the rains, the upper Chama above the dams is just starting to come back acceptable water levels. If you are going to fish this area, try to hit it either early or late in the day and then target spots with shade and faster water. It is not a good idea to fish during the middle of the day if it is hot and sunny; the fishing drops off and you will stress any fish that you hook. Dry-dropper rigs and smaller nymphs are a good choice right now in the upper sections of the river. Hopefully we’ll get some more precipitation in the Chama area and with the cooler weather coming up as the fall gets closer, the water conditions should improve steadily over the next few weeks.
The lower sections of the Brazos are beginning to fish better with each passing day. With the rains over the last week or so, there is more water in the river and the fishing is picking up steadily. Mostly smaller rainbows but we have had a few really nice browns in the deeper pockets. When the water is lower and clear, we have had to go to pretty light tippet to have consistently good fishing. Smaller mayfly nymphs have been the best bet, fished either under a hopper or with an indicator. In the afternoon a single dry has been bringing a fair number of fish to the surface as well. As with the upper Chama, the Brazos will get continually better throughout the rest of the summer and into the fall.
Upper Picture: A beautiful Chama River brown trout - well done Monique R.!
Lower Picture: Not to be outdone, Terry R. with one of the many nice rainbows he landed.
ABEYTA RANCH & THE CONEJOS: The fishing on the Abeyta Ranch and the Conejos River has been terrific all summer and should continue to fish well throughout the rest of the year. We didn't have an epic stonefly hatch in this season but the mayfly and drake hatches have been super-good. As is usual, for late July/early August, the flows are low and the water is clear so the fishing is a bit tricky but there are still lots of fish being caught. Hoppers on top and smaller mayflies down deep in the middle of the day have been the best rigs. In the mornings and evenings, you can get away with some bigger stonefly nymphs and squirmy-wormies fished deep in the faster water. For some reason, it seems that we aren’t having as much success as we did earlier this summer with dry-dropper set-ups. A straight nymph rig or a single dry fly seems to be working a bit better; who knows maybe they are more wary of the dropper in lower, clearer water? Also smaller indicators are a good bet. As with many of the rivers and streams in our area, a couple more good rains will make the fishing even better and bring up the flow levels a bit. We are anticipating the fishing to be very good for the rest of the summer and into the fall on the Conejos.
Picture: What a slab of a rainbow - way to go Anne P. (guided by Jake Clemens)!
VALLES CALDERA NATIONAL PRESERVE: The “Caldera” was opened back up on July 18th and we have been out there quite a few times since the fire danger closure was lifted. The fishing has been quite good using mostly single dries and dry-dropper rigs, with small hoppers, beetles and parachute Adams being the go to dry-flies. A small bead head Prince Nymph or Copper John (size 16 or 18) has been all that you need for a dropper. When the water is of color after a rain, consider going to a shallow nymph rig under a small indicator - if the water is clear, a stealthy approach will be a big part of having success. We have had folks get into the odd 16" to 18" fish but right now there is a plethora of willing and ready 8" to 14" wild browns to be had. We are really stoked to be back out at the Valles Caldera again. Even after having fished here for many years, we are always amazed at just how beautiful a spot it is.
Picture: Dry-dropperin' it on a canyon stretch of San Antonio Creek last week.
SAN JUAN: The “Juan” has been fishing insanely well throughout the summer and looks to hold up well for the rest of the year. The fish are in incredible shape and seem to be a bit fatter than usual, maybe due to the higher flows out of Navajo Dam we have been experiencing this year. We have been doing a fair number of wade trips this summer and they seem to be much better than float trips. The flows are still a bit high (they are in the 925 cfs range right now) but, if you are careful and go to the right locations, the wade fishing has been off the charts. Small (size 24 and 26), very thin midges and a few smaller baetis patterns seem to be the best rigs right now with no particular color standing out as the go to - just keep changing it up throughout the day. Foam ants and big “splat bugs” fished along the edges and in back-eddies are bringing aggressive strikes on top. This is especially
true after a rain event. The only drawback to fishing the San Juan right now is that it has been hotter than heck unless you are wading. If you don’t mind sweating, go now - if you would rather be more comfortable, go on an overcast day or go to the mountains and wait on the “Juan” until fall.
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: Clay C. Jr. with a big San Juan brown trout (or is it a brown-bow?) - well done!
Lower Picture: What an nice rainbow young Mark G. landed on a size 26 midge on 6X tippet (guide Jesse Lee holding it). What a great job young man!
THE MK & SHAHAN RANCHES:The fishing on the MK “Momma Kern” Ranch has been great so far this summer. The water has stayed quite cool and the fish are in good shape and very fat and healthy. The only issue is that the water is very clear so a bit of stealth to one’s fishing is in order - no bright clothes or stomping around the river. For those who are careful and methodical, the river is giving up some great fish on both nymph rigs and single dries. This year there are lots of cased caddis on the rocks which are one of the prime food sources for the trout in this stretch of water. Smaller Warden’s Worries, caddis nymphs and smaller gray mayflies have been the most productive nymphs with hoppers and elk hair caddis being the go-to
patterns on top. The fishing on the Shahan Ranch has been terrific so far this summer with lots of nice rainbows and a few decent browns to be had. Both nymphing and dry fly fishing have been equally productive, with the same general patterns as on the MK Ranch being the charm. On our better days here so far this summer, we have had 25+ fish per angler with lots of the rainbows being over 16".
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.
Upper Picture: A beautiful MK Ranch brown trout (guide Shane Parker-Kast holding it) - catch em' up Nick R.
Lower Picture: Frances C. with beautiful Shahan Ranch dry fly eating rainbow.
QUINLAN RANCH: We have had great fishing on the Quinlan Ranch’s lakes throughout most of the summer and it should hold up well into the fall. In early July, when it got really hot in the middle of the day the fishing would slow down until the early evening. As we said in the introduction above, this is beginning to change as the rains are now cooling the surface water and bringing the fish back up higher in the water column. Right now the fish are beginning to feed throughout the day and we’re looking at great August and early fall fishing. The fish in the lakes have been doing very well in spite of the warm July and are quite chunky; there are also some real brutes lurking just off the edges. It won’t be long before they start to terrorize the baitfish again, chasing the minnows into the shallows - it will soon be time for Rasta Buggers and Wolf Eagles fished close to
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.
Upper Picture: One of many nice fish Mike P. landed. A broken leg in a cast didn't stop him from fishing - way to show us all Mike!
Lower Picture: Pulling on a brook trout up at North Lake on the Quinlan Ranch. Good work George S.
BAR X BAR RANCH: The Bar X Bar Ranch is still fishing very well and, considering the dry summer we have had so far, the water levels in the lakes on the ranch have held up very well this year. As of right now, after the rains we have been getting, all of the lakes are full and the water temperatures have dropped substantially. The amazing thing is how good the top-water action has been over the last couple of weeks. The fish are near the surface and really smacking dry flies right now - what fun! There are lots of 12" to 16" fish to be caught and, if you are lucky, a fair number of 20"+ big guys to be had as well. The real issue to catching the bigger fish is having them get to you flies before the smaller ones do; really not a bad problem to have. If you are willing to strip large streamers or fish big dragon fly nymphs just off the bottom, you can get locked up with a real monster. Judging from the way the lakes look right now, the fishing should stay good throughout the rest of the summer and into the fall. The Bar X Bar Ranch offers great fishing and right now, this is the best location to fish that is close to Santa Fe; a little under an hour drive from the Plaza.
Picture: Double hook-up; double landed - good job boys!
HIGH TIMBER RANCH: We had some epic fishing on the High Timber Ranch earlier this summer but by the end of June the water got too low and warm, especially in the meadow stretches. The water levels are beginning to come back and we are going to start doing trips up here within the next few days. This June, the fishing in the canyon sections of the river was off the charts. There is one pool after the next and, if you are on your game, a 40 to 50 fish day was not out of the question. Dry-dropper rigs were the best set-ups but straight dry flies worked almost as well. The hike into the canyon section is a bit of a challenge but well worth the effort.
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 earlier this season - 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. Note: After the first of September the available fishing days will be limited.
Upper Picture: Alex S. with a wild, upper Brazos rainbow. Note the white tips on the fins.
Lower Picture: Fishing at the lower edge of the canyon on the High Timber Ranch; what a beautiful stretch of water.
PECOS: The Pecos drainage has been getting some really good rains for the last week or so and the conditions on the river have greatly improved. From mid-June to up until now we have been avoiding going to the Pecos due to the low, warm water. That is beginning to change. We fished the upper stretches a few days ago and had pretty good luck on both dries and nymphs. Hopefully the rains will continue and the river will stay in good shape for the rest of the summer. Unless it is overcast, earlier in the morning and latter in the afternoon will be a bit better fishing - if it is cloudy the fish should bite all day. As we always say, the Pecos is a beautiful little river and, if you go with the attitude of just enjoying a day on the water, you'll have a wonderful time.
Picture: A pretty Pecos River brown trout coming to the net last week.
RIO GRANDE: The flows on the lower Rio between Velarde and Taos have been holding in the 150 to 250 cfs range and the fishing has been pretty decent. If you are willing to cover a good bit of ground and try lots of spots you will have a good day. Smaller streamers and brighter nymphs have been the best bet for us recently, especially if the water is off color due to a rain storm. In all honesty, we haven’t been fishing the Rio that much this summer - maybe once a week - as the fishing has been a lot better in other locations. This will change as we get into September and October. The water will clear and cool and the “raft hatch” should be pretty much over. Give us a call anytime for a current update on what is happening on the Rio Grande.
Picture: Somewhere above TJB last week...
THE OSO PICCOLO RANCHES: The La Barranca ranch was great until the end of June with lots of big fish coming to the net. Because this stretch of the Chama River flows through a large meadow, it gets quite warm. We haven’t fished on either the La Barranca or Wolf Creek Ranches for a month or so. The water levels are very low and the water temperatures are really warm right now. We are waiting until the current rains raise the water levels and cool things down, hopefully by late August or early September. By then the conditions on both of these ranches should be perfect and the brown trout will be getting fired up in anticipation of their fall dating fun.
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.
Game Commission names Michael Sloane Department of Game and Fish Director:
SANTA FE – Michael Sloane, a 24-year employee of the New Mexico Department of Game and Fish (NMDG&F), was named the department’s new director by the State Game Commission Tuesday.
Sloane began his career with the department in 1994 as a wildlife culturist at Lisboa Springs Hatchery in Pecos, New Mexico. He went on to become a wildlife specialist supervisor, assistant chief of fisheries and chief of fisheries. He has a masters of science in fisheries and allied aquacultures from Auburn University.
As director, Sloane will be responsible for leading the state wildlife agency whose mission is to conserve, regulate, propagate and protect the wildlife and fish within the state of New Mexico. He will manage more than 300 dedicated wildlife employees and an annual budget in excess of $39 million.
Sloane was selected among five candidates considered after a nationwide search that began April 1 and ended June 1.
The other candidates were Christopher Chadwick, assistant director for the New Mexico Department of Game and Fish; Michael Perry, assistant commissioner of field operations for the New Mexico State Land Office; Daryl Ratajczak, Santa Fe National Forest Planning Team wildlife biologist for the U.S. Forest Service; and Matthias Sayer, deputy cabinet secretary for the Energy, Minerals and Natural Resources Department.
All of us here at Land of Enchantment Guides are super-pleased at Mike's appointment as the new director of the NMDG&F. We wish him the very best in his new position and are looking forward to working with him to make our state's fisheries even better!
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 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.
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):