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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 12th, 2017:
The fall and early winter fishing has been very good and we are anticipating it to hold up well into late January/early February. We have started to have some colder days but with nothing too brutal yet - below freezing at night and up into the high 50's during the day. The fishing is still good very 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! For more information on what fishing is like here in northern New Mexico and southern Colorado during the winter months, please check out the “Best Time to Fish” page which offers a few more details.
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 RIVERS: It is still big brown trout time on the Chama! The sections of the river below the El Vado and Abiquiu dams have been fishing well throughout the fall. For the last few months, the bureau of Reclamation and the Army Core of Engineers have been releasing much higher than average amounts of water from the dams which has made the wading much harder than is usual. The good news is that over the next few days the word is that the flows are going to be greatly reduced and we should have great fishing and wading conditions within the next week or so. These lower flows will most likely be maintained at these levels for the rest of the winter and into the spring. The water is still pretty murky right now but it should start to clear a bit as the water temperatures in the reservoirs starts to get colder and the releases from the dams are diminished. Overall, even
with the current higher flows, the fishing below Abiquiu dam has been quite consistent with lots of smaller rainbows and a few nicer browns coming to the net. We have been having some great days below El Vado dam with some really nice browns and rainbows being landed. With inordinately higher water in the river, the trick has been to cover lots of ground as the fish are more spread out than usual. This will all change as the flows drop and the fish become more bunched up. All
manner of brighter nymphs and egg patterns have been working well, in both locations. As was the case in our last report, streamers and small buggers are a still a good bet 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). Try fishing deeper when it is cold and cloudy and higher up in the water column when the sun is out. The fishing should be very good in these tailwater sections at least into early January and, especially below Abiquiu dam, should hold up well for the rest
of the winter.
The fishing on the upper Chama has slowed substantially and there
is a fair amount 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 conditions on the lower Brazos are the same as on the upper Chama - the river is very low, clear and cold. This being said, if you are in the area on a warmer, sunny day these spots are still worth a shot. Lighter tippets and smaller flies fished close to the bottom will most probably be the best rigs to use.
Upper Picture: A nice brown trout with a kipe jaw on the Chama River; well done Steve O.!
Middle Picture: Bruce B. releases another beautifully colored brown below El Vado; the esquire himself at work.
Lower Picture: Guide Jesse Lee showing off a fat-boy brown that fell for a hot head wolf eagle - nice!
SAN JUAN RIVER: The "Juan" is fishing very well right now and the crowds are starting to thin out. We are starting to do more wade trips than floats these days as it seems that many of the bigger fish are starting to move upstream of the Texas Hole (this area is not accessible by the boat). Also, the NMDG&F and the NM State Park are doing some work on the river below Simon Canyon which is shortening up the length of a float trip (check out the article below for more details). As always, the standard array of lava, pupa and emerging midge patterns are working. 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 a smaller egg pattern. Even though they are a bit tricky to tie, naked ladies are also a good bet. 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. The flows out of the dam have been holding steadily in the 390± cfs (cubic feet per second) range making great conditions for both wading and float trips. These water levels should hold at this level for at least a couple more months. The reservoir hasn’t started to "turn over" quite yet so the water is still pretty clear. The late fall and winter is our favorite time of year to fish on the San Juan - very often in 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 beautiful rainbow that fell for a small, red anelid on the Lower Flats - way to go Bryan R.!
Lower Picture: Un-hooking an egg eating bow at the bottom of T-Hole on a float trip in early November.
ABEYTA RANCH & CONEJOS RIVER: Both the Abeyta Ranch and the public water on the Conejos river in southern Colorado have been fishing insanely well this fall, with just an amazing number of big fish coming to the net. We had a pretty serious cold snap last week and there was a fair amount of slush ice coming down the river, which didn't clear out until mid-day. The fishing was good but the window of opportunity was rather short; just mid day into the afternoon. This being said, there is still a chance of getting in a day of fishing on the Conejos River if we have 3 or 4 really warm, sunny days. If this happens it should be well worth the trip up north. Recently we have been using mostly smaller mayflies and stoneflies and really big streamers without much in between. Lighter tippet on the small stuff and 3X and heavier on the streamers. The fish are still in the drops below riffles but as it gets colder dredging the deeper, slow water may become the best bet. Early spring just after ice-out is going to be epic next year. Give us a call for a current report throughout the
winter and spring.
Upper Picture: What a massive rainbow Bruce B. brought in on a late afternoon on the Abeyta Ranch - wow! It pays to make that last extra cast or two at the end of the day.
Lower Picture: Check out this slab of a Snake River Cutthroat that Tyler S. caught at the end of November.
RIO GRANDE: The flows on the Rio have come up a bit since our last report and have been fluctuating between 450 and 600 cfs (today they are at 468 cfs± at Taos Junction Bridge). The fishing has been very fickle with the changing flows and colder weather. Right now you want to be trying to fish for trout 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 still being the best. We're still getting into the odd decent sized fish in the 16" to 18" range. The pike fishing has started and by the beginning of January it should be on. Give us a call if you would like to try for some of these bad boys.
Picture: Even though the fishing for trout is a bit spotty right now, the Rio in early winter is beautiful - last week in the Race Course.
PECOS RIVER: The fishing on the Pecos 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. There is still a good chance of getting a nice sized brown or two...
Picture: A nice Pecos river brown trout in the net early this this month - Well done Susan P.!
BAR X BAR RANCH: The Bar X Bar Ranch is still fishing well but only on warm sunny days. If you are willing to strip large streamers or fish big nymphs just off the bottom, you can get still get hooked up with a real monster. This won’t last too much longer with the colder nights causing the lakes to start freezing. The Bar X Bar Ranch offers great fishing that is close to Santa Fe; a little under an hour drive from the Plaza.
Picture: A 22 inch brute landed by George B. at the end of last month on the Bar X Bar - very nicely done!
QUINLAN RANCH: The lakes and ponds at the Quinlan Ranch are starting to ice up and the fishing is done for the season. We had some great fishing this fall and the fish looked to be in great shape heading into this 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. Please check out the "Fishing Packages" page for more information.
Picture: Nalah looking for risers this fall on Don's lake. She is a terrific fish spotter.
VALLES CALDERA NATIONAL PRESERVE: The fishing on the Valles Caldera is finished for this year but what a great year it was out there! As soon as the roads are passable next year we'll be headed out to the "Caldera". This year we got into some really nice fish and during our last few trips in the fall and the amount of brown trout redds (see the article below) we saw was amazing. This bodes well for a great future of the fishery.
THE OSO PICCOLO RANCHES: The fishing on these ranches is done for the year. We're already getting excited about next year up there! 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: The Navajo river, especially in the higher, shaded sections gets really cold by mid-November and the fishing slows way down. Typically in late March into early April is when we will start fishing these locations again. Both of these ranches are located in southern Colorado on the Navajo river. The Shahan Ranch has 2± miles of river with some terrific stream improvements and deep pools. The MK Ranch is higher up upstream with about 4± miles of river. These are some of the most beautiful places we fish at.
HIGH TIMBER RANCH: The High Timber Ranch is also finished for the year. What an incredible season we had up there. We are doing 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.
Upcoming enhancements of San Juan River at Navajo Lake State Park:
Parts of the San Juan River will be closed beginning on December 15th (primarily areas from Simon Canyon down to the Gravel Pit). If you are thinking of heading over there this winter make sure to check on what will be open.
The New Mexico Department of Game and Fish will begin a river enhancement project on Dec. 15, 2017 on the San Juan River at Navajo Lake State Park from Simon Point Day-Use Area downriver to the Crusher Hole Day-Use Area. Temporary closures of multiple day-use areas are expected until sometime in April, 2018.
The project will include a new boat takeout at Crusher Hole Day-Use Area. The Crusher Hole area will be closed to the public from Dec. 15, 2017, through March 1, 2018. There will be no access to the boat takeout at Crusher Hole while the new takeout is constructed. Bolack Day-Use Area will be closed from Dec. 15, 2017, through April 15, 2018. County Road 4280 that offers access to the area will also be closed to traffic. However, anglers may access the area at Cottonwood Campground.
A temporary boat takeout will be constructed at the Munoz Day-Use Area. The temporary takeout will provide public access to the upper portions of the river. For the safety of all visitors to the park, use of the San Juan River past Simon Point, including portions in and out of the park boundaries, will be closed to boat traffic and wade fishing from Dec. 15, 2017, through March 1, 2018. Limited use of the river will be available from March 1, 2018, through April 15, 2018.
All listed areas will be posted closed and the gates will be locked. For more information, contact Navajo Lake State Park: (505) 632-2278.
Don't Target Fish on the Spawning Beds and Watch Your Step for Redds:
The Fall and early Winter 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):