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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, 2018:
Merry Christmas & Happy New Years!
Winter has arrived and we have been getting some much needed snow. 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 most of our tailwaters and in some of the lower altitude streams and rivers. For the next few months, the weather can be a bit of 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. During the winter the fish don't say they are done for the year - just a lot of the fishermen do. If you are going to be in the Santa Fe area for a little skiing this winter, how about taking a day off from the slopes and going fly 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 that we take anglers to, check out our Private Water page.
SAN JUAN: With the arrival of the winter season the water flow and clarity has changed dramatically on the San Juan River and you need to make adjustments to your fishing tactics to be successful. The flows on the San Juan have been reduced to 250 cfs (cubic feet per second) for the winter making the “Juan” low and slow with easy wading. The water in Navajo Lake has turned over from the thermocline effect, causing the water in the river to become a bit off-colored. This lower flow will cause most of the fish to move into the deepest holes they can find. At times, there are so many fish in the deeper runs it will look like the proverbial fish in a barrel. This being said, they are still San Juan fish and can be very selective. Under these conditions and with the water being a light pea green color, the fishing can still be
very good. One of the best keys to success is to continually change the location where you are fishing and what type of flies you are offering; don’t get stuck in a rut!
While fishing out of the drift boats has still been decent, most of the bigger fish coming to the net have been in the wading sections of the river; the drift boat fleet cannot access these areas. With the drop in flows and water temperatures, the fish will get a little lethargic and selective in their feeding habits. Wading allows you to slow down and fish all the little slots and deeper runs much more effectively. A standard double midge/nymph rig is still the go-to setup on the Juan but, with the water clarity reduced heavier tippet (3X and 4X) can
often be used under these conditions. Red and orange larva patterns or an Oslo Wilhunkie’s OG Kush midge trailed behind egg patterns, beads or bunny leaches have been working very well. For those who like to “chuck and duck”, streamer fishing has turned on and will only get better as the winter progresses. White, black and olive streamers (size 4 thru 10) and lead head jigs (1/32 and 1/16 ounce) on a sink tip line will bring takes so hard you can have the rod ripped out of your hand if you don’t have a good grip. Blanket hatches of small black “snow midges” (size 26 to 30) are showing up around 11 a.m. and are carrying through the early afternoon. With the colder weather massive clusters of these little bugs will form on the surface of the water. Giant Griffith’s Gnat dry flies (called “Dead Chickens”) - size 6 thru 10 and Chernobyl Ant style foam bodied flies in black and tan have been working with enough regularity to make all the dry fly junkies happy.
Great fishing, very few anglers, off-color water - winter and early spring is (in our opinion) the best time of year to be fishing on the San Juan River. 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 very colored-up brown that couldn't resist an OG Kush Midge ~ Way to go Oslo W.!
Middle Picture: On a warm late November afternoon, some big bows came out to play. Go get em' Joe H.!
Lower Picture: Very heavy crowds in the wade section last week...
CHAMA & LOWER BRAZOS: The fishing in the tailwater sections of the Chama below Abiquiu and El Vado reservoirs has been very good for the last few weeks. As is usually the case in these spots at this time of year, sunny warm days are often a bit more productive than cloudy ones. It seems that in many locations the fish are quite bunched up and you will fish along without a bite and then hook a fair number in one riffle or pool. The brown trout spawn is pretty much over but you still need to be very careful about walking on the spawning beds. Keep your eye out for round areas of cleaner gravel - typically 2 to 3 feet across - and avoid stepping on them. Standard double nymph rigs with an egg, worm, mop fly or a bead and a smaller mayfly nymph as a bottom fly is a good set-up to start out with. Smaller size 10 or 12 streamers or wooly buggers in black and olive are starting to move some fish as well. Brighter midges are also
good patterns to consider trying. With the onset of colder weather, the water is clearing up nicely and the visibility has improved substantially over the past week or two. Depending on how cold it gets, these sections of the river should continue to offer up good fishing opportunities throughout the rest of the winter and into the spring.
The fishing on upper part of the Chama above El Vado reservoir and on the Brazos River is pretty much done for the year. There is a fair amount of ice forming in these spots and the water is very clear and cold; best to wait until spring. If you are in the area and really want to fish the upper sections of the Chama and/or the lower Brazos, go on a sunny, warmer day.
Upper Picture: Rosemary & Donovan M. with their baby girl; never too early to start fly fishing!
Lower Picture: Nikki H. landed this beautiful brown on the Chama a few days ago ~ nice!.
RIO GRANDE: The Rio Grande has still been fishing quite well. A combo set-up of smaller streamers and brighter nymphs fished deep under an indicator has been our go-to rig; “lead is your buddy”. We have been catching mostly stockers but the occasional, nice sized holdover rainbow and the a few nice browns have been coming to the net as well.
This is also the best time of year to try your luck at pike fishing. As with most of our fishing locations this time of year, warmer, sunny days will usually be more a bit more productive. One spot that is beginning to fish well right now is the Red river, which is a tributary of the Rio. This is the time of year that the cuttbows move up out of the Rio into the Red to spawn. If you don't mind a bit of a hike, this is a great spot to try over the next 6 to 8 weeks.
Picture: Wintertime fun on the Rio Grande - way to go George J.
PECOS: The Pecos has still been fishing well recently but the fish have definitely bunched up in the deeper spots in the river. The Pecos canyon is at a pretty high altitude and doesn’t get a lot of sun in certain spots so the middle of the day is often the best time to be on the river this time of year. Smaller nymphs are always good bet but there is still a chance of a minor, small mayfly hatch so keep a few dry flies on hand just in case you see a rise or two.
Picture: A nice sized brown trout on the Pecos River a couple of weeks ago.
ABEYTA RANCH & THE CONEJOS: The ice on the Conejos and the Abeyta Ranch has really started to form over the last couple of weeks so this river is pretty much done until early spring. Depending on the weather, mid-March on the Conejos is usually when the fishing starts to pick up again and we catch the biggest rainbows of the year.
Picture: Winter fishing at its best on the Abeyta Ranch; it can be a bit chilly in southern Colorado these days...
BAR X BAR RANCH: The Bar X Bar is finished for this season and won’t be worth it until ice-out in the early spring; a great time to think about the Bar X Bar again.
QUINLAN RANCH: The lakes on the Quinlan Ranch are pretty much iced over so there won’t be any fishing until “ice-out” next spring.
We are already booking a fair number of our multi- day packages up at the ranch for the 2019 season. If you are considering a trip next year and are interested in specific dates, please don't wait too long to get the ball rolling on making a reservation. 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.
THE MK & SHAHAN RANCHES: The Navajo River is icing up quickly and there is already good bit of snow higher up on the MK Ranch. Typically late March into April is when we will start thinking about fishing these locations again.
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.
THE OSO PICCOLO RANCHES: The Wolf Creek Ranch is done for the season and the La Barranca Ranch is only fishing on very warm, sunny days. With all of the snow we are have stated to get in the mountains above Chama, we are anticipating a terrific season at both of these spots in 2019.
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.
HIGH TIMBER RANCH: As is almost always the case, by mid-October the High Timber Ranch and the upper Brazos River is done for the year. Even with the lower, warm water conditions we faced up at the ranch in July and August this season, the fishing was still really good. Next year should be great!
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.
VALLES CALDERA NATIONAL PRESERVE: Next March/April will probably be the first chance to go out and fish the Valles Caldera.
Bristol Bay is Still Being Threatened. Here is a Great Way We Can All Help to Protect It:
Tens of millions of sockeye salmon swim up the rivers of Bristol Bay every year, the world's largest sockeye salmon run on Earth. The $1.5 billion salmon industry in Bristol Bay supports 14,000 jobs in commercial fishing, sport fishing, and tourism. Pebble Mine would put this industry and a way of life at risk, while destroying over 15 square miles of natural habitat - and that's only the beginning...
You can’t put a price on Bristol Bay, yet there are those who seek to do just that. If Pebble Mine is built, it will forever endanger a magnificent ecosystem and one of the last great wild salmon runs in the world.
It is a case of when, not if, the damage will be done. According to the permit, the mine will pull 36 billion gallons of water from prime habitat each year and up to 11 billion tons of toxic waste will be stored behind an earthen dam at the headwaters of this watershed. The dam itself will be ten times larger than the Mount Polley Dam in British Columbia, which failed in 2014, discharging 400 tons of arsenic, 326 tons of nickel, 177 tons of lead, and 18,400 tons of copper and its compounds into the Fraser River watershed. The same engineers who built Mount Polley designed the dam proposed for Pebble.
Orvis is partnering with its customers and Trout Unlimited to preserve Alaska’s Bristol Bay habitat by stopping the construction of Pebble Mine. This year Orvis is donating $40,000 in matching funds, with a goal of $80,000. Every $100 you donate will become $200. THIS IS A GREAT WAY TO DOUBLE THE AMOUNT YOU GIVE! Please click on the link below to make a donation - you will get some great fishing karma if you do.
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):