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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 ~ July 12th, 2017:
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: With the exception of the stretch below Abiquiu Dam, all sections of the Chama River have been fishing very well so far this summer. The fishing below El Vado has been holding terrifically so far this summer. The Bureau of Reclamation is doing weekend rafting releases from the dam in this stretch which makes the water off color but the fishing is still good, especially during the week if/when the flows are lowered. With the dirtier water, bright nymphs and streamers are the best bet. The signs for the catch and release area have been installed just below Coopers (see the article below). The upper parts of the Chama River above Heron Reservoir all the way up into Colorado have been fishing extremely well. The water in these areas is clear and substantially cooler than usual for this time of year and the fish are big, strong and healthy! We're
fishing lots of hopper patterns (with and without a dropper) which are bringing really aggressive top-water strikes. The fish have spread out through all different types of river habitats and are in shallow riffles as well as in 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 month 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 completely so lighter tippets and some stealth will be helpful.
Upper Picture: Gretchen S. with a beautiful, wild Chama River brown trout - way to go!
Lower Picture: Early evening dry fly fishing on the Lower Brazos River last weekend.
THE OSO PICCOLO RANCHES: The fishing on the both the La Barranca and Wolf Creek Ranches has been terrific for the last month or so and looks like it will stay good throughout the rest of the summer and fall. The size run of fish on La Barranca has been amazing with a fair number in the 20"+ size range and they have been biting steadily since the run-off started to subside about a month ago. We started out using streamers and big nymphs but now, with the lower water, we are using lots of straight dries and hoppers which are bringing many large fish to the surface - what a hoot!
Wolf creek is also fishing very well and has been in great shape so far this season. 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. This is probably one of the prettiest sections of water we guide on.
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.
Upper Picture: Matt F. and a hopper-eatin', wild La Barranca brown trout - look at the girth on this fish!
Lower Picture: Nice top-water fish from the lower meadow stretch of Wolf Creek. Good job Michael D.
ABEYTA RANCH ~ CONEJOS: The fishing on the Abeyta Ranch (on the Conejos River) has 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. When the flows were higher earlier this year, larger nymphs fished deep under an indicator (with the odd worm or egg pattern occasionally thrown into the mix) were the set-up of choice. Now with the flows coming down - they are currently 500 cfs (cubic feet per second) range - the fish have begun to really key into dry flies and some smaller nymphs. This is a great time of year to fish the Conejos; the water is still high enough and cool to make the fish aggressive. 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. The public sections of the river have also been fishing very well, especially in the “fly fishing only stretches”. Don’t forget your mosquito repellent!
Upper Picture: Beautiful, big rainbows on the the Abeyta Ranch. Paul E. is all smiles after landing this 24+ inch beauty! (guide Shane holding the fish)
Lower Picture: Phil B. with a fat Snake River fine-spot cutthroat from the Abeyta Ranch. Where did she come from?
PECOS: The flows on the Pecos have been dropping steadily since the middle of June and now are at a perfect level (55 cfs at Pecos). The fishing has been good and we have had some clients land some amazing fish over the last few weeks. There are some really nice sized hold-over rainbows and a few exceptional browns coming to the net these days. 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 this week. If you are willing to hike a bit, you can have many spots on this beautiful stream to yourself.
Picture: Guides day off. Clay Wallis high-sticking a run on the Pecos at the end of June.
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 really hungry and are coming to the surface readily, with all types of dry flies bringing voracious strikes. Streamers and nymphs are also working, especially when the fish settle a bit in the middle of the day. All five of the ranch’s lakes are fishing well and the weeds are still very manageable. We have also made a few runs down to the Bar X Bar 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 have a bit of adventure.
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.
Upper Picture: Angela J. with a big rainbow - one of many she wrangled that day!
Lower Picture: Fishing in late June on the Bar X Bar Ranch lakes - well done Trevor D. (guide Jesse holding the fish)
SAN JUAN: On July 5th the flows on the San Juan were reduced to the 480-500 cfs range and should stay at this level for at least the next month or so. The extended “flush”, which began in early May is now officially finished and the river is back to normal. The flush cleaned the river of lots of debris and weeds and the water conditions are perfect. The current flow levels are just right for both great wade fishing and float trips throughout the quality water stretch. The water clarity is improving daily and, as of a few days ago, the visibility was about 3 feet. We are starting to see many more hatches of midges and there is some fairly decent dry fly action in the afternoons. Big, foam top-water patterns cast along the edges has also been great fun - can you say “Cartoon Hopper”? Along with the standard array of lava and pupa patterns, fishing with streamers, leeches and worms has still been a great bet, bringing some very large fish to the net as well. If you want to fish the San Juan, weekdays are going to be a bit less crowded this time of year.
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.
Picture: Last week on the San Juan - the fish made through the "flush" in fine form.
VALLES CALDERA NATIONAL PRESERVE: The fishing on the Valles Caldera National Preserve (VCNP) has been an absolute blast so far this year. As was the case last year, the average size range of the fish seems to be larger than it was a few years ago before the fires. The "Caldera" has be fishing quite well so far this summer and incredibly, we have had folks get into some really decent sized fish. Almost every trip we have done out on the VCNP someone gets into a 16" to 18" fish, which is monster for such small water. As always, there are lots of smaller brown trout in the 8" to 12" size range. Right now we are having lots of top-water action with small hoppers, beetles and parachute Adams being the go to flies.
When the water is of color after a rain light nymph rigs are working well with smaller Prince nymphs and red copper johns as a great first choice. With its expansive alpine meadows and gorgeous views, the VCNP is one of the most beautiful locations we fish.
Upper Picture: Dry-dropper rig on San Antonio creek - two flies; two fish in the net. Well done Russell B.
Lower Picture: Looking up the valley on the upper San Antonio in late June.
THE MK & SHAHAN RANCHES: These ranches on the Navajo River in southern Colorado have started to fish really 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 really cold which is a blessing for this time of year. The fish made it through the winter in fine form and are really fat and healthy. We have had great luck with both nymph rigs (especially Warden’s Worries) and single hoppers on top.
The Shahan Ranch is a new ranch for us and boy is it
spectacular. It has one deep pool after another that are full of fish, both rainbows and browns. So far this season on this 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 really 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!
Upper Picture: Dennis F. with a beautiful wild rainbow from the MK Ranch last week - nicely done!
Lower Picture: Working a small pocket on the Shahan Ranch on the Navajo River.
QUINLAN RANCH: The lakes on the Quinlan Ranch are finally starting to clear after all of the snow and run-off we had this spring and early summer and the fishing is starting to really pick up. At an altitude of 9,000+ feet, North lake is full of chunky, good sized brook trout and they are not bashful, especially in the morning and late afternoon. This is one of the few locations we fish where an angler is guaranteed to get into some nice brookies. All of the other lakes are producing 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 all of the lakes but walking the edges and fishing the shoreline is also a lot of fun and can be very successful.
The Quinlan Ranch is a wonderful place to base out of to fish Northern New Mexico and Southern Colorado. We have been doing lots of our 4 night/3 day packages up at the ranch so far this season.
If you are considering a trip this summer and/or fall please don't wait too long to get the ball rolling on making a reservation - we’re booking up fast for the rest of the year. Please check out the "Fishing Packages" page for more information.
Upper Picture: Dave S. showing of a colored-up North Lake brook trout - Well done!
Lower Picture: Cloudy afternoon in the drift-boat on Don's Lake last week.
RIO GRANDE & RED RIVER: The flows on the Rio Grande are slowly getting to fishable levels - as of today they are 411 cfs at Embudo and 261 cfs at Cerro. The lower Rio as starting to clear quite a bit so, if the flows continue to drop a bit, the fishing should start to get good over the next few weeks; “vamos a ver”. We did do a trip on the Red below the hatchery a couple of days ago and the fishing was just so-so. The flows are still a bit on the high side and, possibly due to all the snow we had this past winter, the path downstream and the river itself in this section seemed inordinately overgrown. This makes for pretty tricky fishing and wading right now. It should get much better as the flows drop a bit and the vegetation clears in the fall.
HIGH TIMBER RANCH: We have been unable to get into to the High Timber Ranch so far this year. All of the heavy snows blew out the road in many spots and the repairs are just now being completed. Hopefully we’ll start heading up to the ranch and the upper Brazos meadows at some point in the next week or so. Give us a call or keep an eye on our Facebook page for more information. Please check out the "Private Water" page for more detailed information about the fishing on the High Timber Ranch.
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.
Executive Order Could Halt Progress on Reversing Wetlands Loss:
A recent executive order puts fish and waterfowl habitat back at risk by directing agencies to scrap and rewrite the key rule created to help protect headwater streams and wetlands.
Last month President Trump issued an executive order directing the EPA and Army Corps of Engineers to revise their 2015 Clean Water Rule, which was created to clarify protections for headwater streams and wetlands under the Clean Water Act. The order directs the agencies to consider using former Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia's minority opinion, which said that seasonal streams and many wetlands do not merit protection, as a basis for revising the rule.
"Sportsmen will not settle for watered down protections or negligence for the habitat that supports the fish and wildlife we love to pursue," says Whit Fosburgh, president and CEO of the Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership, which joined five other leading sportsmen's groups in issuing a joint statement of support for the benefits of the Clean Water Rule.
Two years ago, sportsmen, conservation groups, and many other stakeholders generated one million public comments that helped to shape the final rule, which was broadly celebrated for restoring protections to 60 percent of America's stream miles and 20 million acres of wetlands previously at greater risk of being polluted or destroyed because of jurisdictional confusion. Since May 2015, there have been several legislative plays and lawsuits filed to block or roll back the rule.
"If this administration wants to put its stamp on the rule, they should honor the years of solutions-oriented consensus on the need to reverse wetlands loss, which has been fueled by legal and regulatory confusion. More clarity for headwater streams and wetlands protections should be the baseline standard from which to improve the rule, not the target of a tear-down," says Fosburgh.
It remains to be seen if it is even legal to ignore the majority position on a Supreme Court case. Meanwhile, the health of fish and wildlife habitat is the infrastructure of an outdoor recreation industry that fuels $646 billion in annual spending and supports more than 6 million American jobs.
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):