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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.

Please scroll down the page to see all of the articles and videos. Good luck fishing!

NM Fishing Report ~ October 27th, 2018:

Conejos River Fall Fishing
Sorry it has taken us this long to get this fishing report out but hopefully our excuse is understandable - the fishing is excellent; the weather is nice; the landscape is gorgeous and we have been on the water almost every day for the last month or so. We wait all year long for October, November and December fishing 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 fishing really turns on at this time of year. 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 along most all of the rivers have turned yellow and orange making this one of the most beautiful time of year to fish in our part of the world. We are looking at great fishing on the Chama and the Conejos rivers at least through mid-December and and the same for fishing on the San Juan and the Rio Grande throughout the winter. Great fishing with less people on the water - this is one of the best times of year to fish in the “Land of Enchantment”.

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: Beautiful fall colors at the Abeyta Ranch on the Conejos River.

All of the Fishing Report pictures were taken within the last 6 weeks...

Chama River Brown Trout
CHAMA & LOWER BRAZOS: Over the last few weeks, the fishing on the Chama has as gone into full-on fall mode, with the fish really starting to put on a big feed. As well, the brown trout are beginning to think about spawning which makes them quite aggressive. This fall on the Chama River it appears that the spawning cycle is starting a bit later and that it will be more spread out, over a longer time frame than usual. Maybe this is due to the warmer, dryer summer we had; this should also mean that we will have really good fishing later into the winter. Please be careful not to walk on the brown trout redds (spawning beds that look like areas of cleaned gravel) and try not to fish on actively spawning fish. We need to give them a chance to be successful in spawning and laying their eggs. Recently the best fishing sections of the Chama have been below the El Vado and Abiquiu dams. For the last few weeks the releases out of El Vado and Abiquiu have been holding steadily in the 60 cubic feet per second (cfs) and 275 cfs range respectively. These flow levels make for
Chama River Rainbow Trout
easy wading and good fishing. The water is still quite murky in both locations but, with the approaching colder weather, it should begin clearing up and the visibility will steadily improve. The next four to six weeks should continue to offer up great fishing opportunities in both of these spots. Brighter nymphs, stoneflies along with smaller buggers and streamers under an indicator have been the most productive set-ups recently at these locations (can you say “mop-a-licious”?). The fishing on upper parts of the Chama River (above El Vado reservoir) has slowed down quite a bit in the last week or so and, with the recent cold snap, these areas would not be our first choice of a fishing location.

The water temperatures in the lower Brazos River has dropped substantially over the last couple of weeks and the fishing has slowed down quite a bit. This being said one could still have a decent day if it is warmer and sunny. It appears that the fish are beginning to bunch up in the deeper pockets and runs for the winter. If you go on a good weather day and target these types of water with a well presented nymph rig, the odds will be in your favor.

Upper Picture: The indomitable Mr. B with a beautiful kipe-jawed brown ~ Nice!
Lower Picture: There are some pretty good sized rainbows in there as well ~ Carl F. was on em'.

ABR Conejos River
ABEYTA RANCH & THE CONEJOS: Located on one of the best stretches of the Conejos River in southern Colorado, the fishing this fall on the Abeyta Ranch has been nothing short of spectacular. The river has actually increased in flow and the water temperatures have dropped - this is a sign to the fish have started seriously eating; winter is coming. The public stretches of the river are also fishing very well with lots of decent fish to be had right now. The fish here are still occasionally coming up for smaller dry flies and grass hoppers but with the arrival of the colder weather, nymph fishing has become the most productive fishing method, bringing some whoppers to net. The fish are pretty feisty and we are still using pretty light tippet (5x to 6X flourocarbon) along with smaller flies. Size 16 to 20 mayfly nymphs
Conejos River Fish On
and zebra midges are a good place to start. This being said, a well placed streamer will often get hammered by the biggest fish in the pool this time of year; it is worth a try. The cottonwoods all along the banks of the Conejos have turned a brilliant yellow making the views stunning. This signals the start of the brown trout spawning run so, the same as on the Chama River, please be careful where you walk and please don’t directly target spawning fish. If the tug is your drug, fall fishing on the Conejos is for you.

Upper Picture: Bill M. with a beautiful brown trout hen at the Abeyta Ranch.
Lower Picture: The fight is on! Carl F. tussling with a nice fish on the Conejos River.

BxB Ranch
BAR X BAR RANCH: All the lakes are full and, with the drop in the temperatures, the fishing at the Bar X Bar Ranch has become very good; fall is here and the fish are trying to bulk up for the winter. On sunny days, dry flies and hopper-dropper rigs are still being hammered by fish in the 12” to 18” range. Streamers and jigs fished deep are starting to get the attention of the big boys and as the fall season progresses, the streamer bite will get even better. At a little under an hour drive from the plaza in Santa Fe, the easy walking access to these high mountain meadow lakes makes the Bar X Bar ideal for day trips, family outings and group trips. With the incredible fall scenery and impressive fishing, this spot will put a smile on the face of even the most seasoned fly fisher. The Bar X Bar Ranch offers great fishing and right now, this is one of the best location to fish that is close to Santa Fe; a little under an hour drive from the Plaza.

Picture: Bringing a nice fish on the upper lake to the net in early October

San Juan River Rainbow
SAN JUAN: The San Juan River has been fishing very well this year on smaller midge and beatis patterns (size 22 to 28) and the higher flows throughout the summer have helped with the overall health of the both the fish and the river system. With the arrival of the cooler temperatures of the fall season, the fishing is getting even better. Be aware there will be some changes in insect type and activity coming as the fall changes to winter. The late season blue-wing olive mayfly hatch has started and should continue into early December. This hatch often produces some great top-water action as this mayfly is a much bigger meal than the micro sized midges that the fish are have been eating all summer. Chocolate, gray and olive mayfly nymphs and foam wings
San Juan River September
(size 18 to 22) and olive and gray dry flies (18 to 22) will all work well. Midges will still be on the menu with heavier hatches occurring in the late morning hours. Black, gray, olive and cream midge larva and pupa (size 20 to 24) are always a good bet. Late fall is also the beginning of "streamer season" and chucking big, nasty streamers on a sink tip can produce some of the largest fish of the year.

As of right now, the water releases from Navajo Dam have been decreased to a flow rate of 400 cfs which makes for equally good wade or float fishing. As the winter progresses, the flows will most probably be reduced even further to 250 cfs levels. This tends to move the fish into the deeper runs and holes where they will hold until the spring. The reservoir has begun to “flip” which will make the water cloudy - keep in mind that with the murky water, you can often get away with bigger, brighter flies and slightly heavier tippet.

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 San Juan rainbow that fell for a size 26 grey midge larva ~ well done Steve R.!
Lower Picture: We had the main channel all to ourselves in late September.

Dons Lake QR
QUINLAN RANCH: The fishing on the Quinlan Ranch lakes this fall has been really good. The fish must be trying to put on some calories for the winter because they are biting aggressively and all of the lakes are fishing well with lots of really nice sized fish being landed. As one would expect, streamers and nymph rigs are the best set-ups with Rasta Buggers and Wolf Eagles still being the most productive fly patterns. Almost all of the fish are fat and healthy and they are fighting really hard. Along with lots of rainbows, we also have been catching a fair number of good-sized brown trout on the Quinlan this fall - way cool! This all bodes well for their making it through the winter and a great season next year. Depending on the weather conditions over the next few weeks, we should be able to get in some more good
Willow Lake QR
fishing days throughout most of next month. As the fall progresses into winter, it will become more and more critical to pick sunny days to fish at the Quinlan Ranch - typically with colder, cloudy conditions the fish will begin to run much deeper in the water column and become harder to catch.

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.

Upper Picture: What special fish this was for Martin S. (his guide Shane Parker-Kast holding it). Fishing from the boat on Don's Lake ~ two thumbs up!
Lower Picture: Them boys from Georgia tore it up on Willow Lake ~ nice elk and nice fish; what a week.

Navajo River
THE MK & SHAHAN RANCHES: The fishing on both the MK and Shahan ranches has been terrific throughout the summer and so far this fall. The water levels on the Navajo river have held up a bit better than many of the lower altitude streams this year and they are still in great shape now. We have had consistently good days on both of these ranches throughout October and this should continue to some degree into November. As the weather gets colder into next month, it will be more critical to fish on warmer, sunny days. This time of year on the Navajo river we are primarily nymphing but there is still a good chance to get a fish or two to come up for a well presented dry fly.

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.

Picture: A bent rod and beautiful colors on the Shahan Ranch a couple of weeks ago.

VCNP Rain
VALLES CALDERA NATIONAL PRESERVE: The fishing on the Valles Caldera has been very good and consistent throughout September and so far this month. It should hold up well into at least mid-November and maybe later if we get warmer, sunny days. This is also the season when the largest fish on the Caldera are easiest to catch. Recently we have had some great dry fly fishing using single hoppers, beetles and ants. The only time we have had to go to the nymphs is when the water is off color after a rain. When this is the case, smaller Prince nymphs and red copper johns are a great choice. This the time of year there are less folks out on the Caldera and the elk are moving; there is a good chance of hearing them bugle and possibly seeing a big herd of them at the end of the day.

Picture: A rainy afternoon in late September on San Antonio Creek. The rains we got this fall have brought the Valles Caldera streams back to good levels.

PECOS: The Pecos drainage has again been getting some really good rains for the last couple of weeks and the water conditions on the river have greatly improved. From mid-June up until the beginning of October we have been avoiding going to the Pecos due to the low, warm water; this has changed. The fishing on the Pecos is quite good right now 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 along with standard indicator/nymphing set-ups. It seems the middle sections of the river are fishing the best for us these days. Go on a week day and you may find that you have it pretty much to yourself - a rarity on the Pecos. We fished the upper stretches a few days ago and had pretty good luck with both dries and nymphs. As the temperatures drop as the fall progresses, mid-morning and into the afternoon will offer a bit better fishing 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.

RIO GRANDE: The flows on the Rio have been holding steady at good fishing levels (180 cfs range at Taos Junction Bridge) and the fishing is getting quite good these days. In the last few weeks we have fished from Embudo all the way up through to the Wild & Scenic Rivers area and have had some really great trips. Right now we are using mostly heavier nymph rigs but pitching the occasional dry fly if we see any rising fish. Small, black leeches are also working well for both trout and small mouth bass. Along with catching lots of mid-sized, 12" to 14" 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 - now is when to hit it.

THE OSO PICCOLO RANCHES: The Wolf Creek Ranch is pretty much done for the season and La Barranca Ranch is only fishing well in the on warmer days. With all of the rain and snow we are have stated to get in the mountains, we are anticipating a much better 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.


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.

ORVIS ~ Trout Unlimited Bristol Bay Matching Fund


The State of Public Access to Water in America:

Stream Access
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."

Click here to read the full Backcountry Hunters & Anglers Stream Access Report


Fly Tyer Magazine Article about L.O.E. Guides and the Flies We Tie:

Fly Tyer Article


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 Article on Land of Enchantment Guides - Autumn, 2017

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:

C and R Chama Sign


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:

CHAMA RIVER CANYON
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):

Report/Article on Low Flows Below El Vado Dam - Fall & Winter, 2011/2012

Fly fishing guides for the Santa Fe, Chama, Taos, Los Alamos and San Juan River areas.
Fishing trips on all the best streams, rivers and private ranches in Northern New Mexico.
San Juan River • Rio Grande • Red River • Chama River • Brazos River • Pecos River • Costilla Creek • Rio Vallecitos • Cimarron River
Cow Creek • Rio de Los Pinos • Jemez River • San Antonio Creek • Guadalupe River • Rio Pueblo de Taos • Conejos River • The Valles Caldera

Phone: (505) 629-5688   ~   Email: trout@loeflyfishing.com   ~   Land of Enchantment Guides: PO Box 55 Velarde, NM 87582