Celebrating the Churro

Sheep-DSCF7494“In our Native way, food is our medicine,” Walter says. “We use the herbs in our ceremonies, we pray with them. Our food is art and it’s our prayer, too.”

The ultra-modern seven-story administration building at Diné College in Tsaile, Ariz.—the tallest building on the Navajo Nation—is affectionately referred to as the “lug nut” building for its rounded six-sided shape and metallic reflective finishes. So it’s something of a pleasantly dissonant surprise to pull into its nearby parking lot and hear the sound of bleating sheep.

For the past 21 years, the annual three-day Sheep is Life celebration is held to honor and deepen the long and valued relationship between the Navajo people and the old-time Navajo sheep, or Churro. Sponsored by The Navajo Lifeways nonprofit, or Diné be’ iiná, Inc., the conference and celebration took place this year, and is contracted for the next several, at Diné College in Tsaile, “the place where the stream flows into the canyon.” Canyon de Chelly is about a 30-minute drive away and is the place in the Navajo creation stories where Navajo deity Spider Woman, who taught weaving to her people, lives on a spectacular 800-foot spire. Continue reading

August Fishing Report – Jicarilla Lake

Taylor Streit Fly FishingThese lakes are south of the town of Dulce about 30 miles west of Chama. In my earlier book Fly Fishing NM, I listed several lakes to fish here. Although the north central part of the state has been largely unaffected by climate change––the inconvenient truth is that global warming has reduced the fishing to just two trout lakes. The better of the two seems to be Mondo Lake which has warm-water species as well as bass, trout, small sunfish, catfish and tiger muskie.

It used to be that Stone Lake was a famous fishery for huge rainbows. They were stocked in spring and within a year the rainbows were gargantuan as they chewed on the meaty and chewy water dog. Fisherman in-the-know would drive for hundreds of miles to get one of the lunkers. Lets hope for more continued rain and snow, and more and more normal—do we recall normal?—temperatures.

What actually hurts these fisheries is not the high water temperatures per se, but the weed growth that comes with it. As weeds die in winter and decay they take the oxygen out of the water. Also, weed beds impede the movement of fish––and anglers. Continue reading

Fishing Report – July 2017 – Away from the Crowd in Taos Area

Taylor Streit Fly FishingMany of New Mexico’s best waters surround Taos. The Rio Grande and Red Rivers are the best known but there are a few other streams worth fishing–and they sometime fish better then those big waters.

Fishing pressure is a big factor on fishing anywhere but especially on smaller streams because the fish will frighten from just seeing one of us. And although the traffic on the Paseo makes it seem like Taos has about a million people, there’s really just 25,000 and it’s still far away from a real city so fishing pressure stays moderate.

The Rio Hondo is 10 miles north of Taos and has two distinct stretches. The lower Hondo, just before it enters the Rio Grande, fishes best when full (when irrigation is turned off). That is generally early spring and late fall. Trout move in and out from the Rio Grande and if the water level is good—the trout will be there. Taos Fly Shop can line you up on which flies to use but normally a midsized hi-viz dry fly with a # 16 bead head nymph 18 inches below will work. Fish upstream and be sure there is no one fishing in front of you or the wild browns you are after will be spooked. Continue reading

Camping in New Mexico’s Mountains

JE_vista“Do you want to go hiking?” I asked my cattle-dog mix, Sadie. She was only 8 months old, but had already learned the “h-word,” and when I pulled out her blue doggy pack, her enthusiasm intensified as she eagerly glanced toward the door.

It was Friday and it was summer, which meant my mind was far from work and already in the mountains.

Away from screens and roads and drivers not using turn signals, camping is a chance to temporarily tune-in and drop out. Similar refrains have become clichés, but that doesn’t make them any less true, and in northern New Mexico, the urge to take refuge in the mountains, away from the summer heat of the desert, is a practical exercise driven by natural impulse. And few people outside northern New Mexico even know such opportunities exist.

So with the long summer days working in our favor, the plan was to leave immediately after work, follow the Winsor Trail to Puerto Nambe, set-up camp to lighten my load for the final summit push and return in time to enjoy sunset from a private meadow view. Continue reading

June 2017 Fishing Report – Eagle Nest Lake

With runoff still affecting our free running streams, it’s time to head lakeside. Conveniently, still water generally fishes best in spring and early summer anyway. The high alpine lakes will be accessible until July but Eagle Nest Lake can be driven right up to. It is nestled at 9000’ in the Moreno Valley—a half hour east of Taos. It’s a great place to view wildlife––eagles, white pelicans, thousands of ducks and geese––and early in the morning elk can be seen on the Eastern shores.

This is a much larger lake then it seems—perhaps because its dwarfed under the state’s highest mountains. Historically, it’s a productive trout lake but fishing has taken a downturn in recent years. We could blame global warming in general for the lake’s decline. The water turns green later in midsummer from algae and aquatic insect activity has lessened. And there are other factors too, the addition of yellow perch and then pike a few years ago have not helped the trout fishery. (The perch were mistakenly added twenty-five years ago, but it’s not known how the pike got in there.) Perhaps of greater importance is the burgeoning population of carp that has developed in the last decade. This once great fishery needs to be treated with a pesticide and have a total make-over. This is unlikely however, as the state of New Mexico Game and Fish lacks the money and motivation to do this. (Such massive projects are done in Colorado and Montana.) Continue reading

On the Pecos

pecosfishThe Pecos River flows south out of the great basin of the Pecos Wilderness. As is the case with nearly all of the Sangre de Cristo range to the north, the Pecos country has not suffered the ravages of fire, drought and blanket tree-kills that other Rocky Mountain ranges have. The wilderness is about 45 miles from Santa Fe, and trout are plentiful, and fly fishing is consistently good up there. Although one could walk in a few miles from the boundary for the day, getting intimate with the vast Wilderness requires backpack or horseback travel––and tent camping.

The Pecos is a place of grand adventure, and I once made an extended backpacking trip up the Santa Barbara, over the divide and then into the Pecos drainage. My turnaround point was Beatty’s Cabin. The fishing was epic, and using just one fly, I caught so many browns that the fly became more of a bare hook than a fly. The return leg was back over the divide and down the east fork of the Santa Barbara. It’s a high-meadow stream far from civilization. It has some decent-size browns and a few Rio Grande Cuts. That was a weeklong voyage into the outback I’ll never forget––the sound of elk bugling in the meadows and dining on a grouse that I killed with a rock. Continue reading