In Colorado, the Rio Grande is an excellent river to float-fish––it has a lot of the medium-speed, even currents that suits the style of fishing and there are roads paralleling the river and numerous places for put in/take outs. This all-important ease of access is not the case once the Rio enters New Mexico, because except for a short portion above Pilar the river runs through a roadless canyon.
We have 50 miles of exceedingly wild river that requires considerable effort to drift and much of it is simply too rowdy to drift fish. But as the saying goes “if it was easy everybody would be doing it.” It’s highly unlikely that you’ll see another fisherman in this country—let alone one that’s in a boat. So if it’s solitude and a lack of competition that you’re looking for, this is it. Continue reading
After watching people fight thousands of fish over my guiding career, I have an idea of why some folks land them—and why some don’t. A guide can’t do much to prepare people for fighting big fish; perhaps tie an old boot on and throw it into moving water to illustrate the mechanics of fighting fish, but that still doesn’t address the main problem.
And that problem is that anglers lose their cool. Often an angler doesn’t have any cool to begin with and breaks off his prize when the fish’s instantaneous run triggers the fisherman’s not-as-instantaneous response. At this critical point, the fisherman might freeze and clamp down on the line, heave, trip over his own feet, fall, flounder, scream, and, sadly in extreme cases of great-sized trout, get hauled in and drown. The dimensions of the fish that causes such a state of insanity varies from one angler to the next. The beginning fly fisher may come apart with any size fish, but it may take a trophy of dangerous proportions to unnerve a seasoned angler. Rest assured that no matter how cool the customer, there’s a fish out there that will rattle him. It’s why we fish, isn’t it?
Delightfully, the best way to learn how to overcome this affliction is by getting into the ring and duking it out with the lunkers. A bruiser at the other end of the line gets a lot more attention than an old boot, and the learning curve is steep when the stakes are high. Just one day with a good guide on a river like New Mexico’s San Juan will teach you a great deal about fighting big trout. Continue reading
These 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
Many 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
“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
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