New Mexico Fall Fly Fishing Report-Nuestro Amigo—El Nino

As we are hopefully all becoming aware; the effects of climate change are enveloping us. Fires, drought and extremes of hot and cold have had mostly negative effects. In the trout stream, changes are less dramatic here in northern New Mexico. The changes are more subtle. Warm winters have made aquatic insect hatches—like the Blue Winged Olive Mayflies—come off as early as February. Also, Trico Mayflies have expanded their range and become prolific in waters where they formally were not spotted. But with an expanded season there are now big gaps in the hatch schedule, and conditions sometimes appear perfect but the fishing is actually poor because there are no insect hatches to inspire the trout to eat. This is definitely the case on the small. but prolific, Cimarron River.

The Cimarron has a unique situation. It is a tail water below Eagle Nest Lake. The hand of man controls the spigot. But it’s been pretty well clamped shut all summer because there has been so much rain on the fields that additional water is not being called for so the stream has had a pitiful two or three cfs (cubic feet per second) coming out of the dam. Of course this is not good for the stream; but it is great news for Eagle Nest Lake as it rising and sorely needed more juice.

In many waters we are now experiencing a beneficial side to El Nino’s rains. Waters that might not usually hold fish in high summer—sections of streams below irrigation, in particular— are now full, flushed and flourishing. So, in many cases we are looking at an expanded trout fisheries. These bank to bank flows insure that the aquatic insects—and the trout that eat ‘em will do well. The robust flows also allow for trout movement up from major rivers into the tributaries. thus insuring successful brown trout spawning in late fall.

When large brown trout become restless it makes for good fall fishing––but with glodal warming who knows? Anytime the air is in the 70s fishing will likely be good. Here in Northern New Mexico we always expect the Rio Grande to fish well from mid-September to late October. The large flows the Rio has sustained all summer have kept the water cool, and the muddy water has limited the number of anglers fishing the Rio.

Another big game changer––compliments of El Nino¬¬––occur when flash floods blow down side canyons in the larger rivers. This may totally change a river’s structure. This often happens where fire scars have destroyed the plants that hold the ground in place.

Such an extremely localized flood just washed some huge boulders in the Rio Grande below Miners trail creating a fishie looking run below. But the daming effect of the rocks however, backed up the Rio right there and we lost a good run on the upstream side.

That’s the arrangement we get with El Nino and climate change—win one here—lose one there. Or is it win one here––and lose two there?

New Mexico Fly Fishing Report: Red River Update

An exceptionally wet spring has kept the Rio Grande and its primary tributary here-a-bouts, the Red River, high and muddy, making neither river fishable. So, instead, here’s my long-range fishing forecast––a forecast that contains a lot of promise for the future of this important water.

The Lower Red is critical to the health of the Rio Grande but has been severely degraded by the Questa mine for decades. Within the last few years however, it has been able to sustain large wild trout again. (See “Down on the Red”—a story in Taylor’s book, Man vs Fish). That story highlights what was a stupendous trout fishing back some 40 years ago––and its ensuing demise. I became involved with work for the Red back then; but to little avail as the price of moly (Molybdenum) kept the mine operating. But the Questa mine is gone for good now and repairs to the environment are underway.

The Red River Habitat Improvement Project will soon be finished and anglers will be catching trout in the newly improved river’s habitat. And I’m doubly proud of this great project because my son Nick––and our friends Garrett VeneKlasen of New Mexico Wildlife Federation and Toner Mitchel of Trout Unlimited––were instrumental in making it happen.

First let’s look at the project starting just upstream of Questa. There, the Red River had been reduced to nothing but a channelized ditch. But heavy machinery has now widened the stream channel where large rocks, tree stumps and logs have been placed in strategic positions––not only to add holding water for trout, but also to encourage the river to meander naturally again. Footbridges have been installed for easier access by fishermen, and a trail now runs along the stream.

The Chevron Mine did their dredging in an area adjoining Eagle Rock Lake. The lake had filled with sediment and mine tailings over the years, and fishing there had been on the decline. Between the remodeling of river and lake, The Eagle Rock area will be a fantastic fishing destination—and a great boon to the struggling town of Questa.

A second project area is downstream a few miles, on the Red, at Red River State Fish Hatchery. Despite its physical proximity to the fish factory this is an important fishery in itself as warm spring water from the hatchery attract trout year-round, except there has been no place for them to hang in this long and shallow stretch of stream. But the Questa Economic Board, TU and the New Mexico Game and Fish have enhanced the river with large boulders to create deep pools and pockets. This is a very popular place for all to fish and anglers to sack up trout. They are usually stocked fish but unfortunately wild spawning browns are also harvested. Such trout should be protected somehow.

One step towards wild trout protection and reproduction is in the removal of an old diversion dam upstream of the hatchery. The dam was acting as a fish barrier and wild brown and rainbow trout should now be able to repopulate from the fertile Rio Grande—just a few miles away.

To benefit the Red River Project, the Enchanted Circle and Truchas Chapters of Trout Unlimited will be co-hosting a fundraising tournament this fall, October 17 and 18. The tournament will be a beginner- friendly, guided event, in which teams of three anglers and one guide will fish a day on the Rio Grande and the other day on the Red River. Prizes for 1st, 2nd and 3rd place will be awarded as well as biggest and smallest fish. This will be the third year that TU has put on the event and we expect it to be a grand time. To get more information on the tournament, go to www.ec-tu.org.

Report from Taylor Streit

July 2015 Fly Fishing Report: Small Streams

 

Authors note: Although my book “Instinctive Fly Fishing” covers many ways to catch a trout I somehow didn’t mention fishing the tiny streams which are so numerous in New Mexico. So here is a new chapter from the next edition.

Summer is the time to get high into the mountains and escape not only the heat—but also each other. The Land of Enchantment is blessed with thousands of miles of rivulets with various subspecies of trout. Few people bother fishing them, as some streams are just a foot wide—and the trout not nearly a foot long. But if you are an angler who enjoys immersion as part of the fly fishing day, you can have many happy times streamside if you fish these creeks.

Small streams are easy going as you don’t have to worry about techniques. You tie on a size 14 or 16 dry fly and fish upstream. That’s it. Don’t fret about the fly choice as these trout have to eat whatever comes by–and since that is often something floating on the surface, dry flies are all that’s required. In fact, edit your fancy fishing vest to what fits in a shirt pocket. (Take a backpack with water, food, flashlight, matches, cell phone, GPS, map and rain jacket.)

Once you hike in a bit and get fishing, deciphering why you are luckless ain’t rocket science. Cause if conditions are good and you are not catching fish it is for one reason–the trout saw you coming. So for the next pool be sure and get your profile down lower, hide behind something, or fish from a little farther back. Continue reading

June Fly Fishing Report: Outwitting Mother Nature

by Taylor Streit

My fly fishing report last month made a number of fishing predictions based on assumptions that I made about weather conditions. As there has been a lot of rain and snow since then; much of that speculation is out the window.

So this report focuses on outwitting Mother Nature. In my book, “Instinctive Fly Fishing,” I devoted several chapters to the all-important subject of weather and how it affects water conditions for fly fishing.

First: Don’t embrace ridged notions about when and where you’re going to go fishing. “I’m going to fish the Big Muddy in June dagnabbit!” Well, the Big Muddy might be too clear in June. Always have a plan B waiting in the wings. If you are a traveling angler be sure and do your homework. Check flow rates by going to “New Mexico Stream Flows” on your computer. And always call the nearest fly shop to find out what flows they like for that river. And then call just prior to your fishing so you can decide exactly where to fish. Continue reading

2015 Fishing Forecast

Fishing Forecast for the 2015 season

Things are looking great here in Northern NM. We had a decent snowpack this year, and rain and high mountain snow continue to fall. Though this will mean tough fishing for the next several weeks, a good run-off is vital for the health of our trout streams. High flows carry unwanted sediment downstream, and help to keep water temps cool in June.

For the next month or so, the best fishing will be on lakes and tailwaters. In fact, the Cimarron has been very good lately and Stoneflies should begin to hatch there in 2 or 3 weeks. The Costilla below the Valle Vidal is another good choice this time of year.

As we look ahead to June, The Chama should fish well from June 5th to about the 20th, give or take a week on either end. Every year we see some incredible fishing there- but you have to hit it just right- make plans now!

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Waterfalls in the Desert

JEHolik-waterfalls-3869

photo by Melyssa Holik

Imagine yourself walking in the woods. The sun blazes high in the sky and patches of dappled light slip through to the forest floor. Trees whisper a hushed lullaby as the wind ruffles their leaves. Here and there, a butterfly drifts on the breeze and squirrels flit across the trail. Nearby, a brook gurgles a melody as robins and jays chorus overhead.

As you stroll along, the brook grows more insistent. It swells from a soft trickle to a rolling stream and you begin to hear a gentle roar in the distance. Your pace quickens as you move toward the sound of falling water. As you draw nearer the roar gets louder, until it’s all you can hear.

Finally, you see it—a cascade of water tumbling over a rocky precipice with untamed exuberance. It crashes over the ledge with rushing fury, then calmly swirls in shimmering pools below.

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