The Cimarron is a small-tail water fishery that comes out of Eagle Nest Lake. Although it is small and close to the highway, it does have a lot of trout and excellent insect hatches. The water from the Cimarron is used to irrigate hay fields to the east. The stream’s all-important flow rates are based on agricultural needs downstream, and the flows are often counter to what one might expect. For example, expecting the river to be high from rains may not be the case because rain curtails demand for irrigation water––as does haying. In addition, many times, the water is coming out sparse from the dam, but fishing is OK downstream a ways, as small tributaries add to the flow exponentially. In fact, there is usually a sweet spot of several miles where the flow will be good, especially below Clear Creek. There are two gauges at either end of the stream, and you can pretty much figure all this out before you leave the house. (The ideal flow is about 30 to 40 cubic-feet-per-second (cfs) out of the dam.) The great thing about the Cimarron is that it often fishes best when other streams don’t—namely, during the spring runoff in May and June.
Since it’s the handiest trout stream close to Texas, there can be lots of fishing pressure. Luckily, it’s rarely so crowded that you can’t find a little personal stretch to fish, and much, if not most of it, is so thick with brush that it discourages a lot of people. So dive into the brush—then wade right up the middle. Do whatever it takes to get your fly in there––resort to dapping a single dry fly tied to a very short leader. A bow and arrow cast is often good to use. Another handy maneuver is to take a weighted fly and swing or “lob” it in the deeper pools. This is especially deadly in eddies. The water load is handy as well.
The “Cimarron sling” is the most important cast in this stream and is described in greater detail on page 39 of my book, Instinctive Fly Fishing II: A Guide to Better Fishing. Because false casts and tight loops catch lots more branches than trout, the best cast is an ugly short stroke—a half-cast/half-roll that starts with a half-assed water load. This cast is performed by letting the flies drift past you and then, just before they get tight in the current, slinging them forward with a rounded-out half stroke. This is a one-time deal––make no false casts!
The special regulation section at the upper end of the river has a gravel bottom, moderate flow and beaver ponds. Key in on mayfly hatches here. Downriver, the water becomes faster and rockier, and stoneflies and caddis flies are more prevalent. The stone-fly hatch is very important on the lower sections of the stream and commences in late May to early June. If you see a hatch flutter past you, tie an imitation one on your line. The best time to be on the lookout is around noon. At that time of day a black stonefly nymph will do very well also, but most stonefly nymphs are far too heavy for the shallow Cimarron. Be sure and get the lighter—and smallest choices.
The stream is 45 minutes east of Taos on Highway 64. One passes by Eagle Nest Lake on the drive. Although it has fished poorly the last few years, historically, the lake produces lunkers. If you pass by it when the water is calm, be sure and drive down and see if there are fish rising close to shore. Beware that there are a lot of carp and they are easy to confuse with trout to the average fisherman. But even the carp are a challenging and fun fish, too! More on them in a later report.
Fishing report by Taylor Streit