When she’s feeling groovy and in the mood, you know… kind of frisky, she can be fabulous — if not world class. However, when she’s not in the right frame of mind… a little grumpy if you will… she can be stubborn and heartless, if not down right cruel. She keeps us guessing. This is why we love her and why we keep coming back to her.
Snaking its way through the awe-inspiring Rio Grande Gorge, the mighty Rio Grande provides the Taos area with by far its most challenging fishery. Ever fluctuating weather strata can put this river into a funk when you least expect it at any time of the year.
Winter snow pack is the annual gauge as to what kind of year will be had on the Rio. However, the real arbiters of rapid unpredictable changes in conditions on the river are the intense summer thunderstorms and heavy irrigation releases in southern Colorado and Northern New Mexico.
Browns… some very large… are the most prevalent species of trout in the Rio Grande, at least in the Taos area. In addition the river holds tremendous populations of nice sized Rainbows and Cutbows. Northern Pike can also be found in abundance along with a good population of Smallmouth bass in the lower stretches from Pilar south to the county line.
The most famous hatch on the river is the Caddis emergence beginning in early to mid-April. How it’s fished depends greatly on the size and timing of the run-off. Low and/or late run-off can mean incredible dry fly fishing.
This hatch begins below Pilar and gradually makes it’s way upriver to the Taos box. Avoid fishing the heart of the hatch when there are literally millions of naturals on the water as it can be difficult to fool fish with an artificial. Instead target either the leading or trailing perimeters of the hatch as it progressively continues upstream.
Depending on conditions the Rio can be fished year around but the best fishing by far is from mid-September thru the Caddis hatch in April. The box fishes great from September on into November when temperatures drop drastically.
The winter fishing continues in the lower stretches near Pilar with daily midge hatches that can be quite heavy and in turn produce great dry fly fishing in the heart of winter. Remember, all of this varies greatly with weather conditions.
Anglers of different fishing “tastes” can all find happiness on the Rio Grande. Whether you prefer dries, emergers, nymphs, streamers or a combo thereof you’ll find it on this wonderful river.”
The upper box area from the confluence with the Red River and above is accessed by hiking trails, the majority of which begin in the Wild and Scenic Rivers Area located approximately 30 miles north of Taos.
The lower reaches of the canyon have extensive vehicle access with NM 68 hugging the river from Pilar south to the county line. At Pilar NM 567 runs alongside the river on into the Orilla Verde Recreation Area for about 10-11 miles to the Taos Junction Bridge.
As we mentioned, the Rio Grande is always unpredictable due to forces out of our control. We strongly advise you to give us a call for up to the minute conditions and fishing reports.”
Winding its way through an array of beautiful high mountain meadows in the western side of the 100,000 acre Valle Vidal unit of the Carson National Forest, the Rio Costilla is one of the last strongholds of New Mexico’s native trout species — the Rio Grande Cutthroat.
In an effort to protect spawning Cutthroats and calving elk, the Valle Vidal is closed from Jan. 1st thru June 30th and open July 1st thru Dec. 31st.
All of the stream fishing within the Valle Vidal is catch and release and single barbless hook only.
A tailwater fishery, the Rio Costilla flows from the bottom of Costilla Reservoir, formed by the confluence of Casias creek and Costilla creek slightly above Costilla Dam located on privately owned and accessed Vermejo Park Ranch.
Flows vary throughout the summer in accordance with agricultural demands downstream, with the general rule of thumb being higher water Monday thru Thursday and the flows being cut back Friday thru Sunday afternoon.
We like it both ways. On weekends, with good streamside stealth and accurate, delicate casts, the dry fly fishing can be awesome. The higher flows during the week provide opportunity for fishing flies almost any way you can think of throughout the day.
With Rio Grande Cutthroats being the predominate species, the river also holds Cutbows and Rainbows with fish ranging from 5″ to 18″ and averaging 9″ to 11″. You can also find the occasional Brown and Brook trout on the Costilla.
While the always ubiquitous Caddis and Mayflies dominate the scene, Stoneflies also play a very strong role on the stream throughout the season. Terrestrials such as Ants and Beetles (one of our personal favorites) as always, produce well in late summer and early fall with hoppers working nicely all summer long — particularly during the afternoon “lull”.
When the flows are higher, droppers are unbeatable, although dries can still be a killer within eddies and pockets and on the seams between slack and fast water.
Classic bead-headed nymph patterns such as flashback Pheasant Tails, Hares ears (we like flashbacks or poxy-backs), Prince nymphs, Micro-Mays and Copper Johns are always deadly as long as your drift is drag free, you have your depth right on and you cover the water thoroughly.
The Rio Costilla and the Valle Vidal combine to give us one of the most gorgeous areas in New Mexico replete with an abundance of wildlife and breathtaking natural beauty.”
Located just a little over an hour drive north from Taos, this is without question, a wonderful place to spend the day fishing. Please give us a call to book a trip or for up to the minute fishing and water condition reports.
The Cimarron is a tailwater fishery that begins at Eagle Nest Lake located in the heart of the gorgeous Moreno Valley and then for eight miles winds its way through beautiful, breathtaking Cimarron Canyon. Part of the Arkansas River drainage system, its waters eventually end up in the Mississippi River, a rarity for a New Mexico river.
Despite its relatively small size, the Cimarron is home to the largest number of fish per mile than any other river in the state with the Brown trout being the predominate species along with a strong population of Rainbow trout. Fish range in size between 5″ to 22″ in length with an average being 10″ to 12″.
In addition, the Cimarron has one of the most prolific insect populations in the state. Stoneflies, caddis, mayflies and midges come off at various times of the year in crazy numbers providing an exciting variety of fishing.”
In late May, early June the stonefly hatch begins in the lower reaches of the canyon and slowly works its way up the river and lasts well into July offering some of the best dry fly fishing on the river- if not in northern New Mexico.
Great mayfly hatches including Blue Wing Olives, Pale Morning Duns, Callibaetis and Gray Drakes to name a few, keep the action going from spring on through the fall. Terrestrials provide another great option on the river with beetles and ants keeping the game going in late summer and early fall and hoppers working well all summer long.
Stream flows on the Cimarron are controlled in accordance with agricultural needs below Cimarron Canyon and thus can vary tremendously. We consider flows between 19 CFS and 45 CFS to be ideal. We highly recommend checking flows before heading to the Cimarron.
Give us a call for up to the minute fishing and flow information. Easily accessible, the trip to the Cimarron is a beautiful drive just 55 minutes east from Taos on U.S. 64.
The Red River is Taos’ winter fishery with prime time being from October through early April. The Red provides visitors the unique opportunity to fish and ski on the same trip to Taos. In fact, we have clients that ski in the morning and then fish with us in theafternoon on the same day. They love it!
A myriad of springs flow into the river greatly increasing the flows and keeping the water temperatures in the optimum trout fishing range of between 45 to 60 degrees making the Red an ideal winter trout fishery.
As the summer monsoon season comes to an end and afternoon showers begin to taper off, the river settles down and clears nicely, allowing the fun to begin.
In the fall, towards the middle to end of October, larger Browns begin staging in the lower reaches of the river near the confluence with the Rio Grande and start pushing up the river to spawn, creating a great opportunity for a shot at some big Browns through November as they migrate up river and back again.
A few weeks later towards the end of November, the big Cutbows and larger Rainbows begin the same beautiful dance all over again, lasting on into early spring completing a large trout trifecta that’s available October through April.
Of course, we strongly urge the resistance of pressuring fish actively on spawning redds, asking that you concentrate instead on migrating fish and the strong population of resident Browns and stocked Rainbows often found below the redds.
Featuring a fantastic and well rounded aquatic insect population, the Red River offers the full gamut of fly fishing with opportunities to nymph — droppers (a nymph attached to a dry fly) are the rig of choice to run a nymph, streamers are a killer in fall and winter and excellent dry fly and emerger fishing can be had at various times throughout the year.”
The river is accessible at the Red River fish hatchery and from the Wild and Scenic Rivers area on the La Junta and Aguaje trails. La Junta will take you to the confluence with the Rio Grande with Aguaje dropping you in about a mile and a half or so above the confluence. From September through April please feel free to give us a call for an up to the minute fishing report and water conditions or of course, to book a trip.
Taos’ Small Streams
With the crystal clear Rio Hondo tumbling down from above the Taos Ski Valley and the Rio Pueblo de Picuris — born in the mountains above Peñasco leading the way, there are numerous small streams and creeks in the Taos area to whet your appetite if you are so inclined.
The Hondo’s Cutthroats are always a treat, with Browns also plentiful and they’re both reliably eager to take a dry fly.
Summer precipitation dictates water and fishing conditions on these streams and when they’re on, fishing can be a blast on these waters.
Don’t hesitate to give us a call or email us for current conditions and fishing information, we’re always happy to help.