Northern New Mexico has some great places to fish, and we're looking forward to showing off our great waters and great fish.
Some of our venues are some distance from the meeting's base at the Eldorado Hotel in Santa Fe and some are quite close. All driving times listed below are for one-way travel to the venue from the Eldorado Hotel. Also, some of our venues require some serious hiking. So, when you pick the venue you'd like to fish, please consider both the distance from the hotel and the difficulty of access and egress.
Keep in mind, as well, that Santa Fe sits at 7,000 feet and that some of our venues are higher than that. Even anglers in good condition who live near sea level may have some difficulty at our altitudes.
We do not have the San Juan River as one of our fishing venues. The San Juan is about 3.5 hours from Santa Fe and thus too far for a one-day trip. If any anglers want to fish the San Juan on their own, we can provide information on places to stay and needed equipment.
If you have any questions about the San Juan, contact Nick Streit at firstname.lastname@example.org, Toner Mitchell at email@example.com, or Noah Parker at firstname.lastname@example.org (Nick's Taos Fly Shop and Noah's Land of Enchantment Guides are both TU Endorsed Businesses).
As indicated below, some of these streams can be comfortably wet-waded, but that depends on the weather and the stream flows. It's safest, of course, to bring your waders, so you are prepared for any eventuality.
Rio Grande Gorge
West of Taos the Rio Grande cuts a dynamic gorge through the beautiful Taos valley. The Rio was the first designated Wild River in New Mexico with over fifty miles of excellent fishing for brown and rainbow trout. In 2013, President Obama declared the Rio Grande del Norte a National Monument, in part due to the extensive efforts of TU staffers and volunteers in New Mexico. There is roughly 50 miles of public water to fish, and most of it is accessed on foot.
Trails range in difficultly but are usually about a mile long and involve an elevation difference of 500 to 800 vertical feet from the river to the top of the Gorge. Once on the water, wading can be described as challenging to extremely difficult, but wading is not necessary to fish successfully. Much of the river runs through large basalt boulders as big as cars where trout hold in the class 5 plus rapids. In many places the banks are rough and uneven and you should exercise care making your way up and down the river.
The Rio is primarily a nymphing river, but fish can also be taken on streamers and, if the weather is right (cloudy), dry flies. Attractor nymphs of almost any variety will work and tungsten bead heads will help get your fly down in the fast water. A selection of 16-18 mayfly and caddis dries may come in handy, but you're more likely to use Copper Johns, Prince Nymphs and Hare's Ears (12-16). Local guide and Author Taylor Streit's Poundmiester is a great fly for imitating the river's many Crane Fly Larvae.
8'6"-10' 4,5 or 6 wt rods with floating lines will be appropriate. Tippet smaller than 5x will not be necessary. Anglers planning to fish the Gorge should bring a wading staff.
If you plan on hiking into the canyon, come prepared with a backpack and plenty of water. Hiking in waders can be a challenge so you may be more comfortable wet wading. Light weight, quick dry pants will help guard the legs from the river's abundant poison ivy.
This venue presents the best opportunity for catching good numbers of big fish. If you have any doubts about whether you would be able to access, wade and exit the Gorge safely, please contact Nick Streit at email@example.com or Toner Mitchell at firstname.lastname@example.org. Both Nick and Toner have guided extensively in the Gorge, and they will help you evaluate your fitness for the venue and help to pick access and exit places that are appropriate to your fitness level.
Drive time to the trailhead is approximately 2 hours.
Rio Grande (County Line through Pilar)
Because of the New Mexico's high elevation, anglers with health issues or who are not acclimated to the elevation should consider the Rio's easier access points south of Taos near Pilar, where roads parallel the river. The river takes on a gentler nature through the Orilla Verde recreation area. Riffle water holds good numbers of trout and Smallmouth Bass. Pike and Carp are also available.
Although this stretch of the Rio doesn't produce the size of fish found in the Gorge, large fish do exist. In addition, the trip to these fishing spots will be shorter and the physical exertion much less demanding.
Expect to use the same gear as you would in the Gorge. Since you won't be hiking so much, waders are appropriate though still not preferable to wet wading.
Drive time is approximately 1 hour.
Rio Costilla (Valle Vidal)
The Rio Costilla drains the high mountains north of Taos along the Colorado border. Meandering through the high meadows of the Valle Vidal – a special unit of the Carson National Forest donated by Penzoil in 1982 – the Costilla is one of the best places in the southern Rockies to catch a Rio Grande Cutthroat. Rainbows have slowly started to invade, however, and a plan is in place to restore pure strains. The small tributary Comanche Creek holds pure Rio Grande Cutts, and its narrow waters and open meadows are a great place to cast a 2 or 3 weight.
These are meadow streams – hoppers, ants and beetles should be a big part of your arsenal. Small Mayfly dries will also work (16-18). Dry flies are usually sufficient for the 6 to 14 inch trout but small bead heads may be a good idea trailed off a dry if the fish are not cooperating. 7.5 4 and 5x leaders will suffice.
The river is accessed easily by vehicle and the wading is easy. Hip waders are usually adequate for most of the river. The only thing that will test your patience in this peaceful place is the fishes' uncanny ability to so spit your fly out before you have time to even think about setting the hook.
The Rio Costilla and Comanche Creek are both very beautiful streams and well worth the drive from Santa Fe.
Drive time is approximately 3 hours.
The Pecos is a quintessential Rocky Mountain freestone stream whose 8 to 11 inch rainbows and browns will come readily to a well-presented attractor dry fly. In September, however, expect them to be a little more educated and, given the low water of the season, spooky.
The Pecos is most enjoyable with an 8 to 9 foot, 3 or 4 wt rod. Nine foot leaders tapered to 4X will suffice (add a section of 5X before fishing), and bring spools of 4X through 6X. Standard dry flies in size 14 through 18 will work, as well as attractors and hoppers in 8 through 12. Small bead-head nymphs, basic Rocky Mountain attractors will be standard – prince, micro may, copper john, pheasant tail – in sizes 14 through 18. Though this hatch is usually later in the fall, we may encounter tiny blue winged olive mayflies, in which case parachute Adams dries in 20 and 22 may be required.
Drive time is 30 to 45 minutes.
Several small streams vein the ancient caldera west of Santa Fe, but the favorites are the East Fork of the Jemez, the San Antonio, and Cebolla (where an angler may encounter a Rio Grande Cutthroat or two). Gear is the same as for the Pecos, although you might consider a shorter rod in 2 or 3 weight. Also, an ant pattern in your collection will definitely be useful.
Some of the Jemez streams we may fish are in the Valles Caldera National Preserve, the site of the conservation tour. To prevent the spread of disease, the Caldera does not allow wading, but fishing from the bank is easily done. The bank can be comfortably walked in light hiking shoes.
Drive time is approximately 1 hour.
For groups of 1 to 2 anglers, the small streams around Santa Fe offer a great opportunity to find solitude, and you will also get some practice on some valuable fishing techniques. Most of these streams are brown trout streams, but the adventurous may enjoy hiking a bit farther for cutthroat trout. Options may include Panchuela Creek, Jack's Creek (cutthroat), Rio Trampas (cutthroat), Rio Embudo, Tusas Creek (cutthroat), Rio Santa Barbara (chance for cutthroat), Alamitos Creek (cutthroat and TU cutthroat restoration project), Rito de la Olla, and Rio Chiquito.
We will assign the anglers who choose Small Stream venues to the various streams. If you have a preference for which of these streams you want to fish or if you are particularly interested a small stream holding Rio Grande Cutthroat, please let Toner know at email@example.com.
Drive time 1 to 2.5 hours.