Our part of New Mexico provides a great variety of fishing opportunities. At different times of the year, you may fish the Rio Grande among prickly pear cacti at 6000 feet elevation or among ponderosa pines at 11,000 feet in mountain lakes of the Pecos Wilderness. We outline just a few here to start your planning.
Fly Fishing Season
From June to early September, elevations above 8000 feet are delightful places. Daily summer rains keep the higher mountain streams cool, but the same rain murks lower elevation rivers. When the weather begins to cool and summer monsoons end, fishing gradually shifts to lower elevations. By Halloween, elevations above 8000 feet are beginning to receive snow and fishing the larger, lower streams begins in earnest. Spring run off can begin as early as March, but is more typical in April and May, depending on the particular stream. Near Santa Fe, fishing is slowest during January and February.
Most fishable miles are in smaller, high-elevation streams (4- 20-feet across), many on Santa Fe or Carson National Forest lands. Although there are some delightful meadow sections, most streams are higher gradient, freestone streams lined with alder and spruce and host smaller fish and a variety of summer insect hatches. Accurate 15-foot casts with dry flies are the usual tickets to success. Examples are the Pecos, East Fork of the Jemez, Rio San Antonio, and Rio Santa Barbara.
Lower elevation rivers like the Rio Grande and Rio Chama fish best fall through the beginning of run off. Large basalt boulders and canyon stretches provide places for bigger fish to live. Subsurface nymphs and streamer patterns are typically the best choices.
San Juan River
The famous San Juan River is a tailwater below Navajo Reservoir near Bloomfield, NM. The first four miles of river contain upwards of 20,000 trout per mile with an average size of 17 inches. For those who can fool the very well educated rainbows, it fishes well for ten months of the year (harder during high Spring releases). Because of its special character, we recommend you first visit the San Juan with a friend who knows the river well or a local guide. The San Juan is 3-1/2 hours drive from Santa Fe.
Fly Fishing Lakes
catch and release Both high- and lower-elevation lakes also provide good fishing. In spring and fall, McAllister Lake and the lakes of the Jicarilla Apache Reservation offer the chance at large trout on nymphs and streamers. In summer, hike-in lakes in the Sangre de Cristo Mountains provide a challenge for careful fly fishers.
Current state fishing regulations may be obtained from the New Mexico Department of Game and Fish. Non-resident short-term licenses for one day are $14 or five days for $22. Fishing on Tribal lands is done by permit from individual tribes. High Desert Angler sells New Mexico and Jicarilla Apache permits.