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Fly Fishing in New Mexico

Chama River and Others Make New Mexico a Hidden Gem for Fly Fishers


Looking for some fly fishing in New Mexico?

While New Mexico is often portrayed in movies and in the media as a dry, cactus-filled desert, those in the know are familiar with the other side of the “Land of Enchantment.”

A greener, more plentiful side of the state that yields limits of trout and offers miles of stellar fly fishing waters without all of the hustle and bustle that you’ll find in some of the more populated states to the north.

Northern New Mexico actually offers some of the same fly fishing that next-door neighbor Colorado offers, offering up year-round fishing for rainbow, brook, brown and cutthroat trout on lesser known fisheries such as the Rio Grande and San Juan.

Not to be overlooked in this region, are smaller, lesser known rivers such as the Pecos, Jemez and Chama rivers.

In fact, when asked Velarde guide Noah Parker what his favorite New Mexico fishery was, the owner of Land of Enchantment Guides (www.loeflyfishing.com, 505-629-5688) quickly responded with “the Chama River.”

About Chama River Fly Fishing

According to Parker’s site, the Chama is one of the West’s “most undiscovered and diverse” trout fisheries.

This wild river starts high in the Colorado mountains and tumbles as a freestone through high-mountain meadows and forests (not exactly what you’d expect from New Mexico, eh?).

After making up El Vado reservoir, the river continues for another 30 miles through sandstone canyons with extremely limited access – which is what you’d probably expect from New Mexico, having seen the beautiful orange mesas painted by artists Georgia O’Keefe.

But lost in that desert landscape is a very fishable six-mile section that runs through the 50,000-acre Chama River Canyon Wilderness area.

Other accessible stretches include the runs below Abiquiu Dam down to the famed Rio Grande.

Additionally, the Chama River Fishing Easement consists of two tracts of land located west of U.S. 84 about two miles below downtown Chama.

Gear for Chama Fly Fishing

While brown trout are the most-popular catch in the fall, rainbow trout can be had throughout the year.

“There are over 50 miles of the Chama River that offer great fishing,” Parker said. “Depending on the time of year, there are many places to fish.”

When fishing the Chama River, Parker recommends a 9-foot, 5-weight rod with a floating line, although extreme conditions could make anglers shift gears a bit.

This small stream can be extremely productive for both dry and wet fly anglers, but the biggest fish are often caught on big clousers or similar flies.

That’s why Parker says nymphs and streamers are probably your best bet for big trout, adding that dry-dropper rigs can be lethal in the summer months.

But if you are struggling to match the hatch, be sure to check in with your local fly shop for tips on patterns, gear or to set up a guided trip on the sometimes hard-to-judge river.

“The Chama River has great fishing but much of it is very wild and remote,” he said. “Finding the best spot to go can be tricky.”

Other New Mexico Fly Fishing Waters

While Parker tends to spend much of his time on the Chama, Parker adds that there is plenty of diversity and a handful of alternative fisheries worth checking out.

The Rio Grande, for example, has so many destinations it’s tough to know where to start. In fact, the Rio Grande is tied for the fourth longest river in the U.S.

Other key waters in the New Mexico watershed include the Pecos, Canadian, San Juan and Gila rivers.

If you’re not sure where to go, check local fly shop websites or the New Mexico Department of Game and Fish’s own weekly fishing report for news on what’s biting and flow information for most of the state’s fisheries.

“Northern New Mexico offers all types of waters: from large rivers to high mountain spring creeks and lakes,” he said. “The landscape is breathtaking and extremely diverse, with everything from deserts, canyons and mountains with alpine forests of pines and aspen to mesas of cactus and juniper. There is excellent fishing all year-round, with lots of fish to be caught. New Mexico is truly western fly fishing's "Land of Enchantment.”

Enjoyed this From the Guides piece? Check out some other From the Guides articles on:
Fly Fishing Ascension Bay, Mexico: A look at the diverse fly fishing to be had in Ascension Bay, Mexico.
Fly Fishing Northern New Mexico: The Chama River and other fine fisheries make New Mexico a hidden gem for fly fishers.
Fly Fishing Cape Cod: A look at some tips for for shore fly fishing Cape Cod.
Fly Fishing Cranberry River: All about fly fishing the tasty river in West Virginia.
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