Best Fly Fishing in New Mexico

Crystal clear river flowing through rugged mountains, with a lone fly fisherman casting his line into the water, surrounded by towering pine trees and a bright blue sky above
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New Mexico, often referred to as the Land of Enchantment, offers a diverse array of pristine fly fishing destinations for anglers of all levels. With its high desert landscapes and mountainous regions, the state provides a scenic backdrop to some of the best fly fishing experiences in the Southwest. Whether you’re wading through the famous San Juan River or casting your line in the lesser-known but equally rewarding Rio Guadalupe, New Mexico’s waterways teem with rainbow and brown trout waiting for your fly.



San Juan River

The San Juan River in New Mexico stands as a premier destination for fly fishing enthusiasts. Situated below Navajo Dam, it is a tailwater fishery renowned for providing some of the best trout fishing in the region.

Fly fishing in the San Juan River, you can expect to encounter an abundance of rainbow and brown trout. The river boasts consistent flows and temperatures, thanks to its tailwater nature, which provides a habitat conducive to healthy trout populations. The renowned section called the Texas Hole, stretching to the NM Highway 173 Bridge, is particularly rich in aquatic life.

Fishing regulations here are stringent, aiming to preserve the quality fishing environment. It is critical to familiarize yourself with the local rules, including those pertaining to catch and release, and the type of flies and nymphs you’re allowed to use. Common fly patterns such as pheasant tails, midges, and elk hair caddis are effective for luring San Juan’s wary trout.

When you’re on the river, take the opportunity to immerse yourself in the serene solitude of the surrounding nature. The banks of the San Juan are often lined with wildlife, adding to the serene experience. As you’re casting your rod, you’ll find a mix of pools, riffles, and pocket water, which are ideal for both nymph and dry fly fishing.

Whether you are a seasoned fly fisher or new to the sport, the San Juan River promises a rewarding and memorable fishing experience steeped in the beauty of the Land of Enchantment.

Rio Grande

The Rio Grande flows from Colorado into New Mexico, providing exceptional fly fishing opportunities. If you’re on the hunt for brown trout or rainbow trout, the clear and fast-moving waters of the Rio Grande are a prime destination.

Fishing the Rio Grande

  • Trout Species: You might catch the revered Rio Grande cutthroat trout or encounter browns and rainbows in the vibrant pools and riffles.
  • Flies to Use: Elk hair caddis, hoppers, and midges excel here. During hatch seasons, BWOs (Blue Wing Olives) are particularly effective.
  • Techniques: Successful fishing often involves dry fly fishing, precise casting to pocket water, or nymphing in deep pools.

Locations and Regulations

  • The upper gorge of the Rio Grande, known for its deep gorges, offers solitude and challenging fishing. Prepare for a mile hike with a significant descent to access the best spots.
  • Familiarize yourself with local fishing regulations to ensure you’re compliant while pursuing the elusive rio grande cutthroats.
  • The Gila River, a tributary of the Rio Grande, is another hotspot for cutthroat trout.

Note the importance of a lightweight and versatile rod to handle various scenarios from casting in open stretches to navigating tailwaters.

Your experience on the Rio Grande will be by the dramatic topography of the Rio Grande Gorge and the mix of easy-to-access areas and spots that offer a sense of remote solitude.

Cimarron River

In the heart of northeastern New Mexico, you’ll find the tranquil waters of the Cimarron River, a premier destination for anglers seeking both peace and a challenge. Originating from Eagle Nest Lake and winding through Cimarron Canyon State Park, this river offers a picturesque setting with ample opportunity for dry fly fishing.

The Cimarron is known for its healthy population of brown trout, with estimates of close to 3,000 fish per mile. You’ll be casting your line in relatively uncrowded waters, as the river is well-regarded for providing a sense of solitude. Here’s what you need to know to maximize your experience:

Fly Selection:

  • Dry Flies: Particularly effective during hatches
  • Nymphs: Pheasant Tail is an excellent choice throughout the year
  • Streamers: For those times when you’re targeting larger trout

Fishing Conditions:

  • Ideal Flow: Between 2 and 50 cubic feet per second
  • Visibility: Generally about 12 inches
  • Water Temperature: Averages around 54 Degrees Fahrenheit at mid-day

While the entire river provides ample fishing spots, the section known locally as the “Holy Waters”, located within Cimarron Canyon State Park, is renowned for its concentration of fish and scenic beauty. Get there early to claim your spot and enjoy the serenity.

Remember, regulations and conditions can change, so check with the New Mexico Fish and Game Department before you plan your trip. With the right preparation, your time on the Cimarron River can be both rewarding and rejuvenating.

Red River

When you are planning your next fly fishing adventure in New Mexico, Red River should be high on your list. This picturesque stream offers year-round fishing opportunities, with a variety of trout that makes it a prime destination.

Where to Fish:
For easily accessible spots, consider starting at the Red River Fish Hatchery parking lot. This provides a convenient location for a half-day trip. If you’re up for a bit of a hike and looking for more secluded fishing, the trails in the Wild and Scenic Rivers Area near the Rio Grande, west of Questa, can lead you to pristine spots teeming with fish.

What You’ll Catch:

  • Rainbow Trout
  • Brown Trout
  • Brook Trout
  • Rio Grande Cutthroat Trout (the native species)

When to Go:

  • You can fly fish at Red River throughout the year, although the best times are generally spring through fall.

Remember to respect the local wildlife and follow all fishing regulations to preserve the beauty and abundance of Red River’s natural resources. Prepare your gear, get your fishing license in order, and embark on a memorable fly fishing experience in one of New Mexico’s most beloved rivers.

Pecos River

The Pecos River, a gem for fly fishing enthusiasts in New Mexico, flows with opportunity, especially for those seeking to catch trout. With headwaters originating near Beatty’s Cabin, the river descends through canyons and meadows before reaching its lower stretches.

  • Trout Species: Find both Brown and Rainbow Trout thriving in these waters.

When planning your adventure, consider that the upper Pecos River offers serenity and seclusion. The stretch between Terrero and Cowles is notable for some of the best rainbow and brown trout fishing on the Pecos. Start at the Terrero General Store, and you can follow the banks upstream, where pools and runs are abundant.

  • Best Time to Fish: May through October offers optimal conditions, post-runoff.
  • Access Points: Holy Ghost Campground serves as a convenient entry to the river.

For a more tranquil setting, Green Meadows Lake provides a peaceful backdrop with ample fishing spots. Its waters, fed by the Pecos, create an ideal environment for trout to flourish. Whether you’re wading near the banks or casting from the shore, the experience here connects you directly with the pulse of New Mexico’s natural splendor.

Remember to respect the wilderness and practice catch and release to preserve the Pecos River’s ecosystem for generations to come. Pack your tackle, and prepare for a fly fishing escapade that’s as enchanting as the landscapes of the Pecos itself.

Rio Chama

When you’re seeking the quintessence of fly fishing in New Mexico, the Rio Chama is a notable river that merits your attention. Known primarily for its abundance of brown trout, this river also plays host to rainbow trout, largemouth bass, and white bass. It’s the variety and quality of fish that make Rio Chama a premier destination for anglers.

Prime Locations

  • Below El Vado Dam: Accessible with notable stretches to cast your line during spring through fall.
  • Abiquiu Dam: Ideal for cooler months, offering you consistent fly fishing experiences from fall through early spring.
  • Vallecitos River confluence: A feeder to the Rio Chama enhancing its ecology and fishing prospects.

Fish Species and Techniques

  • Brown and Rainbow Trout: Ranging in size, with some brown trout even recorded at trophy dimensions. Traditional nymphs and streamers are effective, as well as dry fly fishing during specific hatches.
  • Bass Varieties: Present in the river, the largemouth and white bass provide an additional challenge and diversity to your angling exploits.

Noteworthy Fly Hatches

  • Stoneflies
  • Baetis
  • Craneflies
  • Caddis
  • Midges
  • Olive may nymph patterns

Considering the fly fishing guide for Rio Chama, the strategic sections and varying species cater to a versatile angler’s preferences. Whether you’re drifting along the serene flow of the Brazos River or wading through the currents below dams, your experience on the Rio Chama promises both tranquility and the adrenaline of the catch.

Eagle Nest Lake

Eagle Nest Lake offers a serene and productive setting for fly fishing enthusiasts. Surrounded by the natural beauty of northern New Mexico, the lake provides an opportunity to catch a variety of fish such as Rainbow Trout and Kokanee Salmon.

When you visit Eagle Nest Lake, make sure to bring your fly fishing gear equipped with a variety of flies. Nymphs, dry flies, including popular patterns like Pheasant Tails and Woolly Buggers, are effective choices for this location. Your fly box should be well-stocked with a selection of these for the best results.

Before you start, ensure you understand the fishing regulations and have the necessary fishing license. Conservation efforts are important to maintain the thriving trout population. For details on licensing and regulations, New Mexico Department of Game and Fish is a helpful resource.

As for equipment, you will need a high-quality rod, reel, leader, and waders to navigate the water. If you’re venturing out onto the ice, a heated ice fishing tent with a gas-powered auger comes in handy, especially through local guide services offered at Eagle Nest Lake. Your wading boots should be sturdy to manage the rocky banks.

While fly fishing at Eagle Nest Lake, stay alert for the wildlife that flourishes around the water. Remember, a calm and patient casting technique increases your chance of success.

Above all, cherish the tranquility of the Moreno Valley and the breathtaking scenery it offers. With the right preparation and respect for the environment, your fly fishing experience at Eagle Nest Lake can be both rewarding and rejuvenating.

Jemez River

When you’re exploring the best fly fishing locations in New Mexico, the Jemez River should be high on your list. This river offers an exceptional trout fishing experience in a setting that combines natural beauty with convenient access.

Fishing Locations

You can find brown and rainbow trout in the peaceful yet energetic Jemez Watershed. With NM Highway 4 coursing alongside, you’re never far from a prime fishing spot. The area is marked by picturesque canyon walls, dynamic runs, and tranquil pools.

Best Times and Techniques

Fishing is year-round; however, springtime often brings the best conditions as long as water levels are favorable. Your approach to fishing in the Jemez River can vary, but navigating the stream with careful wading can yield rewarding catch rates.

Access and Regulations

  • Access: Easily accessible along NM Highway 4
  • Depth: Generally 2-3 feet with deeper pools up to five feet
  • Vegetation: Cottonwoods, willows, and alders along the banks
  • Fishing Pressure: Light to moderate, depending on the season

For your fly selection, consider local patterns that match the hatch or general attractors that could entice the river’s trout, like the Mickey Finn Bucktail Streamer highlighted for the Rio Guadalupe, a nearby fishing locale.

Santa Cruz Lake

Simply be aware that, while Santa Cruz Lake isn’t directly connected to the Jemez River flow, it does offer additional nearby fishing opportunities. Here, you can enjoy still-water fishing, which can be a fantastic complement to your river adventures.

Costilla Creek

Crystal clear water flows over rocky creek bed, surrounded by lush green trees and vibrant wildflowers. Fly fishing line gracefully arcs through the air

When exploring the Best Fly Fishing in New Mexico, your attention must be drawn to the serene and inviting waters of Costilla Creek. Nestled in the Northern New Mexico area, near the colorful tapestry of Southern Colorado, this creek offers a sanctuary for aspiring and seasoned fly fishers alike.

Prime Location & Natural Beauty

Your journey to Costilla Creek promises not only exceptional fishing experiences but also an encounter with the tranquility of the surrounding high-altitude alpine environment. Surrounded by dense forests and punctuated by rugged mountain peaks, the creek awaits with scenic vistas that enhance your fishing adventure.

Fly Fishing Overview

Flora and Fauna
Along Costilla Creek, you’ll be amidst diverse wildlife, offering a chance to witness nature’s wonders while waiting for the next bite. From soaring eagles to cautious deer, the vibrant ecosystem adds to the ambiance of your fishing experience.

Target Species
The creek is teeming with the native Rio Grande Cutthroat, a prized catch for many fly fishers. On average, the fish in these waters span 8 to 12 inches, with the occasional larger specimen offering a thrilling challenge.

MonthsRecommended Flies
June – OctoberCaddis Flies and Stone Flies
SeptemberBlue Winged Olives

Tactics & Gear
You’ll find success with your lineup of pheasant tails and dry flies, perfect for luring the creek’s trout. Give yourself a competitive edge by matching these with the local aquatic hatches, known for drawing the trout to the surface.

For detailed information and local insights, consider reaching out to guides like those at The Solitary Angler, who specialize in the Rio Costilla area. The creek also features in recommendations for fly fishing venues you ought to visit, as noted by The Fly Crate.

Your experience at Costilla Creek holds the prospect of memorable catches, naturally beautiful surroundings, and the satisfaction that comes from engaging in one of New Mexico’s premier fly fishing destinations.

Gila River

When embarking on a fly fishing adventure in New Mexico, your experience would not be complete without a visit to the Gila River. Nestled within the Gila National Forest, this river offers a diverse and rich habitat for a variety of trout, most notably, the rare and native Gila trout.

Access Points

  • Gila National Forest entrance
  • Near designated campgrounds
  • Wilderness trails leading to the river

What You’ll Catch

  • Gila Trout: A prized catch native to the region
  • Rainbow Trout: Common and vibrant species
  • Brown Trout: A challenging but rewarding catch

Be mindful that the Gila trout is a special inhabitant of these waters, and its conservation status often specifies unique fishing regulations. Ensure that you check the latest guidelines to adhere to catch-and-release protocols or any seasonal restrictions.

Ideal Fishing Techniques

  • Dry Fly Fishing: Skating patterns on swift water
  • Nymphing: Exploring deeper pools and runs
  • Streamers: Targeting aggressive trout in turbulent sections

The Gila National Forest provides not only excellent opportunities for fly fishing but also breathtaking scenery that complements your angling. As you navigate the river’s course, you’ll find sections that vary from easy wading to more rugged, challenging areas that call for preparedness and agility.

To maximize your experience on the Gila River, plan your trip during the periods of spring or fall, as these times yield the highest activity for trout. Remember to respect the wilderness and leave no trace behind on your fishing journey.

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