The Cimarron is a small mountain tailwater flowing out of Eagle Nest Lake. Even though the Cima is a tailwater it fishes and looks much more like a classic freestone mountain stream. The Cima features riffles, pockets, bend pools, undercut banks and beaver ponds. There are approximately 9 miles of public access in the Cimarron Canyon State Park. Doc has access to about 3 miles of uncrowded private water on the Cimarron available for fly fishing guide trips. These private waters tend to be the most consistent fly fishing in Northern New Mexico from May through October.
The Cimarron is one of the healthiest wild brown trout fisheries in New Mexico and the entire Southwest with nearly 4,000 catchable size trout per mile. New Mexico Game and Fish does stock some rainbows in the Cimarron Canyon State Park. Typical trout size is 10-14 inches with the occasional larger trout.
The Cimarron fishes from early May through October. April and November are the fringe months but can deliver some nice surprises. Noted hatches include Golden Stoneflies and various mayflies in June. Mid July through August sees good Trico Mayflies and Caddis along with some terrestrials. From September into October there is a fun Baeitis BWO hatch. The Cima is one of those small rivers that is a blast to fly fish, don’t underestimate it.
Rod selections for fly fishing the Cimarron are 7.5 to 8.5 foot 3-4 weights. Recommended leader size is 7.5 foot 4X or 5X, and tippets from 4X down to 6X. Hip or chest waders work well, wet wading is an option if you don’t mind brush. Expect to fish dry flies, dry-droppers and the occasional nymph.
The Rio Costilla is a classic high mountain meadow stream in far Northern New Mexico, near the NM/CO border. Two main public fishing access sections of the Rio Costilla combine for over 12 miles public fishing. The Valle Vidal section of the Carson National forest is the upper most public stretch and immediate downstream is The Rio Costilla Cattle and Livestock Association (RCCLA) public access. Doc has access to a mile of private water on the Cottonwood Meadow Ranch.
The Rio Costilla is one of the few public fisheries in Northern New Mexico to fly fish for native Rio Grande Cutthroat trout, a rare cutthroat specie that inhabits less than 10% of it’s original home waters. There are also cuttbows, the occasional rainbow, brown and brookie in the Costilla. The trout aren’t large however lots of fun; beware these are the fastest trout in the west and strike like a Nolan Ryan fastball.
The Valle Vidal Rio Costilla is only open July 1-December 31, to protect the cutthroat spawn and elk calving. The RCCLA Rio Costilla doesn’t have a fixed season but starts fishing in mid May. Both stretches typically slow down in late September. Noted hatches on the Costilla include hoppers from July to mid September. Various stoneflies in the early season, caddisflies and multiple mayflies July through September.
Ideal fly rods for fishing the Costilla are 8.5 to 9 foot 3-4 weights. The Costilla can be fun to fish with Tenkara. Suggested leader size is 7.5 foot 4X or 5X, tippets from 4X to 5X. Hip and chest waders work well, wet wading is an option but the high elevation means cooler temps. Expect to fish dry flies and dry-n-droppers.
RED RIVER AND LOWER RED RIVER
The Red River originates in the Wheeler Peak Wilderness Area above Red River, NM. The Red is New Mexico’s largest tributary to the Rio Grande. There are two distinct sections on the Red River, the Upper Red and the Lower Red.
The Upper Red River flows along Highway 586 and continues through the town of Red River. This section is heavily stocked with rainbows and has wild browns. The Upper Red fishes June through September but receives amazing fishing pressure from anything goes to fly fishing.
The Lower Red River is a 4-5 mile stretch from Questa, NM to the confluence with the Rio Grande. This wild canyon section features pocket water, riffles, plunge pools and short deep runs. Easier access is at the Red River Fish Hatchery parking lot, ideal for a half day. The better fly fishing requires hiking down one of two trails in the Wild and Scenic Rivers Area of the Rio Grande, west of Questa, NM. Fishing the Lower Red is physical, pay your health insurance.
Wild brown trout and some rainbows averaging 10-14 inches inhabit the Lower Red plus a few 15-16 inchers. In the winter nice cuttbows migrate into the Lower Red from the Rio Grande. The main fly fishing season is September through mid April, with fall and spring being best. The summer can be hit or miss with runoff and rain.
Ideal fly rods for the Red are 8-8.5 foot, 4-5 weights. Leaders include 7.5 foot 3X to 4X, tippets from 3X down to 5X. Hip or chest waders work, wet wading is possible. Expect to fish dry-droppers and nymphs.
The Rio Grande and the Gorge in the Rio Grande del Norte National Monument is approximately 70 miles long. The Rio flows into Northern New Mexico from Colorado. The Rio flows west of Questa, NM, passes Taos toward Velarde, NM. Distinct sections of the Rio include the Wild and Scenic Rivers Recreation Area, The Middle Box, Taos Box and Lower Box. Most fishing requires physical hiking to get in and out of the Gorge. Easier access can be found at the John Dunn Bridge west of Arroyo Hondo, NM, and the Orilla Verde Recreational Area along Highway 570 in Pilar, NM.
The main fly fishing attraction to the Rio is the unique wild river characteristics of deep pockets, big pools, deep runs and riffles. Trout species include wild browns, cuttbows and rainbows. Most trout average 10-14 inches but we do see some 16-18+ inchers when the Rio is on. Some stretches of the Rio hold pike, carp and smallmouth bass
The Rio is finicky and grumpy like an old house cat or old fly fishing guide. The main fishing season is September through mid November when flows are lower and temperatures cooler. The fall months see hoppers and good Baetis mayflies. Some years April has a great fishable caddis hatch but most years it has runoff.
Fly rods for trout include 9-10 foot 4-6 weights. Leaders include 9 foot 2X to 4X, tippets sizes 3X to 4X. Chest waders are best, wet wading is an option. Wading is dangerous on the Rio, please wade cautiously. Expect to fish dry-droppers and a combination of nymphing and streamer techniques.
Private water is a great way to make the most of your guided day trips on the water. The advantages include less fishing pressure, managed for fly fishing, and healthier fish compared to public water. Doc and High Country Anglers has access to many miles of private water on different streams for day trips. Below are some private water options for New Mexico fly fishing guide trips.
Doc and High Country Anglers has access to 3+ miles of private water on the Cimarron. The Lower Cardinal and Upper Cardinal offer a wide range of water characteristics and are considered some of the most consistent fly fishing in New Mexico from May through October. The Cita is a stretch Doc was first to guide and has been guiding it since 1995. The Holy Water is the half plus mile of the Cimarron immediately downstream of Eagle Nest Dam.