It was a tax weekend for me, and because I had meetings in Albuquerque, my fishing opportunities were very limited. It was my original plan to get these taxes complete on Friday and fish the San Juan Saturday and Sunday. As usual, I had to postpone my trip. The tax process was a little slower than anticipated and I was rescheduled for Sunday. One day trips weren’t what the doctor ordered. I needed a quick, big fish fix.
I could’ve gone and chased stockers on the Jemez, but there isn’t anything “big” in that area until the fall. Although, the Guadalupe fishes well this time of year, I couldn’t justify waking up early for lazy Brown trout. Chasing stockers is not exactly what I look for, but if I was going to do it, why not just go big? That left me with only one choice, Tingley Beach. Hold your hisses and boo’s please. It’s all I had, and it isn’t very beach-like unless you consider the combination of water and coarse New Mexico sand. Quite frankly, I enjoy fishing there during the winter when there is 5′ of snow on the ground in my favorite places. Now, back to the story at hand. It was the perfect day to be outside, ask my sunburn, and I was quite chipper. A certain bounce in my step, birds were chirping, a guy on his bike was riding back and forth screaming the words of “In-A-Godda-Da-vida” as he passed. The place reminds me of a game of poker, you can bend the rules a bit, but the big payoff is when you play an honest game. This includes A: barbless hooks B: not using a “fly” that looks anything remotely resembling a food pellet C: Not slapping the water with your line making it sound like they are about to be fed and D: Not throwing food into the water directly followed by your fly. Yes, lots of people do ALL of these. Usually the place is quite busy, seeing around 20-30 people at any given moment, but today was slow. There were 4 of us. The water was cloudy and the fish were slow to bite at first. I changed flies a bunch, but to no avail. I decided to tie on the Beadhead Goose Biot, #18 originally tied for the deeper sections of the San Juan. Afterward, every fish that saw it, ate it.
I was having a blast catching fish, then 2 dogs came around and started sniffing around and barking at the back of my head. No fun. These two wandering beasts were followed (after about 20 minutes, doesn’t Albuquerque have a leash law?) by a girl. She was around my age and when she walked up, she started spewing to me her life story. Why? I have no idea. It has always been a dream of mine to find a girl while fly fishing, you know the old saying “catch of a lifetime”. I didn’t understand at the time, but she might have been hitting on me. Even worse, stalking me. I was so concentrated on fishing that I couldn’t reply much and the fact that she was vegan really didn’t help her case. After she awkwardly drifted away from the conversation I noticed that she was standing behind me, 20 feet removed, in the bushes. When I saw her there, she mysteriously, as was her approach, disappeared. Was it as creepy as it sounds? Yes. The rest of the pre-noon fishing went very well and above average. No 30 inchers today though. Maybe in December…
A late update: Looks like the San Juan is postponed until July or so. 50,000 6″ fish are mingling around in there.
I’ve been waiting for the weekend of the 1st of April since October 31st of last year. A trip to my favorite place in the world. It isn’t the size of fish that brings me here. It’s the type of fish. This foolish weekend is a tradition of sorts. My brother and I have a camping spot there that we accidentally left a couple of knives at in April of ’10. The spot is seemingly well used and upon our return in October, we found them. This year we will probably spend a little time trying to find other things we have left, and maybe leave something to find again in October. Traditionally, we camp and dine upon Cheddarwurst on skewers of local sticks snuggly wrapped in a flour tortilla. For us, the word “tortilla” is Spanish for “edible plate”. This trip is a major anticipation because of the secret snake that lives in the lake. Maybe it is surprising to some that this lake does not have brown trout in it. It does have a breed of Cutthroat that is really not supposed to be here. There isn’t even a hatchery in NM that creates these guys. If there ever was a stocking program for these fish, it would have to precede Rio Grande Cutthroat restorations in an attempt to have a more sturdy, high mountain fish population. Even if it were that, they only stocked the high mountains once every 2 years and most of the water in the area is private. I called NM Game and Fish on this one and they
seemed as baffled as I was. The NM fishing map doesn’t even list these cutthroat as being in this water. They figured it was a diluted and mutated Rio Grande strain. It is obviously not. Supposedly, Game and Fish has NEVER stocked cutthroat of any kind in this water and the remainder of last year was spent stocking Triploid Rainbows. Because of these fish, a great deal of my year will be dedicated to finding the other places in New Mexico that are holding them. Sometimes, I wish there were more of me. I try to pack in 10 years of fishing into 1 and it never works out. Maybe I should just cancel that San Juan trip in lieu of more vertical waters above the 8,000′ elevation mark. There is nothing like a rising Cutthroat… Did I mention that these fish are ultra aggressive? I wouldn’t be surprised if they ate a fish half their size.
If you find yourself in this area, be sure to know your fish. Check the throats of these fish for the red slashes and do us all a favor and release them, if you catch one you will know why I mention this. The area is under moderate pressure and are not caught often, but it would be fun to have an area in New Mexico with big Cutbows like the Taylor. These fish are native to the united states and exotic to New Mexico and the river system that contains them is far from the Rio Grande Cutthroat and does not drain into the same river systems or threaten the Gila population. I say leave them be, they are thriving here and this is the perfect place for cutbows that do not threaten any other native or protected population.
Lesson #5: Just because you are standing next to or in the water doesn’t mean you won’t get thirsty.