Blistering Wind and a Lonely River (Wild and Scenic Pt:1)

Caddis pupa and cranefly larva ready to go

I can’t think of a better evening than one spent at home tying flies, drinking a beer, and ordering out for pizza. Well, I can, but let’s at least put this in the top 3. Earlier in the week, AZ Wandering’s latest post really got me in the mood for some stream born fish. Then, of Dry Flies & Fat Tires suggested that I check on the caddis hatch in the Rio Grande.  That kills 2 birds with one stone. Also, it kills a third bird that is the possibility of a big 20″ brute.


Day one alarm buzzed at 4am telling me that the early bird isn’t fast enough to get the worm that was eaten by the early fish. Poor, sad hungry bird. With a swoosh, I was off to the river. Two and one-half hours, a cold pizza breakfast, coffee, and an energy drink later, I had arrived. The trip seems a lot shorter than it actually is. The longest part of the drive is from Abq to Santa Fe on I-25. If you have a problem with road rage, find a detour.

A low and mighty Rio Grande

When I arrived at the river some of the fish were already splashing the surface and this fueled my fire as I tied my rig up. My first cast received a strike that pulled my 3/4″ indicator at least 10′ upstream before I even reacted. Whatever this fish was, it was going full steam ahead before and after it took my fly. Needless to say, I missed the fish and stood there confounded. Only twice did this happen and I missed both times. The mystery fish will have to wait (I have an idea of what it was). The word of the day was most definitely subtle. Small twitches from the indicator revealed the first fish of the day. Subtle strikes in this river are nearly impossible to detect due to the undercurrents and general rough nature of the river.

The first fish of the day

Further up the river

Living within this river, it isn’t hard to believe that the fish grow very strong. The fights were unmatched and I know I was only catching the mid-sized fish. There must have been 10lb+ trout somewhere, but where? I hiked for hours up the river, spot fishing likely places on the way. It is not an easy trip to hike and probably the most difficult I have had. The long deep pools weren’t producing for me, so I decided that I could cover more water by fishing the deep runs. In other words, more hiking than fishing. The area is very scary as far as danger goes, from rattlesnakes to deep holes in the water that may exceed 30′. One of the many reasons wading isn’t the best idea, but you may find that they are needed in some areas.

The wind began to pick up around 10am and I was content with the fish I had caught. Content enough to find a place outside of the 50mph+ winds. That place would be Red River. The canyon winds enough to create shelter in some areas, oh yeah, they have trees there as well. I first pulled off by the hatchery and the wind was still fairly rough but moving upstream. Leaving me to hang back and highstick 20-30′ in front of me without casting. There, I hooked into numerous little browns 3-6″ and knew why. A bit too close to the parking lot. Weather was moving in and it was getting late so hiking down the Red River would land me stuck in a canyon in the cold and rain, with the possibility of a swelling river.

Lately, I have heard reports that the upper Red River was “turning on” and with all of the pressure the lower section has had, it was worth a shot. I pulled up to the Fawn Lakes campground (which was still closed) and the snow began to fall. My car told me that it was 27°F, far cooler than the 65° I had been fishing about 20 minutes prior. This section of river always provided me with fish in the past and is usually the test water before I head to the quality water. Higher pressure means the fish are slightly more picky and finding your bug here guarantees fish in the quality section. I switched flies from the caddis pupa to a bug that I had tied for the Rio de las Vacas and it paid off quickly.

Skittish fish

You would think they grew more over the winter

The cool thing about the upper Red River this time of year are the holdover rainbow trout. Smarter stockers from last year grow a bit more and become more willing to take natural foods. The sun had set behind the canyon and was setting on the horizon and the light I had left was fading quickly. After catching a few fish, I decided to make my way back to the car and stop at one more hole on the way.

They mostly come out at night... mostly.

The day was complete indeed. A good day was used scouting the area for more possible adventures in the future. Because of the rain and snow, it was decided that the passenger seat of my car would be my place of rest for the evening. Who knows what the coming day would bring. I did know that my day would begin again on the Rio Grande, but maybe it would move elsewhere. To be continued…

4 responses to “Blistering Wind and a Lonely River (Wild and Scenic Pt:1)

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