Tag Archives: New Mexico Fly Fishing

Mud, Guts and Glory

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Fly fishing is for the sophisticated, the rich, the people who define class. As Johnny Cash would say, “They’re probably drinking coffee (whiskey) and smokin’ big cigars”. For most of us, this could not be further from the truth. Well, maybe coffee and cigars… People tend to view fly fisherman as a fine sort, a lot are, but most fly fisherman get down and dirty. Even further down the line, a select few get downright muddy. No matter how you try to glorify it and put it on the pedestal for those who only fish dry flies, the attempt can only be futile. Those who are “trout only” turn their noses and think of you as living in a sod house as they say, “Oh, I’ve heard that can be fun”. Please, allow me to get my straw hat, flannel shirt (or no shirt), and overalls. It is time you finally went a carpin’.

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The trip started out as a normal seven mile exploratory search around the lake shore. I was looking for trout who have remained unpressured for years along a section far too dangerous for boats. Fishing went very well, almost good enough to write about. I’m sure that you are reading this because you are not interested in 20″ trout. Right? On my way back, I found shallow water and saw fins drifting amongst the waves. I have read about this before. They call it the “freshwater bonefish” because you can see their fins moving about the surface, doing whatever it is that carp do. At times they would hurl their bulky bodies into the air so far that I would wonder how. Super-carp, that is the only reasonable answer. I stood in the mud awestruck, thinking how I could catch a beast like this. Digging through my fly boxes, I remembered tying a fly that I deemed curious looking. The Backstabber. Why? I have no idea. What does it look like? Well, like a classic poem, it is up for interpretation. In fact, you are wasting precious carp fishing time trying to figure it out. Buy one (or a dozen) and fish it.

Please take some time to read this letter that I am sending to the creator of the Backstabber.

Dear Jay Zimmerman,
You are the man!
Thanks,
David

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Where was I… Oh yeah! The brilliance of the fly is unparralelled. The secret is in the physics. Eyes on top of the hook shank put added torque on the fly to make it ride hook point up, but if you affix dumbbell eyes without any dressing, it will lay on its side. The marabou is what aligns the hook vertically, no matter how it lands in the water, it will right itself on the bottom. If you play with this fly in the sink, or take it with you to play with in the bathtub, you will clearly see what this fly is all about. It is a delivery mechanism for a hook to ride point up cleverly disguised as a… ummm… Well, whatever it looks like, a carp is about to be bamboozled. Think about it. Carp, mouth down. Backstabber, hook up.

I tied on the fly and in seconds I was into fish. Time began running away and I was still a mile away from my car. A mile through the mud. It was dark and I had caught more carp than I could fit into a couple hours of fishing. I was bursting with joy and excitement. I had to tell my friends. I received the typical blow off from some and others gave me a heck yeah, but one remained keenly interested. Sure enough, he’s English. A man who goes by the name Adrian, who happens to be a fellow guide. We had loosely planned a trip to chase these fish around the flats, but never really got around to it. In the mean time, I continued fishing after work until sunset, giving carp their daily workout. Also catching those pesky trout and pike.spotless rainbowpiked

The day finally came where Adrian and I both had some free time. We hiked down to the ol’ carp hole to give it a whirl. I told him that he would and showed him how to fish the fly. In no time, I saw a bent rod out of the corner of my eye. I smiled, knowing his feeling. “Absolutely incredible”, Those were his first words upon landing it. I needed no other words. I knew. I had spread the disease of the grungy fisherman.

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The moral of the story is (if you are still reading), if your friends make fun of you for carp fishing, you need new friends. It takes guts and a strong forearm, the payoff is glory even if it is just in your own head. This post is out of the norm for me, but the only life changing thing about carp fishing is catching carp. I’ll take the easy way out and post a big carp picture.

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20/20 Hindsight, Foresight Perscription Needed

Trail maps usually list the length of the trail followed by the difficulty. In this case, things seemed normal. There were three levels of difficulty; Easy, Moderate, and Difficult. The map showed “Trail: 1.2 Miles; Difficulty: Difficult; Elevation Change: 800 Feet”. In my mind it said, “Trail: 1.2 Miles“… A walk in the park. In New Mexico, every single element here is out to kill you. There is no soft cushion of grass or a nice tree limb out there to hold you up when you fall. If there is, there is a rattlesnake in that grass and a black widow in that tree. I had forgotten what an unrelenting place this is. Soft and well worn Colorado spoiled me. No worries about cactus and yucca, just big wide trails. Colorado does have some tough trails made for equally tough people. I know trails that have taken lives. Each time I hit a “trail” in New Mexico, I find myself surprised. However, it is no surprise to me that the fishing a quarter of a mile upstream is so good, if you make it alive.

the steep climb

Looking over the map, lights turned green and I was off with haste. Within 5 minutes I was bleeding and suffering from a twisted ankle. 10 minutes, torn shirt and bruised elbow. 1 hour, soaked from the shoulder down. 1 hour and 10 seconds, the smile on my face would not go away. As I chased fish too big for the stream down river, I dropped into holes that instantly dropped four to five feet from ankle deep. I was wet and sore, bleeding and smiling, cold and thinking.

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Losing track of time is not alright when you are deep in a canyon. The sun sets at five and sunset is closer to six, giving a false idea of how much light you have left. With the idea that the trail is 1.2 miles, I poked around the stream a fraction of a bit too long, the fishing was almost too good. Before long, I was fishing in the actual sunset and light faded quickly. Not knowing where exactly I was, I figured simply hiking up the steep hill behind me would reveal the trail. A shortcut, back country style. When I could see the point, to my right, there was also another parking lot. I had hiked in well over a mile upstream. I remembered passing a large dead ponderosa and could see it in the distance, but light was fading fast. It was time to put the screws to the hike. Scrambling over sage and cactus, the incline began to become steeper with each step. Then again, the burning in my legs could have simulated the effect.

When in peril, sunsets begin to fade exponentially. The same can be said about life. They say that just before you die, your life flashes before your eyes. I began to think that if your life flashes before your eyes like the fading twilight, the time is not nearly long enough. Before I die, I want to relive my life entirely or not at all. Every scratch, bruise, the time I crashed my bike for the first time, when I laid in some long lost trail for hours not able to move on, the heartbreaks, and every moment in between. They also say hindsight is 20/20, but no matter how well we can see something we can not feel it, nor can we bring it back. If we planned it all to work out perfectly in the end, where would we be in life. If we saw the future, we would know what to expect and every moment leading to that one event and would be diminished by knowing. I had found my old tree. It came to me then, the tree never asked to be in this place. It just happened to tumble here and take root. Such is life. We can plan and make goals, but our actions do not make our future position. Our lives are one big beautiful tumbling accident. Sometimes, we take root and grow where we never expected. If we try to change it, our roots will be in sand and we will not be able to grow to our full potential.

under


…And Then, There Was Chaos

clouds_edited-1There is no order without chaos, or at least that is how the old adage plays. As silly as it may sound, this statement is not as confounding as people make it out to be. It is not the age old question of the chicken or the egg. In fact, as philosophies evolve, we often realize that some things can not be put under the microscope to be analyzed. Often, our energy is often spent more efficiently and wisely elsewhere. Frankly, the statement of order and chaos is just that, a statement. Some tend to get lost in the definition of it all. Lost in some kind of philosophical wormhole of paradoxical bliss. We find the answer is still the statement, because the statement is the answer. We should really be asking what the question is.

Waking up on the wrong side of the river (in the city) comes with complications that I have yet to find a friendly relationship with. To bring a good example to light, traffic. As much as the highway seems like a river, it is far from behaving anything like one. It goes both up and down hills and generally breaks all of the rules that Newton set into stone. These were my thoughts as I drove to work, preparing a fake smile to people who expected it. Life had become a pattern. A pattern with very limited time to accomplish the things that I wanted. I watched people following the same pattern, some in love with that life, some just continuing on because they assume there is no other choice. Something had to give.

Around lunch I received a text, “Are you coming this weekend?”  Even though it was only a question, I had to say yes. I did this to force myself out of a pattern that I had grown so used to. Such a dry life spent waiting for days off to fish. The only excitement in my life was found drifting the fly down a mildly tumultuous path to serve as a platter for the upscale type of fish. After my fun had been spent, the situation became real again and it was back to the pattern. My escape plan had been forged into an alchemists dream. Twenty-four hours to move from Colorado Springs to Taos.IMGP0814

After work, I packed my things to travel to greener pastures. Pastures that weren’t really green at all. Pastures who are more of a conglomeration of sand, mountains, and water. I knew the cut in pay, I knew that it might mean longer hours, I knew there might be less time on the water, at the very least I would be talking fishing. This was the means to dedicate myself more to the sport and restoration, more time to write, more time to be creative, more time to live. There is no paycheck in the world that could take me away. After four hours of driving through mountains with snow-packed roads and police pulling stranded citizens from the side of the road in unrelenting snow, I had arrived at my new home. Taos, New Mexico. The land of milk and honey… Or maybe just art and fly fishing. btcolor

Now, a month has gone by and my trout senses are reset to New Mexico. The chaos and dust has settled. In the midst of it all, I have still found a way to fish being only 20 minutes away from great water. Through all of the chaos, life just ironed itself out. Around every turn, every hiccup that may have ended in disaster, it all worked out and life hangs in the balance of chaos and order. Chaos that seems to settle if life continues to follow the path of the river. Tumultuous, yet controlled by mother nature. I’ll continue drifting this canyon until my time comes to reach the ocean.IMGP0880


There’s No Place Like Home

Home is a very multifarious word. In one way, it can simply mean the place where you sleep. In other, more complex terms, it has to do with a place to go for deep love and comfort. It is the type of place where you can take a deep breath and relax without thinking about anything in particular at all. Home is the place to reset and retrieve what you lost while you were away. Maybe it is the smell of fresh baked bread and cookies, or the “fresh baked bread and cookies” scented candle you lit before you left. When you do return home, those cookies are there, waiting. No matter how you look at the word, it usually suggests a sense of well-being and calm. At least, this is the way I am suggesting for the purpose of this post.

Vacation was coming. I was about to have five days to spend with family in a familiar locale. At work, my mind drifted off into the past adventures that my family took to New Mexico before we finally moved there in the summer of 1993. Those were long road trips that my brother and I somehow managed to not be killed by my parents for being outright annoying. Although, we were left alone in the desert on a dirt road somewhere in between Thoreau and Farmington. As my brother and I began contemplating survival in the Bisti, my parents hit the brakes and let us back into that red S-10. When I think about it, my brother and I almost had the survival thing figured out and we had only been there for ten seconds at the most. We didn’t know at the time, but almost twenty five-years later, we would be in the same place with a different directive. Fish.

Christmas traditions have only changed slightly in the Goodrich household over the years. My mother still bugs me to take a shower before opening presents, my brother still giddy at the sight of a well-lit Christmas Tree, my father floating around plotting nefarious Christmas antics and somehow hiding the largest gifts. In fact, only a few things have changed. The tree isn’t real anymore and the stockings are no longer filled to the brim with matchbox cars and candy (which I am surprised that my mother has not replaced with bananas and apples). The biggest change has been the characters. People have come and gone (mostly women [mostly mine]), but one new addition is due to stick around. She is my brother’s soon to be wife. I’m not sure about the official status, but she calls me “brother-in-law”. While smiles were created from tearing paper and the joy of being around family, I told my brother that I wanted to take him fishing. Without skipping a beat, Evangeline said, “Yes!”

I have never stood in a river with my brother. Our time is usually spent throwing leeches at smallmouth in the summer or fishing from the banks of lakes in search of carp. He can fly fish, and he does, it just isn’t his preference. Since his fiance has been wanting him to teach her how to fly fish and all the lakes were beginning to freeze over, I finally had the upper hand. I saw excitement in their eyes as they commenced floating around the fly shop while I purchased some last minute items and waders for them. An excitement that would bleed into the next day.

We were hoping to arrive at the river early, a departure time of 6am was set. In all actuality, when my brother and I set plans they are loose. We both knew that we didn’t want to be up there in the cold for too terribly long and we both know New Mexico mornings. Outside the apartment, the car warmed up for a solid hour before we actually left on the long, boring stretch of road between Thoreau and Farmington. It began to snow as we told stories of past fishing trips and built up the day of fishing to come. Evangeline loves stories, and most of the trip was about telling them. Nate (brother) goading me the whole way. If there was ever a moment of silence, he would say, “Hey Dave, tell her about that one time…”

After getting some cigars for Evangeline, it was time to fish. My brother and I expected the worst. Sometimes the San Juan is cruel. Not that the fishing is ever really bad, but between the temperamental weather in the winter and the biting insects in the summer, it makes fishing a bit difficult. Today, the high was 29 with a slight wind. It was something my brother and I are used to, but today we had a first timer with us. There is nothing worse than getting skunked in the cold with 2 people so drawn to fishing that they will stop at nothing to continue fishing throughout the day. After rigging both of the up with the “Hail Mary” and teaching Evangeline to cast, it was only a matter of minutes before they were catching fish.

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The snow began to fall as well as the peace that comes with it. That muffled tone made everything more silent, more alive. The water seemed to thicken with the chill. Our lines sliced flakes as they soared through the air, we continued on despite the cold, driven by fish and a mysterious addiction. There is a new fly fisherman in the making now. It is a long, long road of fulfillment. One that, before she met my brother, she swore that she would never.

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After my vacation was over, I drove back to Colorado. I thought about that day on the river and the joy it brought. I thought about how the river makes me feel wanted and comfortable. Although my family has their home, that home is my home away from home. It may seem odd for me to say this, but a tree along a riverbank  makes a good place to hang your hat. The river is my home, no matter where it runs. The next day at work, I found  myself clicking my heels together chanting. “There’s no place like home.”

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The Tragedy

I love the solitude that mountains bring. The fresh cool air flowing through the trees from the alpine areas, the solitude, the quiet. There is only so much lonely fishing a guy can take though. So when the time comes to teach a newcomer to the sport, I will raise my hand and be the first to volunteer. Last year in Denver, I thought it would be a good idea to impart my love for fishing upon my long time friend, John. It didn’t take long for John to get casting down and took only minutes to get his first fish. I remember the moment well. I had taught him to cast and never really covered my bases for him to land a fish on his own. He eventually got the fish in and landed it, but his fear of killing fish by squeezing the life out of them still haunts him to this day. Not that he does, he just feels that they are quite fragile. I assume that he loves the sport by now, having his own rig, asking me to teach him to tie his own flies, randomly texting me while I’m on my own fishing trip, asking me what flies to use, etc. Recently he taught his brother Joe to fish as well. When I caught wind of this newcomer, I had to give him a call and plan a fun trip to some easy water. On the weekend of our planned trip, John decided he would fly into New Mexico for some “better than Colorado” fishing (John did not say this, I am adding this statement because for some reason it was, that is, when we were not in Co.). This was Joe’s first real trip out into moving water and John’s first real taste of what New Mexico really has to offer. Leaving me as the only guy with experience enough to help them out. Dave (me) plays guide but still fishes. Joe also brought his son Jace, who was so excited to go fishing that he waited in the truck for hours while we gathered ourselves and our equipment. I didn’t even know where he was, although I did know that he was going. Even when Joe got in the truck to leave, I asked if he had forgotten his son. This day, it was decided that Cabresto Creek would be our hunting ground. When we arrived and the area was closed, the Red River was a good second choice. A solid 0 fish on the first day was a great way to start. The only way to go was up. I did catch 2 mini fish on the first day, but I’m not really counting those because… Well, you know. We had arrived late and the chances of catching fish in the way over pressured section of water were slim. I figured that I could get into fish late in the day because in the past it has rewarded me greatly. Not this time though. Setting up Joe’s house tent was pretty simple and suited the four of us well and comfortably, for the rest of the evening we were sawing logs in the tent. I was contently dreaming of the day to come.

For me, day 2 started at 6am. I was off to the river to find the bugs that would work before waking the rest of the crew and heading to quality water. I was in such a hurry, that I forgot my camera. A nice brown and a couple other trout went home without a mug shot. After we gathered again, we packed the campsite and headed up river into the less choked water. It didn’t take long for me to start the catching and keep catching, when finally, John reminded me that this trip was more for Joe and Jace than either of us. This was the part when I was disallowed from fishing. While trying to assist joe, I lent him my 8wt. that I was currently using. If you are curious about why I’m fishing an 8wt in a 100cfs stream, the answer is that John didn’t bring his rig and I loaned out the 5wt to him. Why would I use my 5wt for this? Well, it’s my only other rod. I’m not a rich man. Joe slung the 8wt with as much grace as one can have while trying to pinch off 6′ of line with a rod not meant to do it, and boom! Fish on! Not just any fish either. A very healthy rainbow. Needless to say, some ties were donated to Joe, John, and Jace.

From there on out, it was like fish in a barrel, or fish in a crowded stream.

Stream born AND picky

Jace even got some action, with the biggest brook trout of the day!

Fly fishing's future

When the day was over, it was time to move on. Eagle Nest, too windy; Cimmaron, too crowded and pressured; Sugarite Canyon, just right. We arrived late enough in the day to be too late for campsites, but we still managed to find some in other places across the border. Hello Colorado! We decided it wasn’t late enough in the day to miss out on the fishing and back to Lake Maloya we went! The fishing was amazing if you include perch in your fly fishing diet. As fun as they were to catch, they slowly became irritating. Then, John received a couple twitches on his indicator and set the hook. “I think it’s small” he said as he worked in the biggest brown I have seen in a long time.

This fish came hunting perch.

Day 3 was by far the most incredible fishing I have had this year. Lake Dorothy. Go ahead and cringe at the release of this location. There is a reason I decided to let this info out later. Dorothy is a very under fished and over populated lake. Texans usually stay on the New Mexico side and it is a very short hike to the very well hidden lake in Colorado. These fish were the strongest fish I have EVER fought in my life. We’re talking putting a healthy bend in an 8wt rod, breaking your line from tension alone, and jumping 5′ out of the water. Once the pattern was worked out, my fighting arm was tired before midday. John and Joe both caught their fair share of fish as well and I commend them for the task of getting even one of these fish landed. There was even a point in the day where Joe caught fish on every cast for a short time. I’m really proud of these guys for catching so many fish.

The over-sized tail made this fish that much harder to fight.

Lake dwelling acrobats!

Now for the incredibly sad part of the story. I smelled smoke toward midday and wondered if it was a fire or just the wind carrying Wallow Fire smoke up into the canyon. Later in the day, Joe looked back and saw a plume of smoke. After a few hours, we went to break down the campsite and the smoke was high in the sky and black. At first it seemed to be in the canyon. When we got to the tent, it was folded up from the wind and falling apart. The rods holding the tent upright had kinked over and failed. Struggling with unpacking and hoping that the fire wasn’t in the canyon, we rushed to get things put away. As we finished packing, a man came down from the road and panicked about how there was a fire in the canyon. On his way back up, he informed us that he couldn’t see the road down by Lake Maloya. As wrong as he was, we still think that he was a rancher from not too far away. If this was the case, I wish him the best and hope his home was not taken in the fire. As we passed through Sugarite for the last time anyone will ever see the true beauty of the canyon, we realized that the canyon had been evacuated. Everyone but us, at the lake around the corner that was quite possibly the best high country lake I have ever fished. The giant ponderosa pines of Lake Dorothy stood once as old men, rising from the banks to heights that seemed to feed upon the clouds. The grass was once a lush and green carpet as their only purpose in life seemed to be hanging prismatic dew from their droopy tips. There are no words to describe the uniqueness of the area. Just a handful of memories and maybe a few unbelievable stories in the future. Not only was it a time for change in the forest, it was a time for change in my world as well.

The fire had started just north of Raton and closed I-25. In fact, I-25 is still closed as I write this. Since our day in the mountains, Sugarite has burned, but many memories were made. We were there when it was amazing. This may not be the case in the future. Our hearts go out to all of those that have lost their homes in the Track Fire as well as the Wallow Fire that has claimed almost 500,000 acres now. I hope that you visited one of the largest ponderosa forests in the world before it caught fire. Both fires were caused by very irresponsible people. Sometimes a 6 month prison sentence isn’t enough.


Dr. Livingstone, I Presume?

The headline is something both Mike and I should have used as a greeting when meeting up before our expedition into The Wild. Mike runs the blog “of Dry Flies & Fat Tires” and has done his fair share of inspiring me to go galavanting around the state through his blog. This time, I ride with him, not living vicariously through his tales of grandeur.

The day started off strange, smoke filled the sky and painted the sun a dim red-orange. Maybe it was a sign of things to come. Slightly awestruck, I didn’t realize that the road trip had come to an end. It was a day of vibrant colors, even the grass was an exceptional hue of green that shouldn’t be this time of year. After a short talk of things and the state of the day, we were off into some water that Mike knew and I may or may not have been. The local mosquito population seemed to be focused on me, and again, no repellent. During our hike up the skinny water, we noticed that something was wrong. No fish in really fishy holes and a general lack of fish. I even tested the spooking theory by casting across shoreline and over grass to no avail. A short discussion later and the trip turned from pristine meadow fishing on a simple back country hike to an expedition worthy of Livingstone’s search for middle Africa.

The steep canyon hike was difficult enough without the thousands of dead trees slowing us even further.  Or as Mike put it, “scramble over deadfalls, around rockpiles, through thickets, rattlesnake dens, landmine fields, broken glass, and finally, legions of TSA screeners”

The terrain shifted and below us lay the river. I’m not really used to fishing meadows and open water, the cascades and pools were more my turf. I was home.

Mike showed his expert skills and hooked up with the first fish on this section of water while I was down river and the lack of life in the last river was easily offset by the abundance of life in this one.

Mike's mad skills

The hike was well worth every step with the river filled to the brim with cutthroats that seemed fairly pure. In fact, not a single Rainbow was pulled from this section by either mike or myself. Crazy talk you say? It was!

A strange RGCT color, but unique!

Lightning fast!

We were easily into fish from this point on, but the fishing wasn’t as easy as it seemed. I was losing more fish than I landed for some reason and it seemed that the fish going for my flies were fired from a crossbow, darting out at full speed from 5 feet away.

There was a point where I stood on a log jam watching Mike’s fly drift downstream when 2 fish locked on target and slowly moved in for the kill when out of nowhere, the largest fish of the day attacked his fly.

How Mike attains hero status

Note: The can on my back are my batteries, not cashews. Photo by Mike at of Dry Flies & Fat Tires

The rest of the days fishing was rather eventful with I would say 20-30 fish for each of us (my guess would put Mike a bit higher on the number). The trip was incredibly timed, arriving back at what some might consider a trail in enough time to get back before dark. Quite frankly, I think I speak for both of us when I say that we were also spent.

It didn’t end there either. This trail looked like the rest of the forest. There was no real path back, forcing Mike to use his “Keen Map Reading Skills” to lead us back to where we dropped in. Thank goodness we made it back with me still in tact. I was a guest on the expedition, making me the food source in the case of becoming stranded.

Again, a very special thanks to Mike for the trip! Great guy and excellent fisherman. If you want to read about this trip through his eyes, go here. Enjoy!

For me, this was the highlight of the day... and week... possibly decade.

Lesson 10: When an animal looks injured, be aware, it could spring up at a moments notice. 


The Unknown Soldier

With all the news, bickering, and controversy surrounding war, it’s hard for anyone to write about the people that serve. Side-steeping the topic and relating it to fishing is my goal here. Being memorial day and all I thought it would be a good idea to relate the two subjects. I think I speak for everyone when I say thank you to the people that have served in any war. To the people who go out and fight and die for ideals that some may not even fully understand, we wish you and your families all the best.

The “front range” of New Mexico is littered with tons of private land. When you hear “not the side that you get shot at”, when being directed to a fishing spot, the “front range” is that side. Well, it just so happens that all of the best fishing in the state is hidden over there. Guarded by fences, these property owners do not allow forest road easements to the national forest behind their land. This makes a national forest one giant back yard. It also allows fish to massively over-populate streams and lakes in the area. Not just any fish either. You may think that Brown, Rainbow, Brook, Gila, Lake, and Rio Grande Cutthroat are the only trout available to fishermen here. That is not the case. The Canadian river is not known for it’s trout. In fact, it takes the long way out of NM across Texas and Oklahoma to find it’s way to the Mississippi river and drains out to the gulf of mexico. If you can imagine 5 million years ago, this system did in fact exist, but how did cutthroat trout get there? You guessed it, we put them there. There could’ve been a long lost fish, but I’m sure it’s long gone. At either rate, we still have a cutthroat on that side of the mountains. A cutthroat of the Snake River variety (if it was my choice, I would’ve gone with Lahontan, but who am I). If NM Game and Fish read that, do it, there are no trout at risk here. This weekend I was out hunting for the unknown soldier.

Snake river cutthroat can dominate a river system, they grow very quickly and quite large. State records are anywhere from 17 to 23 lbs. Ours is unknown. We do not differentiate sub-species. My personal best was about 3-4 lbs not huge, but big for a “wild” fish in NM. (see “A Foolish culmination of thoughts”) I was supposed to go to a lake in the back country, but the wind held me down. I ended up at a more local lake. A lake that is way overstocked for it’s size seeing at least 7,000 new fish this year alone. However, even though it is overstocked the fish still get very large very quickly. The morning of day 2 into the trip brought me an average of about 15″ from the fish put there directly after ice-out. The rainbows here are grayscale and boring looking, but what they lack in color, they make up in fight. I’m very sure these fish were raised on steroids and cocaine, or maybe they take after the local inhabitants of the lake. Due to the violent outbursts, I didn’t get many photos. This one really covers them all though… just plain silver.

Feisty, and a pain to photograph.

As for the cutthroat, it wasn’t a monster, but it was the only one I caught out of around 30 other fish that day. Hopefully people keep pulling stockers out with powerbait so when I return in the fall, I’ll have a better chance at them.

Always a cool fish somewhere...

Lesson #9: Sometimes the ambiguous Woolly Bugger works for no apparent reason, but somehow trout seem to recognize them as a food source.


Post Apocalyptic High Country Fishing

It was the 21st. May 21st. Day one of the end of the world. My bags were already packed to go fishing, unaware that this could be the last day. What a day to spend fishing though, right? Onward to the high country, 10,000’+ to be exact (yes, New Mexico has those too). All year my flabby x-mas muscles have been yelling at me to do some more extreme hiking than walking 50′ (or more than a mile) from my car. My newly arrived spare tire was also a big reminder that I needed to get up and go, taunting me with future fat jokes.

Apocalypse bag. Complete with waders and boots attached.

The time was 4:00 am. Just enough time to make it and hike down by sunrise. That would happen in a perfect world, thank goodness that things are never perfect. After a 3 hour drive over a road that should never be driven over in a car, I arrived at the “pitchfork”. From what I have heard, the section of water below “probably hasn’t been fished in 50 years”. I used the trail and hiked 1.5 miles into the canyon with so much excitement, I might as well have been skipping, I was already singing whatever song popped into my head. If a man is singing in the forest and no one is around to see him, does he make a sound? The wind was howling through the trees and I couldn’t hear if I was approaching the river. On a side note, this hurricane force wind stuff is really starting to get on my nerves. As the wind rang through my head, I repeated, “one more turn, it’s just around the corner”. There it was. Beaming in all of it’s glory. Showing granite floors through crystalline water. I sat down on a rock to catch my breath and peel the camelback, which seemed to take up a permanent residence, from my back.

Told you the water was clear.

This place was a utopia for me as well as the fish and as I began to flip rocks, it seemed to say oppositely for the fish. Rock after rock, the river was devoid of a food source. After a couple of seconds of having my hands in the water I realized the river had taken a very cold turn. There is only one way to fish cold water… That’s right, tiny zebra midges. When I caught the first fish of the day on my first cast I felt like I was in the know. I fished up the river for 3 more miles. Three miles from where the trail ended. 3 miles of nearly virgin river. 3 miles of no sign that a human had been there since the migration barriers were set in place. Maybe that guy was right about this river.

The water below his nose is around 6' deep.

There is only one other place in the world that I have physically stepped on a fish, the San Juan. I didn’t do it on purpose, there are just so many fish there. Here was also the case. Too many fish. They were small, but very healthy for the most part and changed colors as did the river bottom. Usually, the color of a fish can tell you where it came from in NM. These fish had all sorts of oddities. Mostly they looked like they were wearing a black blindfold.

I felt like I was about to be robbed.

The black and white fin tips are notable and cool!

All of the fish had remarkable color differences

I was surprised with the amount of browns, not a Rainbow or cutthroat to be found. Then I saw a black back deep within a run. With a cast upstream the fly began drifting directly toward my hopeful goal. All of the sudden from nowhere fish began darting out to take my fly. It was hard not setting the hook, but I couldn’t afford to spook that fish lurking in the shadows. As the fly passed through the gauntlet of incoming fish taking and spitting the fly, the shadow took notice, turned left, and I set the hook. Sweet success. A rainbow trout. This fish was typical of the area. Deeply colored with an almost black underbelly and obviously washed down from the even higher sub-alpine....a rough life

At the apex of my hike, I remembered that today might be the end of the world. What if it happened and I was the only one left. I wouldn’t know. Alone in the mountains is not the place to be in the know about what is going on in society. The sound of the river was almost deafening and thoughts were allowed to seep in. Back to the car, back to a possibly empty city. When I made it back to the actual trail I remembered how steep the incline was to get down, now I had to travel back up. 1.5 miles, 1700 feet closer to the sun.

LIES!

The hike up isn't easy.

Going into the trip, I knew it was purely a scouting trip for early July. Just to fish the section of water I was going to miss on my way to my actual destination, 10 miles from where I hiked this day. A day to remember, the day the apocalypse never happened… again.

Until next time...

 Lesson #8: When people make signs on a trail, ignore them. They fill your head with false hopes.


Friday The 13th… Where Is That Rabbit’s Foot?

No color touch up here, this is the real deal.

I was at a point this weekend where I had no idea where to go or what I wanted to target. The rivers have been very low and it has been more and more difficult to stalk my prey. I went to a local shop to buy some fly tying material and ask around about some hot spots. Well, my personal choices were the San Juan, Chama, and Jemez. It was suggested to me to go to the San Juan. I like the place and all, but it was going to be VERY nice this weekend for weather and thousands of people were going to come out of the woodworks to get the good places. It wasn’t ideal to be fishing elbow to elbow this weekend. I opted out of big fish for some mountain fish. More specifically, Rio Grande Cutthroat Trout. Not those diluted ones either, some of the purest strained fish in the state.

Along the way I stopped at Fenton Lake to get my line wet and haul in some stockers and test out the ties. Success! I caught the evening session and it went very well. So well, that I came up with a stocker fish on every other cast. When it became too late to fish after the actual sunset, I packed up and headed back to my car. along the way, I was attacked by a dog while its owners just stood there watching it take place. I thought it was just sniffing my leg and it bit down. Mind you this wasn’t a brutal type thing, I just kicked the dog off of my leg and moved on. The real problem came when the owner said, “Why did you just let him bite you like that?” I just about lost it. When I got back to my car I drove closer to my target destination to camp.

The beaver ponds were full of these guys.

I woke up and the temperature was floating in the high 20’s, the grass and mud were frozen allowing me to access some beaver ponds without waders. I hate hiking in waders. The fishing was good and it motivated me to press on toward my final destination. The sun was still hiding behind the valley and I found myself stopping in slivers of sun to warm up. Still very cold. I could not wait to hook into one of the cutthroats and hiked at a speed just shy of running. There were going to be no monster fish this day, but it was possible. I made it. It took about an hour to find the right technique for catching these little guys, and another to time the strike perfectly. They only held the fly for miliseconds and they only gave me one shot. The day went well and zebra midge (that is a work in progress) worked great.

I also made a friend while fishing. A Red-tailed Hawk that looked like he was in his share of bouts with other animals as did I on this weekend. Even though it was Friday the 13th and I was attacked by a dog, the hawk and I pressed on (even though I was uninjured and only came out with some torn pants, the hawk looked in worse shape).


Death From Below

Throughout history man has created monsters in fable. Some of those monsters are personified in literary context based upon legends and such, while some are real genetically altered beasts. The thing we never see scare us the most. Seriously, if bigfoot was your neighbor, you would probably be exchanging apple pies and talking about the weather rather than allowing him to haunt your dreams. Unless your greatest fear is having bigfoot invite you to his BBQ. Even known species such as bears and cougars, while not being seen can still strike fear into you and keep you on guard.

Even though fishing takes up a third of my life I still have an irrational fear of the water. If the bottom can not be seen, Nessie could be lurking somewhere, without an apple pie. Maybe I saw Jaws when I was far too young. Toothy critters give me the heebie jeebies. Which lead my brother and I to a place which is known for it’s goldfish population until the arrival of the genetic mutant that is the E. masquinongy x lucius aka Tiger Muskie.

Even smaller tigers can tear you up.

These mutants are among the funnest creatures in the world to catch. Almost no fear of humans and don’t know when to stop, wildly flailing and thrashing while you try to bring them. Swinging their razor sharp teeth in all directions and rolling as you try to get your hands around it without winding up with your arteries sliced open. The first day, I hooked up with the dream fish and lost it just as quickly. I could’ve cried. It wasn’t long before “accidental master angler” Nate answered back with a few of his own fish to hand.

The smallest of Nate's fish, still a formidable foe.

I’m aware that these fish were small, but the monster fish didn’t seem as active or as plentiful as they used to be. I pressed on, searching for the monsters while Nate was catching fish 2-3′ from the shoreline. Nothing to hand for 2 days on my end. I know the tricks, but the grass hasn’t grown back yet. For me, I’ll just hold this fish and hope for the best next time.

I can pretend that I caught one.