Tag Archives: Rio Grande

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.

redbow_edited-1

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


You Forgot the Machete (Wild and Scenic Pt:2)

Day 2: My internal alarm went off at 6am. My car hates me. Some of the most uncomfortable nights sleeping are ones spent in my car. As my eyes peeled open I could see the temperature gauge in my car that read 29°F. Frigid cold after a week of temperatures in the mid 70’s.  I looked out of my window to the Rio Grande as I ate my pop tarts and saw a peculiar rise from the corner of my eye. A carp rising halfway out of the water, a formidable foe for the 8wt rod seated snuggly in the passenger seat. The “just in case I find some pike” rod. This just didn’t seem the time to go for a good carp. Maybe it was the cold or the time it would take to rig the rod for carp. I still had to put on the winter clothes. With it decided to skip over these guys for the time being, I encased myself in layers of thermal clothing and headed upriver. I didn’t think the fishing would be that great today and it was true with only one fish to hand.

The fish were thinner higher up the river

The distance that I had to walk for a single fish was a bit too much for me. Over the eroded basalt that was as slippery as glass and the sharp incline of the canyon I couldn’t justify one fish per mile. The sun was bearing down on the walls of the canyon and it was best for me to just move along. One of New Mexico’s issues is the sun. One second you are freezing and the next you are burning alive. Partly cloudy days in the springtime can be confusing when you are trying to decide on what to wear.

On my way down the canyon to my car there was a guy in a kayak paddling UPRIVER! This river is a quick mover and has many sections of class IV rapids. How he came to the point where I was baffled me. When I made it to the car, I decided to move to the Red River again. Further down, I was sure to find migrating fish coming up the river to spawn. Migrating Cutthroats to be exact.

All of the pictures I took of this fly came out red...

Quite the comfy tying station

I sat in the parking area for a few minutes trying to decide what to tie on. The day before, upon my inspection of the river, I had found a ton of caddis larva peeking out of their created homes and was inspiration to tie a somewhat caddis-like larva. Impromptu, in the car, I mounted my vise to the steering wheel and went to work. A dozen or so would do the trick. As a test, I found a small hole to fish the fly. The instant it hit the water, a few fish came out of nowhere racing to get it and the larger fish won. As I was about to take it’s mug shot, it bounced back into the river and went into hiding. The fly had worked and I had to press on.

There is a trail along the river there and you’d better prepare yourself for that hike. It isn’t very long at 1.7 miles but how it is laid out will astonish you. It meanders along the river going up and down the canyon over rocks that will make you lose the trail and back down to the river again. Passing through swamps made by springs and creeping along underneath the low trees and brush. I spent most of the hike leaned forward almost on my hands and knees. Mind you, I am 6’2″ and with the wading boots probably closer to 6’4″. You would have to be about 3′ tall to comfortably hike this trail.

Note that I am seated

When the trail ended, I continued on down the river, and I thought the hike was bad when there was a trail to follow. This river is fast. There isn’t much water here, but it gets pretty rough in places. The deep sections reach about 10′ and the river is very technical. Not a place for the novice fisherman. I was getting very tired and had to stop and fish my way back up. Hole after hole, every first cast was a hook-up.

Crystal clear

I came to a realization on the first fish I caught down there. As quickly as I had set the hook, the fish drilled it’s way down to the deepest and fastest section of the run. A trait held only by a cutthroat. Sure, other trout do this, but they are easily pulled from the current. This fish went down and stayed there like I was hooked into a rock. When I finally pulled the trout from the current, it quickly darted downstream around a rock. It wasn’t as big as I thought, but it’s about quality, right? I had to land this fish. In nearly a full sprint, I followed. Stripping the line in as I ran over the rock that made the riverbend. Then, I tripped and landed on my back on top of a rotting stump. My rod still in the air, I felt defeat as the pain finally settled in. There was still tension on my line. The fish was still there. Not a cutthroat, but half cutthroat. What a fight indeed. Was it worth it? Yes.

The straw that broke the camels back

One of the best trips I have had in a long time. Fighting a cutbow is one thing, but fighting them in a fast river is glorious. Made the twisted trip though underbrush, over rocks and logs, and through swampy mud worth every second of pain I endured. Maybe I didn’t get the big fish as another fly fishing friend did a couple of weeks ago here, but trips are really what you make of them and any trip fly fishing is better than any day spent watching tv (I enjoy my day job).

The fish that waves goodbye


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…