Tag Archives: Snake river cutthroat trout

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.


A Foolish Culmination of Thoughts

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.


Taken around January or so...

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.

The New Killer(nameless)

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.


Next thought:

The yearling offspring

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

New Mexico Snake

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.