Rio San Antonio - Jemez Mountains
Finally after six months since my last fishing trip I found some time to go. We moved our office last weekend and I haven?t had a day off for about ten days so I tiptoed off Friday morning.
Most streams in Northern New Mexico are running high and muddy right now so where should I go? I thought I might go where the nights are still pretty cold but most of the snow has melted leaving the water reasonably clear at least early in the mornings. I chose the Rio San Antonio in the Jemez Mountains.
I arrived at 6:00 a.m. and parked across from the San Antonio Campground where there is a streamside trail head. As you might imagine, there is a lot of pressure at this point of the stream, being so close to the road so I decided I would hike about a mile up-stream before I started fishing. Well things being as they are I hiked about a hundred yards and a short running stretch was irresistible so I just had to get it out of my system and I cast my first size16 Royal Wulff and it drifted about three feet and the first explosion of the day occurred?a real nice 10 inch brown who couldn?t resist my presentation for breakfast. I quickly released him and continued on my upstream journey.
I hiked up another fifty yards and was faced with another irresistible hole. My first cast into this one immediately landed me a 12 inch brown which I released and continued again upstream. This time I really started to hike further in the canyon. The water was a little murky but easily fishable with dry flies.
I found out after six months of sitting on my posterior has put me in terrible shape?after about a half-mile I was puffing like a blacksmith?s bellows at high speed. I sat down and leaned against a tall pine to soak in all the grandeur of this beautiful canyon. While sitting I was looking at a nice run below some riffles and strategizing my next move. The Royal Wulff was working well so far. I crawled on my knees to the bank and made two casts in the riffle and let the fly drift down the run and after the third cast I landed another 10 inch brown?this day was looking pretty good. By noon I had caught over a half-dozen browns on the same pattern. By the way, I caught three trees also. Just part of the relearning process, I guess.
I found a nice tall pine with some soft ground underfoot and had some lunch. After I finished lunch I heard a rustling sound. At first I thought it might be a small critter then I realized some of the dry scrub oak branches were breaking so it had to be something larger. I was at a bend in the stream about 15 feet about the water. I crawled over to the bank to investigate and observed a young bull elk feeding on some new sparse spring grass with no sign of any fear or cautious activity. What a beautiful sight! I laid down on the grass like my little brother and I used to watch TV when I was a young child using my opened hand to prop up my head and watched the activity of this most majestic of God's creatures. I seemed to be hypnotized by the sight of this animal just grazing without a care in the world...must have sensed the safe atmosphere. After about 30 minutes the elk started moving deeper into the canyon so I picked up my fishing utensils and continued to fish upstream and did quite well with several more small fish. By 2:00 p.m. the water clarity was fading as the temperature was warming and by then I had about all the fun I could stand for the day so I started the long hike back to my truck.
I had invited my brother Craig to go fishing with me and he couldn?t make it. But, you know I had one of the most tranquil days I?ve had in a very long time?almost spiritual. What a day!
I promise not to take so long to write the next time.
San Juan River
Within the sport of fishing there are good days and there are slow days, rarely a middle of the road day.
We arrived at the Cottonwood Campground on the San Juan River where we setup camp for our newest adventure. We were fishing the San Juan by 10:00 a.m. near the campground area. My son Gordon came from Lincoln, Nebraska to go fishing with me as he does every May. The water was running at 350 cfs and the wind was blowing pretty hard. I decided to use spinners and Gordon decided to use flies. I used a brown Rooster-Tail and a yellow Panther Martin for about an hour with no luck so I started using salmon eggs and by 1:00 p.m. was officially skunked. Gordon used a red San Juan worm and a size 16 prince nymph and he had been skunked as well.
We went back to camp and I cooked us some lunch then sat around reminiscing and lounging for most of the afternoon. (That's code for took a nap) Since catching is the key over simply fishing we got some night crawlers and by 4:00 p.m. we were fishing upstream from the campground dunking our worms in all the deep runs and deep holes. By the end of the day Gordon had caught a 14 inch rainbow, a 10 inch brown and then a 7 inch brown. I got skunked again...couldn't even buy a fish with a troy ounce of silver.
By dusk we were back at camp and hungry. It was getting dark and to keep from cooking bugs with our dinner we decided to go to one of the local restaurants and have a burger. (Now that's code for too lazy to cook) Never the less, the burgers were great and definitely hit the spot. After dinner we went back to camp and crawled into the tent. We were strategizing as to how we were going clean up in lunker alley in the quality water the next day and before we knew it was morning and time to go.
San Juan River
I woke up about 5:45 a.m. and we dressed-up in our fishing costumes in no time and was making our the first cast of opur fly rods into lunker alley by 6:30 a.m. Gordon and I started out with a green emerger pattern and a grey bunny leech respectively. Gordon got a nice fat 12 inch rainbow to his net. I tried several patterns at this trout all-you-can-eat buffet table to no avail. ...one fly?two flies?it didn?t matter. I was getting discouraged because I usually catch several fish in this run but it was just not in the cards on this day. We fished until about 11:00 a.m. and started back to camp for our late breakfast. After breakfast we reminisced and lounged around some more, you remember what that is, right?
Something to note.. .while fishing in lunker alley several boats drifted by right over where I was fishing slapping the water with their oars as if I was invisible. One boat drifted by and moved away from me and said "passing through", while drifting downstream. Finally one boat operator actually stopped in front of me where I was fishing and instructed his clients to cast near where I was fishing. I said "Can't you see I'm fishing here?" He stated, with a curt tone, "I have as much right to fish this river as you do" and I rebutted, "Don't you know what fishing etiquette is?" He further said "What?" then I repeated it as he started drifting downstream and I heard him say "A..hole!", under his breath. His clients were clearly embarrassed as was indicated by their slight hand wave as they left. Perhaps the tip was meager that day. One can only hope.
I certainly won't paint with a broad brush that all boat drifters are inconsiderate because that day there was one person who clearly knows what fishing etiquette is by moving over and saying "passing through", as I was fishing.
I cooked supper about 6:00 p.m. and by 7:30 p.m. we went downstream of the bridge, which carries you to Aztec, at the 90-degree bend in the river and started fishing the deep holes along the east bank. Implementing my philosophy of always using what is working to catch fish, we were dunking night crawlers again. We fished for a couple of hours and finally I broke the ice with a nice 14 inch rainbow. We fished until almost dark and headed back to camp. With the water running so low and the constant wind blowing it had been a hard two days of fishing with little fruit on our plates.
We returned to camp before dark and packed everything into my truck except our fishing costumes and the tent preparing for an early rise to the quality waters the next morning.
San Juan River
We arrived at the Texas Hole parking lot and were on the water below Texas Hole ready to fish by 6:45 a.m. We walked downstream a few hundred yards before fishing a real nice area I like to fish with the water cutting around and through large rock and sandstone formations forming several long deep wide runs deep braids between them.
During my first cast I got into a nice 18" rainbow using a gray bunny leech pattern while Gordon tied on a black wooly bugger and netted another nice rainbow about the same size a short time later. We had good patterns on our lines and the wind had ceased, which is always a Godsend with a 3 weight fly rod. By 11:00 a.m. we had caught several more large fish. We decided we were finally satisfied and had all the fun we could stand so we went back to my truck, l took off our fishing costumes and headed for home to eat some of my wife's great beef stew she was creating for our return.
I must say I'm concerned about the negative effects of these low flows on the San Juan. The nymph population in this river has been the San Juan trout?s main source of food for a long time. These fish have been plentiful and grow very large because of the river?s abundance of nymphs and other insects. I?m no scientist but it only seems logical to me when the flow is decreased to these low levels we are seeing, the insect population left exposed perishes. When the flow levels are increased again it must take one, two or more cycles for the lost insect population to come back again. However, in the meantime the low flows are implemented again and over time this must have a negative lost of the insect population. In my opinion this is evident by the lack of large hatches that have been very predictable and consistent over the years. They just don?t seem to occur as they did only a short time ago.
It was cloudy most of Sunday morning which always produces prolific baetis hatches in the spring but there was no sign of any hatches except midges. I have witnessed this for about the last eighteen months. I have been fishing the San Juan since the mid 1970?s and I have seen many changes but these low flows really have me concerned the San Juan might be turning into another Big Horn River in Wyoming where the fish counts were said to be 18,000 fish per mile at one time and now are said to have been reduced to 6,000 fish per mile for similar reasons.
Gordon and I really did reminisce a lot on this trip. The last time he fished the San Juan was as a teenager?a long time ago. I was gleaming with pride watching my son implement all the tricks of the trade I taught him as a young boy and finally out-fishing his ole' man.
Rio San Antonio/East Fork - Jemez Mountains
My son Gordon and his family came in from Nebraska this week for vacation.
I actually took some vacation time myself and my grandson Michael and I wanted to fish in the Jemez Mountain alone, leaving the rest of the family home. I not only got to fish alone with my son two weeks ago I was about to fish with his second eldest son. As they say, Man it does not get any better than this!
Michael is 13 and he hadn?t fly fished yet so he was more than ready for his first lesson. I told him we would fly fish the Rio San Antonio in the morning and bait fish the East Fork near Battleship Rock in the afternoon. We arrived at 7:00 a.m. and parked across from the San Antonio Campground at the streamside trail head. I had tied on a size 16 Royal Wulff to my tippet and tied on a size 16 tan body Elk Hair Caddis to Michael's.
I always try hike in a ways before fishing but with Michael I wanted to make sure he got a fish right away so I went to an irresistible run where I knew there were fish. I told Michael "There is a fish in this run, watch." I cast a couple of false casts to get ready for the final one and delivered the fly to an awaiting German brown and a white mouth quickly came out of the water to take its first bite of breakfast. I quickly brought the fish to hand and released it. Michael was mildly impressed. We walked about fifty feet upstream to another run I knew held fish and asked him if he was ready to catch his first fish on a fly rod and he answered in the affirmative. I got behind him and helped him with a short lesson of the proper technique of casting and presentation, explaining he only had one cast to get the fish. His slightly awkward delivery got the fly near the spot and as quickly as my first fish rose to the fly, so did this one. With some help he brought the fish to hand and released it. By now he thinks his grandpa is a genius and is pumped for a good day of fly fishing.
We started hiking upstream and went about a half mile and found a good run and I told him again where the fish were and he flipped his fly to the water and another waiting trout took his fly under. This turned out to be a very good morning of casting, catching and releasing fishing. About mid-morning Michael told me he thought I was the greatest fly fisherman because where ever I said there was a fish, there was one. Even though I was tempted to leave the declaration alone I chose to teach him how to read trout water. After a morning of lessons about as many aspects of fly fishing I could explain to Michael he had better understanding of this sport. Some aspects of fly fishing you just can?t teach you just have to experience. So being a good grandpa I also showed him how to get hung up in bushes and on tree limbs.
We fished until 11:00 a.m. and headed back to the truck. By then we had caught 12 or 13 nice sized German browns and a few trees, using the same fly patterns all morning. We snacked some after returning to the truck and went to Battleship Rock.
We had planned to hang out and take a break. We walked down to the water and decided we needed to fish instead, we could always rest later. We fished with single-hook barbless spinners and salmon eggs. We got into a couple of honey holes and had a blast catching and releasing trout all afternoon. Finally, at 5:30 p.m. we packed our fishing costumes into the truck and headed for home to some supper.
I have not had this much fun in a long time and look forward to the next time Michael and I can fish together. And anytime Michael wants to thinks I am the greatest fly fisher that fine with me.
Rio San Antonio/East Fork of the Jemez
The most important thing in a man?s life is his family. Mine is no different. My wife and I have 3 children, 7 grandchildren and 3 great-grandchildren?a lot of fishing lessons. Once children grow up and leave home it?s difficult to get them back home together again. Well, I got lucky this week. My son Gordon, his wife Lori and three of his children, Michael, Nicholas and Sierra were here visiting from out of town. Stephanie, our eldest daughter, her daughter Valene and Valene?s son Brandon and her daughter Kyra were also here. They live in New Mexico. All this sounds like the ingredients for a picnic and another fishing trip doesn?t it?
Michael and I did so well fishing on Monday of this week we decided to go back to Battleship rock and fish the East Fork and the Rio San Antonio and the convergent waters. We arrived at Battleship Rock about 8:30 a.m. all ready to go fishing with a plan to have a cookout around noon. Michael, Brandon and I headed for the water to fish under the bridge to the Camp Shaver. After Michael?s first cast he caught a beautiful fat 11 inch rainbow. Shortly after that I got a nice rainbow which Brandon helped me bring to hand. I fished awhile longer and went back upstream where I know my wife Ella would be, near a larger boulder and a pool, her favorite type of water. When I arrived of course she had caught a fish larger than ours. Gordon was fishing with Nicholas and wasn?t having much luck.
Brandon and I went back to the first hole under the bridge and started fishing again. By noon I caught 2 more real nice rainbows. We fished until 11:30 a.m. then went to cook lunch.
The whole gang sat around for awhile eating, laughing, and just generally having fun. After lunch we packed all the stuff away in my truck and Brandon and I went fishing again. We fished for about 45 minutes and I caught two more rainbows. Gordon was fishing near us and finally caught one. We finished the day with a great picnic and 8 very nice rainbows for dinner.
I don't have the chance to have all or even most of my kids and grandkids with me that often and am truly blessed when I do. Several things happened this week that usually don?t; I was able to go fishing twice in one week, I took some vacation time, I was able to fish with several of my grandchildren and my son and my wife and best of all I was able to spend some time with my daughter-in-law, a real gem. Life is grand!
See ya soon?Brandon and I are going fishing and camping next weekend.
Red River (upper)
My granddaughter Valene caught her first fish when she was 2 yrs old, with a little help and she tied her first fly when she was 5 years old. Her son Brandon, now 7 years old, went on his first camping trip with me this weekend. We have been on a couple of one-day fishing trips in the last couple of years but not camping until now.
I have enjoyed sharing my experiences with my children, their children and now continuing the tradition with the next generation to teach them how to camp and fish and gain knowledge of the outdoors experience as I have throughout my life.
The morning of our departure started out on a sour note when Brandon said he didn?t want to go with me. He said ?Grandpa, you better go without me, I don?t feel good.? My wife and I assumed he was having second thoughts about the trip and we even had him talk to his mother over the phone. Turns out after an hour we realized it just a sour stomach and when it settled down he was very anxious to go and I couldn?t get him in the truck fast enough and we were on the road in short order.
The Carson National Forest was the only vestige left without extreme fire restrictions so we headed there. While we driving up to Red River for the days adventure Brandon asked me Grandpa, how long have you been fishing? I replied About 51 years. Brandon then said Now I know what practicing is. Well, I'm thinking this kid is on to something?very insightful for a 7 year old. Most of us believe this stuff is experience, maybe it is just practice.
I decided to camp at an established campground and we found a nice site at Junebug Campground near Red River. By 2:00 p.m. we had setup the tent and were ready to go fishing. Brandon was the only one fishing so I could concentrate on his safety. The water was crystal clear but running high. These water left the runs very fast and the pools and pocket water far and few between. We fished all the pocket water and pools we could and saw a lot of fish, but few did more than investigate the end of his line. By 3:00 p.m. Brandon was fishing a nice pool of water, I instructed him to cast his line into the fast water then let it drift into the pool and after three casts a rainbow just could not resist his approach any longer and took it, Brandon set the hook and within a short time he had a fish to hand. It was evident he was excited as was I. He decided this fish was for grandma to eat so we kept it.
We continued to fish for a while and Brandon insisted he had to catch another fish for me. We fished downstream and found a couple more nice pockets of water and fished to no avail. At 4:30 p.m. I told Brandon we needed to go cook supper but that notion was discouraged by his insistence that he needed to catch another fish. I?m thinking this kid is as obsessed as I am about fishing, which is obviously a very good thing. Besides I?ll need someone to help me across the streams in a few years. So in my attempt to allow him to explore his desire to fish we decided to drive over to Fawn Lakes about a mile and a half downstream from our campground area.
Fawn Lakes are two small ponds fed by a partial diversion of water from Red River and finally spilling back into the stream below the ponds. Brandon fished both ponds until his rotator cuff was getting soar with no fish to hand. It was getting late and grandpa was really getting hungry. While we were walking back to the truck I saw a real nice pocket of water in the river next to the first pond and I told Brandon we should fish this last spot before we had dinner. He agreed and he cast his line in the fast shallow run and let it drift into the large wide pool, the kind of water we had been looking for all day. During his second cast Brandon got a hit but no fish. The next cast he was a little more careful and let it drift to the end of the run at the tail of the pool and got a strike, set the hook and brought another nice rainbow to hand?finally grandpa can eat.
By the time we got back and were eating it was 7:30 p.m. and by 8:30 we were in the tent ready to discussing the next day?s coming adventure and get some sleep. I wrote some notes in my diary while my little buddy destroyed some invaders or some such thing on his Game Boy. In no time we were both fast asleep.
It turns out that Brandon was the only one in the campground to catch fish.
June 19, 2004
Rio Hondo (Upper)
There were so many people and fishing pressure at camp we had decided the night before to break up camp after one of my legendary breakfasts, as my brother calls them, and go the Rio Hondo for the day before heading back home.
We arrived at Rio Hondo in Canyon by 9:00 a.m. and pulled over at the first available turn-out. The water was crystal clear and high with less pocket water and fewer pools than Red River. Brandon and I both fished all morning trying several spots off the side of the road all the up to Twinning and did not even get a nibble, so much for practice. We headed back down the hill fishing some spots we had missed on the way up with not even a courtesy swim from a trout to the end of our lines to tease us. By noon Brandon said, "Grandpa, maybe we should call it a day." More youthful acuity. I agreed so we put our fishing gear away to prepare for our trip home.
We stopped in Taos for lunch and after a nice meal and visit we continued south for home. We went home the back way through the Jemez Mountains and stopped at the Valles Caldera for a view. It was a shame to see so many areas in the Jemez closed off to the public due to the extreme fire danger present. I guess we can all pray for rain, could not hurt.
I have so much fun with my grandchildren just talking to them. They seem to be so much more curious and insightful than I must have been when I was a child. I get no greater satisfaction out of life than the time I spend with my family...especially in comfortable surroundings such as a stream or river...LIFE IS GRAND.
Today I made two new friends, Mark Haley and Jeff Stuve. I had asked Mark a couple of weeks ago if he wanted to go fishing with me up to the Cimarron River. Mark grew up in Eagle Nest and knows the area well. We had made plans to go this weekend and Jeff joined us.
We were on the road at 6:00 a.m. and after three and one-half hours of familiarizing ourselves with each other we arrived in Eagle Nest.
We stopped at Dos Amigos Anglers Fly Shop in Eagle Nest to get Mark some waders and a fishing license. The guys at the shop recommended a large orange stimulator pattern with a gray foam top and long dark rubber legs that appeared to able to float while withstanding the turbulence of a Tsunami Wave. We were instructed to use this fly by itself early in the morning and with a dropper about 12 inches below the stimulator after mid-morning. We all bought a couple of these flies each and Jeff bought a dropper fly named a Red Hot. After getting the stuff we needed from the shop we began to drive east looking for the perfect spot.
The Cimarron Canyon is a beautiful deep dense Canyon, especially along most of the stream. We drove to the lower end of the canyon and pulled into a turn-out ready for a day of fishing. The weather was fair with some wind, the water level was up a little and slightly murky but good looking trout water never-the-less. We would be fishing upstream and of course the wind was blowing downstream. However, that would not deter us. Even when the wind blows you need to get out there and start casting, it will make you a better angler, in my view. While we were dressing up in our fishing costumes Mark suggested that Jeff and I split-up from where we parked, fishing upstream and he would walk downstream and fish up. When he reached his truck he would drive upstream and catch-up with us in about and hour and a half.
We all knew that the Cimarron is basically one-cast water and with the higher, murky water conditions fishing might be a little more difficult than usual. Jeff was still fiddling and suggested I go ahead down to the river. It was a very easy decision since there was a great looking spot below us. I started out walking back and forth like a caged lion trying to find the best spot to go down and I just started walking through the deep heavy brush, which seem to be a 90 degree incline and eventually planted my feet near the water for my first cast. It was a little difficult traversing through the very thick trees and brush separating the road from the stream but, for a determined old salt like me, it turned out to be just another small challenge. While I was casting my first fly Jeff was walking along the road upstream before going down the stream for his first cast.
I started with the stimulator pattern and no dropper?so much for listening to good advice. After many casts and a 100 yard trek of stream I tied on a size 14 Prince Nymph dropper and that?s all I needed to do. After my next cast I set the hook in a nice small brown bringing it to hand before releasing it back to the water. By the time I reached the new location of Mark?s truck I had caught and released five nice browns. We all arrived at the truck at about 10:45 a.m. ready to share the results of our morning fishing expedition. It turns out Mark was using a caddis pattern while Jeff was using what was recommended by the fly shop. Mark caught and released seven browns, one being 12 inches and Jeff caught and released five browns.
We drove upstream again a few miles and split up the same as before. We all continued to use the same fly patterns and caught several more fish. While walking up the road I saw the perfect run with a large pool. Not being one to pass up such a great spot I almost slid down the hill below the run to fish up to the spot. It was a good thing I went down where I did because it would have been difficult to go down near the run. Once there I used low profile casting to fish the run and the pool with great results. By the time I finished the run and pool I had landed six browns. I was very excited because it is a very rare occurrence to catch more than one or two fish from the same hole or run on the Cimarron. I?m convinced very careful casting and a low profile was the trick.
We met again by 1:00 p.m. and continued to drive upstream near the special regulations water and basically hung out together for a while. We fished the same way for the rest of the afternoon and by 3:00 p.m. the fish were rising to the dry flies and by 4:00 p.m. we decided we had all the fun we were entitled to for this day. We removed our fishing costumes and headed to Taos for a nice diner before going back home.
By the end of this day we caught thirty-plus German brown trout collectively. This was an extremely good day of fishing on the Cimarron. If I catch three to six fish in a day I'm in fish catching heaven?believe me.
It is always a good day when I make new friends especially on a stream with a fly rod. Thanks Mark and Jeff for a great trip.
Dos Amigos Anglers are available at 505-377-6226
See Mark Stewart before you fish this stream and he will set you on the right track.
Rio San Antonio on the Valles Caldera Preserve
I am the luckiest man in the world. I have had the pleasure and joy of teaching and fishing with my wife, my children, my grand-children and now my current student, my 7 year old great-grandson Brandon.
My family enjoyed fishing and camping and experiencing the outdoors. But Brandon has one more thing; he has the same passion for all this that I do. Even to the point when I have to insist "Brandon, let's stop fishing for awhile so we can eat something." That's passion for a growing boy.
I was fortunate to get two passes the fish the Rio San Antonio on the Valles Caldera Preserve in their lottery. We were also fortunate to get beat 6. Those of you who are familiar with the area beats; 5, 6 and 7 are the best beats on the preserve.
Brandon's mother brought him by the house Saturday afternoon. When they arrived I was tying some Joe's Hoppers for our trip. Hoppers almost always work well on the Rio San Antonio even into early September. When I finished tying flies, Brandon and I packed all our gear into my backpack and all that was left to do was to wait for morning.
Brandon was the first one out of bed at 4:45 a.m. and by 5:15 a.m. we were on the road. We arrived at the staging area about 6:45 a.m. The entire valley was covered in fog and the air was cold. We both bundle up as best we could and waited for our subsequent departure at 7:15 to our fishing beat. Once everyone was ready we all loaded in the vans and we were driven to our respective beats. And to add to our streak of luck we were the first to be dropped to fish.
When we left the staging area we were cold and shivering but by the time we arrived at the beat we were shedding layers of clothes. Now, time to fish.
We started fishing upstream. The first fly we tied on was a Joe?s Hopper. We were casting carefully with long casts and nothing. I was beginning to think after about an hour we were going to have a slow day. At that point I told Brandon we needed to be a little more creative. I tied on a Yellow size #14 Royal Humpy, we both got on our knees, and crawled near the bank of the next run and cast about thirty feet and as soon as the fly hit the water the ice was broken, so to speak, and a small white mouth rose from the water to make the fly disappear. We set the hook and Brandon had his first fish.
This is definitely one-cast water and it is very rare to catch more than one fish from a hole or run so we moved on to the next spot. The fish were holding in the long runs and at the tail end of the runs and at the tail end of the subsequent pools. They were also holding the deep pocket water of the sharp bends of the stream.
Brandon and I fished every run where we didn?t spook the fish and by 9:00 we had caught so many fish with the Humpy pattern we had to change to a new fly. This time I tied on a size #16 orange stimulator. We fished that pattern and continued to catch fish at almost every run. By 10:30 we had tallied about10 nice German browns ranging in the 10 to 12 inch size range. We continued to catch fish and by 11:30 Brandon and I sat down to have lunch. While we were eating we were strategizing about how we would fish in the afternoon. And Brandon said ?Grandpa, why don?t use the hopper you tied.? Why wouldn?t I take the advice of such a smart kid? We started fishing again about 12:30 and got back to the low-profile knee crawling routine. We fished until 2:00 catching several more fish then started walking back downstream to be at the scheduled picked-up at 3:30. Well on our way back, of course, we just couldn?t resist many of the holes and runs we fished earlier and caught several more nice browns.
By the time we got back to the rendezvous point we had accumulated about 20 to 25 browns for the day. Brandon was pretty tired and so was I. By 3:15 we were in the van on our way back to the staging area. Brandon slept during the entire 45 minute ride back.
I must tell you, I brought Brandon his first fly rod and reel a couple of days before this trip and I did most of the casting but Brandon brought in all of the fish we caught. He is a very quick study and was able to strip the line in very well and safely control the fish before returning them to the water. He still needs to be taught to occasionally reel in the slack line after stripping some in, but he did very well. But, he had a very good first day with a fly rod. Over the next few weeks we will be at the park practicing casting and retrieving so he will be able to do more on our next trip together.
Finally, at one point of the day while I was sitting on the ground tying on another fly Brandon walked over to me and put his arms around my neck and said "Grandpa, I love you and I love being with you."
For me, that is what all of this is really about?
My wife Ella asked me to take her bait fishing and to make it fair, I decided to use bait myself?sure?right. We all know by now that I?m the one with the disadvantage because Ella always kicks my fishing butt.
When we awoke it was still dark. We loaded the truck and were on the road by 5:45 am. Ella likes to fish the Rio Grande near Pilar. Over the years we have caught some very nice browns there.
We arrived at the mighty Rio at 8:00, paid our three bucks and went to our favorite fishging hole. The water was a little low and slightly murky. I also noticed the water temperature was higher than normal. These are not ingredients for great trout fishing.
We walked down to the river and Ella started fishing but I moved upstream to fish in the more turbulent part of the run. I just cast my line and of course Ella yelled Look, Phillip. At the end of her line was a fish a small-mouth bass. I?m not getting even a nibble and I'm thinking if I can?t get a nibble on a night crawler this don't look so good.
Then, finally I got a hit. It was a small-mouth bass. I release it and continued to fish. Ella came upstream near where I was fishing and after her first cast the tip of her rod showed some life at the other end of the line. She brought the fish in and I ran over to see it and it was a large sucker. She had never caught a sucker before so you can imagine how traumatic that was for her. She insisted I remove the hook. I did and she started fishing again.
By 11:30 she caught three more suckers and I caught two more bass. This doesn?t sound like the mighty Rio Grande in northern New Mexico, does it? We drove into the Rio Pueblo de Taos canyon and found some shade to have our lunch. We sat together and had a great lunch. We really enjoy being together on these trips as we have so many times before. I have been so fortunate to be married to a woman who likes to fish, camp and all the things that come with it.
After lunch we fished the water near the Taos Junction bridge foe a couple of hours. We both caught several more, yes, small-mouth bass. I felt like I had been transported back to my youth when my cousin and I use to fish Indian Creek in southern Ohio for the same fish not even knowing what a trout was.
We both laughed all the way home talking about this very unusual and unorthodox trout fishing day. Ella did catch more fish and the first fish,what can I say I'll be fishing the tributaries of the Conejos River in southern Colorado in a couple of weeks?see you soon on the internet.
Conejos - Southern Colorado
September 18 th
Mike Heitman and I planned to go fishing on the Conejos in southern Colorado. We were planning to leave on Friday and camp for a couple of days but work got in the way for both of us. Mike had to work all day on Friday and I had to work on Sunday. But, we didn?t let that get in our way. We hit the road at 5:15 am Saturday morning with the intent of coming back that evening.
After about 3 hours of driving while chattering all the way about politics, fishing and our families we arrived at the Fox Creek Store west of Antonito, Colorado and see Randy Keys to get a fishing license and the scoop about what the fish were hitting. While getting my license Randy was telling us the fish were hitting attractor patterns such as humpies and Wulff patterns. He also said the water in the Conjeos was clearer than it has been recently. Our intent was to fish a tributary stream to the Conejos. After more helpful tips from Randy we continued west.
Mike has fished the area before so he had some knowledge of what to expect. We drove west past Mogote and turned off to a dirt road to park near the river. We arrived at our destination and transformed ourselves into fly fishers and soon were on-track for our three-mile hike to the water. About two hours later we were near the water we had planned to fish.
Mike and I hiked a little further up-stream and made the usual 90 degree left turn to the stream for the beginning of our fishing adventure. It was lunchtime so we sat down near the stream bank and had something to eat while discussing the strategy for the stream. Mike informed me the stream water level was about a foot lower than his last visit.
After lunch we began very carefully fishing in some great pocket water structures. We used humpies, Royal Wuff patterns along with elk hair caddis and other attractor patterns. At first we weren?t doing very well. It seemed as if, after this long arduous hike into this beautiful valley, we just hit a bad day. Just as we were talking about the lack of cooperation of these fish Mike got a strike that you would have thought was his first. Mike?s eyes were as big as a deer in headlights and he said, ?Phil did you see that?? I replied ?Indeed I did.? He also said ?Phil, I think my heart rate just increased.? I watched as he cast again to the same spot and rolled the fish over again...it was a big brown. By then the fish had enough excitement and went deep into the hole and stayed put.
We moved up-stream to the next spot. I fished the pocket with no success and we proceeded to the next hole where Mike made a long cast to drift his fly slapping the side of a big boulder on its way down-stream and a big white mouth came to the surface very slowly to slurp the fly down. It was a nice 15 inch brown. Mike brought the fish to hand and after removing the hook quickly released the fish back to the water. He said ?Well, Phil it?s your turn.? I went over to the hole and cast, in a low profile, to the top of the pool and was able to slap a fly against a boulder near the far bank and as soon as it hit the water the fly very slowly disappeared below the film and I set the hook. I was thinking this fish isn?t very big and then it started to put up a good fight. It turned out to be a very nice fat 14 inch brown. I brought the fish to hand and removed the hook to release it back in the water.
Mike and I continued upstream fishing the pocket water. After awhile Mike and I split up and I headed back down-stream to later meet Mike at the main trail. On my way back I just couldn?t resist the hole where I caught the brown earlier so I threw one more cast and the fly drifted about half-way through the pool when I got another strike and brought a 13 inch brown to hand.
After releasing the fish I continued back to the main trail. Unfortunately, on my way out of the stream I slipped on a rock in the water and my legs split apart like a seasoned ballet dancer and I pulled a groin muscle. By 3:30 Mike and I met at the main trail. We packed our stuff for our long hike out. Mike had caught several small rainbows on the lower flat water. So the conclusion was the big browns were all in the deepest pockets of water near large to medium sized boulders for cover and the rainbows were holding in the shallower wider flat water.
The one thing that impressed me the most about the trip was the large size of the browns in such small water.
On our way back we had a refreshing rainy downfall. We had a very long three-mile hike out this beautiful valley. It was an extremely painful hike for me with a pulled muscle and I must thank Mike for his patience waiting with me during my frequent stops to rest. He asked several times if he could carry my backpack but eventually insisted during the last mile or so which was very helpful.
The photos are of Mike and me. Mike?s the young and handsome fella and I?m the old fa... As soon as I get my film back I?ll post a picture of one of the nice browns Mike caught.
I'm done fishing for a while?see you during the winter.
You can contact Fox Creek Store for fishing conditions and information at 719-376-5881and thanks to Randy for the information that made our trip successful.
Our 34 th wedding anniversary was coming up and I asked my wife last week, "What would you like for this anniversary. She replied, Just take me fishing." Boy, do I have it made or what?
Early Saturday morning we were on our way up to her favorite place, the Rio Grande near Pilar. We were on the water about 9:30 am with a slight breeze and cold hands. The water was a little murky and cold but running faster and higher than our last trip. The air temperatures in the area have been a little high and the river was experiencing some pre-mature runoff from the north.
We fished her favorite spot for a while, bringing no fish to hand. She said, ?At least I?m not catching any suckers.? I respectfully agreed and we moved to another nice run.
We fished most of the morning getting a lot of action with bait stealers taking up most of our time and by 10:30, a nice brown just could not resist the end of my line but I released it because the fish was small and I was thinking I would catch some larger fish before the day was over. If you want to catch fish to eat sometimes that can be a bad decision. More often than not, you end up going home empty handed.
Ella caught a nice brown and we put it on the stringer for later consumption. We continued to fish until 11:30 then stopped to have some lunch. We sat together at a picnic table for about 45 minutes and ate and talked...it was nice just to relax for a change. After lunch we drove up to another good spot and fished until 4:00 and I finally caught another keeper and was thinking I should have also kept the first one and with some potatoes and veggies it would be a good meal. Well this evening, we will just add some more potatoes.
As the sun was beginning to shadow the water on the west bank, we were on our way back home.
We had a slow day?but a good day. I enjoy fishing with my wife and she told me she wants to learn fly-fishing next year?finally. I will have a lot fun next year with my two newest students, Ella and my great-grandson Brandon.
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