My best friend and my favorite fishing buddy and I left home at 7:15 am this morning to fish the Jemez and more importantly spend some time together. We went to her favorite fishing hole on the East Fork at the Conchas trailhead. We were somewhat surprised to see it was completely frozen over. The stream was bubbling under the thick layer of ice creating with an imaginary stream of water flowing by. After a few unsuccessful attempts to break the ice we traveled back towards the lower elevations to where the ice was reduced. We first stopped near the La Cueva bridge and observed a beaver undulating through the water and under the ice like a seal might. We observed this creature for about 20 minutes. At one point it even slapped his tail on the water loudly which was a little startling. I haven?t seen many beavers in the Jemez since the 1980?s on the upper Rio Cebolla. It was nice experience.
We continued down to Battleship Rock where we fished the East Fork with no luck. After about an hour we went downstream to fish below Soda Dam. My wife Ella has caught some nice fish in this stretch from the dam to the ranger station over the years but it has become very thick with overgrowth and has been difficult to traverse. We drove over to the ranger station and walked upstream attempting to fish from the east bank and were able to fish several of the good pockets of water. My first cast I landed a nice brown and returned him to the water. After a short while Ella landed a real nice rainbow. We fished a while longer and decided it was time to eat.
We drove down to one the developed day use areas named River?s Bend and had a snack of cheese, crackers, ham, boiled eggs?sounds more like a lunch than a snack doesn?t it? Well after our snack we went to the river and fished for another hour or so and then wind started blowing and the skies were clouding up. We started for home shortly after that. The fishing was slow all day but it was still a great day with my best buddy?my wife.
Over the next few weeks my Great-Grandson Brandon and I will be tying some flies for the coming season.
February 3 and 4
San Juan River
In January my friend Tony C. de Baca and I scheduled a trip to the San Juan River with his son Anthony in February. So a couple of days later I started tying some flies for our trip and continued for a few days until we had enough?as if you ever have enough flies in your mind. I always tie far more patterns and quantities than I need and only use two or three patterns on the water but you never know if you are going to need that one pattern that works on a slow day.
Anthony was only a few days away from his thirteenth birthday by the time February 3rd arrived and was pretty excited about our trip. I remember when I turned 13, I told my mother not to call be Phillip anymore just Phil because I was a man now. Well, I am 60 now and still not quite there yet but most people still call me Phil.
We left town on Friday the 3rd of February and arrived in Bloomfield about supper time, checked into the motel and went to get something to eat. After a nice dinner we went back to the room to watch a little TV and to show the guys how to set up a San Juan rig for a day of fishing.
We got up at 6:00 am Saturday morning went to the front lobby to get our continental breakfast, loaded the truck and headed for the river. We arrived at 7:00 am dressed up in our fishing costumes and hiked to the river.
My favorite spot on the San Juan is Lunker Alley, aptly named but difficult to fish at times. The water temperature was low and so was the water flow at 350 cfs. The weather was cold but the sun was out with virtually no wind?all the ingredients for prime fishing. I prefer a flow rate of 550 to 750 cfs and don?t do as well with higher or lower flows.
Tony set up with a San Juan worm trailed with a WD40, I set up with an orange sparkle worm and trailed it with a chocolate emerger and I rigged Anthony's line with one fly, a grey Bunny Leech. We fished with these for a while and bringing no fish to hand. We had gotten to the point to go downstream and try another spot.
I had tied on a chartreuse egg pattern and fished it for a while and as I looked away the tip of my rod slapped the water and the fish was gone as quickly as it appeared. About 10:30 Tony and I were standing in the river in knee deep water and a bald eagle flew right in front of us at eye level about 15 feet away. "What a magnificent creature", I said and Tony agreed. It sure stopped the fishing for a few minutes watching the undulating of his massive wing span. The bald eagle is my favorite animal and what a great experience to see that beautiful bird and so close. Of course when he flew in front of us my camera was zipped away in the back of my fishing vest. It later appeared again on at tree at the top of the bluff in front of us and that's when I wasted no time getting my camera. You could say it made my day. We continued to fish the quality waters until 11:00 am and hiked back to the truck to head downstream, fishing a few runs along the way.
We arrived at the Cottonwood area in the regular trout waters and fished every run, pool and pocket upstream to the lower quality water boundary until 2:00 pm. Fortunately, I don?t say this often but we got skunked. The fish were just not cooperating today. We went to the Sportsman and had a great burger for lunch and by 3:30 were on the road back home.
We tried almost everything we had and it just didn not work. Some days are like that. Anthony said it all, "Phil, thanks for taking us fishing. After all, it's the fishing that's important not just the catching."
Antony is right because, after all, we did have a lot fun.
My grandson Brandon and I will be hitting the water again soon.
I was fortunate enough to be on the winners list for a day of fishing on the Rio San Antonio in the Valles Caldera National Preserve for June 3rd. So I naturally invited my 9 year old great-grandson Brandon to go with me. We also invited my friend Tony C. and his 13 year old son Anthony. The size of the fishing beats are designed for only two people to fish so Tony and I decided we would let the boys fish and just watch and teach.
We met at the Jemez Falls campground on Friday afternoon to camp so the morning ride to the preserve would be much shorter Saturday morning. We set up camp and ate dinner and after dinner went down to La Cueva to throw a couple lures in the water. We fished for a while and went back up the hill and explored a few other areas before heading back to camp. I sure wish I had the energy these boys have but age tends to make the difference much bigger than it used to be at the age of forty.
I got back to camp and set around camp talking about the itinerary for the following day until dark and when to bed for the evening.
Rio San Antonio
We all had a good night's sleep and by 5:00 am were up to ready and to get after it.
Unfortunately, Anthony woke up with a migraine and after medication and an hour and a half of trying to sleep off the headache Anthony and Tony just had to cancel and sent us off to fish. It is a real shame too because Brandon and I were really looking forward to fishing with our friends.
Brandon and I arrived at the staging area about 6:45 am and after orientation we got in the van that took us to Beat 1, just below the headwaters of the Rio San Antonio and within about 10 minutes Brandon threw his first cast and as soon as the fly hit the water an instant strike. A nice brown was brought to hand. Fishing was looking up the day. And it was. Every hole, run and pool had many fish in them. We got on our hands and knees to fish this water?the only way success can be had. The fish in this stream are very skittish and a low profile is absolutely a must.
We fished upstream on the beat, about one mile long by road but at least two miles of water because of the serpentine nature of the flow of the stream. This is good because this condition creates a lot of bends and good pocket water and some large pools. This is truly one-cast water and if miss a fish or spook them you get no other chances until later, sometime much later. Brandon and I stopped to have a snack of cheese and crackers about 10:00 am and by then Brandon had caught and released 8 fish; all browns. We tried a black ant pattern, a Royal Wulff pattern and a red Humpy pattern and Brandon caught a couple more. We then tied on the black deer hair hopper pattern that we started with and that turned out to be the best pattern of the day.
We went to the end of the beat and fished a little further towards to headwaters and we started to head back to where we started. We found the only rock in the San Antonio Valley large enough to create some shade and sat back for lunch at 12:30. We sat and rested telling each other wars stories and remembrances of some of our trips together so far. We really enjoy being with each other. Brandon is such a good boy and such a pleasure to have with me on these trips. He is a very quick study and is learning the way of a good steward of the wonderful land we have the pleasure of exploring. After about an hour or so we started fishing downstream and fishing the same runs and pools we fished on the way up. There were fish everywhere. We counted 8-12 fish in each pool we saw. A short time after we started again Brandon set the hook in a 14 inch brown and boy was he excited. He took the advice of the guy who was giving the orientation at the staging area earlier and played the fish for a while and enjoyed every minute of it.
We got back to the where we started about 2:30 and Brandon and I saw what appeared to be a large fish rising to insects in a deep large pool and Brandon was determined to catch it. He cast many times right over the rising trout and the fish just was not interested in his fly but it sure was interested in everything on the water around it. We finally stood up and a very large wave moved across the water reminiscent of a submarine. We finally got a good look at it and it was at least 18 inches long. Brandon and I both know those things just happed at times.
The van arrived at 3:00 and by them Brandon had caught and released 18 nice brown trout. We spooked many times over the number of fish Brandon caught but it was a remarkable day with my grandson. Brandon had a nice nap on the 40 minute drive back to the staging area. We saw many elk and some coyotes. The elk are calving right now so the coyotes will be busy for a while and so will the elk moving away from them.
By 5:15 Brandon and I were in Jemez Springs having the traditional ice cream after another short nap and a long day of fishing in the Jemez. It was a great day with my grandson and I hope to have another soon. My grandson Michael from Lincoln, Nebraska will be here June 24th and the 25th I intend to take him to the San Juan, the Rio Chama and Red River box fishing and camping over the next four days or moteling if the fire hazard is still too high.
June 25 though June 28
San Juan River and Rio Chama
My grandson Michael lives in Lincoln, Nebraska. He called me last month and asked, "Grandpa, can I come out for a couple of weeks?" My reply was, "Dah, of course." He arrived on Saturday afternoon. After we picked him up at the airport we went home to get our fishing stuff ready. I had been tying flies, getting the camping gear and all the other essentials ready most of the week in preparation for our fishing trip we planned. I chose to fish the San Juan River and the Rio Chama not knowing what the drought and fire conditions would be in the rest of northern part of the state.
We started packing the truck early in the morning after breakfast planning to leave by noon and as you can imagine, by 10:00 am we couldn?t wait any longer and hit the road.
We arrived at the Cottonwood Campgrounds by 1:30 pm and started to set up camp. By 2:30 we were on the river fishing in the regular waters just below the quality waters lower boundary. Within 30 minutes the wind began to howl with spiraling sand cloud around us like a mini tornado. So after a few mouthfuls of sand we went back to camp. A rain storm was threatening but all that came was wind and by 5:30 the wind subsided just in time to cook some dinner. Hamburger patties and ranch style beans were on the menu. After a hearty meal and washing dishes we sat around camp for a while and caught up on the past year?s events. By 7:00 we decided we had enough fun for the day and hit the rack for an early start for the next day of fishing.
We arose early the next morning with the intent of cooking breakfast and then going fishing. We both decided that taking some snacks with us for now and having breakfast later would get us to the river quicker.
We went to Lunker Alley and found, in amazement, by the time we hiked through the tall grass over to the run we encountered about 25 million mosquitoes; a sight I had never seen before in the 28 years I have fished the river?so many we could hardly breath without getting a mouthful. We fished for and hour or so and hiked back to the truck. We went to Texas Hole for a while but there were so many anglers it was difficult to get a good spot to fish. By the time we returned to camp it was only 10:30 so we grabbed more snacks and went to fish the regular waters below the Aztec Bridge. There is a 90 degree bend in the river about a quarter of mile below the bridge. We fished for a few hours catching several browns and a couple real nice rainbows. Michael had the biggest of all the fish we caught, brought him all the way to the bank with great care, pulled the fish up and as often happens the fish decided this was its last chance for freedom and lunged back into the deep hole we were fishing. We caught about 10 or 12 fish and by that time we were definitely too hunger to wait any longer. We went back to camp and by 7:00 we had eaten another good meal and were ready to sit and relax for the evening.
We intended to go to Chama the next afternoon but we wanted to fish Texas Hole first thing in the morning. Before going to bed we packed the truck completely except for the tent for an early rise in the morning.
After some more reminiscing and a good night?s rest we were up at 5:00 breaking down the tent and were on the water at 6:00 fishing Texas Hole.
We fished upstream of the boat ramp for a while and then moved up to a small triangular shaped thread of water between the main channel and an adjacent run which feeds the upper portion of Texas Hole. After several casts we were getting into some fish. I cast my line in the main channel letting the fly drift into the calmer thread of water and got a few unsuccessful hits. We got a lot of action but nothing to hand. Finally, I put on a chartreuse egg pattern, which is not supposed to work any longer. The tip of my rod slapped the water like the crack of whip on a stagecoach and a 24 inch San Juan rainbow shot straight up into the air and Michael and I were impressed to say the least. It reminded me of the old days on this river?a very nice trout on a huge fly pattern.
We fished until 11:00 and walked back to the truck for the next leg of our trip.
We arrived at Elkhorn Lodge in Chama by 1:30, checked in and relaxed for a while. I then went to the river for a while and took several pictures of the beautiful scenery. We put on our fishing costumes at 4:00 and went the Rio Chama behind the lodge and fished upstream and downstream for a couple of hours while bringing no fish to hand. The water is very low this year and the water temperature was high. The water was relatively clear but the water temperature was just too high for a lot of action.
By 6:30 we were both hungry. I took Michael to High Country Saloon for a good dinner which was far better than I could prepare and was well worth the effort.
Well, this was our last day of fishing, we got up at 5:00 loaded up the truck, checked out and put on our fishing costumes again and went south to fish the Rio Chama below El Vado Lake. After a scenic drive we arrived at Cooper?s Ranch early and the water was very muddy but the flow was at about 550 cfs. We fished upstream and downstream, fishing every hole we could bringing no fish to hand. Today, this was definitely nightcrawler water. The clarity couldn?t have been more than a few inches. We fished until 11:30 and loaded the truck for our trip home.
Michael and I had a good fishing trip and visit during these few days and I am looking forward to our next trip.
One thing I noticed on this trip was all the trash along the banks of the Chama below El Vado. Makes you wonder if the people who leave the trash have homes and yards that look this way. This is one of the reasons I mostly fish more remote areas and will continue to do so.
My granddaughter Valene asked me about a week ago if I could go with her and her children fishing and camping because she didn?t want to take them by herself and, of course the answer was yes. My wife Ella and I, our daughter Stephanie, her daughter Valene and her kids Brandon and Kyra would go camping and fishing on Saturday morning. I warned them that there was a 50% chance of rain but that didn?t discourage anyone.
The kids had been spending the week with us so by the time Valene got to our house on Friday evening after work we were all ready to go to the mountains. We spent most of the evening loading the truck to its capacity with tents, sleeping bags, food, cooking implements and fishing gear. Since we knew the water was up and murky from recent rains I decided to leave the fly fishing gear home to bait fish. Kyra had not caught any fish yet so this was my focus for the weekend.
East Fork/Rio San Antonio
We got up at early and were on the road by 5:15 am to drove directly to Ella?s favorite fishing hole at the Conchas Trailhead on the East Fork. We fished there for several hours not bringing any fish to hand except for Ella, of course, who caught a nice rainbow. The flow of the Jemez had gone from 29 cfs of flow to 49 cfs over the last two days of rain so it didn?t look good for Kyra to catch her first fish. However, this family has never let a little bad weather discourage any of us. By 11:30 the kids and adults were getting hungry. We went to Redondo Campground and set up camp. We got all the tents set up and I cooked us a nice lunch.
After eating and relaxing around camp for an hour or so I took Ella, Valene and Brandon down the hill to the La Cueva at the bridge on the Rio San Antonio and fished downstream and upstream of the bridge. Stephanie and Kyra stayed in camp and took a nap. I caught two rainbows and Ella caught one brown and one rainbow. Brandon finally caught a nice brown. We caught several fish by the end of the day. It started to sprinkle about 4:00 in the afternoon and we went back to camp with the idea of cooking dinner after a long day of fishing. By the time we got back to camp the weather was clearing. By 6:00 we were all ready to eat. I cooked dinner and washed the dishes. There had been some recent bear activity in the area so after dinner we cleaned up camp and put the food stuffs back in the truck and sat around camp until about 8:00 and Ella and I went to bed. The kids went to bed shortly after. Ella and I planned to fish to East Fork again on Sunday morning after breakfast.
By 9:00 in the evening thunder and lightning was the order of the evening and by 10:00 it began raining hard until early the next morning.
I woke at 5:30, a little wet but rested and started cooking breakfast?in no time the air was filled with the smell of a pound of bacon, a dozen eggs and so on to make this trip even more perfect. There is nothing better than the smell of bacon cooking and sleeping in the mountains?it all just seems better some how than it does in the comfort of your home.
After breakfast we broke up camp and loaded the truck with our stuff and by 7:00 we were all on the East Fork downstream of the Conchas Trailhead and the water was higher than I have seen it in very long time. The water was murky. The fish were lying near the edge of the bank and in the slow running channels. I took Kyra to a good run right away and after the second cast I got a fish on the line and gave the rod to Kyra to reel it in. She was so excited she was giggling. She safely landed a real nice rainbow. We fished a little while longer at the same run and nothing. We move upstream about 40 feet and this time I held her hands while we cast the line out and let it drift a while and got a good hit, set the hook and let her reel it in. She was just as excited as the first time.
A while later we all moved upstream about a quarter of a mile and found a nice wide long run and started fishing again. As happens with very young children Kyra lost interest in fishing and started playing with Grandma Stephanie and Valene. Ella got into some fish right away but Brandon was not doing well so I took him upstream and instructed him as to where to cast and how to handle the drift and he started to get into some fish finally.
By noon it was time to start to head back home to dry out our tents and bags and get ready for work on Monday. We always stop buy a local store in Jemez Springs for an ice cream for everyone. This has been a tradition in our family for so long I can?t remember when we started but it is a nice tradition.
The family, the rain, the camping, the meals, the fishing?brought back so many pleasant memories of taking our children fishing and camping when they were children. Now two generations later we are still carrying on the tradition.
We caught about 15 fish total by the end of this trip with Ella catching the first, the biggest and the most?oh well. See photos below.
I will be fly-fishing on the Rio de los Pinos in mid-to-end of September and maybe before that in the Jemez again with Ella?just us.
I took Friday off work to fish with my wife Ella. Ella found a new favorite place to fish a couple of weeks ago with our grandchildren so we chose to go back. This time I knew we would need to cross the stream several times so we went to Charlie?s Sporting Goods to get her a pair of hip waders.
We hit the road at daybreak and after stopping for a chug of milk and some tiny donuts we were on the road and by 7:45 arrived at Ella?s new favorite spot.
As we were getting into our fishing costumes I hear Ella say ?Oh My God!? I responded to her religious experience by saying ?What?? Turns out she was putting on her new waders and found one boot was size 7 women?s and the other boot size 7 men?s. And to top it off they were both right feet. Needless to say, after her disappointment and our long side-splitting laughter, we just went to the stream wearing our hiking shoes.
Well, back to the task at hand.
The water had dropped since our last trip but was still up high and murky. We hiked in for a short while and started to fish. I got a hit from a nice brown and at about the same moment Ella?s got a hit also. Both fish were 5 to 6 inches in length. We continued our journey upstream catching a few more fish along the way. We reached the point in the stream where you must cross because of a large boulder. To my surprise, Ella suggested we cross in our hiking shoes so with great care I carried her fishing rod and with her hand on my shoulder we crossed. The water was cold but tolerable after about 15 seconds. We reached the other side to properly fish the next run of water catching a couple more browns. We were quickly realizing that we were probably only going to catch small fish on this trip.
We fished the next stretch of water for about and hour and caught a few more small fish. We hiked upstream further and came to another very high boulder. There was a trail that crossed the top of it but I was not sure I wanted Ella to try it but she insisted. So
I took her gear and she followed me over the boulder and back down to the other side. I was concerned about her but she insisted as long as we took our time it would be fine. It was quite an arduous task but she was up to it. We are both learning that even though we are getting up in years, if we pace ourselves we do quite well. On the other side of the climb there was a nice run that flowed into a very large pool. The first thing I noticed was an incredible caddis hatch; the air was filled with them.
We fished there for a while catching some more browns. We sat on a fallen tree trunk and had a snack of cheese, crackers and hard-boiled eggs about 10:30. After our snack we crossed the stream again and continued to fish more runs and pocket water upstream with similar results but noticed the fish were getting larger. We fished for another hour or so and decided to start our trek out as the clouds were forming for their daily sprinkle. When we returned to the area with the boulder we crossed earlier we found we could cross in the water with little effort and not have to make the hike up and over the boulder again?oh well.
We continued fishing downstream on our way back to the truck. We encountered some slight rain along the way. There is nothing like the smell of fresh air in the mountains of New Mexico after a rain .
After drying ourselves off we went to the restaurant in La Cueva and had a late lunch. After lunch we went to the Las Conchas day use area and fished for another couple of hours catching our largest fish of the day?nice fat rainbows. By 6:30 we were ready to go back home.
We caught 17 fish of the smaller size and another 7 keepers which went home for feasting.
We have 3 children and 12 grand-children but my best fishing buddy will always be Ella, bar none. We always have so much fun together. As long as we are able we will be fishing and camping the mountains carrying the Jemez and Pecos watersheds and fishing the Rio Grande near Pilar together. We may be fishing the Rio de los Pinos together in September...a guy can't have it any better than this.
As you can tell I did not make a trip to the Rio de los Pinos in September...responsibilities and other things in life, in general, can get in the way of plans made. We have had a very busy second half of the year at the office. With that and painting the house and other weekend tasks, open weekends can easily slip away for a few months. Every year I vow to try to go fishing more often, well maybe next year.
I left home about 7:00 am on Friday morning after Thanksgiving for the San Juan. As you can tell I haven't had a weekend off for a while and needed some therapy. What better therapy that a couple days fly fishing.
The weather forecast was "Partly Cloudy" and "Almost Sunny" was the result. The air was warm for this time of year and there was no wind. The water flow was 550 cfs and very clear. I couldn't have picked a better day to fish. Well, maybe a little more sunshine for this spoiled New Mexican.
I arrived on the water all costumed-up by 10:45. I started out at the beginning of the quality water below Simon Canyon. I rigged my line with a yellow egg pattern trailed with a size 22 black ribbed emerger with white foam. I started fishing at the tail end of some riffles and on the second cast I got a strike from a high jumping 19 inch San Juan rainbow and shortly after had it in my net.
Fishing was looking good very quickly. It continued with a few more large rainbows and four German browns by 2:00 pm. The emerger pattern was the hot fly for the morning but the afternoon a white bunny leech trailed by a yellow egg pattern was just as effective as the emerger pattern. I fished until 4:30 with similar results. The fishing was a lot better in the morning but the afternoon produced almost all browns. All fish were in the 16 inch to 20 inch range. I haven't had a day like this on the San Juan for a while...it was rewarding.
After a good night's sleep I got up at 6:00 am for the days adventure. I was on the river fishing by 7:00 am a little chilly but tolerable. The sky was clear, the air was calm and the water was ripe for another great day on the river. I was told by a wise old fisherman once that you should always fish spots that have been good in the past. Who am I to doubt the word of a wise fisherman. Besides it works.
Needless to say I started below Simon Canyon again. This time I was alone for quite a while. I fished some of the same runs and pools I fished yesterday. Today I was also able to fish the runs I couldn't fish the day before. I started with the same rig as I did yesterday morning. After several casts I got a strike on the emerger pattern again. I was fishing the head of a large pool, drifting on the edge of the faster water and this time I got a hit a actually was able to set the hook for a good fight with a 20 inch German brown. Fishing was looking up again today I was thinking. But on a river like the San Juan catching fish can quickly change.
I tried the pattern for about an hour bringing no more fish to hand. I changed to a chocolate emerger and trailed it with a red annelid both in size 22. After a few casts I started to get into some rainbows and brought several to hand by 10:30 all in the 15 inch to 18 inch size. These patterns were looking good for some more fish today. I took a break about 11:00 and sat on the bank enjoying the view of low-flying ducks and geese going back and forth over the water until about 11:30.
I fished until 2:30 catching several fish, mostly browns, in the 15 inch to 16 inch range with one 20 inch rainbow. I caught most on the red annelid pattern and a couple on the emerger. This trip is the best trip I have had in a long time. It is reminiscent of a trip when I took my 5 year old grandson James to the San Juan when he caught a 19 inch rainbow one day and a 20 inch rainbow the next in Texas Hole...a trip I will always cherish in my mind. James is in London, England now at the age of 28 earning his second Masters Degree.
I say this frequently but it really doesn't get much better than this.
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