Lower Rio Grande
The Rio Grande Box below the convergence with Red River is, in my opinion, the best fishing on the Rio Grande--namely La Junta Run and Cedar Springs. Deep runs, pocket water and pools offer an opportunity to catch some large fish. On many occasions I have had my rod tip slap the water so hard that I've almost lost the rod without seeing what pulled it down. The road to John Dunn Bridge,near t5he toen of Hondo continues up to the rim of the west side of the canyon wall and will take you down to cedar springs. However, be very careful attempting the road down to the springs, from the rim of the canyon, check a topo map for a more precise route. The road is very primitive and a high clearance 4-wheel drive vehicle is a must.
The fish are selective and it may be awhile between strikes but, be patient. Dries are good in the evenings but nymphing is usually best fishing a peacock nymph. Remember...fish 'em deep. Traveling downstream below Cedar Springs to the John Dunn Bridge fishing is pretty good. By the time you have reached the John Dunn Bridge you have traveled 7 miles from the Rio Grande/Red River confluence.
The Rio Hondo feeds the Rio Grande near the bridge and is a very productive small stream east (upstream through a canyon) east of the village of Arroyo Hondo at NM 522. There are some abundant hatches in the spring and fall. Dry flies and small nymphs work well. The fish in the Rio Hondo are usually small, except for the 15" Rainbow that my wife caught a few years ago, but there are a lot of fish to catch if you are patient and you use a low profile when fishing this area. Photo to the right was taken by Craig Springer.
East of Arroyo Hondo, stair-stepping upstream, fishing is good in the Rio Hondo for rainbows along NM 150 up to where several campgrounds are located. NM 150 is the road to the Twinning and the Taos Ski Valley. Continuing to travel towards Twining and Taos Sky Valley you will have a better chance of catching some Rio Grande cutthroats, the New Mexico State Fish. This entire to Twining is a productive fishery with small to medium-sized trout.
Back to the John Dunn Bridge. . . Downstream from the bridge for about 2 miles to Manby Hot Springs the fishing is good but during the summer there are a lot of rafters. Don't be discouraged, be persistent and you will catch fish. This area is referred to as the "Taos Box."
Heading south past the Rio Grand Gorge Bridge for about 12 miles is the convergence of Rio Pueblo de Taos. This 12 mile run of the Rio Grande is difficult to fish because of the terrain. I would highly recommend a guide for this area. At a minimum never hike this area alone.
The photo, to the left, is the Rio Pueblo de Taos looking to the east (upstream) from the convergence with the Rio Grande. This tributary is not fished by a lot of people because the terrain is very rocky with large boulders as you can see. However, the water can hold some very nice rainbows and browns. Drive up the road until it runs out (about a mile) and then start fishing upstream from there. Nymph fishing is best in this stream and long casts are preferable with drifts on the bottom. A sparsely tied black hellgrammite pattern trimmed tight to the hook can be very successful. In the late evenings using an Elk Hair Caddis in the late spring and summer and a Griffith's Gnat in the winter are the flies to use.
From the Rio Pueblo de Taos downstream to Pilar is about 5 miles. The Rio Grande is easily accessible along NM 96 and the fishing is good with surprisingly low fishing pressure at times.
The photo above shows the type of water that you want to look for on the stretch of the Rio Grande below the confluence of the Rio Pueblo de Taos to Pilar. You want to use a prince nymph or a peacock nymph or a Black Wool Bugger fished on the bottom. Fish the slower water just this side of the break between the faster currents and slower runs. You usually don't need to strip-in the Wooly Bugger, but it can't hurt. This stretch of the Rio Grande can be very difficult to fish at times because the fish definitely have a mind of their own at times. Just be persistent and you will do fine.
Below Pilar to Velarde for 13 miles along NM 68 the Rio Grande is easily accessible with mostly bait fishing opportunities. The river is very wide and deep and not easily wadable. However, find a spot at the tail of a run or where an eddy has formed and with large streamer patterns you can catch some beautiful fish. Rafters run this area in the spring and early summer.
Take I-25 north from Albuquerque exit at St. Francis Drive in Santa Fe; travel north on US 84/285 to Espanola and travel north on NM 68 to Taos then Take NM 522.
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