Spaniards arriving in the region in the late 1500s were impressed with the southern Rockies as reflected in their place names. The Sangre de Cristo Mountains, Spanish for "Blood of Christ," are an awe-inspiring backdrop to fishing in the Pecos River and its tributaries. Many opportunities exist in this rather large watershed. Portions of the Pecos River proper are fairly wide, varying from 10 to 40 feet, with rainbows being the predominant trout. An occasional brown trout are caught and on rare occasion a brook trout has been landed.
Leaving the town of Pecos traveling upstream for about 12 miles to the community of Tererro, the Pecos River follows NM63 and is heavily fished. But, if you can find an open spot on the river, fish it! Even with heavy pressure the fishing is quite good. The Pecos area is one of the most heavily stocked areas in New Mexico and can be very productive. The Pecos River cuts through private property in many places along the way.
The Pecos has a good stone-fly hatch in late May-June that's very productive. The dry fly fishing is very good in the evenings all summer. The water is usually very clear for most of the year except after rains. Presentation is "everything" with the dry fly patterns.
There is a general store at Tererro. This area is easily accessible with parking on the west side of the Pecos River at a large campground. Holy Ghost Creek converges with the Pecos River at this point. Holy Ghost Creek is very small but holds a surprising number of trout along Forest Road 122 traveling N.W. to Holy Ghost campground. The fish are small but are a lot of fun to catch.
Back to Tererro campground. . . Fishing pressure on the Pecos River at the campground is heavy but if you hike upstream on the Pecos there is about a mile and a half of good trout waters. The photo to the right is the Pecos above the Tererro Campground about a half mile. There are wide flats, deep runs, deep pools and excellent riffles. There are ample opportunities if you nymph fish the deep pools in this area and dry flies in the wide flats, especially in the evenings.
Traveling north of Tererro on NM 63 for about 2 miles is the confluence of Mora Creek and the Pecos River at Mora Creek Campground. The campground area receives a tremendous amount of fishing pressure. Try hiking up Mora Creek about one-half mile to some good brown trout water. Mora Creek opens into the Mora Box about three-quarters of a mile up from the trail head near the campground. A deep canyon with deep pools, pocket water, and riffles are best fished walking upstream in the creek.
Above the convergence of Mora Creek and the Pecos River the landscape opens up into the Pecos Box--a deep canyon with pools, pocket water, and great riffles--with about one and one-half miles in special regulation waters. Mostly rainbows but a few browns are just waiting to be tempted by the gentle presentation of your fly. A lot of vegetation in this area presents some challenging casts but is easily fishable. The stream is easily accessible from either end of the "Box." Continuing upstream is the former "community" of Cowles where Winsor Creek flows into the Pecos River.
Panchuela Creek and Jacks Creek converge with the Pecos River in the far north end of the Pecos area, about 2 miles north of Cowles. These streams offer very good dry-fly and nymph fishing opportunities. Hiking in this area is a must but, it is highly rewarding because of the pristine nature of this forested region. The hiking is almost flat in most of this area and not too strenuous. Jack's Creek Camping and Day-use area is up atop NM rt. 63 a couple miles north of Cowles. As you continue downstream the creek spreads-out shallow and the area was much denser as you get closer the road to the Jack's Creek day-use area. Let me tell you, if you don't know how to "Sling-Shot" cast, you had better learn and practice.
The predominate species of trout in Jack's Creek is the Rio Grande Cutthroat, however I have caught a Brown or two. If you are persistent you will catch plenty of fish.
The Pecos River headwaters are northeast of Panchuela Creek and Jacks Creek near a place called Beatty's Cabin, about a 6 mile hike.
A New Old Picture and the Pecos
I was tying flies one evening and while looking up I noticed a new old picture on my shelf above my fly tying bench. The picture on the shelf was of my grandson James at the age of 18 months old with his first fish. The picture has always been on the shelf but for some reason that evening I noticed this old picture in a new light and started to reminisce about my fishing experiences with James over the years. I stopped tying flies that evening and got out my fishing album to relive some of the wonderful times he and I have had together on the rivers of northern New Mexico.
James' father was not present in his life. However, he and I were inseparable and went almost everywhere together. While reminiscing, I was thinking about his first pair of waders when he was four years old. I used an old pair of kids waders cut off just above the knees. We would go the Jemez and James would be so excited about putting on his waders along with his life preserver to fish with me, even though we were never in more than 6 inches of water. I will always remember how happy that child was when we were together in the outdoors.
Over the years, James and I have fished the San Juan, Jemez and the Pecos Rivers including the feeder streams, spending countless hours on the water during the days and observing the stars at night. I had never seen a child soak up so much information and develop so much passion for fly-fishing. By the age of nine James was tying his own flies and casting a fly rod as well as most adults. The photo to the left is of James in 1987 at the age of 9 fishing the Pecos.
When James was nine and a half years old, I was about to transfer to our branch office in El Paso, Texas. This was a very difficult move for the both of us. One of the sad things about my move was I had not taken him to Red River or the upper Rio Grande yet. We spent two or three of summers together, fishing in the Gila Wilderness and Rio Ruidoso but as James reached adolescence, his visits became less frequent.
Before I knew it, nine years had past and finally I was able to move back home. That was 1996. James is a twenty-nine year old now and we have only been fishing twice since I moved back home. One trip we went to Red River below the Red River hatchery and the other trip was to the Jemez area to fish the East Fork.
Looking at that picture prompted me to call and invite him on a fishing trip to the Pecos and he accepted. However, on Friday evening he told me he was having trouble with his allergies and would have to cancel. I decided to go fishing myself anyway.
I got up about 5:00 a.m. the next morning and started my trek for the Pecos. I was eating a couple of cinnamon rolls, that my wife baked the day before, on my way north to fish this bountiful fishery and the first place I stopped was at the Dalton turnout to take a look at the water conditions. The water was crystal clear and low with perfect conditions for some dry fly fishing opportunities. I continued to the next turnout and walked to the water and it reminded me of the times that James, his sister Valene and I fished this spot, which was one of his favorites as a child. I just could not resist it and I suited-up to begin my day of fishing. I tied on a size14 Yellow Stimulator and trailed it with size16 Gold Ribbed Hare's Ear nymph. My first cast was upstream in a shallow fast run and I let it drift into the tail end of a large pool and got a strike on the stimulator. This surprised me because I expected the Hare's Ear would be the tasty looking morsel that would be the target. I fished this spot for about a half hour and continued north.
I did something that I have not done in a long time. I stopped at every turn out on the way to Terrero, as I did with my grandchildren in years past. I used the same flies in these spots with similar results. I fished the areas very methodically and patiently just as I taught James.
I arrived at Terrero about 9:00 a.m. and proceeded upstream about a half mile beyond the local store before I started to fish. There is a large hole between two very large boulders with an old fallen pine across the water. My first cast was between the boulders in the fast water. I let the flies drift to the tail end of the run and after about four casts; I was teased with a small tap on the Hare’s Ear nymph. I soon realized that I would need to use a lower profile because of the clarity of the water. My assessment was correct; after positioning myself in a lower profile, I started casting longer presentations with better results.
I continued to fish upstream for about a mile and a half fishing all of the runs and deep pools with good results. The fishing was good with the dry fly and nymph dropper. The other combination that I used was a size 14 light Elk Hair Caddis and a size 18 Pheasant Tail trailer nymph. I fished for about four more hours resulting in a successful day. The best part was catching fish and not changing flies all day to see what would work. I caught and released several rainbow and brown trout. The nymphs turned out to be the morsel of temptation for the rest of the day. There are good signs there maybe a few more weeks of good fishing left before the fall cold weather settles.
Maybe James could not make the trip but he was with me, in spirit, for the entire day. James loves the outdoors and still enjoys fly-fishing but he will be living in England for a while. He and I have made a pact to spend more outdoor time together. I do know this, when I get older James will help me wade across the rivers of New Mexico just as he promised he would when he was an eight year old child. In the meantime, I am fishing with Valene's son Brandon…but that is another story.
I wrote this story in 2006 about a trip I took in 2000.
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