Red River/Rio Grande Box
Red River flows westward, from Questa, by the Red River state fish hatchery. Stockers are caught in the river from NM 522 to the hatchery.
The Red River state fish hatchery is a 2-mile drive to the end of NM 515. Red River is fed by several springs, on its way to the Rio Grande, which keeps the water temperature constant year-round. Down stream of the hatchery, Red River closes into the box canyon at an elevation of 7,000 feet. From this point there are deep pools, deep runs, and pocket water predominate. There are many large boulders that create eddies and great holding areas for trout. There is considerable vegetation along the banks of the canyon, such as trees bushes and tall grasses, but is easily fish-able. Red River is very picturesque as you can see to the left with numerous deep runs and deep pocket water. When you use nymphs be sure to fish them deep.
Three miles later the Red converges with the Rio Grande at an elevation of 6200 feet. About half-way from the hatchery and the confluence of the Red and Rio is a very tall canyon wall on your right where you must cross the river to continue to fish. This is where the fishing really starts to get better. The lower part of Red River is not stocked but does hold an abundance of wild browns but rainbows predominate. Further down stream near the confluence, browns are the predominate species. Fishing is incredible with dry flies in the evenings, terrestrials on hot afternoons, and nymph/wet fly-fishing all day. Because of the near constant water temperature, hatches of different insects occur year-round. There is always a good chance to catch a "lunker" in the lower part because of browns cruising upstream from the Rio Grande to feed.
The Rio Grande Gorge referred to by most, as "The Box" is about 70 miles long. The headwaters of the Rio Grande are in the San Juan Mountains near Crede, Colorado. The Rio Grande Box is open water, 30 to 40 feet wide at times, with very large boulders throughout, and some vegetation along the banks, such as trees and brush. The river is easily fish-able with the possibility of catching some very large fish. The Rio Grande also has a population of northern pike but, the predominate fish are browns. This stretch of the Rio Grande has special fishing regulations.
The fish are selective feeders but persistence pays off. The dry fly fishing is quite good in the evenings. Parts of the river widen to some very large, slow pools that can be very productive. The entire area has deep pools, deep runs, pocket water, and many holding areas for trout. One thing to remember is when you are fishing nymphs, fish them DEEP.
In addition to hiking downstream from the Red River Hatchery, there are several trails to access the Rio Grande Box and Red River Box. One of the easiest trail is the 1.5 mile hike down from Cebolla Mesa on the south side of the Red River. The trail ends at the convergence of Red River and Rio Grande. To access this trail, travel west on FR 9 from NM 522 for about three and a half miles west to the Cebolla Mesa Campground to reach the trail-head.
Additional trail-heads are accessed from the Rio Grande Wild and Scenic River Recreation Area: Sheep Crossing, Chiflo, Big Arsenic Springs, Little Arsenic Springs, La Junta and El Aguaje, with La Junta being the steepest with several short, steep switchbacks. Most are strenuous hikes but are more than worth it. Hiking is a must to access both box canyons, but what an incredible journey!
Go to the "Lower Rio Grande" watershed description for information about the Rio Grande below Cebolla Mesa trail-head. Go to the "Red River (Upper)" watershed description for information east of Questa.
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 to NM 515 to the Red River Fish hatchery (about 3 miles south of Questa to NM 515).
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