• flyfishing

Wednesday, October 5, 2016

Fishing Report: Rio Chama below El Vado Lake

Rio Chama below El Vado Lake

To fish the El Vado section of the Rio Chama head to Cooper’s El Vado Ranch. It’s about a mile below the dam. They charge a nominal fee to park, and have camping, a tiny store and cabins. These cabins are thoroughly booked in summer as many people come here to bait fish. But don’t let that scare you because there is a lot of river and it is heavily stocked with 12 inch rainbows that grow fast in this rich environment. In just a few months time the trout may gain a couple inches and no longer even resemble a stocked trout, and engage the angler in a vigorous combat.

If your fishing needs to be close to the car there are a couple of very easy and productive runs right adjacent to Coopers. To fish them it is best to get on the far side and walk down a ¼ mile and then fish back up with nymphs. What makes them good spots is that the water has sufficient depth to harbor trout and an even, unbroken flow--one gets a long drift with a moderately weighted nymph. Most of the fish here will just be stockers but a good brown is always possible. (Especially in fall.)

The water above Coopers is broken and fast. If you try and fish up on the east side you will get walled out by a long cliff, so to fish it properly you must be on the west side. You can drive  upstream to the end of the campground and cross the river there; but beware that it is not an easy crossing and try it only at flows below 200 cfs! An easier way to get across—albeit a longer walk-- is to simply use the foot bridge that is visible from Cooper’s.

Far fewer fishermen will be found down below Coopers. This is where the river widens and slows down to a riffle/pool structure. But there is virtually no vehicular access below Cooper’s, and it’s 26 miles to the next access/take out. This is a famous place to float—unfortunately it is not a place to float/ fish because the floating flows are much too high (800+) and muddy to provide good fishing (contact Taos B.L.M. for floating permits).

The group Rio Grande Restoration (.com) is working to stabilize these flows to improve the health of the river. If the flows were consistently at a moderate level of something like 300 cfs it would be likely that the river could be float/fished. Another huge environmental factor here is that silt buildup reduces trout numbers as one proceeds downriver. The Nutrias drainage that comes in from the east is largely responsible for the silt-- but there are still several miles of excellent water that receives only light pressure.

Trout in this El Vado stretch are more numerous than most fisherman realize because they are a temperamental, nomadic and finicky lot of fish! They may feed variously at times and then develop lockjaw. There seems to be a generous amount of food; so lots of time on the water is required to encounter the fishes on the feed. So being there when conditions are optimal is important. Not only should you check flow levels, but also contact the Cooper’s Ranch store and ask what the water clarity is. If the flow has been very high it takes a week or more for it to clear once lowered; and even then the water is really never clear--but if it is a greenish color it will be OK to fish.

Like the Abiquiu section of the Chama River downstream this is primarily an off season fishery. With the best fishing likely to occur in late fall—November/December when the water is low and clear and the large browns are moving about spawning.

This clarity factor dictates the way the river must be fished. Although hatches can be profuse, it is rare to find fish rising. Visibility is a factor and beadhead flies that have sparkle built to catch the trout’s eye are wise to use. But if the fish are feeding they are not particular about what they eat. One way to go is to fish downstream from Cooper’s stripping streamers as you go, then fish back up with nymphs. You want to fish much larger flies here than you might be used to using elsewhere. My favorite fly for fishing downstream is an olive Slumpbuster in size 8, my favorite nymph for fishing back upstream is—you guessed it—the Poundmiester. Fly selection is not near as important as sink rate; so have these flies tied with different sized beads to accommodate the river’s speed and depth. Be aware that large browns and rainbows can be about any where’s in the faster water here, and I have caught 20 inchers in small pockets that didn’t look worthy of a cast. The fish are extremely healthy and put up powerful fights.

Fishing here requires long casts and long hikes; making this a poor place for beginners.
Wading is somewhat treacherous here too. And as the water is cold you will need chest waders and studded wading shoes.

Tight lines—Taylor Streit

Friday, September 23, 2016

Get To Know Your Guide: Jeremy Brooks


Jeremy Brooks

When did you learn to fly fish?

            I first fly fished the day of my seventh birthday, on a guide trip with former Reel Life guide Karen Dennison that I asked for as my birthday present after becoming increasingly frustrated with the limitations of spin fishing after a few years of targeting trout with Fireballs and Pistol Petes. I got a starter fly rod and reel combo the same day, and targeting fish with flies has been my passion ever since.

 Why did you become a guide/ where are you from and how did you end up guiding at TRL?

            As I grew up in Santa Fe, guides and guide culture became a huge part of my life. I spent every minute that I wasn’t at school or on the water in the fly shop, and formed friendships with former Reel Life guides that have lasted until the present. Whether I was learning to get the proportions on my nymphs right behind the counter or out in the parking lot working on my double haul with an 8 weight I couldn’t afford, I was doing everything that I could to absorb knowledge from people who were, and still are, my role models and friends. I knew I wanted to guide for The Reel Life by the time I was eight or nine years old, and getting to do that a decade later is something I give thanks for every morning I step in the shop.

 What is your most memorable experience as a guide?

As much time as I have spent teaching clients on guide trips, I’ve also learned from them. The relationships I’ve formed with clients on past trips are easily the most memorable aspects of guiding for me, beyond a particular fish or day. One client in particular stands out. Although I won’t mention him by name, I have guided him on multiple occasions, and each time is something special. Although old age and lung damage limit his ability to function at high elevations, he never lets it stop him, relying on only my patience and the occasional arm to get through long days on the water. He’s traveled all over the world throughout a long military career and years of pursuing big game hunting, and the stories he tells me while we watch his flies drift by always run through my head for weeks after. I sent him a picture after getting my first Tarpon on the fly last summer, and he was just as pumped as any of my other friends or fishin’ buddies were. The fact that we can relate as outdoorsmen, despite the large age difference and backgrounds, is quite special to me and definitely something that I cherish.

What is your goal when you take clients on a trip?

            I always make sure to remind clients at the beginning of each trip that today is their day on the water. As much as I love catching fish, I’m always happy to adapt the day to include a longer lunch, bird watching breaks, more emphasis on photography, etc. I feel blessed that I get to spend my summers working in beautiful places outdoors, and my goal each day is for each client to feel some of the appreciation of and love for the places we fish that I’ve had my whole childhood and adolescence to develop. Whether we achieve that by grinding into the fishing and landing as many fish as possible or simply enjoying some of the most stunning places in the Southwest is all up to the personal preferences of the guest or group each day.

What is your favorite river to guide and why?

            My favorite river to guide is the Brazos at Corkin’s lodge. Although it is probably the toughest wading in the state and even the trail along the side of the stream can be precarious, the Brazos box canyon is easily one of the most stunning places I’ve ever explored. In terms of special moments in Northern New Mexico, it’s hard to beat watching a wild brown trout float to the surface of a deep pool to take a dry, light up by the thin line of blue sky separating thousand-foot cliffs that tower within casting distance to each side. 

What are your top five go-to patterns?

            Yellow Stimulator
            Floss Worm
            Micro May
            Tim’s Leech
            Barr’s Emerger

What do you love about fly fishing?

            Honestly, I don’t even know how many times I’ve spent the drive back from a day on the water trying to answer this very question for myself. Although I haven’t come close to describing it perfectly, I do know that every single day I’m grateful that I picked up a fly rod when I did. I live two different lives, one among friends and family that floats between school in Colorado Springs and my house in Santa Fe, and one that takes place in mountains, always near water with a fly rod in hand. Each puts the other into perspective; drama with friends feels insignificant when I know that fresh fish are running the Dream Stream, and a tough day on the water is less painful when I return to the “real world” and remember that fishing is simultaneously all that matters and completely pointless. In particular I love chasing trophy trout, because no feeling parallels holding a fish you’ve wanted for weeks or months or years, a moment you’ve dreamed of after countless days of defeat. That being said, some of the best days of my life have been spent walking up a tiny creek with a friend, tossing dries to Brookies or hungry little Cuts. Obviously, I’m not great at explaining my love for fishing, but it’s a love that has meant everything to me for the majority of my life.

What is the one place that you want to fish before you die?

            I don’t think there’s any trip I want to do more than a few months of exploring backcountry in Patagonia. That would be epic.

What do you enjoy doing when you are not on the water?       

            When I’m not fishin’ I spend my time working on school (I’m currently at Colorado College and plan on majoring in Environmental Science), tying flies, reading, and staying fit. I also love hiking and photography, and write in my free time when my boxes don’t need any bug refills.

Sunday, August 28, 2016

Get To Know Your Guide: Peter Mosey

Get To Know Your Guide

Peter Mosey

When did you learn to fly fish?
I started fly fishing in 2006. Fly fishing was a much needed gift at that point of my life. I was running a small business in the day and tending bar at night. One of the most appealing aspects of fly fishing is the therapeutic aspects of it. It can help people slow everything down and focus on the details. 

Why did you become a guide?
I started guiding to share some of these aspects with people. Fly fishing can embody so much beauty, whether it's the fish, the scenery, or the commute to the river. If we choose to, we can encompass our selves within that beauty. I feel like I have an opportunity to help plant a seed within people. If they choose to nurture this seed, it is possible to grow something that can provide for them for the rest of their lives.

Where are you from and how did you end up guiding in Santa Fe?
Originally, I am from Indianapolis Indiana. I moved to Santa Fe in 1994. I found my way to The Reel Life in 2006. My first trip was July 4, 2006.

What is your most memorable experience as a guide?
It is really difficult to pinpoint one particularly memorable experience guiding. Every trip is different and special. I can say, that guiding has provided many opportunities to go to really special places and waters. Having the opportunity to be on the beautiful meadows on one day and the stunning cliffs of the Brazos the next, is something that is very rewarding for me.

What is your goal when you take clients on a guide trip?
My goals on a guided trip are simple. First is to make the day as special as I can for my client. Secondly, is to try and ask the clients what they see as a successful day and try to help them accomplish their goals.

 What is your favorite river to guide and why?
Honestly this answer changes based on the day I am asked. Each river poses its own set of challenges and techniques. Generally I prefer solitude when I fish. New Mexico offers so many quiet secluded rivers.

What are your top five “go to” patterns?
I am a fly tying fanatic. I really don't have too many go to patterns. I like the fluidity that flies can provide. One of the most satisfying experiences is tying a fly that you have never seen before and catching fish with it!

What do you love about fly fishing?
What is there not to like?!?

What is the one place you want to fish before you die?
         For the most part, I am just grateful to be fishing. I would love to do every single one of the exotic trips that are out there. Alaska? Patagonia? Kamchatka? Yes please. Let's go!

What do you enjoy doing when you are not on the water?
If I am not fishing or tying flies, you can find me knee deep in my farm or taking one of my horses down a dusty trail, hopefully with a trout or two at the end of it.

Wednesday, August 10, 2016

The Brazos River

The Brazos River

     I don’t know about you but I rarely have the strength of will to follow a river trail until it ends. More often than not I see a particularly juicy run or a too enticing hole through the trees and cannot resist the urge to stop hiking and start fishing. However, early last month I had the opportunity to guide the Brazos River Box and thankfully I harnessed the strength of will to put on blinders as I led my clients down the trail past innumerable picturesque waters. Although, as strong as I thought I was I must admit that at one particularly gorgeous pool I asked them if they were ready to stop and “clear the cobwebs.” My clever way of suggesting that we stop this foolish hiking and start fishing. Thankfully, they were determined to hike to the box and so I led them on, albeit secretly reluctant.

     If you can resist the temptation of perfect waters and make it to the end of the Brazos Box Trail you will be rewarded with one of the most beautiful stretches of trout water in the state. I do believe the old adage that ‘beauty lies in the eye of the beholder’ but I dare you to make this trek and argue that this river is anything other than one of New Mexico’s finest. After scrambling over rock fields, following scattered cairns which lead you up into the realm of the mountain goat, you eventually scramble back down and are dropped at river’s edge. You step off of a bank covered in wild flowers and into clear waters. You look up at the sheer cliffs of the box canyon rising 2,500 feet above you and see a small strip of perfect blue sky. The river flows around structure composed of boulders and felled trees and it is so fishy that your fingers tremble as you hurry to get rigged. The best news of all is that it is indeed as fishy as it looks.

     In fact, the entire two and a half miles of the Brazos River leading up to the box provides incredibly good fishing. It is owned and accessed through the private holding at Corkin’s Lodge, a rustic and historic community of cabins tucked in the trees at the base of the cliffs. Corkin’s Lodge has been operating for over 70 years and is the type of place where families will vacation generation after generation. Do you want the best news yet? It is affordable. This paradise is not reserved for the super rich but I guarantee that you will feel like you have won the lottery when you pull a wild brown from a plunge pool and release it back into the water while you stand beneath the setting sun blazing off the cliffs above.

     We have guided many clients through these Brazos waters over the years and have discovered that in addition to being both a cozy retreat and a top quality day trip fishing destination, Corkin’s Lodge provides the perfect base camp for a multi-day fishing trip. There are three other rivers in the area that provide diverse yet unparalleled fishing for the region, the Chama, Conejos and San Juan.  All three rivers are accessible for day trips from Corkin’s and each offer the angler something different. Call us at the shop to book!