The Rio Chama below Heron Dam was my destination last week. The fishing conditions were noticeably different from the last time I had been there a month ago. The streamflow was much lower and they were no longer releasing water from beneath Heron Dam. Surprisingly, there were other anglers on the water.
I hiked downstream a ways from the dam. The fishing was kind of slow, so I went a little farther downstream than usual. Still, no fish.
A pool behind a large boulder in the middle of the river looked promising and there were some fish rising to the surface. It meant getting my feet wet, but the flow was so low, it was just to my ankles. The water was cold, but I caught a brown trout and a rainbow trout, both released. I had gotten a late start and decided it might be time to head back because the walk out takes a lot longer than the walk in.
On the way back, the sun was had dipped behind the canyon rim and was no longer on the water. There were fish rising. I stopped to fish a spot that earlier had yielded not a nibble. I hooked a good fish that turned out to be a big rainbow trout that fought hard before coming to the bank. In the process of removing the hook, the fish slipped away and darted off. No biggie. When I was younger, I would have been upset at losing such a nice fish, but old age has mellowed me a bit.
A little farther upstream and a few casts later, I hooked another big rainbow trout. Since I don’t carry a net, I worked this fish to the bank, where I was able to grab it behind the gills and land it. This fish I kept. I like to eat trout and this one would make a fine meal. It was big enough that I could save some of the meat and make a trout sandwich the next day.
The delay on the walk back meant I arrived back at the truck with darkness starting to fall. It had been a good day.
The weather has been warmer than usual this fall and dry since the beginning of October. The weather forecast is for a warm and dry late fall and early winter. That may extend the fishing season this fall.
The streamflows across Northern New Mexico are falling and the water is in beautiful shape. There appeared to be a caddis hatch on the Chama River the day I went. Fly fishers should take advantage of these conditions.
The fishing in the Rio Grande was rated as excellent last week, likely due to the low and clear water. Just about everything-flies, lures and bait-was catching fish. Now is the time to take a trip into the Rio Grande Gorge above Questa. The fishing can be fickle here. There have been times when I’ve hiked into the Rio Grande and come back with little to show for it. The good days on the Rio Grande make up for the slow ones and then some. They’ve been stocking a lot of Rio Grande cutthroat in the upper Rio Grande and I’d like to see if I could catch one. There are big, wild brown trout too.
I’d also like to see, since I turned 70 this year, how I handle the hike in.
As I said before, the streamflow on the upper Chama River above El Vado is low and clear. The fishing conditions are ideal for fly fishing. The flow on the Chama below El Vado Dam is at a good level for fishing, which is rated fair-to-good. The Chama River below Abiquiu Dam remains too murky and the flows are still a little high for good fishing.
The Pecos River has been fishing well and fly fishers should take advantage of the nice fall weather.
The flows on the San Juan River below Navajo Dam are at a good level for fishing. I’ve been looking into a public fishing area on the San Juan called the Hammond Tract that may be worth a try. It is about 14 miles below Navajo Dam and well below the often-crowded Quality Waters. The fishing here is more for wild brown trout than for stocked rainbow trout and the fishing pressure is much lighter.
Kokanee salmon snagging has been slow at El Vado Lake and Navajo Lake. At Heron Lake, the snagging season opens Nov. 11. A trip to Heron Lake could still be worthwhile before the snagging season opens. They’ve been catching some good-sized rainbow trout from the bank at Heron. They should start catching a few lake trout at Heron as the weather cools down.
They’ve had a little better success snagging kokanee at Eagle Nest Lake, but what really stands out at Eagle Nest is the fishing for northern pike. For the second week in a row, someone has caught a big pike over 20 pounds at Eagle Nest. The fishing for rainbow trout and perch has been good, too.
Last week, I mentioned that Maxwell Lake 13 might be a good place to try. I was pleased to see that the fishing picked up there. This lake is loaded with trout food and the fish grow fat and healthy here. Personally, when I have fished Maxwell Lake I have never caught a fish under 18 inches. The only drawback is this lake is out in the plains and sometimes the wind is blowing so hard as to make fishing difficult to almost impossible. Maxwell Lake closes Oct. 31, so there’s not much time left to fish there.
Lake Maloya and Lake Alice at Sugarite Canyon State Park near Raton have been fishing well.
The fishing for smallmouth bass and walleye at Abiquiu Lake has been just fair. I expect the trout fishing to pick up any day now at Abiquiu Lake as the water cools down. Santa Cruz Lake has been faif and the fishing has slowed down at Fenton Lake. If you have young kids, give the Seven Springs Brood Pond at the Seven Springs Fish Hatchery a try. It’s limited to kids under 12 years old.
Take advantage of the warmer-than-normal fall weather and enjoy the outdoors.