Monday, November 17, 2014

Tips from Taylor on
Winter Fishing

The Lower Red has rich springs, food and nutrients that rejuvenate the river at the Red River Fish Hatchery. ‘Back in the day’ the lower Red was world class fishing but Mining by Unocal 76 rendered the water virtually fishless in the 1980s. (My story Red River Blues, on page 20 of my book Man vs Fish The Fly Fisherman’s Eternal Struggle explains more history.) Now under the banner of Chevron--the mine hasn’t disturbed the river for a number of years and the river is again good fishing. Big resident cutbows are returning as the river gets healthier

The hatchery itself is a very popular place to fish; and for good reason, as the area produces a lot of fish (both wild and stocked.)  With the trout getting pretty well hammered there it is a good idea to fish it when others don’t: weekdays, and/or stormy days. Another tip is to fish with very small nymphs. Due to the spring waters it can fish well in the coldest of winter weather; and I once had a client catch a bunch of trout when it was 16 below zero --on dry flies! If you walk downstream from the hatchery you will be getting into the road-less canyon--don’t rig your rod  till you start fishing back up or you will disturb every likely pool and never reach your goal!

The Lower Red in Winter

This rugged canyon drops to the Rio Grande three or four miles downstream from the hatchery. Don’t be deceived by what looks a relatively short distance on a map and think that you can fish it in a day--it is a long ways. Use one of the “Wild Rivers” trails to get to the lower river. The trails are a lot of work and as deep (700’) as the nearby Rio—so be prepared. This is dangerous country with loose rock and cactus. But it is a very good spring creek with its deep pools, oxygenated riffles, and spawning gravel.

Throughout the lower Red trout move in and out from the Rio Grande, and you never know what you might find on any given day. Because it is a fast-falling stream, the casts are short. There are some decent hatches but the better fish will seldom rise to dries. They will however eat almost any beadhead nymph that drifts in front of them in the lonely part of the canyon. I emphasis the word drift because it is important to fish upstream and get a good natural drift. The dry/dropper is a great choice here; be sure to use a well-floating dry because of all the whitewater.

Chrissy with a mid-winter Pike

Pike in the Rio Grande is another great winter option. But they prefer only certain spots. Give us a ring and set up a guide trip and we will show you a couple of those spots. (At times in winter it is possible to catch trout in the Lower Red in the AM, and then have a chance at pike in the Rio by just a few minute detour on the way back to Taos….).

Taylor Streit

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