Tuesday, September 8, 2015

Nuestro Amigo—El Nino

As we are hopefully all becoming aware; the effects of climate change are enveloping us. Fires, drought and extremes of hot and cold have had a mostly negative effects. On the trout stream changes are less dramatic here in northern New Mexico. They are subtler changes: warm winters have made aquatic insect hatches—like the Blue Winged Olive Mayflies—come off as early as February. And Trico Mayflies have expanded their range and become prolific in waters where they formally weren’t to be found.
Rio Grande Cutbow caught on BWO in February.

But with an expanded season there are now big gaps in the hatch schedule, and conditions sometimes appear perfect but the fishing is actually poor-- because there are no insect hatches to inspire the trout to eat. This is much the case on the small— but prolific— Cimarron River.

That stream-it has a unique situation. It is a tail water below Eagle Nest Lake. The hand of man controls the spigot. But it’s been pretty well clamped shut all summer because there have been so much rain on the fields that water is not being called for. So the stream has had a pitiful 2 or 3 cfs (cubic feet per second) coming out of the dam. Of course this is not good for the stream; but it is great news for Eagle Nest Lake as it rising and sorely needs more juice.

Eagles Nest in its prime.

And in many waters we are now experiencing a beneficial side to El Nino’s rains. Waters that might not usually hold fish in high summer—sections of streams below irrigation, in particular— are now full, flushed and flourishing. So, in many cases we are looking at an expanded trout fisheries. These bank to bank flows insure that the aquatic insects—and the trout that eat em-- will do well. And the robust flows allow for trout movement up from major rivers into the tributaries. Thus insuring successful brown trout spawning in late fall.

 Large brown trout becoming restless makes for good fall fishing. But with global warming who knows? Anytime the air is in the 70s fishing will likely be good. Here in Northern New Mexico we always expect the Rio Grande to fish well from mid-September to late October. The large flows the Rio has sustained all summer have kept the water cool, and the muddy water have limited the number of anglers fishing the Rio.

Another big game changer compliments of El Nino occur when flash floods blow down side canyons in the larger rivers. This may totally change a rivers structure. This often happens where fire scares have destroyed the plants that hold the ground in place.

Such an extremely localized flood just washed some huge boulders in the Rio Grande below Miners trail. Creating a fishy looking run below. But the damning effect of the rocks, has however, backed up the Rio right there and we lost a good run on the upstream side.

That’s the arrangement we get with El Nino and Climate change—win one here—lose one there. Or is it win one here-- and lose two there?

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