Back to the Tailwaters

Chama River (Map)

Chama RiverNick Streit (Taos Fly Shop) and I headed west from Taos on a beautiful day in November dodging the cold weather bullet that had been launched earlier in the week. The mountains were covered with newly fallen snow, so we took a chance that the Chama River, already known for often being muddy, might not be fishable.

 

Brazos CliffsThe drive over to the rio in northern New Mexico took us past the famous rock formation known as the Brazos Cliffs. The Cliffs are composed of 1.8 billion year old granite, which I find remarkable not only because of the age but also because someone is learned enough to know that.

We fished two sections of the river – above and below the El Vado Dam. I want to return to a lower section of the river known as the Abiquiu stretch, known for its beauty and remoteness. This is Georgia O’Keeffe country, where the colors are magnificent and the land dramatic and stark.

It turned out to be fishable alright – at least for a few hours in the middle of the day. Although the water churned a caramel color, we fished with woolly buggers and the fish went after them with a vengeance. I would say you can forget about the dry flies. Even if the river clears up in color, it still has a grayish tone. As we moved up river closer to the dam, the water looked perfect to hold fish, but we couldn’t figure out where they were hanging out, and that pretty much ended the catch for the rest of the day. The Chama holds the record for the largest brown trout caught in New Mexico – 36 inches and 20 pounds, so you know there are fish there…

We decided to take a chance and drive upriver to the Heron Reservoir section of the river. We arrived mid-afternoon, which meant we couldn’t see the sun behind the canyon walls making it chilly and putting the fish down. No matter, we saw a bunch of large carp and tried for the second time that week to lure one onto my woolly bugger, but again, no luck.

DeerThe afternoon gave way to dusk as we climbed back up the steep banks of the river. We made our way slowly out of the backcountry and spotted a half dozen or so bucks with some impressive racks. They didn’t spook easily – I guess they knew they were safe on BLM land.

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