It’s that time of the year when the aspen leaves start to don twinges of fiery yellow and the cool breezes blow confidently through the arroyos and mountain passes of Northern New Mexico.
Waterways are calming down after the feverish activity of the summer months, and these quieter times allow us to take advantage of some of the best fishing opportunities of the year.
Blessed with a healthy snowpack from last winter, virtually every river, from the Rio Grande and the Chama to the Pecos and the Cimarron, is boasting vibrancy and fertility with a plethora of fish to snag up. The flows on some streams, including those that dot the Jemez Mountains, have dropped off considerably since spring, so fishing may not be the best in those areas if you’re hoping to reel ‘em in as fast as you can cast your line.
Still, the fish are out there.
“It’s my favorite time of the year,” said Ivan Valdez, owner of the Reel Life at DeVargas Mall in Santa Fe.
Valdez said the fall season is often overlooked in Northern New Mexico — not only because there is less foot traffic in the state’s protected natural treasures, but also because weather conditions can make it comfortable to be outside and in the water for significant periods of time. After a successful guiding season in the summer, he and his crew are looking forward to the much slower pace that the fall season brings.
Valdez recommends bringing gear for cooler weather. Morning temperatures in the Santa Fe National Forest can plummet below freezing on October mornings, but midday temps could still reach into the 80s or even 90s. The water temperatures are cooler, so wading without protective layers can easily lead to hypothermia. Sturdy boots with insulation are a must, and waders are recommended.
“Dress in layers,” he urged, “as you never know what you might find while you’re out there.”
Though the monsoon season officially ended in September, checking weather conditions before you head out could help you avoid disastrous conditions due to flash floods and rising water levels.
Plus, there are other things to consider. Fall is when the mayflies hatch, and if you’re hoping to catch a large brown trout or a rainbow, you’ll have to learn to think more like fish (i.e., what they’re expecting to snack on during the day). We’ve picked out some of the best flies to help you during the fall .
One of the most important things to consider while fishing in the fall is the fact that the trout are spawning. They like to lay their eggs in the shallower areas of the water near the river banks, in gravelly areas called redds.
“In fly-fishing for trout,” writes Kirk Deeter for Field & Stream magazine, “there are certain truths that should be self-evident.” Among them: “You don’t fish for trout when they’re on a redd.”
“It’s highly unethical to fish for trout while they are spawning,” Valdez concurred. “We don’t stock brown trout here, so we need to make sure they stay around.”
If you happen to see trout in those areas, be sure to leave them undisturbed while they are doing their business.