fly fishing in taos: social distancing in its purest form

COVID-19 Update – We hope this blog can offer inspiration for your future safe adventures, however, we do want to make you aware of the current restrictions in place in Taos and New Mexico – for up-to-date visitor information, please visit here.

As New Mexico relaxes its restrictions during this time of crisis, and we return to some form of normal life living with COVID 19, many New Mexicans are turning to the great outdoors to find a bit of sanity.  And what better place to do it?  New Mexico is blessed with vast natural resources and outdoor recreation opportunities. Here In Taos, many people have turned to the activity that invented social distancing – fly fishing.

For some, fly fishing is a hobby, and for others it’s a passion.  For me it’s a livelihood, as I run a small family business that teaches folks to fly fish and sell them the gear they need to do it. It’s also a way for me to stay grounded, to slow the spinning world around me and to connect with nature.  Understanding the healing powers of feeling a trout tug on your line, I’m not surprised to see so many people out on the river.

And the fishing has been good!  We had a good year of snowfall, but a drier than average spring has led to a minimal period of snow melt.  On some years, high water renders our streams and rivers poor for fishing until the water clears in mid-June.  This year, we anticipate great fishing by Memorial Day weekend, with some streams fishing great now!

When choosing a fishing location, its important to understand the factors that impact fish behavior.

Streams that have flows controlled by dams like the Costilla and the Cimarron are typically good in the spring regardless of snow melt.  The consistent flows from the dams keep fish in a good mood and anglers can always look to these “tailwaters” as a good safe choice. 

Next in line, streams that drain some of our lower elevation mountains like the Rio Pueblo near Peñasco will start to clear sooner. The small creeks just south and east of Taos (Rio Chiquito, Rito de La Olla and Rio Grande del Rancho) will also fish earlier in the season than streams that originate in high elevation snow fields.

Creeks like the Rio Hondo and the Red River are born high in the Wheeler Peak Wilderness at over 13,000 feet, and will be the last waters to drop and clear as the snow up that high takes longer to melt- and there is more of it.

If bigger rivers (and bigger fish) are of interest, the Mighty Rio Grande offers 70 plus miles of public water through a dramatic gorge.  Most of the river is inaccessible to all but the most fit of anglers, but easier access can be found near the small town of Pilar just south of Taos. The Rio Grande is a notoriously finicky river for trout anglers.  If flows are not right, or water temps to high or too low, this sometimes-prolific river can leave even the best of fishers scratching their heads.  Hiring a local guide to help you in and out of the canyon, and to help unlock the secrets of the mysterious river is recommended!

Additionally, area lakes can be a great place for both fly fishing and conventional tackle.  Eagle Nest lake, for example has Trout, Yellow Perch, and Northern Pike up to 4 feet long!

With so many great places to choose from, Taos offers anglers a great opportunity for some entertaining social distance!  For up to date fishing information and conditions, locals and visitors alike are wise to contact a local fly shop or guide ahead of their outing to make sure they are headed in the right direction. 

Author: Nick Streit runs Taos Fly Shop, a family-owned business started by his father in 1980. Nick has been guiding for over 20 years and has fished and guided from Alaska to Argentina and is known for his passion to teach anglers of all skill levels through classes and guiding.


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