Proud Papa & the New Fisherman

Non-Texas Fishing, Trout

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Years ago, before Crested Butte became our de-facto vacation destination, Taos was the go to spot for my wife and i, mostly because it had culture for her and fish for me. At that time i was still new to fly fishing, and trout fishing in particular, yet i somehow managed to catch fish after fish on the Cimarron River, a spot that would permanently lodge itself in my mind as the archetypical small stream fly fishing stage.

While wandering and fishing those banks years ago and eaves dropping on fly shop conversations i repeatedly over heard words that rang of mystery, difficulty and legend.  The “Rio Costilla” alone was enough to pique my interest and cause my ears to stand on end, eager for more. By the time the poetic sounds “Valle Vidal” were whispered, barely audible, my eagerness for adventure reached a fever pitch that knew no bounds though i had no idea what the waters might actually be.

For a few years i was able to fish the Cimarron and make the occasional drive to fish the Costilla which was always met with difficult fish and spectacular scenery. However, for reasons that escape me now, we always seemed to wrap up our trips in the last days of June, days before the Valle Vidal was open for public access due to elk calving, and those waters were never plied by my curious nature. Instead, the words “Valle Vidal” echoed in the back of my mind for years, taking on an almost mythic status in my consciousness.

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So it was that during our recent trip to New Mexico i set aside the last full day for an exploration straight to the heart of the Valle Vidal to find out whether the actual spot, clearly a reality, could live up to the myth that had been built up in my mind.

Starting off on the relatively short 55 miles north from the Cimarron campgrounds i felt confident that fishing could be had well within the hour. Receiving cell phone coverage on the crest of a hill, just minutes east, i stared in confusion at my iPhone, apparently it thought it would take four hours to navigate the 55 miles? Hmm.

“The roads are so rural that it’s surely mis-calculating this trip.” i thought as i headed naively into the great unknown. Minutes later i pulled onto the one lane washed out dirt road that headed into the foothills and immediately stopped next to a public service sign, riddled with shotgun holes, and a fungus like rust that was slowly eating away at its stately stature. Still, with all the wear and tear it had, the stately sans-serif font of the sign cut to the chase in a confident manner that let you know it would employ the law if need be.

“Speed Limit 20 MPH.” Well shoot.

Fifty miles at 20 MPH is a long time, trust me.

I’m not going to admit to speeding, but i did manage to work my way into the scenic hills faster than the law indicated i should. Still, it was a long time.

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Pulling into the heart of the Valle Vidal i was surprised and elated to come upon an amazing pond called Shuree Pond nestled in between peaks from 10,000 to 12,000 feet high. The pond provided shore access all along its perimeter and had plenty of trout rising about 30′ out, all along the banks

After about a half hour, and five or so missed strikes (they were SO unbelievably fast), i finally set the hook on this healthy creature (above) that attacked and took the fly with a simple confidence that indicated it had never been fooled by something as simple as a hook shrouded in dark thread and microscopic feathers.

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An hour or so later, i pulled into a spot of the Costilla, deep in the heart of the Vidal. Rigging the rod and making my way to the river, it occurred to me that NOBODY was anywhere around. Cell phones were just dead weight and every bend in the river held numerous scenarios that could easily separate me from reality in myriad ways. It was a little unnerving for sure, but it also provided me with the overwhelming feeling that i wasn’t just in nature, i was temporarily absolutely and deeply a part of it.

The next few hours were a kaleidoscope of trepidation, clear water, imaginary bears, vibrant conifers and stained glass colored cutthroat. Worries and regrets melted away with every step along the bank, and every tug of the line. The ego slowly retreated to the back of the stage and i temporarily lost myself in the saturated greens and  blues that washed over me. It was bliss.

Sure it was a long road to get to that moment, both physically and metaphorically, but it was well worth the wait. Besides what’s four hours when you’ve waited all these years?

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For more information on fishing this unbelievable spot, please check out the following sites.

Southwest Fly Fishing Magazine – A great article on Comanche Creek in the Valle Vidal.

Taos.org – A wealth of information on the area from locals that know it well.

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If you’d like to pick up a wealth of information from a local fly fishing legend you’ll want to head over to Living Waters this Saturday for a special presentation from Kevin Hutchison. Highly recommended.

Saturday, September 5th
Special Guest: Kevin Hutchison of Hill Country Fly Fishers

Kevin is a very close friend of Living Waters and an experienced fly fishing veteran.  Kevin has guided Central Texas longer than most, and is a wealth of knowledge when it comes to fly fishing the immediate area and beyond!  Join us for a day filled with friends, laughs, stories, info, tying, and more!  You can learn more about Kevin and his renowned guide service at www.hillcountryflyfishers.com
9:00 A.M. – Doors Open/Coffee/Round Rock Donuts
10:00 A.M.  – The Story Behind the Book 
Fly Fishing the Texas Hill Country is the most comprehensive river access guide available to local anglers.  Originally penned by the late Bud Priddy, the book has evolved much over the years.  Kevin Hutchison has in the recent past, beautifully re-written, updated, and refreshed this invaluable piece of fly fishing literature.  Come and hear more about how the book took shape and how it can serve you on your next Central Texas fly fishing adventure!
1:00 P.M. – Fly Tying for the Texas Hill Country
Kevin Hutchison is an accomplished fly tier, and many of his original patterns are staples throughout the hill country!  Join us as Kevin demonstrates how to tie several of his most effective fly patterns. – www.livingwatersflyfishing.com

 

 

I stumbled on this video thanks to the latest issue of This Is Fly and was super pumped to see that Redington has been cranking out an amazing series of videos under the “Find Your Water” tag.

Suffice to say this episode is my favorite, after all they’re fishing for carp in a bathtub for Pete’s sake! Doesn’t get much more hardcore than that.

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Holy smokes, i’ve been fishing for grass carp the last few weeks and just “cracked” this issue to find a wonderful article by K.C. Badger on urban fishing in Arizona for these spooky shadows!

Click the image above for more or follow this link for a great read and awesome photos.

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After seeing this alluring Dodge van camped along the shore of Eagle Nest in New Mexico i stopped to take photos and was lucky enough to meet the owner who was in the process of  slowly scouring the countryside in this classic that hails from forever ago. He didn’t fish, but his insatiable appetite for wanderlust was immediately recognizable.

FYI: Want to see more vehicles that might cause you to consider throwing your fly rods in and driving off into the horizon? Maybe you have a photo you want  to share? Then visit us on Instagram at www.instagram.com/diefische to see more photos, or add the tag #fishridedaydream to one of your photos to share it.

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Located in northern New Mexico, just a short drive east from the cultural hub of Taos, the Cimarron River is a small stream trout haven that will appeal to anyone that enjoys catching decent size trout on a 1-4WT rod in tight quarters. With eight miles of the river running through the public lands of Cimarron Canyon State Park providing 3,000 trout per mile the fishing ranges from easy, wide open spots with deeper pools, to the down right technical with brush everywhere, no room for a backcast, and clear and shallow water housing some incredibly skittish fish.

Because of the steep canyon walls, the river and the two lane road intertwine for the duration of the park, making it easy to hike and find new spots. Likewise, campgrounds are all easily accessible meaning that whether you’re introducing a spouse, child or friend to angling or camping this is the spot to initiate them, nobody will be disappointed, especially if they already like to fish.

CAMPING

If you are taking an RV or doing some sort of camping in the vehicle you arrive in, there are three options within the state park, Tolby, Mavericks, and Ponderosa.

  1. Tolby is the first campground below the Eagle Nest dam and by far the most popular, but in  my opinion the least desirable of the three RV parks. Sites are EXTREMELY close together with little or no tree coverage on most of the spots and chain link fences and maintenance sheds on the property quickly take away from the outdoor aesthetic.
  2. Ponderosa is the furthest campground downriver and seems to constantly be entirely made up of RV’s and for some reason, a generally older crowd. I’ve never stayed here, but quick observation showed most sites again providing little to no shade, a must at this altitude.
  3. Mavericks in my opinion, is the site to stay at if you either are using an RV or want to tent camp in a spot with a functioning bathroom and running water. The RV generators running here can be obnoxious if you happen to camp near one, but unless you are there on hectic weekends in the summer of a holiday, it’s pretty easy to find another spot. Almost all of the spots are shaded by conifers with a few of them tucked deliciously under giant trees.  There is instant access to the river as well as two ponds linked to the river that are well stocked with rainbows which all but guarantee that even a novice will catch a decent fish.

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If you happen to be part of the car camping set (like my family and i generally are) you will be richly rewarded by camping at the Blackjack tent area. In return to making the required 10-40 yard hike to a one of the 13 campsites, you’ll be rewarded with waterfront camping right next to the river and a hardy amount of shade thanks to giant pine trees. Unlike the other three campgrounds, reservations aren’t available for the Blackjack, but fortunately the fact that you must hike a few yards instead of just parking an RV means that there is almost always a spot available, especially if you show up mid-week. It also means less generators and screaming families and more peace and quiet along with an actual chance of seeing, or at least hearing, wildlife.

I can not stress enough how amazing this area is, you can wake up and walk ten feet in the morning light and be in cold water with trout taking your fly. The only “disadvantages” are that there is no running water and no restrooms with plumbing. Luckily this keeps many folks away and can easily be overcome by zipping down to Mavericks once a day for a special trip to the bathroom and filling up containers via their water spigot.

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AMMENITIES

  • Food and supplies: Golden Eagle RV Park in Eagle Nest (15 minutes away) has all the basics you might need (propane, bread, etc.) For a larger food and supply selection as well as amazing beer, wine and liquor options check out the Valley Market in Angel Fire (30 minutes).
  • Shower facilities: Short of driving almost an hour into Taos, the only option is Angel Nest RV in Eagle Nest. They don’t advertise showers, but if you pay the $5 in cash at the office you will be amazed at how good a hot shower feels after a week of not showering. Never underestimate the value of a warm shower.
  • Restaurants: In the immediate vicinity there are very few culinary options, and even fewer that are worth paying for. In Angel Fire i’d recommend Angel Fired Pizza for pizza and pasta (it’s one of two restaurants in two and the only one i’d recommend). If you’re in Eagle nest try Calamity Jane’s for basics like chicken fried steak, burgers, etc. If however you’re trying to have a nice meal out to celebrate, go to Taos. If your looking to celebrate a special day, or just want to treat your taste buds, there are countless options in Taos that are totally worth the drive

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FLY FISHING SHOPS

  • In Taos the go-to shop is the Taos Fly Shop operated by the Strait family, fly fishing legends in New Mexico and excellent people to boot. Find it annoying when fly shops in touristy towns act like pricks when asked about local fishing? Me too! That’s why this is still my favorite fly shop ever. Over many years and random visits they’ve always gregariously and enthusiastically shared local information as if i was the only person that asked about fishing for trout in the Taos area.
  • Closer to the Cimarron in Eagle Nest is Dos Amigos Anglers which has a much more stripped down selection, but still has the tools, help and information to get you on trout in the area.

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FOR THE NON ANGLER

  • Unlimited amounts of hiking trails abound this area, with Clear Creek being one of the highlights as it contains amazing scenery and waterfalls.
  • Red River, and Angel Fire have a few boutiques and art shops but the true jewel is Taos which has an astounding amount of art galleries, boutiques and restaurants that are all top-notch and can keep a non-angler busy for days (with the right amount of cash).
  • Santa Fe is just over two hours away and hosts some world-class restaurants as well as amazing amounts of museums and wineries on the way.

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