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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
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.
- 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
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.
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.
The folks over at LivitFilms have been knocking it out of the park lately with their flats fishing videos. The most recent one “Connection” even has a creek / river fresh water angler like myself wondering just how hard of a sell getting a flats boat might be to my wife. I’m guessing “A LOT” is the answer.
Check it out and feel the draw of the shallow waters.
Living as i do in central Texas, this is the time of year that i dread like the plague. With the temperature consistently well above 100˚ most of the water around here feels like warm bath water (if it hasn’t evaporated completely) and fishing has become down right difficult and frustrating.
After a few weeks of trying to force some decent fishing out of the usual spots (Barton Creek, Pedernales and Bull Creek) and catching nothing more than the random small sunfish, it was time for a change. I NEEDED some cooler water, I NEEDED bigger fish, and i NEEDED an adventure in water that didn’t feel like some breeding ground for luminous green algae and lackadaisical mosquitos.
With every sweat drenched soul in Texas looking to cool off, any spring fed water that can be waded or tubed is at maximum occupancy. Still, with a watercraft of some sort (kayak, canoe, paddle board, float tube, etc.) and a little leg work, there are uncrowded options around many river bends.
If you don’t know this spot, you’ll have to find it for yourself. It’s magical.
One such place is Mansfield dam, a spot with ice-cold water, active fish, and surprisingly small numbers of people. It’s not generally a place i look forward to fishing during the rest of the year, mostly because fishing behind a concrete wall with traffic zipping to and fro overhead isn’t my thing. Still, when the temperature is easily above 100˚ there are sacrifices that must be made in order to pursue a sweet affliction like angling.
Because Mansfield contains the lower waters of Lake Travis which was somewhat replenished months ago during our crazy rains, it’s once again holding back some substantial water. That (relative) aqueous bounty has luckily meant daily flows coming off the bottom of the massive dam, and that in turn has meant that the water temperature has hovered somewhere below 70˚ which means it feels like heaven to both fish and anglers right now.
While there are indeed bass, and other pisctorial treasures in these waters, it is the spooky as hell grass carp, a fish that by most accounts shouldn’t even be able to be caught with a fly rod, that monopolizes my interest on these waters. It’s said that common carp are one of the hardest freshwater species to catch on a fly, but those in the know will attest that the grass carp are the more nervous, skittish and high-strung member of the family. Common carp are small town midwest folk in manner and demeanor while their relatives, the grass carp seem to have been brought up on the noisy, over the top hustle and bustle of New York’s streets.
The low water crossing that separates the motor boats from the kayaks.
Having only caught one grass carp a year ago i was shaking a little more than usual on a recent day below the dam when the sun set and i saw multiple tails rising above the calm waters in the shallows. The grass carp were feeding, and doing so with aplomb. After four hours of casting random flies to them in the deeper pools to no avail, i cast the smallest dry-fly i had (a micro-hopper) into the mess of tails and stood there in awe as it disappeared, replaced by the wake of a fish making a run for it with my line whizzing behind him.
Ever since that moment below the dam, when the 6WT doubled over, the fight commenced, and this carp (below) came to the net, the cool waters and wary fish that live therein have consumed both my daydreams as well as the Felliniesque fantasies that jog through my head each night. As long as the horrid heat lingers, i’m more than happy to return and treat the giant wall of concrete as though it were a giant, stoic, stage set in front of which the fish and i parade back and forth, in and out of each others space, almost dancing, performing our well rehearsed lines until the sun sets again and the nightly hallucinations return.
For further reading on grass carp on a fly:
Not even close to the biggest one there, but still infinitely more fun than a tiny bluegill.
On our recent trip to New Mexico we were fortunate enough to discover the town of Angel Fire which i’d always assumed was JUST the ski area. Not so, there are two restaurant establishments there to choose from (meh), a tiny grocery store that has a great selection of wine and cheeses, and sweet rides like this one cruising around the valley. Just imagine a “Rod Vault” braced to the top of the window and the roll-bar! You’d surely make it to the hot fishing spot before someone in a lumbering four wheel drive (on paved roads at least!)