It was a mad dash, Neal Cassady style, attempting to make the 12 hour drive between Austin and Eagles Nest, NM. I’d driven this route enough times to know that the twelve hours it was alleged to take would doubtless turn into fourteen due to either major construction, dust storms, or flooding roadways, all things i’d encountered in the past. I managed to avoid all of those this time, but just as i was approaching the eleventh hour of the drive with the sun setting, the tire on the pop-up camper i was towing blew out, the rim hit the pavement and the entire shit show i was comandeering slammed to a halt on the shoulder of a virtually trafficless two lanes road with minutes of light left. Fifteen hours total.
It was a less than ideal way to begin a week and a half fishing adventure, but luckily that misfortune was so frustrating that every single moment that followed was solid gold.
The next day i awoke from the camper to news that the Cimmaron, which had been flowing at .05 CFS for days had been cranked up to 8 CFS to (luckily) appease water right holders downstream. Having fished this river many times over the years i was familiar with it between 30-50 CFS, more or less ideal flows for the small banks, so to see it at 8 CFS was a little disheartening, to put it mildly.
Initially stepping into the river on the periphery of the camp ground i was shocked to notice that the water barely made it past my ankles…not a good sign. Of course i knew the flows would be low, but standing there in what could only generously be considered a trickle, i started to wonder whether or not i should cash my chips in and abandon this much beloved stream for bigger possibilities north.
As i was deliberating the options, a salmon fly landed on my hand and scarcely moved while i fumbled for the camera and snapped photo after photo of this tiny beast. Minutes later i cast a similar sized Amy’s Ant into the riffle and landed the first trout of the trip, a beautiful brown (below) that put nice bend in the 7’4″ 3WT as it pulled and tugged, its shoulders working across the current.
Surrendering the technicolor trout back to the low and slow waters, my hand lingered in the flows as i realized that i needed to stay here and fish here. All the things that made it difficult, low flows, crystal clear waters, overgrown canopies, and skittish fish, would make me a far better angler if i would just put my time in.
Fortunately that’s exactly what happened, as over the next few days i learned to spot pockets i never would have seen if the waters were higher and the previously seeming limitations turned into beautiful red spotted reward after red spotted reward reward. The waters may not have been ideal to begin with, but as skills were added to the quiver the odds seemed to become more and more stacked in my favor.
The Cimarron has always been one of my favorite since the very first year i started fly fishing, and thus the desire to return again and again. It was heartbreaking at first to see it so low, but as mentioned above, if you look at anything from the right angle it just might provide the promise you were looking for, if not more.
It’s not easy by any means, other than the low flows much of it’s super tight and technical, but as with any challenge, ANYTHING caught here will help build your knowledge and confidence.
So if you’re in the neighborhood or looking for a breathtaking challenge, be sure to check it out. Not only are the surrounding hills drop dead gorgeous, the waters and fishing are amazing despite the conditions. Just be sure to tag a few hours onto either end of the journey, like the flows and the fishing, the travel ca be just as uncertain.
Want to check it out yourself?
Doc Thompson’s High Country Anglers – basic overview, flows, and fishing reports.
Taos Fly Shop – “The” fly shop located in nearby Taos.
New Mexico Game and Fish – Official NM page with stocking information and fishing reports.
Past die Fische post on this river with information here,
For camping alone the Cimmaron River i highly recommend the Maverick campground for those looking for RV or pull in campsites. One half of the campground is reservable (here) while the other half is first come first serve. If you have a tent and prefer more privacy i HIGHLY recommend the Blackjack tent area up the road which is a walk-in campsite that is all on a first come basis and one of the nicest campsites i’ve ever stayed at.
For groceries, ice, and other essentials the Lowe’s grocery store in Angel Fire can’t be beat. In addition to a great wine and cheese selection they also offer liquor and many random camping essentials.
Local guides / knowledge:
I’ve been fishing this area for years and have always stopped in at the Taos Fly Shop due to their impeccable guiding service, amazing wealth of knowledge, and incredible selection of flies and more. These guys are the real deal, folks 110% into everything fly fishing.
You can pick up a license at the above mentioned Taos Fly Shop but if you want to get to the Cimarron and fish immediately you can purchase a license online here.
Leaving in three days for southern Colorado, solitude and trout. This excellent video just helped crank the anticipation up to eleven! Time to pack!
From the folks at Frenzy, check out their Vimeo page here.
One of the most rewarding aspects of this blog is turning people onto possibilities they didn’t even know existed, i.e. “You can flyfish for fish other than trout?”
A close second is turning people on to outstanding resources that provide them with information, entertainment or fuel to keep the stoke alive. A spectacular podcast i recently stumbled onto “Fish on the Brain” via iTunes does all three of these things and does them well!
In a way what they offer feels like a podcast version of this blog, essentially a bunch of fly fishing addicted folks that seem up for anything at any time that love to share what they’ve discovered with you.
The best part? Every conversation feels like you’re hanging out with friends discussing fishing over beers instead of being sold product or being pandered to.
Check them out and see if you don’t agree!
Wow. Apparently the collective prayers, wishes, and rain dances of millions of people over the last five years have all been answered at once.
If ever there was a state of extremes, Texas in the last five years or so is it. After years of dry and depressing drought we can’t seem to make it a few days without finding ourselves in the endless loop of “possible flash flood” alerts coming at us from every direction.
With all the local creeks and rivers flooding and fishing near impossible on any water, i decided to make the rounds and see what my favorite waters looked like under the most extreme conditions in recent memory.
The first stop was Pedernales State Park, by far my favorite water (next to Barton Creek) and a spot that i’ve seen in many incarnations over the years. However, as someone generally looking for the best “fishing option” i’ve never hit this watershed up during heavy flows, obviously opting for fishable waters rather than flooded ones. With nothing to lose however, i pulled into the parking lot, stepped out of my car and heard the raging hum that one might otherwise hear standing on the tarmac of a big city air port. The roar was mesmerizing, and i wasn’t even close.
Pedernales flows 10-100 CFS in the past.
Pedernales flows at 20,000 CFS on 06/02/16.
Coming around the bend in the trail, to the lookout i was floored…absolutely floored and shocked to see the falls i’ve known over the years turned into something that quite honestly was beyond comprehension. The normal 10-100CFS i had staggered through probably 100 times before had been completely drowned out and replaced by 20,000 CFS of water elbowing its way downstream pummeling everything in its path.
Planting myself on one of the few exposed rocks i just sat there and tried to comprehend the sheer power unfolding before me while simultaneously wondering how long it might be before this torrent would be fishable again.
In hopes of fish i drove to Mansfield dam, a favorite haunt, but one that likewise was completely shut off due to flows in the 40,000+CFS range flowing off the bottom of the dam. Because of the amazing flows and the fenced off closures i could only snap the photo below (behind a fence a long way from the flows), the angle of which shrinks these amazing flows completely. With three flood gates open, and each the size of a small house you can only imagine the chaos that was being manifested below the dam.
Eventually, full of desperation to simply wet a line i ended up driving around most of Lake Travis, finding park after park closed due to the fact that the lake was 5-6 feet above the norm with no sign of things changing any time soon. Eventually, after an hour of driving i managed to find one park (Sandy Creek Park) that was open but with a large part of it (including the boat ramps) off limits. It was here that casually stepping over a knee high guard rail to look for a casting spot (and expecting to find terra firma on the other side) i managed to surprisingly tumble into waters well over my head, ruining another iPhone. After trying to dry the phone i managed to regain my composure somewhat, decided that technology was fleeting and then went on to make my first cast of the day with my 5WT and felt it suddenly snap in half.
Don’t get me wrong, i truly appreciate the crazy flows, if nothing else it’s a nice change of pace. Still, i love fishing because it helps me find a calm center in myself that i normally struggle to locate. It’s a little hard to find that zen when fences, flooding waters and “CLOSED” signs keep you from the thing you love.
Fortunately there’s one other thing that fly fishing has taught me that if i can practice might actually see me through to calmer waters.
Be careful out there y’all,
How do you say “Enough” to something you’ve been longing after for so long? After years of traipsing through dry, cracked and barren stream beds looking for the odd spring fed waterhole, wishing all the while for a respite from the drought, the water has finally arrived, and in epic proportions.
Words like “excessive”, “bounteous” and “copious” pepper my thoughts as i listen to the rain collide with the lakes, rivers and creeks that are constantly rising and falling as they struggle to find a balance that their banks are comfortable with. Even while thinking these words well fishing, i’m careful not to say them out loud for fear of ending up back in a drought due to an ungrateful attitude.
With all my usual stomping grounds roaring wildly with muddy flows, i found myself returning to one of the few places helped dramatically by all the rains of the last few months, Lake Travis, and more specifically Pace Bend.
I hadn’t been back to the lake since it was a largely waterless pool, and was astonished to see it full to the brim for the first time in many years with fresh waters lapping against distant shores. Heading straight to one of the larger coves, Mudd Cove to be precise, i made my way along the banks, 5WT in hand, and was bewildered to see a three foot alligator gar swimming just a couple of feet away from me. Staring closely to confirm the species i felt my muscles suddenly tie themselves in knots as my body seemed to quickly register the fact that i have yet to land an alligator gar and therefore blew the three foot cast by somehow managing to wrap the fly around the rod as the gar swam off, rather peacefully it should be noted, to deeper waters.
Regaining my composure, i went on to land numerous smaller bass, and even a nice medium size long nose gar that put up an amazing fight for a gar of its size. Still, that botched alligator gar attempt is the thought i can’t seem to pry out of my mind many days later.
Much like the aforementioned flows, after you’ve spent years wishing and dreaming for something to be a part of your reality, you can’t really get upset because it doesn’t manifest itself exactly as you pictured it. Maybe the flows weren’t EXACTLY what i envisioned, and maybe the gar DIDN’T end up on my line like planned, still…it happened (or almost happened.)
Either way, i’ll take the possible over the impossible, the high flows over the non-existent flows, the possibility of fish over the lackluster alternative. And in the mean time i’ll try to hone my wish fulfillment skills and try to come up with something a little more middle of the road that will benefit all of us.
Until then, fish what you can, when you can, and envision the best!
We regret to inform you that the LoCol Trash Bash has been postponed due to unsafe water conditions. We have been carefully watching recent rainfall, river flows, lake levels, and dam releases within the Colorado River watershed. After consulting with the LCRA, we have concluded that river flows will likely remain unsafe for at least the next several days. Safety is our primary concern. No trash is worth risking a life for!
We are rescheduling the event for Saturday, June 25. Same time, same location. We can not assume that everyone will be available again in June, so we have opened a separate registration for the rescheduled date.
We apologize for the inconvenience of having to reschedule the LoCol Trash Bash this close to the event. We hope that you will be able to join us on June 25. – Orvis of Austin