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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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