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Category Archive:   Trout


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The day to day can be a real chore sometimes, but every now and then there are incredible moments or places that can lift you so far and high out of the ordinary that everything that unfolds in front of you can seem almost dreamlike. If it’s been a while since you’ve felt the latter, i highly recommend a trip to northern New Mexico and the many surreal fishing opportunities it provides.

Years ago my wife and i spent a week or two each summer in the Taos area, her knitting or working on various art projects while i fished the days away. For the last few years though we’ve spent summer vacations in Colorado, where i’ve managed to explore small creeks for trout and have an over all amazing time. This year however we returned to our previous stomping grounds around Taos partly because my eleven year old son wanted to spend some time in a new place (for him) and partly because it meant we could load the car with amenities and make a very last minute road trip to a place that always seemed to feed our souls in some way.

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Although the 12 hour trip took much longer due to an insane downpour and flooding waters that sent vehicles in front of us hydroplaning off into muddy fields, we eventually made it to our campsite in the Cimmaron State Park sometime close to midnight, all of us a little on edge after 15 hours straight in an extremely packed car.

The next day as the sun rose over the canyon walls, lighting the orange walls of our tent, all the troubles of the previous day washed away in the warm light bouncing from wall to wall. Crawling out of the luminous, nylon tangerine, i heard the sound of water lurching from rock face to rock face and immediately felt the call of adventure.

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Sitting at close to 8,ooo feet, Cimarron State Park runs up and down the Cimarron River which is nestled deep in a canyon framed by 12,000 foot mountains and cliffs called the Palisades Sill. The area is so verdant with flora and fauna that sections of it feel like an odd cross between Colorado high mountain desert and portions of the Pacific Northwest. The river’s flow is a controlled via Eagle Nest Lake and typically runs anywhere from 2-50CFS (something i would personally consider a creek). Along the eight mile stretch of public waters are waters that contain on average 3,000 trout per mile, which is a hell of a lot of trout in case you’re wondering.

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As with most canyon waters the river and the road that follow it are closely intertwined, crossing each other in a tight weave all the way down the canyon walls until they both open up into private land and waters. The bad news is that much of the water is seldom far from a parking spot, and the fish and the surrounding nature gets used and abused on a regular basis. The good news is that there are a handful of spots that require some serious bush-wacking and patience to reach. Well these spots can be incredibly rewarding (below), they are what i would easily classify as technical fly-fishing (above) with trees and shrubs lining every inch of the bank and downed trees and structure making almost every cast require pinpoint accuracy.

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Along with the promise of trout comes an inherent sense of being in the “real wilderness”. Despite your close proximity to a road you’re still well over an hour from anything that can even remotely be called a town, that would be Taos. Cell phone signals thankfully disappear in the canyon and are instantly replaced by beavers, deer, elk. humming birds, and occasionally the random brown bear which i freakishly ran across one evening while driving back to the campsite at dusk. The scent that wafted in to my car as i watched the behemoth mass of brown fur cross the road and sprint up the mountainous incline as if the loose rock and intense grade were a joke. I’ve smelled a lot of nature smells in my years wandering the wilderness, but there was a distinct smell left by this giant had every cell of my body screaming “THIS CAN KILL YOU!”. It’s a level of appreciation and fear that anyone that has been in that circumstance can relate to.

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As for the fishing? The waters are stocked on a regular basis with farm raised Rainbow trout with most of them falling in at 7-10 inches, which is pretty fantastic when your using a 2WT on a stretch of water that probably averages six feet wide and one foot deep. The true treasures on the Cimarron though were the native brown trout which fought aggressively and consistently came in at 10-15 inches. While i love a good rainbow, the browns seemed to emanate something that made them feel like part of their no holds bar ecosystem, unlike their pellet fed brethren.

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Sure it’s not the die hard backcountry experience, but if you’re short on time, or have non-anglers in the crew you’d be hard pressed to find a better place that can please everybody. There’s just enough people nearby that you don’t feel isolated, but just enough elbow room that you can freely ignore them is you choose. In a strange way that’s true of the fishing and the level of wilderness you’re going to experience here. You can easily while away the days a few feet from the road catching unlimited quantities of stocked rainbows while catching the occasional prairie dog or beaver sighting, or you can wander off a ways and find some tenacious brown trout lurking in unmolested pools that sit along trees and cliffs that feel as though they hide every elk, mountain lion and bear in the vicinity.

Regardless of what you choose, you’re bound to get caught up in the beauty of the place. It’s full of powerful energy. It’s charismatic. It’s lush. It’s welcoming while still being stand offish, and most importantly, it possesses the ability to suck you in and calm you with the hypnotic sound of water constantly falling over itself, trout rising, and a new adventure lurking around every bend.

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Much to my chagrin, the vacation is over. After an impromptu two weeks tucked away in northeastern New Mexico along the Cimmaron River, i’m back and ready to regale you all with stories and information that will doubtlessly last for a week or two.

Of all the stories of personal adventure, new waters discovered, fished tricked, and treasures brought to net though, what follows was the absolute most amazing part of the trip, bar none.

Four days into our trip, my son (age 11) asked if he could tag along with me while i fished the Cimmaron (which is some pretty technical small water if i do say so myself.) As someone who’s never pushed fishing on him, and who also really enjoys their time alone, i’ll admit i was a little skeptical how this would work out since the idea of him finding a spot to read (and be in sight) while i continued to bushwhack upstream through endless shrubbery and plant entanglement seemed dubious at best.

Somehow though, it did work out having him follow me, which turned out to be a blessing. “The Moment” happened at a deep pool that tore at a southern bank, undercutting it with a current that forced it’s way to the left and downriver, a spot where any sort of angling magic could happen. I expected a trophy trout as proof of the potential stored in its depths, instead i heard the soft sound of my son’s voice, barely audible above the hum of moving water.

IMG_0064Casting in extremely tight and technical quarters.

“Papa? I think i’d like to start fly-fishing so i can learn patience, and also to get to spend more time with you.”

After wiping the god dam tears of joy from my eyes, i turned around and in the most nonchalant manner i could muster, said that i’d love to teach him for those very reasons as well.

A short while later, we found a spot devoid of backcast traps and i stepped into the roll of fly fishing guide, trying to dispense manageable amounts of tips and tricks without overwhelming my protégé. Within thirty minutes, much to my surprise, he hooked into a ten inch rainbow that finalized his resolve and set him on the fly fishing path.

Later that day i took him to a small pool of clear, flowing water tucked against a cliff face some 50 feet high. It had been stocked recently with farm raised rainbow, and every cast caused numerous trout to wrestle for the fly as though it were the most divine meal they would ever taste. Not a bad way to get into the sport, catching double digit fish on your first day on the water. As fish after fish came to hand we quickly moved through all the tips on setting hooks, landing fish, and the ethics of quick photos and even quicker release.

IMG_0067First trout ever. Took a while to figure out how to hold them, not a bad problem.

With the sun setting behind the cliffs i stood watch as he released a nice 13″ rainbow, head upstream, waiting for the moment the fish bolted on its own accord. Watching him rinse his hands in the crystal like waters i felt the obligatory need to remark.

“I’m sure you know this isn’t what fishing normally is like?”

“I know papa, this isn’t real fishing, it’s too easy. Real fishing is about patience and waiting for that right moment when everything comes together,” he responded.

True that (on so many levels).

Later as i dozed off in my down bag i remember my last thought for the night being that guiding and parenting are essentially the same. You arm your client/child with just enough knowledge that they can use that as a basis for them to make their own decisions and succeed or fail. If they fail, you offer alternative solutions and advice, and if they succeed, you encourage more of the same peppered with bits on how to do it better and take them to the next level. Above all else though, whether client or child, it’s not about you. It’s all about them.

Luckily for me it worked out and i now have the best client i could ever hope for.

I just hope he starts tipping soon.

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Living it up in northwest New Mexico for a week and a half. Plenty to report once I can charge my myriad of digital toys. In the mean time, no trip to the area has really begun until you stop in to see the Straits in Taos!

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I will preface this article in saying that last weekend was better than this one. Around this time last week I was with friends in Broken Bow, Oklahoma casting at rising trout with dry flies. This weekend I am spending most of my time editing video for an upcoming project and doing tech work for the one and only, you guessed it…SXSW.

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Around 3 weeks ago some friends of mine, Daniel Hughes (@cordova_custom_rods) and Cody LaCroix had the spontaneously fantastic idea to hit up Broken Bow before spring break totally cuts loose on all the rivers around here. Daniel and I had been talking of shooting a promo video for his custom rod business and after we brought up the idea of Broken Bow, I knew there would be no better time to shoot the promo than a spring-time camping trip to the river. From there we set a date and started prepping for some cold weather bug slinging. Being the gear-hauling never pack light person that I am I packed up the trusty  Element and headed north out of Austin where I am stationed at the moment due to the hipster hatch. After a brief detour for some last-minute supplies in the Dallas area, and a painfully long process to procure a Oklahoma fishing license from Wal-Mart by a high school kid named Garrett, I was pulling into my campsite at Broken Bow right at dusk.

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I was about 8-10 hours ahead of the rest of the group so I set up my hammock and began taking long exposures of the campsite. This was short-lived as a herd of cats began attacking my food over on the picnic table. I instantly regretted my campsite choice but because of my need to re-charge camera gear, electricity was a key feature and this was it, an RV campsite fish-camp. I polished off a few Dale’s Pale Ales, watched wood burn and admired the stars for a few hours before snuggling into 2 sleeping bags, my home away from home in the cold.

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I woke up around 7am Saturday morning to the sound of a car pulling up… ALAS, the crew had arrived after an all night drive from San Antonio. Our group for this weekends outing was Daniel Hughes, Chloe Partida, Cody LaCroix, Logan Mcllveen and myself, Davis James. Some of the guys/gals were tired but everyone was ready to fish, there was no question about it. We were headed to the water by 9 and we were no so surprised to see just how many anglers there were. It was cool seeing such a healthy scene of dedicated fly anglers but the downfall was locating prime fishing territory without stepping on anyones toes. Luckily everyone on the river that day was pretty polite about things and after about an hour we started to figure out what the fish wanted to bite on and lines began to tighten.

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In the afternoon a friend of ours from Longview, Michael Armstrong took the short drive up and joined us for the remainder of the weekend. It ended up being a beautiful bluebird day and everyone in the crew got their taste of what Broken Bow had to offer on the first day. From Buggers to San Juan’s and Nymphs to dries we were able to fool fish on a variety of table fare. The night was rounded off with food prepped by Chef/Captain Cody LaCroix and beers curated by myself. As a group, Day 1 was a wrap.

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Day 2 started bright and early for myself and our visiting friend Michael from Longview. He and I departed to the water around 7am trying hard not to be too quiet in case anyone else wanted to join in on the fun. No dice. The crew that rode 4 deep overnight from San Antonio was not budging. As to be expected the 7am start was a good idea as we were able to fish some sections of the river that were occupied the day before. Within 20 minutes of arriving to the 1st pool of the day I was hooked up and happy as could be! The next few hours were spent drifting, untangling and re-tying under an overcast sky with solid potential for afternoon showers. Michael Armstrong and I headed back to the campsite for lunch only to find our friends still asleep from the night before (light-weights AHEM). The morning team woke up the sleeping beauties and ran into town for a much-needed cheeseburger and additional beers for later. We returned from town as things started to rain and were not surprised to see the group huddled under a make-shift rain tarp making breakfast in a scene that I commonly refer to as a “Nam Fort.”

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After lunch everyone did the wader-dance and prepped for a wet afternoon on the water. The weather was definitely a damper to a degree but it turned on the fish even more than the day before and the damper was quickly no longer an issue. I split the day fishing and filming and managed to keep all of my gear somewhat dry while I stacked clips for that Cordova Rods promo I had mentioned earlier. Some discussion was in the air about going to gamble and after a solid dinner and a near-encounter with a nap, we took off to the Choctaw Casino to adorn our clothes in cigarette smoke and check out all the hustlers, pimps and playas of Broken Bow, OKC. Fast-forward to the next day and I’m up $40 off of $5 playing penny slots while the rest of the gang had broke even, or gone in the hole all of $9.

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​Our last day of the trip and travel day for everyone was Monday March 9th. That morning we all woke up fairly early and began to pack away the campsite in the rain. From there, Daniel, Cody, Chloe and Logan packed in their station wagon and made south to San Antonio while Michael and myself made one last stab at snagging some fish before going home. Broken Bow is a beautiful fishery located near the edge of the Ozark Mountain range and smack dab in the middle of Ouachita National Forest. From rushing deep pools to narrow technical runs there is something in Broken Bow for every fly angler. I will be going back soon, 100%.       -Davis James

P.S. For more awesome photos from Davis James visit his website at www.finnfotography.com and his Instagram at https://instagram.com/belowthecanopy. Hope you enjoyed our first guest post, now get out there and fish!

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