New Mexico offers an abundance of pristine rivers, tranquil lakes, and breathtaking landscapes, making it a haven for fly fishing enthusiasts. The state offers a diverse range of fly fishing spots, from the majestic Rio Grande to hidden gems like Fenton Lake. This article will explore the top 20 places to fly fish in New Mexico, highlighting each location's unique features, prominent fly fishing spots, and the type of fish you can expect to catch.
Best Fly Fishing Location in New Mexico
Nicknamed the Land of Enchantment, New Mexico is blessed with an abundance of pristine rivers, streams, and high-altitude lakes, such as the San Juan River, Rio Grande, and Pecos River, providing a variety of fishing environments. The state also boasts healthy trout populations, including rainbow, brown, cutthroat, and brook trout, making it a haven for fly anglers seeking diverse species. Additionally, New Mexico's mild climate allows for year-round fishing opportunities, including:
1. Brazos River
The Brazos River flows through northern New Mexico, offering excellent opportunities for fly fishing enthusiasts. Stretching approximately 125 miles, it originates in the Sangre de Cristo Mountains and winds through the Carson National Forest before joining the Rio Grande.
The river's scenic path showcases diverse landscapes, including high mountain meadows, deep canyons, and lush forests. Access points for fly fishing can be found along Highway 64, near the towns of Tres Piedras and Chama. Anglers can expect to encounter rainbow and brown trout, with the Brazos River providing an ideal setting for a memorable fishing experience in New Mexico.
Recommended fly patterns for the Brazos River, New Mexico:
2. Chama River
The Chama River is a popular fly fishing destination known for its excellent trout fishing. This scenic river is home to brown trout, rainbow trout, and cutthroat trout. Fly fishermen highly regard the stretch between El Vado and Abiquiu reservoirs.
Recommended fly patterns for the Chama River, New Mexico:
- Parachute Adams - Size 14
- Pheasant Tail Jig Hot - Tungsten Barbless - Size 16
- Flashback Hare's Ear - Size 18
3. Cimarron River
The Cimarron River, located in northeastern New Mexico, is a popular destination for fly fishing enthusiasts. Spanning approximately 60 miles, it traverses the scenic Cimarron Canyon State Park before merging with the Arkansas River in Oklahoma. The river's path offers breathtaking views of rugged canyons and pine forests. Access points for fly fishing can be found along Highway 64 and State Road 21, providing convenient entry to the river. Anglers can expect to find wild brown and rainbow trout in abundance.
Recommended fly patterns for the Cimarron River, New Mexico:
4. Costilla Creek
The Costilla Creek irrigation system starts from the Sangre de Cristo Mountains in north-central New Mexico. It runs for about 40 miles via Costilla Creek and irrigation ditches to irrigate the high desert plains of New Mexico and Colorado, located south of the Colorado state border. This picturesque stream offers a chance to catch native Rio Grande cutthroat trout, making it a favorite among purist anglers.
Recommended fly patterns for the Costilla Creek, New Mexico:
5. Fenton Lake
Fenton Lake, located in northern New Mexico, is a tranquil and picturesque destination for fly fishing. Situated in the Jemez Mountains, the lake spans approximately 35 acres, providing ample space for anglers to cast their lines. Access to the lake is available through Fenton Lake State Park, which offers parking, picnic areas, and camping facilities. The lake is stocked with rainbow trout, making it an ideal spot for fly fishing enthusiasts seeking a rewarding catch.
Recommended fly patterns for Fenton Lake, New Mexico:
- Swimming Nymph - Size 10 & 8
- Spanish Bullet Quill Nymph - Size 14
- Spotlight Caddis Emerger - Size 14
6. Gila River
The Gila River recreation area is situated in Gila County, Arizona, along the Gila River and SR 77 between Winkelman and Globe. It is roughly 70 miles north of Tucson and 100 miles southeast of Phoenix. The Gila River is famous for its wild and scenic qualities. It provides a remote and adventurous fly fishing experience, with opportunities to catch smallmouth bass, channel catfish, and native trout.
Recommended fly patterns for the Gila River, New Mexico:
7. Green Meadows Lake
Green Meadows Lake offers a tranquil fly fishing experience near Hobbs, New Mexico. The lake is stocked with rainbow trout and provides an idyllic setting for anglers seeking relaxation and solitude. Green Meadow Lake is a lake that spans an area of around 11 acres. Anglers who visit the lake can catch a range of fish, such as Bluegill, Largemouth Bass, Rainbow Trout, and Catfish.
Recommended fly patterns for the Green Meadows Lake, New Mexico:
8. Jemez River & Tributaries
The Jemez River and its tributaries, such as the East Fork and San Antonio Creek, are known for their incredible fishing opportunities. Anglers can target brown trout, rainbow trout, and cutthroat trout amidst the stunning Jemez Mountains scenery.
Recommended fly patterns for the Jemez River, New Mexico:
- Holy Grail-Tungsten - Hairs Ear - Size 12
- Parachute Adams Indicator - Size 12
- Parachute Mahogany Duns - Size 14
9. Pecos River & Tributaries
Spanning approximately 926 miles, the Pecos River originates in the Sangre de Cristo Mountains and winds its way through the state before merging with the Rio Grande. The Pecos River's diverse path showcases breathtaking landscapes, including deep canyons, rolling plains, and lush forests. Access points for fly fishing can be found at various locations, including Pecos National Historical Park, Villanueva State Park, and Pecos Wilderness.
In the middle of New Mexico, the Pecos River and its tributaries offer a satisfying fishing experience where brown and rainbow trout can be found. The river has cool water that is suitable for brown trout, rainbow trout, and native Rio Grande cutthroat trout.
Recommended fly patterns for the Pecos River, New Mexico:
10. Red River
The Red River in New Mexico offers a thrilling fly fishing experience. Stretching approximately 75 miles, it flows through the Carson National Forest and the Taos Ski Valley, offering stunning mountain views along its path.
The best fly fishing can be found in multiple areas, including the Red River Fish Hatchery, the Red River Fisherman's Park, and the town of Red River itself. The river is home to abundant rainbow and brown trout, but the stretch below the Red River Fish Hatchery is particularly popular.
Recommended fly patterns for the Red River, New Mexico:
11. Rio de Los Pinos
The Rio de Los Pinos spans approximately 25 miles as it meanders through the Carson National Forest and the Sangre de Cristo Mountains. It can be accessed along Forest Road 91, which runs parallel to the river, providing convenient entry to prime fishing spots.
The Rio de Los Pinos offers a serene and picturesque setting, surrounded by scenic landscapes and dense forests. Anglers can expect to find brown and rainbow trout in its pristine waters, making it a must-visit destination
Recommended fly patterns for the Rio de Los Pinos, New Mexico:
12. Rio Grande
The Rio Grande, one of the most iconic rivers in New Mexico, offers outstanding opportunities for fly fishing. Stretching approximately 1,900 miles, it is a natural border between the United States and Mexico. The river flows through scenic landscapes such as the Rio Grande Gorge and the Rio Grande Valley in New Mexico.
Various locations, including the Pilar area, Taos Junction Bridge, and the Rio Grande del Norte National Monument, provide access for anglers. The river is home to brown and rainbow trout, providing anglers with a diverse fishing experience in the heart of New Mexico.
Recommended fly patterns for the Rio Grande, New Mexico:
13. Rio Guadalupe
Rio Guadalupe is a captivating river located in northern New Mexico. Stretching for approximately 36 miles, it flows through the scenic Sangre de Cristo Mountains. This pristine waterway offers abundant opportunities for fly fishing enthusiasts. Access points can be found at multiple locations along the river, including the town of Pecos and its surrounding areas. The river is known for its diverse trout population, with brown and rainbow trout being the most common catches.
Recommended fly patterns for the Rio Guadalupe, New Mexico:
14. Rio Pueblo de Taos
The Rio Pueblo de Taos is a small but rewarding river for fly fishing. Anglers can expect to catch brown trout, rainbow trout, and brook trout while enjoying the stunning scenery and tranquility of this mountain stream.
Recommended fly patterns for the Rio Pueblo de Taos, New Mexico:
15. Ruidoso River
The Ruidoso River offers an enjoyable fly fishing experience in the Lincoln National Forest. Rainbow trout and brown trout populate this picturesque river, providing ample opportunities for anglers of all skill levels.
Recommended fly patterns for the Ruidoso River, New Mexico:
16. San Juan River
The San Juan River, nestled in northwestern New Mexico, is a renowned destination for fly fishing enthusiasts. Spanning about 75 miles, the river is most famous for its exceptional trout fishing. It flows below the Navajo Dam, creating a consistent and optimal habitat for trout.
Optimal fly fishing can be found at key locations, such as the Texas Hole, Upper Flats, and Lower Flats. The river offers year-round fishing opportunities, with a remarkable rainbow and brown trout population. Known for its world-class tailwater fishery below the Navajo Dam, anglers can reel in trophy-sized rainbow and brown trout.
Recommended fly patterns for the San Juan River, New Mexico:
17. Santa Cruz Lake
Santa Cruz Lake is a hidden gem for fly fishing near Santa Fe. This reservoir is stocked with rainbow, brown, and cutthroat trout. It's a great spot for anglers of any skill level, and its shallow waters mean that you can usually find the fish easily. The best times to fly fish here are in late spring and early summer when the water is warmest.
Recommended fly patterns for the Santa Cruz Lake, New Mexico:
18. Upper Pecos River
The Upper Pecos River in New Mexico presents a captivating destination for fly fishing enthusiasts. This pristine river spans approximately 60 miles through the picturesque Pecos Wilderness. Access points for fly fishing are available at strategic locations, such as Cowles, Terrero, and Winsor Cree, giving anglers prime access to an impressive trout population, including brown, rainbow, and cutthroat trout
Recommended fly patterns for the Upper Pecos River, New Mexico:
19. Vallecitos River
The Vallecitos River is a small mountain stream that offers an intimate and peaceful fly fishing experience. Anglers can pursue brook trout and brown trout while being surrounded by the scenic beauty of the Carson National Forest.
Recommended fly patterns for the Vallecitos River, New Mexico:
20. Valles Caldera National Preserve
The Valles Caldera, also known as Jemez Caldera, is a wide volcanic caldera situated in the Jemez Mountains of northern New Mexico. The caldera floor landscape is adorned by natural features such as hot springs, streams, fumaroles, natural gas seeps, and volcanic domes. The National Park Service designated Valles Caldera as a National Natural Landmark in 1975.
The Valles Caldera National Preserve in New Mexico spans over 89,000 acres. The preserve features the Jemez River, which meanders through its diverse landscape. The Jemez River offers abundant fishing opportunities, including a thriving trout population, including brown, rainbow, and cutthroat trout.
Recommended fly patterns for the Valles Caldera National Preserve, New Mexico:
What Gear Do I Need to Fly Fish in New Mexico?
To fly fish in New Mexico, you will need the following gear:
- Fly rod (typically 8 to 9 feet long, with a weight suitable for the target species)
- Fly reel (matched to the rod weight, with a smooth drag system)
- Fly line (floating or sinking, depending on the fishing conditions)
- Leaders and tippet material (usually 9 to 12 feet long, tapered for delicate presentations)
- Assortment of flies (including dry flies, nymphs, and streamers)
- Waders and wading boots (essential for fishing in rivers and streams)
Additional Facts about Fly Fishing in New Mexico
New Mexico boasts over 1,500 miles of rivers and numerous lakes, providing abundant fly fishing opportunities. The state is renowned for its diverse trout species, including rainbow trout, brown trout, cutthroat trout, and Rio Grande cutthroat trout.
Many rivers and streams in New Mexico offer year-round fishing, while high mountain lakes are typically accessible from spring to fall. Anglers should be aware of specific fishing regulations and obtain the necessary fishing licenses and permits before casting their lines. Catch-and-release practices are encouraged to preserve the fish populations and maintain the ecological balance of the waterways.
Where is the best place to fly fish in New Mexico?
Determining the best place to fly fish in New Mexico depends on personal preferences and fishing objectives. However, some popular destinations among anglers include the San Juan River for trophy-sized trout, the Pecos River for its legendary reputation, and the Rio Grande for its iconic status and diverse fish populations.
Where is the best trout fishing in New Mexico?
New Mexico offers exceptional trout fishing opportunities throughout the state. Some of the top locations for trout fishing include the San Juan River, the Pecos River, the Rio Grande, the Chama River, and the Jemez River. These rivers and their tributaries are known for their healthy trout populations and scenic beauty.
Where are the biggest trout in New Mexico?
The San Juan River is renowned for its trophy-sized trout, including rainbow and brown trout, that can exceed 20 inches in length. Other rivers, such as the Rio Grande, the Pecos River, and the Chama River, also hold the potential for catching large trout. It's important to note that trout size can vary depending on various factors such as fishing regulations, habitat, and angling pressure.