New Mexico Fly Fishing


This is a general guide that we have compiled to help our fellow fly fisherman who plan on exploring the great waters of New Mexico.
The majority of New Mexico trout streams can be found close to Santa Fen in the northern part of the state. Anglers can fish a variety of streams – small mountains streams, freestone, meadow streams etc. Towards lower elevations larger rivers (20-40 ft in width), lakes, and tailwaters abound. Almost all of which are public access. See San Juan River.
Keep scrolling for more information.

River Guides

San Juan River

Even before the dam at Navajo Lake was created the river was one of the finest big trout rivers in the Southwest! Today the river has a great reputation of producing large trout and great days! Some of the best flyshops and lodges in the West are located in nearby Navajo Dam, New Mexico.

The San Juan is one of the top five trout rivers in the United States. This river is known for its monstrous trout that feed almost constantly on small flies like midges and beatis. This is also the most crowded river in New Mexico because it is a great fishery that gives any skilled angler a chance for a trophy. There are numerous fly shops and guides on the river that will be able to outfit you and lead you in the right direction so you can get out there and going.

More info on fly fishing the San Juan

Cimmaron River

This is one of our favorite rivers. The Cimmaron offers great fishing for browns and rainbows throughout the summer and early fall until the flows are cut back. The stone fly hatch begins in May and lasts through the end of June. During this time large Stimulators, Zug Bugs, and Double Hackle Peacocks work extremely well. There is also a short Green Drake hatch in mid-June. After the stone flies are gone, productive patterns include the Elk Hair Caddis, Parachute Adams, Humpy, Pheasant Tail, Hare’s Ear, Scud (orange and olive), and of course, the Woolly Bugger. Good patterns for the beaver ponds are black midges and gnats. There is a section of Special Water just below the Tolby Campground, but the fishing is great all the way to Philmont Boy Scout Ranch. Browns here average 12″ and rainbows just a bit smaller. A 29″ brown was taken from a beaver pond in the Special Waters earlier this summer.

Middle Fork

The Middle Fork of the Red River does not hold a great number of fish because of its steep gradient. This is a cutthroat fishery and holds some large (14″) cuts for its size. Standard dries do well here.

Pecos River

The Pecos River, the largest watercourse within the expansive Pecos Watershed, meanders through the vast 223,000-acre Pecos Wilderness. Access is conveniently located off Interstate 25, east of Santa Fe, at the Glorieta exit. Take a left onto NM 63 when you reach the charming town of Pecos. This scenic route will lead you along the river’s northern banks, offering picturesque vistas along the way.

The first point of access along the Pecos River is the Dalton Picnic Area, sometimes referred to as the Bert Clancy area. Beyond this spot and as you head north toward the town of Terrero, public access becomes a bit more restricted. You’ll encounter a few notable spots like the Field Tract Campground, the Windy Bridge area, and the second Bert Clancy fishing area. Keep in mind that these locations tend to attract a fair amount of angler traffic.

Once you pass Terrero, the Pecos River starts to flow through a captivating canyon, with access primarily restricted to hiking. You can either start your hike at the Terrero General Store or park alongside the road above Terrero, then take a short 10-minute walk to reach the canyon walls. This stretch of the river, near its headwaters, is serene, less crowded and contains brown trout. As you go deeper into the canyon, the Pecos River becomes even more secluded.

Moving beyond the canyon, you’ll encounter Mora Creek converging with the Pecos River. The campground at this juncture typically bustles with motorhomes and visitors. The Pecos River continues to offer productive fishing from Terrero to Cowles, often hailed as the finest section of the river. Fishing the Pecos River above the summer home village of Cowles presents more of a challenge, as it narrows and ascends further into the watershed. Nevertheless, the opportunities for exploration and angling in this part of the Pecos Wilderness are boundless.

The river is 1 hour from Santa Fe.  Good flies to use include White Stone, Sofa Pillow, Red Quill, Elk Hair Caddis. Fishes best from April to early May, mid-June to August. More info.

Red River

The Upper and Lower Red Rivers offer great fishing. Matt and I landed about 15 fish each on the Upper Red one morning last August. These fish average 8 to 15 inches and are plentiful. All species reside here and can be taken on standard dries and nymphs. The Lower Red is enclosed in a deep canyon and covered with Volkswagen sized boulders. We caught many browns and rainbows in these swift waters this summer on Pheasant Tails, Zug Bugs, and Olive Woolly Buggers. This section of the Red is very productive during the fall run.

Dolores River

Located below the Dolores Reservoir this tailwater can be a challenge. It has the potential to fish very well, but generally you must walk it with a passion to find pods of feeding fish. Unfortunately due to the demand for downstream water flows fluctuate, and it is far to low in the winter to sustain it’s reputation as one of the great rivers of the Southwest. It does however, fish well in the spring, and can be well worth your time if your interested in fishing something different.

The Upper Dolores does tend to fish well. On a dry year it is easy to find the fish. It does have a bunch of public water and is easy to access outside of Dolores Colorado. You’ll need to be careful to know where to access it because of the intermittent private stretches. If your heading to Dolores country to fish, it should be well worth your time.

The West Fork can also fish real well. It has lots of smaller fish, but also does hold some large fish as well. This is a great stretch to spend some time fishing. It has a number of public campgrounds adjacent to it, and the upper portion above the Dutton turn-off can be really good. You’ll need to walk stretches of the river where you will find it both easy and difficult to walk out of. Great place to park a mountain bike, walk or drive back down, and then fish back up and ride back to your campsite.

Cabresto Creek

This is a small creek near Questa that offers great fishing for small (6-10″) trout and the occasional 12-14 incher. The fish are plentiful and willing. We have had many 50+ fish days here. The best patterns are the Elk Hair Caddis (#12) and Parachute Adams (#14). All four species reside here.

Rio Brazos

2 hours from Santa Fe for browns and rainbows. Flies: Brooks Stone, Bird’s Stonefly, Humpy, Elk Hair Caddis, Woolly Worm. Fishes best May to mid-June, September and October.

Rio Costilla

Rio Costilla
Rio Costilla

This is one of New Mexico’s best cutthroat rivers. Fishing is best here on the weekends because of the high irrigation flows during the week. The water is cut down on Thursday evenings and picks back up again on Sunday evenings. The fishing here was much better than usual last summer. Hopefully, this is an omen of what is to come. The upper section, Valle Vidal opens July 1 and offers the best fishing. The best way to fish Costilla is with any dry fly drifted through anyone of the inviting currents.

Rio Chama

Flies: caddisflies, stoneflies, mayflies. Fishes best late spring through early fall. More info on the Rio Chama.

Rio de Los Pinos

Venture the 2.5 miles up the Pine river trail by horseback or foot and you are rewarded with a Wemminuche Wilderness experience that includes great views and good fishing for all four species of wild trout. This freestone winds it’s way down from the continental divide and passes by Vallecito Reservoir outside of Bayfield Colorado. This can be a very rewarding and unforgettable opportunity to flyfish in the largest wilderness area in Colorado.

3 hours from Santa Fe, for brown and rainbow trout. Flies: Golden Stonefly Nymph, Brooks Stone, Peacock Simulator, Bird’s Stonefly, Brown Wulff, Adams, Light Hendrickson, Elk Hair Caddis, Griffith’s Gnat, Green Caddis Larva.

Read this article about the Rio de Los Pinos

Rio Grande near Pilar

1.25 hours from Santa Fe , featuring Browns, Cuttbows, and Rainbows. Flies: Little Brown Stonefly Nymph, Brown Hackle Peacock Nymph, Green Caddis Larva, Elk Hair Caddis, Blue Dun, Midge Clusters. Fishes best from October and November, January and February.

Rio Guadalupe

2 Hrs from Santa Fe for Brown and Rainbow Trout. Flies: Bird’s Stonefly, Kaufmann Stone Nymph, Humpy. Fishes well late May to June, September.

Rio Hondo

We have only fished this river once, and the water was unusually clear. There are thousands of browns and cuts per mile and they love stone fly imitations.

Rio Penasco

Who would expect to drive only 2 hours from El Paso or Las Cruces and find a trout stream whose chilly waters do not exceed 59 degrees in the summer yet never freeze in the winter?
The Rio Penasco is possibly Southern New Mexico’s best fishery. There are many gargantuan browns and ‘bows in this rich spring creek. There is a heavy spinner fall every morning all year and thick Baetis hatches during mid-day in the winter. Fish here range from 10 inches on up, and fish in the twenties are not uncommon. Tricos, BWO’s, Caddises, Para Adams, Dave’s and Joe’s Hoppers, Midges, Pheasant Tails,… work well here. Unfortunately, one of the best stretches of this river is now off limits (unless you want to pay a grand a year to fish it). The Cleve Ranch can still be accessed through the Mesilla Valley Fly Fishers Club for $10 per day. One fish over 20″ may be kept here, but we encourage you to release all fish.
More info on fishing the Rio Penasco

Rio Ruidoso

This river also hold browns and rainbows, and they are unbelievably healthy. These fish look like San Juan fish, only smaller. The river floods during the summer, making it primarily a winter fishery. Patterns here are the same as on the Penasco. The Hurd Ranch contains a great stretch of the Ruidoso, and can be accessed through the Mesilla Valley Club. Regulations are one fish per day over 20 inches.

Rio San Antonio

1.5 Hrs from Santa Fe. Brown and Rainbows. Flies: Kaufmann Stone, Adams, Red Quill, Light Cahill, Humpy, Green Caddis Larva. Fishes best from April to June, September.

Rio Santa Barbara

This river offers great fishing for browns and rainbows, but is known for its cutthroats. The upper reaches of this river are accessible by foot only and hold many of these crimson sided beauties. Fishing near the campground is great, but the West Fork (a 5 mile hike) is by far the best fishing. The fish average 12″ here (as compared to 10″ near the campground) and will readily thrash an Elk Hair Caddis. If you go, don’t spoil you trip by not fishing the West Fork. This river offers some of the best scenery in New Mexico.


New Mexico Lakes

Stone Lake
Lots of big strong fish. Exceptional! Two fish limit. Single barbless hook required. Very popular float tube lake. Dropper fly is o.k. 440 acre lake. Stone Lake has been restocked throughout the years and those fish seem to average 18 inches with some to 20 inches. This lake apparently had a total fish kill in 2003 due to ph changes resulting from extensive weed growth and low water levels.  For the last few years, Stone Lake on the Jicarilla Apache Reservation was exceptional. An extensive and expensive restoration effort in 1993 eradicated a Carp problem and the trout stocked then grew quite large (21 inches plus). Although there may not be many of the 1993 year class left, later stockings have also done well. In fact, the fisheries biologist for the tribe claims that the highest frequency size fish caught is 21 inches.

Jicarilla Lakes

Mundo Lake is supposed to hold some large Browns.

Also very good. All the Jicarilla lakes have a daily fee. Senior citizen (age 55) rates are less. La Jara Lake nearly dried up in 2003 and fish survival is doubtful. Horse Lake may not have many fish, but the ones that survive the summer and winter of 2000 will be huge.

Horse Lake had some large Cutthroats, but this lake seems to be temperamental and the dirt/mud access road makes this lake one of the least crowded anywhere. Horse Lake also apparently suffered a total winter kill in the 96-97 winter and may again in 2000; however, this lake is extremely fertile and could bounce back rapidly.

MacAllister Lake

MacAllister Lake, near Las Vegas, is notorious for wind and very finicky fish, but it may have some of the largest trout in New Mexico.  It is notorious due to wind and finicky fish, but perhaps the best chance for a really large fish. Close to Albuquerque, approximately 130 miles. Difficult from shore. This lake remained in fairly good condition, perhaps due to its status as a wildlife refuge. I have been skunked more at MacAllister then everyplace else put together, but I’ve also hooked and lost some very strong fish there.

Shuree Ponds
Located on the Valle Vidal in far northern NM east of Costilla. Not as good as a few years ago due to pressure from meat fishermen and poachers, but it is still beautiful high country with great camping facilities and wildlife. Easy bank fishing and a special pond for kids eleven and under. Restricted to single barbless hook and two fish limit. Unfortunately, these ponds are small and even a two fish limit hasn’t maintained the formerly great fishing, but it is still beautiful and also close to the Rio Costilla and Rio Commanche. Middle Shuree Pond was washed out a few years ago and has not been rebuilt. Upper Shuree Pond is down several feet, but still has decent fishing. The lowest pond seems to get more water and is in the best shape of any of these ponds, but it is small and vulnerable to pressure.

Ramah Lake
A real southwest jewel in Mesa country. Scenery is great and fishing has been too. Relatively close to Albuquerque at about 135 miles. Bass too! Next to El Morro National Monument. This lake suffered a lot from the drought, had extensive weed growth and a massive fish kill in 2003. There may be some left?

Quemado Lake
Another very fertile lake with potential winterkill problem. Has produced lots of big fish that can taste like the moss that grows in the lake. As of spring, 1999, Quemado Lake is infested with goldfish and may not be worth fishing? In 2003, Game & Fish stocked this lake with Tiger Muskies in an attempt to control the goldfish. Since there is no current state record for Tiger Muskies, this is the place to go if you want a record!

Recent Addition
Acomita Lake was famous twenty years ago for large trout, but problems with the dam resulted in an eighteen year closure. Last year (1998) the lake was reopened for fishing and this year it’s pretty good. My son and I fished it June 1 and caught approximately two dozen rainbows and one catfish in four hours at mid-day. Water quality appears great with good weed beds for bugs. Lake is about 70 surface acres, but deepest spot is about 40 feet, so fish have a good refuge for winter and summer. Best fish taken were about fifteen inches and best fly was an olive scud. Since New Mexico has had a lot of forest closures and water problems, this is a very welcome addition for fly fishing. Perhaps best of all, this lake is only 60 miles from Albuquerque! Be prepared to share space with lots of bait and spin fishermen. This lake was completely dry in 2004.

Honorable Mention
Maxwell 13 is 75 miles past MacAllister from Albuquerque and gets little or no attention from NM Trout members. This lake could be a real sleeper? Eagle Nest Lake. Quite large lake popular with Texans. Also mostly ignored by fly fishermen in Albuquerque. Heron Lake and Abiquiu Resevoir are another two very large and deep bodies of water that are probably worth a lot more attention. Navajo Lake is supposed to be great for smallmouth bass. High mountain lakes such as Pecos Baldy Lake, Horseshoe Lake, Middle Fork Lake and others can be good, but access is difficult via 4wd or hiking. These deserve a separate article.

Warm water lakes
There are a bunch, but this writer doesn’t have any experience with them, so someone else can write that article.

The San Juan River is famous and can be very crowded even in mid-winter. These lakes can produce even better fishing without the crowds and the fish will probably be stronger. Try to practice “Catch and Release”, because these lakes are becoming better known and the pressure has affected some of them already. This article was written mostly for the benefit of out-of-state tourists and the information is pretty minimal. For more detailed information on location or other, please consult one of the excellent guide books on New Mexico. Ti Piper’s book “Fishing In New Mexico” covers all the water in the state and “Fly Fishing In Northern New Mexico”, edited by Craig Martin covers the essentials of Northern New Mexico. Both books are excellent. A newer book by Taylor Streit “The No-Nonsense Guide To Fly Fishing In New Mexico” is also very good.

All these lakes share an attribute, which produces large fish and a problem. These lakes are fairly shallow and extremely fertile which produces enormous plant and insect growth, which in turn produces rapid fish growth. Unfortunately, this fertility can result in summer algae blooms or oxygen deprivation in the winter, which both kill fish. Some bad years can result in total fish kill, but when conditions are good for a few successive years, exceptional fishing is the result.

Fishermen who plan to release fish should be very careful as warmer summer water can make reviving a “played-out” fish a real problem. Some of us simply do not fish these lakes when the temperature gets too warm!

How does one fish these lakes?
Obviously a boat is the simple answer. Some can be fished from the banks, but this gets difficult when the weeds grow. A float tube is the best answer for several reasons, of which the most important is that it is just a lot more fun! Float tubes are also surprisingly good in windy conditions, since your legs provide a lot more drag than the bottom of a boat or canoe.

There are two basic fly fishing techniques for lakes.
The first is traditional trolling with a sinking line. Trolling Woolley Buggers or streamers is often very effective, especially in the spring. An intermediate or full sinking line is recommended and it is difficult to troll too slowly. A twitch or strip retrieve can be an effective modification to this technique. The other technique, sometimes called a bobber and fly technique, is a still fishing method where a floating line is used with a strike indicator above five to nine feet of leader. Adjust leader and tippet length for the depth of the water; however I don’t like more than ten feet of leader since I don’t want the indicator preventing netting a fish when the indicator reaches the rod tip. Again a twitch modification can often induce a strike. It can be very surprising how effective a nearly motionless fly can be in a stillwater situation. Patience and concentration are the keys to this technique.

What are the most effective flies?
Since the best New Mexico lakes tend to become weedy, the most common food may be damselflies, snails and scuds. There may be more variations of the damselfly nymph than any other fly, but the one that has worked well for me is the “Dirty Damsel”. The key element to this variation is a pearlescent mylar body to give it some flash in the often murky waters in these lakes. The Double Hackle Peacock is said to be a snail pattern and size 12 works well, but I fail to see how trout can digest something that large and hard. It works well though in lots of different variations. I’ve also had good results with black, brown and olive Woolley Buggers in sizes 8-12, since these resemble all sorts of stuff including minnows, leeches and crayfish. Another pattern that has worked well has been a size 12 Grey Nymph. My original reference for this fly claimed a resemblance to a Dragon Fly nymph; however I now believe that it much more closely resembles the Callibaetis nymph and the midge nymphs that are very common in these lakes. Another fly that has produced for me is the traditional Mickey Finn streamer. I’ve used this because I grew up in the East fishing for Brookies, but it has worked particularly well at Ramah Lake. Scud patterns are a new addition to this article, based on a conversation with a biologist, who claimed that these lakes are just full of scuds. One recent trip using olive scuds confirmed that it is a useful fly. I also once had a memorable day at Stone Lake using a Crayfish fly. I took 15 fish ranging from 18 to 22 inches on a crayfish tied mostly with Pheasant Tail fibers, fished with a floating line and a strike indicator. Salmon Egg patterns are also very good, especially in the late fall and early spring.

Thanks to Dr. Jim Buckmelter and Rob Jiron for permission to reproduce this article on Dr. Jim Buckmelter is the author and a memeber of


New Mexico Fly Fishing Articles

Land of Enchantment Guides
Regional overview from a local guide operation

Fishing Rules & Information Booklet
Cimarron Canyon
Information about Cimarron Canyon in the northern New Mexico Sangre de Cristo Mountains area.

Cimarron Information
New Mexico Fly Fishing with Ed Adams!

Cimarron Information
The Cimarron is an intimate tailwater fishery issued from Eagle Nest Dam and Lake, flowing eastward through the Cimarron Canyon State Park.

Cimarron River
by Doc Thompson

Conejos Fly Fishing

Culebra Creek Fly Fishing
includes hatch chart

East Creek Flyfishers
East Creek Flyfishers offers a full service guide trips to the San Juan river quality waters, and an informative website for Four Corners area fly fishing.

Emerald Jewel of Southern New Mexico
Fishing southern New Mexico’s peaceful Rio Penasco….

Fishing in Northeast New Mexico
Northeast New Mexico is notable for the number of small streams and lakes that provide excellent fishing, including some great fly-fishing.

Fly Fish NM Lakes

Fly-fishing The Valles Caldera
Big fish? Little fish? It

Gila Trout may no longer be endangered

Late winter by fly: Silence of the trout bums
Tail end of chilly months offers secret season for seclusion, success

Mulcock Ranch
Penasco Spring River Flyfishing Club

New Mexico
Known for its superb trout fishing, the state of New Mexico offers surprising fishing opportunities for anglers hoping to hook a spunky largemouth or smallmouth bass!

New Mexico Dept. Game & Fish

New Mexico Fishing Reports
from The Reel Life

New Mexico fly patterns

New Mexico Outdoor Sports Guide – Fly Fishing New Mexico
Fly Fishing New Mexico

New Mexico Public Fishing Waters Map

New Mexico’s Trout-Fishing Secret: The Cimarron River
Insects, Flies, Lures, and Rods – from

No Mistaking An Adult Striper
There’s absolutely no mistaking an adult striper for any other game fish in New Mexico

Northern New Mexico Seasons & Weather

Northern NM Fly Fishing
Northern New Mexico provides a great variety of fishing opportunitites and we list just a few here to whet your appetite – by High Desert Angling

Pecos River: miles of fishing possibilities

Red River Fly Fishing
includes hatch chart

Rio Costilla Fly Fishing
includes hatch chart

Rio Costilla info
The Rio Costilla is also a small tailwater, 10-15 feet wide, flowing through sweeping green valleys.

Rio Grande Article
Article/Excerpt from Frank Amato Publications River Journal

Rio Grande Fly Fishing
includes hatch chart

Rio Grande info
The Rio is a rough wild freestone river roaring from Colorado on through Taos and on down into the Gulf.

Rio Grande info
from Grande

Rio Grande Pike Fishing

Riverdances of New Mexico Fly Fishing Northern New Mexico

Sports and Outdoors in New Mexico

Summer & Fall
The best fly fishing in late summer is to be found at the high elevations and on the tail waters…

The San Juan Fly Fishing Guide Book
Michael Shook Fly Fishing Guide Books for Colorado and New Mexico contain detailed maps and information on hatches, local patterns, public access, tips & technique and much more.

Tutorials On San Juan Winter Patterns

Valle Vidal
The Valle Vidal is one of the last holdouts on public land of the rare indigenous Rio Grande Cutthroat trout – from Grande

Valles Caldera National Preserve

Valles Caldera National Preserve Fishing
The fishing experience on the Valles Caldera National Preserve Fishing is just one component of the recreational opportunities we offer.

Weekend Angler: Albuquerque
GORP’s guide to fishing spots perfect for the weekend angler from Albuquerque – the Rio San Antonio, the Rio Cebolla, and Fenton Lake, all in the Jemez Mountains….

Weekly Fishing Report
from New Mexico wildlife

Yong Special Fly
“Simple but deadly. That

New Mexico Fly Fishing Clubs

New Mexico Trout
is dedicated to the preservation and enhancement of trout fishing in New Mexico’s waters through restoration of riparian habitats and through the education of the public

Truchas Chapter of Trout Unlimited

New Mexico Hatch Charts
San Juan Hatch Chart
from Fishheads guide service

San Juan hatch chart

San Juan hatch chart and insects

New Mexico Fly Fishing Maps
Chama/Brazos map

Jemez map

Lower Rio Grande map

Navajo Dam interactive map
from ESPN Outdoors

Northern New Mexico Fly Fishing Map
from The Reel Life

Pecos map

Red River/Rio Grande maps

Rio de los Pinos map

Rio Grande Map

Upper Red River map

New Mexico Fly Fishing Reports
Gila Wilderness Fishing Report
Gila Wilderness area fishing report in Southwest New Mexico

High Country Angler reports

New Mexico Fishing

New Mexico Fishing Report

New Mexico Fishing Report from

NM Reports
Bonito Lake, Grindstone Lake, Rio Ruidoso,

Northern NM Reports
Pecos, Jemez, San Juan, Rio Grande & Tribs, Cimarron, and Chama River

Rio Penasco-Mulcock Ranch reports

San Juan River fishing reports

San Juan River Fishing Reports & Current Conditions
from The Rainbow Lodge

San Juan River Fly Fishing Site reports

Taos NM Area Reports
Red River, Rio Grande, Cimarron, Culebra Creek, & Valle Vidal – from

New Mexico Stream Flows

Stream Flow New Mexico Rivers
USGS Real-Time Data for New Mexico

New Mexico Fly Fishing Shops

Flys Etc.
2801 Sudderth Drive, Suite F, Ruidoso, New Mexico 88345; 505-257-4968

High Desert Angler
451 Cerrillos Rd, Santa Fe, NM 87501; 505 988 7688

The Reel Life
Sanbusco Market Center, 500 Montezuma Ave. Santa Fe, New Mexico 87501; 1-877-733-5543

Van Beacham’s Solitary Angler

High Mountain Angler
830 Hill Drive, Taoes NM, 87571; 505 751 0944

Soaring Eagle Outfitters
PO Box 6340, Navajo Dam, NM 87419; (800) 866-2719

Los Rios Anglers
126 W. Plaza Drive Taos, NM 87571 505.758.2798

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