Rio Peñasco Fly Fishing

rio penasco

The Rio Peñasco is one of those oddities that we stumble across every now- and-then in Mother Nature. The Peñasco is a spring creek with 9+ miles of trout water teeming with wild browns and rainbows. This slice of paradise is oddly located in the deserts of southeastern New Mexico about 45 minutes east of the mountain resort town of Cloudcroft. The shallow desert terrain often reaches temperatures in the low 100’s throughout the summer. A number of springs bubble up along the Peñasco.

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These springs help maintain a water temperature of 52-60 degrees year round. Making this quite the fishery all year long. Most of the wild browns and rainbows average 10-14 inches with realistic odds of trout reaching 20 inches. The constant water temperatures and tremendous aquatic insect population allow the trout to grow year round.

The Peñasco averages 10-20 feet wide but don’t let the width fool you. There are a number of pools 8-10 feet deep and one nearly 30 feet deep. Watercress lines most of the river and often reaches heights up to three feet.

Sneaky fly-fishers should use the watercress as cover, casting and dabbing flies to skittish trout. Sinuous like moss grows freely throughout, channeling the water. Bigger trout often seek shelter within this moss and in the bottom depths of the deep pools.


A lot of insects and hatches occur during the year; the most productive hatches include Blue Winged Olives (Baetis), Tricos (Tricorythodes) and Caddisflies (Tricoptera).

Terrestrials include hoppers and beetles. Both the Blue Winged Olives (#18-20) and Tricos (#22) hatch throughout the year except during the heat of the summer.

Look for Caddis (#12-18) action in late February until early May and again from September through November.

Hopper and beetle activity starts in late May and can last into October. Hopper patterns twitched along the moss beds often result in ferocious strikes.

Nymphs and streamers are most effective in the deep pools and channels.

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The entire length of the Peñasco is privately owned; fortunately a good portion of its 9 miles is open to the public for nominal daily fees. Mel and Jennifer Foley (505-687-2221) operate a 2-mile section known as The Rio Peñasco Fishing Company. The Foley’s offer day trips and overnight camping in comfortable tent-cabins with a full bathhouse.

The Mesilla Valley Flyfishers have a two-mile public access lease on the Cleve Ranch. A $10 daily permit is available at the well-posted parking areas along US Highway 82 or by calling the Anglers Nook in Las Cruces, NM (505-522-3810).

Five miles of the Peñasco on the Mulcock Ranch (505-687-3352) is available for day fishing with a nominal rod fee. The Mulcock Ranch currently features a bunkhouse available for camping.

The closest commercial airport is in El Paso, a little over 3 hours away. There is also a small airport in Alamogordo, just an hour from the river.

If your driving, US Highway 82 parallels the Peñasco. The nearest town is the tiny community of Mayhill. This is the closest place to buy basic groceries.

Related Resources

Rio Penasco Fly Box
Even more great information about this fishery.

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