Exploring the Top Fly Fishing Spots in New Mexico

Fly Fishing Across America: Exploring the Top Fly Fishing Spots in New Mexico


New Mexico, the Land of Enchantment, is a hidden gem for fly fishing enthusiasts. With its diverse landscapes and abundant waterways, the state offers a unique and often overlooked fly fishing experience. In this article, we’ll explore the top 5 fly fishing spots in New Mexico and provide insights to help you make the most of your angling adventures in the state.

Essential Gear and Equipment

Before embarking on your New Mexico fly fishing journey, it’s crucial to be well-equipped with the right gear and knowledge of local regulations.

A. Rods, reels, and lines

  • Rods: A 9-foot, 5- or 6-weight rod is versatile enough for most New Mexico waters.
  • Reels: Choose a sturdy reel with a reliable drag system, as New Mexico fish can be strong fighters.
  • Lines: Floating lines work well in most situations, but bring a sink-tip line for deeper runs or when targeting larger fish.

B. Flies and fly selection for New Mexico

  • Dry Flies: Adams, Elk Hair Caddis, and Parachute Hare’s Ear
  • Nymphs: Pheasant Tail, Copper John, and San Juan Worm
  • Streamers: Woolly Bugger, Muddler Minnow, and Sculpin patterns

C. Waders, boots, and other clothing/accessories

  • Breathable waders for warmer months, neoprene for colder months
  • Sturdy wading boots with felt or rubber soles
  • Quick-drying clothing, a wide-brimmed hat, and polarized sunglasses

D. Local regulations, permits, and licenses

  • Obtain a New Mexico fishing license and review fishing regulations before your trip
  • Be aware of special catch-and-release or seasonal restrictions on certain waters
  • Always practice Leave No Trace principles

Top Fly Fishing Locations in New Mexico

1. San Juan River

  • Located below Navajo Dam in northwest New Mexico
  • World-renowned tailwater fishery with abundant trophy-sized Rainbow and Brown Trout
  • Best times to visit: Year-round, with peak fishing during spring and fall hatches
  • Local guide recommendation:

2. Rio Grande

  • Flows through the heart of New Mexico, offering diverse fishing opportunities
  • Target species: Brown Trout, Rainbow Trout, and Rio Grande Cutthroat Trout
  • Best times to visit: April-June and September-November
  • Local guide recommendation:

3. Pecos River

  • Meandering through the Sangre de Cristo Mountains in northern New Mexico
  • Target species: Brown Trout, Rainbow Trout, and Rio Grande Cutthroat Trout
  • Best times to visit: Spring and early summer before runoff, and fall
  • Local guide recommendation:

4. Chama River

  • Scenic river flowing through the northern New Mexico mountains
  • Target species: Brown Trout, Rainbow Trout, and occasional Brook Trout
  • Best times to visit: Spring, summer, and early fall
  • Local guide recommendation: High Desert Anglers

5. Cimarron River

  • Nestled within Cimarron Canyon State Park in northeastern New Mexico
  • Target species: Brown Trout and Rainbow Trout
  • Best times to visit: Late spring, summer, and early fall
  • Local guide recommendation:

Tips and Techniques for Fly Fishing in New Mexico

A. Casting techniques

  • Master basic casting techniques like the overhead cast, roll cast, and sidearm cast
  • Learn the double haul for increased line speed and distance in windy conditions
  • Practice accuracy and presentation to increase success in New Mexico’s diverse waters

B. Reading water and understanding fish behavior

  • Focus on riffles, seams, and current breaks where trout are likely to hold
  • Observe insect activity and match your flies accordingly
  • Fish during early mornings and late afternoons when trout are most active

C. Tips for targeting specific fish species

  • Rainbow Trout: Focus on deeper runs, and consider using nymphs or streamers
  • Brown Trout: Look for undercut banks and structure; try large streamers in low-light conditions
  • Rio Grande Cutthroat Trout: Target high-elevation streams and meadow sections with dry flies and small nymphs

D. Conservation and responsible fishing practices

  • Practice catch-and-release fishing to preserve the health of New Mexico’s fish populations
  • Use barbless hooks to minimize harm to fish
  • Report any illegal fishing activities or environmental concerns to local authorities


New Mexico offers a wealth of fly fishing opportunities, from the world-famous San Juan River to the hidden gems of the Cimarron and Chama Rivers. By equipping yourself with the right gear, knowledge, and techniques, you’ll be well-prepared to make the most of your angling adventures in the Land of Enchantment. Don’t forget to explore other articles in our Fly Fishing Across America series to discover more incredible fly fishing destinations throughout the United States.

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