Fly Fishing the Chama River in New Mexico: A Comprehensive Guide

I. Introduction

The Chama River, located in northern New Mexico, offers a diverse and rewarding fly fishing experience. Known for its excellent Brown and Rainbow Trout fishing, the river flows through stunning landscapes and provides anglers with a variety of fishing opportunities. In this guide, we will explore the best fishing spots on the Chama River, local conditions, and additional attractions in the area.

II. Chama River Fishing Spots

A. Chama River Tailwater

Below the El Vado and Abiquiu dams, the Chama River offers productive tailwater fisheries that are popular among anglers.

  1. El Vado Tailwater: This stretch of river is known for its trophy-sized Brown and Rainbow Trout. Access can be found near the dam and downstream at Cooper’s El Vado Ranch.
  2. Abiquiu Tailwater: A more challenging section due to fluctuating flows, but offers excellent opportunities for skilled anglers. Access points include the Abiquiu Dam parking area and the downstream Cerrito Recreation Site.

B. Chama River Wild and Scenic Area

This section of the river offers a more remote and pristine fly fishing experience, with limited access and smaller crowds.

  1. Chavez Canyon: A scenic canyon stretch with pocket water, riffles, and runs. Access can be found at the Chavez Canyon trailhead.
  2. Rio Chama Wilderness Area: Accessible by multi-day float trips or challenging hikes, this remote section offers an incredible wilderness experience and the opportunity to catch wild trout.

III. Local Conditions and Tips

A. Best Times to Fish

  • Spring (April-May) and fall (September-October) offer the best fishing opportunities, with stable flows and active trout.
  • Summer (June-August) can be productive in the tailwater sections, but the freestone sections may experience low flows and warm water temperatures.

B. Recommended Flies

  • Dry Flies: Parachute Adams, Elk Hair Caddis, Stimulator
  • Nymphs: Beadhead Pheasant Tail, Copper John, Hare’s Ear
  • Streamers: Woolly Bugger, Slumpbuster, Conehead Muddler Minnow

IV. Local Eateries and Breweries

A. Fina’s Diner

  • A popular local diner offering classic American breakfast and lunch options in a friendly atmosphere.

B. Boxcar Cafe & Bar

  • A casual eatery with a diverse menu, including burgers, sandwiches, and New Mexican dishes.

C. Chama River Brewing Company

  • A local brewery offering a variety of craft beers on tap, along with a tasty menu of appetizers, sandwiches, and more.

V. Accommodations and Lodging

A. The Chama Hotel & Shops

  • A charming hotel located in downtown Chama, offering comfortable rooms and easy access to local attractions.

B. El Vado Lake State Park Campgrounds

  • Multiple campgrounds within the state park, providing tent and RV camping options with easy access to the El Vado Tailwater.

VI. Local Attractions

A. Cumbres & Toltec Scenic Railroad

  • Ride a historic steam-powered train through the beautiful landscapes of northern New Mexico and southern Colorado.

B. Heron Lake State Park

  • A picturesque park offering recreational activities like boating, fishing, hiking, and wildlife viewing.

C. Chama River Bend Lodge

  • A rustic lodge with cozy cabins, located on the banks of the Chama River, offering a tranquil retreat for anglers and nature lovers alike.

D. Chama Trails

  • Explore the surrounding wilderness by hiking, mountain biking, or horseback riding on a variety of scenic trails near the Chama River.

VII. Conclusion

The Chama River in New Mexico provides a diverse and rewarding fly fishing experience, with opportunities to catch Brown and Rainbow Trout amidst stunning landscapes. By understanding the local conditions and selecting the right flies, anglers can maximize their chances of success on the water. Additionally, the area surrounding the Chama River offers a variety of eateries, accommodations, and local attractions, ensuring a well-rounded and enjoyable experience for visitors.

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