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FLY FISHING THE PECOS RIVER IN NEW MEXICO

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The Pecos River originates high up in the Pecos Wilderness Area of the Sangre de Cristo Mountains just north of Santa Fe, NM. A handful of tiny streams loaded with small browns, cut-bows and cutthroats flow into the Pecos above Cowles. Below Cowles the stream becomes a small-medium river ranging between 10-25 feet wide as it tumbles into the Pecos Box, one of two canyons stretches.

"The Box" is the upper canyon located just downstream of Cowles. The other canyon section is from the Willow Creek confluence downstream to Terrero. Access both canyons by hiking down from the parking areas located along NM 63. These canyon sections feature pocket water, deep pools, plunges and some fast white water. Tight casting quarters require anglers to creep along the bank or work from the middle of the river making short casts underneath the overhanging willow trees. These canyon sections are teeming with rainbows and wild browns ranging from 8-14 inches. Larger trout are few and far between but do exist.

Several key insects are worth imitating throughout the canyon stretches of the Pecos. The first two are stoneflies, the Giant Stonefly (Pteronarcys californica) and the Golden Stonefly (Hesperoperla pacifica).
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The Giants begin hatching in late May and continue through mid to late June. The Goldens soon follow in early to mid July. Nymphing along the bottom in the deep pools and runs is the most consistent technique. Look for rising trout in the edge water and pockets, these trout will some times come up to a beefy adult stonefly pattern even when they don't appear to be taking flies off the surface.

During the middle of the summer mayflies make their biggest showing. Red Quills or March Browns (Rhithrogena) begin hatching in late June/early July and will often continue hatching until late August. Once again nymphing is the best technique to catch fish throughout the day, a #14 Hare's Ear is a good imitation.
Hatch Chart
By July the caddisflies make their presence known. Two main species exist, one is a green free-living caddis (Rhyacophila) and the other is the tanish/olivish Brychycentrus. Green, olive and tan caddis larva and pupa patterns in sizes 12-16 work best when trout aren't taking adults. Olive and tan Elk Hair Caddis (#12-16) makes great imitations when trout are slashing the surface.

The Pecos fishing season usually runs from April to late September. Runoff starts anywhere from late March to early May and can last through June. During normal years good flows exist throughout most of September, however drier years make for a short season. This is not a winter fishery by any stretch of ideas, snow and ice covers much of the river throughout the winter. There are two areas on the Pecos with Special Trout Water regulations.

Fly fishers seeking isolation, solitude and a bit of adventure might consider the upper reaches of the Pecos or one of its tiny headwater tributaries located in the Pecos Wilderness Area. These streams are all small ranging between 3-10 feet wide and require anglers to hike. Aside from the lack of people anglers can find brightly colored wild browns and a few native Rio Grande Cutthroats, New Mexico's state fish.