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).
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
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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.
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.