Red Chile

Yes, I do like the local Carne Adovada, but “Red Chile Water” is New Mexico’s designation for fly fishing only, catch and release streams.

The Covid epidemic kept me from fishing for more than a year, but this summer I have visited the Navajo Dam area of the San Juan River twice. It is a tailwater fishery and grows many large trout that feed on invertebrates washed from under the dam. It is also a state park. Water temperature is 42-46 degrees F year around, but I do not know whether natural reproduction takes place.

Guided fishing is very popular here because a guide can load his clients into a boat and easily control the situation. Fishing is done with a pair of small nymphs, split shot, and an indicator (known to bait fisherman as a bobber). I was on such a trip a couple years ago and can attest to the effectiveness of the method. Here on a 1 inch grid are a tandem set of flies left from that expedition. The beadhead is probably size 14 and is there mostly for weight. The smaller fly catches the fish.

A typical float trip starts at the Texas Hole boat ramp and goes downstream to the Crusher Hole ramp. The boats cannot go upstream from Texas Hole because they cannot navigate the shallow riffles in that direction. Here is a shot of one the riffles, looking down at a passage into the Hole.

Wanting to fish on my own rather than satisfy the need of a guide to prove himself, I have found that the riffles are full of 8 to 10 inch rainbows that will take swung wet flies of size 14. (The guides at the Hole and below will hook one up with 16+ inch fish.) Wading here is reasonably easy when water flow is 400 cfm or less. Also, there is a slow, silty area above the lowest set of riffles where fish surface feed in the late morning and dry fly fishing is effective. I have been very pleased with my two visits.

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