#34 New Mexico part 2: Redemption and the Rio Grande Cutthroat
The first section of our epic drive from Connecticut to New Mexico went well enough and we only ran into traffic around New York City. Daniel drove until about one o'clock in the morning, which put us somewhere in the eastern Ohio/Western Pennsylvania area. I picked up from there, and drove until around nine in the morning. We made a quick pit stop in Indianapolis to register for our Clemson college orientation that was due. A reminder of how many states we will need to catch in a short time. From there Daniel picked up and drove through the day, and I picked up that night and drove down through Kansas and North Texas and into New Mexico. We encountered a bit of snow in the mountains heading towards Taos, which seemed crazy to us to have snow in May. But we encountered much more of it over the remainder of our trip out west. The next day we woke up in Taos and went to the Taos Fly Shop to get a spot recommendation. They told us about the Rio Costilla once again, and after picking up some steroids for a bad spot of poison ivy I must have gotten somewhere in Connecticut, we hit the river. New Mexico is one of the most beautiful places in the country, and even though we didn’t catch anything that day the scenery was spectacular.
On the recommendation of another worker at the fly shop, we tried another stream the next day near the Taos ski area. There was no trail, and the woods were extremely thick and snowy. But the water was clear and ice free, and we could see fish everywhere. Unfortunately after catching a few of them, it turned out that they were all Brown Trout, which must have taken over the stream that they used to share with the Rio Grande cutthroat trout, which is what we needed to catch.
We made it back to the shop before closing, and the owner was there for the first time, and came over and heard us talking to the other workers about our trip. He told us to try Alamitos Creek, which was small and remote, way up in the mountains. He told us that as long as there was flowing water in it, there would also be Native Cutthroat Trout. It took us a while to get to, and so we didn’t have much daylight, but we got about an hour in and followed it up, and saw some tiny cutthroats. We drove back to Taos to spend the night and woke up early the next morning and got out to the creek and started on up it.
We walked through pastures where herds of huge cows roamed around, seemingly without owners, as there were no houses or any kind of civilization for many miles. We saw a couple isolated trout in small pools, but they spooked easily and we were unable to get them to bite. Then, we hit a pool below a small dam of logs and found it absolutely full of decent sized cutthroats. A smaller pool right below it also held a few trout, and so Daniel fished that one and I hit the one above it. I was fishing with a small worm imitation on my fly rod, and got a few bites but the fish soon got bored of it and left it alone, so I switched to a caddis fly and immediately got more interest. After a few missed bites, I got a good hookset and landed my first cutthroat trout, and only my second fish ever on a fly rod. It was an unbelievable feeling, as we had hiked 50+ miles and driven hundreds of miles in search of this little fish. About 45 minutes later, Daniel managed to trick the biggest one in the smaller pool into hitting his fly, and we ran back to the car in hopes of telling the workers at the fly shop we had successfully completed our quest. We got through the doors minutes before they closed, and they were just as happy as we were.
Can’t wait to get back out to Taos again and catch some more beautiful native fish. This was the beginning of my obsession with fly fishing.