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Adventures in Chama, New Mexico

 

The Rocky Mountains of North Central New Mexico are known primarily for outstanding elk hunting. Approximately 100 miles northwest of Santa Fe the small town of Chama, New Mexico, is nestled into the Rockies on the Colorado border. The famous Elk Hunting Lodge of Chama Land and Cattle Co. located there caters to a few trout fishermen in the off season. The ranch has 8-10 small high mountain lakes that are stocked with lots of big Rainbow Trout. A couple of tiny streams also start and flow through portions of the ranch. The streams are 6-15 feet wide in most places and very few fishermen bother the native Brookies that inhabit them. 

My friend, Jim, took a small group of his family members, myself and my wife to Chama in the summer of 2014. It is impossible to exaggerate how much my wife enjoys fishing. She likes to fly fish but prefers ultra-light spin gear with a small marabou jig attached to the end of her line. 

There are two ways to approach the fish in the small high mountain lakes at Chama. You can either get in the aluminum johnboats left at each lake and use a trolling motor or you can walk the banks. Pam’s inner “wild woman” was coming out the first morning and she was not about to let me or the guide talk her into boarding the boat. That would be far too “stifling”. 

Pam was casting almost before the guide got the truck parked. For the next 3 hours she walked the circumference of the lake climbing out on large boulders at times to present her “jig creations” to the big hungry Rainbows. She even broke one of her lightweight travel rods trying to lift an 18 inch Rainbow out of the water. I fished with the guide in the boat all morning but I always knew where Pam was. We (and every animal within miles) heard her yell “Oh, Yeah” every time she hooked a trout. Lunch on the bank was a victory celebration of sorts and her energy was enough to fight off my mid-day drowsiness.

After 3 days of fishing the small lakes, I wanted something different, so one of the ranch’s local trout guides agreed to spend one afternoon chaperoning my wife and I as we hiked Poso Creek, trying to entice the 6-12 inch Brookies that populate the stream.

The wind that beautiful sunny July afternoon made casting a dry fly a little challenging in the skinny water lined with brush and willows but the fish were hungry and aggressive. Fishing a Rocky Mountain stream at 10,000 feet elevation surrounded by elk, mule deer, grouse and even an occasional bison, with no human in sight, is at least one of my descriptions of a good day.

I left my wife with the guide and I struck out alone, fishing a basic ant pattern on my 5 weight fly rod. The trout did not disappoint me and dozens of small Brookies rose that afternoon to take my tiny floating ant. My largest Brook Trout was no longer than 12 inches but I did manage to fool one lonely 14 inch Rainbow by stripping a 1/125 oz. olive marabou jig.

My wife was not as experienced at fighting the wind and the brush with her fly rod but she managed to land enough Brookies to make her extremely happy as well. The wind was howling and a late July thunderstorm was threatening so after a few lightning displays, we called it quits.

There is something about being alone in the Rockies with a fly rod and some Brook Trout that just makes a person feel more alive. Tired from a hard day of fishing but filled with a deep sense of psychological and spiritual renewal, we slept well that night.  Thank you God for one more day that I got to enjoy your wild and wonderful creation with the woman that I love to share it all with.

- Jim

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