Fly Fishing in New Mexico: Best Rivers, Lakes and Streams

Fly Fishing in New Mexico

Are you ready to cast your line in some of the best fly fishing spots New Mexico has to offer? If you’re a fishing enthusiast, this article is your comprehensive fly fishing in New Mexico guide to the top rivers, lakes, and streams in the Land of Enchantment. 

We’ll explore everything from the majestic Rio Grande to the tranquil Cimarron River and provide insights on where to find brown and rainbow trout, the best time to fish, and much more.

So, grab your fly rod, put on your fishing hat, and dive into the world of fly fishing in New Mexico!

Understanding Fly Fishing in New Mexico

With its diverse landscapes, New Mexico offers fantastic fly fishing opportunities. Whether you’re an experienced angler or a novice looking to try this art, the state has something for everyone.

In this article, we’ll take you through the best fishing destinations in the NM United States, what you can expect, and tips to make your fishing experience in New Mexico genuinely memorable.

Where to Fly Fish in New Mexico?

New Mexico offers a wide range of options for fly fishing enthusiasts. One popular destination is the San Juan River, known for its trophy-sized trout. The river is known for its consistently clear, cold water that provides excellent conditions for fly fishing.

Another great spot is the Pecos River, which offers diverse fishing opportunities. This river has both remote sections with solitude and more popular areas with easy access.

When Was Fly Fishing Invented

The Rio Grande is also a top choice for fly fishermen in New Mexico. It features not only fantastic fishing opportunities but also breathtaking scenery. The river runs through a deep, narrow gorge, providing a unique and picturesque fishing experience.

Other notable places for best fly fishing in New Mexico include the Chama River, the Red River, and the Cimarron River, all offering unique charms. Whether you prefer solitude or a more bustling fishing experience, New Mexico offers every fly-fishing enthusiast something. 

New Mexico’s Best Fly Fishing Rivers & Streams

New Mexico is a fly fishing paradise with a wide variety of rivers and streams, each with its unique character. Here are some of the best fly fishing rivers and best small streams in New Mexico:

  • San Juan River: The San Juan River is one of the world’s most famous fly-fishing rivers, known for its vast trout and prolific hatches. The best fishing is below Navajo Dam, where the river is wide and slow-moving.
  • Pecos River: The Pecos River is a beautiful river that flows through some of the most scenic parts of New Mexico. The fishing is excellent throughout the river, but the best sections are the upper reaches in the Pecos Wilderness and the lower reaches below Santa Rosa.
  • Rio Grande: The Rio Grande is the largest river in New Mexico, and it offers a variety of fly fishing opportunities. The best fishing is in the northern section of the river, where it flows through Taos and Questa.
  • Chama River: It is a popular fly fishing destination due to its consistent water levels and good trout populations. The best fishing is in the middle section of the river, where it flows through the Santa Fe National Forest.
  • Cimarron River: The Cimarron River is smaller but offers excellent fly fishing for beginners and experienced anglers alike. The best fishing is in the lower section of the river, where it flows through the Cimarron Canyon State Park. 

Other notable fly-fishing rivers and streams in New Mexico include:

  • Brazos River
  • Costilla Creek
  • Fenton Lake
  • Gila River 
  • Green Meadows Lake
  • Jemez River and tributaries
  • Rio Guadalupe
  • Rio Pueblo de Taos
  • Ruidoso River
  • Santa Cruz Lake State Park
  • Upper Pecos River
  • Vallecitos River
  • Valles Caldera National Preserve

New Mexico is a great place to fly fish year-round, but the best time to go is spring and fall when the weather is mild and the hatches are prolific.

When planning your fly fishing trip to New Mexico, purchase a fishing license and check the fishing regulations. Consider hiring a guide who can help you find the best fishing spots and teach you the techniques you need to be successful.

5 Favorite New Mexico Fishing Spots (Best Places)

The Mighty Rio Grande

The Rio Grande, one of the most iconic rivers in the American West, offers exceptional fly fishing opportunities. Flowing through northern New Mexico, it’s home to brown and rainbow trout. The river flows gently in some parts, making it perfect for anglers of all skill levels.

Cimarron River: A Hidden Gem

For a more secluded fishing experience, head to the Cimarron River. This picturesque waterway is nestled in the heart of the Cimarron Canyon State Park. It’s one of the best places to find brown and rainbow trout and offers excellent fishing for novice and experienced fly fishers.

San Juan River: A Trout Haven

The San Juan River, located in the northeastern part of the state, is a trout water haven. It starts high in the San Juan High Mountains of Colorado and is over 20 miles north of excellent fishing waters. If you’re a fly angler and want to fish in NM, this is the place to be.

Red River Fishing New Mexico: A True Fishing Gem

The Red River, flowing through the charming town of Red River, is stocked with rainbow trout. It’s an ideal location for family fishing trips and is equally popular among anglers of all ages.

Pecos River: Fly Fishing Paradise

Pecos River is another fantastic fly fishing destination. This river flows through the stunning Santa Fe National Forest and offers superb fishing opportunities. The river’s clear waters are home to brown and rainbow trout, making it a must-visit for any angler.

The Best Time to Fish in New Mexico

New Mexico offers fishing opportunities year-round. However, the best time to fish largely depends on your preferences.

  • Fishing in the Summer: The summer months are perfect if you enjoy warm weather and longer days. During this season, you can cast your line in the cool waters of the Rio Grande and other rivers.
  • Fall Delights: Autumn brings cooler temperatures and mesmerizing fall foliage. This is the time to visit the Cimarron River and witness the landscape transform into a stunning mosaic of colors.
  • Winter Wonder: For those who love ice fishing, winter in New Mexico offers unique opportunities. Some lakes, like Eagle Nest Lake, are great for cold-weather fishing.

Fishing Regulations and Licenses

Before you embark on your fishing adventure, you must know New Mexico’s fishing regulations and licensing requirements. The New Mexico Department of Game and Fish oversees these regulations. To ensure you comply, visit their website for up-to-date information.

– Exploring the River Flows

Understanding the river flows in New Mexico is essential for a successful fishing trip. The Brazos and Red Rivers are notable for their consistent flows, providing a reliable fishing experience. These rivers offer some of the best fishing in the state.

– Gear and Tackle

To make the most of your fishing trip, having the right gear and tackle is essential. Dry fly fishing is unique; dry flies and small nymphs are often used to catch trout. Ensure you have the appropriate equipment before you hit the water.

Where is the Best Trout Fishing in New Mexico?

The best trout fishing in New Mexico can be found in several rivers, lakes, and streams throughout the state. Some of the top locations for New Mexico trout fishing in New Mexico include:

Here are the top 3 trout fishing spots in New Mexico

  1. San Juan River: This world-renowned trout fishery is located in the northwestern part of the state. The river is known for its clear, cold water and abundant rainbow trout. To get to the San Juan River from Tyler, Alabama, take I-20 W for 1,502 miles. The drive will take about 22 hours and 51 minutes.
  2. Jemez River: This river is located in the northern part of New Mexico and is known for its variety of trout, including wild brown trout, Rio Grande cutthroats, and rainbows. To get to the Jemez River from Tyler, Alabama, take I-20 W for 1,277 miles. The drive will take about 19 hours and 8 minutes.
  3. Upper Dalton Fishing Access Fishing Site: This site is located in northeastern New Mexico and is known for its easy access to the Pecos River. The river is stocked with rainbow and brown trout and is a great place to fish for beginners. To get to the Upper Dalton Fishing Access Fishing Site from Tyler, Alabama, take I-20 W and US-287 N for 1,242 miles. The drive will take about 18 hours and 39 minutes.

The Best Flies for Fly Fishing New Mexico

The best fly-fishing flies in New Mexico vary depending on the time of year and the specific body of water you are fishing. However, some general patterns that are adequate year-round include:

  • Pheasant Tail Nymph: This is one of the world’s most versatile and practical fly patterns. It is a good imitation of various nymphs and can be fished effectively at different depths.
  • Hares Ear Nymph: Another versatile nymph pattern effective in New Mexico. It is a good imitation of a variety of caddis fly nymphs.
  • Zebra Midge: This fly is a good imitation of midge larvae, a staple food source for trout. It is especially effective in the spring and fall when midges are hatching in large numbers.
  • Double Beaded Stonefly Nymph: This fly is a good imitation of stonefly nymphs, a significant and vital food source for trout. It is especially effective in the spring and fall when stoneflies are hatching.

In addition to these general patterns, several specific fly patterns are effective in New Mexico during different times of the year. For example, some popular patterns for the spring include:

  • Blue-Winged Olive (BWO): BWOs are small mayflies abundant in New Mexico streams. In the spring, BWOs hatch in large numbers, and trout will eagerly feed on them.
  • Pale Morning Dun (PMD): PMDs are another small mayfly common in New Mexico. PMDs hatch in large numbers in the spring and fall, and trout will eagerly feed on them.
  • Caddis: Caddis flies are a staple food source for trout throughout the year. Caddis flies hatch in large numbers in the spring, and trout will eagerly feed on them.

Some popular patterns for the summer include:

  • Stoneflies: Stoneflies are a large and vital food source for trout in the summer. Stonefly nymphs hatch in large numbers, and trout will eagerly feed on them.
  • Terrestrials: Terrestrials are insects that live on land but fall into the water and become food for trout. Popular terrestrial patterns include grasshoppers, ants, and beetles.
  • October Caddis: October caddis flies are a large caddis fly that hatches in the fall. Trout will eagerly feed on October caddis flies, especially in the early evening.
  • Midges: Midges are a staple food source for trout throughout the year but are essential in the fall when other food sources are scarce.

No matter what time of year you are fishing in New Mexico, it is crucial to have a variety of fly patterns in your fly box. This will allow you to match the hatch and catch more fish.

Fly Fishing New Mexico Guides

Fly Fishing New Mexico Guides offers expert angling trips to some of the state’s most scenic and productive fishing destinations.

With a team of experienced and knowledgeable guides, they provide tailor-made fly fishing experiences for both beginners and seasoned anglers.

Whether you are interested in trout fishing on the Rio Grande or chasing smallmouth bass on the Pecos River, their guides have the expertise and equipment to ensure a successful and memorable trip.

With a deep understanding of local waters, they can customize trips to match your preferences and skill level. Fly Fishing New Mexico Guides are committed to providing exceptional service and helping you create unforgettable fishing memories in the beautiful landscapes of New Mexico. 

Commonly Asked Questions about New Mexico Fly Fishing Trip (FAQs)


New Mexico’s rivers, lakes, and streams offer a diverse range of fly-fishing experiences for anglers of all levels. Whether you prefer the iconic Rio Grande, the secluded Cimarron River, or the San Juan River trout haven, you’ll find a fly fishing in New Mexico adventure to remember. Ensure you obtain the necessary licenses, understand the river flows, and equip yourself with the right gear. Then, cast your line and immerse yourself in the breathtaking landscapes and thrilling fishing New Mexico offers. Happy fishing!

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