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New Mexico’s Best Stonefly Fishing Just Across the State Line

Posted by on June 7, 2012
trout in net with fly in mouth

A brown trout caught on a “Foamulator” during an annual stonefly hatch on the Conejos River in southern Colorado.

Some of the best  fly fishing in New Mexico can be found just across the state line in southern Colorado when the Conejos River is thick with stoneflies during the annual  hatch.

A longtime favorite destination for New Mexican anglers the Conejos River’s annual stonefly hatch has been arriving earlier these days due to lower stream flows and warmer weather brought on by climate change and resultant droughts.

During a June 2012 trip to the big river near the tiny town of Antonito we found the air abuzz with fat lumbering stoneflies and trout rising eagerly to the surface to engulf them.

A big, nasty stone-fly found on the banks of the Conejos River.

A big, nasty stone-fly found on the banks of the Conejos River.

The best bet for imitating these floating feasts for fish might be the “Foamulator” found at the local Fox Creek Fly Shop nearest to the miles of prime fishing found on this river.

A "Foamulator" fly.

A “Foamulator” fly.

The fly utilizes a traditional stimulator design stacked atop a piece of high floating foam with some rubber legs to give it plenty of movement.

And boy does this sucker work on the Conejos River’s resident population of big, bad, brown trout.

brown trout in a net

A nice brown trout bagged on an imitation stonefly waits to be released back to the water unharmed and perhaps a little wiser after having been caught.

Newcomers to this river will find mile after mile of prime water open to fishing with some areas restricted to catch and release fly fishing only.

Those seeking solitude, great mountain scenery and plenty of angling opportunities  need only venture down to the river from any number of obvious access points.

conejos river colorado

The Conejos River can be a difficult place to concentrate on fishing if you’re easily distracted by rich, blue skies, fluffy clouds and lots of beautiful mountain scenery.

Some tips to keep in mind when venturing out to the Conejos River include carrying a rain poncho as it clouds up and threatens to rain just about every afternoon.

Be careful when wading this river as it is deep, wide and slippery with the nearest professional medical care some 30 miles away at a clinic near of La Jara as our host, Thom Cole, discovered after dislocating a finger during a slip and  fall.

man displays dislocated pinkie finger.

Thom Cole shows off his dislocated pinkie after a slip and fall on the notoriously slick streamside on the Conjos River in southern Colorado.  A country doctor made short work of the problem and had Cole back on the river in no time.

Be respectful of private property owners who generously provide much of the public access to anglers on this river.

Bring plenty of water or carry a purifier as many inviting stretches require a good hike.

And wear a wide brimmed hat, a proper shirt and perhaps some sunblock to ward off effects of the high elevation sun.

man walking in river

The author and photographer, Karl Moffatt, wading the Conejos River in southern Colorado after a successful day of fishing during the annual stonefly hatch.

When fishing the Conejos River with imitation stone flies make sure to work the banks as this is where many of the naturals can also be found.

Our best catch of the trip was found lurking in the quiet water at the edge of a deep, turbulent run under an overhanging tree surrounded by willows festooned with the big bugs.

a stonefly

A stonefly at streamside is hard to miss due to its big wings.

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