Weekend Angler: Albuquerque

Rio San Antonio
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Practicalities
Species : Anglers will catch mostly wild brown trout and stocked rainbow trout.
Equipment : A 2-, 3- or 4-weight rod will work just fine on most of the little streams but you'll want to bring along a longer, heavier rod for the canyon streams and if the wind kicks up through the meadows. Hip waders are all you'll need.
Flies : For much of the water, you can get by with attractor patterns but on the still pools and flat water, you'll want to have comparaduns and lightly dressed mayfly patterns. Adams (#12#18), Adams Parachute (#12#20), Royal Wulff (#12#16), Rio Grande King (#12#14), Blue Winged Olive (#16#22), Red Quill (#14#18), Pale Morning Dun (#16#20), Elk Hair Caddis (#12#18), Hopper patterns (#6#12), Stimulator (yellow, #8#12), Ginger Dun (#14#18), Comparadun (#16#20), Trico (#18#22), and in nymphs try the Poundmeister (a local favorite), Bitch Creek, Pheasant Tail, Hare's Ear, Double Hackle Peacock, Zug Bug.
Albuquerque fly shops : Reel Life, (505) 268-1693; Charlie's Sporting Goods, (505) 275-3006; Los Pinos Fly Shop, 505) 884-7501.
Directions : The Jemez waters are a short drive from Albuquerque and Santa Fe so you can be sure that on weekends, the rivers near the access points will be crowded. Out of Albuquerque, take I-25 toward Santa Fe (north), turn north on NM 44, then right on NM 4. Pick up a map so you can know how to get around in the Jemez Mountains.
Lodging : Stay in Albuquerque or Santa Fe since the lodgings in the small villages around the Jemez leave a lot to be desired. My favorite spots in Albuquerque include: Casa de Suenos, 310 Rio Grande Blvd., (800) 242-8987, an upscale, intimate New Mexican-style inn; Hyatt Regency Albuquerque, 330 Tijeras Ave., (800) 233-1234, a fancy hotel pretty much like all the other Hyatts around the country; Best Western Winrock Inn, 18 Winrock Center, (800) 866-5252, a comfortable, moderately-priced hotel on the northeast side of Albuquerque; Albuquerque Convention and Visitors Bureau, (800) 284-2282. Anglers will find plenty of camping in the Jemez area in Santa Fe National Forest including the Dragonfly Recreation Area, Fenton Lake, and Jemez Springs. Most of the campgrounds are located off of NM 4 and NM 126.
Suggested reading : Flyfishing Northern New Mexico, edited by Craig Martin, (University of New Mexico Press); Guide to Fly Fishing New Mexico, by Taylor Streit, (Banks Communications); Fishing New Mexico, by Ti Piper, (University of New Mexico Press).
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The Rio San Antonio originates high in the Jemez Caldera on the privately owned Baca Ranch. Once the San Antonio hits the Santa Fe National Forest boundary it is mostly public water with excellent fishing all the way down to the confluence with the East Fork of the Jemez at Battleship Rock.

The upper public reaches of this mountain gem flow through long wide-open meadows of plush grass. The stream is small here, so stealth and short casts are required to catch these skittish browns and rainbows.

 

Early spring may mean cool water, so afternoons typically fish better once the water temps increase and the blue winged olives (baetis) start hatching. By late spring, the Rio San Antonio can be crowded on weekends, but for adventurous fishermen, the lower stretches of the San Antonio mean solitude.

Below the small community of La Cueva, this gem turns into pocket water heaven, flowing through several miles of a steep, boulder-strewn canyon down to the confluence at Battleship Rock.

NM Highway 4 parallels the canyon stretch, and three main pullouts provide easy access. Indian Head, Hot Springs and Deep Canyon are nice sections that are well-marked. The river here has fast water with deep plunges, raging pockets, pickup size boulders, and the occasional small waterfall.

By May, the water should be clearing and flows dropping. Look for the giant stonefly hatch (Pteronarcys californica) through June. Fish the edge-waters and heads of pools for 10"14" wild browns and the occasional bigger brown. Big dries work well, but don't be afraid to heave some heavy stonefly nymphs into the deep runs and deeper pools.


Published: 29 Apr 2002 | Last Updated: 15 Sep 2010
Details mentioned in this article were accurate at the time of publication

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