New Mexico's Trout-Fishing Secret: The Cimarron River

Insects, Flies, Lures, and Rods

What sets the Cimarron apart from most southern Rockies fisheries is the abundant insect population. Whether the river is high or low, there always seems to be an ongoing hatch. There are healthy hatches of caddis and mayflies. Stoneflies hatch in May, but stonefly imitations like the Kaufmann's Stimulator (in gold or orange) work all season. Golden stonefly imitations are a necessity to properly fish the river during the summer.

Flyfishers should fish with smaller patterns, given that the water will be low and clear. The size of the hatching insects diminishes over the course of the summer as well. Midge pupa and comparaduns are often necessary to take trout on the beaver ponds. When no trout are visibly feeding, I have had success with an orange Asher dry fly, a simple but effective pattern. Other effective flies to try include high-riding attractor patterns like Griffith's Gnat, Humpy, and Elk Hair Caddis. The Goddard caddis pattern is one of my favorites, as well as the Mathew's X-caddis, especially as a change of pace when finicky trout are bored with yet another Elk Hair Caddis imitation.

Tippets should also be light—typically a 5X or 6X tippet will suffice. Occasionally, on the slower parts of the Cimarron, a 7X tippet might be the difference between hooking up with rising trout or watching fish after fish turn away from your offering. Light tackle is best, but many anglers like a longer lightweight rod to dap flies as they walk the thick vegetation on the banks. A five-weight outfit is the heaviest I would recommend. I suggest a two- or three-weight rod, generally no longer than seven feet, but certainly no longer than eight and a half feet. There is no need for a sinking line. A weight-forward or double-tapered line will work fine, since most of your casts will be of the sidearm, flip-and-roll variety.

Because of the thick bankside brush, you'll probably invent a cast or two of your own just to place the fly underneath overhanging branches or around a streamside rock. High Country Anglers owner and guide Doc Thompson employs a bow-and-arrow casting technique to get into the tight spots. Thompson says that this technique, in addition to floating flies downstream, roll casts, and steeple casts, covers areas other casts cannot—and that means more fish on the line.

Hook up with Doc and you can learn more about the intricacies of this trout-laden stream. He's got exclusive access to a two-mile stretch of private water known as the"Dream Water" (also known as the Cimarroncita). The river here meanders through an open meadow, rife with deep bend pools, choppy riffles, foamy runs, and punctuated by the occasional willow or cottonwood standing sentinel on the bank. The fish are fat and you'll be the only one on this stretch of water. In fact, I love the Cimarron so much, I hooked up with Doc myself—and now we teach flyfishing classes on the river. I know my beginning students will end up catching fish on their first day.

With such a broad aquatic insect population throughout the Cimarron, deciphering which hatch the fish are turned onto and figuring out how to effect the proper presentation is the key to having a great day on the water. Thompson suggests that providing the trout with the presentation is sometimes more important here than matching the hatch. Get the fly into the trout lies without drag and you'll catch more fish. Various beadhead nymphs will produce fish when they aren't looking upward. And orange scud patterns—imitations of the fresh-water shrimp that wash downstream from Eagle Nest Lake—work well in the upper section close to the dam.

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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