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


Beginning anglers might get frustrated with the dense brush and willows along the banks, but this heavy cover helps shelter the lunker browns. The river has some heavily-fished areas and it is in these areas where the angler is likely to catch the less-wary rainbow trout. At the end of the Colin Neblett Wildlife Area, the river runs through a flatter section of the valley, leaving the tight restraints of the canyon and making for some nice meadow stream fishing.

If the action on the river slows, you might consider fishing the Gravel Pit Lakes on the north side of the highway at the Maverick Campgrounds. The upper lake is small and silty, but the lower, larger lake is well stocked with browns and rainbows. Tolby and Clear Creeks feed the Cimarron River. Both are small, clear streams with populations of modestly-sized cutthroat and are a nice diversion hike for tiny but feisty wild cutts.

Keep your casts short. The Cimarron is narrow and tight, so long casts spell trouble. Trout are plentiful and holding water is everywhere in this stream. We often catch trout within two to three feet of our wading position. Doc Thompson suggests keeping your leader-tippet no longer than your rod length—the longest you'll ever need to cast is two rod-lengths from your wading position.

Stalk and hide. If you walk the banks, the vibrations will send trout fleeing. Ditto if you cast your shadow across the stream. Take refuge behind trees and walk and wade softly, slowly.

Have patience. The Cimarron brown trout are thick throughout and I often drift a fly several times over the same water in an attempt to get a good drift. When the drift is good, the trout bangs the fly. So don't give up easily.

Wade the middle of the stream and work upstream. This is the most valuable advice for any angler to consistently catch trout on the Cimarron. You have to be in the river.

Cast tight to cover and work riffles when no rising trout are visible. The browns in the Cimarron often hide in protective cover-like riffles and under the banks, submerged logs, and rocks until a hatch comes on, but they can be enticed by a well-placed fly or lure. They hide where it is tough to cast. So the tougher the lie, the better the chance a lunker is hiding there.

Drag-free drifts catch more trout. Doc Thompson says that getting the proper drift over likely lies will result in more hookups on this spring-creek-like fishery.

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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