Emerald Jewel of Southern New Mexico

Fishing the Rio Peqasco
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Let me get this straight — there's a private spring creek, loaded with sizable wild brown and rainbow trout, fishable all year long, stuck off in a corner of the middle of nowhere in southern New Mexico, with lodging right on its crystal-clear waters, and nobody knows about this marvel?

Two years ago, in the dead of winter, I visited the Rio Peqasco, astounded as I drove through high desert sage and juniper by way of Amarillo and Roswell that any kind of quality trout fishing could be had only an hour from the Mexican border.

Over the phone, guide Jeff Banegas claimed that the ten miles of accessible water fished pound for pound as well as legendary DuPuy's Spring Creek. I shook my head, phone to my ear, certain he was exaggerating a tad. From the road, the Rio Peqasco doesn't conjure up visions of big trout, and, in fact, seems small and unimportant. But up close, it's a different story.

The river valley, flanked by low-slung hills, is an agricultural oasis in this desert, replete with orchards and sheep and cows. The river maintains a constant temperature in the mid-50s, its cool waters fed by five major springs. The spring creek moved slowly like liquid emeralds, curving this way and that, forming big turquoise pools and long glistening glides and serpentine channels.

Fishing for Prisms

Through the clear water I could see the big shoulders of the trout, their white mouths open, feeding on passing scuds or baetis nymphs.

I played a lot the first day, admiring the enormous fishing skill of my guides Banegas and Manuel Monasterio, owner of the Reel Life fly shops in Santa Fe and Albuquerque. They dropped accurate casts onto small slick pockets, mended the drift against tricky cross currents, and lifted hard and tight against the subtle nibbles of the large browns and rainbows.

They fished with patience, taking their time working through every lie, sometimes casting ten times within a foot-radius, drifting over a big trout holding in a channel between the watercress. This wasn't freestone fishing. When I did take rod in hand, I quickly discovered that I needed to concentrate on every cast, making sure that my first cast was drag-free, lest I spook all the fish in the pool.

I caught a few colorful rainbows but missed several more, not ready for their aggressive nature. Every fish had some serious kick, and, when hooked, leapt furiously out of their dens, dancing like prisms in the air against the blue sky. Now I know why they call them rainbows.


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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