Wednesday, October 31, 2012

NM Game & Fish Officers Take Stock of Trophy Trout in New Mexico's Legendary San Juan River

Marc Wethington, San Juan River Fisheries Biologist for the New Mexico Department of Game and Fish (NMDGF) shows off  a fat brown trout pulled from the river during a fall 2012 survey of the river and its trout population. 
Wethington uses a raft mounted, generator powered, electro-shocking unit to pass an electrical  current around and beneath his raft as he moves downstream. Fish in the vicinity of the passing raft are then stunned and float to the surface where workers can net them and put them in an on-board holding tank from which they can be retrieved, weighed, measured and inspected. 
NMDGF Conservation Officer, Storm Usrey, on the left and NMDGF Coldwater Fisheries Biologist, Richard Hansen, to the right, enjoy a beautiful fall day while working on New Mexico's blue ribbon trout stream, the San Juan River  at Navajo Dam.
Hanson releases one of many healthy trout captured during the survey operation while Usrey   takes notes. 

Karl Moffatt, publisher of the blog "Licensed to Fish" and "Outdoors New Mexico" frequently produces freelance articles for the game and fish department's "New Mexico Wildlife" magazine and is often invited to ride along during fish surveys.

The San Juan River's population of feisty rainbow trout remains stable due to a steady stocking program while the resident brown trout continue to thrive due the cold clear water flowing from the base Navajo Dam.
Large brown trout can frequently be found in shallower waters by gravel bars on the lower San Juan River during the fall as they prepare to spawn. Anglers are urged to leave them be so they can reproduce successfully.   
The San Juan River below Navajo Dam offers anglers over seven miles excellent trout fishing and incredible scenery. Special regulations apply. Consult your fishing proclamation. 

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Alder Guard Station: Rustic Comfort on the Rio Grande.

The Rio Grande at South Fork Colorado provides miles of good public fishing amid spectacular scenery and is just a short drive from the US Forest Service's Alder Guard Station rental cabin. Photo by Wren Propp.

Alder Guard Station provides the public an affordable stay at a historic facility featuring excellent amenities and a great location. Go to for more info and reservations.

 A well stocked wood pile and a good wood burning stove provides the heat and ambiance at Alder Guard Station during a cool autumn evening.

Alder Guard Station features big windows to take in the view from the living room of this cozy cabin situated in the Rio Grande National Forest near South Fork, Colorado.

The well equipped kitchen at Alder Guard Station could use a microwave oven and a couple of good cast iron skillets to make it even better.

Alder Guard Station features hot, running water and the opportunity to soak in this huge, old fashioned, claw foot, bathtub, A real luxury of the old west.
Alder Guard Station provides five single beds in two rooms on the second floor accessed by a steep staircase.

Spreading the living room futon out on the floor made for an even better place to crash for this couple.

The picnic tables under the towering pine trees in the front yard at Alder Guard Station were the place to be on a warm, sunny, autumn morning.

Nearby Shaw Lake above Big Meadows Reservoir is a popular fishing and sightseeing destination.

A well equipped, autumn angler armed with a spin casting rig outfitted with a bubble and a Pistol Pete might snag a late season trout or two at Shaw Lake in southern Colorado.

The Rio Grande as it flows through the nearby town of Del Norte features in-stream habitat improvements designed to attract and hold fish for anglers to catch.
The Rio Grande in southern Colorado offers excellent public access, pretty good habitat and not bad fishing but it also lives up to its reputation as one of the most mercurial rivers in the west, producing good action one day and nary a nibble the next. Photo by Wren Propp.
Returning to New Mexico from the San Luis Valley of southern Colorado along remote US 285 can produce stunning scenes for those lucky enough to be out there at the right time.

Thursday, August 16, 2012

Elwood Cabin: Simply Amazing Serenity

Elwood cabin is equipped with two bunk beds featuring  a futon on a folding frame on the bottom that can be folded up into a couch. Then there's a real mattress and box spring on top. Move the mattress from the top to the bottom bunk and you've got a real cozy nest.

Elwood cabin is a 100-year-old former line shack for crews servicing a transcontinental telephone line. It's available for rent by the public and has its own fully stocked  firewood shed and vault toilet.
Elwood cabin features a good wood stove for heat and propane lights and a two burner counter-top range for cooking. Visitors must haul in their own water and pack out their own trash. Guest entries in journals kept inside make for great reading.
Elwood cabin sits atop an outcropping overlooking what is according to the Forest Service's Rio Grande National Forest map, Schinzel Flats, with what appears to be South Mountain in the background. 

Watching and occasionally  feeding the local wildlife makes for great entertainment at Elwood Cabin. This chipmunk we called the "Chunk Monkey" wasn't shy at all.
Man, those store bought peanuts are so good.
The cost of a night's lodging helps pay for the pile of wood stored inside and alongside the cabin's woodshed.
Showing no fear of the chopping block this bird and several of his buddies found chasing and eating little round balls of tortilla strips irresistible.
Those "Crazy Ass" mushrooms. 
As "old school" as it gets we set out to catch trout using barbless "Pistol Pete" flies trolled under a bubble on a spin-casting rod at nearby Poage Lake.  
Wren Propp of Santa Fe shows remarkable form while playing a good sized fish from the banks of Poage Lake in the high country of southern Colorado. 
Ms. Propp shows off the first cutthroat she's ever caught and it was on a prop-fly at Poage Lake.
 Go figure.
A short-bed Harbor Freight utility trailer makes hauling around bulky camping gear a real breeze. Some assembly required.
The end of another enjoyable outing to one of the Forest Service's unique cabins. Check them all out at .
Our government at work cleaning up after big business got through mining for gold and silver at Summitville just over the hill from Elwood Cabin. To read more about the history of this environmental disaster go to
The Alamosa River might look pretty bad following a good rain due to silt and other sediments in the water but Cindy Medina of Alamosa Riverkeepers says the river is on the mend due to the new water treatment plant at Summitville and other efforts.  
Much of the discoloration of the Alamosa River can be blamed on runoff from mountainsides such as this which are found throughout the area. Naturally occurring metal compounds and their effect on the river are discussed in a USGS (United States Geological Survey) report about restoring the river to a healthier state. It can be found at .

The luminescent nature of the Alamosa River and its stained stream banks might be unsettling to some but   others say the river is making a comeback.  

The Alamosa River's downstream journey is interrupted by Terrace Reservoir where the eerie effects of its stained waters hide what is reported to be a lake full of trout that are now safe to eat, according to a Colorado Parks and Wildlife news release found at .

We stopped just below the spillway at Terrace Reservoir to see what the river may hold and found clear water and a nice pool where several feisty Rainbow trout gave a us a good fight after rising greedily to a small stimulator fly.
This beautiful Rainbow trout was caught below Terrace Reservoir on the Alamosa River in southern Colorado where restoration efforts are now apparently paying off. Alamosa Riverkeepers is involved in an effort to obtain water rights to keep the river wet during winter months when irrigation demand declines and the river often runs dry. 
What a hoot, eh?

Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Taylor Park Reservoir: Colorado's Calling

At the height of summer when the baking heat of my home state of New Mexico becomes too much, I head for the high country of Colorado where the soothing afternoon rains, abundant fishing and spectacular scenery make for a great day.

Pot # 1 above Taylor Reservoir near Gunnison, Co, where trout will take just about any kind of  nymph suspended below a bubble and tossed far out into the water with a spin casting rig.

Colorado's beautiful brook trout make for an exciting catch due to their unique and colorful appearance. Stocked rainbow and naturally reproducing brown trout can also be found in these ponds.

Tying flies at a makeshift camp above Taylor Reservoir where off-road, dispersed camping is allowed and provides relief from having to stay in crowded, costly campgrounds where a good night's sleep is no longer guaranteed.

My version of a Pheasant Tail nymph tied on a #14 hook with a copper bead head and very pronounced wings has proven its worth when trolled below a bubble in many Colorado lakes, ponds and reservoirs.

The Davis brothers of Missouri - Ray, Bud and Ed - are old school hunters and fishermen who know how to camp, cook and have a good time without smoking, drinking or cursing. They make an annual pilgrimage to Taylor Reservoir each summer and I have been blessed with an invitation to join them for many years now. Thanks guys for all you do and God bless!

If you're lucky enough to wander by the Davis camp at the River's End Campground at Taylor Reservoir during the summer you'll probably end up with a plate of really good food in your hand.

Ed Davis shows off a nice Brook trout he caught in Pot. # 1 that ended up on the stringer and destined for a fish fry. Dozens of others were caught and released.

Breakfast at the W Cafe in Gunnison turned out to be a real treat with well prepared and good sized servings but it was the side of vegetarian, green chile sauce that truly impressed me.

It seems everything in Colorado is BIG  including this rocky mountain overlooking the Gunnison river  in an area called Palisades Park just outside of town where public access is available.  I caught a nice, fat brown trout here that fought like one twice its size.

Gene Taylors is the kind of old school sporting goods store that makes you fantasize about being   locked inside overnight and spending the whole time exploring the place. It has everything you could possibly need including fishing and camping gear, guns and ammo, outdoor clothing, hiking boots, you name it and they've got it. This is a required stop in Gunnison, Colorado.

The Gunnison River south of town  falls under the jurisdiction of the National Park Service which provides excellent access to many miles of river above Blue Mesa Reservoir including this spot at Cooper Ranch.

A quick and filling riverside meal, microwavable mac and cheese - simply add boiling water -  then jazz it up with a little can of tuna fish, some diced tomatoes and green chiles, heat a little more and Wow!

Afternoon thunderstorms were always a threat with lightening and heavy rain possible each day. By early evening things had dried out and it was time to head back down to the river. 

The National Park Service's Ponderosa Campground on the Soap Creek Arm can be found after crossing Blue Mesa Dam and following a good gravel road up towards the bordering Gunnison National Forest where postcard scenes appeared everywhere. 

Mule deer ventured into camp at Ponderosa during the evening hours and provided the kind of  entertainment that's difficult to find on television.

 When leaving Taylor Reservoir one can opt to climb Cottonwood Pass and head over to Buena Vista on the Arkansas River where Victorian architecture abounds, the folks are real friendly and the river rules!   

The Bunea Vistas White Water Park on the Arkasas River. A sweet spot to take a dip after a week of sleeping in the dirt.

Old kayaks line the wall of an old sporting goods store in historic Salida on the Arkansas River in southern Colorado.  

Liquor stores in Colorado sell full strength beer while convenience stores and supermarkets only carry the more subdued version of 3.2 beer. It's all good when you're thirsty.   

There's a reason Colorado is the fittest state in the nation and that's because no matter what you're doing it's gonna take a long hike to get there.