Copyright 2018 James Marsh
Fly Fishing the Rio Chama River New
Mexico - El Vado Reservoir Tailwater
The Chama River (also called Rio Chama) is Wild and
Scenic River that flows through the Chama Wilderness
Canyon for about six miles in northern New Mexico. The
stream originates in Colorado in the San Juan Mountains.
It is a 130 mile tributary to the Rio Grande River. High
sandstone bluffs line the Chama Wilderness Canyon
providing a beautiful setting for the fishing. This section of
the stream is a tailwater that flows from El Vado Reservoir
This river holds the New Mexico record for brown trout.
Brown trout average from 12 to 18 inches in the Chama
River tailwater. Some exceed 20 pounds. The stream has
a good population of caddisflies, midges and mayflies.
Most of the trout are caught on nymphs and streamers
but the dry fly fishing can be good a certain times of the
year during hatches. Much of the time you are better off
with streamers. By the way, water color doesn't have to be
clear. Fish can be taken in water slightly off color and that
happens often. Anglers should pay special attention to
the dam discharges prior to fishing. They fluctuate wildly.
Mule deer, elk, coyote, black bear and other animals can
be seen while fishing the canyon. Access to the river is
provided via state highway #112 off of U. S. Highway #84.
This leads to Tierra Amarilla Ranch which has cabins and
a very small parking fee. It's best to hike downstream at
least a mile or two. There are other ways but they are
difficult and may require a 4 wheel drive vehicle. They are
involved so you would need to acquire a good topo map
of the area.
The Chama River has some very good pocket water as
well as long runs, pools and riffles. It has plenty of large
boulders. It flows range drastically from slow to very fast. It
may change several times during the day.
The best part of the season starts in March and April.
Summertime usually means high water.
Springtime is the best time for fly fishing the Rio Chama
The water stays cool in the canyon all summer long and
fishing remains good.
Fall can be the best time to fish. The brown trout spawn
during the Fall. October and November are prime months.
The river runs off color much of the winter and late fall
and early spring.
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Rio Chama River
Photo Courtesy Steven Lamb
Photo Courtesy Steven Lamb
Recommended Tackle & Gear
5 or 6 weight
Dry fly: 9 & 12 ft., 5 or 6X, Nymphing:
71/2 ft., 3 or 4X, Streamers 0-2X
Dry fly: 5 or 6X, Nymphing: 3 or 4X,
Best Fly Rod:
Perfect Fly Superb Five or Ultimate Six
For 5/6 fly line
Fly Floatants and Misc Items:
Loon Floatants, KISS Strike Indicators
Tools & Accessories:
Nippers, forceps, retractors, etc.
Rio Chama Fishing Report:
03/26/14 A customer, local to the area,
ordered more of our BWO flies and reported
he is catching browns on a regular basis.
Fishing Report Updated 02/14/18
(Bottom Of Page)
04/02/14 Two good reports of catches
(brown trout) this past week. Both were using
our Sculpin steamers and BWO nymphs.
|Options For Selecting Flies:
1. Email us (firstname.lastname@example.org)
with the dates you will be fishing this
stream and we will send you a list of our
fly suggestions. Please allow up to 24
hours for a response.
2. Call us 800-594-4726 and we will help
you decide which flies you need.
3. Email us (email@example.com)
with a budget for flies and we will select
them to match the budget and get them to
you in time for your fly fishing trip.
All orders are shipped free in the
U. S. Orders over $50 are shipped via
04/09/14 More good fishing reports came in
last week. Trout are being caught on our
Brown Sculpin streamers and BWOs.
04/16/14 Great fishing conditions with some
nice trout being reported caught. BWOs and
our Sculpin Streamer patterns are working
for our customers.
04/23/14 We continue to get good reports
of fish being caught.
04/30/14 Two good reports from
customers catching trout this past week.
Both were using BWO nymphs and duns.
05/07/14 More good fishing reports
coming in from the Chama. Anglers are
catching plenty of trout using mostly
Blue-winged Olives. The water is
warming up and other hatches should
soon be getting underway.
05/28/14 Customers ordering Little
Yellow Stoneflies, Golden Stoneflies and
others. Two reported the fishing to be
06/04/14 Several more good reports
came in this past week from customers
and our local contact. Conditions have
06/11/14 One angler reported catching an
18 inch brown this past week. Conditions
have been good.
07/09/14 Sorry for the lack of reports. Our
local contact has been on vacation. One
customer reported he was catching plenty
of trout. Water levels have been low and
the fish spooky but otherwise, fishing has
07/23/14 Two customers reporting good
catches this past week. Hatches have slowed
down some but terrestrial are working. Little
Yellow Stoneflies are the main hatch other
07/30/14 The tailwater is flowing cool.
Don't fail to fish because you think it is too
hot for the fish, It isn't. We didn't receive
any reports from the past week.
08/13/14 Several good fly fishing reports
have come in on the Chama the past few
days. Hatches are slowing down but plenty of
trout are being taken on terrestrial imitations.
09/23/14 Cooler weather and good flows
have turned the trout on and our customers
are catching plenty of trout. Great Conditions.
10/08/14 Some rain has helped liven up
the headwaters and the Chama is fishing
good. Two customers reported catching
some nice browns this past week.
10/15/14 Blue-winged Olives are hatching
again, as they are bi-brooded. One customer
reporting catching several nice browns this
10/22/14 Good weather and good stream
levels should equal good fishing. No reports
from last week.
10/29/14 Two reports from customers using
our BWO nymphs and duns. Good
11/05/14 Another good report this past week
by a customer using our Brown Sculpin. He
caught some Nice Browns
11/30/14 Releases have been steady and
some trout are being caught. Sculpin
streamers are still the best bet. Some browns
12/31/14 No reports from the past two weeks.
Conditions are not that bad.
01/07/15 Customer caught a dozen brown
trout on cream midge larva/pupa combination
01/21/15 Other than when the discharges
have been high, our customers have
continued to catch plenty of trout on midges.
01/28/15 One good report from the past
week. Customer using our Matuka Sculpin,
Olive caught an 19 brown and three other
02/17/15 We received two good fishing
reports from the tailwater this past week.
Some nice browns were caught on the Brown
03/03/15 Watch the stream levels from
discharges. There has been rain recently
and they could be high. No reports from the
03/10/15 No reports from the past week but
conditions have improved.
03/17/15 One good report from a customer.
Cream midge larva and pupa combination
took a few trout this past week.
03/24/15 Conditions remain good with good
discharges but no reports came in.
03/31/15 A good report from a loyal
customer. Three nice browns on our midge
larva/pupa in combo.
04/07/15 Two more good reports from this
tailwater. Nice weather and stream levels.
04/21/15 Several good reports have come in
the past two weeks. Good discharge levels,
some BWO hatches.
05/05/15 Rain should help but watch the
discharges. Two reports of browns being
caught recently on BWOs, midges and sculpin.
05/19/15 Conditions are very good with
plenty of trout being caught. lots of hatches
taking place. Call or write us folr the info.
06/23/15 Runoff still underway and the water
off color and cold.
07/07/15 Discharges much better and better
stream levels. No reports from anyone fishing
but conditions are back good.
07/14/15 One report of big brown on our
Olive matuka sculpin.
07/20/14 Some good wading opportunities
and some nice brown trout. Lots of heavy
07/11/15 Water levels went up but fell fast.
More rain is in the forecast. This should help
the Chama fishing opportunity.
07/18/15 Discharges from El Vado dam have
been fine for wading most of the past week.
Two good reports have come in from
09/01/15 Sorry for the lack of reports. The
discharges are high at times, but other than
that, conditions are excellent.
09/08/15 One report from a loyal local
customer. Nice browns caught on the Brown
09/22/15 There is a lot of rain in the area and
will be all week. Make sure you check the
discharges and/or stream levels.
10/06/16 Brown trout are in the pre-spawn
mode and taking streamers very well. Now is
the time to catch a trophy.
10/13/15 High discharges has prevented
anglers from doing much fishing. Keep a
close check on them.
10/27/15 We added a link to the USGS real
time stream flow chart on your upper left.
Right now the flows are little above normal.
11/03/15 Great conditions for the past few
days and that should continue. Good stream
levels and Blue-winged olive hatches.
11/17/15 The discharges have been high for
the past several days. There is a winter storm
warning today and tomorrow and things
should begin to settle back down to normal.
11/24/15 The river is getting back in good
shape with good levels and clear water. Keep
a check on the discharges though.
12/08/15 The river is flowing at 1080 cfs at
3.59. The discharges are high, the water
stained, and likely to remain high for a while.
12/22/15 They are still running a lot of water
through the dam to lower the lake. It has
subsided some, so maybe it will be lower this
coming week. Make sure you check the levels.
12/29/15 The discharges have been low and
wading possible for the last few days. This
should continue and midges/Winter stoneflies
should catch trout for you.
01/12/16 Conditions are pretty good for
January. The stream flows are down with
normal wadable levels and only a little snow
forecast for Thursday and Friday. Fish midges
near the dam.
01/26/16 Watch the discharges. The stream
levels have been up and down, but when down,
conditions are good. Good weather is in the
02/09/16 Discharges from the dam are staying
low and wading easy. Midges and Winter
stoneflies are the insects you should be imitating.
02/23/16 There's a winter storm warning
through tomorrow, then clearing. Stream level
and discharges have been good for wading.
03/07/16 Discharges and stream levels are low,
easy to wade, with good conditions. Midges,
winter stoneflies and little BWOs should work.
03/22/16 The low discharges and stream
levels continue. Sight casting is even possible.
Stay low and make good presentations.
03/29/16 The low water and discharges can
make it tough unless you stay low and hidden.
There is little chance this will change soon.
04/12/16 The discharges and stream levels are
still very low. The fish are there and eating. You
just have to stay hidden.
04/26/16 Low water levels and discharges
continue, but customers report catching trout.
There is a lot of rain/snow forecast this coming
week, so that is likely to change.
05/10/16 The discharges are low and stream
level low. Anglers are catching trout. Stay
hidden and catch trout. Send us an email for a
list of flies. firstname.lastname@example.org
05/24/16 Stream flows are at 1960 cfs and at
4.44 ft. That is very high due to Spring runoff. It
will be a while before they drop.
06/07/16 The discharges are currently low and
the stream okay to fish. The freestone section
is still high and you may see more high
discharges, so what the stream levels.
06/21/16 The discharges and stream levels
are down a little below normal and in good
shape. Lots of insects are hatching including
Pale Morning duns and little Yellow stoneflies.
07/05/16 Good conditions exist, with good
stream levels and lots of hatching insects. The
outlook for the coming week is excellent.
07/19/16 The discharges and stream levels
are very high, too high to fish. You will just
have to keep checking the levels.
08/02/16 Discharges and stream levels are up
again making wading difficult - 706 cfs.
Condition otherwise are good.
08/16/16 Stream levels have been good the
past few days but back up high. Watch the
levels. You cannot wade safely now.
08/30/16 The flows are still high and have been
recently. Watch the stream levels and fish when
09/20/16 Discharges and stream levels are
high right now, and wading difficult to unsafe.
There is rain forecast everyday this coming
week, so this is unlikely to change.
10/04/16 The discharges and stream levels
are up high. This should settle down soon as
there is no more rain forecast.
10/11/16 Stream levels are back down and the
river in good shape.
11/01/16 Discharges and stream levels are just
a little above normal. Lots of brown trout being
caught. Sculpin streamers and BWO
nymphs,duns and spinners.
11/15/16 The discharges just a little high for
wading but falling. Watch the levels and fish
when they get down some more.
11/29/16 Stream levels continue to be a little
high but okay. Winter stoneflies are hatching.
12/13/16 Winter stoneflies are hatching. Cream
and Red midges are hatching good. Fish the
larva and pupa in tandem.
12/27/16 Discharges and stream levels are
low and wading possible. Good conditions
exist. Use midges and winter stoneflies.
01/10/17 The water is still cold and levels fine.
We had one good report. Lots of midges are
hatching. Use the Cream, larva and pupa
rigged in tandem.
01/24/17 The discharges and stream levels
are low and wading easy. The water temp is
about 37. Fish as near the dam as allowed.
02/07/17 We are getting some good reports.
Stream levels are low. Fish streamers like our
Brown sculpin when cloudy or Cream Midges.
02/21/17 More good reports. Discharges and
stream levels are back in good shape and
customers are catching plenty of trout.
03/07/17 We are getting some very good
reports from customers. The stream levels
have been in good shape and should continue
to be. Use midges and sculpin streamers.
04/04/17 The discharges are at 1210 cfs at
3.72 ft. Normal flows are about 375 cfs. We
don't think the high discharges will last long
so keep checking back with us.
04/25/17 The flows are at 2530 cfs and 5.0
ft/ In other words, very high and blown out.
05/09/17 The discharges and stream levels
are down and in good shape and our
customers are catching trout.
05/23/17 The discharges and stream levels are
still too high to wade safely. It is at 1970 cfs at
4.45 ft. The flows are best at 500 to 1000.
06/06/17 The discharges and stream levels
are down and in good shape for wading.
There are lots of insects hatching.
06/20/17 The river is in very good shape with
low discharges and stream levels easy and
safe to wade. There are lots of hatching
including Pale Morning duns and many others.
07/11/17 Stream levels are just a little above
normal and some wading safe with caution.
Multiple hatches are taking place, PMDs,
Spotted and Green sedge caddis, Golden
stones, Little Yellow stones, and more.
07/18/17 The discharges are at 861 cfs at
3.33 ft. or high but should fall out fast.
08/01/17 Stream levels are low and it is easy
to wade. Customers are catching trout. Lot of
PMDs, Little Yellow stones and other hatches.
08/08/17 The discharges and stream levels are
back down and the river easy to wade. We
didn't receive any reports of trout caught this
08/22/17 The stream levels are a little above
normal. Use caution wading. There are some
good hatches taking place and Carpenter
ants and Japanese beetles are doing good.
09/12/17 Flowing at 699 cfs. Best at 300-400
cfs, It is currently too high to wade. It should be
09/26/17 Conditions would be great if the
discharges and stream levels would drop
down. They are at 706 cfs at 3.13 ft., which is
high. There are some good hatches.
10/10/17 Stream levels are high again, at 605
cfs at 2.96 ft. It should be coming down very
soon. Fishing has been very good when the
levels are in good shape..
10/25/17 Stream levels are high again, too
high to wade safely. Use streamers like the
Yellow or Black Marabou sculpin.
11/01/17 The discharges and stream levels
are still to high to wade safely, but otherwise,
11/15/17 Discharges and stream levels are
high again. Watch the levels-they should be
dropping down soon. It is too high at this time.
11/23/17 The stream levels are far too high to
fish, flowing at 501 cfs at 2.81 ft. All you can
do is watch the levels and fish when it drops.
12/07/17 The river is very high, flowing at 612
cfs, It should start dropping soon.
12/14/17 It is down to 403 cfs at 2.67 ft. or
much lower but still a little too high to wade
safely. It will be down very soon and it shiould
be very good.
12/21/17 The river level is down from lower
discharges and in good shape. Winter
stoneflies, Cream and Red midges and sculpin
streamers are catching trout.
01/04/18 The stream levels are down to
normal levels and wading is safe with caution
most places. Midges and Winter stoneflies are
01/17/18 The discharges and stream levels
are in good shape and lots of midges and
Winter stoneflies are hatching.
01/31/18 The discharges and strem levels
are normal and trout are being caught on
midges and Winter stoneflies. Aquatic worms
are also working good.
02/14/18 Discharges and the resulting
stream levels continue to be in great shape.
Conditions are as good as they get at this
time of the season.