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Flyfishing in New Mexico

By Christopher Johnson

July 14, 1997:  In spite of being an individual who does not consider himself a very good teacher, I always indulge people who want to learn to flyfish. I begin by querying parties interested in the purest form of fishing with the half-joking, half-truthful, "If you don't mind not catching fish, you'll make a great flyfisherman." The truthful portion of this statement is rooted in the fact that flyfishing is surely not the easiest way to catch fish if that's your goal. Heavy artillery will always work better than light line--say, two-pound test and very small lures. A common housefly can look large compared to some fly patterns.

What remains is that being alongside a lovely mountain brook and placing your tiny fly perfectly in the eddy behind a water-melon-sized rock is very rewarding in itself. I suppose some understanding of a flyfisherman's love of flyfishing can be found in the fisherman-scorned sport of golf. The beauty and skill required in hitting the tiny ball through the air toward the small hole seems somewhat similar to flycasting. The other main similarity that both sports take place outdoors also parallels the main difference: Flyfishing, unlike golf, typically takes place in the absence of other humans. And in golf, unless you're hell-bent on gin and juices at the club house, when the ball goes into the cup the game ends. In other words: There are no fish. But, in flyfishing when the cast you made lands perfectly where it was intended to, the bonus is that suddenly the water erupts with a trout equally intent on your fly's location.

There is no denying the fact that New Mexico, though short on recreational water spaces, is a flyfisherman's paradise. In just about every mountain surrounding us there are small- to medium-sized rivers and streams with lots of natural beauty and plenty of fish. I come from Wisconsin, land of much water, and the fishing pressure up north is much heavier than here. Additionally, as far as trout fishing goes, New Mexico has qualitatively better waters as well.

Flyfishing need not be expensive. Though, like anything, if you want to go overboard by way of the equipment zealot you can spend your life savings before you even have line on your rod.

The other thing that's nice about flyfishing is that there is absolutely no gender advantage. Women are just as good or better than men on the even flowing waters of the flyfishing world.

There exists a worldwide camaraderie among flyfishermen. Go to any local flyfishing store (Charlie's Sporting Goods at 8908 Menaul NE, 275-3006, is my personal favorite), and you will find more help and encouragement than you may want. No question is too basic, no request too complicated. Hands-on demonstrations and suggestions are the norm, not the exception.

New Mexicans who aspire to flyfishing have an additional advantage in that there are many excellent local books on the subject. A few that I recommend are Flyfishing in Northern New Mexico by Craig Martin, published by Albuquerque's own University of New Mexico Press. Another newer and slightly less complex book is Taylor Streit's No Nonsense Guide to Flyfishing in New Mexico. A more general fishing text all about fishing throughout the state is Ti Piper's Fishing in New Mexico. For those whose fishing frenzy extends beyond what New Mexico can provide, Craig Martin has also penned Flyfishing in Southern Colorado: An Angler's Guide.

For a very clever and immensely full course of the whole flyfishing enchilada, including a hearty dash of philosophy, there is short comic book-style treatise called The Curtis Creek Manifesto by Sheridan Anderson.

--Christopher Johnson

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