Copyright 2017 James Marsh
Fly Fishing the Upper Rio Chama River
The Upper Rio Chama River is formed in the San Juan
Mountains. It has an East and West Fork, both of which
originate from lakes which are about 12,000 feet in
elevation. These two branches flow together about three
and a half miles below the lakes to form the main stem of
the Rio Chama River. The main stem flows another five
miles within the Rio Grande National Forest. Below this
section, the main stream runs through about eight miles
of private property. You would need permission to fish this
section. From there it flows into the Edward Sargent State
Wildlife area. This section is open to the public and has
excellent fishing and very good access. It has brown trout
and large, holdover rainbows. About six miles of water can
be fished in this section.
We should note that runoff isn't over until late in June or
the first of July. There is also a problem with heavy rains.
It can muddy the water for a long time. On the good side
of the picture is the fact the average size of the trout in
this very small stream is very large. Eighteen inch brown
trout are not uncommon.
It takes a lot of hiking to get to the uppermost water in the
National Forest. It is reached from the end of a state
forest road. Fly fishing the Upper Chama River in this
area takes a lot of effort. It flows through some very
rugged country. The stream is easy to access in the state
There are two tributary streams that flow into the Rio
Chama in the state wildlife area. Both the Rio Chamita
and Nabor Creek have lots of native Rio Grande
Cutthroat trout as well as brown and rainbow trout. They
are small but both well worth fishing. Fishing the state
wildlife area can be done only using barbless hooks.
There are several very good hatches on this stream
including Salmonflies and Golden Stoneflies. n summary,
the season is short but fly fishing the Upper Chama River
is usually great.
The season last year-round but it is frozen during the
Spring time before the runoff can be a good time to fish
the stream but it is very cold.
The Summer season, after runoff occurs, is the best time
for fly fishing the Upper Rio Chama River.
Fall season is good through the month of October.
The water is frozen most of the winter.
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4, 5 or 6 weight
Dry fly: 9 ft., 5 or 6X Nymphing: 71/2 ft.,
3 or 4X, Streamers 0-2X
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