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Fly Fishing in a Volcano - Valles Caldera National Park

In May 2017, I found myself driving through Ruidoso, a small mountain town in New Mexico. At that time it became apparently inevitable that I needed to stop to go fishing. I was about 4,000 miles into a solo road trip and had never fished in New Mexico. I kept seeing signs for fishing but the only fly shop in town was indefinitely closed. With the spotty service I had, I pulled over and tried to call another fly shop. I ended up calling a fly fishing guide service by accident. A super nice lady answered the phone and set me up with a guide the next day further north in Santa Fe.

My guide called me as I was headed north to ask where I wanted to fish. He said the rivers were high and suggested two places: a little private spot with numerous stocked lakes or a more challenging tiny open trout steam located in an ancient volcano. My response was obviously the volcano...I can fish a stocked pond anytime! Early the next morning, after checking out of Santa Fe's Motel 6, I met my guide at a grocery store. I jumped into his Tacoma and we got amazing hatch green chili breakfast burritos from one of his favorite places. We drove for almost an hour as he told me about his life, New Mexico geology and Native American culture. After driving up a slightly sketchy road, we descended into a beautiful caldera. We had to check in, which was an ordeal. I sat in the truck and watched a gang of spotted prairie dogs while I waited for the "okay" to proceed. Once we had confirmation, we sped down a dirt road into a section of the park only we were allowed to fish. Everything in the truck was rattling as my guide apologized. I told him I didn't care and that he can go as fast as he would like ( I mean come on .. it wasn't my truck). He smiled and told me he just bought a new pair of Coopers, as I told him I also just bought Coopers for my FJ. I did however make him stop when we saw a coyote and when I spotted an american badger far out to our left.

We pulled up to a small abandoned cabin in the middle of the caldera and parked. We geared up and walked downstream. After spooking a very sizable brown on the way up a hillside, it became very apparent this would be a different fishing game than the murky waters of Lake Erie tributaries I was accustomed to. As we turned a bend, two huge planes flew over us and our small size in comparison to our surroundings once again became apparent. It was an amazing feeling to be the only two people in that section of the park.

Without a tree in sight and a river that ranged from 1-7 feet in width, I started casting. There were small families of suckers in this river and every time I would spook browns I just casually said: "Must have been a sucker". I was told that there was a fire in the caldera years before and that it took quite some time for the wild brown trout to return. It was most definitely a riparian ecosystem that I had never experienced before or since.

After jumping from river bend up to the next I finally got the hang of what the trout wanted and perfected a new casting technique…for that day was my first interaction with a dry fly on a four weight. I also learned " more line, more problems". There was a different strategy to be implemented than my previous experience with nymphing for steelhead near Cleveland. I found humor and appreciation for my guide’s comparison to casting a lighter rod to the motion that a wizard or a conductor would use to move their wand.

I learned a lot from Andy that day but mostly I picked up on him calling the trout “truchas”. Every time I hooked a brown I made sure to call it a trucha… and obviously I haven't stopped.

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