On our final day exploring out West we ventured into the Rio Grande Gorge looking to end the trip with a bang! Read on for the full story.
"We are going down where?"
It was the last day of our trip to New Mexico and the morning started like most others. The first step was to hit up our favorite local breakfast stand for some type of something drenched in Green Chiles. Next up, we headed into town to meet up with our Guide Chris at the Taos Fly Shop. We were pretty beat from the last few days and were looking forward to a chill day of wading and hooking into a few trout. An hour into our drive out of town, we realized this was not quite what Chris had in mind! As the truck pulled to a stop on the side of the Rio Grande Gorge (about a 700-foot vertical drop) we knew we were about to get into something interesting... As we peeked over the edge of the gorge, it became apparent we would be hiking down to the small sliver of blue at the bottom. After some nervous laughs, retying our wading boots for the hike, and shedding a few pounds of unnecessary gear, we mentally prepared ourselves for the trek down.
Rain rolled through just about every day while we were out there, which had the river running slightly high and off-color. Giant boulders littered the banks creating deep pools and runs for fish to hold. The Rio Grande Gorge is unique in that the river had no part in the actual formation. It is quite literally a gaping crack in the earth to which the river found its way. In fact, Chris informed us that zero percent of the water makes its way to the Gulf as it all dries up due to decreased water flow and irrigation diversion. Luckily, this section was plenty full and we pulled a few small browns out before Chris decided to move us downstream. Unfortunately, the convenient switchback trails we had taken to get into the gorge were nonexistent on this stretch. As a result, we were forced to scramble and climb up the crumbling vertical face of the canyon to find the trail again. We took a quick pause to catch our breath as our supple flatlander lungs were not well adapted to this altitude yet. Living below sea level and pushing a skiff around doesn't prepare one for high altitude rock-hopping.
"This is why we come down here."
Things got much more interesting on the lower stretch of the river. The water slowed, and the big boys came out to play. George hooked into a 20inch (19 and 3/4) cut-bow that jumped around like a tarpon. Luckily, this was more in our skillset, and after bowing to the fish a few times, George brought it to the net. The thing was a slab of pink and green, with remnants of the distinct cutthroat red under the jaw.
The Bank Robber
Eventually, I was handed the streamer rod. I had a good feeling we could bring a big fish out of the deep, stained water with the "Bank Robber" streamer swimming through the rocks. I began working the articulated fly through some fishy-looking water, picking my way upstream. After moving a few BIG fish that wouldn't quite commit, the line finally went tight. The cut-bow that smashed the streamer danced above the water a bit before being scooped up in Chris' net. We were all super pumped with another good cut-bow landed.
There's cold beer in the truck
As the day wound down and the hike back up the gorge became imminent, all we could think about was the ice-cold beer waiting for us at the top. When we finally made it up the vertical wall and switchbacks, the wading boots came off, and beers were cracked. We've had some memorable beers in our time, but these were unanimously a couple of the most refreshing beers we had ever tasted. As we sat on the tailgates and recounted the day, there was no doubt that the hike down and back was beyond well worth it. We sure hope to be back someday!