I'm not sure why I chose the Rio Cebolla for a day's flyfishing this past Monday(6/1/15). It could be I wanted to try my hand at some meadow fishing, which I had tried( briefly) only once before on a hike into the San Pedro Parks Wilderness. It could also be the Cebolla, at least the upper reaches where I intended to go, seemed a little more off the beaten path than other Jemez streams. Whatever the reason , I found myself driving out from Albuquerque looking forward to my first day fishing in almost a year.
The high canyon walls of the Jemez Canyon had me awestruck. I must have been distracted or something the previous couple of times I've driven up here. I stopped at Battleship Rock to look around and began to have some thoughts of hiking up the East Fork Jemez River instead. I chatted with helpful couple getting ready to embark on a hike, and while the man consulted with me over the Santa Fe National Forest map, I could feel abstract( and frequently confusing) world of the books and maps I'd been consulting make sense and come alive for the first time
The couple, who were flyfishers, pointed me toward the upper canyon of the East Fork Jemez, and although I gave it some thought, in the end I stayed with my original plan and headed out to the upper meadows of the Rio Cebolla, hoping to catch a few Rio Grand Cutthroats.
The driving was all paved(NM 4 to NM 126) until I got off on FR 314 at the Seven Springs Fish Hatchery. FR 314 is not good. I'm sure when it's wet it becomes very bad. I ended up bouncing the Tacoma like I was in some lowrider parade. It's quite disconcerting to become airborne in your vehicle for even one second, never mind the stretch of potholes that had me out of my seat for 5 or 10 seconds. My advice to all(and myself should I ever return): take it slow, real slow.
After parking, I quickly made it down to the stream which was sinuously running it's course through willows and large conifers, and just like that I caught a fish. I was a little disappointed it was a brown trout and not a cutthroat, but happy to have caught a fish so quickly.
Further on was a small beaver pond, where I tried a few luckless casts. Beyond that began the true meadow stream with its myriad of tight and then even tighter bends, undercut banks and dozens of cattle. Yes, this is a well utilized summer pasture. Even though it is a special trout water, it sometimes felt like a glorified water trough.Don't get me wrong. It's a beautiful place,even if the stream side springs are trampled and the fishing is comprised by the prospect of hooking a calf instead of a fish.
Along the way I met and talked to one flyfisherman, saw another working a small man made pond upstream, and had a large group of hikers pass by. It was several years worth of people I might encounter in the Gila all in one day, and a Monday at that! I caught another brown too.
Beyond the pond, the fellow I had talked to told me,is where the cutthroats are. I dutifully marched on, staying far from the stream, crouching, getting my on knees, throwing my fly where the change from brown to gray meant deeper water along the bends and runs. It was only in the seventies, but it fell much hotter in the shadeless meadow.Eventually the murky water started to really shallow up. The cows began to more densely crowd the stream. And when I spied what looked like a big old hereford bull up ahead, I decided it was time to turn around. I plopped down in shade of a spruce and ate a late lunch,getting the stink-eye from a black heifer who stayed about 10 feet away the entire time.
On my return the wind became more prevalent which, depending on which direction I was casting( which changes often on little curvy little stream like this one) had the effect keeping my fly airborne, or slapping it down hard on surface of the gentle current. Finally a few big raindrops began to fall as I reached my truck back at the picnic ground. I caught three more fish too.
At the end of a six or so hour day of fishing I had caught and released 4 browns and one cutthroat all running between 7 and 9 inches.I had hooked and lost around 5 others. The total might have been a little better had I been willing to get down on my sore knees a few more times. I know I was on a soft surface,but the constant bending down takes it toll.Arriving earlier or being able to stay little later would have helped too.
I spooked my share of fish, but there had only been a handful of approaches without takes,so I don't think the action is super fast here most of the time. Had the water been clear, it could have been much worse. In the end I was pretty happy with the results. I didn't stink up the place even though I was completely without practice and it wasn't the easiest stream to fish. A good, not great, day.