As COVID-19 continues to force all of us to make changes to our daily schedule, the department would like to remind you that together we can make a difference. To help minimize the spread of the virus:
- Practice social distancing
- Wash your hands regularly
- Avoid nonessential travel
- Stay healthy and safe.
In this time of change, the department would like to encourage anglers to stay home, mend equipment and prepare for the upcoming fishing season. In the weekly fishing report, provided by Dustin Berg of Go Unlimited (supporting disabled anglers) and the Department of Game and Fish, we will be sharing tips and tricks to help you be ready to go on future adventures. Each week we will feature some different flies, lures, activities or cooking recipes that can be done at home.
In this week’s report, Berg he will go over a couple techniques to try — after travel restrictions are lifted — that can improve your ability to catch the wily trout species included in the New Mexico Trout Challenge. Along that same theme, he will discuss some ways to practice casting at home that will increase your fish catching skills when the time comes to get back out.
Using stealth to catch the Elusive New Mexico Trout Challenge species
Rio Grande cutthroat, Gila, brown, brook and rainbow trout are the five species that you must catch to complete the challenge. The first four species are often found in small high mountain streams. The fish thrive in these fertile waters, feasting on a variety of insects throughout the year. They also survive in these small waters by being elusive and wary of predators such as eagles, raccoons, bears and anything else that might try to snatch them up. They are amazingly adept at detecting motion and potential threats.
Do not be surprised if you see an angler crawling along the grassy bank of a small stream trying to catch these fish. In order to catch these wary fish, you often must take precarious steps to be very sneaky. Wearing neutral colors like brown and green can help camouflage your presence. You want to become a hunter — a hunter of fish.
When approaching the stream that you plan to fish, do not walk directly up to the bank, but instead stop several yards away, or a safe distance where the fish will not know you are there. Take time to survey the stream for action. Move parallel to the stream, keeping enough distance to stay undetectable. A fish could be making a slight ripple as it gently sips floating insects from the water’s surface, or maybe there is some unusual wavy action on the water’s surface caused by fish feeding subsurface.
It is important that you look closely with a keen eye for any sign of fish activity before planning your approach. Along with the promising sign of fish activity, you also want to take account of any promising structure in the stream that could provide a comfortable spot for a fish to reside. Some of the structures you are looking for include deep pools, undercut banks, rocks, logs and debris that forms a break in the flow of the stream.
I have found it easier to fish steadily moving upstream because when you cast your fly or bait upstream, your fly or bait naturally floats back downstream to you.
Once you have identified fish action or a promising structure, it is time to make your stealthy approach. If you must hunch over or even crawl, it could be the difference between getting a strike or getting nothing at all. You will find this to be true because eventually you will spook a fish and see them dart into oblivion, leaving you scratching your head, surprised at their ability to detect you.
In picking a spot to fish a structure or fish activity, I have found that the best position for me is to be slightly downstream or perpendicular to my target. Once you have positioned yourself within casting distance but far enough away to avoid detection, it is time for the moment of truth. With fly or spin gear, gently cast your lure upstream of your target with as much room as possible between where your lure lands and your target, so as to hopefully not spook the fish with an odd splash. As the lure floats downstream toward you, pick up the slack line that is being created. Do not pick up the slack line too fast because this will cause your lure to move unnaturally fast. Do not pickup your slack line too slowly because this will cause an increase in your reaction time if a fish does strike. The perfect speed for picking up slack line is essentially the natural speed at which your lure is floating downstream.
Every environment poses different challenges, but that is part of what makes fishing so fun, right? Sometimes we hide behind rocks, creep through the bushes, crawl through the mud or take a wide loop around a particular spot just to get the right angle. Once you achieve the proper sneak attack and land one of these beautiful high mountain trout, the prize is one of nature’s many splendors.
The coloring of these fish is marvelous!
Practice your sneak — if you can sneak up on your cat you are getting pretty sneaky! Once travel restrictions are lifted, give the New Mexico Trout Challenge a try and hopefully, you will find success using some of the tips you read today.
Do you have a good memory of a catching a particularly wily fish? If so, share your story with Berg at firstname.lastname@example.org
CASTING AT HOME FOR PRACTICE OR TO TEACH A NEW ANGLER
When learning how to fly fish, my dad and I went to a park by our house to learn how to cast first. I believe this saved us a great deal of frustration because most actual fishing locations are loaded with obstacles such as branches and bushes waiting to snag your line if you are not skilled enough to avoid them. With a small piece of cloth tied to the end of our lines, we practiced the art of casting until we had the basic concept down.
This is something that can be done at home and can greatly improve the quality of time spent fishing later, especially for beginners. Even anglers of all skill levels can hone their craft.
It can even be made into a fun game. You can set up soda cans at various distances and try to knock them down with your cast. Or you can set up a bucket and try to land your lure in the bucket with a cast. You can award points based on the difficulty of making a cast into different size buckets and the distance at which they are placed. Have fun learning how to be a better angler.
If you have personal tips and tricks that you would like to share with your fellow anglers as we wait out the current restrictions, please email Berg at email@example.com.
Social distancing is a challenge for all anglers; the itch to go fishing just keeps growing. But this is a time for all New Mexicans to pull together for the overall health of all our citizens and stay home.
The department reminds anglers it is their responsibility to be aware of closures and contact land managers for properties of interest when restrictions are lifted.
Bureau of Land Management (BLM) — blm.gov/new-mexico
U.S. Forest Service (USFS) — fs.usda.gov/about-agency/covid19-updates
New Mexico State Lands — nmstatelands.org/resources/recreational-access/
New Mexico State Parks — emnrd.state.nm.us/SPD/
New Mexico Open Gate Properties — wildlife.state.nm.us/hunting/maps/open-gate-program/
New Mexico Wildlife Management Areas — wildlife.state.nm.us/conservation/state-game-commission-lands/
Angler and outdoor recreationists should consult their local government’s website for information regarding specific city and town fishing access.