That’s the sound of a barbless beadhead nymph falling into a glassy glide of Mineral Creek, a headwater stream of the Gila River in southwest New Mexico. There’s a short drift over a stony run, barely time to mend your line. Then follows that transmutation of fish flesh to your forearm—the taut tug of a trout on your 3-wt. fly rod.
But it’s not just any trout. This one is yellow like a school bus. Petite black shards fleck its flanks over a hint of a pink stripe and fading oval parr marks. It’s not a rainbow trout—no, this fish is far less common. Rare, even. It’s a Gila trout, a threatened species.
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October 2018, Craig Springer, USFWS
“Longing is the heart’s treasury.” —St. Augustine
From nearly anywhere in my Santa Fe County home, I have the most fortunate view of the Sangre de Cristo Mountains. It’s where the Rockies start in New Mexico. As I write this, day bleeds into night, that period when the Muses visit painters and poets.
A towering anvil-headed September storm cloud turns the color of a watermelon over Santa Fe Baldy and Hamilton Mesa. The trailing curved edge of the cloud as it brushes over the mountain tops looks like a sheer lavender curtain moved by wind through an open window.
The moisture wrung out of this moving piece of art strikes the steep dusky mountain slopes, softened by green and blue needles of pines and firs and spruces. The water funnels through gray granite crevices as it trickles downhill. The rain soaks into rivulets and then into ritos with names such as Azul, Padre, Valdez and Chimayosos. These noisy cobbled brooks will soon beget the Pecos proper, but before they do their waters stall in dark pools under the cooling shade of gangly alder trees whose roots knot up the streambank. This is habitat for Rio Grande cutthroat trout.
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