Los Huertos Creek 2000
I had the good fortune of spending Easter week fishing New Mexico. No, I didn’t fish the San Juan. The San Juan’s fine if you want to fish size 22 flies to large trout with a weekday crowd of anglers that rivals Hat Creek on Opening Day. No, for something really challenging, I fished Los Huertos Creek, Rio San Antonio, Rio Cebolla and Rio de las Vacas. Unlike the San Juan, these streams don’t have fish that will feed at your feet like lost puppies.
After experiencing Los Huertos Creek, I decided to swap my original plan to catch brutes on a 10ft rod for one more day of catching dinks on a 7’6” foot rod. Los Huertos Creek is found in the Sandia Mountains outside of Albuquerque. It’s an extremely small stream with tight brush and skittish trout. It is about the width of, but not nearly as deep as, a standard bath tub. The creek is challenging and…10 minutes from home (another reason I decided to forgo the 3hr drive to the “Juan”).
Fishing Los Huertos creek is a crouching and crawling affair. Crouching to approach the stream unnoticed and crawling your way though the 24 inch high “fishing” tunnels that the brushy canopy allowed every so often. IF you made it to the stream unnoticed by the fish, you where usually allowed only one cast before every fish within casting distance would either scatter or simply ignore your fly.
Casting was limited to bow and arrow casts and dapping. The occasional roll cast was possible if you held your rod low and used one of those Joe Humphreys small stream roll casts ( I can’t remember what he calls them). The best spots were small pools with brush covering the surface of the water. The only way to fish to these pools was to dap your fly, in my case a bead head Prince Nymph, into the small hole where water plunged into the pool. Only in these types of spots, where you could not see the fish and they could not see you, could you hook a few fish before putting the rest down. In most cases, your first cast was all you’d get. A few of my hook ups where revealed to me, not by a tug on the line or hesitation of my leader but by the darting of a near by trout- alarmed by its brethren's misfortune.
The biggest challenge of this stream was the hook set. Fishing in quarters this tight did not allow for ANY movement of the rod when setting the hook. The fish weren’t much help in this regard either. Contrary to what you’d expect in such a stream, Los Huertos creek fish were less than opportunistic; they would not attack my fly. Each fish carefully approached, followed and when it happened, gently took the fly.
When I fished dries, I’d watch in amazement how one fish (and only this one fish) would attack my fly, bringing his entire 7 inch body out of the water. I developed a relationship with this fish. I’d sneak up on him, present my fly, let him slash at it, miss the hook set and leave…. only to repeat the process 2 or 3 hours later. In total, I made three attempts over the period of a single day. Each time feeling the weight of the fish on my rod. In most cases though, I’d watch fish after fish carefully examine my dry fly and then, as if saying to itself “What the heck, I’ve got nothing better to do”, inhale it. Notice I said inhale, these fish didn’t “strike” at anything. (Must have been the cold water.)
I’m told that Los Huertos Creek only holds fish in the early spring when runoff occurs and the department of fish and game stocks it. I’m skeptical about this because some of the fish looked much too small to be stockers. When I mentioned this to Ken Sanchez, a native to these parts and my fishing partner in the Jemez Mountains, he grinned and shrugged his shoulders.
The only brush free run on the Los Huertos Creek.