Photo of the Day: Catching ‘Em Up at Cow Creek Ranch

This gorgeous rainbow fell for a size 8 Sculpzilla streamer.
Photo courtesy Dan from Albuquerque

[Editor’s Note: Blog reader “Dan from Albuquerque” sent in this great photo, and the story that goes along with it. If you have a great photo or story, here’s how to submit it.]

A few days ago I fortunate to spend a day fishing Cow Creek Ranch, about an hour out of Pecos, New Mexico. The property is home to a few miles of a little high mountain stream called Cow Creek, which tumbles through a narrow canyon at the top of the property and then meanders through a long meadow on the rest of the ranch. The stream is protected and maintained by the owners so that the riparian habitat is always in very good condition, and that means that the trout are very healthy and generally run larger than elsewhere in those mountains.

The ranch also has seven man-made lakes and ponds that have, in the past, been stocked with a variety of trout. This place is a “Disneyland” of fishing where one can work moving or still water, meadow or canyon, and have the opportunity to catch brown, rainbow, brook, cuttbow, and Rio Grande cutthroat trout, all in a single day. I was bouncing off the walls with excitement for a month looking forward to this trip.

I fished the river most of the day and wound up catching 50+ fish along the way, including a grand slam, but unfortunately (for me) the browns were in spawn, and every big one I saw was sitting on a redd. I left those fish alone and picked on the smaller ones in between. However, as I worked my way upstream, I would detour off the main channel and work the ponds that were nearby. On the ponds I caught plenty of big rainbows and a decent sized cuttbow, the average of these deeper water fish being about 18 inches. I only caught one of the larger fish on a dry fly; the rest took a small streamer.

A stellar moment during the day was setting the hook on the rainbow trout pictured above. He was a fighter and took me for a little trip around the pond, while I tried to protect the light tackle I was using. This fish measured out to slightly over 22 inches and is my personal best for that species. I was casting a size 8 Sculpzilla on an 8-foot 4-weight with a 5X leader and 6X tippet, but it worked out all right in the end.

2 thoughts on “Photo of the Day: Catching ‘Em Up at Cow Creek Ranch”

  1. Great story and photo, I fish that area yearly and have caught as many as 70 browns in a single day. Most are in the 10 to 12 inch range but on light tackle it is a blast. There were two bad fires up there this summer glad to see Cow Creek in good shape,

  2. A great picture of a rainbow and an informative article…now that our stream season has closed in Ontario , your photo will fuel many memories for me in the coming winter months…

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