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How to Fly Fish the Mighty Rio Grande River

Imagine standing knee-deep in the serene currents of the Rio Grande, rod in hand, waiting for that tell-tale tug on the line. Welcome to the thrilling world of fly fishing on the Rio Grande River! We’re about to delve deep into the pulsating heart of this iconic waterway, revealing its incredible bio-diversity, best times to fish, and top access points. Brace yourself for a lowdown on dodging fishing traffic, selecting the best gear, and mastering effective fly patterns for each season. And that’s not all – we’ll walk you through the rigging process, familiarize you with local laws, and polish your angling skills with time-tested techniques. So grab your waders, because it’s about to get real!

Getting Acquainted with the River and its Fishery

The Rio Grande, a legendary river that twists and turns over 1,900 miles, houses a vibrant fishery rich in trout and other species. Peak fishing season runs from April to October, with the summer months being prime time for dry fly action. Hatches are unpredictable, adding an exhilarating element of surprise to your fishing journey.

Access Points and Local Guide Shops

Access PointHow to Get ThereLocal Guide Shop
Big Bend National ParkTake Route 385 from Marathon.Big Bend Fly Fishing
Santa Elena CanyonAccessed via Ross Maxwell Scenic Drive.Far Flung Outdoor Center
Boquillas CrossingEast of Panther Junction on Boquillas Canyon Road.Desert Sports
John Dunn BridgeNorth of Taos on Highway 522, then west on Arroyo Hondo.Taos Fly Shop
RinconadaSouth of Pilar on Highway 68.Los Rios River Runners

Dodging Fishing Traffic

For those seeking solitude while fishing, Big Bend National Park is your sanctuary. Its remote location translates to fewer anglers and more time alone with nature.

Hottest Fishing Spot

The bustling heart of the Rio Grande’s fishing scene is the section below the John Dunn Bridge. Come prepared to share the water with fellow anglers.

Rod and Reel Selection

When gearing up for the Rio Grande, a 9-foot 5-weight rod offers the ideal balance of power and precision. Partner it with a smooth, drag reel and you’re ready to conquer this river.

Flies for Every Season

SeasonFly NameFavorite ColorHook Size
SpringBlue Winged OliveOlive18-20
SummerHopper PatternTan6-10
FallStreamersYellow, Olive6-8
WinterMidgesBlack, Red18-22

Techniques for Success

Master the art of “High-Stick Nymphing” for tight-line control. Hone your “Mending” skills to avoid unnatural drifts. For dry flies, perfect your “Reach Cast” to keep your line away from the fish.

Rigging Your Rod

Start with a 5-weight forward fly line, attach a 9-foot leader tapered down to 4X. When nymphing, add a small split shot 6-8 inches above the fly to get your nymph down into the feeding lanes.

Know the Laws

Fishing on the Rio Grande requires a valid New Mexico or Texas fishing license. Make sure to catch-and-release in designated areas and respect all bag and size limits.


If your dream is learning how to fly fish, the Rio Grande River is your classroom. By following these guidelines, you’ll navigate the waters like a pro, making the most of your angling adventures.

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