LOOKING AT THE PILE OF WORK ON MY DESK, thinking about deadlines and what could be put off until Monday, I made a snap decision to go fishing on a Friday afternoon. I called ahead to El Parasol for a chicharrón burrito with red chile, picked up my gear, and hit the road to the Pecos River—my refuge just an hour from Santa Fe and a half-hour hike from the parking lot.
The mountain-stream trout in the Pecos River and its tributaries aren’t very big, but for me that’s not the point. I go to the Pecos to get away from work and the rest of city life. I go to be immersed in the scenery. It requires shifting gears and adapting to fluctuating conditions. Watching the ice melt off the river, exercising caution during the runoff, and finding seclusion even on a busy summer day is all part of the game.
After parking at the crowded Mora Campground at Pecos Canyon State Park, I shouldered a pack and hit the trail. A few minutes from the parking lot, the river was mine. In the Pecos, it’s easy to be seduced by a pretty stretch of water five minutes from the trailhead. Giving in produces the expected results, which can generously be called casting practice.
My small chest pack had a box or two of flies tailored to the stream. I put on a weighted brown woolly bugger and added some split shot to get it to the bottom of the pool, hoping a trout would mistake it for a big fat worm.
Many years ago, my method was to hit every possible piece of water hard and sometimes impatiently. On this afternoon, I got to a bend in the river after casting a bit and losing a couple of medium-size brown trout due to hook-setting skills that had atrophied over the winter. So I rested streamside, taking in the trees, the water, and the sky. The slowness caught up with me like a wave.
Every creek in the Pecos has special memories: watching a friend from Texas catch her first trout at the Jamie Koch Recreation Area; leaving my catch on the Mora Pecos to cool in the river and coming back to a snake eating my trout; crashing though brush and dipping a fly into Jack’s Creek—where it’s impossible to cast—and pulling out a small cutthroat; hiking up Panchuela Creek and getting a hit from an unexpectedly massive fish in a tiny pool; and watching friends drink beer at our campsite while listening to a Lobos game with the snow falling.
All days on the river exist all at once. Every day out adds to the memories.