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.

David Gomez's many days trout fishing in the Pecos River hold fond memories. Photograph by Scott Martin.

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.

Read more: Angle for these spots around New Mexico where the best fishing can be found.

Pecos Canyon State Park