FOR VETERAN FLY-FISHING GUIDE IVAN VALDEZ, the Pecos River has un poco de todo—a little of everything. The number of browns, cutthroats, and stocked rainbows help make the Pecos River special, says Valdez, co-owner of the Reel Life fly shop in Santa Fe. “There are walk-and-wade areas, places where you can park along the road, and there are different parts of the Pecos where it’s remote and you can hike into,” he says. If you’re hoping to land a trophy anywhere in the state, though, the Las Vegas, New Mexico, native recommends paying attention to the calendar and the water to increase your odds of success. (Hint: Early summer is one of the best times of year to target big fish.)

OUR MOST POPULAR MONTHS are June, October, and early November. That’s when the best fishing is.

If you’re looking for trophy trout under the best conditions, where it’s not brutally hot outside, the winds have subsided, and you’re not in the monsoon season yet, June is perfect. All the fish are coming off the runoff, so they’re kind of uneducated. They are a lot more easily fooled than trying to catch that same fish three months later.

New Mexico fishing is as good as anywhere if you are willing to fish in the right seasons and the right times. You can cast for trophy fish here. In the fall or the winter, I like to fish the Río Chama below Abiquiú [Dam]. In the spring, it turns to the Río Grande and the Pecos. In the early summer, we are hitting the upper Río Chama. Come fall, the Río Grande is pretty spectacular.

For me, it’s the crowds, or the lack thereof. We fly under the radar a lot. You can always seem to find your slice of heaven or solitude. If you put a little time on your boots, you can definitely find your own water.

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


Find a Good Guide

“If you’re coming from out of town, a local guide has the experience, they know what’s biting, the whole nine yards,” says Ivan Valdez, co-owner of The Reel Life fly shop in Santa Fe, who notes that the biggest mistake a beginning fly-fisher, or one who is new to an area, can make is not to tap into the knowledge available from a local fly shop. “Don’t come here and try to fly by the seat of your pants.”