Cimarron River Stuffed With Rainbows

By Duane Inglin | 05/30/2014

Over the last two months I’ve spent a lot of time on the water catching kokanee in the Pacific Northwest, but jumped at the opportunity to return to Northern New Mexico to catch high mountain trout. With so many options to choose from we opted to drive to Cimarron River, particularly because many of the other rivers in the region were running high and muddy. Fortunately, the Cimarron is mostly controlled, although we did encounter tainted water. Still, it proved to be the right choice as we easily caught dozens of rainbows and a brown.


The Cimarron flows out of Eagle Nest Lake, is a tributary to the Canadian River and receives a healthy stocking of trout from the state. On the top end it flows at higher than 8,000 feet through Cimarron Canyon State Park. I’d consider it more of a high mountain trout stream than a river. We spent the day fishing three-to-five miles downstream of the reservoir. The first two miles have a no bait restriction, which didn’t work for us – we were in town to toss salmon eggs (or Fire Balls, as they are referred to locally).


To me the Cimarron is a classic trout stream. In several of the locations we fished the faster moving water was supported by structure. Rocks, boulders, downed trees and beaver dams create ideal holding pools that the trout naturally seek out. It wasn’t difficult to figure out where these fish were hanging out.

To fish these pools and small drifts successfully, we turned to light tackle, bait and floats. I like to use a six-foot trout rod and a small 100 series spinning reel. I’ll run with 6-pound Maxima Ultragreen as a main line and 3-pound Maxima Ultragreen leader. I like to use a Gamakatsu size 6 egg hook on an 18” leader along with a #7 BB shot sinker at the mid-point on the leader. Approximately 18” above the small barrel swivel that I connect the leader to mainline with, I pin a small peg-float. The float is key to success.


These New Mexico high mountain trout are salmon egg eaters. I place a single Pautzke salmon egg on the hook and cast slightly up river. The single #7 BB shot gets the egg down and the small peg float keeps the presentation moving at natural current speed with minimal to no hang-ups. With the amount of rocks and debris in most of these high-mountain streams, drifting an egg on the bottom with a small spilt-shot is nearly impossible. This method usually results in a constant battle of gear getting snagged on the bottom. The float keeps that from happening.

Any and all Pautzke salmon eggs can be fished in streams with the peg-float method. It’s up to you to decide which eggs the trout in any particular stream want. My advice is to always take a least three jars with you and let the trout decide which they want. We caught and released a few dozen trout filming Pautzke Outdoors, however, I used more Gold Label than Yellow Jacket & Orange Deluxe.


We didn’t catch any monsters. Most of them were nine to 12 inches. Unfortunately, the first mile downriver of the no bait section wasn’t productive. We fished it for an hour and covered every hole without a bite. Meanwhile, as we moved downriver more trout showed. The heaviest concentration came from where Clear Creek enters the Cimarron on downstream for a mile or two.


Editor’s Note: Pautzke Orange Deluxe, Yellow Jacket and Gold Label salmon eggs, in addition to Fire Balls, are available at all Northern New Mexico Walmart locations.