We’d set aside a full day to film Pautzke Outdoors on New Mexico’s San Juan River. Meanwhile, after three hours we’d caught so many rainbow trout on Gold Label, Silver Label and Fire Corn, we got bored and decided to move on to the next fishery. Even after stopping for lunch and catching up on work at the hotel several hours of daylight remained.
Most of the other rivers in the region were blown out. On the other hand, we noticed Farmington Lake had been stocked recently with trout and was a mere 15-minute drive from our hotel in Farmington. None of us had fished the lake before, or knew where it was. We found directions on Google Maps and decided to wet a line from 5-8 p.m.
At 250-acres it wasn’t an easy choice where to fish. The water was gin clean and a road circled the lake granting access to every cove and point. We had no idea where trout congregated, nor was there anyone around who knew about fishing to ask. One angler casted spinners off the dam and had picked up a few small ones, he said.
We parked the car, walked down a worn dirt path and started fishing. Thunderstorms loomed in the distance, but the lake was glassy when we started. All three of us had two-rod stamps and set up three to fish Fire Bait off the bottom, two floating eggs beneath a bobber and one for casting and retrieving a fly and bubble combo. We caught two 10-inch trout within 30 minutes on Feed Pellet Brown Fire Bait and didn’t get a bite on the eggs. One thing to consider is although it looked to drop off quickly after the first 15 yards we didn’t know how deep it was and had to experiment. For all we knew, all the trout were on the other side of the reservoir or off the face of the dam.
However, Mother Nature had other plans. Fewer than an hour into the outing a thunderstorm blew in and the calm water transformed into an ocean. While there was no lightning, gusty winds and rain shut off the bait bite. The storm lasted 45 minutes and got so bad we retreated to the car waiting for it to pass. The glass surface turned into small waves and mudded up our shoreline. When the storm passed calm was restored.
An hour remained and nothing was taking bait. The fly and bubble combo was working, on the other hand. Our friend Joe Vallejos used a small Pistol Pete and since the trout had developed a pattern of short striking it, he was tipping it with Fire Corn, most notably blue and chartreuse corn. While we did catch another trout on Gold Label eggs floated below a bobber minutes before sunset, all our action during the last hour came on Fire Corn tipped Pistol Petes.
Vallejos schooled the trout on the corn tipped flies, catching nearly a dozen the last hour when bait struggled. Surprisingly, the Pistol Pete didn’t get hit without the corn and when the trout picked the corn off, they stopped biting it. That fly and bubble combo saved the night and the value of Fire Corn skyrocketed in Northern New Mexico (everyone already knows what a Pistol Pete is here).
Farmington Lake is likely a place we’ll never go back to. It’s a pretty lake set minutes from Farmington, but doesn’t harbor many trophy trout. Most are 10-12 inch rainbows, which I’m sure taste great on the skillet (we caught and released all fish as we were there to film). It’s a great place for locals to come before or after work, offers exceptional shoreline access and doesn’t charge a parking fee.
One thing to consider, however, is clarity. The lake is gin clear, meaning if you’re standing on the rocks looking into the water you’ll be able to see 20 feet down, which stresses the use of four-pound test, preferably fluorocarbon. Downsize and you’ll be successful, especially the first and last two hours of daylight. While we aren’t experts here, it was obvious there were trout in the vicinity of the dam. Another factor to consider is the lake remains 55 degrees year round, which means trout can be caught here all year.
Editor’s Note: New Mexican food is the mainstay here, but don’t be afraid to try two places: Serious Texas BBQ and Three Rivers Pizza. They dominate the better food in town. Pautzke Fire Corn is available at Sportsman’s Warehouse and Walmart in New Mexico.