Feb 12, 2018 at 1:28 pm #3517986
Im working on putting together a 3-4 night backpacking trip w/ some friends end of March. Thinking of trying to go to the Gila or Aldo Leopold Wildernesses in east central NM to do some fishing for Gila Trout. Anyone have experience/recommendations there for fishing locations or trails/camping spots? And let me save you from saying it, I know snow/runoff could be an issue. But we here in NM have gotten virtually ZERO snow this year… so if we don’t get hit late season, there isn’t gonna be any to worry about.Feb 13, 2018 at 3:05 pm #3518170Robert RBPL Member
@rob-rLocale: North TexasFeb 13, 2018 at 4:31 pm #3518182Kevin BBPL Member
@newmexikevLocale: Western New Mexico, USA
I’ll be on the backside of the Mogollon’s the third week of March with the same objective. West Fork, Willow, Gilita area. I’ve never fished Black Canyon or Mineral Creek, but for this trip I want a little hiking that’s not in the bottom of a canyon.May 2, 2018 at 5:13 pm #3533379brian HBPL Member
@b14Locale: Siskiyou Mtns
i would love 2 catch, kiss, photograph & release a gila trout some day. i once caught a gorgeous rio grande cutthroat in the rio santa barbara in the pecos wilderness. saw our 1st elk on that trip, and the highlight was 3 great horned owls in one tree!May 19, 2018 at 9:25 pm #3536708
So Brian H asked for a follow up on this trip. Unfortunately, there’s not much to report in terms of fishing (or at least good fishing). But here’s what happened…
We left Santa Fe late and underestimated how long it would take to get to our desired entry point. We ended up camping on the side of the road at 10:30p (or later?) over an hour shy of our destination. Got up the next day and drove the rest of the way, but couldn’t find the trailhead we wanted. Ended up parking on a small dirt road we found and bushwhacked to the trail. We started just West of Lake Roberts on Hwy 35 in the Gila Natl Forest, and hiked in the trail that follows Sapillo Creek for a short time, then is on the hillside above the substantial canyon it runs through to the Gila River.
We were planning a pretty ambitious trip (at least for us) covering 30+ miles in 2.5 days w/ fishing, and hitchhiking from the end point back to our car. Not far into the first morning though, my hiking partner was looking VERY tired, rundown and just all-together “not good”. We talked it out and determined he must have been much more worn down than expected after a pretty intense work week we’d just gone through at the camp we both work at. We decided to modify our plan substantially. Instead of a long point to point trip, going through Granny Mountain & Miller Springs to the Gila Cliff Dwelling area, we made it two out-and-backs. So we continued down to the Gila River (~6 mi one way) and camped/fished there. The next day, hiked out fishing along the way a little, and drove up to the Gila Cliff Dwellings, hiked in 2-3 miles and camped/fished there. Then we fished the next morning, hiked out and drove home. So we ended up fishing the areas we’d wanted to, but skipped ~20 mi of hiking in between.
On to the fishing report… we did not fish Sapillo creek on the hike in since that was supposed to be a pretty long day w/ a substantial elev gain. Plans changed after we’d left the creek so once we got to the Gila River, we did fish there for 1.5-2 hr. Neither of us caught, hooked, nor even saw a single fish. the water was easily 70F+ though, which I later realized was likely largely due to hot springs on the Gila upstream around the Cliff Dwellings area. I’d think there are warm water fish somewhere in that area, but little to no trout. On day 2 as we hiked back out, we did stop and fish a few small sections of Sapillo Creek, which was probably closer to 55-60F. We found a pool w/ 4-5 small trout, probably Gila Trout hybrids, but not sure. I caught one and my buddy caught two in an hour. We opted to return them to the water quickly so didn’t get any pics.
Then we drove up to the West Fork of the Gila River, west of the Cliff Dwellings. We hiked in and fished a number of fishy looking areas but again, got skunked over ~2 hr. The last day, we fished a good 4+ hr and covered a fair bit of water between the two of us… and again were skunked. Neither of us saw a single fish. Going back to the NM Fish & Game Gila Trout website, I reread the descriptions of the areas again and it sure seemed like there should have been fish where we were… maybe not Gila’s, but def trout. They do distinguish between the Gila Hot Springs, the Cliff Dwellings (where we were) and the head waters. They aren’t clear on where exactly the head waters area is, but the West Fork goes 20+ mi into the Wilderness, and I have a feeling they’re talking about the last 5-10 miles, which we were nowhere close to.
The most positive aspects of the trip were two-fold. First, was getting to explore the Gila Wilderness, at least a little. Its a stunning area and I’d think well worth a visit for anyone even close to it. It is very large and you could easily make a 100 mi trip w/o much zigzagging. I live right next to the Pecos Wilderness and found the Gila to be much more “grand” if you will. Second was a pretty decent test of my ultralight kit as it got down to 15F one night. My base weight was roughly 12lb. I’ve been slowly developing it for over 3+ years now, and haven’t gotten to use a ton (mostly thanks to having a kid 2.5 years ago). I was very pleased w/ ALL the gear I brought, most notably an ArcTeryx Cerium hoodie I’d just gotten on great REI sale, the classic older Houdini, an EE Convert 20F quilt, a Flat Cat Epicurean titanium esbit stove that we baked pizza & muffins with, an MLD SuperMid (LOTS of room for not much weight since we didn’t have an inner), a set of GG LT3 fixed length poles, and a Zpacks ArcBlast.
I’ll post a couple pics of the area from my phone in a moment…May 19, 2018 at 9:52 pm #3536713
The two happy campers before things started going downhill!
A view from the hillside looking at the deep canyon Sapillo Creek runs through.
The Gila is definitely a desert area. Lots of yucca and prickly pear cactus!
Much of the trail on the first day was VERY rocky. Our feet & ankles were pretty beat up.
Finally made it to the river! This is the Gila River.
Super tasty pizza thanks to Jon Fong’s amazing recipe and his Epicurean esbit stove!
This is Sapillo Creek. Probably wasn’t flowing more than 5cfs, but was pretty chilly at least.
Some pretty cool views!
This is a mountain we would have been hiking over if we’d stayed on our original planned route. Instead, we saw it from a pullout on the road.
The MLD SuperMid is HUGE, and such a great shelter for two :)
This is the West Fork of the Gila River… too bad there weren’t any fish!
My buddy looking off a small cliff next to the W Fk of the Gila. Very cute area!May 20, 2018 at 5:11 am #3536799brian HBPL Member
@b14Locale: Siskiyou Mtns
good stuff Rudy!!Dec 1, 2018 at 3:42 pm #3566737Robert RBPL Member
@rob-rLocale: North Texas
This is a fine Gila I had caught in Willow creek, 2015Dec 1, 2018 at 4:13 pm #3566740W I S N E R !BPL Member
I really want to get into this area soon. Thanks.
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