Rio Grande King

The last thing I expected to see along a headwaters stream in the Pecos Wilderness was another angler. There were mobs of them on the main stem Pecos down below Terrero where the hatchery fish were dumped, but up here in cutthroat country, forget it. I was releasing a Rio Grande cutt to its rightful habitat when I glanced toward the bank. My physiological response system might as well have been kicked in the ass by a wayward grizzly.

“Oh, heh, h-how’s it goin’,” I stammered. We exchanged brief greetings and updates on our fishing luck. Oddly enough, we both claimed to have caught and released about 10 of the beautifully colored trout that once ranged over much of the Sangre de Christo Mountains in Colorado and New Mexico.

“What you taking them on?” asked the young fly fisher who looked to be partly Asian and who lived west of Santa Fe.

“Royal Wulff,” I said. “A good floater on this wicked little stream.”

“I like using a Rio Grande King,” he said. “Good floater, easy to follow, easy to tie. Here, take one.” I had heard of the pattern, glanced at pictures of the fly, but had never actually fished or even seen one back East. I gave the pattern an inspection…

Hook: #14 dry. Tail: fibers of golden pheasant tail. Body: black chenille. Wing: tufts of white calf or deer hair. Hackle: dark brown. Origin: possibly Denver, Colorado, early 1900s. Portrayed in Ray Bergman’s book Trout, 1938.

A fluffy, non-descript pattern, resembling nothing in a trout’s diet that we know about. As a wet fly or a dry, the King works well both far and wide. I’ve learned that it’s effective on the Test in England and on the Pecos of New Mexico.

“Which way you fishing?” inquired the well-informed angler of the Rio Grande watershed.

“Heading upstream, but please, jump in anywhere,” I said.

“I’ll walk up a ways and give you plenty of room,” he added.

“Thank you for the fly, and good luck!”

I tied the angler’s Rio Grande King to my tippet and resumed my slow trek along this most challenging of rivertop streams. Whether I gave the fly an underhand swing, a bow shot, or a forward cast, it raised fish after fish. Before I lost it to an unforgiving branch, the fly took several regal-looking Rio Grandes, a rare subspecies of cutthroat trout, a fish to be studied quickly and released.

About rivertoprambles

Welcome to Rivertop Rambles. This is my blog about the headwaters country-far afield or close to home. I've been a fly-fisher, birder, and naturalist for most of my adult life. I've also written poetry and natural history books for thirty years. In Rambles I will mostly reflect on the backcountry of my Allegheny foothills in the northern tier of Pennsylvania and the southern tier of New York State. Sometimes I'll write about the wilderness in distant states, or of the wild places in the human soul. Other times I'll just reflect on the domestic life outdoors. In any case, I hope you enjoy. Let's ramble!
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6 Responses to Rio Grande King

  1. Antonio Gallegos says:

    Here there Mr. Franklin Im glad you got a chance to use that fly I gave you up at Jacks creek. I lost about a dozen of those flies that day but had a great time doing so. Tight lines!

  2. Antonio,
    I’m amazed you found me here after our chance meeting up at Jack’s, a meeting so brief I never even mentioned having a flyfishing blog! Obviously those few words made an impression on me, and the Rio Grande King did more for me than catching additional cutthroats. I’ll be tying samples of the pattern now that I’m home to see how the local brookies respond to it. I’m glad you had a good outing that day in the canyon. It’s truly a special locale. And now that you know where I’m posting outdoor experiences, I hope you stay in touch and let me know how things are going out in NM. Tight lines!

  3. Antonio Gallegos says:

    Mr. Franklin,
    I googled Pecos wilderness looking to see if there was public access to a small creek and this blog was the second on the google list. I just by chance read it because it had to do with Jacks creek and while reading the entry realized that it was our encounter up there. I will keep in touch and have added this blog to my faves to see how your adventures play out. Take care.

    • Antonio, Interesting little story about how you chanced to find Rivertop Rambles. Sometimes I think that new technology is collapsing the world all too quickly, but in this case I am thankful for the quick connections. The road trip to NM convinced me that the physical world remains a very big place. Thanks for your decision to follow the blog. I hope you enjoy. If you ever feel like sending a report of your fishing experiences out there, I’d welcome a read. Will forward my email address. Walt


  4. Ed Cooper says:

    Enjoyed your post about the Rio Grande king fly-My late father showed me this fly in Eastern Oregon about 40 years ago-It was literally the only fly we used on the Chewaucan River in Lake County Oregon, spring through early fall,always caught fish, early morning mid day or late afternoons-Thanks for the details, I’ve been unable to find any of the flies here in Southwest Oregon..Good Job!

  5. Thank you, Ed, for your comment and the personal connection to this pattern which seems to be better known in the American West than it is out East. I think the fly is a good attractor pattern no matter the location, as long as flies are hatching. I have found that it works well here when Black Ants are on the water, too. It’s an easy pattern to tie, if you or someone you know decide to make a few.

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