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