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Happy weekend, Chota fans! If you’ve been following us on Facebook this past week, then you’re well aware that your resident Chota blogger (that’s me) just got back from an amazing fly fishing trip in New Mexico this past. Now that we’re home and sorting through the pictures, we’re starting a two-part photoblog and highlight reel so you enjoy the experience as well!
The Setting: This trip was actually a collaboration between Hobie Cat Company, internationally recognized for its MirageDrive foot-powered kayaks, and The Lodge and Ranch at Chama: Land and Cattle Company. The Lodge and Ranch at Chama is primarily known as a premier destination for elk, buffalo, and mule deer hunting, but the 36,000 acre ranch also boasts pristine mountain lakes and creeks ideal for fly fishing.
Of course, some of the best fishing trips happen with family, so myself, my husband Philip, and my parents all went together. We spent two days fly fishing from Hobie kayaks in the mountain lakes for trophy-size rainbow trout and two days wading the shallow creeks and streams for the shy, hardy native rainbows, brookies, and browns.
Day #1: Road Trip!
Before we could start fishing, we had to cross almost an entire country to get to New Mexico, so we flew out of Knoxville, TN to Albuquerque, New Mexico and drove the rest of the way to the lodge. The scenery changed dramatically from desert to stunning red rock and finally lush green mountains as we climbed in elevation, which meant some absolutely stunning photos.
For example, this particular rock formation appears just after the scenery transitions to the classically photogenic red stone and is called “The Mesa of the Cat.” Photos simply don’t do it justice, but Philip posed in front to give you a sense of scale.
And then we had to pose together for the classic “We were here!” photo.
By the end of the day, we had climbed to about 7800 feet in elevation and arrived at The Lodge and Ranch at Chama. The lodge offers luxurious accommodations with a classy hunting lodge/Southwestern aesthetic, and every dinner was, I kid you not, six courses! Needless to say we ate well that night and turned in early to start fishing the next morning.
Day #2: Kayak Fishing…Backwards?
Our contacts from Hobie wouldn’t arrive until later that day, so our first order of business was setting up the two inflatable Hobie Mirage i11s kayaks that they had shipped beforehand. Fortunately, I own a Hobie kayak, so Philip and I put our heads together to assemble the inflatable models with little difficulty.
The lakes are scattered throughout the ranch’s expansive acreage, and we started with a relatively short, bouncy truck ride up dirt roads to Charlie’s Lake. Philip and I started out in the Hobie kayaks, while my parents and our guide, Pat Carpenter, used jon boats so they could quickly move around the lake to take photos or assist with landing or releasing fish.
Due to the unusually hot weather, the trout were staying deep and not rising to feed, so we trolled using sinking line and Woolly Buggers. Usually anglers troll from the jon boats while the guide steers, but Philip and I trolled from our kayaks. At first, I trolled while using the foot-powered MirageDrive to move the kayak forward, but when I got a hit, my rod was at a difficult angle to set the hook. Fortunately, Hobie had just announced the new MirageDrive 180, which features full-power reverse, and had sent the new models with the kayaks.
I felt a little silly when I switched gears and started looking over my shoulder to pedal backwards, but no one questioned me after I landed the first trout of the trip only minutes later. The MirageDrive 180 actually became part of my tackle while playing these large trout. Since we were using barbless hooks and having to reel up at least 20 feet of line, sometimes it was hard to maintain tension on the line while sitting so close to the water. Pedaling backwards helped keep my line tight and probably contributed to me landing at least half of my lake trout during this trip.
We had a great first day of fishing, but I was especially proud of Philip, who caught his first trout ever and actually out-fished everyone else before lunch. He caught a total of three rainbow trout that day, but I rallied later that afternoon and caught three after lunch for a total of five that day. My last trout was particularly impressive at about 24 inches and 5 pounds. I probably played her for at least five minutes and most likely would not have landed her without the ability to pedal backwards and keep her from diving under my kayak.
Day #3: Family Fun Day with Hobie
Our friend and contact from Hobie, Keeton, joined us late the previous night, so our group included Pat, a second guide named Jeff, my parents, Philip, Keeton, and I for the second day of lake fishing. Keeton transported additional kayaks, including two rotomolded Mirage Outbacks, so we went to the larger Bobo Lake to accommodate our increased fleet. As luck would have it, I own a Mirage Outback, and I was more than delighted to test out the reverse function in a familiar kayak.
The day’s fishing strategy was much the same as the day before. Once again, the trout were deep, so we trolled with sinking line and Woolly Buggers. However, they started to rise to feed later in the day as storm clouds and light rains moved across the mountain, so Dad, Pat, and Keeton had success with dry flies and dry fly/dropper combinations.
Since the MirageDrive 180 had literally been announced the week before, we were providing Keeton with valuable field testing and input on the new reverse function. I couldn’t quite talk him into trolling in reverse, but he definitely saw the benefit as Philip and I each landed three impressive rainbow trout. My last one was a particularly stunning male with colors that outshone my large female from the previous day. However, Dad and Pat out-fished everyone else with at least five trout each from their jon boat.
Even though we were fishing at 10,000 feet far from civilization, we still enjoyed our creature comforts at lunch. Pat and Jeff unfolded a classic red-and-white checkerboard tablecloth for lunch, and we enjoyed Southern comfort food for lunch – fried chicken, potato salad, and biscuits.
New Product Review: Chota 14s
Speaking of field-testing, I wore a prototype pair of Chota’s upcoming new boot, the Chota 14, for both the kayak fishing and stream fishing, and they worked brilliantly with the kayaks. While wet wading to launch the kayaks, the mesh panels on the side drained water just as quickly as if I were wearing sandals, minus any pesky rocks and sand grains. The boots were lightweight and low-profile, so they worked great while using the MirageDrive foot pedals. The felt soles gripped the foot pedals extremely well and provided excellent traction in the slippery mud and rocks.
In Our Next Installment…
That takes us through the first half of #ChotaGoesToChama! In our next blog post, we’ll pick up with the two days of stream fishing and review the Chota 14s again, as well as the Hippies and Chota boots that my husband and I used. After that, we’ll provide an in-depth review of the Chota 14s as we start moving from summer vacation to fall…and the holiday shopping season! Stay tuned, and thanks for reading!
Comment Questions: Have you ever kayak fished in your Chota boots? What do you think about the idea of kayaking in reverse for fly fishing? And how excited are you for the new, upcoming Chota 14s?! Let us know in the comments below, and don’t forget to follow us on Facebook, Google+, Twitter, and Instagram!
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