This is a little vector-art piece I did as part of the Drawing Fish 52 project (with Jeff Kennedy). It’s a representation of a Rio Grande cutthroat and one of the streams of its native habitat (Costilla #1 in northern New Mexico).
Costilla #1 flows from Colorado into New Mexico on the Vermejo Park Ranch property, and is a water I have fished since I was five years old. Our family spent a few weeks every summer at Vermejo from 1975 through the late 1990s, plus time here and there after that. The ranch’s waters figure very large indeed in my fly fishing life.
In addition to the waters of Vermejo, the fish themselves had a huge influence on me. From a 15-pound brown (yeah, a real one) that popped my eyes out (but didn’t take) to the gem-like Brookies at 11,000 feet, there is a swirling cascade of Vermejo fish in my head.
The Rio Grande is a special fish, though. Rare, and found gliding in cold waters under peaks and pines in still-wild places. Every time I catch one, I am excited to see and briefly touch something extraordinary in this world. For me, the Rio Grande will always be a fish that takes me to places still burning deeply in my angling memories.
As an aside, I think that one of the deceiving things about this image is that it looks like the actual mountains are far away. They aren’t. That’s Wheeler Peak far to the south that you see in this view, but just turn right 90 degrees and you’re looking at a wall that tops out at 13,000. The stream is 9,900-ish at this point. This far south in the Rockies the summer snowpack is quite high (altitude), and in late July, you often won’t get cold toes until you are closer to 11,000 or so.