Fly Fishing Year-Round in Northern New Mexico

People are often amazed to hear that the fly fishing in Northern New Mexico is excellent throughout the year, or, for that matter, that there is fishing of any sort in the high desert.

winter fly fishing

Jarrett Sasser, owner of High Desert Angler, is the go-to guide and resource for all things fly-fishing in and around Northern New Mexico. “I get a lot of people asking me, ‘Where do you fish here?’,” says Jarrett, “because they can’t believe there’s enough water in the high desert. I pull out the map and show them at least 14 or 15 different places, all within a two-hour drive of Santa Fe. There is no closed season here. We’ve got lakes, big river and small river fishing. We’re lucky we can run the seasons.”

"It was THIS big!" Jarrett Sasser, owner of High Desert Angler

It was THIS big!  – Jarrett Sasser, owner of High Desert Angler

The Sangre de Cristo Mountain Range forms the southern tip of the Rockies. The Chama, Pecos, Rio Grande, and Brazos Rivers run through Northern New Mexico. There’s a wide variety of trout in these waters, including Rainbow, Brown, Rio Grande Cutthroat, and Brook, along with Smallmouth Bass and Northern Pike. There’s also a land-locked salmon called Kokanee, which is of the Sockeye species.


Jarrett and a winter Brown Trout

For more than fifteen years, High Desert Angler has been the top fly-fishing company in Santa Fe. Over time, Jarrett and his dedicated team have cultivated strong relationships with landowners in Northern New Mexico and Southern Colorado. They have access to some of the best private rivers, lakes and streams you can find.

Private Access Stream Fishing New Mexico

Jarrett grew up bass fishing in Austin, Texas. His grandfather was a guide in the North woods during the Depression, and he passed along a “few basics” to Jarrett. He also realized Jarrett had a knack for fishing and told him, “You could make a living at it.” To hear Jarrett tell it, it sounds as if he spent most of his childhood angling (pardon the pun) to skip school so he could go fishing. “I was pretty keen to fish,” he says with a smile.

It wasn’t until he arrived in Santa Fe that Jarrett took up fly fishing. Since his arrival, in his late teens, his passion and determination set him on course to fulfill his dream of becoming a guide. He sought work that kept him close to the water or the sport in some way. He worked as a river-rafting guide, and in the retail store for a fly fishing outfitter called High Desert Angler, then owned by Jan Crawford.

“Jan was a good mentor,” Jarrett says. “She taught me the management side of the retail business.” It took some time before Jan allowed Jarrett the responsibility of his own guiding trips. “I would work in the store without pay, so I could borrow equipment and head out to practice alone. That way I could keep learning from doing and hone my skills to become a guide.”

Meeting future wife Glory was another stroke of fishing fortune for Jarrett. Although Glory’s family is from Northern New Mexico, Glory was born in New Zealand. When they went for a visit, Jarrett took to the Kiwi waters with ease, gaining more worldly experience. He has since traveled extensively to fish in both fresh and salt water in Argentina, Chile, British Columbia, The Bahamas, and Belize, to mention a few.

Back in Santa Fe, he began availing his skills as an independent guide. Jan and other outfitters sent him clients and it wasn’t long before he was developing “a nice group of return customers.”

Summer on the Pecos River

Summer on the Pecos River – Rainbow Trout

In 1999, Jan wanted to sell the outfitting business. “It was around that time we found out we had our first baby on the way,” said Jarrett. “Glory encouraged me to get a loan and buy the store. There were lots of changes coming.” It was 2001 when they finally bought the business.

“It was a tough year to start up with 9/11, the economy, forest fires and many closures. But we trudged through.”

Fifteen years and three children later (all of them anglers), Jarrett’s High Desert Angler is going strong as the leading fly-fishing guide and outfitter in Santa Fe. They offer a variety of classes for all skill levels. “It’s great to take out a family, individuals, or groups of friends. We show them how to have a great time, so they love it so much they’ll come back for more.”

The store has moved locations a few times, but now couldn’t be more ideally situated on its tiny island amid the streams of Santa Fe arteries Cerrillos Road and Sandoval downtown.

High Desert Angler Outfitters

High Desert Angler Outfitters on its own island in downtown Santa Fe.

The shop is well stocked with all the supplies, flies, waders, line, rods and all kinds of tackle anyone could want.High Desert Angler Fly Fishing Outfitters Northern New Mexico

The worldly experience Jarrett and his guides bring to the business gives them an edge in knowing how to cater to the needs of anglers, no matter where they’re from and what they’re used to.  “The waters here attract anglers from around the world. It’s good to know for someone calling us from, say, Argentina, that we’ll have the gear and supplies they need when they get here.”

Fly Fishing Outfitter High Desert Angler

One section of the massive fly selection at H.D.A

The crew of seven guides have been with Jarrett since the beginning. All are experts in their field and either native to the area, or long-term transplants.

Norman Maktima, Head Guide at High Desert Angler

Norman Maktima, Head Guide at High Desert Angler

Norman Maktima is Jarrett’s head guide. He is a local Native American from San Felipe Pueblo. In 1998, Norman was a junior member on Team U.S.A. at the World Fly Fishing Championships and became the only U.S competitor to win gold that year. He continues to compete annually for Team U.S.A, which takes him around the world, including Italy, Norway, Scandinavia and many others.

Autumn fishing in new mexico

Pecos River- Fishing amid the changing leaves in Autumn

Global weather changes continue to affect everything, and New Mexico is no exception. In 2013, the Tres Lagunas and Jaroso fires coursed through almost 14,000 acres in the Pecos Wilderness area. Late summer floods dumped mud, ash and silt into the Pecos River. “It was very depressing,” says Jarrett. “The river was black, the birds and bugs were gone. We watched it change in front of us. We hung in there and fished other areas during that time, and hoped the river would revive.” The Sasser family live alongside the Pecos River, so they got to watch the next phase of Mother Nature’s cleanup operation.

“In September, it started raining one day and the river slowly rose. The next morning the whole back yard was flooded. It was higher than I’d ever seen it before. It just kept rising. The flow was recorded at 5,000 cubic feet per second, and a 9-foot wall of water was plunging through the canyon – the highest water on record. The flood lasted almost 10 days and it flushed out the ash from the burn scars at a rapid rate. Now it’s pristine again. It’s pretty amazing. The water is crystal clear, and the wildlife is restored. The banks are primed for new growth in spring. We thought it would take years to come back. It’s beautiful again already. Mother Nature needed to cleanse and she really did.

The entire corridor is better than I’ve ever seen it in 25 years. Now we’re off and running. We’re booking up for guide trips through 2014, and I’m excited about the conditions we’ll have,” said Jarrett.

Fishing on the Pecos River

Teo Sasser fishing in his father’s footsteps – Pecos River

It may be a little-known fact that Northern New Mexico offers top-class fishing, “But that’s ok,” says Jarrett, “we like it that way.” The crew of High Desert Angler are some of these waters’ best guardians and stewards and it’s a good sign that they’re looking forward to another year of great catch and release.

I’m resolving to make this the year I hang that sign on the door saying, “Gone fishin’!”

I’ll let you know how I do.

For more information on High Desert Angler call (505) 988-7688 or go to:  and learn details on the latest stream reports, guide trips, and various classes.

Tour the World at The International Folk Art Market – Santa Fe

Intended as a one-time event in 2004, the International Folk Art Market in Santa Fe is now the largest of its kind in the world. Now, this highly anticipated extravaganza is held every year, usually the second weekend in July, in Santa Fe. Since it began, as many as 650 master folk artists from as many as 80 countries across six continents have participated. I hope you enjoy the following visual record I took at the 2013 market. I tried to make note of everyone’s name and country, but I admit I couldn’t keep track of them all.

Intnl Folk Art MarketIt is a global event in many ways. Where else can you find so many fascinating people and cultures gathered in one place? You can literally take a stroll around the world. Wend your way under the canopies, and be awestruck by the vast displays of art flowing in waves of color and texture like a global smorgasbord.

Baskets International Folk Art Market Santa Fe

folk art puppets- International Folk Art Market Santa Fe

Silks in abundance- International Folk Art Market Santa Fe

Silks in abundance

Visitors from all over the globe gather in Santa Fe each July to experience this weekend celebration of folk art, music, food and fun at Museum Hill’s Plaza, surrounded by expansive vistas and mountain ranges.

Brazilian visitors on a shopping spree at the International Folk Art Market Santa Fe

Brazilian visitors on a shopping spree. They made a special trip to buy for their boutique back home.

Kenya, Japan, Madagascar, Nepal, Kyrgyzstan, India, Korea, Venezuela, Swaziland, Palestine, the Kingdom of Tonga and Peru are just a few of the countries participating. Wood carvings, pottery, textiles, jewelry, clothing, sculpture, beadwork, basketry, retablos, musical instruments; if you can imagine it, it is probably at the market along with many things you haven’t begun to imagine.

Tambourines - International Folk Art Market Santa Fe


Peruvian hand-carved and painted gourds.

Peruvian hand-carved and painted gourds.

Artists keep working on pieces as the market bustles around them.


Sisters Ique and Adriana Etacore de Picanerai are Ayoreo Indians from the Bolivian savannah. They weave bags, skirts, belts, panels and honey pots from native plant fibers.

Manjula Thakur of Nepal. Maithili painting on handmade paper

Manjula Thakur of Nepal. Maithili painting on handmade paper

Over the years, many artists have won numerous awards and gained celebrity status, and a loyal following of collectors world-wide. Elhadji Kumama is a well-known jeweler and member of the Tuareg metalsmiths.

Elhadji Koumama of Niger, with a loyal fan of his Tuareg Jewelry

Elhadji Koumama of Niger, with a loyal fan of his Tuareg Jewelry

The Tuareg lead a nomadic lifestyle. They keep moving in search of areas that will help them earn an income, so they can send money back home to support their families. They use simple tools and fine stones and silver to create a variety of accessories. Jewelry-making is an easily portable trade for a nomad.

tuareg jewelry

Situated between the Museum of International Folk Art and the Museum of Indian Arts and Culture, Museum Hill’s Plaza is the ideal location for this event. There’s plenty of room for all the tents and stalls, juice stands, food booths, the stage and cashier booths.

Museum Hill Plaza

Museum Hill Plaza

You don’t have to be an art lover to appreciate the uniqueness of this world event. All weekend long, musicians from far off lands perform on the stage.


As live music rides the air, you can spend a summer’s day strolling from country to country, visiting fascinating people you may never get to meet otherwise.

Beauty Ngxongo of Zululand. Her woven baskets are featured in all the South African museums.

Beauty Ngxongo of Zululand. Her woven baskets are featured in all the South African museums.

Food tents offer shade and a place to refuel with delicious fare from local restaurants, such as one of our faves, The Cowgirl, and many others. There’s also the Museum Hill Café situated alongside the market.

Food booths and shade umbrellas provide a welcoming refueling station.

Food booths and shade umbrellas provide a welcoming refueling station.

The ripple effect from this event is testament to how art truly can change and save lives. Over a million lives have been positively impacted by the boost of funds the artists bring to their home communities. During one weekend in Santa Fe, most artists earn as much as ten times their entire annual income back home. So far, an estimated 16 million dollars has been generated from sales. Artists take home 90% of their earnings, which contributes to better living conditions, clean water, schools, medicines and agricultural supplies for their villages.

face of folk art

A beautiful face and artist.

For women to have earning power contributes to radical changes in their community in many villages, by winning them a voice in local politics. This enables them to work toward ending ancient traditions that inflict pain and hardship on the female population of their cultures.


Balinese hand-carved and painted ceremonial masks.

The Folk Art Market’s events usually begin on the second Friday of July with an Opening Party, and continue through the weekend with interesting lectures, concerts, movies and workshops held at various locales around town, including MOIFA, the Railyard Park, and the Lensic Performing Arts Center.


Tickets go on sale May 1st, online at:

See the year’s schedule of events at


The International Folk Art Market is creating such a buzz that many collectors, enthusiasts, and the casually curious are booking their stays as far as six months to a year in advance. It isn’t unusual for Santa Fe hotels to be fully booked during this July week. See our list of favorite lodging options to find the right fit for you.  If you’d like help finding the right place for your needs and budget, call me, or email Maria, at (Santa Fe Selection Travel Guide) (505) 470-2991.


There are multiple options for transport to Museum Hill. If you drive, there are some parking areas surrounding the market, but it’s usually a bit of walk to get tot he market entrance. Some hotels have shuttle buses. There are free shuttle buses that run throughout the day all weekend from the Capitol Parking Lot in downtown Santa Fe. There’s also New Mexico Wine & Scenic Tours, owned by Cindy Capelli, who’ll arrange custom shuttles, whether you’re a guest in a hotel or vacation rental, or a local. Call Cindy at (505) 250-8943 with your questions and be sure to give at least a couple of days’ notice if you want to book a custom ride.

In 2015, the market will be held July 10th ,11th  and 12th. Tickets are available online starting May 1st, 2014 at, and thanks to it being a non-profit organization, a healthy portion of the ticket prices are tax-deductible.

large tent at folk art market

A day or two at the Folk Art Market leaves you feeling as if you’ve taken a fun and easy walking tour of the world – without the eternally long flights and customs hassles!

Watching the show

For more on the International Folk Art Market in Santa Fe go to:

For more on the International Folk Art Museum go to:

For more on the Museum of Indian Arts and Culture go to:

For lodging recommendations go to: