The Cimarron River is a tributary of the Arkansas. It extends over 698 miles (1123 km) across four states (New Mexico, Oklahoma, Colorado, and Kansas). The headwaters flow from Johnson Mesa west of Folsom in northeastern New Mexico. The river enters the Oklahoma Panhandle near Kenton, then crosses the southeastern corner of Colorado where it flows into Kansas. It then re-enters the Oklahoma Panhandle, again into Kansas, and finally back into Oklahoma where it flows into the Arkansas River at Keystone Reservoir above Tulsa, Oklahoma.
In New Mexico the river is known as the Dry Cimarron River. The river is not completely dry but sometimes disappears entirely under the sand in the river bed. The Dry Cimarron Scenic Byway follows the river from Folsom to the Oklahoma border. In Oklahoma the river flows along the southern edges of Black Mesa, the highest point in that state. As it first crosses the Kansas border, the river flows through the Cimarron National Grassland.
The Cimarron River emanates out of Eagle Nest Lake and Dam in Northeastern New Mexico. Located on the eastern edge of the Sangre de Cristo Mountains, this dry fly gem flows eastward along US Hwy 64. After flowing into several other rivers this water ultimately reaches the Mississippi River. New Mexico Game and Fish(NMGF) estimates nearly 4,000 catchable sized wild browns per mile, unquestionably the healthiest wild brown trout fishery in the state and one of the healthiest in the southern Rocky Mountains. Most of the wild browns are 10-14 inches with the occasional big boy. NMGF stocks 8-12 inch rainbows during the summer months as part of a put-n-take program.
Ten miles of trout water are open to the public. 8 miles of water flows through the Cimarron Canyon State Park, the other 2 miles are private only accessible via guide trips. The state park water begins at the US Hwy 64 bridge just upstream of Tolby Campground and ends at the eastern edge of the state park just west of the small community of Ute Park, NM.
The 2 private miles are located on two different pieces of private land. The first section, the Holy Water, is the 3/4 of mile of water flowing out of Eagle Nest Lake and Dam. The other 1.5 miles known as the Dream Water is located just east of Ute Park, NM. All of the Cimarron River from the eastern edge of the state park down-stream is private.
The Cimarron averages 10-15 feet wide and 1-3 feet deep with every imaginable water characteristic. Fast riffles, deep runs, bend pools, undercut banks, spring creek like channels, pockets and beaver pools can be found within several hundred yards of each other. The one constant factor on this free-stone like tail-water are the willow, alder, cottonwood and pine trees lining the river. The water in the Cimarron is primarily used by ranchers and farmers down river. The irrigation season runs from May through September when flows can range from 10 cubic feet per second(cfs) to 70 cfs, optimal fishing flows range between 15 cfs -50cfs.
The big advantage on the Cimarron is the diverse insect population the brown trout thrive upon. From April through September anglers can see atleast 5 different stonefly hatches, 11 different caddisflies and countless different mayflies along with midges and a host of terrestrials. A thick Golden Stonefly (Hesperoperla pacifica) hatch begins in early June moving up river through June into early July. During this hatch 80-100 fish days are possible. In July numerous species of mayflies hatch, the caddisflies quickly follow in late July. The abundant insect hatches combined with the shallow water makes the Cimarron a premier dry fly fishery. There is a Special Trout Waters section on the Cimarron River. In an effort to help maintain this fabulous wild brown trout fishery please release all brown trout.
Fast riffles, deep runs, bend pools, undercut banks, spring creek like channels, pockets, willow, alder, cottonwood and pine trees lining the river.
Tight casting quarters and ever changing water features challenge flyfishers of all skill levels. The best technique involves quietly wading up-river making short roll casts underneath overhanging branches. Rods should be 7-8.5 foot, 2-5 weights. Hip waders with felt soles are ideal for the rocky streambed. No need to worry with long leaders, 7.5 foot leaders work.