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This month our cache of Fishing Trip Report forms yielded a wonderful report on winter trout fishing in New Mexico with Soaring Eagle Lodge. The report is from Harry Robertson of Hanover Fly, who specializes in organizing hosted trips for small groups. Seems he teaches some fly casting and tying seminars at a local university near Hanover, Virginia, and organizes outings for his students. Last year, he says he took a group of 14 university faculty, students and parents to Costa Rica, where they applied their newly learned skills. This past winter, Robertson says they asked him to arrange another trip closer to home in the US. They wanted a place that offered trout fishing in warm weather in March! After some research, he came up with Soaring Eagle Lodge on the San Juan River.

Robertson says he took a dozen neophyte fly anglers to Soaring Eagle this past March, and despite murky, high water, he says the guides there put everyone in his group on fish. Each angler landed numerous brown and rainbow trout over a three-day period. He says they rigged up with 10-foot leaders and an indicator made of polypropylene rope. Several feet below that, they tied a size 25 nymph. Robertson was skeptical, but he says they were catching fish within minutes. An advantage to fishing the San Juan, says Robertson, is that this tailwater can be fished year round. Also, it is so rich with insects and other food that it supports a dense population of trout, increasing opportunities to land fish, especially for neophyte anglers. When the water is clear and lower, he says 40-fish days are possible here.

Soaring Eagle is located right on the river at the Jacquez Ranch just downstream from the Quality Waters section of the San Juan. The lodge offers private access to the river and guided wading or floattrips. Guests typically have this section of river to themselves because it is accessible only by drift boat and Soaring Eagle is the only lodge in the area. Robertson describes the place as clean, neat and well-appointed. He also raves about the 5 star quality meals, but what he was most impressed with was what he calls the overwhelming professionalism of the operation. He says he plans to return again with another group.

Robertson has hosted trips all around the world, including Seychelles, Mongolia, Tierra del Fuego, Alaska, the Bahamas and other destinations. He says his trips are open to anyone who would like to try a new destination but doesn’t relish the idea of going alone. The only caveat is that the angler must be right for the destination in question. Robertson says that every trip is not right for every angler, and he likes to qualify the people he includes with a group. For example, he says he would never take an angler with limited mobility to a place like Mongolia, where anglers must be able to walk and climb in and out of rafts. Also, he says that he usually gets a break on costs for his trips because he often books shoulder weeks. He insists that would-be group members recognize they will often not be fishing the peak of the season on a trip with him. Because of the reduced rates he’s able to get, Robertson says there are no refunds on his trips either. The operators he deals with cannot afford to lose a booking a few weeks out from the booked date. Although he often has a waiting list to take a cancellation, it is ultimately the angler’s responsibility to find a replacement. Robertson says he explains this all up front to each client.

In addition to the hosted trips, Robertson says he specializes in finding fishing opportunities for clients who are traveling for other purposes and want to fit some fishing into their trip. For example, if a client says he’s playing golf in Utah and wants to fish a few days too, Robertson will find something that fits his schedule. He says he thoroughly researches every destination he recommends and works with other well-known agencies to find the right thing for a client.

Some of the trips currently on Robertson’s calendar for 2008, 2009 and 2010 are salmon fishing in Alaska, wild brookies in Labrador, bonefishing in Seychelles, sea-run browns in Tierra del Fuego, plus jungle fishing in Costa Rica. You can find out more about Robertson’s trips on his web site.

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