Don’t Go to the Rio Costilla on Opening Day

How many cars would you expect to see at New Mexico’s trout-fishing mecca – the  San Juan river – on a normal summer day? Fifty to seventy-five? Well, there were dozens of cars at the Rio Costilla yesterday, on opening day.

We, in the trout fishing guiding and outfitting businesses, are partly responsible for this crowding. The greater cause is the unimaginable power of merchandising in this country. It’s the relatively new “lifestyle” emphasis on the outdoors that is responsible for filling up the once hard-to-fill great outdoors with hordes of mannequins, dressed in identical togs, as though they just stepped out of an outdoor catalog, or REI store window.

The founder of Patagonia, Yvon Chouinard, got started in life by manufacturing pitons and other steel climbing implements. He told me, once, that he couldn’t make a dime in the business. The next year he started making and selling clothes … and the rest, as they say, is history. Catalog shopping for clothing may be the number one recreational activity in this country. And, people will spend, it seems, anything, for the right label, with Patagonia clothing selling at (dare I say it?) obscene prices. Yes, it’s well-made clothing … but $129 for a pair of board shorts, or $599 for a pair of waders? C’mon! As an outdoor professional, I get discounted prices for Patagonia gear, and still cannot afford it.

I didn’t, initially, intend this piece as a diatribe against Patagonia, but as a statement about the overly-successful marketing of the outdoors. It’s just that Patagonia has done it better than anyone else. In any event, there I was, with my grandson Quin, observing all these over-dressed mannequins waving fly rods along the little Rio Costilla, in numbers I had never seen before. They were all, of course, wearing waders, to fish a creek that didn’t require wading! If they did any wading at all, it was probably to cool off.

Quin and I elbowed our way in, but fished for only a little while, hemmed-in as we were. Here’s a photo of Quin, with a rainbow. He also caught a cutthroat, and I caught a brookie. Despite an abundance of Yellow Sallies and mayflies in a variety of sizes, the fish were not rising …

Quin Miller, at the Rio Costilla

Quin Miller, at the Rio Costilla. He ain’t smiling, either.

White flowers and lots of fishermen, along the Rio Costilla

White flowers and lots of fishermen, along the Rio Costilla


About Evensteven

I am a photographer and author, and live in Embudo, New Mexico, alongside the Rio Grande. I have published a book of photography and accompanying text on running the Colorado River in the Grand Canyon. The first (print) edition is out of print, but a second edition is available as an iBook (eBook) through the iTunes bookstore. All Grand Canyon, river and nature lovers will enjoy my book: The Grand: I have also published six additional iBooks: 1. The Salt River: 2. Coyote Buttes: 3. Four Cornered, the Land: 4. Four Cornered, The Rivers: 5. Rio Marañon: 6. Rio Grande:
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