Rio Grande Cichlid on the Fly - A Brief Guide

Rio Grand Cichlid, Rio Grande Cichlid on the Fly, Texas Cichlid, Rio Grande Perch, Fly Fishing for Rio Grande Cichlid, Fly fishing for Rios, Year of the Rio,

It is the Year of the Rio and summer is now firmly upon us.  It is a great time to get out on the water to target some Rio Grande Cichlids!  

But where do you begin?  Here is Texas Freshwater Fly Fishing's Brief Guide to Rio Grande Cichlid on the Fly.

Rio Grande Cichlid are North America's only native cichlid.  They are originally from the lower reaches of the Rio Grande drainage, but have since been introduced to different waters around the state.  (To read more about this, check out: Fish Spotlight - Rio Grande Cichlid)

You can still catch them in many areas of South Texas, but now you can also catch them along the Coastal Plains, throughout the Hill Country, and the areas in between.

Waterways for Catching Rio Grande Cichlids

South Texas:

  • Rio Grande River
  • Nueces River
  • San Antonio River
  • Cibolo Creek

Hill Country

  • Colorado River
  • San Marcos River
  • Guadalupe River
  • Brushy Creek
  • San Gabriel River
  • Llano River

West Texas:

  • Devils River
  • Pecos River
  • Las Moras Creek
  • San Felipe Creek

Coastal Region

  • Nueces River
  • Brackish Pools
*If you would like to share other bodies of water that are good for Rio Grande Cichlid, leave it in the comments*

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Set Up for Rio Grande Cichlids

Rod: 3-Weight (1wt-  5wt will be fine) "Fish what you got."

As far as fly fishing set-ups for Rio Grande Cichlids go, your options are fairly wide open.  I like to say, "Fish what you got."  I really enjoy my three-weight rod when I am targeting Rios, but I have fished everything from a one-weight to a five-weight for them.  I have seen people use tenkara and ought-weight rods as well.

The length really depends on where you are fishing.  I do a lot of my fishing for Rios in tighter areas, where distance on your cast isn't as big a deal, but navigating your cast around and under trees is, so a shorter rod (7.5 ft - 8 ft) works well.  In more open areas, a 9 foot rod works great.

Line/Leader/Tippet: Floating / 6-7 ft leader / 1 ft of 3, 4, or 5x Fluorocarbon Tippet (depending of size of fly)

I don't think you need to get too picky here.  Again, just "Fish what you got."  However, I do typically fish a floating line when fishing for Rio Grande Cichlids.  As far as the leader goes, I tend to keep my leader shorter, especially when using a shorter rod.  And I am typically fishing a 3x, 4x, or 5x, tippet, depending on the size of fly that I am likely to throw.

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Flies for Rio Grande Cichlid

Rio Grande Cichlid have small mouths, so fish small flies!  Their diet typically consists of insects (and their larvae), small crustaceans, and small fish.  So keep that in mind when choosing your flies.

I wrote an article (Five Must Have Flies for Rio Grande Cichlid) not too long ago that cover these in more detail, but here are my favorite flies for Rios.
Rio Grande Cichlids like to tuck up under and against banks, logs, rocks, or other cover.  It is usually pretty important to make accurate casts that land softly so that you don't spook the fish.  They prefer to eat at or near the bottom, so let you fly get down before you start your retrieve, and when you do begin bringing it back, a slow "start and stop" retrieve is often effective.  If you are not getting any strikes, vary your retrieve, slowly speeding up your strips to see if that triggers a strike.

Don't be afraid to cast to the same cover more than once.  In much of the water that Rio Grande Cichlids swim, you can see them, but sometimes you can't.  Be stealthy, calm, and make good casts out in front of the fish you see, and tight to cover when you don't.  Oftentimes, repetitive casts to the same spot can be effective at triggering Rios to take the fly.

I hope you find this information useful in your pursuit of Rio Grande Cichlids.  Be sure to check TFFF's other articles on the Rio Grande Cichlid to learn as much as you can.  And once you catch one, take a good picture and submit it to the Year of the Rio Photo Contest for your chance to win hundreds of dollars in prizes.


  1. Seen them in the Blanco River as well

    1. For sure, they are definitely in the Blanco River.

  2. For the love of all that is holy, please stop saying Rio Grande River. And you call yourself a Texan?!


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