My friend Henning and I fished a lot together that year; the year before he ran off to California and started raising a family. One of the places we eventually frequented a lot was the Frying Pan, up in Colorado. I say eventually, because it really didn't start out that way, until we got the place figured out and started to catch a lot of fish there. On our first trip together, I actually did pretty well; pretty well, for fishing someplace I'd only been to a time or two before. I can't remember now if he'd ever been there by himself, before we did that trip. That was a long time and a lot of rivers ago. Anyway, I had gotten sorta dialed in on things that day, Henning, not so much. He was one of those guys that would go off on his own and you usually wouldn't see him again until it was time to leave for the day. He was a fly tyer, too, loved it, used to drive me crazy because he try one of his patterns, catch a few fish, clip it off, then try something new. I didn't tie flies; never have, just never got into it. I bought all mine in local shops, then went through them until I found what worked and stuck with it. I wasn't into experimenting much, I just wanted to catch fish.
Well, that evening I needed to re-up my fly arsenal, so we stopped down at one of the shops in town. The real fancy one that has a lot of stuff in there that the average fisherman doesn't really need and probably couldn't afford, anyway. Henning followed me in. I was going through the fly boxes and Henning, never one to meet a stranger, decided to strike up a conversation with the guy behind the counter that hadn't even looked up after we'd walked in, because he'd probably seen us coming from out in the parking lot and knew we weren't candidates to by a new Filson vest or a Simms wading jacket. But Henning didn't care, he'd talk to anyone that might listen. So he started in on the guy with questions about possible ideas about why he wasn't catching fish. As best I remember the conversation went something like this:
"Hey, I kinda had a hard day and was wondering if you could make some recommendations?"
The guy looked up, annoyingly, from the vise where he was tying, and gave him a smug, "Well, what were you using?
Henning, rattled off about a dozen patterns, most of which, should have worked, by my estimation.
"Well, are you seeing fish?" the guy asked.
"Well, I don't cast unless I see a fish."
"My buddy here did pretty well out there, and I was just wondering if maybe you had guidance or advice for me."
The guy just looked him dead in the eye and said, "Well sometimes it's the Indian and not the arrow."
I'd had enough. I paid for my flies and told Henning, "Come on, we gotta go.
Out in the Jeep, Henning looked across the console and asked, "Sometimes it's the Indian and not the arrow, What does that mean?"
I told him.
His face got red like it always did when he got mad.
"I ought to go back in there and kick that old geezer's ass."
I didn't want any part of it; I just started the Jeep and headed back to our campsite.
I thought of that story the other day, because this is the time of year on the Juan, things can get a little tough out there. The water is crystal clear and kind of low and these fish have seen their fair share of fishermen and flies, by now. They're out there, they're eating most of the time, but they ain't pushovers. You gotta bring your A game on your drifts, your mends, your whole presentation. You gotta use the tiny stuff, because that's what they're eating right now. You gotta use the best technology has to offer, like fluorocarbon leaders and tippets. You gotta keep adjusting your weight and your depth, until you get it dialed in just right. You gotta experiment with some different patterns, until you find out what is working. My advice is worry more about proper presentation though, and less about fly choice. The Indian, not the arrow.
To get you in the ballpark, here's some patterns that I know will work—small red larva, size 24 and 26. Red larva with micro tubing, in size 24. Mono midges and bling midges in 26. Crystal flash and ju-jus in 26. RS2s, foamwings, and rootbeers for anything in the Texas hole and below. 6x on all the nymphs.
For dries, fore and afts and Morgan's midges in 24 and 26, and single black adult midges in 26. Sprout midges in 22s when you see clusters. 7x for all your dries. Expect to see fish eating dries and emergers from 12:00 till about 5:00.
Play around with it, have fun, enjoy the challenge. Don't get stressed, you'll catch fish. Expect some company on the water out there, it's gonna be a bit busy from now until about mid-November. Hope you can make it out, the weather is splendid here. If you need more info or would like to book a guided trip, give us a call at 505-632-2194.
Fishing Report by Jay Walden