I haven't been fishing a lot lately and there's noting I love more than fishing, unless maybe it's elk hunting. I'm always torn during this particular time of year, between devoting my time to one or the other. I'm fortunate to live in an area that offers some of the best of both—I guess it's a good problem to have. Over the years, it seems I find myself spending more of my time on pre-hunt scouting trips. If you're not going to be on the water, the mountains and the woods in their fall colors, listening to bugling elk, isn't a bad place to be. I'm not 100 per-cent sure if burning all this shoe leather in wapiti county always pays it's hard-earned dividends and how much sheer luck is actually involved; for the most part, seems I've been equally blessed by both. One thing I do believe, though, is that if you want to get good at something it helps to put in your time, do your homework, and try to do it as often as you can. Books and magazine articles are often a good source of information, but they'll only take you so far. There's just no substitute for good old-fashioned experience and the only way to gain it, is to get out there and practice, and try it on your own.
If you really want to become a better fisherman, try to fish with someone that's better than you at it. Pick their brain, try to do what they do. Chances are, they didn't get that way overnight, stay after it. Hire a guide, even if it's just for a half-day, you'll be surprised how much it can cut down the learning curve, especially if you're on new water. Talk to the folks in local fly shops, ask questions, be open to advice. While you're on the water, watch others that are successful, try to mimic what they are doing; or better yet, ask them, most of them will be more than willing to help. Experiment, be willing to try new techniques and methods. If what you're doing isn't producing fish, and everyone around you is hooked up, you obviously have nothing to lose. A small dose of humility can be a great motivator, but you're never going to learn from it, if you don't swallow a little pride from time to time and admit that you don't know everything there is to know on the subject.
Well, I'll get down off of my soapbox now and get on with the fishing report of this article. The good news for this week is the weather. Cooler temperatures and overcast skies are likely to fire up the baetis hatches that have been on-again, off-again over the past week. Look for blue winged olives, especially in the lower section of the river, during the upcoming afternoons. Pack some olive bodied Comparaduns, Cut Wing Baetis, and Adams patterns in size 22 and some 7x tippet. If you're nymphing this area, you'll want some Fluff Baetis, RS2s, and Rootbeers, as the baetis nymphs become more active and start to drift out of the riffles. Expect clear water conditions and flows around 460 cfs—great conditions for some sight fishing. Like always on the San Juan, you'll want to also focus on the midge activity. Larva and pupa patterns earlier in the day and emergers around noon and later when the fish and the bugs become more active and the action shifts higher in the water column. Gray and black Crystal Flash, Ju-Jus, and Scintillas are good choices for emergers, keep 'em small, 26 and even 28 is just about right. If you're seeing heads and no BWOs then it's gotta be midges, so Fore and Afts and size 26 black adult midges on 7x is the way to go. Later in the afternoon, you are likely to see some midge clusters and I like the Sprout Midge in size 22 for that action. Whether you decide to spend your time in the woods or on the water, it's a good time to be outdoors here in the West. Cool mornings and evenings with warm days and beautiful fall colors are a thing to be savored and we've got some solid, good fishing going on right now on the Juan, especially if you like fishing dries to big, hungry fish. There's at least another month left of this good weather, so the time to plan your trip is now. If you would like more information or need to book a guide trip on the San Juan, give us a call at 505-632-2194.
Report by Jay Walden