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  • Jay Walden


Sometimes, it pays to wait. I used to elk hunt with a guy named Vern. Vern has gotten older now and he doesn't hunt the unforgiving rough landscape we used to; the place I call No Country for Old Men, he's found some different country, a place with rolling hills, less of those steeper rocky draws and canyons without all those seemingly impassable blowdowns and rough, dark timber. I hunt alone back there now, but it won't be many years and I'll be looking for my own place like my old friend. I miss his company, miss the entertainment of his endless supply of stories, delivered in that clipped Scandinavian accent he picked up from his ancestors in Wisconsin. Vern was a talker, and boy, I mean, a real talker. A few years ago we'd started out well before daylight and I'd gone around the side of the mountain and set up at the edge of a deep saddle to watch a travel route that the elk used to like, because it led down to the creek where they watered. Vern, was going to come across the top of the mountain and we'd meet up later for lunch. By 11:00, I was stiff and cold, sitting deep down there in the saddle where the sun never shines, and hadn't seen as much as a pine squirrel, when I heard Vern cow call from well above me. I called back, then stood up so he could see where I was at, and he made his way down into the saddle. We chit-chatted a bit about our uneventful morning and I leaned my gun up against a tree, and dug a sandwich out of my pack. We walked about fifteen yards further into the saddle so we could stand in the sun and warm up a bit and then Vern launched into one of his stories about his grandpa used to hang those Wisconsin swamp-bucks, out in his shed and they'd just go out there all winter and slice off a chunk of meat, when they wanted dinner. Halfway through my sandwich, and through the story; because I'd already heard it about a dozen times before, I looked across the saddle and said, "Elk." There they were, about a dozen of them, headed down that trail I been watching all morning. Before I could drop my sandwich, Vern had already emptied an entire magazine from his Sako 75 Deluxe, like Chuck Connors from the Rifleman, and was starting to reload. On my way back to that tree fifteen yards away where I'd left my gun, I heard him start blazing away again. It sounded like The Guns of Navarone back in there. Elk were running everywhere and the biggest part of the herd, panicked and charged us, with three spike bulls in the lead. It was a stampede, like the Running of the Bulls in Pamplona. I heard Vern yell, "don't shoot the spikes," which I hadn't planned on doing anyway, since we had either-sex tags, but spikes weren't legal. I didn't matter, I couldn't pick up any of those running elk up in my scope for a shot. When the rifle smoke and the dust cleared, I saw the last of the elk disappear out of sight about 800 yards away, down at the creek bottom. The air reeked of the smell of gunpowder; the ground was littered with spent brass. Having never fired my rifle, I lowered the barrel, and something across the saddle caught my eye. The big white rump of a cow elk was facing me about 200 yards away and she was looking down into a finger canyon that led into the draw to the creek. I couldn't see anything except that rump. I'll admit, the thought crossed my mind to take what we refer to around here as a "Texas Heart Shot," but I was raised a Christian, I knew right from wrong. Instead, I found an old stump to steady my rifle, and waited. Finally, she turned her head to look toward the creek where all the other elk had headed, exposing her entire neck, and I sent a 180 grain across the saddle and she folded up like a lawn chair, where she stood. Like I said, "Sometimes, it pays to wait." If you have waited until now to make your pilgrimage to the San Juan, then you're in for a treat. The flow is presently around 400 cfs, with very clear water conditions. The fishing is good. There is a bit of drifting, didymo present, as the sunlight diminishes and this stuff starts to die off—annoying, at times, but not a game changer, just check and clean your flies often. There are decent midge hatches daily and we are starting to see the appearance of BWO adults, especially on overcast days. Small, dark midge patterns in size 24 and 26 are still the way to go for pupa, emerger, and dry patterns. You can go a bit larger on the larva patterns (red and cream seem to work the best, and are a good go to in the morning hours.) In the lower sections of the river, you should have some baetis nymphs like Rootbeers, Johnny Flash, WD 40s, and RS2s. Be prepared to see some BWO adults in the afternoons—I like olive Comparaduns, Sparkle Duns, and Adams patterns for my imitations in size 22. 6x for the nymphs and 7x for the dries. The fall colors are splendid right now and the daytime highs are in the low 70s, with nighttime temps down in the low 40s. You couldn't ask for a prettier place to catch trout. Expect some company if you come, although there's still plenty of water to fish without being elbow to elbow with other fishermen, especially if you're willing to walk out of sight of a parking lot. Give us a call if you need more info or would like to book a guided trip, it's going to be a bit busy here until November.

Jay's Fishing Reports

Books by
Jay Walden
Can be purchased on Amazon or in our fly shop.

Jay's Fishing Report  

To our faithful fishing report readers, 

Here's a way to get your rainbow trout fix 'til you are able to hit the San Juan again-- available online only

Check each style out--there are a variety of colors, fabrics & sizes to enjoy.

Special thanks to designer & artist, Matt Zudweg 

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As a small aside and attempt at shameless self-promotion, there was an article featured  on Flyfisherman Magazine's website written by yours truly about the 60th anniversary of Abe's Fly Shop that can be accessed through the following link: Abe's Anniversary. Hope you can make it out this week. If you would like more information or would like to book a guided trip, give us a call at 505-632-2194. 

Abe's Fly Shop Turns 60 -

Watercolor by Tim Oliver                                          Photos Courtesy of Abe Chavez


Jay's Past Reports:  

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