It beats a sharp stick in the eye. Well, the sun finally came out and the temperatures have moved into the 40's with forecasts for the mid to high 50's later in the week, and now the phone is ringing off the hook with everyone wanting to know how the fishing is. Given the past couple of weeks of snow and cold, there's a lot of pent up demand out there; people are anxious for spring and anxious to fish— I can't say that I blame them.
So how is it, really? Let me start by saying that I've always tried to be a straight shooter when it comes giving the most accurate representation of what's going on out there. I live and work here, and I work in a position that puts me face to face with a lot of folks that read this column—I'm not about to send a bunch of people packing for a drive across county for "incredible fishing" only to have them look at me disappointedly later, like I don't know what I'm talking about. It's a credibility thing and having been on the other side of it from time to time, I know and appreciate the importance of good intel when it comes to fishing—I've logged my fair share of miles to many a fishing destination based on info that someone gave me, because they told me what I wanted to hear, only to be told, "Well, you should have been here yesterday." And I can hear it in the voices of the calls I receive, there's something about it in the tone; that certain searching hopefulness to a question asked in a manner that is more of a longing for validation of what you would like; or had hoped to hear, rather than the truth. I don't know how I got started off on that rant, maybe because it always easier to be the bearer of good news than just okay news and if you hear disappointment enough times in your answer, it starts to wear on you a bit. Hear it enough times and there's the inclination to fudge things a bit, so you're not always seen as the goat, but facts is facts, and then there's that reputation thing, too.
Anyway, here's the most authentic take on things that I can offer. But, first let me preface things by saying that the San Juan is an outstanding trout fishery. Like any river, there are times when the fishing is so good here that it's borderline ridiculous—other times—when it can be downright tough. A ton of factors come into play: flow levels, water clarity, weather, water temperature, insect activity or the lack thereof, just to mention a few. At his particular point in time, I would say that the quality of fishing here falls right in the middle of those two;above mentioned, parameters. It's not the best I've ever seen it, but it ain't the worst either. I'd have to say it's about what you'd expect for early February, but I'd take it hands down over a lot of other rivers I know. The flows are right at 500 cfs, up from 350 cfs, a week or so ago. The water clarity has improved slightly, in my estimation, to about a foot, to possibly a foot and a half. I've had people tell me that it's way better than that in the last couple days, and that it's more like three to four feet. I'm not so sure I'm gonna buy that one, some people see what they want to see sometimes and my eyes ain't what they used to be, but I'm not blind yet either. Anyway, it has improved, and I'll take that. Hopefully, it's a trend, because the fishing is only going to improve as the water clears, but that's all nature and weather driven, and I know enough from past years to stay away from predictions on that one. This past week, I didn't see the midge hatches we were having when the water was at 350 cfs. I was out on
Tuesday and the only rising fish I could find were a few in some thick scum lines, in the afternoon. I'm not sure if the increase in flow had anything to do with this, but there was definitely a notable difference. It's hard to say when these hatches might kick off again, but I'm hoping that the change in weather this week might help to give it a jumpstart. As far as flies go, I'd stick with the bright stuff a while longer—Princess nymphs, red larva, o.j.'s, small egg patterns, and the like, and mix in a few of the standard San Juan midge stuff. Dead drifting small streamers (especially in white) with a brightly colored trailer would also be a good idea. Overall, the Juan is fishing okay right now as long as you aren't arriving with expectations as if it's summertime, the water is gin clear, and there's bugs and rising fish everywhere—beat's a sharp stick in the eye, I would say. If you would like to book a guided trip or need more info, give us a call at 505-632-2194.