Well, let's get right to it. No "mucking about," as the Brits say. According to the latest e-mail we have received from the BOR, their preliminary plan is to increase the flow here on April 27th to 1,000 cfs and maintain that level until the spring release begins on May 3rd. On May 3rd, they will begin incrementally ramping up the flow over the next 16 days until they reach 5,000 cfs and maintain that level for up to 35 days. If the ramp-up takes 16 days and all 35 days at peak are utilized, the release will begin decreasing on Friday, June 23, reaching 500 cfs on Thursday, July 6th, where it will remain until further notice. So there you go. Bear in mind, that this could change slightly, over the long run, but I think those initial start dates on April 27th and May 3rd are a done deal. The one thing that could possibly change, I think, would be the duration of the peak release, if flooding downstream is encountered, and they have to dial back the 5,000 cfs flow, which would result in a longer release time to dump all the water they have to, to make room in the lake for runoff from Colorado. There's no way to know that now, until they actually start approaching that 5,000 cfs level. We'll keep you posted.
Okay, now that we've got that out of the way, what does that all translate to for fishing the San Juan? Here's my take on the whole thing based on past year's experiences—First, for a couple of days after a bump in the release, the fishing gets a little tougher due to more "stuff" being churned up by the increased velocity of the water—there is a lot of moss and didymo to gum up your flies and the visibility is compromised by silt being stirred up from the bottom. This is especially true when the increase is a greater percentage of the amount of water already in the river, i.e., a 500 cfs bump in flow when the level is at 500 cfs, is going to be a more noticeable change than a 500 cfs bump when it's already flowing at 4,000 cfs. That said, if you plan to fish it during the first couple days after a release, think streamers in white, black, and olive, with a big bright trailer like a size 18 red larva, or annelid trailer, and add on some extra weight. Check and clean your flies often. After a few days, the water and the fish generally settle down a bit and you can get back to business as usual with some real bugs, but that streamer/trailer thing still works pretty well, especially when the flows get over the 1,000 cfs mark.
At present, the water clarity isn't really that great. If you get the chance to get out, I think your best days this week are going to be before Thursday, before the water goes up. Red larva, OJs, and annelid patterns make good lead flies and drop off a smaller midge pattern underneath, like a size 24 mono-midge, or zebra midge. RS2s, fluff baetis and rootbeers are good choices anywhere from the Texas Hole and downriver. And don't overlook streamers. There hasn't been much in the way of rising fish and with the bright sunshine in the forecast and the water clarity being what it is, I wouldn't expect that to change anytime soon. Once this first increase takes place, things will get a little tougher for a few days, normalizing for a bit around the 1st and you'll have a short window until the 3rd, when the water is raised and again and the whole process repeats itself. Expect this to go on with the increases, until it reaches around 3,000 cfs and the wading gets a little too dicey. To sum it all up, the fishing here gets tougher as the water is on the rise, but generally after it reaches 5,000 cfs and stabilizes after a few days, it starts fishing really well, but your only access is from a boat, since wading at that level is just too dangerous. Once the water level starts to drop, it's a whole new ballgame out there and the fishing is generally phenomenal. The fish are in the best shape of the year, unpressured for a couple months and fattened up from eating lots of big protein during the high flows and the water is clear with a beautiful cobbled stream bottom. 3,000 cfs is still pushing the envelope a bit for wading, especially if you're not really experienced with the river or a strong wader, but around 2,700 cfs you can start accessing a lot more water and is more of the sweet spot to still get into some great fishing without super dangerous wading. If you're planning on fishing during the peak runoff time, it's probably a good time to start finalizing you plans and booking your guide as soon as possible, since there's a limited number of boats available and everyone that plans to fish during that time is going to need one. Give us a call at 505-632-2194 to book your trip or if you have any questions.