" 'Behold, I will do a new thing; now it shall spring forth; shall ye not know it? I will even make a new way in the wilderness, and rivers in the desert' (Isaiah 43:19)." The area surrounding the San Juan River is about an unlikely place as any, to expect to find a world class trout stream. Its high desert landscape with summertime temperatures that can reach over a hundred degrees on some days, looks more like a place you'd go with a lawn chair and a cane pole, looking for catfish, instead of somewhere you'd bring a fly rod, looking for trout. Yet, due to the earthen impoundment of the waters of Navajo Lake and the cold water releases from deep within its confines, it provides a nutrient rich environment where both Oncorhynchus mykiss and Salmo trutta thrive. The blessing provided by the man- made dam comes with it caveats; however, and as with all things, you gotta be able to take the bad with the good.
Despite all the fluctuations in flows for various reasons of flood control, native species protection, power generation, irrigation, and what have you, it's still a damn fine place to fish, and dealing with the ups and downs of water levels for a few months seems like a small price to pay when you compare it to freestone rivers and the runoff issues of spring, and fishing closures from low water conditions in late summer, or too much ice in winter. Fortunately, we have most of our issues behind us now, and as they say down in Texas, "things are fixin' to get real good."
At present we are experiencing flows of 1,710 cfs and the plan is to drop that to 1,100 on Monday, 800 on Tuesday, and 500 cfs on Wednesday, where it is likely to hold at that level for quite a while. The fishing is good right now, but the important thing to remember is that it's only going to get better as the water drops each day. These fish are in the best shape they are going to be in all year and most of them (especially those in the upper river where no guide boats have been) are going to be a little gullible for a while, after a month and a half hiatus of not seeing a fisherman or a fly. From here on in, it's going to be a good time to be on the San Juan.
My only issue right now that keeps me from declaring the present conditions as "the best ever," or "epic," or any other such commonly prescribed euphemisms used by fishermen to indicate total awesomeness, is the water clarity. Now I know there are some out there that have a dog in this hunt that would probably like me to just go on ahead and gloss this one over, but I'm gonna go ahead and call this like I see it. For some reason, that is way above my pay grade to figure out, the lake turned over back in the winter and, as of yet, it has not returned to it's original gin clear quality normally associated with this time of year. Why? I don't rightly know. To quote Joe Dirt's dad, "How exactly is a rainbow made, how exactly does the sun set, how exactly does a posi track rear end on a Plymouth work? It just does." What I do know is that it makes it harder to spot and to sight fish to fish, which is something that is my predilection when it comes to fishing this river. I also know that it made my wading a little tougher over the past couple days while I was moving around trying to find fish and kept bumping them well before I saw them. Anyway, it's not terrible by any stretch, but it could be better and I imagine it will return to its former glory once the flow gets around 500 cfs and the release from the spillway side is cut back. At least, I hope so.
In the meantime, its business as usual in the nymphing world here, with larva and other standard small midge patterns, especially ones with a little bling like disco midges and desert storms, working well. San Juan worms and eggs are still working too, but I would venture to say their effectiveness will soon diminish as the water drops and these fish get back to eating real bugs, in particular, if and when, the water clarity improves. There are some pretty good midge hatches taking place, beginning around 11:30 or noon and increasing in intensity on into the afternoon. As of now, with the water being a little deeper in most places, there aren't a lot of rising fish except for a few select spots, but that will only get better as we see shallower conditions, as long as the bugs keep up their end of the bargain. I would not overlook the option of tossing some larger terrestrials wherever you can find some skinny water, taking advantage of the window of opportunity, before these fish get wise to that game. All in all, it's good right now and it's only going to get better as the week progresses. If you would like more information or would like to book a guided trip, give us a call at 505-632-2194.