I had a friend back in college named Bob Keene. Bob was one of those interesting, gregarious types— the sort of person that is often referred to as eccentric, a term that is often used as a euphemism or just a nicer way to say that someone is a certified nut-case. He was different, outgoing, and had never met a stranger, and everyone liked Bob. During my sophomore year, my roommate (Russell Bryant) and I, went to Daytona Beach on Spring Break and by sheer happenstance ran into Bob on the street down there. Sometime later, we all ended up in the bar of the hotel where Bob was staying. There was a three- piece, all girl band playing to a packed house and they were really good. After a couple of beers, I left the bar to find the bathroom that was down the hall towards the lobby and when I returned Bob was up on stage with the girls, strutting around with the microphone like Mick Jagger and belting out the lyrics to "Rambling Man" from the Allman Brothers. I don't know how it all came about that he ended up on stage that evening because I was down the hall when it all transpired, but the boy really put on a show and brought down the house with a standing ovation at the end of "Rambling Man." The oddest thing about the whole deal was that I never even knew the guy had the talent, which just goes to show that you should never underestimate a man, or anything else for that matter—unless you really like surprises. Bob and I are both a little older now, which is to say we both qualify for all those AARP discounts you can use at some hotels and for cheaper car insurance rates, but Bob's still rocking and playing gigs around my hometown with his band "Gomer and the Three Pyles"—no joke—check it out on YouTube if you don't believe me.
Anyway, I thought about all this the other day after offering suggestions for fly choices to a couple of customers in the shop. I set them up with the small midge and baetis patterns that all the guides and other fishermen were having success with and they left to hit the water. Later that evening I saw them again down at the fly case, poring over the streamer selection, so my interest was piqued. I asked them how their fishing had gone that day, to which they replied, "Okay. We caught a few on the flies you suggested, but we ran into a guy that was fishing one of these with a weight and and an indicator and he must have caught 30 fish." They held up a green woolly bugger. Ah, the woolly bugger, the most recognizable, and likely the most commonly fished streamer ever tied—who would have thunk it. I've had success dead-drifting them before, but it was something I had overlooked when making my suggestions earlier in the day—an underestimation on my part. There you go, when it comes to fly choices, never assume, never underestimate, you gotta be flexible and willing to experiment if what you're doing isn't working and you're not catching fish. The San Juan is a great trout stream, but the fish here are anything but pushovers and can be fickle at times. What worked great yesterday, may not work today. It can drive you a little batty at times, but it is what keeps this river still interesting to me after over 20 years of fishing it.
That said, here's my take on the upcoming week. To begin with, the water level was recently dropped from nearly 800 cfs down to 635 cfs and the clarity is very good. I really like the flows here from 500 to 600 because I fish a lot of dry flies and those flows seem to offer more dry fly opportunities because the water has more character created by rocks and other structure. You can also see the fish a little better, and for some reason, unknown to me, it seems like we have better hatches when the level is a little lower, so all of this is a good thing. Secondly, there's been a change in the weather. There's always that one day in September where it rains and drizzles all day and after that the temperature drops, and suddenly, overnight, it's not summer anymore. That day was this past Saturday. This week will be much cooler with the likelihood of rain from Wednesday through Saturday—great weather to kick off some good baetis hatches, offering some good opportunities to give some Comparaduns and Adams patterns a good workout. In the meantime, standard small midge patterns in dark colors, size 24 and 26 are working well. Anywhere in the lower section of the river, baetis patterns like rootbeers, RS2s, Johnny Flash, WD40s, and Fluff baetis are good go-to flies. Apparently, streamers, especially dead drifted should not be underestimated, as well. The big stuff like hoppers and ants that I love to fish here are on their way out, much to my chagrin, and if you want to play the dry fly game, were're getting back to small midge and baetis patterns, best fished on 7x tippet. The midge hatches haven't been much to make a fuss about lately, but now with the lower flows and the changes in the weather, I thinking we are going to see them pick up in the coming days. Hope you can get out to get in some great fall fishing. If you would like to book a guide or need more info, give us a call at 505-632-2194.