I can't exactly pinpoint the time when my condition worsened to the point of being unmanageable. Perhaps it went unnoticed for a time because of it's slow progression, like when you wake up one morning with the sniffles, then a couple days later notice you have a cough and by the end of the week you know you've got the flu—it morphs and feeds upon itself over time so you really never see it coming, until one day it's just there. There's no mistaking when you've got it, and I sure enough have it—Big Fish Fever. Now, I, like all fishermen, have always wanted to catch fish, but it wasn't always about catching the biggest fish in the river. Sure, at one time it became a numbers game, but that phase soon passed and it all became more about the experience of the matter, being able to match my skills against different water, a particular difficult fish, a tricky or demanding cast, and being able to overcome these things became the rewarding part of the sport for me. Then, sometime this past year, it all became about catching the biggest fish, and to be honest, it has ruined my fishing; not to mention, my mental state, which has always been on a slippery slope. Hopefully, I've discovered it in time and it's treatable, because getting up at god-awful hours and logging miles upon miles driving down obscure rutted, dirt roads in four-wheel drive, bushwhacking through the backcountry with a handheld GPS, following up every rumor I become privy to, and buying every kind of specialty fly known to man—just for a few fish— is tantamount to madness. Occasionally, it pays off and I find some gem of new water where I catch fish—big fish—but most of the time, these forays end up to be wild goose chases where the expenditure of time and treasure don't really pay off, and I'd have been better off sticking to a sure thing and water I already know. My new plan is to try and wean myself off of this obsession slowly, and see if, over time, I can perhaps practice it from time to time when the need arises, with some modicum of self restraint. We'll have to see, as I am not quite sure of the side effects of going cold-turkey.
If you're looking for more of a sure thing, then try the San Juan right now. The flows are stable at around 500 cfs, the water clarity is great, and the fishing and the weather are first rate. As far as methods go, nymphing with small midge and baetis patterns is probably going to be the most productive way to put fish in the net. A red larva pattern teamed up with a midge pupa pattern in size 24 and 26 would be my choice to start the day, then switching to midge emerger patterns like crystal flash and ju-jus later in the day once the fish become more active in the upper water column. When fishing the emergers, you're going to want to lighten up on the weight and use something like a #8 or #9 weight just to get it under the surface a little, to target those fish and you'll want to move your indicator much closer to your fly. The further you move down the river, the greater likelihood you have of encountering baetis activity and I like patterns like RS2s, chocolate and gray foamwings, Johnny Flash, and fluff baetis patterns for those imitations. There has been some pretty good adult midge activity starting around 11:00 and lasting until the early afternoon, but the fish seem a little picky right now so if you plan to fish to the risers, I would suggest fore and afts in size 24 and 26 with 7x tippet. In the lower sections of the river there have been some adult BWOs on the water starting around noon to 1:00 pm. The ones I have been seeing are small and I think a small Adams or Comparadun in size 24, or even 26, would be your best bet. Late in the evening and right up until dark, the midges become active again and you'll start to see a lot of telltale dimples on the water of what appears to be rising fish, but if you look closer you'll notice that there's very few snouts sipping adults on the surface. My observation, despite my compulsion to tie on a tiny midge dry, is that the majority of these fish are eating emergers just under the surface and the best way to catch them is with that emerger rig I mentioned earlier. Overall, it a beautiful time to be on the Juan and outside of the chance of some rain and overcast on Tuesday (great for a baetis hatch) the weather is going to be beautiful this week. If you would like more information or need to book a guide, give us a call at 505-632-2194.