- Jay Walden
Well, let's get right to it. Last week I promised some details on the upcoming construction project that is now set to start on Monday, December 18th for the lower San Juan River. To begin with, we'll start with the obvious, more self-explanatory parts of the project then move on to the more esoteric, arcane details of the what and why, concerning the rest of the venture. First, the area affected—from the wash at Simon Canyon down to Crusher Hole where the boat takeout is, is scheduled to be closed to both boat and foot traffic from December 18, 2017 until March 1, 2018. The rest of the river will not be under any restrictions, so you'll still be able to fish everything not included in that area, although anything below it is probably going to be a bit murky once the heavy equipment starts working in the river. For boaters, there will be a temporary boat take out established at the Munoz day use area until the work is completed. From March 1, 2018 until April 15, 2018 there will be fewer restrictions, but still limited use of the river in the area. One of the more obvious parts of the project will be the construction of a new boat ramp/take out at Crusher Hole, that has been long overdue. There will also be a new boat ramp constructed next to Rainbow Lodge, commonly referred to as the Village Take Out, as well as improvements to the parking area there. I apologize, but at this time I'm not sure when the closures to that particular area will take place, but I'll try to find out and get back to you on that.
Secondly, the rest of the project will be aimed at accomplishing two major goals in the area from Simon Canyon down to Crusher Hole, the first being the mitigation of silt buildup in that area from the wash located at Simon, and the second being habitat improvement for fish in that area, not that the two are mutually exclusive. What we are supposed to see when all is said and done is an excavation of the floodplain bench to allow some of the river to access the bank vegetation and deposit less silt in the river and more in the vegetation during high water events; as well as, a deepening of the channel in some sections and the addition of boulders in the river to increase the velocity of the water, so that most of the silt that does enter the river will be washed downstream. The area immediately below the canyon known as The Chute will undergo some reshaping and see the addition of some excavated deeper pools and in-stream structures which should aid in depositing less silt downstream, not to mention improving the aesthetics of the area that now resembles an irrigation ditch. As far as the habitat improvement part, for those of you that have fished the area in the past few years (especially those Durangler's Corner and Last Chance aficionados) and have seen the effect of the silt on the vegetation in the river and thus the decreased bug life and the exodus of fish in that section, this will be a welcome reprieve. Another byproduct of this work being performed will be added habitat and holding water for fish when the river is undergoing future low flows, along with the addition of young cottonwoods to help replace the old growth trees in that area, and added wetland areas for waterfowl. The temporary closure, while a bit inconvenient for the short term, seems a small price to pay for the long term benefits we stand to gain from the project.
In addition to all that, here's a rundown on the latest fishing on the Juan. The present flow is at 387 cfs and the water clarity is still good. There will most likely be no changes to the flow level anytime soon, despite the work being performed on the river. Fishing has been good and the weather has been cooperative, although quite chilly in the mornings and evenings. The best fishing has been from around 10 am till around 3 pm when the temperatures have been warmest. There have been some good midge hatches river-wide with the heavier part of the hatch occurring from noon till 2:30 or 3:00 pm. Nymphing with larva and pupa patterns in the earlier and later parts of the day have been productive and emerger patterns are working best during the mid day hours. There are a lot of small fish in the river right now and they are in a lot of places. If big is your thing, the most efficient way I have seen to get at those fish has been with streamers, both on the dead drift and adding a little twitch or a strip from time to time. Black buggers and leeches seem to work best and it helps to be at or near the bottom. There's not a lot of folks out there, so if you come you can have a lot of water to yourself right now. If you would like more information or need to book a guided trip, give us a call at 505-632-2194.