It looks like this season is shaping up to be the Great Winter That Never Happened. Outside of a little cold spell that lasted only a day or so, and a smattering of snow that has since melted, we really haven't had much of a winter here. Looking at the ten day forecast, we've got another warming trend coming with temperatures near sixty degrees for the near future—and we're headed into February! That's great fishing weather, especially for this time of year. Of course we could use some moisture in the mountains, but I guess you really can't have it both ways. I would venture to say that unless we see a dramatic weather change with some epic snow in late February and March, we're not likely to see a high spring flow on the San Juan, outside of a possible short-term push of a proposed 2,000 cfs flow for a week or two, to clean up the sediment leftover from the Simon Canyon stream improvement project. If so, that all translates to more fishable days on the water for wade-fishermen and less trips to other locations for me in search of places to fish when this river is normally at 5,000 cfs during May and June. Not so bad, I guess, unless next winter is as dry as this one, then it might be time to worry a bit.
In the meantime, between raising a new puppy (which consumes an inordinate amount of time, by the way) and watching April Vokey YouTube videos by the fire, and committing lust in my heart like Jimmy Carter, I have managed a few days on the water, as of late. While I can't tell you that they have been epic, they have been productive— and not having to knock ice out of your guides on a January day or sit in the car with your fingers in front of the heater vent, in order to rig up a fly, has been a real bonus. There is so much to be said for a sixty degree day on the water in the middle of winter. Here's my take on what's happening right now. First of all, let me just say—there's a lot of little fish out there. I mean a lot, and fortunately or unfortunately, they're pretty easy to catch— occasionally to the point of annoyance if you have fished this river in the past and have grown to expect your average fish to be in the sixteen to seventeen inch range. Now, after saying that, don't get me wrong—all the bigger fish have not magically disappeared, they're still out there. Just be prepared to cycle through a good deal of stockers, to get to them. Streamers, in olive, black, and white seems to help solve the problem a bit and appears to be the ticket to better fish. If nymphing is your game, a bigger, brighter lead fly like an egg pattern, or red larva (size 18), teamed with a standard small San Juan midge pattern will get you into plenty of fish. And for the dry fly fishermen, do not despair— there are some rising fish out there. Look for some heads to appear by late morning—11:00 or 11:30 and depending on where you are on the river this can last till up around 3:00 pm. I've been using Fore and Afts and Morgan's midges in the earlier part of the day, then switching to midge clusters later when the hatch gets heavier, then back to the small stuff when it begins to taper off—however, most of the fish I'm finding on the rise have been on the smaller end of the size scale. Still, it's possible to take a lot of numbers this way and if just getting the rod bent and keeping your dry fly skills sharpened is important, it beats a sharp stick in the eye. I have a 000 wt. Sage (yes, there is such a thing) that is perfect for this and if you close your eyes while fighting the fish, you'd swear you'd hooked into a lunker. When life gives you lemons, you make lemonade. As far as the water condition goes, the flows are at 369 cfs which means easy wading access. The clarity, while not great, isn't too bad either, with visibility to around a foot-and-a half or so. Overall, you're not going to beat the weather unless you're going to the tropics for bonefish or tarpon and you'd be hard pressed to find a place with more fish; albeit, there's a lot right now that are in the smallish category. If you're looking for a winter fishery, with lots of fish and great weather, then the San Juan is gonna be your ticket. If you would like to book a guided trip or need more info, give us a call at 505-632-2194.