Mid April 2018
I grew up in the South—not the Deep south, mind you; and there is a distinct difference, since one evokes images of genteel evenings on the veranda, sipping mint juleps, while the place that I'm from is more about front porches with stoneware gallon jugs and corncob stoppers, and a little more banjo. But it is still the South, nonetheless, and attested by the fact, that the capitol city of the great state from which I hail, was also, once the capitol city of the Confederacy. I started thinking about all this the other day when an editor from a popular fly fishing magazine asked me to include how fly fishing on the San Juan has changed through the years, in a article I was going to submit. Now, I'll be the first to admit that the connection of those two thoughts seem to be a little far-fetched, but as some of my friends like to say, "Sometimes, you're not quite right." Anyway, when you grow up in the South, you go to church when your"momma" tells you to, which in my case was a lot, and now possibly, at least part of the reason I don't go as often today, figuring I have paid my dues—although I seriously doubt the Good Lord sees it that way. But when I thought about how things change over time, I remembered a particular part of a sermon where the preacher talked of how the sounds of the mornings in most kitchens, of a rolling pin passing over fresh dough for biscuits, had been replaced by the familiar sounds of "pop," "pop" from the canned variety. While I am sure there was more to the message than the specific part that I now remember, the upshot of the whole thing is that I walked away with the vivid image that things do change over time,—as the homemade, versus canned biscuit controversy, is something that goes deep to the core of the heart, for southern boys, and is not soon forgotten.
So, rather than go into the details of how fly fishing on the San Juan River has evolved over time and thus negate the need to read the article— should it be published, I'll just get right to what's going on now and defer to the lazy way of doing things and provide a link to it later, if and when it goes to print. Since we are talking about April here, I would be remiss not to mention that the wind is going to be a problem for the graceful art of fly casting, until most of the snow melts to our north. By wind, I am not referring to the gentle breezes of spring, but rather, days like we saw this past week, where there are sustained winds of over 30 mph and gusts in the 40, 50, and 60 mph range. Unfortunately, it looks like there's more on tap for this week, with the exception of Wednesday, Saturday, and Sunday, when it will be at least, tolerable. Other than that, my best advice for you is to get out early and hope for the best, and try to pick spots that have enough stream-side vegetation to provide some windbreak. If you do find yourself out there when it really starts to blow and you like to fish dries, it's a great time to bring up some fish on big terrestrials in shallow water. As far as water conditions go, the visibility is still about a foot-and-a-half and the flow is at 600 cfs and likely to stay that way until the Animas picks up with runoff, when the flow will be dialed back here. For nymphing, we're back to the small stuff of 24s and 26 midge patterns in the upper river and mixing in some larger baetis nymphs in 24s and 22 when you head downriver from the Texas Hole. I have noticed that the majority of fish seemed to have moved out of the shallows with the recent bump to 600 cfs and seem to be holding more in the thalwegs of the major currents. Be prepared to fish a little more weight than you are accustomed to here, especially on windy days. There are more fish working earlier in the morning than in weeks past, due to increasing light and warmer temperatures, so it may pay you to get out earlier (around 8:00 or 9:00) which may also help you avoid the windier part of the day. Start with larva and pupa patterns, and switch it up to emergers once the fish move up to feed in the water column. There are some rising fish out there—midges all day in the upper river and still some BWO down lower in the afternoons, although the wind has been a spoiler on most days and puts the fish down despite the hatch. I have been able to bring up some fish on size 12 and larger terrestrials, even in the wind, and this should only improve as we move into warmer weather, and hopefully, clearer water. Hope we'll see you on the water this week, just bring a few extra rocks to stick in your pockets. If you would like to book a guide trip or need more information, give us a call at 505-632-2194.