May 20, 2018
Good fishing partners are hard to come by. My last one moved away about ten years ago to pursue his new career and is now raising a family out in Oregon; we still stay in touch, but we only get to fish together about every two or three years. Before that, he'd go anywhere on short notice and hang with me in even the worst conditions. We lived on Ramen noodles and summer sausage and sometimes slept out in the snow on inflatable sleeping pads in mummy bags— if we got back to camp at night too late to pitch a tent. I once mentioned that I wanted to drive to Alaska to fish for a summer and the only question he ever asked me about it was, "When are we leaving?" Guys like that are hard to replace, which is why I had reservations last week when I decided to give this new guy a try. I knew he had some pretty big shoes to fill. A good partner has to strike the right balance and chemistry with your personality and mine is quirky, at best. It is also helpful if you both have the same political ideology; although that is not a complete non-starter, but beneficial; nonetheless, especially if there's considerable windshield time involved on a road trip. You see, successful fly-fishing is all about gaining an edge over the fish, and arriving at your destination with a dour disposition on the world in general, is no way to start the day. A good fishing partner must also possess a passion for the sport that is greater than or equal to your own, be able to endure harsh elements if necessary, and be willing go on a few wild goose chases on a moments notice, if some new intel suddenly pops up about an obscure, hot fishing destination. The last guy was like that—I don't ever recall an instance where he said he couldn't go for one reason or another, all I had to do was call him and tell him what time we were leaving, and he'd be ready with his wader bag and rod tube in hand. The new guy had been hinting around for weeks that he'd be up for the task, so I figured— hell, I'd give him a try.
Now, something you might consider, should you ever have to try this—is to pick a destination that is close to home for your first couple of outings, in case things go south and you have to call it an early day. There are all number of excuses out there for cutting a trip short ranging from the proverbial, "I think I might have left the coffee pot on at home," to a sudden, mysterious onset of food poisoning; albeit, some are more plausible than others. Anyway, the time finally came around for my days off and I gave the new guy his shot. The first day went pretty well and he hung right in there with me without a single complaint, even though we walked a lot and covered a lot of water. There didn't even seem to be the slightest twinge of jealously when I caught more fish than he did. Around 7 pm the fishing started picking up again and I was taking some good fish on terrestrials on our way back to the car and when I looked up he was nowhere to be found. I didn't want to quit just yet, so I called out his name a couple times without an answer. I finally figured he's probably had enough for the day so I reluctantly headed back to the parking lot; besides, I'd caught enough fish and it would be getting dark soon, so if we had to cut the day short by 30 to 45 minutes, I could live with that. When I got to the car he was waiting there for me, and although he seemed like he'd had a good time, he totally avoided my question about leaving a little early. Overall, the day had gone well enough and we decided to go out again the next morning. That trip didn't go so well. About an hour into my catching a number of good fish on dries, I turned around and he was gone. I searched the area and yelled out his name, but he was nowhere to be found. I wasn't happy—we were a long way from the car and I was going to have to leave rising fish to go find him. At the bottom of the hill I saw him sitting in the shade next to the car and my blood began to boil a bit. When I finally reached the car, I was out of breath, I tried to quell my anger and temper my questions, but it was hard, especially when he didn't even offer a reason for his early departure. No, instead he just sat there with his wet fur and wagged his tail like everything was just fine, ignoring everything I had to say about the whole affair. I took him home and kenneled him and went back out for a few hours, wondering when I'm going to give him his next try at proving himself, thinking all the while— that at seven months, he's still a pup and shows some true potential. Johnny Ringo, you're gonna have to step up your game, boy.
If you and your fishing partner are coming to the San Juan this week here's what you can expect: first of all, the water is being bumped up today (Sunday) to 550 cfs, due to the runoff in the Animas River tapering off. This is coming at a time when we were seeing some clearing conditions in the visibility and some stellar fishing over the past week. Unfortunate, but necessary—if you're looking for someone to blame, I guess you'll have to hate on the the razorback suckers and pike-minnows downstream that need the flow for their survival. My guesstimate is that the fishing will be a little tough for a couple of days, since there is a lot of rock-snot (didymo) that's gonna get churned up from the increase in flow. Prepare to check and clean your flies often in the short term. After a couple days, things will settle down and get back to normal, although I wouldn't expect to see us at 550 cfs for long, as we are probably looking at a few more increases over the next couple weeks as the Animas drops even further. My guess is that flows anywhere from 800 cfs and above will be the new normal for summer here this year, unless we get some early monsoon rains in late July or early August, or later in October when the irrigation needs decrease downstream—either of those events will trigger a drop in the flows. So, for the next several weeks look for periodic bumps in the flows until it levels out in the higher range. The typical sequence is a couple of tougher days on the rise until the clarity and the fish adjust, then life is good again. I'll try to keep you posted as best I can, but if the BOR notices are anything like the last one, they come with short notice.
Anyway, here what was happening last week—the water clarity improved considerably and the dry fly fishing with terrestrials began to turn on. There still weren't a lot of fish rising, because the hatches haven't been much to write home about, but you could pull fish up out of shallow water on some big bugs. I suspect that later in the week, if the water clears up again, it will be just as good or better. The nymphing here was good as well, with red and cream larva working well in the morning and emergers like crystal flash, foamwings, and ju-jus working well throughout the rest of the day. From Texas Hole and downstream it was all about rootbeers, chocolate foam wings, and RS2s. In a nutshell, Sunday and Monday will probably be just a little tougher than the rest of the week and the fishing should steadily improve until we see the next flow change. The Animas is dropping fast, so expect to see that next increase happen relatively soon—perhaps before this week is out or early next week, followed by a few more over late May and early June. Keep your powder dry and your flies clean. Think big red larva and even San Juan Worms on the days and immediately following the increases, then back to the normal stuff when the dust settles. Hope this helps. If you would like to book a guided trip or need more info, give us a call at 505-632-2194.