Late May 2018
Change is one thing, acceptance another. After numerous flow changes here over the past few weeks, I decided to try something a little different and take this show onto the road. While the fluctuation of water levels weren't as disconcerting as I had anticipated, they nonetheless, played a minor role in my decision making—that, and the upcoming Memorial Day weekend that marks the real beginning of the season here that makes it more difficult to leave town and tends to crowd the rivers where I was heading. In other words, "I had to get out of town, while the gettin' was still good." While the fishing and the weather could have been a little more cooperative (I actually got snowed on, on the second day) it did me a world of good to get away, and I am happy to report that I have arrived back at my home waters with a different attitude and I am as mentally prepared to embrace change, as a guy who detests change can be. Perhaps that Bacchanalian exhibition I performed back at camp on the first night that would have made the Banquet of Chestnuts pale by comparison, had an upside of restorative powers that I had not anticipated. Anyway, despite the fact that I woke up the next morning wondering if the wages of sin had somehow adjusted for inflation during the course of the night, the chemistry of my grey matter had been decidedly altered, somehow for the good. Maybe it was brought on by the fact you're just glad to find yourself still alive the next morning, or at least, wondering why you don't feel as bad as you thought you were going to when you finally found your way to the sleeping bag, the night before—sort of like surviving a bad car crash and discovering you now have a new lease on life. Maybe next time I will take along a friend for proper; and much needed, adult observation and supervision, although it will have to be someone whose sensibilities are not so easily shocked.
Speaking of change, today we saw another increase in the flow here from 550 to 650 cfs, and as the Animas River continues to drop—and it will, since runoff has peaked and there is very little snow in the high country—we're likely to see more increases in the San Juan in the following weeks to come. Depending on how low the Animas actually bottoms out at, we could likely see flows in the 800 to 1,000 cfs range on the San Juan this summer. That's not really such a bad thing, as this river still fishes well at those levels, it's just that it's not what we're accustomed to seeing on normal snowpack years. The upside will be that we will still be able to wade and fish the river for an additional 45 days, when normally it's flowing at 5,000 cfs. The impact of lowering the lake levels and then hoping for a good snowpack this winter will be dealt with later, but then again, government agencies seem to have the monopoly on kicking the can down the road and crossing their fingers, hoping everything's going to work out fine in the end—so not to worry. So this recent flow change isn't really going to change the fishing dynamic that much. A 100 cfs change when the flow is already at 550 cfs is far less dramatic and noticeable than adding 100 cfs to a 350 cfs flow. You'll still be able to wade pretty much anywhere you want to and there will still be fish in the same old places they were this past week. And they'll still be eating the same bugs. Once we get into the 800 cfs and above range, the river does take on a bit of a different look and fish begin to relocate to different, new runs, but we'll deal with that, if, and when, it happens. Right now, small midge patterns still rule the day in the upper river. Pupa and larva patterns in the early morning and pupa and emerger patterns from mid-morning until late afternoon—small meaning, size 24 and 26, and even smaller if you like, for best results. For the lower river, baetis nymphs like rootbeers, foamwings, and RS2s are still working well. In the latter part of this week we were seeing some fish rising to midges, pretty much river wide, something we haven't seen in a while, so I'm hoping this is a sign of good things to come. This activity also seems to be starting earlier in the day, so if you're a dry fly fisherman, it may pay to get out there a little earlier than your usual 10 or 11:00 am start time, especially since there is less wind to contend with in the earlier hours. Also, if you are a dry fly fisherman, don't overlook terrestrial patterns right now as we are just coming into our ant, beetle, and hopper season and this should only improve as we move into summer. Lastly, the river is not super clear as far as visibility goes, but I would put it at around two to two-and-a-half feet of visibility, which is good enough for sight fishing in most places. Overall, the situation for this river will remain a bit dynamic for the near future as our flows here adjust to the drops in the Amimas, so be prepared to "go with the flow," as they say. And yes, you'll still be able to wade to plenty of places and catch plenty of fish even if the flow eventually goes to 1,000 cfs. As a side note, there will be a rather large bump in the flow on June 6th, to help flush out some silt left behind from the stream improvement project at Simon Canyon. The water will begin going up on the evening of the 5th, once it reaches 2,000 cfs on the 6th it will maintain that flow for two hours and then begin to ramp back down until it reaches its previous level and all will be back to normal on the 7th. The day of the 6th will probably not be a good day to fish here, but any other time will be fine. Hope you can make it out to the Juan this week. If you would like to book a guide or need more info, give us a call at 505-632-2194.