- Jay Walden
June 10, 2018
Fishing and drinking—while I am a proponent of both, I am also a staunch supporter that the two should be kept mutually exclusive. Now follow me closely here, lest you construe my intentions all wrong. First of all, just know, I'm no Carry Nation— if fact, with my Scotch-Irish heritage, I like a little of the juice myself, although the MacGregor clan blood that flows through my veins, prefers it when someone else is buying. And mine is no discriminating palate, drawing the line only on that scourge of the beer world—light beer—that hideous, faux, wannabe that has somehow slithered its way into the realm of carbonated alcoholic beverages and has left the Mesopotamian goddess Ninkasi, spinning in her grave, ever since. Thank very little, Joseph L. Owades, PhD. Anyway, as I was saying, when it comes to fishing and drinking, you should pick a side and either do one or the other, as the two do not mix. At least, if you're serious about your fishing—which I am. The way I see it is that fly fishing is difficult enough on its own—throw in a few barley pops at lunch time and those double surgeons and blood-knots become more like trying to perform Origami wearing a pair of mittens. And I'm not even gonna mention how drinking during the day just makes me sleepy and lazy, and there's nothing worse than waking up streamside as the sun is going down, realizing you just slept through an epic baetis hatch. So I just don't do it—that drink and fish thing—not to say I haven't tried it, I have, but my experience with it only resulted in a web of tangled leader and tippet that would have put a black widow to shame. The only exception I will abide from my strict adherence to the rule is an occasional sip of strong spirits from a flask, with the caveat that the ambient air temperature outside must be at least below freezing and I can no longer feel my feet—even then, it must be only a sip or two, spaced apart by several hours. I feel this is a reasonable enough exclusion, as the intention is for medicinal purposes only. So if you're one of those load-up-an-eighteen-pack-in-the-boat-cooler old boys, to head down river with your buddy, I gotta call you out. You're not really going fishing- you're just out taking a boat ride and catching a buzz, under the guise of fishing. Perhaps the late Jim Harrison, no teetotaler himself, said it best, "Fishing requires a magnum level of attention that is curiously restorative rather than exhaustive." Jim was know to take a bottle or two of Cotes du Rhone from time to time in the drift boat, but even being the drinker that he was, he regulated the uncorking until the last half- hour of the float. If Harrison could abstain long enough to get in a good day on the water, well, that's good enough of an example for me.
So, what about the San Juan? Well, here's the deal: a 650 cfs flow that's likely to maintain at that level, at least for the very near future. As I write this, the Animas river is dropping and run-off is over there. As the flow continues to drop in the Animas, expect to see some incremental bumps in the flow here on the Juan. Incremental, meaning they'll probably come in small doses of 100 cfs, or so, at a time, and shouldn't affect the quality of fishing here at all. Right now, the river is fishing great. The water has cleared up dramatically, allowing for some great sight fishing, or as I like to call it, "fishing where the fish are." The midge hatches have returned and while they are not extremely heavy, there are lots of fish feeding higher in the water column throughout the greater part of the day—which is ideal for emerger patterns like Crystal Flash and Ju-Jus, and Foamwings— Fore and Afts, and small Griffith's Gnats when you start to see noses. If you like fishing dries, don't overlook ants, beetles, and hoppers. Earlier in the day when the fish seem to be hugging the bottom, pupa and larva patterns are the way to go. 6x for the nymphs, 7x for the tiny dries, and I've been getting away with 5X on the bigger terrestrials. If your ants orbeetles are in the 14 to 16 range or smaller, go with a 6x tippet. If you plan to fish the lower Quality Water Section, you'll want some baetis imitations like RS2s, Rootbeers, Fluff Baetis, and Chocolate Foamwings. This is going to be a good week to be on the San Juan. Pack some sunscreen and lots of water, its gonna be hot and dry for a while, or as a friend of mine told me the other day, "The only way you know you need to replace your wiper blades in New Mexico from April until September, is when they no longer hold your fly rod on the windshield." Hope you can make it out to see us soon. If you would like to book a guided trip or need more information, give us a call at 505-632-2194.