- Jay Walden
The last time we saw each other we were smashing beer cans against our foreheads at some fraternity party. It had been a while, I guess you could say. We had now reconnected through the magic of social media, which is about the only good purpose of a thing called Facebook, if you don't count posting pictures of big fish for bragging rights to boost your ego or watching rats carry around slices of pizza in New York subway tunnels. Our lives have evolved somewhat, he now has a family with five kids, owns an engineering firm that makes specialized helmets with tiny electrodes for lab rats, mice, and monkeys, teaches electrical and mechanical engineering at a prestigious east coast university, and flies all over the place as an expert witness in legal disputes between big tech companies, which he tells me pays quite well, but takes up a lot of his time. Me, I still drink beer; but I don't smash the cans on my forehead anymore, and I fish a lot, and I write about that— every now and again. Anyway, we reconnected here where I live, because I really can't think of a better place that I'd rather be, especially in the summertime, and if you're coming to see me you're going to have to go fly fishing because that's just the way we do it out here, even if you've never held a fly rod in your life before. It's sort of like boot-camp for dry fly fishing. So, that's what we did. Now, I'm about the world's worst teacher when it comes to showing people how to fly fish, which is why I don't guide— I can do, I just can't show you how to do—at least very well. I've been fortunate that the last three friends that came to visit me out here were all very intelligent people and they picked up on the process pretty quick, with a modest amount of instruction, but they mostly figured a lot of it out on their own, by watching me. Something else that they all had in common was that they all had distinguished, high stress careers, so just getting away from a constant barrage of e-mails and non-stop phone calls seemed to be enough of an elixir to keep 'em all happy, which made things easy enough for me—I just let the the river and the beautiful surroundings do the heavy lifting. So despite my lousy teaching, I had my friend into fish every day and by the time he left, he was tying on his own flies, spotting his own fish and hooking, fighting, and netting them all on his own. On the morning that he had to leave, he couldn't thank me enough for the visit and he told me that it had changed his life. He kept going on about the beauty of this place, the amazing fishing, the fact that all his stress had seemingly just melted away over the past five days. I watched as his rental car pulled away in the driveway and turned toward the airport in Albuquerque, wondering how long it might be before we would see each other again, wondering how his life had changed and realizing that mine had as well— a renewed appreciation of just how good I've got it to live in The Land of Enchantment, to be surrounded by beauty, and a stone's throw from the river I love.
If you're fortunate enough to make it out to the San Juan this week, here's what you can expect: clear, cold water that's flowing around 728 cfs. With the recent rains we have been seeing the flows here have been dialed back a bit, which I think is a good thing. If you ask ten people what their favorite flow on the San Juan is, you'll probably get about ten different answers, but I like the lower flows between 500 to 700 cfs because I think the river has more character and structure, it's easier to wade and spot fish, and in the summer it gives you a lot more skinny water that is essential for throwing terrestrials to fish that can get a better look at your bugs. To me, once this river gets around that 1,000 plus cfs level we saw a few weeks ago, all the water begins to look alike— like one flat, giant mass of liquid moving along at a fast clip that leaves me standing around staring at it oftentimes, like a mosquito at a nudist colony, wondering just where to start. Anyway, I just think the river is easier to fish when it's at these lower levels and I think the bug activity is better then too, although I don't really have any hard scientific data to back that up, just my own observation. As far as fly choices go, as they say in Casablanca, "round up the usual suspects." Usual, as in small, dark midge patterns—24 and 26 pupa and emerger patterns throughout the larger part of the day, larva and pupa patterns in the morning. 6x for the nymphs and fluorocarbon helps. For dries in the upper river, you can't beat fore and afts and Morgan's midges when there are rising fish and those flies are best fished on 7x. If you don't like fishing the tiny stuff you can still throw some size 10 Dead Chickens and catch some of these rising fish. When the fish aren't rising to midges, ants and hoppers will pull some fish up, although these work better in shallower water or on fish holding higher in the water column— 5x will work, but 6x is better. Downriver, you'll need some baetis patterns if you are nymphing, as in, rootbeers, RS2s, and foamwings. All of the dries for the upper river will work on fish in the lower river, but with the cloud cover we're likely to see in the afternoons this week, I'd also carry along some BWO and PMD dry imitations if you plan on fishing in that neck of the woods. FYI, we have been seeing some afternoon thunderstorms which haven't brought us a lot of rain, but you can expect the wind to get up around 3:00 pm or 4:00 which can spoil your afternoon, so if you want to get in a full day on the water it might be a good idea to start a little earlier than the usual banker's hours most people keep on the Juan. Overall, the Juan's fishing good right now and this week should be better than the last, due to lower water. With the forecast of rain in the near future, I would expect to see these water levels or possibly even levels in the 600 to 650 range throughout the biggest part of this week—depending on how much rain the area receives on Monday and Tuesday. After that it all depends if we get precipitation in the weeks to follow. If you would like to book a guided trip or need more info, give us a call at 505-632-2194.