- Jay Walden
Late July 2018
2018 will likely go down as the year of the yo-yo for the San Juan River. By the time all is said and done we will likely have witnessed more flow changes on this river than I can recall in recent memory and it's all due to a very dry winter, followed by a dry spring and summer. With an already low level in Navajo Lake, water managers are doing a delicate dance to keep the combined flows of the Animas and San Juan Rivers from Farmington, NM down to Lake Powell, between 500 to 1,000 cfs which is required for the preservation of the endangered species of fish in those waters. Every time the Animas drops to lower levels, releases form the San Juan are raised to compensate for the deficit; likewise, every time the Animas drainage receives rain and its water level rises, we see a drop in the San Juan in an attempt to preserve what precious water is remaining in our lake. It's a week by week and day by day thing as of late, with water flow gauges and weather patterns all coming into play, thus the yo-yo pattern of nearly 1,200 cfs one week and 600 cfs the next, and then back up the scale. So far, it's made for some interesting fishing as anglers adjust and adapt to a river that can change it's shape and character in a day. That's okay, if it were easy, everyone would be doing it.
At present, were are at a 620 cfs flow on the San Juan; which, as a dry fly fisherman I find ideal. I won't bore you with the myriad of reasons why I find that to be so, just for the sake of expediency here, besides it just one man's opinion and you know what they say about opinions. Anyway, the river is at 620 cfs and the water is super clear, and the fishing is great, especially the dry fly fishing. Now, that's today I'm talking about. Tomorrow; well, things could possibly change a bit. Although I have not seen an email as of yet from the BOR, I would not be the least bit surprised if we see another slight increase in the flow here in the early part of this coming week, and maybe another before week's end. I'm basing that on the ten day extended weather forecast for the area that's showing things to likely be hot and dry—which, if that happens, will translate to a drop in the flow of the Animas. So, if we do see a bump, the first one will likely put us somewhere in the 700 to 750 range which won't really be much of a big deal where the fishing dynamic will be affected. Things will stay pretty much the way they are right now, or at least revert right back to great fishing in a day or two. With that said, the same flies you used last week will work just fine and you won't have to do much of an adjustment until we get into the 800 to 900 cfs range. So for now, it's red and cream larva in the earlier morning, and pupa and emergers throughout the rest of the afternoon for the upper river, and BWO and PMD nymphs in the lower sections. As for the dries, I've been sight fishing a lot of terrestrial patterns to fish in the skinny water or those holding higher in the water column as early as 9:00 am with pretty good success, then switching to midge dry patterns later in the afternoon when they start to key in on the midges. The "Dead Chicken" which is just a big #10 Griffith's Gnat has been my fly of choice for the afternoons and evenings. Another fly that I have had pretty good success with in the earlier part of the day has been the PMX, or Parachute Madam X. Now, there's a lot of debate about what this fly really imitates, some say it's a hopper representation, others say an adult caddis or an ant— it's kinda like Grandma's nightshirt— I guess it covers about everything. All I know is that it really works great sometimes when noting else does, and it's easy to see on the water because of the parachute. Whether the fish think it's a hopper, a caddis, or an ant, I could care less, as long as they're eating it. By the way, one other thing you might want to consider if you are a dry fly aficionado, is that there have been some BWOs and PMDs on the water in the lower river , especially in the afternoons, and Monday and Tuesday look to be just those kind of overcast days that the mayfly family loves so well. Well, break out the sunscreen and bring lots of water folks, it's gonna be a hot one here on the San Juan this week and the fishing should be hot, as well. Hope you can make it out this week. If you would like more info or need to book a guided trip, give us a call at 505-632-2194.