Hot and dry, and continued hot and dry. It's been quite a summer here and only a few days ago as I drove through parts of Southern Colorado and Northern New Mexico, I couldn't help noticing as I crossed bridges that spanned some of the creeks and rivers I normally fish during this time of year, the trickles beneath, resembled roadside drainage ditches rather than the tumbling, clear trout streams I knew in times past. The Animas, now brown with residue of ash and mud from the 416 Fire and suffering from a recent mass fish kill as a result, was particularly difficult to look at. And while I count my blessings that the San Juan still runs strong, clear, and cold only a stone's throw from my front door, it's hard to regard these other bodies of water and not feel saddened and worried for their piscatorial inhabitants. It is an embarrassment of riches to have what we still have here, in a sense, especially when you care about trout no matter where they are, as I do. In the meantime, I just go about my business like most everyone else and fish these waters next to my home, but in the back of my mind I am worried and wondering about the monsoons that never arrived this year and uneasy with thoughts of what impact another poor snowpack may have on our reservoir that gives up more and more water than it is replenished with each day. There's not a lot you can do about the Mother Nature side of the equation, but I'm hoping that the powers that control the flows on the San Juan are busy working on their long game.
At present the flows here are right around the 900 cfs level and the visibility is very clear. Most likely we will see the flows remain in this range throughout the larger part of the week, with a slight chance of an increase later toward the weekend or early next week, unless the area gets any rain, which doesn't look very likely. The fishing has been good, especially for this time of year, when it normally tends to get a little tougher after a lot of these trout have seen numerous fishermen and a myriad of fly offerings under bright sun and clear water conditions. I gotta believe that these higher flows that we are experiencing in late summer tend to help by spreading both fish and fishermen out a little bit and you're not seeing the fish get corralled up in shallow runs and running a gauntlet of fly rigs. Whatever the case, I'm finding the fish to be plentiful, in great shape, and pretty willing to take the fly. That said, the fishing dynamic from weeks past really hasn't changed that much and if the mechanics portion of this report sounds pretty much like the one you read last week, that's because things are pretty much the same here and the same rules and techniques still apply. Groundhog Day, if you will. Typically, the sun comes up bright to a cloudless sky each morning, it starts to get hot by about 10:00 am, gets hotter as the day goes on until about 4:00 pm when the clouds start to build and the wind starts to blow, looks like it's going to rain, then doesn't, and the wind tends to swirl around from all directions until about an hour before dark, then we all go to bed and wake up to a repeat of the day before, which isn't really all that bad, given the alternative. As far as flies and techniques go, it's midges, midges, and more midges in the upper portion of the river. Larva and pupa patterns in the earlier part of the day and emerger patterns along with some dries in the afternoons—smaller (24s and 26s) in dark colors are best for the pupa, emerger and dry patterns—6x fluorocarbon for the nymphing business, 7x mono for the tiny dries. Anywhere down river, you'll want to have some baetis patterns, like ju-jus, foamwings, CDC RS2s (especially in grey and olive) along with some rootbeers or small pheasant tails. There has been a smattering of adult BWOs and PMDs on some days in the lower river, but I haven't seen anything yet that resembles a big hatch that has a lot of fish up for any extended period of time. I'm still bringing up a good number of fish on ants and PMXs during the earlier part of the day, by sight fishing to specific fish in shallow water, but this requires quite a bit of walking and putting your fly in front of a lot of fish. If you like fishing the big stuff, you can extend your fishing day by fishing to rising fish in the evening with size 10 dead chickens, when the fish are up in the water column feeding on midges—providing the afternoon winds aren't too bad. Overall, things are very good here on the San Juan and each day with lots of clear, cold water are considered blessings to all us fishermen, so let's all be thankful for what we have and keep our fingers crossed for lots of snow this winter. If you would like more information or would like to book a guided trip, give us a call at 505-632-2194.