September 23, 2018
"If you're gonna tell a story, come at it with some attitude man."—Miles Davis. For those of you that read this column on a weekly basis, you probably noticed that I skipped a posting last Sunday. Now, when I first started out writing this thing years ago, my intention was to keep it current in order to give it relevance. Having to read fishing reports from other websites that were months in arrears, whenever I was planning a trip to some distant location, was the catalyst for this business in the first place; and overall, I think I've remained fairly true to my aspirations. That said, there occasionally comes a time when other needs beckon and I must answer the call, like my recent Last Hurrah of Summer Tour, where I drove over 500 miles and fished four different rivers in two days (although one of those probably doesn't count because it basically had no water) and arrived back home in time to get a few hours sleep, pick up the dog at the kennel the next day, and make it back to work on time. This was all necessary, due to the fact that we are approaching the busiest season of the year here on the San Juan where the window of opportunity for leaving town becomes much more difficult, not to mention the ever rapidly approaching onset of winter in Colorado— which is where I went. So let me reassure you, the timing of this was imperative for good reasons, including the restorative powers to one's mental faculties made possible from a good old fashioned road-trip and the ability to keep your fishing skills sharp by fishing something other than your home water from time to time. Although I attempt to avoid cliches like the plague, it was a "win-win" as they say in business world parlance, where both reader and writer benefit from the writer's fresh perspective on the subject at hand and his renewed, tenuous grip on sanity— something, which has always been in question from the get-go. In other words, getting out of town for a few days, fishing hard, then sitting around and staring into the flames of a campfire while having a few cocktails and listening to good music, can do you a world of good—something I would liken to a vision-quest, although, I am not exactly certain if I have ever truly been on to an official one. If you're a writer, you need some experiences under your belt to help you come at it with some attitude, man.
So, without sounding sounding like one of those new Wells Fargo, Facebook, or Uber apology ads trying to regain your trust, because I did something that I knew, or should have known, was wrong in the first place, here we go. This past Thursday we saw a bump of an additional 100 cfs in the flow here, which puts us in the 850 cfs range for now. This was due to dry conditions in the area that have the Animas River looking more like a creek than a river, and thus the need for more water from the Juan to maintain the required flows down to Lake Powell. With the weather forecast calling for more of the same for the next ten days or so, we're likely to see flows at this level for at least the coming week. Not to worry, the river is still crystal clear and it's fishing great. The weather, with highs in the mid 70's and bluebird skies, couldn't be better. There have been midge hatches in the upper river on a daily basis, with a few BWOs showing up on the lower on some days. I wouldn't expect to see a dramatic increase in the BWO hatches anytime soon with all the bright, clear skies we are expecting, but the nymphs are there in numbers and the fish are sure aware of that fact. With all this in mind, here's the deal: if you're fishing early in the day in the upper river, try some red and cream larva along with some pupa patterns like bling and mono midges. As the day progresses, stick with the pupas and add an emerger patterns like a crystal flash, ju-ju, or small (26) foam wing in black, olive, and/or gray. You will probably need to go a little lighter on your weight and move your indicator down toward your flies to get your offering higher in the water column as the fish start to become more active and rise up in the water column, as well. Anywhere from the Texas Hole and down river, think root beers, or small pheasant tails along with size 24 or 22 foam wings and grey or olive RS2s. If there are rising fish in the earlier hours, they are most likely eating single, adult midges and fore and afts or Morgan's midges in size 24 and 26 are the way to go. You'll need 7x for the tiny dries and 6x fluorocarbon for the nymphs. Later towards mid-day and early afternoon when there aren't as many rising fish, if you still want to fish dry flies, you can target fish in the shallows with PMXs, ants, and dead chickens, and still get a good number of takes, although you are going to have to move around and find targets in two feet of water or less, and just put your fly in front of as many fish as you can find in this type of water—it's like they say, "You hang around the barbershop long enough and sooner or later you're gonna get a haircut." It's a little more work, but my experience has been that the fish that do get to eat these bigger flies are going to be quality fish. So there you have it, in a nutshell. Great weather, great fishing. Expect some company on the water from now until the end of October—it's the "busy" season on the San Juan, but the beauty of this place is that there is a lot of access and all of it is fishing well right now; and besides, there are lots of fish and you don't need entire stretches of water all to yourself in order to catch fish here. Hope you can make it out. If you would like more info or need to book a guide, give us a call at 505-632-2194.