- Jay Walden
September 30, 2018
Livin' out here, you try to always keep two of everything you need to stay alive, but occasionally you're gonna have to make that dreaded trip into town because you've used up one of those essentials— and if your neighbor doesn't have one, you've lost your backup. It's a drive that no one wants to make, and if you've ever driven NM 173 between Navajo Dam and Aztec, then you know exactly what I'm talking about. To begin with, it's an hour round trip and that doesn't even take into account the time for gettin' what it is you needed to get in the the first place; so if you use up one of them things you gotta have to survive— you can just pretty much say that your whole day's shot. Secondly, you're traveling the most treacherous 18 miles of what passes for a highway, in the lower 48. I mean, those guys from Ice Road Truckers refuse to drive it and it has been rumored that famed explorer Ernest Shackleton decided to cross Antarctica, making an ocean voyage of 720 nautical miles in open life boats, rather than attempting the hellish 173. I don't know if that's true, but I think I heard that somewhere. Anyway, now I've been told that this highway was originally built by volunteers, some who were military vets from the town of Aztec. Now while their community efforts are commendable, and in fact won their fair city an All American City Award from the National Municipal League, I gotta think some of them were guys that had a lot of experience burying land mines, back in the war, and just couldn't break their old work habits. Nothing strikes more terror in the hearts of grown men than realizing that the trap on your sink is leaking and you don't have a replacement, knowing for at least the next hour, you are about to be transformed into a bobble-head version of yourself. You could blind me and take me to any state in the Four Corners and I could immediately tell you the exact moment when we have crossed back into the great Land of Enchantment. That said, you'd think that being three hours from the nearest major airport or interstate highway then having to traverse this dreaded thoroughfare, would act as a deterrent to would-be visitors, but that just ain't so. In fact, over the last couple of weeks and probably continuing through the whole month of October, that stretch of road has been, and will be, a non-stop myriad of campers, RVs, and pickups pulling drift boats full of brave souls and just about anyone that has ever held a fly rod in their hand, throwing caution to the wind, risking life and limb, and gathering all the gumption necessary to reach what lies at the end of the line—the San Juan River. Those that survive, will tell you— it was worth it.
So, if you're coming, don't go patting yourself on the back just yet, thinking that you're the only one brilliant enough out there to come up with fishing the Juan, with it's great weather and wonderful fishing, in October. You're gonna have company and part of the reason for that is that we have what a lot of other places don't have right now, and that is water—at least, for this year, anyway. At present, the flow here is 743 cfs, down about 100 cfs from a few days ago, just because the BOR thinks it might rain some this week, and they are doing everything they can to try and keep some reserve in the reservoir. The clarity, is that gin clear quality you have come to expect from the San Juan in the fall and the fishing has been, and will continue to be outstanding, until the lake turns over, later this winter. According to weather reports, we have a chance of much needed showers on a few days over the next ten day period and the daytime highs are going to drop a bit into the 60 degree range. I'm thinking that sounds like BWO weather to me. As far as what's been happening in recent days—midge hatches starting in the afternoon around 1:00 and picking up around 2:00 pm, enough that you are likely to see clusters on the water, and some rising fish taking full advantage of the fact. I'm starting out with fore and afts in size 24s before the hatch gets in full swing, then going to an all black cluster pattern in size 22 when the clusters start to form and taking some good fish, 7x tippet is a good decision. For nymphing earlier in the day, red and cream larva and black pupa patterns are working well, then adding in a small midge emerger like a ju-ju or crystal flash in 24 or 26 once the fish move up and start working the upper water column, 6x fluorocarbon helps with the clear water conditions and fish that are seeing a lot of flies lately. Downstream, the baetis nymphs are becoming very active and rootbeers, fluff baetis, RS2s, and foamwing patterns are working well. I expect to see an increase of adult BWOs on the water over the coming days, with the change in the weather, so Comparaduns in size 24 and 22, and Parachute Adams' should be in your box during this, and coming, weeks. Despite the crowd, there's still plenty of water to fish without feeling like you've gone to a goat roping next to the bearded lady exhibit, as long as you're willing to walk a little farther from the parking lot than most folks care to venture. Due to the numerous access points and wade ability of this river, it can handle a lot of anglers; which is a good thing, because that's what we're looking at for at least the next month. Hope you can make it out. If you would like to book a guide trip or need more info, give us a call at 505-632-2194.