- Jay Walden
November 4, 2018
First of all, I'm not that kind of guy—the kid of guy that goes out there and then comes home from the river and spends and hour-and-a-half writing in great detail in his fishing diary, the minutiae of his fishing experience—just as I am not that guy that feels compelled to document every waking moment of my life, including what I am now eating, on Instagram, Snapchat, or Facebook, for that matter. Just know, I'm not that that kinda guy—the kind that records such mundane trivialities as water temperature, fly selection, lunar phases, or other particulars of that ilk. Perhaps I should be, given the diminishing capacity of my memory with age—maybe that wouldn't be such a bad use of my time, noting that these precious moments are now spent on other important tasks such as: preparation of food and drink, and rewarding the dog with treats for being such a good boy while I was away fishing—although, not necessarily in that order. The closest I ever came was a year ago when I scribbled some notes on the calendar that's attached to my fridge by a magnet, things like, "April 15th, Arkansas River w/George, caddis hatch, low snow year, good fishing," which wasn't exactly an Izaak Walton treatise on fly fishing, but sufficed to capture the essence of the trip. Anyway, when my new calendar arrived at the first of the year, I mistakenly threw the old one away with all the notes, so the whole thing was an exercise in futility and only further reinforced my theory that my time would be better spent, sticking with cocktail preparations. "Stick to what you're good at," they say. But certainly there are events in the annals of piscatorial pursuits that bear recording, if for the sake of posterity, alone, right here on the Ol' San Juan and our recent bug hatches, and great fishing, fall right into that category. We're talking BWO hatches, the likes of which you don't come by every day and the likes that I haven't seen for some years now, friends and neighbors—the likes of which bear writing down on your calendar. And while we're at it, let's not overlook the lowly and often underappreciated midge, those little microscopic insects that make up for in number what they don't do in size and provide a significant and important food source for our fish. Good on you, midges! Good on you. Keep up the good work—go forth and form into clumps the size of a number 10 dry fly, and multiply. Yes, it's really been that good lately.
So, here we find ourselves in early November as the leaves begin to lose their fall brilliance and day by day are carried away by a colder wind, exposing gnarled, dull gray branches that will become our backdrop on the river for the next five months. The sun, now at a lower angle offers less light and heat, and my eyes are occasionally cast heavenward, looking, praying, for that temporary break in the cloud cover of a cold autumn sky for a respite for my benumbed, wadered feet. But there's fish out there to be caught, rising fish, and as a dry fly fisherman, I cannot shirk my duty. So fish I will, weather be damned. Okay, here's what's happening this week—at present, the flow is 320 cfs, having dropped from 400 cfs on November 1st. Due to the need of less water downstream, now that the irrigation season has ended, I think we can expect flows in this range and possibly a little lower for the rest of the year, until spring. First of all, don't panic—the fishing is gonna stay good right up until the lake turns over, which typically happens in late December or early January. Now there may be a little more difficulty for boaters having to navigate around wade-fishermen at this level, but there's still plenty of water for everyone out there and float trips are still doable, even at this level, and lower. The hatches, which have been nothing short of spectacular on most days, should continue without interruption. As for fly choices, small, dark midge patterns in the upper river and a special emphasis on baetis nymphs like RS2s, fluff baetis, and rootbeers in the lower sections. If you are a dry fly fisherman, take heart, there are lots of rising fish out there. Morgan's midges in the early hours and fore and afts in size 24 as the day goes on in the upper stretches where the BWOs are less prevalent. I have also been successful with size 10 dead chickens in the afternoon right up until dark—which now, unfortunately, will come at 6:00 rather than 7:00 pm due to the time change, which means I have to start getting up and on the water a bit earlier. Downriver, expect to see BWO adult activity as early as 11:00 am (which used to be noon.) The first of these bugs to come off is the larger variety—a size 22 olive bodied Comparadun, or a Parachute Adams is a good match. This hatch can sometimes go on for two to three hours, and is occasionally followed by a smaller bodied baetis that looks to be around a size 24 or even 26, so you can pick up some extra fish on the fringe if you are observant to the switch of the bugs. 6x for the nymphs, 7x for the dries, with the exception of the dead chicken where you can get away with 6x, which is also a good idea anyway because your tippet won't twist up as bad. As for the weather, expect some cooler temperatures with highs in the mid-50s inn the earlier part of the week and low 50s to high 40s toward the weekend. We are also likely to see some wind in the afternoons, especially in the earlier part of the week, so plan on getting on the water a little earlier if you want to make a day of it. Overall, it's a good time to be on the San Juan right now and although you may have a little company on the water, the crowds we saw in October are beginning to dwindle with each falling leaf. Hope you can make it out this week. If you would like to book a guided trip or need more information, give us a call at 505-632-2194.