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  • Jay Walden

December 2, 2018

"Free Beer tomorrow...." That used to be the sign on the side of the old Coral Island Bar out on Stock Island, Florida that I would see every time I drove into Key West, back in the 80's. Not far from there you could still see the silver screen of the Islander Drive-In Theater made famous by the Jimmy Buffett song, Grapefruit, Juicy Fruit about all his improprieties with unwitting, young tourist girls, fresh off the Conch Tourist Train and a drink called "Purple Passion," which, of course, is a whole other story. Anyway, I started thinking about that promise just the other night, and how, as fly fisherman, we tend to keep the faith no matter how bad the odds seemed stacked against us. That hope, that faith, that somehow if we just keep after it, if we put in our time on the water; where, apparently, hope always springs eternal, we'll receive out just rewards—Free Beer tomorrow.... It's a good thing, that hope. It keeps us going in all kind of weather, it drives us at times when reality defies good reason, it keeps us coming back another day and pushes us beyond our normal boundaries, and perhaps, explains how phrases like, "a fishing expedition," have entered into our modern day lexicon. Tough day? Tomorrow will be better. It's a tale we tell ourselves, every time we go out, no matter the evidence to the contrary. To think otherwise, only leads to golf, or worse, tennis. It is the antithesis of the trail of sorrow that leads to the last car left in the parking lot and it only has to happen once, in order for us to keep the faith, and we are forever hooked on its premise— just as the Coral Islander Bar made good on its promise on October 4th, 2002 when it opened up its doors for the last time and gave away all the beer in its coolers to everyone who showed up.

So now's the time when you gotta reach down deep and call on that faith. A day like today when there is four inches of fresh snow outside, when the high for the day is supposed to hover somewhere around a balmy 33 degrees. A day where the mere thought of stepping outside on the porch to retrieve another log for the fire, fills even the hardiest of us with dread. Will you whine when there is even no one else to hear you, or will you "just shut up and fish?" Faith, brothers and sisters, faith—fish on, I say. So here's the deal, Mother Nature doesn't look like she's gonna let up with this cold weather for the foreseeable future. These trout here don't care, to them it's always 40 degrees. The way I see it, is I am left with no choice, knowing that choosing not to fish, puts my already precarious psyche at risk of plummeting off into the abyss. I'll have to do it to retain what little bit of sanity I am left with. There you have it. If nothing else, it will help to ward off what the writer Jim Harrison refers to as "the writer's black lung disease— drinking." Here's what you can expect on the San Juan for the short term: flows of 289 cfs with relatively clear water and visibility of three to four feet, a good number of cloudy, overcast days coming up that should bode well for hatches, especially of the baetis variety in the lower river. As a bonus, the winds should be light and variable throughout the remainder of the week, which is great news to you dry fly aficionados. If you're nymphing, keep 'em small and dark, and in the midge variety, anywhere above the Texas Hole. Red and cream larva, bling midges, crystal flash and ju-jus should be your go to stuff. Anywhere in the lower river, it's baetis patterns that are gonna rule—rootbeers, small (22 &24) pheasant tails, fluff baetis, and RS2s. The water is still clear enough that you should use 6x for your tippet, fluorocarbon would probably be a good idea, as well. It's 7x for the small dries, and I have been successful with a grey midge adult in size 26 or a fore and aft in size 24 for the upper river. Size 22 and 24 olive bodied comparaduns and parachute Adams' have been my choices when there are adult BWOs on the water, and it really helps to get a good look at what's coming off moment to moment to match the size, because it varies at times. Streamers in the current and tail-outs will serve you well, if that's your bag. I've been swinging some heavily weighted big stuff in olive, grey and brown, and even white and picking up some good fish. There is an added bonus to this type of fishing in that you can tie on some 3x and forget about it and not have to fumble with tiny flies and split shot when your hands don't work so well in the cold. The fishing remains good here on the Juan, as I speak, and you won't see the crowds you saw back in October and November. Hope you can make it out for some wintertime fun. If you would like more information or would like to book a guide, give us a call at 505-632-2194. Keep the faith.

Jay's Fishing Reports

Books by
Jay Walden
Can be purchased on Amazon or in our fly shop.

Jay's Fishing Report  

To our faithful fishing report readers, 

Here's a way to get your rainbow trout fix 'til you are able to hit the San Juan again-- available online only

Check each style out--there are a variety of colors, fabrics & sizes to enjoy.

Special thanks to designer & artist, Matt Zudweg 

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As a small aside and attempt at shameless self-promotion, there was an article featured  on Flyfisherman Magazine's website written by yours truly about the 60th anniversary of Abe's Fly Shop that can be accessed through the following link: Abe's Anniversary. Hope you can make it out this week. If you would like more information or would like to book a guided trip, give us a call at 505-632-2194. 

Abe's Fly Shop Turns 60 -

Watercolor by Tim Oliver                                          Photos Courtesy of Abe Chavez


Jay's Past Reports:  

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