January 27, 2019
The last of the tough guys... We were in deer camp, I must have been in my mid-20s because I was still sleeping out back in "Motel 6," with the younger guys. "Motel 6," was basically a shed we had built behind the single wide trailer where Ron J. and Norman, who we called "Bubby,"stayed. Motel 6 was comfortable enough and could sleep about six of of us— it was definitely a no frills kinda place with wood floors and walls, and bunk beds built from old 2x4s. There was an electric space heater in there that kept the place warm enough from freezing you to death, provided you didn't get out of your sleeping bag at night. The top bunks were always the warmest because all the heat rose toward the ceiling, so there was always a constant back and forth battle over the setting on the heater, based on where you slept. Anyway, we were all fixing supper one evening when Bubby announced he was going to skip the meal in order to go into town for some entertainment. Now, town was about 40 miles away on winding Virginia two-lane black top, through the mountains. There wasn't really too much there, but there was a couple of beer joints, and Norman, "Bubby," liked to drink now and then. He left and we all ate and went to bed early, knowing that we had to get up before daylight to hunt. I've always had trouble sleeping; still do, so late that night I woke up on my top bunk—it was pretty hot up there and I couldn't get back to sleep, and I went outside for some fresh air. Ron J. was a light sleeper too, he was up as well, and told me to come on into the trailer. We sat and talked for a while, probably about the next day's hunt, I really can't remember. We hadn't been there long when we saw Bubby's headlights coming up the road and heard his truck pull into the driveway. We heard his door slam shut, and then—nothing. After about five or ten minutes, Ron asked, "What the hell happened to Bubby, " and he went over and opened the front door—when he did— Bubby, fell face first into the living room and passed out cold. Ron and I carried him to the back bedroom and put him to bed with all his clothes still on. As we were leaving the room, Bubby, came to. He looked at me and he looked at Ron, and then he pointed out the window. "You see that mountain out there? Tomorrow when you wake up and look up at that mountain, just as the sun's coming up, you're gonna see me at the top with my gun strapped across my back, and you're gonna say, there goes one tough S.O.B." If my memory is correct, I think he was still in bed when we came back for lunch, at noon, the next day.
I've had my share of cold days, fishing. Just this past Tuesday, the morning started out sunny, there was no wind, and bundled up, I felt pretty comfortable. Around noon, the clouds rolled in and the sun disappeared. The wind came up, and it got cold. I was stripping streamers and I hate wearing gloves when I fish, so it didn't take long until my hands felt like ice. I'd jam them into my jacket pockets occasionally and them blow on them which brought a little relief, but it was short lived. I was catching fish, but I thought about going back home where it was warm. I began to wonder if I was growing soft in my old age—twenty years ago, the thought would have never entered my mind. I stuck it out and fished almost till dark, even when the catching part really died off during the last two hours. Maybe I needed to prove something to myself—had to be, I was the only one on the river. Maybe I wanted to be one of the last of the tough guys. Fishing alone like that, you think of a lot of things. Coming to the realization after all these years that, "This is just what we do until summer gets here," should hold no shame for anyone—we're not quite right to begin with and fishing when it's freezing outside isn't really that big of a stretch, if you're already nuts. Maybe it'll warm up around here in the next couple of weeks, I hope so—being a tough guy is really hard work.
Not much has changed as far as conditions go on the San Juan, the flow here is at 280 cfs and the visibility is still around a foot to eighteen inches, depending on who you talk to. The fishing has been pretty good. I've been fishing small, weighted leeches (size 12) in olive and white and catching enough fish to keep me happy. I fish them on a dead swing with a slow retrieve and add a little action to the white one, to mimic a bait fish, and it seems to work well enough. I'm gonna throw in some bigger stuff on a sink tip line this week and work some different water—deeper holes and drop offs, and some faster water, just to mix up my repertoire a bit. Hopefully, I'll have some good reports on that next week, you just never know. Outside of that, the nymphing game has been producing fish, as well. Teaming up a standard San Juan midge or baetis pattern beneath a bigger, brighter attractor pattern like a red larva, egg, o.j., or a desert storm, seems to still get the job done. I don't see either of these methods changing anytime soon, until the water clarity improves, which is anybody's guess as far as when that will happen. According to the weatherman, it's going to stay cold here for a while longer, although there are a few days where we will break the 40 degree mark. If you are planning a trip and can be selective, you might want to plan it around the weather. My best fishing has been from around 10 till about 3, which is during the warmest part of the day when the bugs and the fish seem to be most active. Hope you can make it out to see us. If you would like more information or need to book a guided trip, give us a call at 505-632-2194.