- Jay Walden
St. Patrick's Day
Big Two-Hearted River. It's the easiest thing in the world to take nature for granted—the sun will rise in the east and set in the west tomorrow, spring will be followed by summer, flowers will bloom and then fade with fall. We assume all of this because we have known or observed it to be that way in the past. It's a natural way of thinking that allows our brain not to have to learn the same things over and over again, which is helpful in many instances, but can be disappointing, or even harmful, if we apply the same postulate to everything in our lives. We expect the same results based on our past experiences and sometimes it spoils us, these expectations, all of which, can lead to added displeasure when we suddenly discover that sometimes there are certain exceptions to our rules—a sudden dose of reality, if you will. Being a fly fisherman and living next to one of the greatest trout streams in all the world, I'll admit, I'm a bit spoiled. I've grown to have high expectations of my river here, because of my experiences in the past, which is a fool's errand, when you fail to factor in the whims of Mother Nature. But this great river is not like an Oreo where everything is always in black and white, no, this great river has two hearts—the one I so candidly assign the most generous, altruistic attributes of plentiful fish and wonderful conditions in which to pursue them—a loving, giving, nurturing river , and then there's another one that is as dark and cold as your mother-in-law's heart. Thankfully, the latter one is the anomaly—it's there, and it can occasionally manifest itself, but it doesn't happen that often. Unfortunately, now is one of those times. This past week, due to an extreme amount of rain combined with low elevation snow -melt there was a tremendous amount of cold, muddy water that poured into Navajo Lake from the streams that feed it from Colorado. The result was, this colder, denser water and all the particulates that it carried with it, sank toward the bottom level of the lake and following the old, natural stream bed of the river that existed long before the lake was built by man, found it's way into the into our our once sparkling, clear trout stream and turned our river into something that more resembles chocolate milk than water. It's a rare thing, but it happens. Unfortunate, but them's the facts, dude. For me, this couldn't have happened at a worse time. After enduring one of the longest, cold, snowy winters we have experienced in quite some time, I was ready to shake off a bad case of the "shack-nasties" and take advantage of a break in the weather that has been a long- time-a-comin'
So, you say, what does all this mean, and more importantly, how does this affect the fishing? Well, about how you would expect— it makes it tough—not like everyday tough, but more like Chuck Norris or Charles Bronson kind of tough. Think your favorite freestone trout stream during the height of run-off, tough. If you are already here or if you are coming anyway, regardless of the conditions, you, no doubt, want some advice on what to do to to make the best of it. I'll get into that in just a minute, although I'm at a bit of a loss on that one, but I'll offer all I can to the best of my ability. Right now, I want to try to answer the other question that everyone is asking—when is it going to get better? Truth is, honestly I don't know when, although I do know that it eventually will. I'm just thankful it's not permanent. My best guess is that it probably won't improve much in the next couple of weeks. There's still a decent amount of low elevation snow up in Colorado and we are expecting more rain later this week which means we are likely to see more dirty run-off coming into the lake. I know that's a real bummer and I don't like hearing that anymore than you do, but I think it's likely to happen. I think the only thing we can hope for in the near term is perhaps a lessening of the severity of the muck, once the release gate on the dam is switched back over to the power plant side from the spillway side where it is now being released from, and now drawing from deeper in the lake where there is more turbidity in the water. That probably won't happen until early April. The good news is that's just a few weeks away, provided they finish the repairs on the power plant on time. I think—think, being the key word here, it will help. How much, I scientifically can't say with any degree of certainty, but perhaps enough to at least get back to the similar conditions we had before this all happened. It's going to be a wait and see game, anyway you look at it. Now, what to do if you're already here—not to sound like Chicken Little, but there's not a lot that I know of that you can do, rather than to try dead drifting some bunny leeches with some big bright egg patterns, red larva, firecrackers, princess nymphs, big, bright, shiny stuff as trailers. I like white leeches for this because I think they are easier to see when the water is murky. That, and possibly try tossing and stripping some big, nasty streamers. In my opinion it's gonna be tough sledding for awhile until the clarity changes. It also doesn't help that the water temperature is now cooler from all the snow melt coming into the lake which makes the fish a little more lethargic. I hope I haven't depressed everyone too much, but I made a promise a long time back on here to try and give an accurate as possible description of what's happening on the river in an up-to date, timely manner. On the bright side, this is a passing thing and eventually we'll be back to the old San Juan we all know and love—the one with the good heart. If you would like more information, give us a call at 505-632-2194.