- Jay Walden
March 31, 2019
I've had a lot of free time on my hands lately, what with the river being like it has been and all, and given too much time, why, a man's thoughts can go off the rails, somewhat. I gotta think my present situation in life would be better served if I spent less time worrying if Schrodinger's cat is alive or dead in that box, or if given Heisenberg's Uncertainty principle holds true, whether I am actually fishing for giant trevally in the Seychelles instead of hanging around here waiting for the water to clear up and just don't know it yet. I won't lie, things have been tough around here with folks saying they haven't seen the river like this for nigh on thirty years and the town of Navajo Dam looking like you would expect it to look if there were no trout fishing here, with tumbleweeds blowing through the street. But come tomorrow, if everything goes to plan, that could all change—order could be restored and life on the San Juan, as we once knew it, could be reinstated back to the way it was before this river turned into a muddy mess a couple of weeks ago. I await the outcome with the optimism of an island of cannibals seeing a boatload of missionaries come ashore.
Today, as I write this, the BOR will begin testing releases of water from the power plant side of the dam—if all goes well and the work that they have been performing all winter holds up, we could see water releases change from the spillway to the power plant as early as tomorrow. Now, notwithstanding my pondering the theories of quantum physics as of late, know that I am no scientist, nor am I good at math; however, I do have a few theories of my own where the paths of water quality and good fishing intersect. Given that, here's how I think this water change thing is gonna shake out for the betterment of the fisherman on this river. First, if the release gate is switched, water will be drawn from approximately 120 feet higher in the water column of the lake. That's very groovy for two reasons, the first being that given the laws of physics of fluids (physics again, eh) the colder, thus denser and heavier water sinks toward the bottom of the lake, this is also the same cold, snow-melt water that recently poured in from Colorado that was full of particulates that caused this muddy mess in the first place. Anyway, it stands to reason that if you now draw water from higher in the lake's water column, you'll get clearer water. Wa-la or Voila, if you will. And we all know that fishing in clearer water is preferable to fishing in muddy water—so there you go with that one. Now, secondly, it also stands to reason that this water is likely to be somewhat warmer—at least by a few degrees—and a few degrees in the trout world can mean a world of difference, especially when the water has been extremely cold and the trout were lethargic. So that's another good thing. So here's how I think this will all play out from now until late spring/early summer on the Juan. For the first couple of days there's gonna be a lot of junk in the water as an increased flow over a section of river that hasn't seen much water in a while stirs up built up sediment and tears away at a lot of moss and didymo clinging to the rocks in the riverbed. After a few days (Wednesday if this all begins on Monday) this should all shake out and the river will reach the clarity of whatever the clarity is at the point it is drawn from in the lake. My guess is that (from looking at the lake) that water is not gonna be gin clear—there's still some mix of runoff water at that level, most likely. I expect that it's going to be somewhere around where it was before we had this big influx of dirty water into the lake, which will leave us with about a foot to eighteen inches of visibility for awhile—still, much better than we have now. This will likely fluctuate over time, from better, to not so better, depending on such things as weather (lake water cooling and warming) and more runoff entering the lake as we go forward. All that remains to be seen, but I would guess we will likely see somewhat cloudy (but still very fishable) water until at least late May or possibly late June. I really don't think we'll start seeing that crystal clear stuff until July.
The quality of the fishing as we go forward should improve dramatically from where it has been in the last few weeks and I think it will remain pretty solid in the months to come. The best news is that we are most likely to be free of this scourge of muddy water that was too thick to fish and too thin to plow, for awhile and although it is snowing outside my window right now, warmer weather is on the way—already we are seeing some pretty good hatches of BWOs on most days. Keep the faith friends and neighbors, don't give up on this big two-hearted river just yet. I'll be out on the water this Wednesday. We'll see what I have to report next week.
Late breaking news: According to one of my good sources, it looks like the best case scenario for the release gate to be changed back to the power plant side of the dam is Wednesday. Keep in mind this date could change as well, based on the work being completed and everything functioning smoothly. Stay tuned.