April 7, 2019
"Seems like nothin' ever comes to no good up on Choctaw Ridge..." I don't want to write this. This isn't fun. No one wants to hear bad news—even if it's about Billy Joe, who apparently never had a lick of sense, anyhow. I should be writing about this hatch or that hatch, size 22 Comparaduns, 24 Fore and Afts, the re-emergence of green grass, the budding of trees once again after a long winter, migratory swallows who have found their way back to their summer homes after a long, arduous journey—anything except mud. Nobody wants to hear about mud, even the guttural sound of the word is harsh to the ear and evokes negative connotations. Yet that is what I am left with, that is my current lot in life.
If you've been following along lately, then you know that the water clarity here took a turn for the worse a couple of weeks ago. As of now, that hasn't improved. Now to be completely honest, all that speculative writing I did over the past couple of weeks about the release gate being switched back over to the power plant side, never really happened—at least not for any extended period of time. Apparently, the work being performed on the plant didn't finish on time and as of yesterday, when I looked at it, water for the San Juan River is still being released from the spillway side and it's still brown, and it's still ugly. That said, the new scuttlebutt about town is that it will be changed over early this coming week. Based on past deadlines not being met, I say, "Believe it, when you see it." Anyway, I just want to warn you—based on eyewitness reports from the few folks I know who observed the temporary releases from the plant side during the testing that was performed this week, there's a chance that this may not be the magic panacea for clearer water that we have all been so eagerly awaiting. Really? you say. Well, yes there's a possibility that could be so. I'm just throwing that caveat out there, to prepare you, should it be so. Now, how could this be? I'll attempt to explain it to you as it was explained to me by someone more in the know of such matters. Okay, it's a known fact that the draw for the water on the power plant side is approximately 120 feet higher in the water column of the lake from where it is now being released. The hope was that the water clarity at that point would be better, based on the fact that the deeper you go in the lake the colder the water is and colder water is denser than warmer water and thus sinks toward the bottom. Now, now all that cold, dirty water pouring into the lake from snow-melt into the lake should go toward the bottom. In fact, it does, that's a scientific, proven fact. And as they say about such things, they're still true whether you agree with them or not. Under normal circumstances, when there is more water in the lake to begin with to absorb this big influx of cold water coming in, releasing 120 feet higher from where it is currently releasing from, does the trick— you get warmer, thus cleaner water. Unfortunately, due to the low level in the lake this year to begin with, this doesn't appear to be happening. I was told that the water temperature when checked this past week at that 120 foot mark was a balmy 39 degrees—and 39 F degrees (or 3.98 C to be exact) is exactly the point where water at its densest. I was also told that when this water was released for a while from the plant side during testing, it looked just like the water that was being released from the spillway side. So, just so you know, switching this release gate, if it happens this week as planned, may not fix our current lack of clarity woes. Basically, we're just going to have to keep our fingers crossed and wait and see, but if it comes out dirty and stays that way for a day or so, we're likely to have to live with it a while longer. How long, I don't really know. As the air temperature warms and more snow melts in Colorado and runs into the lake, there's a possibility we could be looking at late Spring of early Summer before we see any real, marked improvement. But let's not go jumping to conclusions just yet, lord knows, we already have enough conspiracy theories being bantered about town—why, just yesterday someone reported seeing a second gunman on a grassy knoll just above the lake. We're just going to have to wait this one out and see, or as my 90 year old uncle would say, "It'll clear up, when it clears up."
In the meantime, fishing here has gone a little less to the fishing side of things and more toward the catching side of things. Is it great like normal San Juan great? Well, no, but a few fish are being caught. As of today, the water clarity is a couple of inches, at best. If you're on the fence about coming, I suggest you call first, around mid-week, to see if the release was changed and if it cleared the water up any. For now, it's bunny leeches, big, bright eggs, red larva, and Tav's Big Macs, and Abe's Midge Masters, that would be my advice. On the brighter side, it will clear—sometime— and the quality of fishing here will return to that unrivaled greatness we all know the San Juan can produce. For now, we're just going to have to wait and see when that is.