April 28, 2019
Well, it's getting better—the catching part, anyway. We've been dealing with this lack of clarity issue with the water here for around a month, and there has been some improvement on that front, with the visibility now at somewhere around 8 to 10 inches. It's really hard to say, but I think that our saving grace has been a recent increase in water temperatures after that large, initial influx of cold snow melt into the lake that put these fish into lockjaw mode for the first couple of weeks. Either way, these are positive moves on both fronts and at least we're catching some fish again. As far as ideal conditions go, we've still got a long way to go, to get back to the same San Juan as most people remember it. As you would imagine, gone for awhile, are the opportunities to sight fish, and a rising trout is as scarce as hen's teeth on this river. Still, if you don't mind nymphing in turbid water, you can now catch fish again on the San Juan River. Just bear in mind that we've temporarily lost some of the aesthetics that normally accompany what our brains have conditioned us to expect from this sport we call fly fishing. If you're one of those folks who's end game is all about a fish in the bottom of your net, attached to your fly, and you don't really care all that much how it got there, then you should still come to the Juan. On the other hand, if you're one of those other guys or gals that's a little more demanding and prefer to see the fish you pursue or you're a die-hard dry fly fisherman, then this is probably not gonna be your cup of tea, or coffee with about a tablespoon of cream, which is what our water looks like right now. So there you go, I don't know of any other way to put it—you're just going to have to decide for yourself what your parameters are.
So, how do you catch 'em if you're here? Based on my personal experience and what I have garnered from other fishermen over the last week or so—I would say that dead-drifting a nymph rig with a bright attractor pattern as your lead fly (egg, size 18 red larva, or a San Juan Worm) is your best bet. The good news is that these fish are back to eating bugs again so you can make your dropper a midge or baetis imitation and it'll probably help if you go up in a size or two from what you normally fish here. Crystal Flash Midges, Tav's Big Macs, Abe's Midge-Masters, Desert Storms, all work, as do baetis imitations like Fluff Baetis, Flashback Pheasant tails, RS2s ,and the like, especially downriver. I tried several variations of bunny leeches for a few hours without so much as a bump the other day, both on a dead-drift and a slow retrieve, but it could have had something to do with where I fished it or maybe I wasn't holding my mouth right, so you might want to experiment with that for awhile to see if you can make it work for you. I just can't recall talking to anyone this past week that has told me anything different to lead me to believe it's the new hot thing.
Other than that, I guess there's just this, "When is the water gonna clear up?" issue to address and we can wrap this all up for today. Truth is, I don't know and I haven't talked to anyone who has given me any plausible reasoning to think they do, either. Although, we have seen some slight improvement in the past week, the lake is still visibly murky and we have a lot of snow yet to melt in Colorado which is going to put some more cold, dirty water in the lake. I don't know how that's all going to shake out with the clarity issue. Traditional thinking would lead me to believe that this new water has to run into the lake, then settle, and all will be well again, but then, this hasn't been the year for traditional thinking on the San Juan, because we've never seen anything like what we have now, before. So we're all just gonna have to wait and see, with our fingers crossed. As far as high releases go for the water this Spring, we just received an e-mail from the BOR that they plan to release 5,000 cfs for around 5 days, sometime around the end of May or early June to coincide with the peak of runoff from the Animas River. The exact date for this will all depend on the weather and the BOR will announce the exact date a week prior to the release, so stay tuned if you are planning a trip during that time frame. If you would like to book a guided trip or need more information, give us a call at 505-632-2194.