- Jay Walden
Mid High Flow
Let's face it, so far 2019 has been a pretty ugly year for fishing. If you're honest with yourself, there's just no other way to put it. It all started in January with a very cold and snowy winter that carried all the way through spring, not to mention that the lake had turned over, so even on the days when you could get out, it boiled down to throwing streamers in water with about a foot of visibility. Then, just as the weather started to improve, we got hit with some kind of freak early runoff that turned the river to chocolate milk where nobody caught a fish for about two weeks and now just as those conditions were improving—boom, we get hit with the high water release. Will someone hit the reset button, please?— we need to put this nonsense behind us and get down to the serious business of catching fish again. Meantime, we're all sitting around here as restless as a four-year-old on Christmas Eve.
So, what's the latest news on the San Juan? Well, this past Monday the ramp up on the flows started here and by the end of the day we were at 2,000 cfs, with incremental bumps scheduled for each subsequent day, designed to reach a 5,000 cfs flow by Friday. Well, not so fast there pardner. On Friday morning an email was issued by the BOR that the scheduled release of 5,000 was going to be postponed through the weekend, due to the fact that the Animas River is now amped up with heavy runoff from the recent warmer weather and there is a danger of flooding downstream below the point where these two rivers join— or, as the BOR likes to say, "necessary to prevent exceeding the safe channel capacity of the river downstream of Farmington." So, for now, we're in a holding pattern at the level we left off at on Thursday, which is around 4,600 cfs, until the Bureau reassess everything on Monday and comes up with a new plan. So there you have it. My guess is that the original schedule of reaching 5,000 right away and holding there for five days is going to be extended somewhat, based on the fact that the channel capacity below Farmington is 12,000 cfs, and right now the Animas flowing into New Mexico is at 6,300 cfs at 9:00 in the morning and will likely go higher as the day progresses, so the BOR is going to leave themselves some wiggle room with the Juan for awhile to avoid washing a house or two away downstream. So, I could be wrong, but I don't think we'll be back to 500 cfs by the 15th as originally planned. That said, in the meantime you'll have to go here: https://www.usbr.gov/uc/water/crsp/cs/nvd.html and click on the notices page to see what's going on, as we go forward.
As far as the fishing goes right now, if you have access to a boat and you know, or know someone else, who can row in high water, you're golden. The fish have found their feeding lanes out of the main current and are eating well. San Juan worms and chamois leeches are the ticket and things are likely to stay that way for awhile, at least until the water drops considerably. If you're planning on wading, fahgettaboudit at least until the water drops to around 2,600 cfs or so, and only then, if you know the river and are a good wader. There are some spots you can access in the 3,000 cfs plus range, but you really gotta now what you're doing, so if you've waited this long, another day ain't gonna kill ya, but wading into fast, deep, cold water could. I really don't know what to expect as far as clarity goes, once the water comes down. My guess, based on where it is now, would be that it's most likely to be around where it was before it went up, which was right around a foot to eighteen inches. It's kinda hard to say, I've seen the water crystal clear at 5,000 cfs here before, but this has not been a normal year by any stretch of the imagination. Right now, I would say there's about six to eight inches of visibility. So, in years past, this river has always fished really well on the drop from high water. My favorite thing was always throwing big hoppers and ants as the water was coming down. I don't know if that'll work this year, because we're gonna need some better water clarity than what we have now to pull that off. In the worst case scenario, you'll have to nymph it for a while longer, but you're gonna find a lot of fish that haven't seen a fly in front of them for awhile and they're gonna be bulked up on a lot of protein kicked up during high water, and really muscled from fighting the current—most likely the best shape you'll see them in all year. Stay tuned folks, this thing has been a wild, unpredictable ride since back in the winter, but I'm hoping we're on to better days here real soon. If you would more information or need to book a guide, give us a call at 505-632-2194.