My best advice is to follow good advice—especially if it's your own. There's no worse regret than not doing what you know to be right, then ending up with what you feared might happen, and you can't forgive yourself. I went on a fishing trip recently to a private lake in Oregon where the owner insists that you use at least a 6 wt. rod and 8 pound tippet, for a reason—there's some big fish in there and he wants to keep it that way. Well, I own a lot of fly rods and I was surprised when I was getting ready for the trip that I couldn't find a 6 wt. in the bunch. I could have sworn I had one, and maybe I still do, but I can't find it anywhere. I had several rods and guns stolen from a storage unit years back, maybe that 6 wt. was one of them. Anyway, I did what anyone would do and borrowed one from one from a buddy of mine for the trip. The first thing I noticed about this rod was that it had a down-locking reel seat. Now, I detest down-locking reel seats because it's just a bad design that attempts to defy the laws of physics and what you usually end up with is a real seat that pushes the end cap off the rod. Technically speaking, the design makes no sense at all. But I went with it. About mid-day on the first day after landing some real quality fish, I noticed the reel was a bit wobbly and I mentioned it to my fishing buddy, with the comment of something along the lines of, "Look at this, this is gonna probably come back and haunt me later." He suggested the sensible thing to go back to the cabin and properly glue the thing with some epoxy that he had in his tying kit, but I didn't want to take the time because we were catching fish. I screwed the thing down tighter and it snugged up a bit and I told him I thought it would be fine. Later that evening I got into what felt like the fish of a lifetime that gave me a battle royale, finally, I got him up next to the boat but he was down deep and I couldn't see him or get his head up yet. It was a very heavy, powerful fish and this was going to take a little longer. I felt confident that this was all going to end well, until the reel fell off with a solid clunk, into the bottom of the boat and about 6 extra feet of line peeled off the reel. I trapped the line against the rod and my friend was shouting, "Just play him off the rod, you've got him right next to the boat." That was good advice that I had already thought of, but for the second time that day, I didn't listen to him. So I managed to pick up the reel and get it worked back into the reel seat, but I needed an extra hand to screw the locking mechanism down. I asked my buddy for help and as he started screwing the thing down he gripped my fly line against the reel, just as the fish decided to make another run and that 8 lb. test popped like a firecracker and we stood there staring at each other, both trying to take the blame.
So, I have a couple of rules that I try to follow in both fishing and hunting that I want to share with you, that if you follow them (and I usually/almost always do) won't let you down. #1. Always buy good equipment. Spend the most you can afford, then spend a little extra you didn't count on. I have found that, generally speaking, the good stuff's expensive for a reason. Skimping on saving $20 bucks on a headlamp that's gonna leave you stranded out in the woods in the dark, really isn't worth it. #2. Obsess over the upkeep, of said, equipment. See the paragraph above for details. #3. Make a good sandwich when you go out. Don't be afraid to pile on the extra meat. Also, add on a roasted green chile and a thick slice of onion. Hemingway's Nick Adams ate onion sandwiches and his fishing was always good. Besides, in the worst case scenario it will keep other bothersome fishermen at a distance and if the fishing is slow, at least you've got a good lunch to enjoy. These three rules will never let you down, provided you follow them with religious fervor.
Now, for the San Juan. This past week the water went up another 200 cfs, to 800 cfs and the fishing got a little slow for a few days, but it has picked back up once the fish adjusted. It'll probably stay at this level or possibly a little higher for awhile, since the lake is almost full and there's still a pretty good runoff coming in. Nymphing is still the best way to go if you are looking for numbers. The clarity is still around 18 inches and it's tough to see fish beyond that range, so that limits the places you can sight fish dries to fish, and there aren't a lot of risers, as has been the case for sometime. The fish that you can find in the shallows will eat some big terrestrial patterns, but just be prepared to do a lot of walking to find that type of water at 800 cfs. Midge pupa and larva patterns and baetis nymph patterns are working well in the mornings. Around 10 am when the water warms a little and the bugs get a little more active, the fish are moving up in the water column and you'll want to add in some emerger patterns, crystal flash emergers for the midges, grey and chocolate foamwings, and RS2s for the baetis. These fish will continue to feed in this manner throughout the rest of the day. In the late evening, especially if it's calm, you may see some rising fish. Over this last week, that has been happening around the last hour, or hour and a half before dark. So if you're after rising fish, that's probably gonna be your prime time. I don't know if we're going to see the crystal clear water conditions we're accustomed to here, anytime soon—I seriously doubt it. It may not happen at all this year for all I know. Still, the fishing is good (especially the nymphing) and it's hands down better that most anything you'll find elsewhere right now, with everything still running high and muddy in the west. Hope you can make it out soon, this river's still worth the trip. If you would like more info or need to book a guide, give us a call at 505-632-2194.