- Jay Walden
July 14, 2019
It's been quite a week on the San Juan. On Monday we had had an ant fall. It wasn't one of those epic ant falls where there are giant, winged ants everywhere with big fish up all over the river gorging themselves, but there were some ants on the water. Sometimes these events are very location specific, as I think this one might have been, because where I was, despite the presence of a few of these little buggers on the water, I never saw a fish rise. A few other people I spoke with reported better results, less than a quarter of a mile up river, and they were out a little earlier than I was— so maybe I slept through the better part of it. Anyway, by 11 a.m. it was all over and I never saw another bug. On Tuesday, I took out an old college buddy who was visiting and we caught a few fish on ants and PMXs that were cruising the shallows, then came home, made a few great margaritas, and I just might have made a couple of the all time best, of that wonderful, culinary and epicurean delight—the Ultimate Chili Dog. On Wednesday the water got bumped up by another 200 cfs to 1,000 cfs by the BOR out of fear that they may have miscalculated the runoff into the lake and the lake was going to overflow into the spillway. As is usually the case when the water goes up, the fishing was a bit off. On Saturday, the river level was dropped to 600 cfs for some work on some gauges and then taken right back up to 1,000 cfs by the end of the day, which is where it stands at this point.
Anyway, about those chili dogs. Without going into a whole lot of detail, I'm going to attempt to let you on some secret details here that could possible change the way you look at life, for the better of all mankind. So, first start out with a good dog—I like the cheddar-jalapeno dogs from either Teton Waters Ranch or Niman Ranch, but even the Johnsville ones will do. I make my chili from my leftover pinto beans slow cooked in a crock pot with ham hocks and a couple of whole roasted green chiles thrown in. I just brown up some ground beef in a sauce pot, toss in some of the beans with a little juice and then add enough ground chile chimayo to make it bright red and then hit it with several dashes of Adobe Milling Chipolte Habanero Sauce and let it simmer on low, while you're doing the rest of your prep work. If you don't have the time for all this, Stagg's Dynamite Hot Chili in a can, will do in a pinch. So, drag out the following ingredients from the fridge: mayo, mustard, onion, sweet pickle relish, or if you're after a true life changing experience— Mrs. Campbell's Hot Chow Chow. Lastly, slice up some good cheddar cheese (I prefer extra sharp) right off the block—don't mess around with that processed stuff in the individual plastic wrappers—that's not really cheese. Finely chop up a whole lot of onion. Stir the chili. Grill up the dog the way you like it, I like mine with some dark char on the grill marks, but not burnt. Anyway, just before the dogs are ready to come off the grill, take a good hot dog bun—not those generic white bread ones, get some good ones from the bakery—the kind you have to slice open yourself, and slather them generously with mayo. This is critical and makes the whole deal what it is. Now throw the buns right onto the grill, mayo side down, and whatever you do, don't go anywhere—don't even answer the phone if it rings. This whole process will only take about 30 seconds or so—close the lid to the grill, wait, wait...then lift it and check the bun. If you've got a few char marks on the bun, then you're done.The bun will be crispy on the outside, but soft to perfection like a down pillow on the inside. Immediately add the dog to the bun and top with the sliced cheese and close the bun and give the cheese a couple of minutes to melt. Next comes the mustard—apply liberally. Add the chili, this will complete the melting process for the cheese. Now, add the relish or chow chow, then the onions. If you think that those few chopped onions you left on the cutting board looked like too much, you are dead wrong—throw those on too. Now, you're done, unless you like things a little spicier, and I do, so go ahead and top the whole works with some pickled jalapenos. Congratulations, you've just make the word's best chili dog. Now you just need a plate and a lot of napkins, or just do the old bachelor favorite and eat it it directly over the sink.
So, about the fishing. We've got a 1,000 cfs flow that is likely to stay in place for awhile longer and the visibility—that thing where you can actually distinguish a fish from a rock, is still about 18 inches. The dry fly fishing hasn't been that great, mainly due to the lack of any substantial hatches as of late, but also, I think because of the visibility. You can catch fish pretty easily on the big stuff—ants, hoppers, PMXs, etc. if you find fish in shallow water. Trouble is, there just doesn't seem to be a lot of fish holding in that kind of water right now and my theory is that the only reason they're ever there in the first place, is that it makes it lot easier to eat bugs off the surface when you don't have to travel upwards at any great distance to get at them. Without the bugs, there's no reason to risk the shallows and possibly get eaten by a blue heron or osprey, if there's no reward involved. Anyway, that's my theory for now, until I can come up with a better one. The nymphing has been much better than the dry fly fishing for months now. By process of elimination, since these fish aren't in the shallows, you'll find them congregated more in the deep runs and pockets. Most of them seem to prefer the bottom, eating larva and pupa, since there doesn't seem to be a lot of emerging or adult, surface activity. Red and cream larva patterns are working well along with black and olive pupa patterns, i.e. monomidges, blings, and midgemasters, or big macs. Further downstream, size 22 and 24 rootbeers, fluff baetis,and RS2s are good choices. Overall, the fishing is pretty good if you like nymphing, or even streamers, but I think we could still be a ways away from the great dry fly fishing we normally see during this time of year. The water situation has been strange, since back in the spring, so I'm not ready to throw any predictions out there, just yet on when the great dry fly fishing will return. Hope you can make it out and get in your summer fishing fix. If you would like more information or need to book a guide, give us a call at 505-632-2194.