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  • Jay Walden

Late July

Sometimes it takes a good friend to talk you off the ledge. I had a fishing buddy years back that has since moved away, that shared my passion for adventure. We got ourselves into some "predicaments" as I now call them, that were actually more like life-threatening situations if you really want to know the truth. We both had the propensity to push the envelope a little too far at times which is not a good thing, if you want to live very long and still have all your body parts functioning—someone, sometimes needs to be the adult in the room. Anyway, on more than one occasion, we found ourselves in some pretty hairy spots, precariously hanging on the edge of cliffs or rock faces with just an oak brush stub as a handhold to keep us from plunging to our deaths just to get to some prime fishing spot we'd heard or read about somewhere. Now the thing about oak brush is that it's about the toughest plant out there on God's green earth, which is a good thing if you're depending on it to keep you attached to terra firma. If we ever have a nuclear holocaust, probably the only things that will survive will be cockroaches, oak brush, and perhaps Willie Nelson. I have no doubt that the Good Lord strategically planted some of these bushes in particular places just to protect guys like me from their misguided judgement. It has been said that God looks after old drunks and fools. So there were times where we found ourselves staring down at roaring whitewater or into the abyss like Clint Eastwood in The Eiger Sanction, except wearing wading boots instead of crampons like Clint, while one or the other talked the next guy across with commands like. "Okay, now just put your right foot into that crack in front of you and take your left hand and grab that piece of rock that looks like the end of a broom handle and then drag your body across, and then plant your left foot on that rock that looks like a turtle shell." Talking your friend off the ledge. All just for the fishing. Probably the worst one was when we hiked into the Black Canyon of the Gunnison and were about halfway down the canyon and my dog refused to go over thirty feet of a slickrock face, so we harnessed him up and I tied on 130 pounds of German Shepherd to my belt and stepped off the edge while my friend Andrew fed out rope until we reached the ledge below. The dog was none to happy about the ordeal and wrapped both of his front paws around my right thigh and whined the whole way down. I'll admit that was one occasion where a dog had more intelligence that two humans combined, but we made it. There were some other scary places too along the way that I remember, once when we got cliffed out on Cascade Creek but wanted to see what was around the bend, climbing down into uncharted territory on Hermosa Creek, and that time when we got swept away wading across Quartz Creek in Alaska and had to swim for it. I couldn't have done it without a good friend to talk me off the ledge.

Now I'm just an old bachelor that doesn't do those kind of dangerous things anymore. At 61, I've tried to whittle things down where life is simpler, where less is more. I like less water for bathin', less water in my whiskey, and less water for my fishing. Which brings us to where we are today. At present the San Juan is flowing at 1,050 cfs. I really don't like fishing this river that much at this level, but I guess I don't have much of a say in the matter. Some people love it, nymphers, mostly. I can see why—it fishes pretty good at that level with a proper nymph rig. But I'm a dry fly fisherman and I'm addicted to it and it's the kind of addiction for which there is no twelve-step cure. I mean, I got it bad, really bad. Anyway, this river has never really fished well with dries, for me, at 1,000 cfs, as far as I can recall. Now don't get me wrong I love this place and I've never been one to talk bad about the one I love, so I guess you could say it's one of those, "It's me, it's not you," kinda relationships right now. Hopefully, we'll work though it—we always have in the past. So instead of wading around mumbling that this 1,000 cfs plus river is a soulless beast without a heart, that it is broad and fairly featureless in most areas at this level, instead I will recognize it for what it is right now, a true nympher's paradise and try to focus less on the dry fly pariah that it has forced me to become. Once we reach that magical flow of 650 to 500 where she's a different creature with her gentle, long riffles, back eddies, and flat, slick glides with rising fish, I have no doubt our love will be rekindled, I know that all will be forgiven. Until then, I'm gonna make due.So how is the fishing, really? Well, if you like nymph fishing, it's good right now. The fish are back on the small stuff and those usual San Juan midge patterns will do the trick—larva and pupa patterns earlier in the day and adding an emerger later on—baetis nymphs like rootbeers, fluff baetis, RS2s, and foamwings in the lower sections of the river. I'm not seeing a whole lot of fish holding in the shallows, so target the thalwegs and current seams and roll your stuff on the bottom, would be my advice. The visibility seems to be improving and I would venture to say you've got good visibility down to about two feet right now. The streamer fishing has been okay, but I haven't been able to put together a consistent day on them yet where they're just jumping in the net for me. My best results have been on size 10 blonde and also white bunny leeches, fished on the dead drift. I'm not going to get into the dry fly thing here other than to say the only fish I've been able to take on a dry for quite some time now, have been the few I can find holding in shallow water, but they have been pretty eager to eat a big foam ant, or a PMX. Other than that, I've seen very few fish rising and the only Hatch we seem to have around here is the place where they grow green chiles, which is about 383 miles south. That's a New Mexico joke, by the way. So to sum it all up, fishing is good if you're nymphing, and we're still about a few weeks away,or possibly a month, I think, before we see the water level drop substantially enough, to possibly improve the dry fly situation. Although the runoff coming into the lake was dropping, the recent rains in Southern Colorado have bumped it up a bit and we've still got nearly 1,000 cfs of combined inflow, so until we see considerably less on that inflow, I doubt the BOR is going to make a move on lowering the discharge here. We'll see, they've proven me wrong before. Hope you can make it out soon before summer gets away from us. If you would like more information or need to book a guided trip, give us a call at 505-632-2194.

Jay's Fishing Reports

Books by
Jay Walden
Can be purchased on Amazon or in our fly shop.

Jay's Fishing Report  

To our faithful fishing report readers, 

Here's a way to get your rainbow trout fix 'til you are able to hit the San Juan again-- available online only

Check each style out--there are a variety of colors, fabrics & sizes to enjoy.

Special thanks to designer & artist, Matt Zudweg 

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As a small aside and attempt at shameless self-promotion, there was an article featured  on Flyfisherman Magazine's website written by yours truly about the 60th anniversary of Abe's Fly Shop that can be accessed through the following link: Abe's Anniversary. Hope you can make it out this week. If you would like more information or would like to book a guided trip, give us a call at 505-632-2194. 

Abe's Fly Shop Turns 60 -

Watercolor by Tim Oliver                                          Photos Courtesy of Abe Chavez


Jay's Past Reports:  

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