August 25, 2019
Ghostbusters. This past Tuesday, I was working my way down river, looking for rising fish, when I spotted him. My original plan was to check out the north bank, check a couple back eddies where I'd known a lot of fish to gather, when the midge clusters started to form a little later in the day. When I'd first looked, there wasn't a soul in sight and I had the entire flats to myself—this was gonna be great. But then there he was, already halfway across the river, not walking, but just gliding slowly, effortlessly, despite the waist deep water, stalking like a heron, laying out casts and retrieves with his streamer. It was the damn Ghost of the Upper Flats and he'd cut me off, appearing out of nowhere. I knew right away he was headed to the north bank, I'd seen him a bunch of times before over there, and I knew he liked that spot. I watched him reach the bank and start working his casts as he moved up and eventually parked himself in that coveted back eddy. I did the only thing I could do at the time and moved down river, and worked a loop that took me about 45 minutes until I headed back upstream. I only managed to bring up a couple fish and the hatch was more or less just getting started, so I still held out hope that The Ghost might be gone. As luck would have it, when I checked again, he was nowhere to be seen. I made a bee-line straight for that eddy and as I crossed the riffle that led to the bank, I glanced downstream, and there he was, a couple hundred yards below me. How he got there without me seeing him, is beyond me. Anyway, as I walked up that bank, I could see lots of midge clusters coming downstream along the edge of the bank and my spirits rose. Now, if you'll remember, last week I told you to watch out for this kind of thing if you're looking to fish dries here, and it turns out that was good advice, even if I was the only one that followed it. When I got to that eddy, it was loaded with rising fish, slashing rises at clusters, like fish do on other rivers during a heavy caddis hatch. It took me a little while to get them dialed in, starting out with a size 10 dead chicken that they ignored like it didn't even exist, and working my way downward, incrementally in fly size, until they settled on a size 22 Bloody Butcher (Google it) that they ate like cotton candy. I caught a lot of fish in that run, then moved up another 100 yards and found another back eddy with even bigger fish and caught them too. When I looked back downstream, The Ghost, was gone—disappeared. How he left there without me seeing him cross back over the river, is a mystery. But then, he can do that, that Ghost—just appear and then disappear into thin air. Who knows? If I hadn't talked to people that had seen him do the same thing, then maybe I'd believe that it was just my imagination, that I'm just seeing things, but he's the real deal. I do know, that I ain't afraid of no ghost, and I ain't afraid of no 1,510 cfs flow anymore, either.
That Tuesday I'm talking about, the BOR raised the water level by another 200 cfs at 3:00 in the afternoon—just about the time that midge hatch was starting to kick off. You could literally see it happening. Sticks and grass starting floating by, the water got murky. I was just about to bag the rest of the afternoon after muttering a few choice words directed toward our good friends at the Bureau, until I gained access to that bank and figuring I'd already invested the better part of my day trying to get that coveted spot, I'd at least check it out. I'm glad I did, because within a half hour to forty-five minutes the junk had stopped coming down and the water had cleared back up to where it was earlier. A 200 cfs bump when the river is already over 1,200 cfs doesn't have near the impact on the water conditions as it does when the starting level is, say, 500 to 600 cfs. That said, let me clear up one common misconception based on a number of phone calls I received this week regarding concerns that this river is unwadeable at 1,500 cfs. That's just not so. Sure, it closes off some places that you can't get to, but there's still plenty of wade access to a lot of fishable water. Of course, I prefer to fish it when it's lower, but if you're thinking you can't come here now because they raised the river another 200 cfs, you need to rethink that idea. In most places this river is fairly broad, so 200 cfs doesn't raise the depth that much. So, the fishing is good right now and the visibility is pretty good too with the ability to see fish to depths of 3 to 4 feet. Yeah, normally it's a lot better than that for this time of year and normally the water is a lot lower too, but it's still plenty good enough to sight fish in most places and the fish are eating good. For the upper river, it's the usual suspects of small, San Juan stuff—midge larva, and pupa earlier in the day and pupa and emerger patterns in dark colors, size 24 and 26 in the afternoon. You can find fish rising to midges and midge clusters in the afternoons, especially if you look along grassy banks or behind exposed structure. 3:00 to 6:00 seem to be the witching hours for that action and I have taken most all my fish on size 22 cluster patterns. Earlier in the day you can bring up some cruising fish in the shallows on large terrestrials, but once the midge hatch starts, they ignore the big stuff. Downriver, baetis patterns rule and small pheasant tails, rootbeers, RS2s, and foamwings are the way to go. This week looks to be a bit on the windy side in the afternoons, so factor that in to your daily plan, as well. Overall the fishing is good right now and will probably stay pretty stable going into fall. There's a meeting scheduled tomorrow where the BOR is expected to announce their plan for flows for the remainder of the year, which I suspect will entail these higher flows of at least 1,000 cfs, or so, until probably November, but, we'll see. Either way, it'll all be okay as long as they don't go up a lot higher, which is very improbable. Hope you can make it out soon. If you would like to book a guide or need more info, give us a call at 505-632-2194.