- Jay Walden
September 22, 2019
The River of Lost Soles. There's this slough (which is just a French word for swamp, I think) that you gotta walk through to get to one of my favorite fishing spots on this river. Now, this slough, as it were, ain't no regular, run of the mill slough. No, this one is full of some gunk that resembles mud that is blacker than your mother-in-law's heart—more of some kind of primordial ooze, than actual mud. Anyway, every time I pass through through this smelly, mosquito infested soup, I'll usually spot a new bottom of someone's wading boot that has been claimed by this black monster. I have noticed that generally they are of the Korkers brand variety, a brand I used to favor because the soles were interchangeable, until, I too, started losing a lot of said soles to to the beast myself. Well, despite the fact that most of these lost soles are Korkers, this here slough doesn't seem to be much of a respecter of brand names, because I seen everything else in there too, felt, rubber, you name it, from other various makers of wading boots, everything from Orvis to Simms. The Korkers ones just seem to stand out a little better because they're orange. Several years ago, after losing my fair share of boot bottoms to this Black Hole of Calcutta, I contacted the good folks from the design department over at Korkers and they were kind enough to look into the problem with me, and after sending me several replacement soles and new boots, and even going as far as sending me a prototype sole with holes drilled in them to relieve the suction, nothing worked and we both gave up when the head of the design department finally acquiesced with the statement that, "Maybe these boots just won't work on the San Juan." Anyway, this was just about the time I got my pro-deal with Simms (which is the only way I can afford their products) and I got me a pair of Simms boots and I must admit they make some quality stuff. Now lest you think that a really good pair of boots are gonna solve all your problems, just know, that you still gotta watch yourself down there. I had a customer here about a year ago who told me one of his boots were sucked right off his foot in there, and while he was trying to retrieve it, the other one was sucked away, as well. At this point, he had to get down on all fours and feel around in that black goo for them and by now the water was stirred up into that black ink color and he couldn't see a thing. According to him, he never found them and he had to walk out of there in the stocking feet of his waders, covered from head to toe with black slime and hose himself off in the yard back home, before his wife would even let him into the house. All of this just goes to prove that we're not just dealing with some kind of ordinary kind of mud here, no, this one is other-worldly, with superglue properties that did not originate on this planet and I suspect came from some asteroid striking the Earth at this exact spot, many, many years ago. Hell, I expect that were this spot excavated at sometime, we would; no doubt, find the perfectly preserved remains of many a fisherman, just like the La Brea Tar Pits. Anyway, just remember "Safety First" and watch yourself out there.
Now you might wonder why anyone would run this boot gobbling, mosquito infested gauntlet for a trout. Well, I'm about to tell you that at times it can be worth it, because at times, it's not just a trout, it's a lot of trout, a lot of big trout. Having made my way through here several times this year with only mediocre results so far, I was reluctant this past week, to expend my fishing capital on said spot, once again, not to mention the loss of blood (to mosquitoes) and treasure (in the form of a perfectly good pair of wading boots) all for nought. But this past week it was definitely worth it. I don't know why, maybe it was the water going down to around a thousand cfs, maybe something else, but this part of the river finally sprang to life for me for the first time this year and big fish were on to big dry flies like a hobo on a ham sandwich, and I finally stitched together two consecutive days of great dry dry-fly fishing for the first time since back when Ol' Shep was a pup. I did wonders for my fish deprived psyche and there was much jubilation and rejoicing back at the Walden household, later, on those nights. That said, and I know it's a stretch to make such a statement based on just two days of fishing—I think the San Juan is finally fishing up to it's potential, as in days of old. The water level is coming down and these fish are acting more like they are supposed to. It's been a long time a'comming, but I guess that late September is better than not at all. I'll take it. So here's the deal on the conditions—As of yesterday, the water level here dropped to 1,010 cfs and there is a rumor going round that it could possibly go to 800 later this coming week. I don't know how much stock to put in the latter part of that last statement, but if it does happen, it'll only make a good situation, better. The water clarity is good, probably five feet or so, and there are some good midge hatches that are starting earlier in the day and lasting for hours, and there are finally fish rising in places other than just around the banks, just like your old pal Jay told you there would be, once the water started to recede. And these fish aren't too picky—just yet. I suspect it's because a lot of them haven't see a dry fly pass over their head in quite a while. The nymphing here has been pretty solid for a while and is steadily improving. It's the usual San Juan small midge stuff (24's and 26's) in the upper river and a mix of midges and baetis patterns downstream for your nymph selection. With the clearing water conditions, I would suggest 6x fluorocarbon for you tippet choice. For the dries, you can still bring up a number of fish on the bigger stuff. I fished nothing but big ant patterns and size 10 dead chickens on Monday and Tuesday and I caught plenty of fish. If you want to get really technical, I'm sure you could catch plenty of fish on a size 24 Fore and Aft and switch over to a size 22 cluster pattern when the midges get going, but; hey, if they're eating the big stuff, I'm throwing the big stuff. I just don't know how long that will last, normally by now most of these fish are off that big bug game, but this has been anything but a normal year, so we'll see. I'm gonna ride this wave until it crashes onshore. And yes, despite a light frost the other morning the mosquitoes are still bad. As an aside, and one last word of caution, concerning those chili dogs, beware that if you use the canned chili, that the can very closely resembles canned dog food, especially after a few margaritas after you've misplaced your reading glasses. Just saying.... one reads Stagg's Dynamite Hot Chili and the other says Alpo. Inspect carefully, before opening.
Hope you can get out to the Juan, soon. No BWOs yet, but they'll be around as soon as the weather cools a bit more and we get some overcast days, but there's plenty of midge action going on to keep you busy in between bouts of swatting mosquitoes. If you would like more info or would like to book a guide trip, give us a call at 505-632-2194.