October 6, 2019
While you were looking for this article last week, I slipped out the back door and headed up north and caught all of their big fish, so if you're trying to find me, just look for the trail of chicken bones I left scattered throughout the great Centennial State, like I was some High Priest of Santeria. While I'm not one to litter, I will occasionally toss some biodegradable byproducts like a banana peel in the bushes when I'm camping and I figured chicken bones were no different, seeing as how the critters gotta eat, too. Anyway, I had stopped on my way, in Durango at North City Market, and picked up this big container of fried chicken that I think surpassed the Colonel in quality, eleven secret herbs and spices, or not, and a container of potato salad, and one of the macaroni variety; both, that I'm gonna give a total of five out of five stars. Outside of the epic struggle I faced trying to break into the mac salad that was only rivaled by the one trying to get the lid back on and seal properly, the whole trip was a huge success—having caught one of my best fish of the year, just before dark on the first evening. Unfortunately, those two hours of my life that were lost with that small plastic box, can never be replaced. Life goes on, and time heals all wounds. You know, actually, the weather could have been a little better, since the wind blew like mad both days, making the dry fly fishing a bit difficult, but the aspens were golden and the autumn sun was warm on my back, and the night sky with a little sliver of moon and the milky way above, was worth the drive, and it's always good to get yourself out of town occasionally and challenge yourself on some new water. All of this, despite my renewed worry that I may have reached that point in my golden years that we all inevitably know is going to happen, where you fear you have finally "lost it" as you struggle with a plastic lid like some chimpanzee doing an intelligence test, illuminated only by the light of your headlamp. Lordy, let's hope it ain't so just yet, I've still got a lot of fishing I want to do.
So, after spending the biggest part of the first day staring at the south end of, seemingly endless RVs on mountain passes, and slowing to a crawl for cars parked along the shoulder for old men with tripods and cameras taking pictures of golden leaves, that held up traffic like a Yellowstone highway where someone had just spotted a moose, and fighting the incessant wind for two days, I fished out the second day and looked at my watch, and at 7:15 in the evening, I changed out of my waders and drove back across those mountain passes, now populated by only myself and some long-haul truckers and headed back for my home waters of the San Juan. Eighteen wheels and a dozen roses. That next day the weather was one of those splendid Northern New Mexico fall days and I managed some good fish on big dry flies and it just was like icing on the cake, having now fished four rivers in three days—so much so, that by this time, my fears of "losing it" over that plastic lid had pretty much been assuaged. What a great week! Now, if you're in need of some mental healing, or maybe you're already okay and just want to catch some fish, I can't think of any place better than the San Juan to suggest for a visit. Other than this Thursday and Friday where it's supposed to be pretty windy, we've got beautiful fall weather, clear water, prime water flows of 604 cfs, yellowing cottonwood trees as a backdrop, and lots of hungry fish that are willing to eat a fly. So what's working? Well, as you might suspect, it's those itty-bitty bugs we all use here during normal times like these, the same ones freestone river fishermen always refer to in such a disparaging tone. Midge patterns in size 24 and 26s and baetis patterns in size 24 and 22s. Come on into the shop, we'll show you which ones are working. The dry fly fishing has dramatically improved, and perhaps from the lowering of the water, the rising fish aren't just confined to a few select spots along the edges or behind exposed structure. In the upper river, it's mainly a midge thing and my go to dries on these rising fish have been either a single adult gray midge dry, in size 24, or a fore and aft 24, on 7x tippet. There has been some reports of some BWO adults on the water in the lower river, although this past week it was somewhat sporadic, ranging from great to so-so depending on the day, but we're getting to that time of year where these hatches will become more reliable, so bring some olive comparaduns and parachute Adams in size 22 and 24 and be prepared. The big stuff—ants and hoppers are still working pretty good as long as you're targeting those opportunistic fish in shallower, slower water—which we now have more of—but these days are probably numbered, as this is typically the time of year that "easy" type of dry fly fishing tends to drop off and the fish start concentrating on the midges and baetis and become a little more selective about what they'll fall for. Don't expect to be alone on the water, there'll be some other people out here too, but at 600 cfs you'll be able to get around to a lot of different water and you won't be relegated to any combat fishing unless you refuse to walk farther than fifty yards from the parking lot. Hope you can make it out soon. Guides and rooms are booking up fast for the rest of this month, so if you're thinking about coming , better call as soon as you can.