- Jay Walden
October 13, 2019
I am accustomed to sleep and in my dreams to imagine the same things that lunatics imagine when awake—Rene Descartes.
There are some fish that haunt you. The memory of a particular moment, if even for a split second, with a particular fish, can seemingly, indelibly, somehow be burned into your gray matter like some ear-worm of an 80's hair-band song that you can't ever seem to get out of your head—or at least not without expensive and lengthy therapy, so I'm told. It'll come to you at the oddest of times, like in the middle of an unrelated conversation with a stranger, while you're washing the dishes, or deep in the middle of the night in your sleep. Here you are in the midst of explaining how to get to Safeway in Aztec to a person you've never met before and in mid sentence, that image of that fish pops into your head. The human brain is the most complex thing in the universe and I'm probably the last guy you ever want to ask to explain it. So last night at three a.m. I was awakened from a dead sleep with the vivid memory of reliving just such a moment in my dreams. Now, perhaps this all can be attributed to the two fingers of Woodford Reserve and two bowls of homemade chili I had just before bed, much like Ebeneezer Scrooge's description of Marley's ghost as, “You may be an undigested bit of beef, a blot of mustard, a crumb of cheese, a fragment of underdone potato. There's more of gravy than of grave about you, whatever you are!” but, I'm telling you, this thing was played out in Technicolor like some Cecil B. DeMille flick, so vividly that it took me at least an hour to get back to sleep. Anyway, about a week ago, I was fishing this spot where I'd seen this humongous brown trout roll back in the winter. Now, I don't think I've ever caught a fish in here before, but I know what I saw that day, so I've tried a few times since. It's a tricky piece of water with a relatively fast current, a slower current seam, and then a small back eddy that churns against the bank like one of those old fashioned wringer-type washing machines that dumps right back into the top of the fast current and seems to start the whole process all over again. Just the kind of place big fish like to hang out in, because of the food it keeps churning out, but damn near impossible to get a good dry fly drift in, especially if you want to get your fly to look natural in the current seam part, which requires an upstream mend in the first part, then a downstream mend about mid-way through to cover the whole convoluted mess. It's a nerve-racking way to fish, but that's the sweet spot on a lot of these types of runs. Well, I tossed a big hopper pattern in there and and after about five times of this mend up/mend down, nut-bag, balderdash without so much a look, I made that final downstream mend that moved the fly a couple of inches just a a big brown head appeared with an open mouth that looked like Maurizio Cattelan's $5 million dollar solid gold toilet with the lid raised—you know, the same one that was stolen from Winston Churchill's WC in Blenheim Palace— and I saw this massive white inside of a maw like the opening of the Pearly Gates that went all the way back to where the sun don't shine no more and this fish missed the fly. I, of course, was devastated. A fish that big didn't get that big by being stupid, and I know that, but I had to to try him a few more times anyway and hope against hope, and that was the end of that, as they say. Now, here I am thinking about it again, for about the gazillionth time this week, and counting. But, anyway, I have a new plan that I'm not going to unveil just yet, lest it turn out like one of those Wylie E. Coyote episodes, but if it works, I'm sure you're going to be hearing about it. Now, for that fishing report part. You really couldn't ask for better conditions on the San Juan right now. Clear water with great visibility and a flow of around 600 cfs. and outside of one cold windy day last week, the weather has been nearly perfect. And, and, and—decent bug hatches for the dry fly fishermen and fisherwomen with BWOs starting to show up in the lower river. I'm telling you, from here until at least of the end of the month, everything looks to be peachy. As if things couldn't get any better, we've had some below freezing night-time temperatures that have virtually eliminated all of those no- bueno-por-nada, parasitic, blood sucking, disease bearing, mosquitoes we were plagued with for so long, so the whole river is now open for business and you can now wander amongst the willows to your heart's content without fear of loss of life. The mornings have been chilly, so in my opinion, the best fishing starts around 10 am when the water warms and the bugs and fish get more active, so really, you can sleep in bit, have your coffee and not really feel all that guilty about missing much. If you are out early I would suggest starting with larva and pupa patterns and fish them deep, or maybe throw streamers for awhile. Later, you're gonna see fish start to move up in the water column, so then it's emerger patterns, with less weight, and less depth. Then come the dries, as the hatch starts and the adults start to populate the surface—I like fore and afts and single adult midge patterns in 24 and even 26s depending on how picky your particular fish is, and fish those on 7x tippet. If you're seeing adult BWOs on the water, size 24 and 26 olive bodied comparaduns are my favorite, but you can also try the cut- wing baetis or a good ol' parachute Adams as long as you get the size right—7x is probably a good idea here, as well. Later in the afternoon and evening you're likely to see what appears to be rises, but if you observe closely most of these fish are mainly eating emergers just under surface film, so you're probably going to do much better with emerger patterns than dries up until dark. For your nymph patterns throughout the day—red and cream larva early, blings and mono midges for pupa patterns, midge emergers like crystal flash and scintillas for the emergers. In the lower river you'll want baetis nymphs, like root beers or small PTs, CDC RS2s, foamwings, and fluff baetis. Hope you can make it out before the snow starts to fly. Rooms and guides are booking up fast, so give us a call at 505-632-2194.