- Jay walden
December 8, 2019
It was one of those, "Here, hold my beer," moments. You know, one of those things you do that seems kinda dumb at the moment, but actually turns out to be really cool. This past Monday, I caught a bunch of fish on a size 24 gray adult midge on a 7x tippet. There were fish rising to midges all day long. On my way back to the parking lot I had to pass by a big, swirling back eddy where I'd seen fish rising the week before. I wanted to get at least one more fish on a dry to top off a, so far, spectacular day, but it was getting dark and I knew that in the failing light I wouldn't be able to see that size 24 midge to pull it off, so I clipped my tippet down to 6x and tied on a size 10 foam ant. Now— that— I could see, and after about three casts, I had a nice 17 inch brown in the net. Finally, standing there in total darkness and figuring enough was enough, I reeled in and headed for home. The next morning, I headed back out to a different spot, fully hoping to find rising fish again, and for a repeat of Monday's performance on that size 24 gray midge. Well, the fish weren't rising just yet and since I still had the big foam ant on from the night before, I figured I'd just kill some time time before the hatch started and see if I could find a dumb fish that would commit to that big foam sucker. I had a couple of looks from a few little guys on the first few passes and on about my fourth cast a big head came up and engulfed the thing like a junkyard dog on a bone. "Here, hold my beer." Figuring the whole thing was a fluke, but still knowing that it was useless to switch over to the small stuff just yet for the few sporadic rises I was seeing, I kept the ant on. Now, I know you're not gonna believe this, but I had big fish just smashing that thing all day. It worked like that Banjo Minnow in that old infomercial—remember that thing? Fish can't resist it—that sort of deal? Now, I don't know why it worked—believe me—I'm just like you, it makes no sense why a fish would eat a Chernobyl ant in December, but if I didn't catch fish after fish on this thing all day, then grits ain't groceries, brother. "Here, hold my beer." Now, I have a theory on this that is totally unfounded, mind you, just like all the other cockamamie ideas I have to explain all the other weird stuff that goes on in the world, but I think a lot of those fish were looking up that day because that's what they've been doing for the last few weeks around here with all the great midge hatches we've had. On that particular day, where I was, there weren't really a whole lot of bugs—a few—but not a lot, like when a fish picks a lane and picks off one bug at a time over and over. No, I think they were there waiting for that to happen and then along comes this big meal and they think, "Hey, I'm hungry and I'm tied of waiting around for this hatch to start, and I remember those big, tasty ants from back in the summer, I'll just eat one of those." Anyway, that's what I think and I don't think I could have pulled it off if there were enough bugs coming down and they could have afforded to ignore the ant. Like I say, it's a theory—one of many I have about a lot of things, if you've got the time to listen to them. And why we're on the topic, do fish even know it's winter on a tailwater where the water temperature barely fluctuates? I think maybe only the ones that jump out of the water for whatever reason and go, "Wow, there's snow on the ground—who knew?" Another topic for another day, perhaps. Right now, I'm anxious to throw that big ant again tomorrow and see what happens.
So, here's the deal. The flows here are at 570 cfs and are likely to stay in that range throughout the winter. The water clarity is good and the hatches, mainly midges, have been fantastic. There are still some scattered BWOs in the lower river, but they're nowhere near as heavy as they were a couple of weeks ago. The dry fly fishing, has been outstanding, to the point where I would say it surpasses the nymphing in productivity, which isn't always the case on this river. There are a lot of heads out there, starting as early as 8:00 or 9:00 am and lasting throughout the majority of the day. My go to set up has been a size 24 gray adult midge fished on a 7x tippet and outside of that freakish ant thing the other day, I haven't had to switch a fly pattern all day—actually, in weeks, for that matter. I imagine that you can probably get some fish later in the day to eat some of the bigger stuff like a dead chicken or possibly an ant, especially if there are midge clusters around and you fish some faster water where they don't have a whole lot of time to scrutinize the thing. Anyway, the fishing is good, really good, and there's hardly anyone else out there, right now. As far as the nymphing goes, that's gonna be good too, if that's your thing. The usual suspects of San Juan favorites, like red larva, monomidges, blings, and crystal flash emergers, should keep you into fish all day. Downriver, toss in a few baetis patterns like rootbeers, RS2s, and foamwings. You know the drill. The weather looks very doable this week with the highs in the mid to low 40s and very little wind which bodes well for the dry fly types. Hope you can make it out this week, since our time is limited before the lake turns over and then it's a whole new ballgame here. If you would like more info or need to book a guide, give us a call at 505-632-2194.