- Jay Walden
December 29, 2019
Send lawyers, guns, and money.... You know what I've noticed about December? It's absolutely nothing like July. This morning when I checked, it was twelve degrees here. Just for grins, I checked the weather for Almont, Colorado—home of the Taylor River, another river I like to fish—minus fifteen. There's not a lot of consolation one can take in that, other than to say, "Well, at least I'm not there," although I've fished there when it was colder. That was back when I was younger and didn't have a whole lot of sense, however. Anyway, coming to the end of another year often gives us perspective, a time to reflect, if you will. And other than those annoying news channel "2019 a year in review specials" that seem to play on an endless loop for days that make you pray for the year to end just so you won't have to watch them anymore, reflection can occasionally be a source of solace—a chance to look forward to the coming year, to perhaps learn and do things differently, to mark another milestone in our life. For me, this was a year of mixed emotions on the fishing front, something that makes up a big part of who I am or, at least who I have come to be over the past several decades on this spinning, round chunk of rock, we all call home. My home river, the San Juan, had one of the most bizarre years that I can remember in all the years that I have fished here. We started the year with murky water, which can be quite typical in winter and early spring, but then proceed to brown water—something none of us had ever seen, then back to murky water, then 4,000 plus cfs for a while for a spring release, then high flows in the 1,800 cfs to 1,700 cfs range throughout the majority of the summer where the water wasn't exactly super clear like normal, and then a short season in the fall with a more normal 600 cfs flow and clear water that yielded the best fishing of the year, and finally, an earlier than normal turnover of the lake which put us right back where we started things off last January. It was a short season for great fishing. To add insult to injury it seems, Colorado had lots of snow until late into the season which prevented me from attempting to traverse those dangerous mountain passes right up into April, followed by a heavy runoff that made most of its rivers unfishable until later in the summer, so my usual alternatives, were limited, as well. So, I guess you could say, I'm not gonna miss 2019 all that much. No, I'm already looking forward to next year. Sorry, 2019, I know you've still got a few days left, but I've already moved on. It was nice knowing ya' by the way. That said, I've got high hopes for for 2020 here. Why so, O' Great Nostradamus of the San Juan Who Hopes He Doesn't Have To Eat Crow? Well, to begin with, the lake is already much fuller than where it was last year at this time, so we're not likely to see that scourge of brown water caused by runoff flowing over a lake bed of dirt where water is normally supposed to be. That alone will be a game-changer and add another month of better fishing than we had last year. Secondly, I think that we're about where we're gonna be on water clarity for the rest of the winter, or at least I hope so, and it ain't all that bad. Heck, you can still fish some dry flies on some days now, and that's way better than last year. And finally, I just feel it in my bones that we're due—we've already paid our penance in 2019 and enough, is enough. And, if all this blows up and everything goes sideways again, and none of this ever comes to fruition, I'll just deny I ever said any of it. So, there's that.
Well, what's going on this week? For starters, it's going to be a bit colder than what we've been experiencing for the past few weeks with lots of days where the highs will only be slightly above freezing. Oh well, it is winter. Regardless, they'll be some fools out there fishing and I just may be one of them—Lonely are the Brave, my brother, Lonely are the Brave. As far as the quality of fishing lately, I'd have to say it's been pretty good by winter standards. The flow is 558 cfs and likely to stay in that range for the foreseeable future and the water clarity is about a foot of so, which ain't that bad for winter. There are even a few fish rising around mid-day, at least for an hour or so, and some midge clusters, that you can imitate with a size 10 dead chicken. When the clusters start to taper off and become smaller, I've been able to extend my dry fly fishing a little longer using the bloody butcher (midge cluster pattern in size 22 and 24) and take a few more fish. On the nymphing side of things, a red larva would be classified as a must have right now. I like a size 22. After that, midge pupa patterns and emergers in size 24—black seems to be the magic color. Not to be overlooked by any means, I would add small olive leeches, foam wing emergers, and eggs to the list. The best fishing has been from around 10:00 or 11:00 am until around 3:30 or 4:00 pm which coincides with the warmer part of the day—a good thing, because you really don't want to be out there much earlier of later, when it's this cold. Anyway, the next ten days are going to give us some cold temperatures, especially the night- time lows, so we'll be able to test my, "this is as bad as the lake turnover is going to get," hypothesis. We'll see. One cool thing that happened this week was that I got to see my backing knot to my reel which is something doesn't come along every day. Seems like there is always some little something during the dark days of winter to lift a man's spirits and keep him going. Hope you can make it out soon. If you would like more info or would like to book a guide trip, give us a call at 505-632-2194.