- Jay Walden
February 2, 2020
Well, here we are, we've made it to February friends and neighbors. That wonderful month where it's sixty degrees one day and snowing the next, which is exactly what we are likely to see for today and tomorrow. But, that's just how things go out here in the great wild West. If you live out here long enough, you learn to expect it. At least you get a few good days in there to give you hope that warmer weather will soon be on the way, no matter what any groundhog may tell you. I saw where NOAA just came out with a study that says, that guy is only correct about forty- percent of the time, anyway—something I could probably replicate by blindfolding myself and throwing darts at a board. You go ahead on and believe what you gotta believe just to get you to springtime. Or, in the words of Friedrich Nietzsche, "Once the decision has been made, close your ear even to the best counter argument: sign of a strong character. Thus an occasional will to stupidity." Anyway, while we're on the topic of stupidity, I can think of no better time than the present to throw a few of my theories out there concerning fishing; or more specifically, winter fly fishing, that are based on no scientific evidence whatsoever. Yessiree, just good old-fashioned, opinionated drivel, the kind you're most likely to hear in about any fly shop across this great nation that can be taken to heart and spread as the gospel truth. So here goes—winter fishing is, at it's best, so-so, especially when compared to the warmer months of the year. Now, to some this may sound like sacrilege, but when you really get honest with yourself and come to grips with reality, you basically have to admit that it's truly just something you do that sorta/kinda resembles fly fishing that keeps you from going stark raving mad after being shut up in the house for too long, avoiding the cold. Thus, the following phrases used to describe it: "It was actually a pretty nice day," which translates to, "At least my guides weren't freezing up all day long." Or, "The fishing was pretty good," meaning, "We caught a couple fish." So-so," fishing, at best. Now here goes the theory part, I think the magic bullet that throws the switch (mixing metaphors, here) from so-so, to actual "good" fishing, is a couple of days where the temperature is in the 50s. Like I said, I have absolutely no hard scientific evidence to back this up with, but it's totally based on my experience with this river. So there you go. I could go on about warmer water and increased bug activity, and so on, but I think you've probably, already endured enough. I also have several other theories, including one that explains Gauge Symmetry and how it relates to dry-fly fishing, but I'll spare you from that, as well. So, to sum it all up, which will come as a welcome reprieve to almost everyone reading this, the best fishing of winter is on the way, on the days when we start to see daytime highs over 50 degrees. If you want to extrapolate from that, the quality of the fishing will improve exponentially as the air temperature rises here. Now, I'm done.
Okay, does all that hokey BS above mean that you should never fish the San Juan unless it's at least 50 degrees outside? Of course not. This year, the winter fishing here has actually been pretty good—as far as winter fishing goes. When I say pretty good equals so-so, I just mean in comparison to outstanding fishing, the kind we have during the summer and fall here. This is an amazing trout stream, it's so easy to become jaded when you've seen it at it's best. You should fish it during winter, it fishes better than most places during this time of year, and the weather is generally more forgiving than anywhere else you can go. Now as far as conditions go, the visibility is around 18 inches or so. Good enough to sight fish in some areas. The flows are around 500 cfs which makes for easy wading, but also plenty enough water for a drift boat. There are even some rising fish on most days and I think this will only improve when we start seeing some warmer days, which are in the not too distant forecast. So yeah, it's worth a trip here if you need to catch some fish until the real season gets here. If you do come, you'll need some small, dark midge patterns in size 24 and 26 for nymphing, and don't overlook the "must have" larval stage of the bug in larger sizes up to size 22, especially in red. For the dry flies, all you need right now is a size 24 gray or black adult midge and it's okay to fish that on a 6x tippet. You can also catch fish on streamers right now, but I suggest you keep 'em small— a size 12 marabou leech in olive, black, and especially white have been working best for me. Alrighty then, there you have it. Hope to see you on the water soon and remember it's only going to continue to get better as time goes on. If you would like more info or would like to book a guide trip, give us a call at 505-632-2194.