- Jay Walden
June 14, 2020
I've been fishing this river since Kitty Wells was a Girl Scout and I used to hack it out with all you hardcores till 0:dark-thirty, but no longer my friends. No, now I'm a law-abiding citizen, observing the 6:00 pm curfew and I must tell you I am amazed at what goes on at home between 6:00 pm and 9:00 pm that I've been missing all these years. So many wonderful things that I couldn't begin to describe them all to you within the confines of an article such as this. Why, did you know there's a thing called sunsets? Apparently, something I have overlooked by staring at the water looking for rising fish, rather than at the sky during the hours when these things occur. Turns out, that old adage: "There ought to be a law," apparently does have some credence. Sometimes, such rules are necessary for those who don't have the good commonsense to help themselves. My momma used to tell me to be in by midnight, because nothing any good ever happened after midnight, and boy, was she ever right about that one. Now, you would think that with all this newfound time, that there would be a surge of productivity around here, but outside of spending more quality time with the dog and playing his favorite game of tug-of-war, and observing these beautiful sunsets, it doesn't seem that there's a whole lot of other stuff getting done. There is the added benefit that dinner is now being served before 11:00 pm and I'm getting to bed earlier, so I guess there's value in that. Ostensibly, the wheels of change turn rather slowly. Perhaps it is time to revisit the policy of "free refills on cocktails," that was instituted here some time back. Baby steps, baby steps—one thing at a time. I have heard a rumor that the State Park at Navajo Dam is going to fully reopen on June 20th. Now, I don’t know know if this is true or if this means that the 6:00 am to 6:00 pm day use curfew will be lifted, and if so, whether I'm going to backslide into my old ways again and be the last car in the parking lot, slogging my way through side channels in the dark, swatting mosquitoes—I guess we'll have to see. One thing's for certain—I'm really going to miss those sunsets.
Well, the river is still fishing great. Not as good as the first couple of days after reopening, but still, great. I don't know if it would be possible to maintain that level of fishing for any extended time, anyway. The last time I remember anything like that was just after high water for a month and a half, a few years back. I don't know how it happens but these fish seem to get educated really quick. Perhaps it has something to do with their incredible, adaptive survival skills. They don't stay that dumb for long. I guess we'd all learn things a little quicker too, if our life was in the balance on the outcome. I'm still throwing the big stuff at them, foam ants and such. I have had to switch to 5x from 6x on my tippet size, due to refusals, and I've gone to using PMXs on the fish I fished over days before with the ants—apparently, word got around pretty quick in the fish community about the big foam ant thing. It's helped. I'm mainly targeting fish in about a foot-and-a-half to two feet of water, or fish I see cruising higher in the water column. If they are rising consistently to midges, you're wasting your time with this technique, you're going to only catch those fish with a size 24 midge pattern. Nymphing is, and probably will always be, the tried and true method for taking San Juan fish. Simple thread midges and a mix of emergers in size 24 and 26 are really the go to flies, the majority of the time—maybe a baetis pattern or two like an RS or root beer, or small pheasant tail anywhere from the Texas Hole to further downriver. Most of those flies will catch fish anywhere on this river, it's a tailwater, and midges and baetis make up the majority of the food source for our trout. The real trick to being successful is in the presentation, which means your real concentration should be getting your depth and weight dialed in correctly, that, and good drag free drifts. I think it was Lee Wulff that said, "The last thing to change is the fly." It also doesn't hurt to know where the fish are. Right now, that's made a little easier for you with the lower water level—it's easier to see that there's not a lot of fish in the shallow, slow moving stuff. It doesn't take a rocket scientist to figure out they gotta be somewhere else. That "somewhere else" right now, means where there's food and cover— the deeper, darker stuff where there is current, and along current seams and drop-offs and ledges. Take some time before you go out there and start blasting off casts, look around first, are you seeing fish? The water is pretty clear, you should be able to see fish in most places. Basically speaking, any place that looks fishy on this river right now, is. Given the amount of water where you're obviously not seeing fish, pretty much does the work for you. Anyway, that's about all I got this week, hope you can make it out soon and see for yourself. Take care and stay safe.