July 5, 2020
Crappy gas station coffee, miles and miles of two-lane blacktop, staring at the south end of RVs driving 15 miles an hour under the speed limit. Classic country playlist and Fred Eaglesmith—three chords and the truth. Mountain passes with conifers, alpine meadows, and giant walls of granite. Signs—Watch for rocks and wildlife—Avalanche area, No stopping or standing between signs. Old mining towns with 25 mile per hour speed limits and crosswalks, slow enough that you can see every brick of the fancy hotels built by Silver Kings on the backs, and sweat, of desperate immigrants—now they're just coffee, fudge, and ice cream shops for tourists. Clear, cold Rocky Mountain snowmelt, big fish. Late night beers and whiskey in some lonely motel room—I'm becoming a caricature of the music I listen to. Sanitize everything, wear a mask, disposable gloves for the gas pumps. Still I wonder if I've done enough. Can't shake the idea of the poetic justice that my end may come, all for a trout. Some may say he had it comin' to him. Road Trip. I wonder if I really want to do this again any time soon.
How ya'll doin? I know, I know, I know— you don't have to say nothin.' Me too. Well, the water went up this week here on the old San Juan and presently we're at 796 cfs. There was a brief spike up to 900 yesterday and then it almost immediately went back down and I don't know what that was all about, unless someone knocked over a cup of coffee or something on the control panel up there where all these things take place, but we're back to around 800 for now. Anyway, as is typical when we get these increases, the quality of fishing goes down for a few days, and judging by the panicked emails and text messages I received from friends and acquaintances, that's what happened just after this bump in the flow. No cause for alarm here, you're just competing with a lot of other food sources as the increased flow stirs up a lot of bugs and such from the bottom and banks, and fish move around to find new lies and establish a new pecking order. Order will be restored, shortly. Probably, already so. Two days after the increase, I was already seeing fish in new places that I hadn't seen at the lower flow rate and a lot of them not in the places where they had been before. The good news for those of you that have been fishing here a lot in the past few months, now you've got yourself a whole new river to fish. Unfortunately, now you're going to have to spend a few days wandering around finding out where the fish went. For me, that's part of the fun of fishing, figuring out these sorts of nuances and changes and adapting your methods and techniques to overcome them. It keeps things interesting. Kinda the same reason we like to fish different rivers from time to time. By tomorrow I imagine most of these fish will be back to eating the small stuff we fish here that is the staple of their diet, various stages of the midge and baetis lifecycle, but it might be worth your while to experiment with some of the stuff they have been accustomed to seeing for the past few days while it's still fresh in their memory—San Juan worms, chamois leeches, larva patterns, maybe even a bunny leech or two. Most of you know that I like fishing those dry flies, come hell or high water (no pun intended) and I've done quite well on big terrestrial patterns over the past few months—mostly foam ants and PMXs, with a heavier lean toward the PMXs as of late, so that's what I'm going to be doing. In the past, I've had my best results when the water level is somewhere between 500 to 650 cfs with this technique and anything in this 800 and above range seems to make things a little tougher—maybe it's because there's less shallow water to sight fish like I like to do, maybe the fish have more food beneath the surface at the higher water levels, I'm not quite sure, but anyway that's been my experience. Whatever the case, it'll be fun to go out and hunt new fish in some different water. As far as hatches, there hasn't been much that I have seen in recent weeks, at least not enough to spur a lot of rising fish. I did hear of some good PMD hatches and some caddis that had a lot of fish up from Rainbow Lodge down to Hammond Tract last week, but the increased flow may have put that down for a while, based on reports in the past couple days, although it could come back. I don't have a lot of good intel on much of what goes on here in the afternoon, since we've had some pretty unbearable wind that starts around three o'clock that's been relentless since March, so most days I'm back at the car by 4:00. My advice, which I intend to start taking tomorrow, is get out earlier than you used to, in order to get more quality fishing time in. I've never seen the wind like this in the afternoons, this late in the year, and based on the extended weather forecast, it doesn't look like it will be letting up anytime soon. All in all, this still remains a great to fish and these fish are still in great shape. Stay safe and hydrated out there, it gonna be a hot one this week.