- Jay Walden
July 12, 2020
Well, here goes: As of tomorrow, July 13th, New Mexico's latest Public Health Order will take effect, and as a result, out of state visitors will no longer be allowed access to State Park property. Unfortunately, that means that unless you can demonstrate proof of New Mexico residency, you will not be able to fish any part of the San Juan that is within the Park boundary. i.e., the entire Quality Water section. Bummer, I know. At this point, there's no set date on how long this will be in effect, but most likely there won't be any changes until we see a dramatic, sustained, decrease in the number of COVID-19 cases here; as well as, in surrounding states. Based on the way things are going, I wouldn't expect that to happen anytime soon. Not a good way to start a fishing report, but I thought it might be a good idea to put this out there, since I know this reaches several people from out of state; that otherwise, might not be aware and may possibly be planning a trip here.
Now, after that little tidbit of depressing news, here's the fishing report part. First of all, I'd like to start out by whining and complaining about the weather, most particularly, the wind. The wind that has been blowing incessantly every day since back in March to the tune of 20 miles-per-hour and spoiling the best part of the day for dry fly fishing. It's gotten so bad here that I heard Wyoming is becoming jealous and is now considering a movement to annex the great Land of Enchantment. I've fished here for nearly 30 years and I've never seen anything like this in June, and especially July. I toughed it out for a week or so, beating the water to a froth when you couldn't see a fish if you were standing on top of one, but lately I've taken to going out much earlier while it's still calm, then reeling up and heading for home for an afternoon grandpa nap when the wind starts. Unfortunately, as has been my experience in the past, those early mornings typically aren't the best time of the day to be tossing around dry flies. As it is, you gotta play the hand you're dealt. Secondly, when the flow increased to 800 cfs here awhile back, that great terrestrial fishing I was having at 600 cfs became much tougher. Lately when you see fish, they're rarely holding high in the water column. Part of this, I'm sure, is that there's not much in the way of hatches going on in the earlier hours of the day, and if, and when, they do start later in the afternoon, those tiny midges are being blown into the next county by this wind, or any of the remaining ones can't be seen by the fish in the whitecaps. But, I will tell you what I have seen—lots of fish holding right on the bottom, seemingly, doing absolutely nothing. Based on my observations from the past, this is typical fish behavior on this river, once the flow reaches 800 cfs and above—they find a current or current seam where there is a ton of food being funneled to them and lock into place, usually using the bottom to mitigate fighting the current, and they won't move unless it's to defend their position from another fish—something else I've been seeing a lot of lately. Anyway, to sum it all up, the nymph fishing is going to be a much more productive method of fishing on this river for awhile and my advice for now is—find main currents and current seams and go deep. For the most part, you're not going to see a lot of emerger activity, so I would make my main fly choices larva, annelids, and pupa. That, and dead drifting small leech patterns with a slow retrieve at the end of your drift. It pains me to say it, but it's a long row to hoe out there for a dry fly fisherman right now, with basically no rising fish, but you can still bring up a few big fish on PMXs, ants, and hoppers if you stick with it and cover a lot of water. I would expect that we'll see this present flow for just a bit longer with the possibility of an increase in the near future, as the Animas is dropping and the extended weather forecast shows more of the same—hot, windy, and dry—for at least the remainder of this month. I seriously doubt we'll see any decrease in the flow until we get into our monsoon season in August, if that even happens this year. Right now, it's so dry here even the sage is dying, and I've never seen that before either. That stuff could probably even survive on Mars. It's been a strange year. Stay safe.