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  • Jay Walden

August 9, 2020

We met there on the hot, dusty trail. I'd had a long day out under the relentless, Wild West sun and I had a powerful hankering for some of that cold cactus juice, waiting at the end of the line and he was dead set on blocking my progress toward, said libation. I wasn't about to abide with it. It was a standoff like the Duel at Diablo. He was every bit of six foot, if'n he was an inch, lean as a whittled hickory stick, his leathery skin accentuated under the burning sun. He stared at me unblinkingly, with them two, beady eyes that was black as midnight, the kind my momma had taught me you couldn't never trust; and I must admit, a slight twinge of fear run all the way down my backbone. He never spoke a word, nor moved a muscle, but having seen a thing or two in my day, I knew he had nothin' but ill intent in mind. My pride was about to get the best of me and I wasn't about to be outdone by some old desperado, not when I had as much right to the trail as he did, but sometimes it's best to know when you're just plumb outgunned and admit to yourself you've been licked, and let discretion become the better part of valor. Besides, I had a cold drink a'waitin' back at the ranch, I didn't see how it was gonna do either of the two of us any good, to have one of our carcasses left out here in the caliche dust.. Now, it's the first inkling of the male of our species to automatically go poking at a snake with a stick, women; being the intellectual superiors of our particular biological class, just know better. So, naturally, the first thing I did was look around for a good snake pokin' stick. Looking back now, I'm lucky I couldn't find one, since he was perched and outstretched along a row of cinderblock there on the switchback at about my shoulder height, which would have been about perfect to come a'flyin' off in my general direction and latch onto my jugular. Well, for some reason from time to time, we fly fishermen like to think we represent the more erudite, refined examples of the human race, but experience has taught me that ain't always, rightly so. Case in point; is, that on occasion, I, along with a few of my fishing brethren, have poked a few snakes with the end of expensive fly rods—small water snakes; albeit, but snakes, nonetheless. I admit it crossed my mind here, but the image of that six-foot-long, fanged serpent slithering down to the butt section where my hand was attached to it, for once, kept me from doing something really stupid. Not to mention that this happened to be one of my favorite rods, and the thought of having to toss it over into the willows with a snake attached to it was just something I couldn't bear to entertain. Anyway, I picked up the only decent sized throwin' rocks I could find without takin' my eyes off the snake and chucked them at him with no modicum of success, maybe because my throwin' hand was a bit shaky and my aim was off. Whipped, I backed down the trail with my eyes still affixed to the devil incarnate, and bushwhacked straight up the cliff to the next level of the switchback, with my wounded pride, and beat a hasty retreat to the car, locking the door for good measure. The upshot of the whole thing is that now there is a nice, notable bypass that would be the envy of any highway engineer, available for any wayward fly fisherman who may come into contact with an unfriendly, reptilian adversary anywhere in that general vicinity. I must add that upon arrival home, the cactus juice tasted particularly sweet that evening and served as a quite effective palliative for my somewhat, frayed nerves. Still, I aim to have my eyes peeled for them buggers, at least, until the first snowfall.

Well, other than that friends and neighbors, it was a good week of fishing here on the San Juan with the flow level at my favorite 500 cfs, up until Friday when there was an increase to the present rate of 671 cfs. At the time I wasn't even aware of the change, and honestly, it didn't seem to have mattered much, because I had a pretty awesome day, raising some mighty nice fish to a PMX pattern. 671 cfs still seems to be fine and dandy for some great dry fly fishing here, although the extended weather forecast calls for more hot and dry weather, so I wouldn't be surprised if these lower water levels don't stay around for long. Most likely, we'll see them start creeping up a hundred cfs of so each week, in the weeks to come. Anyway, for the present, we are seeing fish actively feeding throughout the majority of the day, mainly on midge emergers. My latest modus operandi has been to either target these fish with a size 24 Morgan's midge on 7x tippet or just skip them altogether and find fish holding shallow in faster moving water and put a size 14 PMX or a size 12 over their nose. It all depends on my mood and my patience level from day to day, as that small fly and 7x tippet business can be tedious work at times. As for the nymphing business, small midge larva (24 and 26) earlier in the day, and an emerger pattern like a crystal flash, ju-ju, or foam wing, seems to be the ticket when they become more active in the water column. I would highly recommend 6x fluorocarbon for this. There has been some fish actually eating midge adults on most days, but in my observation, this takes place around 3:30 or 4:00 in the afternoon, and the wind that I thought we rid of, that has now returned, seems to negate this, although I have taken several fish on a big Dead Chicken pattern as long as the wind isn't just howling. Overall, I would expect the fishing to remain pretty solid for the coming week, and we're just gonna have to wait and see what happens with the flow levels from here on out and readjust accordingly. Have a good one, stay safe, and watch out for them snakes.

Jay's Fishing Reports

Books by
Jay Walden
Can be purchased on Amazon or in our fly shop.

Jay's Fishing Report  

To our faithful fishing report readers, 

Here's a way to get your rainbow trout fix 'til you are able to hit the San Juan again-- available online only

Check each style out--there are a variety of colors, fabrics & sizes to enjoy.

Special thanks to designer & artist, Matt Zudweg 

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As a small aside and attempt at shameless self-promotion, there was an article featured  on Flyfisherman Magazine's website written by yours truly about the 60th anniversary of Abe's Fly Shop that can be accessed through the following link: Abe's Anniversary. Hope you can make it out this week. If you would like more information or would like to book a guided trip, give us a call at 505-632-2194. 

Abe's Fly Shop Turns 60 -

Watercolor by Tim Oliver                                          Photos Courtesy of Abe Chavez


Jay's Past Reports:  

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