August 16, 2020
Fire! There is something especially mesmerizing about a campfire. The comfortable, sweet aroma of burning wood, the feel of warmth, the sound of the crackle, the smoky taste on the palate, and the hypnotic dance of the flames and the sparks as they fly towards the heavens that automatically draw and demand the attention of the eye. There is something for all the senses for us humans, with fire. I reflected on this just the other night while I was on a camping/fishing trip, sitting there in the; otherwise, dark woods, staring into the blues, reds, and oranges of the bright luminescence of the blaze. Fire will do that to you, make you stare into the flame, consider deep thoughts, slow things down, make you appreciate the world around you. I suppose that this has always been thusly so, for all of our species. As I was sitting there congratulating myself on my creation of fire, I eventually came to the conclusion that I was actually just a big dummy for thinking I had created anything at all; noting, after many of those deep thoughts, that fire has actually been around for a lot longer than before I decided to light this one off. Besides, I had used a Bic lighter and a couple of chunks off a starter log from my fireplace at home, so that kinda threw a wet blanket over my whole "creation" idea. Sometime, many, many years ago, a lightning bolt probably struck a tree next to Ogg the Caveman's cave and set a tree ablaze, and he; undoubtedly, grabbed one of the burning branches that had fallen, and immediately rushed to his neighbor's cave to, likewise, brag about his creation—burning his hand in the process, whereby, having to sit out the entirety of next weekly mastodon hunt, while his hand healed— because there was no comprehensive healthcare plan at the time (and yet none to date, so we really haven't evolved much on that aspect) but, he went hungry for a week—which is probably a good lesson, when you go trying to take credit for something that you really didn't do in the first place. Anyway, I chalked the whole trip as a success, having caught some nice trout on some new and different water in a beautiful place, and having some quality "alone time" out there in the woods with my fire and my deep thoughts.
Meanwhile, back on the San Juan, things are a'changin.' Due to the hot, dry weather we've been experiencing, the flow rate; as I predicted, has been steadily creeping upward and is currently at 971 cfs. Now, I could go on and on about why I don't particularly care much for this present flow level, but you've all already heard that one over and over, so I'm gonna spare you the details. Anyway, the thing I miss most about the San Juan once the water goes up to around 1,000 cfs is the river loses a lot of its character and all the nuances like riffles and structure disappear and everything looks like one big flat mass of moving water. "Reading" the water becomes more difficult when it all looks the same. But I'm not going to dwell on that, there's nothing I can do about it, so why complain? Anyway, I fished it the last couple of days while it was still around 900 cfs and it fished pretty well for me and I don't think an additional 71 cfs is gonna change things that much, especially when you consider the small percentage of increase when it's already running pretty high to begin with. I plan to go out a little later today where the rubber meets the road and see if my theory bears me out. One major change I did notice over the past few days was finally the presence of a good afternoon midge hatch that started around 3:00 pm and continued right up until 6:00 pm when I had to leave the river and fish that were still rising. Incidentally, if you are one of those folks that has been ignoring the 6:00 pm curfew and staying on the river—don't be that person. Honestly, if can't get enough fishing in between the hours of 6:00 am and 6:00 pm and obey the rules like everyone else, then really, you're just a jerk. The State Park has been nice enough to allow us access to the river for 12 hours a day, in light of everything that is going on in the world, and if you can't be respectful of that, and by doing that, not put everyone else's access in jeopardy, then you don't deserve to be out there at all. Sorry, I got off track there, but I felt I had to address that. No one feels greater pain than I do to have to leave rising fish, and if I can do it, then you can too. Oh yeah, the midge hatch—well, especially around areas where you find grassy banks, there have been some good old-fashioned San Juan midge hatches, complete with clusters and gulping fish. Most of these fish are holding tight to the bank to about 5 or 6 feet out and I've been doing quite well on the Western Bloody Butcher in size 22 and you can get by with a 6x tippet because these fish are feeding pretty voraciously. As the hatch goes on, the clusters grow in size and you might get by with a bigger imitation although I haven't tried that yet, because what I've been using still works. Before the hatch, I've been walking a lot, sight fishing a size 14 PMX to fish in shallow water and that's been working pretty well. On the nymphing side of things, usually at these higher levels, red larva and OJs are the go- tos, with a small midge larva or emerger as a dropper, or a baetis pattern if you are fishing the lower river. If you hit a slump, now would probably be a good time to try a leech pattern, preferably in olive or black during this higher water level. Well, we might even see another increase or two in the water level over the next couple weeks as the weather forecast calls for more hot and dry conditions. Until then, we'll just have to see what happens from day to day. Stay safe, my friends.