- Jay Walden
August 22, 2021
I went back to Ohio, but my city was gone. Imagine my surprise last week, walking all nonchalantly along to the river, dry fly rod already strung up, to be met with the surprise of my beautiful San Juan River looking more like chocolate milk than water. I guess that dude Plato was right when he said, "You can never step into the same river twice." Yikes! And, Yuck! Now, granted, in the few weeks leading up to this, the river wasn't its usual gin clear self, but it definitely wasn't to the point of 6 to 8 inches of visibility, either. I suspect that was from all the muddy water from the Colorado monsoons pouring into the lake, along with all the silt that washed into the river here, from several big thunderstorms we received, as well. But this was a horse of a whole different color, my friends. This was gut-punch different. So, apparently what happened was a clever trick known around these parts as, The Old Switcheroo. From what I have been able to ascertain, there was a malfunction with some equipment on the power plant side of the dam, the likes that haven't been seen since Jane Manfield's wardrobe malfunction at Romanoff's in 1957, in her attempt to upstage Sophia Loren. Anyway, the flow had to be diverted over to the spillway side of the dam where there is a stilling basin just below that has over a year's worth of sediment built up and the combination of sediment, plus water now flowing over new area it hasn't disturbed in a while is sure mucking up the works right now. And, although I am not 100 per cent sure on this, if my memory serves me correct, the spillway side is drawing water from a different depth in the lake which is also compounding the problem. Word on the street is that the BOR is working to correct the problem and plans to move the release back to the power plant side as soon as the work is completed. Rumors abound on when that might be—I've heard everything from days to weeks. My guess is that once all is said and done, we will see an improvement in the water clarity, although I don't think it will crystal clear like we're used to in summer, until all that runoff we got from the monsoons has time to settle in the lake. Anyway, in the meantime, you've got two choices—fish it, or don't fish it, the latter; of which, I find totally unacceptable. So, I have now adopted the Taoist philosophy of fly fishing—embrace the murk—learn to be one with it—go with the flow, man, and achieve harmony with the murk. Wuwei, baby. Don't fight it. If life gives you lemons, make pink, vodka lemonade cocktails. By that, I mean I've been fishing streamers for the last week and a half. White bunny leeches and white zonkers. While it ain't sight fishing dry flies to rising trout, it ain't all that bad either. There's something to be said for 3x tippet and being able to get that rod to bend all the way down into the butt section. And I caught my personal best San Juan fish a couple days ago, something that probably would have never happened except for the murk forcing me to fish streamers. Those kinds of fish rarely sip size 30 dry flies and you're not likely to land them on 7x tippet.
So, there's that. And nymphing. I know of only two little runs that have fish rising to midge clusters from 3:00 to 6:00, outside of that I'm not seeing rising fish anywhere else. If I'm wrong on that, someone please let me know, perhaps I'm just looking for love in all the wrong places. And you can forget about bringing them up on terrestrials right now, the visibility is just too bad for that. Unfortunately, a few more folks know where those rising fish are too, so you got that to factor in, plus I can't bring myself to keep fishing over the same fish, day after day. So, it's streamers or nymphing, that's about all we got right now until this clarity thing improves. If you choose to nymph, I would suggest red larva (the large variety) San Juan Worms, Fire Crackers, O.J's, eggs, chamois leeches, and things of that ilk—commonly referred to in some circles as junk flies, but there you have it. Wuwei. In the meantime, practice your Taoism patience, the water will clear eventually, these things only happen once in a Blue Moon. Oh wait, today is the start of the August Blue Moon. What are the odds of that?