- Jay Walden
December 19, 2021
Sorry for the recent delays on this report, but we have been experiencing supply chain issues.
Well, here we are and another year of fishing the San Juan is drawing to a close. Without reliving every moment of 2021 in detail, like every major news outlet will do for you in the upcoming weeks, let's just leave it at, overall, it was a pretty good year. In summation: There was no spring release of high water, which allowed us to have an extra month or two of wade fishing in the earlier part of the year. There was, however, the release of some wonky, off-color water due to issues with one of the release gates—weird, but we got through it. And, so far, no lake turnover, which has allowed for an extension of good fishing with some great fall midge hatches and clear water, right up until the end of the year. And, finally: After 30 years of trying, I did manage to land one of those 30-inch brown trout that everyone and their brother seems to catch with ease these days. There you have it, all in all, we're gonna chalk 2021 up as a good year on a great river.
Now, before we get into the nuts and bolts of the "report" part of this here diatribe, allow me to share with you; if you will, an observation I have made over the culmination of my many years of fly fishing for trout. In all honesty, truth be known here, let it be recognized, that, selfishly, I am mainly looking for the confirmation of others, a corroboration of sorts, that I'm not conspiracy minded—or to put it another way, that I have not gone completely cuckoo in my latter years. I'm talking about a phenomenon that I have come to call, Walden's Corollary, that goes a little something like this: The propensity for a fish to flop hook side down in your net, is directly proportional to the fact you landed it hook side up in the first place. This holds true no matter how many times the fish flops around. Despite what you may have learned in the past through countless coin tosses, those same rules on odds making, do not hold true for trout in a net of which you wish to extricate a hook from. In addition, the hemostat and fly are diametrically opposing forces of nature and the incongruous nature of the two is inversely proportional to the diminishing size of the fly, thusly: The smaller the size of fly in the fish's mouth, the more likely you are not going to be able to grab it with your hemostats, and the more likely—if you are successful in defying all odds—the fish will twist at exactly the wrong moment and bend your hook or shred thread and feathers, thereby rendering, said fly, utterly useless. I ask of you, nay, I implore you, good sir—is it just me or does this happen to other fly fishermen and women, as well? The defense rests, your honor.
All that said, we still go out there and continue to repeat our past actions, calling it sport, which somehow implies that there is fun involved in the process—something, that I might add, is evidence that—present company included— we are not quite right in the head. Hell, I'll even use size 30 dry flies and 7x tippet if I think it will help me catch a fish and that is generally considered masochistic behavior in any therapist worth his salt's, playbook. Anyway, the flow here on the San Juan is presently at 272 cfs and the water clarity is still great. The midge hatches that we were seeing back through the larger part of November and even into early December have diminished considerably, in both intensity and duration. There are, however, still a few opportunities to catch some fish on dry flies around mid-day, although the hatches are more localized and the fish that are rising are mainly eating a single midge at a time. I have seen some BWOs from time to time on certain days, in the lower river, but they seem to be far and few between. Your best hopes for that hatch are probably gonna happen on an overcast day and we are not seeing many of those lately. Overall, I think your best chance of consistently catching fish throughout the day is going to be nymphing. Some of my favorites for this time of year are OJs, red and cream larva, black scintillas, and chocolate foam wings. I had a go at streamers for a day, last week, with marginal results. Your mileage may vary, but I came away from the experience feeling that the combination of really clear and low water conditions really didn't lend their self to great steamer fishing results. As far as how long these clear water conditions will persist, it hard to say, but with the colder nights where we've been seeing temperatures in the single digits, I would venture to guess it won't be long until the lake turns over. What the clarity will be once that happens, is anyone's guess, we'll just have to wait and see. This coming week looks to be a little warmer with some temps in the mid-40s, which is doable fishing. If I don't see you on the water, Happy Holidays to all.