- Jay Walden
July 4, 2021
The Fourth of July is here and it's as hot as; well, the Fourth of July. Anyway, how 'bout this little nugget of fly-fishing advice for you—fish where the fish are. I know I've said this before, but it apparently bears repeating because over the last couple months, I've seen any number of people blatantly not heeding what I would consider "pretty good" advice. Granted, there are times when this sound counsel just doesn't apply, say, when you are fishing a deep run where you can't see the bottom or perhaps when the water clarity just isn't the best, but as a general rule there just aren't that many scenarios where that applies on the San Juan in the middle of summer in gin clear water at 500 or 600 cfs. Just yesterday I watched a gentleman nymph directly upstream into 5 or 6 inches of water that contained nary a fish. How did I know there wasn't a fish in there, you may ask? Because I had just walked by only a moment before and it was so low and clear you could have counted every pebble on the stream bottom, besides, if there had been a fish in there, the water was so shallow, it's back would have been sticking out of the water. What do you think the odds are that this particular gentleman was going to catch a fish in a place where there was no fish to catch? Yep, you got it. I see this daily—people just blunder, and bungle, and wade into a spot and start casting without ever looking before they wade or try to set up a drift—it drives me crazy and I shouldn't really care because that just means they're leaving more fish for me that aren't going to get caught, but I do care for some crazy reason, because I know this river has so much to offer and your odds of having a much better fishing experience are a lot better if you just follow this one little piece of advice. While I'm at it, I throw this one in for free—your odds become even better if you pick out one particular fish and fish to that fish (preferably starting with the one closest to you, first.) So, some people say, "I really can't see fish in the water." I say, "Well, you drove here and managed to find your way from the parking lot, so that's just bullshit." Look, look for a long time if you have to, wear good pair of polarized sunglasses and look—you'll see 'em. The more you do this, the better you'll get at it, trust me. You'll begin to see the outline of a tail, the white of an opening mouth, the crimson stripe of a rainbow. Even when the light isn't that great, you'll see a shadow. You know how you tell a rock from a fish, underwater? A fish will move from time to time, rocks, rarely do—at least, that's been my observation. If you're casting where there are no fish, you might as well be an Ayahuasca Shaman out there just waving a stick in the air, your odds of catching a fish are about the same—even if you can cast like Lefty Kreh. Just sayin'.
Anyway, I think the fishing has been great for a while now. Even since they the recently raised the river to 500 cfs. BTW, I heard it from a pretty good source that it's going to 600 cfs this coming Monday. No worries though, it shouldn't affect the fishing one bit, just maybe open up a little more water to do it in. My guess is this just another step towards an upward trend in the river flow as the Animas River continues to drop over a hot, dry summer and we ultimately end up with an 800 to 900 cfs flow. Not to worry, plenty of fish will continue to be caught. Despite the continued lack of hatches, the dry fly fishing has been about as good as it gets. That is, if you like sight fishing big terrestrial patterns to big fish—and I do. Other than some fish rising to midges from around 3 to 5 or 6 pm, in selected pockets of the river, there aren't a lot of heads up. Good news is, they don't have to be if you're throwing the big stuff. There were even some baetis last week on those rainy, cloudy days in the lower river, but most of the weather outside of that has been hot, with bluebird skies. If you were hoping to catch the fabled ant fall on the San Juan; well, you missed it last week if you weren't here on Tuesday, I think it was. As fate would have it, I had to be out of town, so I feel your pain. Most of that afternoon midge activity is emerger eating activity, so you can get in some good fishing on crystal flash midges or whatever your favorite midge emerger pattern is, doesn't really matter what color it is, as long as it's black and there is no such thing as too small. If you're a dry fly fisherman, a lot of those fish can be had on a size 24 Morgan's Midge. Downriver, baetis patterns continue to work, especially gray RS2s. Well, hope you can make it out soon. And remember—keep your eyes open.