San Juan Recap, March 23-26, 2018

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By Doug Bobb in reference to the San Juan trip on March 23-26, 2018:

As I write about our trip to the San Juan I’m reminded of the words by Heraclitus:

Heraclitus “No man ever steps into the same river twice, for it’s not the same river and he’s not the same man.”

What can you write about when so much has already been written about the San Juan?

This is a note on the conditions of the river and fish that were seen this past weekend and a review of techniques and flies that were so effective. Flow rates have been steady at 350cfs.  That means the water is low, slow and dirty.  However we saw the water starting to clear up a bit by Monday.  The winds were another story, on Friday gusting winds came in the afternoon at 41mph.  I have to say I admired the hearty souls that took their Kayaks and Pontoon boats out on the river that day, but it was kind of funny to see them float by us with white caps blowing up stream and Craig’s pontoon boat being blown in circles.

Saturday and Sunday the winds were tempered to 19mph, with mild white caps.  Skies were overcast; temperatures were mild in the 60’s.  Fishing was good.  The solunar tables had the San Juan rated with 1 star for the weekend.

The river is a tailwater river with a riffle-pool configuration that has created many deep pools below a riffle, and sandbars at the bends of the river.  The thalweg was evident throughout the river creating many side channels with riffles that give rise to BWO (Baetis) hatches around noon every day (especially at the lower flats). The midge hatch was evident along the entire length of the quality water.  For that reason, the blood worm (midge larvae) worked well all day.

Strategies that worked this weekend.  Wading on Friday was a given with the wind. Starting on the upper flats in the morning with midge larvae and nymphs worked really well.  Brassie’s (Red w Killer Caddis Bead aka Mercury Midge by Pat Dorsey) was a real winner.  Naked Ladies (Bare Red Hook size 18, 20) worked well also (available at Float n Fish).  The nymph patterns, Bling Midge, WD40, RS2-black in the morning, grey in the afternoon were winners.  Hitting the lower flats for lunch and catching the Baetis hatch in the afternoon was amazing.  Grey brassie’s, grey RS2’s, Rainbow Warrior, grey bling midges sizes 22, 24.

Another noteworthy revelation was the new group of “Jigmeister’s” that are evolving on the river.  1/8-1/16oz jighead on No.2 hook dressed with marabou, rabbit, or feathers and fished either straight line or under an indicator were catching big fish.  Like Ditto said, “Something that really works, bouncing it off the bottom.”  It also takes the stockers out of play which is a real issue.

The last observation was that there were a lot of waders, standing on sandbars that were drifting through the deep runs.  Not many were fishing the nymphs subsurface in the shallow water near the sandbar, by greasing the leader with floatant, removing the weight, and targeting the fish there.  It was a constant exercise in patience to add or remove weight or lengthen or shorten the leader to adjust for speed and depth. Finally, father and sons, brothers, and friends, came and had a wonderful time.  I enjoyed the comradery and good times and made new friends. In the end, it’s a great fishery (15,000 fish per mile), and brings into play everything you know about western rivers.  I can’t wait to go back.