Insects and other foods the trout may be eating:
1. Blue-winged Olives
2 . Sculpin, baitfish and small crayfish (Imitate with streamers)
Down and Dirty (some are clean) Tips and Recommendations for Fly
Fishing Destinations - Part 12
Just keep in mind that it is strictly one opinion that happens to be mine. The intent is to hopefully
give those interested a general idea of what to expect. Most likely every guide, affiliated business
entity and local angler will have a different opinion. These streams also have full coverage on our
Perfect Fly Stream Section.
I'll get back to the destinations that some of you may want to consider (or exclude)
from your new year's planning. I left off at Arizona, New Mexico and Utah or the
Southern Rocky Mountains, so I'll pick back up there.
San Juan River New Mexico
The San Juan River is an amazing tailwater. It's located in the dry, desert looking
country of Northern New Mexico.
The first time I ever fished it was during a bass tournament on Lake Powell. It flows
into the lake and my partner and I ran eighty miles one-way to fish the river's mouth
simply because the water had some color to it and the lake didn't. Making a 160 mile
round trip in a 10 hour day in a bass boat filled with extra tanks of gas is an
experience. I thought Gary Klein, the partner I drew for that day was crazy. Looking
at my old records, I noticed that Gary weighted in 58 pounds for the three days and
I weighted in 31.15. If I could have only drawn him for the first day. He went home
with about $11,000 and a new boat and I went home checkless with a pile of
expense tickets. This day in time, the amount would be much larger. Gary has won
1.8 million in just the BASS, bass tournaments not counting the many other circuits
he fishes. I have fished with him twice and I learned something each time.
In the San Juan tournament, he had beat me pretty bad the day before and I had no
choice but to go where he was successful. Almost all of us ran at least thirty miles
each day but eighty miles is a very long way? We didn't have but about 2 hours to
fish. It was all running and at first, with a very heavy boat due to the weight of the
extra gas. We all thought we would end up broke, because the price of gas had just
risen to over a dollar a gallon.
Gary won that national BASS tournament on the San Juan River about five miles up
stream from its confluence with Lake Powell. Incredibly, Bill Dance placed second
without running twenty miles all week. For those of you that think he is just a TV
fisherman, your bad, bad wrong. He is as smart as they get even though I always
called him Bill Dense. Where did he catch bass in water hundreds of feet deep?
Believe it or not, under floating tumble weeds that had blown in the lake using
spinning tackle and a tiny green worm. That's a trick I leaned the hard way too late.
That was in April of 1979 and Gary Klein is still one of the top BASS anglers in the
nation. He has made his living fishing bass tournaments his entire life and done very
well. He's originally from California, and had fished the lake several times prior to
I guess your wondering what this has to do with the trout fishing upriver miles from
there. Well the answer is nothing. It has just always amazed me that at the time, I
would have never dreamed that many years later I would catch large trout from the
Angie and I have fished the San Juan on four different occasions and each time had
excellent result. Twice we fished it during the dogs days of August and still
experienced some great fishing. One day I watched Angie lose four straight trout
hooked on a midge fishing a deep, fast run in the river. They were a tiny size midge,
and the tippet was 7X. She is normally very good at light tackle fishing simply
because she has a lot of patients with the fish. However, she is short and was
fishing fairly fast water just a little over her waist. She tried to lead the fish back to
shallower water before they spotted her but each time she tried, all four of them
shot back in the deeper run in fast water and went downstream into the backing
before she could move downstream wading the deep water.
I caught several from the same run and had the advantage of being six foot - two
inches tall, meaning I could get downstream faster. Each one that she lost (all wild
browns) was captured on-camera and looked to be well over twenty inches. She
managed to catch some almost that large, but not in that run. She was just too
short. I lost about half of the ones I hooked. The pressure exerted by the fast water
was the problem. There was no stopping them on 7X tippet if they just wanted to
keep going downstream. If you used anything larger, or a larger midge larvae
imitation, they wouldn't touch it. They were lying on the bottom of the run picking off
dislodged midge larvae. That's normal procedures for browns in the river. They use
the depth for cover.
Well, I got off subject again, but maybe that will give you an idea of the kind of
action you can get on the San Juan River. If you don't enjoy fishing with tiny midge
flies, I suggest you avoid going to the San Juan River. That's the main source of
food for the trout. There's very, very few hatches of anything else.
This river is stocked with tons of rainbows. They just about all holdover and get big
but the wild browns are the thing that makes the river what it is. It's a fun place to
fish and I will assure you that after having done so for a while, you will learn more
about fishing small midge flies than you will anywhere else in the nation. You will
also learn that huge size trout can be caught on tiny flies ranging from a hook size
20 to 28 and on 7X tippet. That's as large of a tippet as you can get through the eye
of the hooks using standard midge hooks.
In spite of its excellent fishing, I cannot rightly give the San Juan over an "A minus",
the minus being because the rainbows are stocked. Sorry for the bass fishing
stories. I can't help but think about some of the memories that I wouldn't take
anything for. In case you haven't figured it out, memories are one thing that makes
fishing the great sport it is. Speaking of memories, check this blog post out and
check this out about his trips and comments about the South. By the way, he
isn't permitted to say anything that isn't nice about the South. His lovely girlfriend
happens to be from North Carolina. It's just one of the many fine reports and
interesting documentaries on the life and times of my friend and contributor to my
Perfect Fly site, Mr. Dennis McCarthy.
Copyright 2011 James Marsh