You could not ask for better fishing weather than what we had this weekend on the San Juan River! Unbelievably gorgeous skies with periodic clouds, highs in the 50’s, snow on the canyon walls – incredible! This is part of the reason I live here. Then there is the main reason I live here – the fishing.
Fly-fishing on the San Juan right now is really good but in order to catch the quality fish in the river you have to use either big or flashy flies, as the water is still off-color.
My brother and a group of friends had a spectacular time wade fishing in the braids. They caught lots of rainbows and a couple of nice browns. They mainly dead-drifted midge patterns with a bit of flash. Black zebra midges in size 22, black scintilla midges in size 22, red larva in size 18, and red hots in size 22 seemed to account for the most fish. Black wooly buggers caught the browns and a couple of the larger rainbows.
Four lodge guests who travel here every year at this time commented that, although the water was dirtier than usual, they caught many fish. They prefer coming to the San Juan in January or February to enjoy the solitude. By fishing hard from the break of 10 till the late hour of 3 with only an hour break for lunch, they were rewarded with double digit numbers of nice trout per angler each day, with several measuring over 20 inches.
Many of the San Juan’s rainbow trout are spawning right now which means that egg patterns can be very effective. I have been having good luck with large orange eggs, preferably tied loosely and not perfectly trimmed, so that they resemble an orange blob, more than they do an egg as they float through the water. If the orange blob has a pink spot in the middle of it, so much the better.
I prefer bright, small midge patterns under the egg, especially in the morning. Red larva and bead-head red hots have been very effective under an egg, the whole rig dead-drifted under an indicator. I use size 26 red hots even in dirty water.
We have been seeing good baetis hatches in the afternoons. I like to fish a size 18 or 20 grey fluff baetis below a small bunny leech (white in fast water, black in slow water) under an indicator. Copper bead-head pheasant tails and flashback pheasant tails in size 20 or 22 have been producing well while fished below a leech also. Fish this leech and trailer rig with a little bit of action. Dead-drift it for the most part, but mend more often than necessary or do a short stip once in a while to entice more strikes.
Right now is a great time to visit the famous San Juan River. The forecast is showing a long stretch of high 50’s during the day and 20’s in the night, crowds will be non-existent. Fish near the bottom of the river with large or bright flies. Don’t hesitate to change flies if you aren’t getting strikes because the trout are feeding heavily. Also, please don’t disturb or try to catch any rainbows that you spot on their redds spawning.