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Thinking of a trip to the San Juan???

Posted on October 07 2018

Arrived back home in Syracuse at 9:45 last night from seven days of fishing on the San Juan river in Northern New Mexico.  Made the trip with another Troutfitter regular who had been to the San Juan several times.  His prior experience on the river was a huge help in the adjustment to what proved to be an entirely new and unique fishing experience. Being with a congenial companion also made the "re-hydration hour", meal times and fly-tying sessions a more enjoyable part of the trip.

The San Juan is a tailwater  that flowed at between 850 CFS and 500 CFS during the time we were there.  The mile just below the dam is boat free and crowded with wade fishermen. The next three plus miles of river are floated daily by about twenty five drift boats.  They put in at 8:00 AM and take out at 4:00 PM.  I don't know if that is by agreement between the guides or is regulated by the N.M. Dept of Fish and Game.  The four and a half miles of "Quality Water" area is all catch and release with barbless hooks and is loaded with big fish.

The fishing on the San Juan is done with bobbers and nymphs. IN  SEVEN DAYS OF FISHING WE DID NOT SEE ANY OTHER DRY FLY FISHERMEN ON THE RIVER.  The area just below the dam is crowded and you often had anglers within 50 feet of you.  The fish are use to the fishermen and you often had a dozen big fish feeding on the nymphs you kicked up while wading. The closest ones were often within inches of your feet (it's illegal to fish for them).

How'd we do?  We had our ups and downs. The first day was tough going as our flies proved to be too big and most of the fish just wouldn't eat them.  We spent the first night tying 20"s, 22"s and later even 24"s.  Did they work?  You betcha.  Nobody seemed to know what we were doing but on most days the two of us combined to landed over 40 fish.  In the bright sunshine things sometimes slowed down, but we always had rising fish.  We found olives in the afternoon down river and after one day of running into the drift boat flotilla, learned to wait until after 4:00 PM to invade their water.  We ventured down stream below the "Quality Water" during the olive hatches and found lots of fish up to 12 inches but an absence of big fish.

Should you go?  Getting there is easy, lodging and meals are available near by and are reasonably priced.  If you nymph fish you should catch lots of fish.  If you want to fish dries be prepared to go small.  You will get some strange looks from the nymphers, but man we caught a lot of big fish.


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