This is the second article in a 3-part series, covering the San Juan River. It is not a comprehensive look, but rather a series meant for those first-timers who hit the water sight unseen and flyfishers looking to try something different.
Location: Middle section of the San Juan River quality waters directly below Navajo Dam; Lower Flats to ET Rock.
Environment: This stretch of the San Juan River consists of a variety of trout habitats: runs, riffles, pockets, back-channels, flats, etc. and the water is a tad bit warmer (42-46 degrees) than the upper third because the river widens/shallows out across Lower Flats and Baetis Bend. Fish, mostly rainbow trout, ranging from 16-22 inches typically feed on an abundance of midges, but it is here where you can break out the mayfly patterns like Blue-Wing Olives with great success.
Tactics: There are a variety of methods for fishing this middle section; wade or float. We recommend floating because you can access a lot more water quickly, while moving closer to your targets.
Patterns: Midge Pupa and Emergers (gray/black/brown/olive), Terrestrials (ants/hoppers) and Dry Flies (bwo’s/midge clusters).
Methods: While there are several ways of fishing this section, depending on time of day/year, I will use this section to highlight conventional and unconventional methods.
Conventional – Start with a 7.5ft 5X leader, then add 18 inches of 6X tippet with your weight (eg No 4) secured above the knot on the 5X leader. Tie on your first fly (eg Pheasant Tail) then drop another piece of 6X tippet for your second fly (eg Chocolate Foamback). After rigging your leader/flies attach an indicator 1.5 times the depth of the water you plan to fish. Once fully prepared, look for a pocket or channel to fish – present the fly to targeted fish by casting upstream and letting it drift dead-still while mending as necessary to avoid drag – if the indicator hesitates slightly, SET the hook! [Note: Clean your flies often when dead drifting nymphs, every 2-3 casts, as the slightest bit of moss will deter a strike.]
Unconventional – Start with a 7.5ft 5X mono-leader, then add 18 inches of 6X mono-tippet. Tie on your first fly (eg Fat Albert or Black Parachute Ant) then drop another piece of 6X mono-tippet for your second fly (eg Parachute Adams-size 24). It’s time for some dry-fly action! Once fully prepared, look for short riffles or nervous water that tails into pockets to fish – present the fly to targeted fish by casting 12 inches in front of intended targets and drift with a little bit of slack line. Don’t set to soon on the dry, let’em eat it!