A few weeks ago, Emily, aka The River Damsel, contacted me about fishing the San Juan River below Navajo Dam in New Mexico. She said she was planning a trip down to the Juan to do some fishing in February, and asked me about my experiences on the river. We exchanged emails for a few weeks, discussing little tricks to a successful trip on the river. I was more than happy to pass along what I've learned on the river, both by my time spent on the river, and from what I've read about the fishery. I offered to tie her up a few flies, as fly choice on the San Juan can be the difference between an okay day of fishing and lights out day of fishing. The San Juan can be a difficult river the first time you fish it, as most people who fish other western rivers are not used to the very tiny offerings required for the very finicky San Juan trout. For me, that is part of the allure of the San Juan. Fishing size 24 and 26 midge patterns on 6X to very large, educated trout is the name of the game. Presentations need to be spot on just to fool the trout, but when you do finally hook one of the fabled, monster San Juan rainbows, the fun part really begins. There is nothing like hearing the reel scream as one of the lunkers goes crazy. Head shaking and fast, hard runs are what the fish have learned to do, and they do it well. Playing these seasoned fish for 10-15 minutes is common, and the satisfaction you get when they land in your net is priceless.
Luckily, fly selection for the San Juan is not very difficult. Small midge and worm patterns are the diet of these fish. Flipping over rocks in the braids shows an angler the sheer abundance of these aquatic organisms. Thousands of tiny midge larva on every rock. Some of the midges are so small, they would be impossible to imitate on a hook. Fishing size 24 flies will usually keep an angler hooked up all day long, but at some times, and especially in the winter, it is necessary to drop down to 26 and even smaller.
Below are some pictures of the box that I tied up for Emily, with a selection of patterns that will help her to be most successful on the San Juan. By all means, this is not a comprehensive list of San Juan flies. The guides that fish this river everyday would have hundreds of different patterns stuffed in their boxes. These are just some flies that will help a blogger friend catch more fish. Good luck Emily!!!
If you have any questions on how to tie any of these patterns, or would like more information on the San Juan, shoot me a line!
|$0.50 worth of flies|
Annelids- Assortment of different annelid patterns or blood midge. Really, just a fancier San Juan Worm, tied with different materials, different beads, and different sizes. The larger annelid patterns will be more productive during runoff and while the lake is turning over.
Yong Special- Was introduced to this fly by Andy Kim himself. This pattern in cream (as shown below) has accounted for more fish on the San Juan than any other pattern I've used. It is so simple and easy to tie, but the best part is, it just flat out catches fish. This fly can be called a variety of different things, depending on who you ask. UFO Midge, Thread Midge, Bling Midge, etc. Regardless of name, this is the most important fly to have when fishing the Juan.
Size 30's- Included four size 30 thread midge patterns just for fun. If the strikes become harder to come by, tie one of these on for the ultimate challenge. Bringing a San Juan River rainbow to the net on a size 30 would be quite the angling feat!