Thu Jan 3rd, 2019
Special to the Drum
Christmas has come and gone, and as usual, most of the items on my wish list are still there. We don’t have world peace, hunger is still around, happy political parties are still a fiction, I think Denver fell off the map and took its T.V. channels with it, and I still don’t have a female river helper. I do have new wading boots, the cigar of my choice, and lots of new fresh snow. All-in-all, the fly fishing for 2019 is looking pretty good.
So, if like me, you have some new gear, where is the best and closest place to try it out? With the new snow, the Animas River would be pretty testy. That leaves the good old standby, the San Juan River. The San Juan presents a great opportunity without spending lots of money on travel, lodging, and salt water guides. Before writing about fly fishing on the San Juan River, I checked my files to see how often I had written on that subject. Sure enough, I have penned several columns on fly fishing the San Juan. So, I hope I don’t repeat myself. And if I do, hopefully you are a new reader or forgetful.
Similar to other people, I like to fly fish in relative isolation. That can make the San Juan a challenge. I like to park in the Texas Hole parking lot and head downstream, walking on the service road. When I get to the big gravel pile, I head to the river. This puts me at a location where the main channel is upstream, and the entrance to the back channels downstream. At this location I can fish for bigger, and smarter, fish upstream. Or, go after smaller and less- educated fish, using dry flies, in the back channels. If you know anything about me, you know which way I’m headed.
I fished this location before Christmas. While in this general area I had one other fly fisherman go past me; it seemed most people had gone upstream. I had great success with a small Parachute Adams, and a Woolly Bugger.
If you drive further downstream you will find parking in the Munoz lot will give you lots of opportunities. The ponds and a pool in this area have carp in them. The carp don’t see many fly fishers so the striking and catching can be very good. They will eat a dry fly that floats low in the water. However, I’ve found the most successful fly is a green Woolly Bugger that looks like wilted lettuce.
If carp aren’t your cup of tea, follow the trail from the parking lot to the river. If you haven’t fished at this location before, you are now standing in a back channel. The main channel is downstream; upstream keeps you in the back channels. Again, I find lots of smaller, less intelligent, trout in this area. If the beaver have been active, there are small ponds up and down the back channel. Approach them with stealth and you might be rewarded with trout sipping drys.
The third area I suggest, is one I haven’t fished in some time. I will remedy that in short order. Don’t be afraid to park, on the shoulder, across the river from Cottonwood camp ground. (Just because you’re by the highway, don’t forget your parking sticker.) When standing along the road overlooking this part of the river, you’ll see some large ponds just down the hill from where you’re standing. Approach them with stealth, and look for undisturbed fish enjoying a day in the sun. From here wade into the stream. This is the main channel, but is not heavily fly fished. It is more difficult to access, plus many of the drift boats have pulled off the river before getting to this point. During the summer you can expect to see people fishing this area from the campground.
Give these three areas a try while using your new fly fishing gear. And should you see an old curmudgeon, without a pretty river helper, smoking a great cigar, and standing in new wading boots, stop and say “hi”. I love to fly fish with friendly folks.