Got the call from the boys, there is a small window of time this weekend in between storms do you want to float the San Juan? Do Birds Fly, do Bears Shiiiii!!!!! In the woods, sign me up!!!
Matt and Chris Arizona Fly Fishing Guides, Dave, Steve and me the old boy!!! Out the door at four am Friday morning, the plan to rendezvous somewhere along the trip with the other truck and guys. You know what they say all good plan for mice and men! Well the other guys ran into a snow storm which slowed them down so it was every truck for itself.
Dave and I pressed on ahead now the pathfinders. We hit the New Mexico border only to find they have some strange animals in that there bad lands, prehistoric vistas which blows the mind with the vastness and who knew what roamed the lands!!
Eventually we arrive around two in the afternoon to gale force winds, snow flurries and nineteen degrees Fahrenheit temps. Jump out the truck sniff the air, the question do we go or not Goose!!! One look at each other and into our waders pull on many layers and rod up. Just at this point the others turn up and off we go. The plan to fish the Braids as it is too late to put the boats in.
If you have not fished the San Juan the Braids are just up from the famous Texas hole which can only be waded too shallow for boats.
It was bitterly cold with numb hands and no fingers to feel, we all spread out and every man for himself. All the guys caught three to five fish each, except for the old guy I was skunked that afternoon. As the light faded and the ducks winged their way in for a good night rest, we all headed back to the trucks talking about what worked and what did not. In my case a stick of dynamite, might have been better use!!! We disturbed a deer and her fawn on the trail both as cold as us!!
We stayed at Fish Heads San Juan River Lodge where our meals awaited us. After all the talk and food back to the rooms for hot showers then headed into the war room where Matt was tying Flies that he figured would work well the next day. Orders in, off to bed dreaming about that big elusive brown that was just waiting for my fly!
Next day loaded up and we had the boats in the water by eight am, which on a normal day would be very late as the crowds are always big on this river. However, this time of year it is pretty quiet. On arrival we were the first two boats in the water with a few wading fly guys already in the water along the edges of Texas Hole.
We anchored up trying various flies with little success, a fish here and there but not much action. After several hours we started to drift down, this river is all catch and release using oars only on the boats, no motors so it is very peaceful. We all fished different flies under indicators, some nymphs, leeches, emerges, eggs of every color and just about every color and combo under the sun. All of us had success at different times of the day with shouts of encouragements and fantastic esprit de corps!!
Around two in the afternoon we pulled the boats up on a bank and had a great lunch, smoked salmon, jerky, salads plus so much more. Once sated back into the boats to drift the afternoon away. We all caught plenty of fighting Wild rainbows with some beautiful colored up browns. The drift to the take out point is about six miles so it is a leisurely float with mild rapids and the odd rock to avoid here and there.
Fly Fishing with five friends for a day is very special, also have two fly fishing guides with us was invaluable as you learn so much from them. Matt Traynor who guides all over Arizona and Chris Wilson who guides at Lees Ferry. I highly recommend you book them if you are fishing in these areas!!
Both were so generous in their time and knowledge I certainly learnt from them. Many times, just watching how they approached the water, how they cast, and most importantly for me, watching how they mended their lines for that perfect drift. That is one of the most important aspects of fly fishing. Note that they were not our guides, just good friends fishing along sides us enjoying their time on the water.
As dusk approached, we landed at the take out point loading the boats on the trailers as quickly as we could as dinner awaited us.
One thing to remember, is to get your New Mexico fishing license, pay your five-dollar park ticket to park and pinch your flies you are using as it is barbless and the game wardens are there and they police strictly.
Hot shower and sweet dreams not wet dreams!!
Next day rinse and repeat, except this time Steve caught a monster Rainbow early in the day. Then in the afternoon Matt hooked into a big one. We were further down but we heard the drama, Matt was in the boat in shallow water when the fish took his fly. In water I had fished hard for a while with no luck!!! The fish took off down river so Matt jumped out running and stumbling along the shallow water trying to keep it under control. Shouting for someone to bring a net as he had a bloody big one on!! More shouts, water splashing laughter then hoots as they final landed this prize into the net. Sound carry so easily on water so we lived the moment vicariously!!!
So much fun, so many moments, so much to reflect on, such as Matt with his beard and Russian looking fur cap that immediately became the butt of Russian lore!! Ivan the great, you get the drift!
Our when one of our guys who shall remain nameless, had a stomach malfunction and had to hit the head urgently, just as we were walking into the fly shop to discuss leaving the boats in storage. Full of manly men and he shouts out as Ivan the Russian is walking into the store, he needs to hit the POTTY!!!!
Potty what the Fuccccccccc!!!!
Ivan was sheepishly looking the other way at that point!
I have never seen a guy get out of all his padded clothing and full waders in that time frame, I think it should become an Olympic sport as there was so much grunting, cursing, stretching, panting all the while with such concentration!! Epic to watch!!! And the explosion what an encore!!!!
If you get a bunch of guys to share rooms and gas it very affordable, plus there are plenty of places to wade so if you do not have access to a boat don’t be deterred. Fish the Braids up and also fish down river plenty of walkable wading areas to be reached.
Up early Monday and head home looking forward to the next trip.
I am blessed to have such friends. Fly Fishing what an adventure
Sunday morning, last minute instant messages Saturday night, from my go to guys!!! lets go fishing in the boats. Short notice where to?
Willows Spring Lake up on the rim. I checked the weather was supposed to be 50 Fahrenheit during the day.
Up at four am in shorts, flip flops. just in case took a jacket. Who says the brain does not work at o dot dark!!!!
We arrived around seven thirty am, air temp 22 Fahrenheit water temp 43 Fahrenheit. The lake was steaming from the cold, snow here and there.
Shorts not the best idea at this moment!
Boats in, we all set up two rods one with sinking lines and streamers the others we had a mixture of Hoppers with nymphs ten plus feet down also some with indicators. We could see fish on the fish finder all around 8 to 10 feet.
The result for the morning until around twelve was one nice brown caught on a streamer very deep and another small rainbow.
However around one thirty, trout started to rise in the deeper water. Hoppers on with trailing nymphs.
We all caught about 6 plus small rainbows all on the hoppers. for the next hour, then the switch was turned off.
Two thirty we called it a day.
As we packed the boats up onto the trailers the lake went calm and you could just feel in the air it was about to turn on.
The odd fish started to rise all giving us the finger!!
Will be back!!!!!!
Getting up at three-thirty am to eventually arrive on the river at three pm New Mexico time. We had to meet up, load up the truck and drift boat, and off we all went. Matt and Steve, who are Arizona Fly Fishing guides and very accomplished fly fishers, If you want to be a better fly fisher, go with better guys, and you will improve vastly, just like in golf! Steve, an airline pilot who has the craziest Move recollection and Me just an old dude!
The afternoon was bright and calm, with no wind, hallelujah!!!! Four guys in a drift boat does not work, so we dumped Steve the guide off on the left bank of Texas hole. The three amigos just dropped anchor up from him. As usual, there were plenty of guys in the water at the head of the hole.
We became like choreographed casters, one on each end of the boat with Matt in the middle, casting into the faster-moving water. We worked well together with no tangled lines on the backcast!
We did not have a lot of time before dark, so we stayed where we were and fished away. Matt and Steve 2 have plenty of local knowledge, which became more and more important as the trip went along. Steve 2 was a catching machine off the bank landing about a dozen nice Rainbows, while Matt landed close to the same amount, with the odd brown thrown in. Steve 1 and I landed a few fish. Steve 2 was fishing a size 22 brown, and gray Beatus fly with great success, while Matt was using tiny size 22 red-colored annelid flies. Also of note is the fact that we changed from a size 20 to size 22 which made all the difference.The strikes at the Juan can be very subtle, and you have to be very aware of any slight movement, I lost at least six fish that afternoon due to late strikes or feeling the fish on for a second before they throw the fly. Using such small flies does not give you a lot of room for error. Certainly, a great learning experience for me!
At dark off to a restaurant for steak and beers, then back to rooms where Matt and Steve 2 started tying new flies for the next day, based on what they thought would be current due to conditions. I went and had a shower dreaming of bigger fish!!
The next day up early and first boat on the Texas hole, of course again, guys were wading at the head of the hole covering one of the best spots. This time Steve 2 meet some old friends of his who had their own drift boat, so he saddled up with them for the day. We all fished the hole for about four hours roughly with some success. We all changed up flies trying all kinds of mixes. Matt and Steve 2 did very well with Steve 1 and I bringing up the rear again, due to less experience. On occasions like this, you have to watch and learn, the subtle mini mends in the line, the correct drift in the right seems all so very important. I have to say that Matt and Steve 2 were very generous with their time and knowledge on this trip, and we’re always looking to help you and point out things that maybe you were not thinking about. A huge thank you to those guys!!
Later in the day, we started the drift downriver, stopping along the way to get off the boats and wade different areas. On one stop, Matt, Steve 1, and I were on the left side of the river while Steve 2 and his friends were on the right side. On our side the trout were feeding on the surface as well as deeper down, we put on a variety of dry flies with no success and again with wet flies’ same result very frustrating!! On the other side, the guys were catching a lot of trout. Matt even used the same flies as Steve 2, who was killing it, the same flies on our side no go. Time to move on, we spend the rest of the day drifting down, catching the odd fish here and there very pleasant!
Of course, Steve 1 catches a very small last-minute trout at the landing area, only to get ribbed that he was holding us all up due to this huge fight he was having with this monster trout as we all wanted to get the boats out of the water. No mercy in this group!!!
Off to dinner and beers, tough life, but someone has to do it!!
The last day we were going to wade the braids, which is the area up above Texas hole that you cannot drift in a boat. It is all catch and releases up to the dam with great fishing to be had. The plan was to leave at the latest one pm as we had a long drive back.
We all fished various parts of the stream with Matt and Steve 2 doing well. Steve 1 caught fish but has this strange way of talking to fish in a strong Chinese accent when he is fighting the fish. I think his brain was addled from too much sun exposure. Steve 2 has the same habit, but at least he speaks in English to them!!!
I think I had my most significant learning curve that day; I had fished this one long run from early on missing about six fish just getting off the hook with late strikes and whatnot. Pretty frustrating, then the run went dead. I fished up and down, no luck. Later Matt came down, and on his second cast caught a nice brown trout, I shouted up to him what was he using? He told me a small pink egg with an annelid fly underneath. He asked, what was I using? I said a large red egg with an annelid underneath. He came over and said I needed to change up, the larger red eggs work good in the morning, but when the sun gets higher, you need to change to a smaller pink egg for this run and time of day. We changed up my rig, and off he went.
My first six casts after that I had good strikes missing the fish, then bang nice rainbow on!! This was the same run that I had fished hard the previous hour or so with no luck. It just goes to show what experience brings to the table. So, my friends, when you can fish with experienced fly fishers, watch and learn, put all in the memory banks and down the road, it will bear fruit!!!!
Leaving the river on a high note, we loaded up and became road warriors again!! We talked about all kinds of topics, interests listen to some podcast, went over the trip, and before we knew it, we were home. For me, around ten-thirty pm, happy as a clam, although I think at this point, Matt’s eyes were popping out of his head!!!
Have you done it? Fly Fishing a river with water flow fluctuation from one thousand cubic feet per second to Forty-Eight Thousand cubic feet per second water flow back to four hundred cubic feet per second in just over six days’ time line.
We get a lot of monsoon rain here in the desert and a week ago last Monday we had such a storm. The rain was so heavy on the Salt river lakes system that at two am in the morning they had to release water to protect the dam systems along the Salt. The last lake is Saguaro Lake with a dam that needed to be protected.
So, open the flood gates and wham Bam!!!! I always wonder if there are any night fishermen and what happens to them. I am sure they open gradually to give humans and animals time to get out of the way!!!!
When we fished it yesterday, five days after the event, it was amazing to see how the power of the water had changed the directions on part of the river beds plus flattening twenty feet tall Bamboo brush and small trees.
There are some pathways along the river sides that now showed debris, brush, wood, trees as high as twenty plus feet above our heads, crazy to think that fish can figure out where to hide in such a torrent!
I have read it takes time for the fish to settle back in to the now normal after such advents, well five days in this instance was fine. I have fished the Salt many times in lower water conditions so I have a good understanding of the river beds and flows. We were lucky in that some of my hidden runs and pools had not suffered to much damage. The surprise was how well they fished.
I was using a sinking line with two flies attached, one a black woolly bugger, the other more of an olive-green color. Marc was using floating line with a long tippet that he weighted down with a purple semi leech. Both of us stripping the lines at different speeds and depths. It was crazy we were taking a fish just about on every cast, many times we both hooked up at the same time. He was about hundred yards down of me, plenty of small aggressive Bass.
We spent about forty minutes on this run then slowly moved further up the river taking bass all along the way.
Around five o clock we were pretty high up the river, near the dam in the distance when we came across two perfect ripples running into a slower deeper pool, perfect trout habitat!!! Low and behold we both ended up catching a hold over rainbow trout each. They fight like hell and are very powerful, reminds me of the wild rainbows at Lees Ferry!!! Bullshit I hear!!! Believe me these trout were fit muscular and taking no prisoners a lot of fun!!!!
I actual hooked a bigger one that as I brought to the net, spat out the fly and gave me the finger!! It was a decent size fish, that is when I called Marc over. I could see the skeptical look on his face.
Three cast later he was holding a nice rainbow with a big grin on his face!!!
Five hours of recce and fly fishing only forty-five minutes from Down Town Phoenix in a desert, can you image the possibilities if only we could get a constant flow year-round of say three hundred cubic feet per second!!! Too much to ask? apparently so!!!
Three of us set out at four am in the early morning dark to head out for a day of testing Dave’s new drift boat in the lakes of the high mountains in Arizona.
It turned out to be a beautiful day, but we did have strong blustery winds that made rowing for Dave hard work. Thankful we had an electric troll motor with us that saved the day.
We ended up in the morning fishing the East southern end by the dam, we found shoals of Tiger trout mixed in with rainbows. It was a day of sight casting as they moved around. So much fun we used dry flies, hoppers, we stripped green woolly buggers with copper john nymphs behind all worked.
On more than one occasion, we all three had fish on, it was nothing for two of us to have fish on at the same time! Dave’s drift boat is wonderfully stable with a lot of room for three bigger guys.
Marc is left handed and I am right handed so we both fished from the bows with no interference form each other lines, although on occasions he would have a fish on and i would and we would cross over or under each rod, crazy fun. Dave was at the stern at the back dodging fly lines all day!!!!! No not really we all fish sequential with each other, waiting our turn to cast when the other was in the water or changing flies or taking off fish !!!! It was one of those days you dream about, for the purist they are probably shacking their head! that’s not what it is about!!!
Let me tell you, what ever you feel or think catching between us well over one hundred plus fish is crazy fun as it does not often if at all happen!!! I am being conservative on the catch rate!! There were other boats around us doing exactly the same thing! In fact on one of the other boats his dog caught four fish!!! Honest!!! That’s a fish tail by the way.
Later in the day we moved off to the North West part of the lake which was sheltered from the wind, far up we came to the end where it gets very shallow and narrow. The fish were rising all over, we all put on Hoppers of different sizes and we were back into the thick of it, a take just about every cast.
The interesting thing was that often they would hit the fly then chase it down three or four time, sometimes you would hook other times they were gone. On the bank over looking our casting area there was a crowd of people watching and spin casting almost on the edge and the trout were still feeding like crazy. They were not like the spooky stream trout we usually chase.
The fun part was putting out a long cast and as the fly hit, bang, strike on landing, other times they would come and nudge the fly then strike.
At around two thirty in the afternoon we called it a day, we were all tired arms and wrists feeling all the casting, a day to remember and reflect on when we are back to normal chasing spooky fish with little to show.
This was a day of catching and fishing!!!!