View Full Version : Thinkin' about fishin' the San Juan in Jan...

Zac Sexton
12-30-2009, 07:40 PM
So, three years ago I fished the Bighorn in Montana on my birthday. Did pretty well. The next year it was the N. Platte in Wyo. Didn't move a fish, but at least I froze. And for my birthday last year, it was the Frying Pan and Roaring Fork in Colo. Did pretty well. This year, I think I will hit the San Juan in New Mexico, completing a four-year journey of fishing a different tailwater from Montana to New Mexico for my birthday (Jan. 23). The thing is, all my fishing in NM has been for native Cutties on really small tributaries. I don't know a thing about the SJ, other than every time I'm in NM, everyone tells me I should fish it. But, I have never had time to fish it, and kinda have been staying away, so I can fish streams alone. But, since it's Jan., I am hoping the crowds will be smaller, and maybe I can catch a fish or three. Any suggestions? Any places to camp? Any other decent tailwaters? Also been thinking about the Rio Grande and some bass!!!

Hooked up on the Bighorn, 1/23/07

Freezing and not catching fish on the N. Platte--I did find some duck decoys, however! 1/23/08

A beauty Brown and my first bamboo rod on the Roaring Fork! !/23/09

12-30-2009, 08:46 PM
Of course, I can't make any suggestions, but I'm looking forword to reading your report of the fishing in NM.

01-06-2010, 03:10 PM
Hey Zac,

First, let me wish you a happy birthday.

My favorite time to fish the San Juan is during this time of year. Less crowds, no heat and no mosquitoes. However, my favorite rivers and streams are located elsewhere in the state and region. I am going to be up on the San Juan the week prior; my fishing buddy wants to fish it.

You will see plenty of areas to fish, and also you will see some fisherman, expect it. Don't try to find solitude while on this river, most anglers know where the majority of the fish are located so you have fish with everyone else. The Kiddy Pool is probably the best known; easy access from the TX Hole parking lot. The TX Hole is right next to it but watch the water depth as it can get deep fast. Cable Run is just below the dam, a short hike from the road which detours some from going there. If you go into any of the shops in the area, they can point out these spots to fish as well as many other. Patterns; since you have experience with tailwaters, you need to go small as a general rule #20 - 24 in Desert Storm, Chocolate Emerger, Zebra, Johnny Flash, etc. Bring some worms and annelids, too. And, my favorite - a grey or tan scud in 16 -18. If you like to fish small dries, you may see a hatch or two.

There is camping at Pine River up at Navajo Dam. I usually get a electrical site regardless if I take my popup or not. Just plug in an electric skillet, or coffe pot and you're set. I even have taken a space heater to place in my tent. The bathrooms have showers and are heated.

Have a good trip. Thomas.

Zac Sexton
01-06-2010, 08:27 PM
Thomas: Thanks man! Yes, I don't expect solitude on the ol' SJ. Especially since my b-day is on a Sat. this year :-(. But, fewer people is always nice! I will stock up on tiny stuff. I know there are many more places to fish, but since I've never done the Juan, guess I should. Good luck when you head out with your friends--maybe a report after?!


01-09-2010, 10:36 AM
Trucha has good advice and knows what he's talking about. There are a few really cool little digs like Abe's to sleep at as well as people renting rooms slash beds for the night(s) nearby the river if you choose not to camp.

This is the best time to go with less pressure, a little snow fall and hungry trout. The crowds usually turn off most anglers that are not new to the passion therefore this time is prime. The times that I've gone it's been snowing with the river practically to myself. And that's huge on the Juan.

Sizes 20-26 will be your line up. Here was my most productive fly in the past. Like Trucha says scuds/SJ worms will catch a bunch too as well tiny black gnats (parachute to see it) when you happen upon a hatch.

Have fun!

Dicso Zebra Midge


01-09-2010, 11:06 AM
Hey Chef,

Sweet fly!

01-12-2010, 11:12 PM
liked the pics, esp the one from the bighorn. chef and trucha pretty much covered the sj in january. i would add that midges this time of year (of course) should always be in the mix including palomino midges. rs2's are still good in the 20-24 range and obviously bring the 7x.
if it is cloudy or even snowing you might not have the crowds but on a weekend even in january you will be fishing with others, some of whom are real knuckleheads. the sj can really become combat fishing at times and since there really is not that much water they aren't spread around. AVOID THE TEXAS HOLE AT ALL COSTS.
there are some real monsters in the sj but when you reel in a lazy hog that only flops over and waits to get hauled in and then you find a couple of #22 emergers hooked in it's upper jaw it can sort of turn you off.
but i truly hope you have a great trip with few crowds and hungry fish. the bird life is cool; lots of ducks, geese, and herons.
oh, and cottonwood campground has been redone and there are lots of nice, clean campsites and well maintained privys. and you have to have a green chili cheeseburger at abe's. :cool:

01-14-2010, 11:25 AM
yep and WD-40's... :cool:

Zac Sexton
02-09-2010, 12:49 AM
I just realized, I haven't posted anything on my Juan trip. I've been a bit off-kilter, as Mojo, my 10-yr-old English Setter, died in the early hours of Jan. 22nd. He had a tumor/cancer in the GI tract that led to internal bleeding that couldn't be stopped. I spent most of that day taking Mojo to a special place with native Greenback Cutties, and made a nice burial place for the old man. I really miss him, and am doing pretty well, taking all things in to consideration. I know we had a great 10 years together, and were rarely apart. He got to spend more time outdoors than most dogs, and I did what I could to make the last few moments the best. So, I headed to the San Juan with my mom who volunteered to go with me and keep me company on my birthday. Ariell of course went along, as did Mariah, my mom's new lab/wirehair mix that she rescued from a local shelter. Mariah is turning in to a great companion and learning the ways of rivers. Below are some pics. from the two days we spent on the Juan--in memory of Mojo.

Casting on my birthday. I didn't get the start I wanted to the river, as I was busy burying Mojo. We got to the river late, but got to check out the area and cast a bit. Didn't catch anything Sat., but things were to improve...

My mother, Tricia, heading back to the B&B, while the sun sets on the Juan.

Ariell checking up on me.

And the next day...
...I had the river access to myself!!! Everyone was hanging out on the Texas Hole, so I fished a bit downstream just to avoid the "crowd." The local shops kept recommending 6x tippet and small black flies. So, I used 5x tippet and small orange and pink flies. Presentation--right!

I found "my" section of the river deserted of anglers, and was rather excited. Mom headed in to Aztec to get sandwiches for lunch, and planned on meeting me on the river, later. I waded to the far side of a near island, just to give me a bit of a buffer in case other anglers showed later. There was a lot of fishy-looking water, and I started casting. I soon started getting hits, but couldn't keep the hook in for very long (damn #22 flies!). However, finally, I hooked up solid.
It came in close, and I was excited.
The slob Rainbow showed its side, and I was happy.
And I landed my first fish without Mojo. It was a beautifully sweet and painfull moment. I could feel Mojo watching me from the willows at the bank.

The really cool part of the trip, was to see Mom improve her angling and to tough out the cold wind. She doesn't get out much, as her job managing the GI lab at a hospital in Denver, keeps her close to work. She
showed up several hours later, and after I had landed a half dozen or so nice Bows. I lost many more, but found myself very busy with feeding fish, and able to relax a bit--not so bummed about Mo'.

A bit of an open loop...
There's a nice, tight loop!
Rewarded with a hook-up!
Mariah sure liked seeing fish for the first time, and Mom sure liked fighting the fish on the 4/5 wt. Dickerson-based tapered rod I made her for Christmas last year.
Mom with her first Rainbow from the Juan. She hooked up a few other times, but the hooks just didn't hold long enough. I was proud of her.

The day continued well, and I caught a few more fish, while Mom improved her casting. The wind picked up and made conditions less than desireable. Around mid afternoon, we packed up gear and decided to head back to Denver. A snow storm had just hit most of Colorado, and we weren't sure how we would be able to get back. But we made it after a 7 1/2 hour drive. It was a very memorable trip in so many ways. Fishing won't be the same with out Moey, but I will always have his soul in my heart.

02-09-2010, 02:31 PM
Nice pictures, sorry to hear about your dog.

02-09-2010, 02:54 PM
Sorry to hear about your dog.

It looks like you had a good trip to the San Juan.

02-09-2010, 06:40 PM
Very sorry to hear about Mojo. It certainly sounds like you gave him the best life possible and a fitting tribute. Having gone through the same thing in the past year, you have my sympathies.

I am glad you still went on your trip and had a good time. Thanks for the stories and pics.

Zac Sexton
02-10-2010, 12:11 AM
Thanks guys. I appreciate the condolences. It was a good trip. It was a very good trip!

02-11-2010, 09:51 PM
like everyone else, sorry to hear about the loss of your buddy.
but glad you had a nice day on the sj.