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Home » River Bounty: Fly Fishing on the San Juan River

River Bounty: Fly Fishing on the San Juan River

In the early morning light, John stood waist-deep in the crystal-clear waters of the San Juan River, with steam rising off the water and casting his line with precision. The river flowed gently around him, creating a soothing sound that complemented the serene beauty of the landscape. As an experienced fly fisherman, John knew that the San Juan River was renowned for its abundant trout population, and he was determined to catch a trophy fish.

This trip had been in the planning phase for months. John had meticulously scouted the river, packed his gear, bought the specify flies to match the hatch, and studied the river’s flow patterns.

John had spent countless hours carefully selecting patterns that were known to be effective on the San Juan River. He had done his research and brought a variety of patterns to match the river’s hatches and the fish’s feeding preferences. Some of the fly patterns that John used on the San Juan River included:

  1. RS2 (Rim Chung Signature Fly): This is a small (size 16 -18), simple, and versatile pattern that imitates midge emergers or small baetis nymphs. It’s a popular pattern on the San Juan River due to the abundant midge and baetis hatches.
  2. San Juan Worm: This is a classic pattern that imitates the aquatic worms that are prevalent in the San Juan River. It’s typically tied with size 12 or 14 and bright colors like red, pink, or orange and can be very effective in fooling hungry trout.
  3. Griffith’s Gnat: This is a tiny (size 16 – 18) dry fly pattern that imitates small midges or midge clusters. It’s a great pattern for fishing in slow-moving or flat water areas of the river where trout are feeding on surface insects.
  4. Bunny Leech: This is a streamer pattern that imitates a leech (size 8 – 10) , a common food source for trout in the San Juan River. It’s often fished using a stripping retrieve to imitate the swimming action of a leech and entice aggressive strikes from larger trout.
  5. Red Annelid: This is another worm pattern that imitates the red aquatic worms found in the San Juan River. It’s typically fished as a dropper below a dry fly or an indicator, and its realistic appearance can fool even the wariest trout.
  6. Baetis Emerger: This is a (size 16 – 18) pattern that imitates the emerging stage of the baetis mayfly, which is a prevalent insect on the San Juan River. It’s often fished in the surface film or just below it, and its lifelike profile can tempt selective trout.
Photo by gaspar zaldo on Unsplash

He used a combination of these and other fly patterns, carefully selecting and adjusting them based on the river conditions, hatches, and fish behavior. His knowledge and experience in matching the hatch and presenting his flies effectively were key to his success in catching trout on the San Juan River.

John used a variety of tippet sizes during his fly fishing trip on the San Juan River, depending on the specific fly patterns he was using, the size of the fish he was targeting, and the fishing conditions. As a general guideline, he typically used tippet sizes ranging from 4X to 6X.

For larger flies or when targeting larger fish, he would use heavier tippet sizes such as 4X, which has a breaking strength of around 6-7 pounds. This provided enough strength to handle bigger fish without risking breaking off the tippet during the fight.

For smaller flies or when targeting smaller fish, or when the fish were being particularly selective, John would switch to lighter tippet sizes such as 5X or 6X. These lighter tippet sizes have a lower breaking strength of around 4-5 pounds and 3-4 pounds, respectively, but offer increased invisibility and reduced drag in the water, making them suitable for more delicate presentations and wary fish.

He was ready for the challenge, and his excitement grew with each cast of his 5 weight rod. He patiently observed the river, looking for signs of fish rising or feeding on the surface, and he adjusted his strategy accordingly.

After a few casts, John felt a gentle tug on his line. He quickly set the hook and felt the line come alive as the fish darted and leapt out of the water. It was a rainbow trout, and it put up a spirited fight, testing John’s skill and finesse. With steady concentration and practiced technique, John played the fish, carefully reeling it in and gently releasing it back into the water, respecting the river’s catch-and-release policy.

Encouraged by his success, John continued his pursuit, moving from one spot to another along the river, exploring different pools and riffles. He marveled at the natural beauty around him, the majestic cliffs rising in the distance, the lush vegetation along the banks, and the sunlight dancing on the water’s surface.

The day progressed and he encountered other fly fishermen who shared his passion for the sport. They exchanged tips and stories, forming a camaraderie that was unique to the fishing community. John took moments to pause and appreciate the peaceful solitude of the river, taking in the sights, sounds, and smells of nature in its purest form.

Photo by Cole Marshall on Unsplash

As the sun began to set, John decided to make one last cast before calling it a day. He waded into the river and cast his line with precision, watching as the fly gently landed on the water’s surface. He waited with bated breath, and then it happened. A massive brown trout rose from the depths and took the fly, sending John’s heart racing with excitement.

The battle that ensued was epic, with the fish making powerful runs, trying to free itself from the hook. John used all his skill and experience to play the fish, keeping a steady tension on the line and carefully maneuvering it towards him. After what seemed like an eternity, John finally landed the fish, a true trophy-sized brown trout that measured over 20 inches in length. He admired the fish’s vibrant colors and its majestic beauty before gently releasing it back into the water, grateful for the experience and the memories that would last a lifetime.

With a sense of accomplishment and contentment, John made his way back to the riverbank, his heart filled with joy and gratitude. As he packed up his gear and prepared to leave, he reflected on the day’s adventure, knowing that he had not only caught some impressive fish but had also connected with nature in a profound way. The San Juan River had not only provided him with an opportunity to test his angling skills but had also gifted him with a sense of peace, awe, and appreciation for the wonders of the natural world. With a promise to return and create more stories on the river, John walked away with a heart full of memories and a soul nourished by the beauty of fly fishing on the San Juan River.

Related Articles:

Check out our River Guide to creating the perfect fly fishing trip on the san Juan River.

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