San Juan River: Day 1

On the Road
On the Road

The sun crested the mountaintops as my trucked roared northward on the I-17 towards Flagstaff. Through the bug splattered windshield I could see the desert around me change as I climbed in altitude until the desert was swallowed up by the tall ponderosa pines. I made the turn onto I-40 heading east to the New Mexico state line and with a quart of coffee in my system, I was finally able to think through the next few days. I was headed for the blue ribbon trout fishery of the San Juan River.

Progress
Progress

The San Juan River is a tailwater that flows out of Navajo Dam right outside of Farmington, New Mexico. The ice cold water that runs out of the dam provides quality habitat for a few miles and sustains an amazing fishery that boasts ginormous rainbows and some beefy browns. The river is a destination fishery that pulls fisherman mainly from the “Four Corner” states (New Mexico, Arizona, Colorado, and Utah), but also from around the United States. Because of its consistent flows it is said to fish very well all year round which means fisherman flock to it’s banks when the rivers back home are running high and muddy.

Fisheads
Fisheads

I pulled into the small cluster of buildings known as the community of Aztec right around 1:30 and stopped by Fishheads, a fly shop that had been recommended to me by some other Arizona fly fishermen. Peggy, the shop manager/guide sat down with me and went over maps, rigs, flies, and local camping accommodations with me. I was extremely happy with the level of service that the shop offered. I noticed the restaurant in the back and made a mental note of their hours of operations. I bought my New Mexico fishing license and made my way up to the campground to get my base of operations up and running.

REI Haldome aka "The Palace"
REI Haldome aka "The Palace"

With the tent set and ready to go, I rumbled my way down to the “Texas Hole” parking lot and could not find a spot. Trucks were there from every¬†Southwestern¬†state and beyond. Finally I found a spot, rigged up a two fly rig under an indicator (ironic, I know) and waded into the water. There were so many fisherman lined up at the Texas Hole and right above that run in what is known as the Kiddie Hole. Literally, it was shoulder to shoulder fisherman. I was amazed that they could actually cast while standing so close together.

The San Juan River
The San Juan River from Navajo Dam

I wandered around trying to find likely looking runs but everywhere I went there were other fisherman steadily flogging the water. I finally found a likely looking spot and positioned myself for the remaining few hours of daylight. While drifting my two #24 fly rig my indicator paused and I lifted the rod to find life on the other end. Awestruck that I had actually tricked one of these finicky rainbows, I fumbled to get the fish on the reel and safely brought the strong trout to the net.

San Juan Rainbow
First San Juan rainbow to wash the skunk off

As I released the fish back into the icy water, I was grinning ear to ear. I continued to fish until dark and surprisingly fishermen continued to leave as the fish started to porpoise and eat midge emergers near the surface. I left the river at dark with two more fish brought to the net and the satisfaction that I sort of knew what I was doing.

San Juan Rainbow
San Juan Rainbow

6 Responses to “San Juan River: Day 1”

  1. Adam

    Not a big fan of fishing elbow to elbow, never have been. But I am enjoying reading your story and looking forward to seeing how you will finish it up.

    You have an amazing river at the bottom of a canyon so GRAND, there is a story in there, no elbows or… crowds.

    Fishing upriver, good adventure.

    Reply
    • azwanderings

      Thanks Adam. The first day was extremely busy, but it eventually thinned out. I do have plans to hit up the Canyon one of these days, but need to do a bit more research before I do. I’ve heard nothing but great things about the fisheries down there. Thanks for the kind words and do stay tuned for the end of this.

      Ben

      Reply
  2. Fontinalis Rising

    Hey- great post, and I’m glad to see that you entered my contest for the granite tying base. I happened to see this post on the OBN news feed. I love the San Juan and can’t wait to get back- I did a post about it a few weeks back. My buddy and I are contemplating a summer trip to try to hit the BWO hatch. I’ll definitely keep an eye on your blog from now on. Keep up the good work.

    FR

    Reply
  3. azwanderings

    Thanks FR. It’s a fun river for sure. Can’t wait to go back and read your post on your experience. I really like your layout and content on your site as well. Thanks for posting that contest and the kind words.

    Ben

    Reply
  4. azwanderings

    Thanks Rohan. Sounds like you need to get out and fish those new flies…

    Ben

    Reply

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