San Juan River Fishing



Fall 2006

Winter 2005

Fall 2004

Fishing Info
Sandstone Anglers

Abes Motel







Cottonwod camping area

 Location: Northwest New Mexico.

Section: Quality Water (six-mile stretch below Navajo Dam).

Maps: USGS quadrangle maps Navajo Dam, Archuleta.

Type of Stream: Freestone tailwater fishery.

Best seasons to fish: Year-round fisher, good any time, including the dead of winter.

Species to be found: Rainbow, cutthroat, brown trout.

Aztec Chamber of Commerce:
Farmington Chamber of Commerce: 505-326-7602
Cortez Chamber of Commerce: 303-565-3414
Navajo Lake State Park: 505-632-2278  










    The fall is a fantastic time to fish the San Juan. Starting about mid 
September and continuing through November, fall in this part of the country comes slowly. The weather slowly changing as the daylight gets shorter.  Leaves slowly turning color and staying a little longer. But the fishing does the exact opposite, it gets better. Down right hot!


     September starts out with traditionally warm weather, but change is in the air. The hatches in September really get the fish excited,
as the cooler air arrives. Baetis mayflies love the cool weather of fall, and this hatch really gets going in September. The hatch continues to be great through the last weeks of November and even into the winter months.



       Midges are always a staple on the San Juan, and the fall is no
exception. October and November really sees a tremendous hatch of a large variety of midges. During these months, especially on overcast days, you can dry fly fish all day long. With midges in the morning and mayflies in the afternoon. Granted these fish are challenging for most fishermen, but they will still rise all day long.



      Fall is also when are fish start to prepare for spawning. All the fish in 
the river , Rainbows and Browns, will start to spawn during the fall and 
continues through the winter. The fish use the abundant fall hatches to bulk up for the rigors. 


Flies of Choice:

  •  Gray, black, or natural bunny leeches

  •  Zebra midge #24-26

  •  Red, olive, and gray larva #18-22

  • Pheasant tail or wd 40 flashbacks or natural #20-22,

  •  RS’2 Brown, or gray #20-22

  •  UFO's gray , cream, brown #22-26

  •  Foam wings brown, gray#20-22

  •  Black and brown midge pupas #24-26

  •        small size 30-40 midges


                                        Dave Ready For The SJ Shuffle

    Winter Fishing Tips

    No doubt, SJ winter fishing on the right day can become the stuff of legend. It can also represent the epitome of frustration, given the wrong timing and certain prevailing conditions. I won't address the good days and perfect conditions, because tough days far outnumber them. And besides, even a child can catch trout when all systems are go.

    Winter mornings here can be brutally cold. This means most fly anglers are a bit reluctant to leap from their beds or abandon cafes to assure an early start. Me? I add an extra layer of fleece, pull on fingerless gloves, and hit the river at first light. I get to watch the undisturbed geese and ducks and normally have a dozen trout landed before the maddening crowds arrive to wade ever so ignorantly through my pod of fish or jump into my spot when a big trout pulls me downstream by a 3-pound leader.

    The arrival of the masses signals that it's time for a hike. There are a few pockets on the SJ where additional walking (and wading) away from scattered parking lots is a necessity. Instead of fishing your way to these spots, make a beeline to them, wading over fish if need be. By the time the crowds and their silly grins begin to reach you, it's time for lunch anyway, and you can hand these places over to them. This describes the more remote sections of Upper Flats, Lower Flats and Lunker Alley, plus some side channels in other areas you'll have to explore on your own.

    Also count on holiday periods like Christmas, New Year's, and such banal events as the Super Bowl to thin crowds considerably. Also, when snow is cascading and highways turn treacherous, risk your neck and hit the river. The fish don't mind, and you'll likely have the place to yourself. I've had some wonderful days on the river while snow accumulated on my hat.

    Dirty water can be caused by heavy rain or melting snows, but the most common culprit is Navajo Lake "turning over." The fancy name for this is thermal inversion; dirty water on the lake's surface plunges to the bottom, and clean water rises to the top. The dam's deep-water outlets then release the dirty water, creating poor visibility.

    Those minute flies that are very much part of fishing the San Juan become difficult for trout to see and intercept. That's not to say trout won't still nab these size 20 to 24 tidbits. They just won't do it as often as they did in clear water. Instead of catching 25 trout, you might catch five. By the way, I've no suggestions on specific patterns, since these seem to change names with every trip up. Generic creations work as well as those with monikers, and fly-shop employees are happy to point out the week's "hot" pattern for you.
















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