There Ain't No Dancing in this River
Fly Fishing the Spectacular San Juan
with Larry Johnson
7:30 p.m., Thursday, May 14, 2015
San Marino Masonic Lodge
3130 Huntington Drive
San Marino, CA 91108
The idea of chumming while freshwater fly fishing doesn’t generally arise. Our hands are busy casting, and you can’t buy buckets of mayflies at bait shops (trust me on this). But what if there was a river which combined such dense underwater insect life and so many trout that merely dragging your feet while wading was enough to attract a buffet line of fish eating the morsels you dislodged? So many bugs, and so many hungry trout? Would this covert form of chumming be acceptable? The respective answers to these questions are yes, yes, and NO! In reality, chumming while fly fishing in freshwater is, at best, unsporting, and, at worst, illegal.
Those of you newer to fly fishing may not have yet heard of an infamous slang phrase familiar to most all fly fishermen across the globe: The San Juan Shuffle—it’s usually accompanied by the quiet snickers common to locker room conversations. This phrase was coined on a stretch of tailwater in the quiet northwest corner of New Mexico. So dense with both aquatic bugs and trout, if you drag your feet while wading you’re likely to see a very inviting looking pod of fish just downstream within leader length of your rod. Avoid the temptation to fish to these, and make sure you wade deliberately. Others watch, and doing the “San Juan Shuffle” ranks up with the cardinal sins like tipping your fly with salmon eggs or fishing over spawners.
The San Juan River is a tributary of the Colorado River. The completion of Navaho Dam in 1962 provided water flowing at a constant 42 to 44 degrees year-round. Originally stocked with brown trout, the conditions were so favorable that the stocking of browns actually stopped 25 to 30 years ago and the population of brownies is considered wild (some rainbows are still stocked). The pristine water below the dam runs for about 20 miles, with the fish numbering an incredible nine to twelve thousand per mile. The fish hold in pods, scattered in the riffles and the back channels. The primary food source is midges, with the trout also taking mayflies, blue-wing olives, caddis, stoneflies, terrestrials (like hoppers and ants), leeches, snails, scuds, and the famous worms. Although the word “epic” should never be used in association with fly fishing, you might be excused, just once, when discussing the San Juan.
To get to the San Juan River, you can drive (about 800 miles from Pasadena), fly into Albuquerque (leaving you a three-plus hour drive to the northwest), or fly into Durango, Colorado, which is one hour north of the river.
Our program on the San Juan River will be presented by Larry Johnson, who has lived on its banks since 2000. Larry is the owner of the highly regarded fly fishing-only Soaring Eagle Lodge, the only lodge on the river. You can learn more about the fishing and accommodations at www.soaringeaglelodge.net.
You may consider leaving your dancing shoes at home this Thursday evening, 7:30 p.m., May 14th, at the San Marino Masonic Lodge, 3130 Huntington Drive, San Marino, 91108.