Wednesday, March 18, 2020

Fly Fishing the San Juan River, New Mexico (wade and kayaking trip)

The thought of traveling to the San Juan River had been on my mind for a couple of years.  I made a quick trip with a friend in September during the busy season, when the water was high, but we only fished from his fly craft.  I really wanted a place I could go during the winter when most destintaions aren't worth the travel.  I've been following Fisheads and their fishing reports for a couple years.  This year they have been talking about how great the fishing has been.  Trusting in their info and after talking with them, I made the decision to book a room for 6 nights.

I'm always hesitent to trust in fishing reports, especially from lodges and guides that have a financial interest.  But I can say without hesitation, Fisheads provides a trusting report.  The fishing was, maybe even better than what they had said.

I decided to wade the quality waters for 4 days and kayak the river one day.  The weather was excellent, 30's in the morning warming into the 60's each afternoon.  The skies stayed cloudy most of the day but the sun peaked in for a few hours in the afternoons.  It rained almost every night, which made haveing a room really nice  Not to mention the New Mexico state parks closed the parks to camping during my trip.  That would have sucked!

There were very good midge and baetis hatches almost every afternoon.  Earlier this year, I picked up a new Orvis H3f, 10' 4wt and matched it with the new Scientific Anglers, amplitude infinity line.  This setup was perfect for how I fished the Juan during my trip.  I started each day nymphing the various runs but when fish started rising I'd switch to a dry fly until they stopped.  The fishing was good in the morning on midge larva and emergers.  The afternoon was better, but maybe because I was fishing dries and seeing the takes, which is exciting.

Day 1 started at the Texas Hole after checking into Fisheads.  As you can imagine, after driving 18 hours, I wasn't there until after lunch.  It was Sunday and the only day there was any sort of crowd.  All the likely, good looking water, had someone posted.  But that allowed me to roam some and I was able to pick up a few fish.  But it got great after everyone went home around 4pm.

I spent Day 2 at Munoz day use area.  I had never seen it and got a little turned around walking in but considering there was only one other truck in the parking lot, it wasn't a big deal.  I knew what I was looking for, my buddy and I fished this access back in Septempber from the fly craft.  When I found the river, I knew where I wanted to start.  In fact, I lost 4 fish in the first 25 minutes, which was super frustrating.  However, it didn't take long to find number 5 and he stayed hooked.  It only got better as the day progressed.  Fish were actively rising to sz 22 midges, go figure I only had sz 20's which got some eats but more refusals.  I was thankful I brought my tying kit along.  Later that night, I whipped up some smaller dries and emeregrs for the rest of the week.

Day 3 was spent at the dam.  It was the only day I felt crowded.  There was lots of good water but it seemed like that's the first access people drop in.  The dam didn't really open up until it started to rain pretty heavy near lunch.  Even with the crowd there was still plenty of fish willing to visit the net.  But I'd not return to the dam during my trip.

Day 4 I bounced around some.  Started at Texas Hole but only spent a few hours there as it began to get crowded.  I really just went to throw small streamers and hoped to find a trophy fish.  When that didn't materalize, I moved back to Munoz.

There was only one car in the parking area, but I recognzed it and knew where those guys would be fishing.  I had run into them at the dam on day 2.  They were from Utah and super friendly.  I was surprised to find the spot I wanted to fish open.  But later found out, they had a run in with a 30" brown the day before when it attached a 12" rainbow one of the guys had hooked.  So they started off throwing streamers hopeing for one magical streamer eat.

Munoz fished better that day than the previous day.  Probably because I had a better idea where fish were holding.  Definitely because each night, I'd ty up a few more patterns based on what I had seen in person, rather than heard from a fishing report.

I really thought the Juan would be a perfect destination for a kayak.  On day 5, I dropped it in and floated the 3 miles from, Texas Hole to Cusher.  It was as awesome day.  The Juan is perfect for a kayak. During normal flows, you can drift and repeat as many times as you care to paddle back up and start over.  I did that a few times in Texas Hole throwing streamers before moving down.

The weather was nearly perfect and the fishing was excellent.  I caught fish on streamers, nymphs and dries.  I honestly, can't think of anything negative to say, other than, I wish I floated it twice.  Next time, I'll float Texas Hole every morning until the guides show up and then relocate.

Day 6 was definitely the worst weather day.  It rained really hard during the night.  The winds were over 20 mphs with gusts to 30 mph.  The temperature dropped as normal but didnt't heat up as quickly as it had during the beginning of the trip.  As such, the bug activity wasnt very strong, which probably made it easier for the trout to find my dries among the few naturals on the water.  The dry fly bite was intense but short lived.  It was pretty insane from 10am to 1pm.  After that it made more sense to drink a beer and take an extended lunch.  It had been a fantastic day and trip over was nice to relax and reflect.  That pretty much ended my trip.  I still needed to pack up.  The return drive was still 18 hours, plus an hour time change to eastern time.  It was a long drive for sure but so worth it!  

The Juan will be at the top of my list for winter destination trips  Where else can you catch rainbows and browns on nymphs, streamers and dries.  While enjoying great weather and possibly even find a true giant.  But you're guaranteed a killer time!

I'd open the video in YT and watch but you be u!

Monday, February 10, 2020

Fly Fishing Arkansas and beyond...

So it looks like 2019 rolled right into 2020 without me really noticing much of a change in my fishing lifestyle.  Most of my recent adventures have been with-in 5 hours of my home, which has been great.
LMFR bow

Streamer eater from Norfork

My camping trips have been during the week to the Little Red, White, Norfork and Lower Mountain Fork River in OK.  The fishing has been great and the crowds have been cooperating but that's probably because I go during the week when responsible people are doing responsible things, like working.

But not me, I prefer to be irresponsible and spend my time on the water during the week and at home on the weekends.  I feel good about it!

LMFR bow

dry fly

With all the rains we've gotten in Arkansas lately, it has been nearly impossible to fish in the state.  I'm fortunate to have a lesser known, at least nationally anyway, tailwater in Oklahoma to visit.  The Lower Mountain Fork is pretty well know around the Texas, SW Arkansas parts but not many from outside that area will travel to fish it.  The great thing is they release from the spillway so even on high water months when the COE is generating there is wadeable water for about 5 miles.

You can also camp right next to the river so that's a real bonus also.  But the best part is the small catch and release area that has some large, beautiful holdover bows.  The river is also known for it's bug diversity and occasional dry fly fishing.  Basically, you can get into something that's pretty exciting on the LMFR If you don't mind sharing the water with a few strangers.

In fact, last week after fishing bwo dries to several rising bows, I was able to sight fish a exceptional rainbow during the last hour of day light.  It was truly, a cool experience and great day by any standard.

Next month, I have a trip planned to the San Juan, followed up by the White and hopefully a backpacking trip into the Great Smoky Mountains.  Those are just a few to get the season kicking.  Super excited about 2020 and hope you guys are also!

Latest YouTube Video from my first trip in 2020.  More to follow...

Keep up with me here::

Thursday, October 17, 2019

Colorado by Morning - A camping and fly fishing trip

It would be a 15 hour day and I'd be driving it solo this year.  While the thought of driving that long hurt my brain, it meant I would be able to hit the forest service roads before the sun rose and potentially have camp set-up early mornig.  This would give me enough time to hike out for a few hours and get some fishing in before the thunderstorms started at noon.

You would think after driving that distance falling to sleep would be easy.  However the excitement of camping in the mountains and browns eating attractor dry flies kept me up way too late.  My thoughts centered around my supplies, gear, and everything else I needed before I checked off the grid for the next few days.

very productive attractor
Tying video for this fly can be found on my Facebook page:

Three hours later I was looking across the valley.  This would be my home for the next several days.  Not a sole in sight.  The only sounds were from the river making its way down the mountain and the wind whispering to the trees.

The first afternoon was nearly exceptional.  Fish were holding in all the expected spots and rose eagerly to my offerings.  I didn't venture very far the first afternoon.  Thunderstorms were forecast to begin at 1pm.  If you weren't headed back when they started, it meant walking out with lightening crashing all around.  I learned that lesson last year and would not repeat it again this year.

As expected, the clouds started to build around lunch signaling my departure.  I made it back to camp just as the wind picked up and the rain crashed down.  I made lunch and enjoyed a beer under the cover of the rain fly.  Being surrounded on all sides by mountains there wasn't any real way to know how long it would last.  The cell phone was only good for capturing pictures out here.  A few hours passed before the rain stopped.  Another 30 minutes before the sun came out.  The temperature dropped 30 degrees putting a much appreciated chill in the air.  The excitement of ending the day throwing dry flies to rising trout was brief.  No worries, it had been a great morning and I could use some rest.  

Realizing that each afternoon would be shortened by several hours, I set my alarm for 5 am each morning.  The time it takes to make breakfast, coffee and pack for the afternoon is considerably shortened when you're solo adventuring.  The next few days were filled with browns in the morning and rain in the afternoon.  Four days went by quickly but it was time to relocate to another area, which would take the better part of the morning.  Again, leaving me with just a few hours to fish.

From my new camp I had access to several streams and lakes.  But the weather would dictate which day I would visit each.  I stayed close on the days with a greater chance of storms but luck was on my side for a few.  Later in the week, the percentages and timing allowed me to hike out a little further.

This was the only day I actually ran into another person.  We stopped and talked for a minute.  Not wanting to jump ahead of him or fish behind him, I stopped and had lunch.  Giving him 30 minutes to get up a little further.

It was my last afternoon in Colorado and I was hopeful the weather would hold off.  But like every day before, it started to build in the afternoon.  I could hear the thunder in the distance rolling through the valley.  I stepped on to the trail and started to hike out when I saw the guy from earlier.  The storms had been really brutal and knowing he had just gotten here I made my way over to relay the information before hitting the trail hard.  My truck was in sight when the weather went south quick.  The winds gust to 30 mph, the rain was blinding and lightning was coming down all over.  After 30 minutes, I knew I had to start driving back to Arkansas and hoped that dude made it out ok.


Here are some video clips on IG:

More from this and other trips can be found on my FB and IG pages...


Thursday, May 9, 2019

White River Caddis Hatch May 2019

April is always a good time to fly fish in Arkansas.  The streams are usually full of water, not always a good thing, and the fish are normally hungry.  The most difficult decision normally focuses on where and what species to target.  Trout, carp, smallmouth bass are all high on my list.  However, last May, my buddy Brad came home after incredible day fishing the caddis hatch on the White River and said we would be returning in 2019.  The plan was to drive up on Tuesday and fish through Sunday, with a couple days on the White, Norfork and maybe a smallmouth float.

The weather began to take an ugly shape and the plan quickly changed.  The area was predicted to receive 5+ inches of rain over the next three to four days with the possibility of severe thunderstorms. As responsible adults, one of us anyway, we looked at moving the date.  But that wasn't an option.  Next we considered heading to Southeast Louisiana or even The Great Smoky Mountains.  But the weather system included each of those areas as well.  After talking about it, we decided to stay with the original plan but stick to the tailwaters because they would not blow out.

Tying video for this caddis pupa below

As luck would have it the rain and storms hit the area as predicted but we only had to fish in the rain one afternoon.  Fortune was on our side and the severe storms came at night while we were in our sleeper cabin at  If you're in the area and need a place to sleep without paying a fortune, Copper Johns is pretty awesome.  Located just down the road from the state park and directly on the river, it gave us a quick place to dodge storms if needed.

Rigging up the streamer rod

Add caption

If you haven't seen the many Instagram and guide posts the hatch was brilliant this year.  Check out my buddy Matt's guide service and see what I'm talking about,  Tons of bugs on the water and the fish were eating great.  We fished dry flies each day with some success, but with all the natural sources of protein available on the surface, it was only a fun option, not the most successful.  But I will take a couple 20+ inch browns on a EHC over several nymphed up most days!

On Friday and Saturday we decided to float the Norfork.  The generation schedule predicted 1-unit each morning starting around 9am. The fishing was equally great.  One-unit is awesome flow for nymphing and streamer fishing which we did and got a few follows from some gnarly browns.  I suspect if the rental boat hatch wasn't out in full force on Saturday atleast one of the big browns would have eaten a streamer.  But when 4 dudes, throwing rapalas constantly to cut into your drift, it can be a challenge to get a fresh look!  We won't be fishing the Norfork on a Saturday any time soon, lol!  The rental hatch cleared at lunch the fishing got good for the rest of the afternoon.

We got up early Sunday with plans to pack and drive home.  One look at the river and we changed our mind.  It looked like it was raining with all the fish coming to the surface to eat caddis.  So we hit the water for a few more hours, caught some fish and planned next years trip.  Gonna be a long wait...

Tying video for this productive pattern...