Winter on the Juan

San Juan River Fishing Report & News

7-Day Forecast

Fishead (fish-head) n. A person who spends all their time thinking about, dreaming about, or in the pursuit of fish.
We are finally having a big snow storm in the mountains! Over 40 inches so far and more to come. This should be great for the lake. The cloud cover has made for some great dry fly fishing. We have seen some may flies and large Midge hatches all over the river. It should stay cloudy all week so get out your midge clusters. The San Juan River finally has a little milky green color to it because the lake has turned over. Fisheads have been looking forward to the off color water to dumb the fish up a little. The trout can just see too much in the clear water. The streamer fishing should get good soon! It is the best time of the year to fish if you like having the river to all yourself. It has been unseasonably warm for February, last week’s temperatures were in the 50’s and 60’s some afternoons. I have been out most days and the fishing has been very good with eggs and red larvae. There has been lots of midge activity throughout the day but very little surface action. It can be windy in the afternoons this time of year. The fishing will be good in the wind as long as you add some weight so you can still see the strikes. Fish are looking for egg patterns, yellow, peach or tangerine have been best for me. Fish a red or orange larva behind it. The river is at 350 this week.

Good luck to all the Fisheads out there.



Try midge larvae (red, pink or orange) in the morning, fished with an attractor like a leech or an egg pattern. As always a large part of your success will be your in ability to move around to where the hatches are coming off the best. Fish near the dam in the best midging waters, the midge hatch is strong all day long. I have been doing well with a black larvae or pupa to a gray or olive larvae.

The winds can be tough on us. The fish are still eating well in the afternoons but you can have some trouble getting a good drift. It is best to shorten up your length between the strike indicator and your weight and add some weight. This will help you get a better drift and see the indicator move when the fish takes. With lower flows the bites will be lighter and you will have to fish shallow rigs to avoid the bottom of the river. Watch out for moss on your flies, you have to keep them clean. Make sure you fish streamers with hooks close to the end of the fly as the fish short strike streamers often. With lots of fish spawning, fish all over the river are eating egg patterns

Techniques & Tips

Fish fluorocarbon tippets at the end of your mono-filament leader when nymph fishing. 5X to the first fly and 6X to the dropper. This will produce more strikes as the fish can’t see the fluorocarbon. Fishing 22 to 24 midges in the slower waters has been great, Fish light weight ( a number 6 or smaller ) with your strike indicator 2 or 3 feet above the weight. You don’t want to be on the bottom when you are midge fishing. We are not finding lots of baetis, but the trout are still eating foam wings and WD-40s especially on cloudy afternoons. Fish are eating gray, olive and brown nymphs in these places, it just depends on the day so have them all. You may have the chance to see fish on top during this time. A parachute Adams or comparadun should do the job. The may flies are green and are about size 22. Use dark colored wings as the fish are turning away from white wings. If you can’t see this try a marker fly about 12 inches above the dry. You should fish mono-filament tippets when fishing on the surface as fluorocarbon sinks. Change back to midges when the fish stop eating your may flies. Try some bunny leaches if all else fails. Dead drift them like the rest of your nymphs. Fish are eating them for moss! They will shake the drifting moss to get the bugs out. All this goes out the door when fishing streamers. Get them on the bottom and fish 1X fluorocarbon.


Fishing Conditions


Orvis-Endorsed guides nearby:
Fisheads of the San Juan

Water flow: 350 cfs

Visibility: 24 inches

Water temperature at mid-day: 42 Degrees F

Water condition: Moderately Turbid

Best time of day to fish: All day long, light dry fly fishing from 12:00pm to 5:00pm

Best stretch: The whole quality water section is fishing well! Most of the fish are in the deeper runs and will be for the winter.

Best access point: Texas Hole parking lot

Fly fishing hatches in order of importance:

Midges are hatching all day long. At the moment they are small, midge pupa and larvae, size 22 to 24, olive, gray, black, chocolate, cream and of course red have been my best. The hatch is strongest from 10:30 to 2:00. The midges are clustering so try fishing a cluster to a single dry midge. Black has been best. Try fishing BWO’s from 1:00pm to about 5:00pm. That hatch will be best on cloudy days. Dark or light gray, brown and olive have been the best colors in a size 20 and 22. Try both dry and wet patterns. Bunny leeches and woolly buggers are working well either dead drifted or stripping them. Black, olive or cream have been best. There are lots of fish spawning so try egg patterns and red or orange larvae, this is a great combo when the lake turns.

Fish species: Rainbow and Brown trout

Fishing season: Year Round

Nearest airport: Albuquerque, NM (2.5 hr) or Durango, La Plata Airport, CO (40 min) or Farmington, NM (40 min)

Recommended fly fishing leader: 9 Foot Leader

Recommended fly fishing tippet: 5X Tippet

San Juan River NM Water Flow CFS

Chris Taylor - Head Fly Guide