Fly Fishing the San Juan River in Winter

Mild winters make for some of the best fishing of the year

Imagine a place where the winter months transform the landscape into a secret fishing paradise, where the fish are biting, the sun still warms you, and solitude can be found with ease. That's the San Juan River in winter. In fact, many of our guides' favorite time to fly fish is during these colder months.

Most Days Are Actually Quite Nice

Due to our lower latitude, we don't face the same frigid conditions found in other areas like Montana or Wyoming. Our average high, even in January and February, is still around 44 degrees. Combined with a sunny day, this means fishermen often only need to wear a sweatshirt or light jacket in the late morning and afternoon. That said, we still experience snowstorms and cold fronts, so there are some occasional days where the highs don't get above freezing. However, even on these days, a nice puffy down jacket combined with a few extra layers does the trick.


The Fishing Stays Great
The trout actually have no idea it's winter above the surface, so they remain active eaters below the surface. This is due to the quality waters section of the river being fed directly by the water released from below Navajo Dam. The water temperature exits at a constant ~42 degrees year-round, which generates an abundant food supply that the fish actively feed on throughout winter. Generally speaking, the water simply doesn't get cold enough for our fish to become dormant or sluggish feeders.

The trout also become less picky in winter thanks to a seasonal change in the water color. Every winter, the lake above the quality waters experiences turnover, which causes the river to be off-color from roughly December through March. Most people think that this off-color water means that the fishing slows, but it actually causes the fish to focus their feeding on larger patterns like eggs, leeches, and annelids. The off-color water also makes the fish less leader shy, allowing anglers to fish with stronger leaders. 4x is common in winter, but is usually not touched during our summer and fall months.


Solitude is Easier to Find
While finding a stretch of river for yourself in summer or fall can be quite a challenge, winter sees far fewer people. Especially on a weekday, you're likely to see only a few other anglers, and often you can claim a little section of the river as yours for a few hours.

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