The San Juan


Active Member
I posted a couple weeks ago looking for places to fish between Dallas and Seattle as I was making the drive and Matthew Kaphan recommended stopping at the San Juan river near Farmington so I did(I owe you a beer or 6).

I ended up getting in kind of late but wanted to check out the river so I checked into the lodge, grabbed a set of waders and some flies and headed to the Texas Hole. There was one other person fishing there so I headed upstream a bit to find my own water. The mosquitoes were killer and right after I got set up a Thunderstorm blew in with rain so I said screw it and headed back to the lodge.

The next day was my drift boat trip. I met the guide early and headed out. I was surprised for a Tuesday at the line of drift boats putting in. But the rain the night before had everyone hoping for an ant hatch so it was busy.

Right at the launch I started throwing midges and quickly hooked up. There were so many boats right there that when the fish decided to make a run for the other end of the pool people had to move out of the way. It was crazy. A couple other boats hooked up and soon we were just trying to keep the fish out of each others way.

We ended up rowing up to the top of the pool and letting the others go down the river first, at first I was curious about this and asked the guide and he said they were all throwing hoppers and it wouldn't affect our fishing. Besides we are going to fish this pool and see if the ants hatch(we had only seen 1 or 2 at this point), turned out to be a really solid plan.

When the ants started falling from the sky frequently the fish started sipping them. I was still getting fish on the set up I was using but was itchy to fish the top. We waited until every 4th or 5th live ant that went by was taken by a fish then I switched over flies. The next couple hours were probably the best time I ever had fishing.

When the trout got keyed up on the ants they would come from the bottom like a missile to hit them. At first I was only hooking up 1 out of every 2 or 3 fish from being trigger happy but once I had the timing down on when to set the hook on a fish moving that fast I was probably bringing a fish to the boat every 10 minutes all in the 16-19" range.

When the ant hatch was over I was sad to switch back to nymphing but it was productive. I spent the rest of the quality water pulling in big fish, and we drifted the put and take section at the end and I was surprised at the fish there. The banks were lined with guys\family's chucking power bait and I was yanking out 14"-16" fish right in front of them. I don't think I caught anything smaller then 12".

I would say out of the 10 hours I was out there the longest I went without a fish was 30 minutes. The ants had gotten everyone eating and when they were gone the standard stuff worked. The water was amazing it was like 45 degrees and gin clear, drifting through pools you could look down and see huge fish just sitting there, sometimes 3 or 4 in a seam.

I dont know how many hook ups I missed cause I was looking at fish instead of my indicator but it was a lot. I wont even guess at how many fish I caught, it was also a lot.

The only downer of the trip was that I lost 2 big browns at the boat, I should of let them run one more time but I tried to muscle them and getting them to keep their head up for easy netting on 6x or 7x tippet is a skill I dont have yet. I did manage to land a couple browns in the 14-16" range but nothing like the 2 I lost.

Everyone at the take out and lodge that night said it was the best fishing they had all year down there, and the first ant hatch of the year. When I had checked in and met the guide everyone was saying the fishing had been rough, I just got lucky on the day I was there.

I would recommend the lodge and the guide to anyone going down there, they have a deal where you get a room for 2 nights and a drift-boat trip for $275.00(double occupancy) which seems like a killer deal to me. Also fishing a great river in the middle of the desert like that is pretty surreal especially once you feel how cold the water is.

Anyway that's it, a great time fishing(and catching), don't be surprised if you see a post from me next spring looking for a fishing buddy to head back down there. It is definitely a place I would like to visit again.

The lodge\guide service(ask for Ron N.):

Some pictures:

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Great report and what a fishing trip. Finally you can say "you shoulda been here today"
Look me up when you want a second next year.
Glad it turned out to be a good suggestion. The river looks considerably different during summer than when I fished it during Christmas. Looks just as crowded though, even 20 years later. The San Juan will always hold a special place in my heart. It's the first place I ever flyfished.

Anyways, glad I could be of help and it wasn't a bust. Save the beers: Take me on the trip next year with you :)