San Juan Redemption

superbowl juan-jason fish-benAfter my first experience fishing the famed San Juan River in New Mexico I left with a jaded opinion of the place being likened to a crowded theme park and I didn't have much desire to return. Sure the fishing was good, but the "People Experience" wasn't.

I had recently read a few reports that the San Juan fishes great in the late Winter, crowds were down and overall just a better experience. A couple other friends were hitting it the week or two before the weekend I had some extra time off, so I sent out the feelers to a couple friends to see if they wanted to fish it Superbowl weekend. A Plan was hatched, Kristen, Ben and I were going to the Juan!

This would be Ben's second time as well to the San Juan, and Kristen's first. A recent report from Kyle over at Sleep When You're Dead had put the temps very cold but they were still catching fish. We were headed there a couple weeks later, with warmer temps forecast overall, overnights were still in the teens, we were all gearing up for the cold temps, and year round chilly water.

I started the prep for the trip by dehydrating 20 pounds of meat for jerky in 5 flavors, we were not going to starve when it came to snacks!


The other thing that I did was add some studs to my felt boots. The last time at the San Juan my boots were fine for most all of the wading we were doing, but the long flat sections of rock in the Braids area were a challenge as they were very slippery. Kirk took a quick fall, and I had quite a few close calls myself. So a quick install of some metal studs were going to do the trick this time.

studding boots done right

The plan was to meet at my place after work Thursday, pack the gear and roll out late evening for the 8 hour drive getting to the Juan before daylight. With everyone packed up, car fueled, we loaded up and started the trek to New Mexico about 10pm. The drive was pretty quick, arriving in just under 8 hours @ Fisheads of the San Juan just before they opened for the day. With the temps just starting to break over 20f, we decided to pick up some breakfast, get our licenses and then hit the river. The big breakfasts from the Back Cast Cafe got us started right every morning.

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We started out at the Texas Hole parking lot, made our way down to the river and fished the Kiddie Hole and Braids sections first. There were a few anglers in the water, but overall it was not the zoo it had been on my previous trip.

Ben picked up a nice fish pretty early on, and we all started to pick up fish pretty regularly after that.

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We decided to stay at Abe's for the duration of the trip purely based on cost per person. It turned out the room was just about perfect for what we needed. Enough room for the 3 of us, some tying, hang up the waders to dry over night and a warm bed.

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The following day we woke up to mid 20's temps, and a very frosted Impala.

superbowl juan-frosty logoWe decided to hit "Lunker Alley" and try our hand at picking up some larger fish on average. This turned out to be a great plan, as we all picked up some nice fish in this stretch of river, some more than others. Kristen was absolutely slaying the big fish, Browns and Rainbows. She found this perfect platform of a rock that got you mostly out of the water but overlooked a very deep hole. The fish gods were smiling down on her that day for sure.

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superbowl juan-jason brown-benWe all took turns and rotated time on the rock pulling nice healthy fish out of the hole for a few hours.

superbowl juan-ben2We moved back down river at the end of the day picking up a few fish here and there ending with a little dry fly action as the sun was starting to set. Today was the redemption, the San Juan was fun, I was already starting to plan the next trip in my head... we had a half day fishing ahead of us before we left, back to the motel for a final night, we were all exhausted.

We spent the final day up in the "Braids" and we all killed it as far as numbers. Constant hook ups, plenty of large fish, and on every kind of fly. Kristen and I were swinging buggers through a section and pulling fish out every cast, Ben was working a run just ahead of us, and slaying it. At one point I could see some fish rising behind a set of rocks, I switched over to a dry, and fished that for the last hour or so before we had to leave bringing a bunch of hungry rainbows to hand on dries.

The San Juan had redeemed itself, it was a place worth re-visiting, and I will be back. Summer this next time, we'll see how that one goes!

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