River Conditions in February
February…some might consider it the doldrums of fishing. They time of year to drink and tie flies and drink and watch fishing movies and drink. However, for those with a will of iron and the mental fortitude to brave the elements; February does not have to be a month sans trout here in Colorado. While the air temps drop, local water temps can stay above freezing which allows for a nymph or midge dry to be drifted through the water column.
The main (and only for the most part) options are the Animas and the San Juan River below Navajo Dam. For the Animas, fishing can be slow…so fish your rig as such. Slow drifts with nymphs right on the bottom or a small midge hatch if it is clear that fish are looking up. Watch out for ice in the guides as well as on the bank, walk slowly to avoid a concussion. Did I say take it slow? Same with a streamer: this time of year what usually works best is swinging your meat through a slow run or pool with small strips or twitches. Move it slow. Think of astronauts bouncing on the moon and attempt to replicate that action. The takes will be subtle, so if you feel any resistance give it a short strip set to ensure it is a fish and not a rock. Although hitting bottom and snagging is annoying, it is a necessary evil to get into the bigger bottom dwelling browns of the Animas. Look for a string of warmer days in the high 30’s which should cause the fishing to pick up.
February on the San Juan is still awesome…but every month on the San Juan is awesome. This month yields less crowds but lots of fish. Standard tailwater techniques are suggested; but don’t be afraid to get creative. The San Juan has a large amount of leeches (and small rainbows) that get chowed on in the winter months so try a bugger bunny leech. Look for a midge or baetis hatch in the late mornings through the afternoon. Also make sure to pack on the layers and a good pair of gloves cannot be understated. May we suggest the Simms Foldover Mitt. Here is your February fly fishing Report for 2014:
Insects and Natural Food Sources
Animas, Upper San Juan, Piedra: February is still midge time; albeit not too small for the Animas and upper SJ. Average size midge on the Animas is about an 18, but will range anywhere from 16-20. Cased Caddis, BWO, PMD, and stoneflies nymphs all work great as a point fly on a 2 fly rig. Sculpins as well as crayfish on the reservation in sizes 2 – 10
San Juan: As the San Juan is a tailwater: midge larva, midge pupa, midge, emergers, and midge dries; usually in sizes 18-26 in February. Other food sources to be aware of are Baetis nymphs and dries, eggs, annelids, aquatic worms, and leeches. Small rainbows and baitfish can be found closer to town.
Recommended Fly Patterns
Animas: Midges Sz. 16-20: Green, black, and tan in color. Brassies, Discos, and Sprout Midges if they are eating on top. Green or black caddis larva and cased caddis nymphs sz. 12-18. Dark stonefly nymphs sz. 10-14 such as a 20 Incher Stone or Prince Nymph. Dark mayfly nymphs such as a Juju Baetis, Tungsten Micro Mayfly, RS-2, and Pheasant Tails in sz. 16-20. Streamers: anything that is big, meaty, and has lots of action in the water. Meat Whistle, Hare Sculpin, Magnum Super Bugger, Near Nuff Crayfish.
San Juan River: BWO’s Sz.18-22; Two Bit Hooker, Juju baetis, WD-40s, Phesant Tail, RS-2s, CDC Comparaduns. Midges Sz.18-26; Black Beautys, Red Brassie, Big Mac, Griffith Gnats, and Zebra Midges. Brown, Olive, and White bunny leaches or buggers of the same color. Olive and Black buggers in any variety. Tan chamois Leeches size 16. Red annelids Sz. 20-22. San Juan Worms, Sz. 16-20 in tan or pink. Egg patterns, Sz. 16 in orange, pink, and cherise.
Visiting Durango April 1-3. Interested in fly fishing. Have fished the San Juan in summer and would like to know if the Animas is worth playing in. May be interested in a guided trip for 3 people (ages 17, 18, and 1 adult) if the snow isn’t holding up.
Hello Stacey, depending on the river flow and conditions, April 1-3 could be a great time of year to hit the Animas. April usually begins the streamer season on the Animas. Of course, the San Juan is also a great option as well, but we also may have a few other options for fishing depending on the weather and conditions. We can certainly figure out a great option for a guided day on the water.