River Conditions in November
“Remember, remember the fish of November…”
Frosty autumn mornings; with each day giving way to the starkness of winter. Positioned center stream, casting at nothing in particular with only your deeper contemplations do keep you company. This is November. Even if the fishing has not slowed down, it feels right to slow your mind down. A time to reflect on what we are thankful for. A time to cast a fly. A time to chase ducks or turkey or the ghosts of the mountain; elk. No matter where your time calls you this month, remember there is always a river waiting for you.
This time of year can make for an interesting time on the water. Some days can see incredible midge hatches and epic dry fly fishing while other days the river can seem almost devoid of fish. We won’t lie, it can be incredible or it can be downright frustrating. The positive of a slow day is that in November; it just feels right to get out on the water before that first real snow. Our little slice of Colorado (and paradise) is a complex one in November, but there are still plenty of options.
The first and most fantastic option right now is the San Juan river below Navajo dam. Keep this in mind: the consistent water temps flowing out of the dam have the fish active all year, while the fluctuating air temps have the fisherman active only part of the year. If you can handle 30 – 50 degree days, this is the time to be out!
The Animas, Piedra, Rio Grand, and upper San Juan are also viable options this time of year. Again, days on the water can be perplexing, confounding, or frustrating…or they can be incredible. Keep these points in mind when venturing out: more weight, smaller nymphs, and try out a streamer. This time of year, especially in the higher elevations, the fish will move to winter holding water. This means the deepest sections of the river, right on bottom; so you are gonna need some weight. Also make sure to have your small fly box handy. Flies in size 18-24 will be the main forte for the next few months.
(Please Note: the city is currently working on two projects on the Animas, one at smelter rapids and one at 25th street park. There is heavy machinery working in the river, moving boulders and creating structures for whitewater features. This is causing the river to flow off color and semi-muddy at times.)
PLEASE ALSO NOTE! Browns have a tough enough time spawning on their own without worrying about fisherman. Please, we would ask that you leave any and all actively spawning fish alone. They are more interested in propagating their species than eating. It is very fascinating to watch fish on the redds, but please keep walking and refrain from fishing to them. It will truly assist in the future of the fisheries.
Insects and Natural Food Sources
San Juan – Midges of course! Midge pupa, larva, and adults. Annelids, aquatic worms, eggs, leeches, BWOs.
Animas, Piedra River, and Upper San Juan, Rio Grande – MIDGES! BWO nymphs, sculpins, crayfish, stonefly nymphs. (Fish are going to be seeking deeper water this time of year, so use more weight!)
Los Pinos River – Winter flows. Fishing will be close to impossible
Recommended Fly Patterns
San Juan River: Midges Sz.18-26; colors in Olive, Black, White, Tan, and Red. Red Brassie, Mercury Midge, Big Mac, Disco Midge, Griffith Gnats, and Zebra Midges, CDC Midge Emerger, . BWO’s Sz.18-22; Brown Foam RS-2, Micro Mayfly, Two Bit Hooker, Juju baetis, WD-40s, Pheasant Tail, CDC Comparaduns, BWO Biot Emerger. Brown, Tan, Olive, and White bunny leaches or buggers of the same color. Red annelids Sz. 20-22. San Juan Worms, Sz. 16-20 in tan, pink, or red. Egg patterns, Sz. 16 in Oregon Cheese (yellow), pink, and cherise. A great set up for this time of year is a small bunny leach trailed by a red annelid.
Animas, Rio Grande, and other SW CO rivers: Midges size 16-20 in green or black; Stuck in the Shuck Midge, Parachute Midge, Disco Midge, Thread Midge, and Griffiths Gnat. Small Mayfly nymphs in sizes 18-22; Brown RS-2s, Two Bit Hooker, Pheasant Tails, Micro Mayfly. Wooly Buggers, Woolhead Sculpin, Autumn Splendor, Near Nuff Crayfish, Near Nuff Sculpin, Josh’s Ziwi in sizes 2-10. Green or black caddis larva and cased caddis nymphs, Hares Ear Nymph, Graphic Caddis, sz. 12-18.