Fishing the San Juan at 5000 cfs -or- the story is in the water, keep your flies in the water
By Lee Pillaro
Often times, Spring in Southwestern Colorado means fishing flat water and tailwaters. But what happens when our favorite tailwater gets high during spring flushes?
Well, if you’re like us here at Durangler’s you break out the big worms and leeches and get to fishing the San Juan at high water.
It is more common than not that when people see the river gauge at 5000 CFS, they assume big, pushy, off-color water. This is not the case on the San Juan at all. As a fairly low gradient and meandering river, the San Juan is still easily floatable at 5000 cfs, and there are wade opportunities in the upper reaches close to the dam. Throwing a big worm or leech pattern can be deadly effective during high flows as worms tend to get flushed into the watershed at increased flows. I have even had fish eat unseasonably large hoppers as terrestrial insects through big water.
It seems to be uncommon knowledge to most these days, but during the 80s and 90s, flows were kept at 5000 cfs all summer, and 100 fish days were common. In fact, if you ask most of the guides who have been working on the Juan for 20+ years, many will say 5000 is the best flow that they have ever fished. While fishing the ramp up and ramp down can be tough, once the river has stabilized and those fish find their spots in the higher water and are more than willing to take a fly much bigger than a #26 black midge pupa.
The schedule this year has the ramp up starting on Monday, June 3rd, reaching a maximum of 2000 cfs today. Flows will increase to 3400 cfs on June 4th, 4200 cfs June 5th, 4600 cfs June 6th, and reaching 5000 cfs by June 7th. The flow will be at 5000 cfs for at least 5 days, and will begin to ramp down on Wednesday, June 12th if all goes as planned. If you’re looking to fish one of our favorite rivers at one of our favorite flows, give us a call and book your high water San Juan float ASAP!