San Juan Below Navajo Dam
The 4 mile quality water stretch on the San Juan River below Navajo Dam, may be one of the finest fisheries in the country. The river boasts a population of around 20,000 fish per mile and the average fish is close to 17 inches. Rainbows are the main catch in the river, but there are enough browns to make things interesting. Most of the rainbows are products of fingerling stockings each year but by the time they reach a catchable size they look and fight like wild fish. Brown trout are maintained by spawning, so any brown you catchwas born in the river.
There is no best time of year on the San Juan River because the dam controls the water temperature, so if you are there in February or August the water coming from Navajo is 42 degrees. This means that bugs hatch year around and there is always an opportunity to fish over rising trout. Midges are the main food source for trout in the San Juan River which is both a blessing and a curse. A blessing in the fact that trout have to eat all the time to fill up on such small morsels and a curse because you need to use small flies and tippet to match these insects. With the proper equipment and the right technique fishing with these small flies and tippets is not a problem though. The two main may fly hatch on the San Juan River are BWOs and PMDs and when these bug are on the water the fish will go crazy. The PMD hatches primarily in July and August and these bugs can range from size 16 – 20. BWOs can appear fromSeptember to May and are smaller size 22-24.
Since the San Juan is a tailwater it has a very stable flow and is not affected by spring runoff. There is a planned high water release each spring when the flows get up to 5,000 cfs, but this is scheduled well in advance. Most of the time flows are between 500 and 800 cfs which are great wadding flows. Anything above 800 cfs requires extreme caution while wadding and floating the river is preferable.
The San Juan River below Navajo Dam is an incredible fishery and should be at the top of any ones bucket list. Catching big trout on light tippets and small flies is a challenge and every fish brought to net is well earned. This river will challenge you every time, but there is always an opportunity to catch the fish of a life time.
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