San Juan Runoff

Quick disclaimer, I know this is posted in August but occurred in June I just had to wait until I finally had a site to post it to!

I have been watching the stream gages all over the southern Colorado area for the past few weeks and the runoff is finally down to clear water. But do not be mistaken, the water is still very much high! I convinced a friend that it would be a good idea to head up to one of my favorite creeks in the San Juans over the weekend and we set out.

The first thing you see entering Durango is the Animas River. What we saw was a river running brown and high through town, but no matter we were fishing a tributary, surely ours would not be in runoff. After driving through Durango and stopping for a brief bit of roadside rock climbing, we came to our campsite shortly before dark. In times past (not runoff) this creek tumbles down in short runs and calm pools. Today was a little different, the water was high enough that it could drown out the pools and tossing a fly in this area was out of the question. We went to bed apprehensive about the day to come but figured we would give the creek a try anyways.

The next morning dawned cold. After a hasty meal of oatmeal and coffee, we rigged our rods and began to hike. The creek was high and running fast! Usually running near 50 cfs it peaked over 200 the day we were there.. but the water was clear so we headed upstream. The first spot we stopped was a bust until Connor dropped his dry fly in a tiny pocket of water behind a log. First orange flash up missed the fly, but on the second attempt a small brooke trout grabbed his stonefly! The first fish was had and a bust prevented!

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The log jam the first fish was hiding behind.

We continued upstream and after a few log crossings tried some other likely spots, but no luck. A few fish went for and missed our flies. We continued up to a small meadow and trout began looking up!

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Some interesting stream crossings!
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Brooke Trout duped by the royal wulff!

As we moved upstream we encountered a large waterfall which had us wondering if any fish were above the 40 foot cascade. We worked out way up and around the falls and came out in a beautiful high alpine meadow with forest on the sides. Immediately we began to fish out way through to small pockets under the willow lined banks, but no luck..

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Casting in the meadow

We moved through the meadow and back into the forest and that is when I spotted a solitary trout lazily eating just under the surface near a log. Connor was in the better position to cast but the fish was invisible to him. After several casts in the wrong spots (my poor directions) the stonefly drifted slowly over the fishes head and it came flying out of the water to inhale the large dry fly.

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This colorful brookie proved there were fish above the falls (and that foam stoneflies were still on the menu)!

As we moved further into the forest we came into small high country trout nirvana. Every back eddy and seam in the water housed multiple dark shapes snatching at floating bugs.

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The colors the fish have in this creek can be incredible!

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Another back to its creek home
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Path up into the mountains
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The “creek” was roaring and crossings on the way home were a bit of a challenge
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A well worn wulff
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Questionable grilled cheese making

On the way back to Flagstaff we managed to sneak a few casts in at a high elevation lake. The fishing was a little slow and the lake a bit crowded but the views more than made up for it!IMG_6839 (1)

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