Fishing The San Juan River
October 24, 2013

Fishing The San Juan River

As I write this blog, it is 2:07pm, Mountain Time, on Saturday, October 19, and I am on my third day of camping and fly-fishing on the San Juan River just below the Navajo Dam in northern New Mexico. I know…it seems weird that I would write while out in nature camping, hiking, and fishing, but I write every day, so today is no different for me. Often when I am out camping, I will write with pen and paper, but since this is a short trip, I brought my iPad to write while driving to New Mexico and back home to Oklahoma. My college had fall break this past Thursday and Friday, which allowed my boyfriend and me to get in a little trip out west.

We try to make it out to the San Juan for camping and fishing at least once a year, and more if we can do it. Every visit leaves us excited for the next one.

This trip has been, in a word, calming. The semester has been so stressful that we needed a moment to get away. And the San Juan is one great place to go to for a little rebooting. Hugging the river are mesas that kiss the sky. Scattered along the river’s bank are cottonwoods that are currently turning so that the leaves look like fire from a distance. It is a beauty that is incredible. Then there is the river itself.

The world famous San Juan River draws in anglers from all over. Why is that, you ask? Well, first of all, it is known for its incredible fishing. Even the most novice of fly fishers can catch at least dinks on this river. And a dink here is a good catch on many other fly-fishing rivers.

The fish on the San Juan tend toward the massive. For instance, yesterday I caught a 20-inch rainbow. It was almost ochre on its bellow because it was so large. The river itself is home to spectacular midge hatchings, so these fish, primarily rainbows and browns, grow something like eight to ten inches a year. That is impressive growth. All because they have a constant food source full of nutrients that lead to big, happy fish.

Plus, for much of the river just below the dam, the fishing is catch and release, which means that fly fishers must let the fish go. This leads to bigger fish as well.

Many a fly-fishing competition happens on the San Juan River, both official tournaments and personal, friendly competing. All over the area, fly shops, restaurants, gas stations, and the like hang pictures of their employees, owners, or patrons who have caught fish even larger than my 20-incher.

Beyond the river fly fishing, the area has great camping both just off the river and up near the Navajo Reservoir, which has Great Lake activities like boating, bass fishing, and the like. There is a great hike to some ruins, which are totally cool. It is an area that lends itself to slowing down and enjoying the moment.

For all you fly fishers out there, you have to make it out to the San Juan. It is fishing like few other places. The camping is good, most definitely, but the fly-fishing is just the berries. We all need to get away. The San Juan River is great for those of us who enjoy the sport of angling.

Image Credit: Rayshell Clapper

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Rayshell E. Clapper is an Associate Professor of English at a rural college in Oklahoma where she teaches Creative Writing, Literature, and Composition classes. She has presented her original fiction and non-fiction at several conferences and events including: Scissortail Creative Writing Festival, Howlers and Yawpers Creativity Symposium, Southwest/Texas Pop Culture Association/American Culture Association Regional Conference, and Pop Culture Association/American Culture Association National Conference. Her publications include Cybersoleil Journal, Sugar Mule Literary Magazine, Red Dirt Anthology, Originals, and Oklahoma English Journal. Beyond her written works, she successfully created a writer's group in rural Oklahoma to support burgeoning writers. The written word is her passion, and all she experiences inspires that passion. She hopes to help inspire others through her words.

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