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2003 Trips

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April 13, 2003

San Juan River


My friend Jeff and I don't fish together often enough. Life goes by so fast these days what used to be months have turned into years. Jeff had a heart attack at the end of December and this was his first fishing trip since then. During our drive up to Navajo Dam we theorized as to which would be the best spot to start and decided the stretch just below Texas hole would be the best.


We arrived about 1:00 pm and went to the Navajo Dam marina to get our yearly parking pass and then proceeded down to the river. On our way down the hill I mentioned Lunker Alley might be a better in the afternoon than Texas hole. Jeff agreed and we were on the river fishing by 2:30. Jeff started at lower end of the main channel and I when up to about a 100 yards below the narrow of the lower flats.


Jeff made a couple of nice casts and was right back into his first fish since December. It was a beautiful 19 inch San Juan rainbow. The river has been running about 325 cfs and was a little cloudy but very fishable. The weather was perfect...mostly sunny with an occasional cloud. I threw a few casts and set the hook in a nice fish and it took off downstream as if was heading for Jeff's creel then stopped suddenly, as these fish often do, and headed back towards me. While I was stripping line in I was quickly realizing how out of shape and uncoordinated I had become over the last five months of not fishing. This fish was just not co-operating. After several minutes I told Jeff I thought a that I had foul hooked a small fish in the tail. I finally got the fish within sight and realized it was not foul hooked. I finally got the fish to my net. The fish was a 23 inch beautifully hued San Juan rainbow. The girth was huge, the size of a small football. This fish took me back to the past years when this size and girth fish was common in this stretch of the river. I yelled to Jeff, "I had forgotten why this stretch is named Lunker Alley." He concurred.


Lunker Alley is not an easy place fish and most fisherman leave after a few casts. But, this is my favorite part of the river and I have always done well there. Just takes a lot of patience.


We caught several fish during the rest of the day. We were most successful with egg patterns. Jeff used a cream color and a chartreuse and I used a chartreuse. We fished until almost dark and headed back to Aztec, got a room and went dinner. After dinner went back to the motel and called it a day.


April 14, 2003

San Juan River


After a good night's sleep Jeff and I headed for the river early. This was a totally different experience. We went to the mail channel below Texas Hole. Jeff and I both waded out about mid-way across the river and started fishing. Jeff started with an egg pattern and I started with a gray Bunny Leech and a red annelid as an trailer. The weather was not cooperating. It was cloudy and the wind was blowing. The river had been turn-up about 100 cfs and the moss was floating by heavily. The water clarity was still pretty good.  The fishing was actually pretty good. We fished up and downstream for several hours and caught a few fish.


Some were small but most were nice big fish.


About 1:30 pm the wind started picking up and the fishing was getting difficult to even get a decent drift. We decided to pack in about 2:30 and head back home.


The best part of the trip was spending some time with a good friend and we vowed not wait so long between casts.


August 23

Rio San Antonio - Valles Caldera Preserve


When I got back from a very long three-day trip in the field from work I had a phone message from my new friend Fred Mady. He asked if I would join him for a fishing trip to the Rio San Antonio on the Valles Caldera Preserve. I returned his call as quick as I could dial the number and accepted. We agreed to meet at 6:30 am Saturday in the Preserve.


I met Fred and his two friends Mike Marra and Chris Albrecht at the front entry gate. We drove to the staging area where we met the van drivers and got our day passes. The preserve issues a pass for your designated fishing beat. There are 11 beats approximately one mile to one and a half miles in length. A beat is a section of stream with only 2 anglers per beat. Mike and Chris went headed for Beat Number 2. After about a 30 minute drive Fred and I were dropped off at the downstream end of Beat Number 7. The stream, at several beats, is next to the road. However, Beat 7 is a few hundred yards beyond side of the road.


It took us a few minutes to reach the stream. I spooked a nice brown immediately as I approached the stream bank and quickly realized this was going to be low profile fishing. Fred suggested I throw the first cast and not being bashful I did without hesitation. After three casts near an undercut the water waked and a nice brown was fooled by my imitation of a light bodied elk hair caddis. The tension was relieved and I could now go fishing.


There were fish in every run and especially every pool. Fred and I leap-froged each other all morning. Fred started out with a grey stimulator and fished with it all day. I used an orange stimulator, Joe's hopper, Royal Wulff and elk hair caddis and all worked equally as well. The sizes did not even seem to matter either. I don not know what the count was but, Fred and I each caught over 30 but fewer than 50 fish and obviously wanted to go back for more.


Fred and I fished every run and pool on the entire beat by 1:00. The van was not due to pick us up at 2:30. But by then it had started raining and lightning. Since our bodies don?t meet the National Electric Code; Article 250 (grounding) requirements and we were holding graphite lightning rods we radioed to the van to meet us at the road.


Mike and Chris said they were doing very well up until about 12:00 noon when it started to pour on them. Mike said they had pea sized hail and lots of rain which basically shut them down. They were smart to come off the water when we did as most of the other teams that came off really got wet. Mike said he used a 14 para hopper and caught about 15 with the largest about 12 inches. Chris caught 21 browns mostly using a para hopper but he did say that he went to a stimulator and did just as well. They said the water was very short on Beat Number 2. They said they had a great time.


This was an incredible day. As a child I could have only dreamed of the day I could fish this place and there I was. The fish are very skittish and you need to make long casts and use a low profile when casting. Some casting will be tight, where there are undercuts and over growing grass?so hone your accuracy skills. I would suggest you fish this stream very slowly and methodically and don?t be too anxious to go to the next run or pool, as tempting as it will be. And do not worry; there are plenty of fish to catch. Additionally, the water forms a large wake when a fish is approaching the fly so be very patient or you lose every fish you see.


The best part of fishing the preserve is the solitude and I personally hope the ?powers that be? continue to control the access. Thanks to Fred for inviting me. I had a great time.


...tight lines... Phil


September 26. 27 and 28

Rio de los Pinos


Friday the 26th...


Got up at 6:00 am this morning and started loading my truck with my fishing and camping stuff to go fishing with my friend Mike Heitman. Mike's family dropped him off at my house at about 8:00 am. They bid their farewells after Mike loaded his gear in the truck and we were on our way. This was Mike's first trip to the Pinos so he was pretty excited about it. Over the next three hours we learned a lot more about each other and talked fishing the Pinos, of course.


We arrived at my favorite campsite and had camp completely set up , ate lunch and was fishing by about 1:30 pm. We were camped in the special regulations water area and that's where we started fishing upstream. We fished until 4:30 and went back to camp. We sat around camp for a while chatting and eating a good supper. After supper we just hung out around camp and took it easy for a coming long day. We packed it in early. By the way...the fish were not only very selective they weren't even hungry. Mike tried an Adams and Elk Hair Caddis and I used an Elk Hair Caddis and finally a Pheasant Tail nymph.


Successfully fishing the Rio de Los Pinos requires long and precise casting in addition to using a low profile. The weather was clear and the water was crystal. But even using these tactics under these conditions just doesn't work sometimes. That's the reason I love this place, the Pinos always keeps you honest and humble...keeps that cockiness in check, unlike many other New Mexico streams I fish.


Saturday the 27th


After a long night of humility and good sleep we rose before daylight. I fixed us one of my legendary breakfasts and we hit the water early. We started about where we finished the day before, continuing to fish upstream. About 10:00 am we were approaching a long stretch of deep water formed by a fork in the stream. Mike saw a fish finning the top of the water creating a sizeable ripple in the center of the main run near the end of the riffles. We hunkered down immediately so as not spook the fish. While we were preparing our catching strategy for this elusive creature we saw several more fish rising to a presumed midge hatch. Mike had been fishing a black deer hair hopper pattern and continued using it. I had a size 14 Royal Wulff on my line and we both started casting to this run. The fish rose to the hopper and Mike landed a nice trout. I cast my Wulff with the same result. We fished this run for quite a while and eventually pushed the fish to the bottom even though we were using a gentle hand.


We left the run with visions of another run with equal conditions ahead. So be it... a couple hundred feet ahead our vision was realized. Only this run was even longer and wider. Mike and I fished this run with our hopper and Wulff patterns and caught several fish. By 11:45 the fish turned off as quickly as they turned on. We fished a while longer with no strikes or hints of strikes.


We headed back to camp and had lunch. Mike was so excited about our escapade, and being the lousy fishing-naptime part of the day, he decided we needed to tie some more patterns similar to the hopper but in grey and brown. You all have done this before, right? I have; and it usually doesn't turn out the way we think it will. We hung around camp until about 4:00 and drove down to the ?New Mexico Wildlife and Fishing Area? and fished until dark to no avail trying everything we could think of trying?there was just no action on the water even with our 6X Fluoro-Carbon tippet.


By end of the day we had caught several German brown and rainbow trout ranging 11 inches to 14 inches all fat and sassy. No small fish at all. We had a very good day.


Sunday the 28th


Before day-break again we rose with the idea of the water boiling with new fish to catch. We had a good breakfast, broke-up camp and headed out to try Mike's new creations. We arrived on the water at 9:30 at the same run we were so successful the day before. As luck would have it the fish were there but we apparently taught these elusive misfits a valuable lesson the day before. I had a fish pull my fly all the way under, using the black hopper, and could not see where the fly was because the pattern was so dark. Well, so much for old age. I also tried a Royal Wulff trailed with a size 22 midge emerger and ...nothing. Mike and I traded several casts in the run with no fish to hand so we went upstream to fish the second run we had fished the day before. The results in this run were worse than the previous. After a while Mike just couldn't help himself and went back to the first run while I went to the truck to get ready to go back home. Mike arrived at truck about 45 minutes later and announced finally caught a 12 incher. By then, he was ready to call it a weekend.


Mike and I had a great time and it was a very successful trip for both of us. On the way home we talked about all the future trips we might fish together.


...tight lines...Phil



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