Monday, April 12, 2010

dos amigos on the juan

The boy and I had some domestic responsibilities Sat AM, making 0ur arrival at the pumphouse parkinglot on the Juan precisely at 2.30 PM. The thin overcast skies had me hoping for a baetis hatch, so we targeted the lower flats area for the afternoon's fishing. I had fun playing guide, showing the boy Dad's 'secret' shortcut to the river, winding thru the beaver trails and willow tunnels to break out at the lower reaches of the flats precisely at 3.10. And right into the lap of another angler- oops! pardon me my friend! Where'd you boys come from? Dunno, got kinda turned around I guess...;-)

We round the corner only to find an angler in each of the three pockets we were hoping to start out on....welcome to springtime saturdays on the Juan, boys! No worries little man, let's just set up on this pod of risers right here, look at them go!

Looking more closely, the water is all milky, from lake turnover, darnit. For those in the know, sight fishing can be half the game on the Juan. I've found fishing with indicators only gives you an idea of where your float is, to really achieve success you need to observe the fish to pick your hookset: it might be the wink of open mouth, or sliding out of the feeding lane, an up or down-turned nose, you get the picture. Those fish are so wily, they often will take and spit the hook while your indicator just sails merrily on its way, oblivious to the scene below.

With the occluded water obscuring most of the fish, looks like our skilz will really be put to the test this weekend. Which is not at all what I was hoping for my young Jedi in training.

So we work our way up the lower braids, managing to find a few fish feeding in shallow pockets overlooked by the crowd. The first two proved to be too much for a youngster with 6x tippet, and part ways after the first coupla runs. I set the boy to fishing another smallish hole, scout up river looking for more willing pupils. Hey Dad! Looking back I see the rod bent double as the boy gives the fish da business. Schweet! and there's the !pop!, and the boy ducking the rig flying back, the fish leaving a wake across the pool. Shoot! Nice fish, gotta let em run when they want to buddy!

No baetis that afternoon, we head on up to the Texas Hole parking lot toward dinner hour, see if we could squeeze a real kid into the Kiddie Pool. No go however, as the pool was lined with a bunch of 30-something 'kiddies' casting fruitlessly about. Jeeez o pete!

We head on over to my series of honey holes, the boy landing his first fish of the trip, maybe fourteen inches, but the grin said twenty. Fun! Finally had our chance in the Kiddie Pool towards dusk, to no avail, bummer.


Whaddaya say we go get a burger?

Now for those of you who haven't been, the Sportsmans' Inn is a literal icon on the Juan. Seems everyone there fishes the river, even the matronly waitress can give you 'catching' advice, solicited or no! Saturdays are almost always crowded in-season, with anglers from across the country sharing their day's stories, laughs, outlining plans for the next day's outing. To top it off, virtually half the establishment is wall-papered in dollar bills, all decorated and plastered up on the wall by patrons (plastered themselves from the looks of many of em), dating back to the 80's at least.

As the boy soaked it all in, over and around his Reuben sandwich dinner, we laid plans of our own to return and post our saga the following day.

Sunday AM, we wolfed down an angler's breakfast. For the uninitiated, an angler's breakfast differs from say, a rancher's breakfast or banker's breakfast, in that an angler's breakfast is made purely to stuff fuel in ya, so you can get on to the day's business at hand- fishing. Like, duh! I've found a coupla packets of instant oatmeal, coffee or hot chocolate to your preference, and a power bar on the drive down to the river seems to fit the bill. Breakfast? Sheesh, we don't need no stinkin breakfast- you can eat that tomorrow! ;-) But I digress...

I chose the Cable Pool area for our morning's fun. A good plan I still maintain, excepting the catching part. On the river by 8.30am, I had two fish only, LDR'd, before 11, not cool dude. The boy was starting to lose interest, I figured we better change venues. We took a roundabout route back to the truck, just to walk by some different water, come round this small island to see a nice pod of two-pounders rising in the small tongue of current. Shhhhssh, watch this! I pitch in, one of the larger fish slides over, there's the wink, fish on! Now that'swhatI'mtalkinaboud!

We set up slightly behind the pod, angling from our perch on the raised bank. We manage to hook and play two more trout (!pop!) before our upstream wading silt muddies the pool. We rest the pool, waiting for it to clear, chomping more angler's breakfast, enjoying the day. The boy can finally stand it no longer, counting 4 ghosts finning once more at the head of the pool. I rig up a fresh red hot and zebra combo, pitch it in, fish on! The boy wrangles a good 20incher around the small pool, hand off the reel....he's a big your hand he'sgonnarun.....!pop!.....dammit! he was huge!

The boy stands crushed, no thanks to his Dad, not my proudest moment let me tell you. Ah, buddy I'm sorry, he was just sooo very big. We both take deep breaths, I coach him carefully thru another dry run of fish darts and runs, how to best fly by the seat of your pants when all hell is bustin loose on the end of a 6x tippet.

Cmon, buddy let's go get another one.

And we do just that, on our very last red hot and zebra midge combo. Fish on! and never was a 15-incher played, brought to hand with more deliberate skill, aplomb and ultimately, pride, than that one fish Sunday, on the fabled San Juan river, New Mexico.

Epilogue: The boy and I sat down to a well-earned angler's dinner (Bartender! Two Reubens, with onion rings, root beer, por favor!) that evening at the Sportsman's Inn. There we recorded our saga, added now to the annals of the Juan. You can see it there, posted in the SE corner of the dining room, proudly announcing not just the results of our trip, but also the promise of trips to come. Mike and Will, 2010: 5 landed of 17 hooked, largest at 17".

captura y libera mis amigos~


  1. Right on guys! Way to be a good fishing father, Mike. Sounds like a great father/son outing. Will's smile is priceless with that bow!

  2. I was worried we didn't see enuf action thru the weekend, asked a few times if he was having fun. 'Oh yeah!' I think one of the best moments came as we were walking back to the truck Sunday afternoon, unprompted: 'Dad when can we come back and do this again?' Now he's done it, the scheming wheels are turning!

  3. That is a great sign! My son liked coming with me fishing, and releasing the fish, but not so much the fishing.