Wednesday, December 15, 2010

big on the animas

golden hour on the Juan
So yeah, work stuff called me up to Cortez, CO.  No matter how you slice that drive, the route takes you within a 30min drive out to the Quality Waters on the Juan.  So I've been swapping biking and fishing each time I head up that way since the project began back in the Fall.

Fishing felt right this goround, so I packed the fly rod, hit the water noon on Sunday.

Waded right into a schweet midge hatch, slurping pods all over the place, many in just 12" of water.

johnny flash, #24, in black or brown, don't matter which
Worked this one pod over from stem to stern, pricking a few, landing a coupla less.  Managed to wrestle this good ole boy to the net.
grizzled veteran
So Monday after my project meetings I'm chatting with a client who's an avid angler, swapping lies stories and patterns from my day on the Juan.   He relays how the warm weather has the Animas turned on, guys having banner days while the gettin's good, you should get on out there. Man, I'm traveling back that way on the way home, hmmmm, what were they bitin' on again?
in the shadows of highway 160 bridge
Monday afternoon has me pulling into a dirt pullout just down from the Humane Society in Durango proper.  I look over and spot a coupla gents breaking their gear down, having just quit the river.  I mosey over, ask them what's the skinny.  Ryan and ?John? are both locals, friendly (as is everyone in that town!), give me a few pointers.  Turns out Ryan is a guide for Heads Up Fly Fishing (booya!) so he knows the schizzle allright. They both dig into their boxes and offer up a coupla of their favorite patterns- clown's egg and red annelid, nice!  

I offer to trade in kind from my San Juan box, both kindly refuse- what gentlemen! Eying my midge patterns with a wry grin, Ryan leaves me one final piece of advice to not fish too small- we fish them big on the Animas. 

Wow, thanks again guys, youdaman! 

So I step into the same runs that Ryan and his bud just quit, right in the shadow of the highway 160 bridge above.  It's not 10 minutes before I meet this guy-
17" brownie
Another 20 minutes and I'm tight to a big boy, bulldogging it down deep in the current.  For 3-4 minutes, he's towing me around a coupla pools, never once giving thought to nearing the surface.  Just throbbing head shakes, zigs, zags, ohmygawdthisguyishuge!  I can wait him out: drag's set just right, new 5x tippet on the end, now he's getting tired, I'm getting line onto the reel.  I'm already mentally writing the blog post Headline: Victory! when I feel that sickening tick, ping, and minute slippage of the line that says something's not right, just might have this dude now fouled.

Sure enough after 5 minutes, I'm finally getting him up for a looksee.  Freaking huge allright, well past 20", prolly 22-24", big BIG wild brownie.  Holy smokes!  

But yeah, I have him fouled, my #20 clown's egg snagged right in a pectoral fin, %@#$%^$!

Yep, 'twas not to be.  One more roll, my rig's flying back in my face.  

I just stand there, rooted in the river, defeated, heart pounding in my chest, hands still shaking from the adrenaline rush and my lord the disappointment of the moment.

Reeling up while gazing back downriver at what might have been, Ryan's words float back to me- we fish em big on the Animas.  

Truer words never spoken, my friend.
Rio de las Animas Perdidas


  1. Just found your blog for the first time. I was at one time a pretty serious mountain biker myself... funny that moving closer to real mountains was when I started to give it up. I still have my bike. A now old Gary Fisher... bought it in 1998. I'm hoping to find some inspiration to get back on the horse by following your blog. I could certainly use the exercise.
    Great blog, by the way. Keep up the good work.

  2. Excellent post. Does the Juan stay good all year round? I really need to get out there sometime. Thanks for sharing your time on the water. I'm sure that big boy will be there next time just waiting to eat your fly. Thanks again for the great post.


  3. Jay- I would be the first to tell you we're not serious mtb'rs here. But we do luv to ride! :-] and that's what it's all about, am I right?

    We have found mountain biking has extended our possibilities to enjoy this good earth, when our favorite trout streams are buried under snow. You might find the same, so get on out there!

    Ben- thank you sir, fun to relive the moment again this am. Why do we always lose the Big Fellas? As for the Juan, you need to come up Sept-mid Dec or mid Feb-April to beat the crowds, but yep the Juan fishes reliably All.Year.Round. BOOYA! ;-] Let me know if you plan a trip, could show you around~


  4. Mike,
    I may take you up on that. Over spring break, the wife is going out of town. Was planning on doing some serious fishing, and I may head your way. I'll keep you posted. Thanks.


  5. sure thing, you let me know on that-


  6. great picture of the grizzled veteran rainbow. love that angle.

  7. I know! Got lucky with the point and shoot on that one. Lighting helped a lot too. mike

  8. Stunning scenery and fish!

  9. thx DBE- nice blog you have there. Keep at the long rod, you'll have it down in no time! thx for checking in- mjh

  10. So I found your blog thru your comment and am thrilled! Not only do you have hilarious commentary, I felt a bit of drool on my chin with some great captures of trout. I love the perspectives of the fish at water level. I now have an appreciation for those gorgeous colors and spots! Well done!

  11. ha! Sounds like you need to get yourself a pair of waders, give us point-and-shoot anglers some tips on how it's really done. Anyone reading this (hi Mom!) should head on over to Hannibal's for stellar wildlife photography. You won't be disappointed! mike