Good Trip.....Sad River
I just returned from a few days on the San Juan with Larry and John. We were graciously loaned Taylor's new Hog Island Drift boat to take on the trip and stayed with Chris at the Fishead's Lodge. Chris's place is, in my opinion, the best place to stay on the river, with the best accomodations, best guides and definitely the best food around. Stay with these folks just to eat the red or green chili on their monster burritos or anything else you want to slather it on.
I've been fishing the San Juan for a little over 40 years now. I first went there when I was in college with my Dad. He and I fished the Juan a lot until his death in 1987. I have lots of memories of sitting on a small Island in the Braids talking about flies, whisky, ex wives and a myriad of other stuff.......decades of other stuff interupted by rising fish which were always beautiful 17 to 22 inch Rainbows that would, in the old days take a dry fly and run away with it. Nymphing always ruled on the San Juan from the days of the original San Juan Worm, which is nothing like the ones used now, to the size 24 midge larvae of current day. We used to see killer BWO and PMD hatches on the Juan with size 16 adults and midge larvae that were also size 16. Those days are definitely gone, but the river has always held an attraction for me. The fish were still nice, though battle scarred, and the bugs were smaller but what the hell. It's the place where I learned to really fly fish.
This trip was different. All three of us guys are fairly decent fishermen. We do kinda know what we're doing even though we tend to not like to deep nymph fish, we still will do in Rome as the Romans do. Over three days of fishing the upper three miles, we caught, between us, less than 10 nice fish that I would consider "San Juan fish". The couple of hundred or so others were stockers from 6 inches to 13 inches, depending on what month they were stocked. Stocked fish were everywhere and would beat the nice fish to your fly, top or bottom. Huge pods of stockers worked the deeper pools and runs. Why so many of them? It seemed biologically out of whack. The Diddy Mo Algae is intense. Perhaps that has something to do with a loss of fish. Perhaps it's the fishing pressure. Perhaps it's both. A single drift with a double nymph rig would result in a #22 midge larva being the size of a quarter with rock snot attached. I have seen the algae for the past few years, but not like this. I'm told it's better after the high water releases in May, but it must return in an awful big hurry. Nasty stuff that makes you fall out of love.
I don't know if I'm over reacting or if the businesses on the San Juan are under reacting. Lots of things are not what they used to be but this is rediculous. I going to pray for the San Juan, but as long as no one there thinks there is a problem, it won't be fixed. I guess I'll give it a break and when my little island in the Braids starts to call, I'll go back with high expectations.
Here's a little something to take away the late fall chill:
Carne Adovada Pork Chops
This dish was made famous by Sadie's in Albuquerque. It is their house special. My version has smoked pork chops. I smoke center cut chops with Mesquite or Apple wood. You can buy pre smoked chops in most good food stores, so you could do that, but they're not as good. Several issues back, I passed along my Carne Adovada Ribs. Do both and totally crush a tailgate party.
Six 1/2 inch center cut or rib chops 5 cloves garlic
1 teaspoon black pepper 1 tbs cumin
1 teaspoon sea salt 4 cups water
one dozen dried red chilies (Pablano or Big Jims) hot as you want
2 sweet onions
Reconstitute peppers by steaming them in 4 cups of water until they are soft. Remove the stems and place pepper in a food processor or blender with chopped onion, garlic, salt, pepper and cumin. Reduce to a paste. Add the water you steamed the peppers in and blend until you have a salsa like texture. Place a layer of chops in a baking dish and spoon some Adovada sauce over them. Continue with the other chops but save the majority of the sauce to pour over the top. Cook at 275 degrees for four hours. Serve over pinto beans and rice with a side of flour tortillas.