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  1. #1
    Join Date
    Aug 2012
    Location
    Ladysmith, WI
    Posts
    214

    Default New Mexico / AZ Trip - Feb 2014

    Hello everyone -

    Continuing on the recent theme of those of us from the upper Midwest planning trips to warmer climates for some fishing this winter... I'm headed to Phoenix in mid-Feb and plan to make a loop through northern NM and AZ for fishing and sightseeing.

    The first few days will be visiting my parents who are being snowbirds in Apache Junction for about 6 weeks this winter, then getting a rental car and heading north for 7 days.

    I'm sure this isn't the best time of year to fish this area or to see some of the sights, but it's way better than the frozen rivers around here! This trip will be a mix of sightseeing and fishing, and I'd like to see a lot of the area, so I won't be concentrating on just one river - just 1-2 days, then move on. I'll be by myself, so I'm not too interested in the expense of hiring a guide.

    These are the rivers I'm looking at heading to:
    San Juan, NM (from what I hear, it may be hard to leave after I get there)
    Red / Rio Grande, NM
    Colorado @ Lees Ferry, AZ (walk-in area)
    Oak Creek, AZ

    I'm looking for suggestions from people who have been to this area to add to the info I've read while planning this trip - preferred fly patterns (or specific colors that work best this time of year), other rivers that may be more productive this time of year, best fly shops to stop at, etc.

    Also, if anyone has input on what rods to bring along - I'll probably bring two, and the options are: 7.5' 4wt, 8.5' 5wt (this will most likely be one of the two I bring), 9.0' 6wt, and an 11' 7wt switch rod. Does anyone use switch rods on the San Juan or other rivers I've listed?

    For now I don't have more specific questions, but any help from forum members will be appreciated! Thanks in advance.

    ryan
    Last edited by smarty140; 12-17-2013 at 04:58 PM. Reason: add question about rods

  2. #2
    Join Date
    Jul 2012
    Location
    Santa Fe, NM
    Posts
    1,556

    Default Re: New Mexico / AZ Trip - Feb 2014

    Rio Grande/Red may be frigid in February...can't speak to them more than that.

    The Juan, however, ought to fish well. I've fished it just before New Years and it delivers in the winter. As for patterns, there's a current discussion on the San Juan River Forum (I hope it's OK to mention other forums; it's a good source of info) entitled "This forum has gone into a deep freeze!": posts 2, 4 and 5 deliver the goods. You might well not want to leave. Dunno about switch rods. I fish a 9' 5 weight there. 6 weight ought to be good, too. If the lake's not turned over, the river will be running low and clear (it's at 250 cfs right now) and sight fishing will be on the menu.

    I prefer Float'n'Fish as a shop. If you're coming in from Bloomfield, it's right in Navajo Dam. It's tucked down a hill to the east of the road to Aztec (a left off the Bloomfield road). Good people there.
    Last edited by lacanadio; 12-17-2013 at 07:57 PM. Reason: Added shop

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  4. #3
    Join Date
    Oct 2012
    Location
    Albuquerque, NM
    Posts
    236

    Default Re: New Mexico / AZ Trip - Feb 2014

    The San Juan in February will be fishing very well. My box would have some small to tiny midge and beatis patterns (pupae, emergers, adults). I'd also have a worm and an egg pattern. There will still be redds (which you don't want to fish) that may have fish stacked downstream feeding on big round stuff. A selection of streamers would be nice, too, for the big browns.

    I was just there last Saturday and I had a ball with chocolate and olive emergers (22-24), tiny midge clusters (22), and a sparkle worm (10). I would use pretty much the same stuff unless the weather warms up and then I'd plan on BWO surface patterns.

    The Red and Rio Grande will be fishing well in the deep canyons around the confluence of those rivers. It takes some effort to get there and it will be cold but it can be worth it. Caddis and beatis patterns on the top and stone and mayfly patterns on the bottom. Princes, PTs, Poundmeisters, CJs, stuff like that. I'd also have some streamers, too.

    I fish the San Juan and Rio Grande with a fast 9' 5wt. I fish the Red with a slow 8' 4wt.

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  6. #4
    Join Date
    Aug 2012
    Location
    Ladysmith, WI
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    214

    Default Re: New Mexico / AZ Trip - Feb 2014

    Thanks for the great info guys. I've been trying a bunch of various midge pupa/larvae patterns in size 18-24 for the trip... never tied so many that small, so it a bit of a challenge. I'll be sure to check out Float'n'Fish when I get to the San Juan - thanks for the recommendation.

    I'm hoping the weather is at least in the upper 30's or higher... got to be the only guy heading to the desert SW looking forward to ditching the warmth of Phoenix for fishing in the cold and possibly snow...

    ryan

  7. #5

    Default Re: New Mexico / AZ Trip - Feb 2014

    How late into Spring can the San Juan be fished before the runoff begins ?
    My guess would be right up to the end of April, but dunno ?

  8. #6
    Join Date
    Oct 2012
    Location
    Albuquerque, NM
    Posts
    236

    Default Re: New Mexico / AZ Trip - Feb 2014

    Quote Originally Posted by jimbaker488 View Post
    How late into Spring can the San Juan be fished before the runoff begins ?
    My guess would be right up to the end of April, but dunno ?
    That'd be about right for the San Juan upstream of Navajo Lake to the headwaters. Give or take a couple of weeks depending on the snow pack.

    Downstream of Navajo the flow is man-made and the feeder creeks can dump dirty water into the river and murk it up but the flows are predictable. The lake also turns over somewhere in there and that murks up the water but it's perfectly fishable.

    The only thing to really watch out for is the flush the BOR makes every few years which can exceed 5000 cfs. They usually do that in the late spring or early summer and it lasts a week or so.

  9. #7
    Join Date
    Jul 2012
    Location
    Santa Fe, NM
    Posts
    1,556

    Default Re: New Mexico / AZ Trip - Feb 2014

    According to a guide up there, it turned over last week. Visibility's 1 foot.

    Given how low the lake is at present, I think it's doubtful we'll see high flows below the dam this spring. They've kept it at 250 cfs for quite a while now. But I'm not with BoR, and I don't know squat about flow management .

  10. #8

    Default Re: New Mexico / AZ Trip - Feb 2014

    Quote Originally Posted by dwtalso View Post
    That'd be about right for the San Juan upstream of Navajo Lake to the headwaters. Give or take a couple of weeks depending on the snow pack.

    Downstream of Navajo the flow is man-made and the feeder creeks can dump dirty water into the river and murk it up but the flows are predictable. The lake also turns over somewhere in there and that murks up the water but it's perfectly fishable.

    The only thing to really watch out for is the flush the BOR makes every few years which can exceed 5000 cfs. They usually do that in the late spring or early summer and it lasts a week or so.
    Thank you sir, appreciate the info !

  11. #9
    Join Date
    Aug 2012
    Location
    Ladysmith, WI
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    214

    Default Re: New Mexico / AZ Trip - Feb 2014

    I got back from my trip a couple weeks ago and am finally getting around to posting a report. My plans ended up changing some, going a couple weeks later (Feb 22-Mar 3) and flying to and from Denver instead of Phoenix, so I ended up hitting some rivers in Colorado and didn't get to AZ at all.

    After arriving in Denver and getting the rental car (Ford Fiesta... not exactly the ideal fishing for fishing or going over mountain passes in winter, but I did like the 40+ mpg!), I headed down to Pueblo and fished the Arkansas tailwater for an afternoon and the next morning... skunked, and the river was full of fishermen.

    Then it was off to northern New Mexico to hit the Rio Grande and Red River. I got there in time to hike down to the Red River, but apparently not in time to find any fish. The hike in and out was pretty nice, and the campground was empty. Here's the nice view from the trailhead:



    The next morning I got up early and hiked down the La Junta trail to the confluence of the Rio Grande and Red, and fished most of the morning on the Rio. It was nice and cold (15 deg when I left the car) and there wasn't much going on... still skunked. The river was beautiful, and I had it all to myself.



    The Red was a bit more cooperative that afternoon... finally not skunked anymore! I landed a couple, and had one nice one take off back towards the Rio and broke me off.

    Next up was a few days on the San Juan. After a few days of tough fishing, it was nice to be on a river with a bit more "cooperative" fish. I probably landed 20 on the first day - most of them were cookie-cutter 14" rainbows. the water was still off-color (though having never been there before, I had nothing to compare it to). It was a bit odd that most of the midge larvae that I had tied to prepare for this trip ended up being smaller than necessary because off the off-color water. I spent most of the first day fishing at the access upstream of the campground.



    On day 2 of the San Juan I had to try the Texas Hole area... wow was it crowded, even in February:



    The main channel upstream from the hole (I'm sure it has a name, but I can't remember) was surprising uncrowded and gave up the two biggest fish I found on the San Juan.

    After 3 days on the San Juan, I headed up to Durango, CO... seems like a really nice town, and a beautiful area. Duranglers was certainly an impressive shop with very helpful guys. Unfortunately, a rain/snow storm came through in the evening and may have hurt the fishing when i hit the Animas the next morning (or at least that's my excuse). Here's one nice little rainbow that ate a little caddis nymph I had tied in preparation for the trip:



    From Durango, I headed over to eastern Utah to visit Canyonlands National Park... no fishing, but beautiful anyway! The scenery was spectacular:



    Then, after hearing all the reports of a snowstorm coming with me still needing to get back over the mountains to get back to Denver (and driving a tiny little car, not a 4-wheel drive truck or something smarter), I headed back east. This did give me one more afternoon to get revenge on the Arkansas. A cold front sure made the river less busy than it was when I was there the weekend before... I guess the temperature hanging in the high-teens instead of the mid-50's keeps most people at home. After not seeing a single rising fish a week earlier, they were rising all over this time. Wow are there impressive fish in that river, but icing up ever few casts slowed down the catching. Here is an 18" brown that ate a #20 midge dry:



    Overall it was a great trip despite some slow fishing at times, and made it tough to come back to (very) frozen northern MN. It will probably be at least 6 weeks before we have any good open-water fishing for resident trout around here. Thanks to everyone that responded to my questions - you live in a great area and I'm jealous of your long fishing season!

    ryan

  12. #10
    Join Date
    Aug 2007
    Location
    S Central Idaho
    Posts
    171

    Default Re: New Mexico / AZ Trip - Feb 2014

    Nice report. Glad you had a great trip. Lovely country. It's difficult to avoid crowds on the San Juan (at least in that part of the river).

    Allen R
    Snake River Plain

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