Many of Northern New Mexico’s rivers weren’t in good shape this week. Heavy downpours added to spring runoff. Wind and lightening kept anglers at home early in the week, rather than on streams. Others were already high and muddy, making fishing impossible in many places.
Meanwhile, the state’s most famous trout fishery dodged a bullet. Trout fishing was excellent on the San Juan River yesterday. Excellent is an understatement. We didn’t arrive early and still caught and released nearly 75 rainbows within a few hours. Mind you, there were only two anglers fishing. Our course, being a bait company we stayed out of the special regulations section, opting to fish FireCorn and Balls O Fire salmon eggs near the town of Navajo Dam instead.
We only fished a 100-yard section of river known as The Pumphouse and caught or hooked fish on more than 75 percent of our casts. That’s no exaggeration. Keep in mind, none of us had ever fished this river before as we were in town to film Pautzke Outdoors. (One of us fished the fly only section once, but not the bait section.) We simply walked into Abe’s Motel & Fly Shop, grabbed a map to make sure we avoided the fly section and went fishing.
It was no secret what the trout wanted and fortunately we had a truck full of it. We started out with Gold Label and Silver Label salmon eggs fished under a Beau Mac Torpedo Float on four-pound Stren low-vis green. The eggs were fished on two different hooks: a Danielson 1/64 Micro Jig Head and Gamakatsu No. 12 Mesh Bait Holder. Even though the water isn’t gin clear you’ll do far better if line is kept to four-pound and smaller.
The San Juan’s trout are salmon egg eaters. In fact, they grabbed them on almost every cast. Meanwhile, they seem to prefer Balls O Fire eggs.
“People are buying up your eggs around here,” said the man working the counter at Abe’s Fly Shop. “People swear by the Gold and those new Silver Label. We have guys that come into the store and have some of the glitter from those eggs on their hands and face. It’s no secret what they’re using.”
It was no secret what we were, either. Other than when trout were hitting our orange float and we switched over to Orange Deluxe eggs and caught trout on almost every cast, we were drifting Silver and Gold Label. The trout engulfed all three types of eggs.
On the other hand, eggs weren’t the only bait they wanted. Not surprising to us, but possibly to some, Fire Corn worked extremely well on these trout. We drifted Chartreuse and Pink Fire Corn with the same setup as the eggs and couldn’t stop catching trout. In fact, it was so easy, we got bored and ended up calling it quits around lunch. (During the afternoon we bank fished for trout at Farmington Lake.)
Having been told for years the San Juan is a quality fishery we were impressed with the quality of trout in the bait section. Most of the hype here stems from the fly section. The well-stocked and open to all methods section is heavily planted by New Mexico Game & Fish and when it comes to planted fish offers some of the best action in the West.
While the river was planted with trout last week we didn’t catch many of those fish, rather beefier, tougher fighting holdovers that averaged 12-14 inches. Meanwhile, we couldn’t breach that 15-inch range. Fish with eggs or Fire Corn for a few hours longer than we did, and you’ll probably will.
Editor’s Note: Gold Label, Silver Label and various colors of Fire Corn are available at Dick’s Sporting Goods, Walmart and Sportsman’s Warehouse in New Mexico. For local tackle and up to the minute fishing reports contact Abe’s Fly Shop at www.sanjuanriver.com. They are happy to provide reports for the bait section of the river, too.