winter fly fishing

The San Juan River at Navajo Dam details
The San Juan is a fantastic tail-water fishery that flows cold out from the bottom of Navajo Reservoir. The Juan is the perfect river for full and 1/2 day float or wade trips for all angler abilities. Looking to learn a few of the San Juan secrets? Book an AVA guide to help you decode this technical fishery that is flat-out loaded with trout.

The Juan flows through a true desert canyon with high sandstone cliffs in bench form, each layer exposing millions of years of geology. On the river floor, the river runs slow over shallow riffles and deep pools, and is surrounded by willows, Broad-leaf cottonwoods, Russian Olives and Tamarisk.

Getting There
The San Juan is located about an hour south of Durango Colorado. The cities of Denver, Albuquerque, Santa Fe, Farmington, Aztec and Pagosa Springs are also in striking distance of the river.

Denver is 7 hours
Albuquerque is 3 hours
Santa Fe is 2 1/2 hours
Farmington is 40 minutes
Aztec is 20 minutes
Pagosa Springs is 1 1/2 hours

San Juan River-New Mexico
The San Juan below Navajo Dam has more fish per-mile than most any fishery in the lower 48. The Juan is known for large, tricky fish that eat tiny flies. Hatches range from micro midges to baetis, to PMDs and hoppers.

San Juan River Flows, Guide Report and Hatches

The San Juan is a great fishery 365-days a year, however, it is beyond fun in the winter. An angler could almost fish dry flies all day all winter long. The "winter" midge hatch is ramping up and will continue through early March. Some BWOs continue to pop from Texas Hole downstream to "Belly-up Fly Shop Corner". The water is a bit stained with about 3 feet of visibility, but that allows us to fish more 4x and 5x tippet. We are still fishing 6x on dries, but nymph and streams rigs you can heavy up. We will loose more visibility in late January and February but the fishing will still be very good! Dry fly patterns include black and gray midges with small pupa in the surface film. Midge pupas in olive, gray and black. Baetis foam wings and RS2 emegers in dark iron gray, chocolate and black. Under the bobber look to nymph red annelids, larva, pupa, eggs and small chamois leeches. Want a big fish? Look at slow fishing leeches and small trout patterns in the deep water. Get out there, this is a great time to fish the Juan.

Predictions and forecast
The Juan flow should continue at 350 CFS and offer solid fishing all winter. Visibility will drop as winter rolls along, but the fish will still be eating.

One of the best times to be on the Juan. The cotton woods are bright yellow, the river is gin-clear and the trout are grubbing hard on midges and BWOs. The crowds are starting to let up, but weekends can still be busy. Nymph, dries and streamer fishing is about as good as it gets.

Fall flow range: 250-750 CFS
Winter flow range: 250-350 CFS
Spring flow range: 300-5500+ CFS
(depends if BOR has a spring release)
Summer flow range: 280-800 CFS


Guided fly fishing on the San Juan below Navajo Dam
The San Juan River below Navajo Dam offers both beginner and expert fly anglers a chance at quality trout and lots of them. The Juan fishes well year-round. We offer float and wade guide trips on all sections of the San Juan below Navajo Dam. Steady fishing can be found throughout the winter, spring, summer and fall months. Book a trip today for this world-famous fishery.

Trophy Trout Quality Waters
The Quality Water section, located below Navajo Dam in the Navajo Lake State Park,
is one of the top tail water fisheries here in the US. In the first few miles the San Juan is known for big trout and lots of them. The Juan is home to thousands of fish per mile. Packed full of trout; 10, 25 even 40 hookups per angler, per day is possible.
Fish size averages between 12 to 20 inches. A 16 inch bow seems to be the typical fish these day.

Lower River
The San Juan below the Quality Waters is know as the Lower River, and this section flows over numerous riffles, and is home to a large number of fish. Brown trout tend to out number the bows and they can be very aggressive to a dry or streamer. Fish size ranges between 10 and 15 inches the average seems to be 13 inch browns. But hold on, there are some monster bows and browns lurking about in the lower river. When the river is on, an angler can have a large number of fish to the fly.

Main winter hatches for the San Juan: Midges and some small BWOs.
  • Dec/Jan: Midges, BWOs, leeches, eggs, annelids and worms
  • Feb/March: Midges, BWOs, leeches and junk patterns (worms and eggs)
  • April: BWOs and midges, junk patterns when flows bump
  • May: BWOs, midges, mosquito's, eggs, worms, annelids and streamers
  • June: BWOs, midges, annelids and caddis
  • July: BWOs, midges, caddis, PMDs, annelids, ants and hoppers
  • August: BWOs, midges, PMDs, ants, hoppers and streamers
  • September: BWOs, midges, hoppers and streamers
  • October/November: BWOs, midges and streamers

Insects and food in the system: Caddis pupa, larva, midges, mayfly nymphs, snails, black fly larva, crane flies, eggs, worms and trout, carp and sucker fry