Norm Maktima working a run
Euro nymphing on the San Juan is not only possible but an excellent way to fish the river. The San Juan offers a diversity of water types and a large trout population, you truly are only limited by your imagination. We're going to keep this blog short and sweet and give a quick outline of how we like to fish and guide the river with euro set ups.
While the San Juan is very wade accessible, flows can fluctuate through the year when they call for water for irrigation. Wading flows are generally 300-1000cfs. Be careful as the river climbs up to the 1,000cfs range and be absolutely sure you're safe to cross. Don't push it.
We like 10.5ft and 11ft 3wts, euro set ups in 2wt-4wt will work as well. The longer euro rods make it easier to reach out and access water you may not be able to safely wade. We lean more toward the 3wt and 4wts as they have the backbone to turn over some of the Juan's larger trout, epically in heavier flow. Remember euro rods are not a 1v1 to your standard fly rod and a euro 3wt is more similar to a 5wt in terms of fish fighting ability.
If you plan on only nymphing, 30ft of 4x bi-color to a tippet ring is our usual leader set up. A micro leader allows you to fish lighter flies further away without leader sag. Micro leaders also fair better on windier days. This is absolutely not the leader to use if you plan on throwing dry flies. The 4x is can also be a pain to handle.
The San Juan has a ton of bug life and you have a chance at dry fly fishing almost every day. A thicker leader formula will allow you to cut off the nymphs and cast dries if you run into fish rising or eating just below the surface. A great all around leader formula for the San Juan is:
Butt Section: 10 to 20ft 15lb maxima chameleon
Transition: 3ft 12lb amnesia
Sighter: 18" Bicolor monofilament .012 diameter
Tippet ring: 1.5 or 2mm
Watch a video on building it here
For euro nymphing on the San Juan we usually like to fish a weighted attractor like an egg or a leech on the dropper tag and fish a classic midge pattern on the point (see diagram above). The previous mentioned set up is a favorite approach in the quality water. If we're outside of the quietly water, we'll usually fish two "euro style" flies. Below is a quick list of flies to try separated by "Euro" and "Classic San Juan".
For tippet, 5x-7x off your tippet ring is recommended, 5.5x being used most. If fishing a "mixed rig" with one weighted fly and one unweighed, we often go depth to dropper (weighed fly) and then 20"-28" to the unweighed point fly with our tippet. There are no hard and fast rules, play around with your rig and see what works best for you and/or the current conditions presented.
Jig Egg (Cream, Peach, Pink, Corn) 2.4mm-3.8mm Bead (10-14)
Jig Mop (Tan,Chartreuse) 3.3-3.8mm Bead (10-14)
Jig Leech (Black,White, Natural, Olive) 2.8-3.8mm Bead (8-14)
Perdigons (Red, Olive, Black,Quill Body) 2.4-3.8mm Bead (12-20)
Classic San Juan:
RS2 (Grey, Black, Olive) (18-26)
Chocolate Foam Wing (20-24)
Red Larva (12-22)
KF Emerger (Black, Grey) (20-26)
From the quality water through the bait or "quantity water", euro nymphing is a great way to fish the river. We hope the above helped clear up how to fish the San Juan with a euro set up. Below is a video on euro nymphing the San Juan. The entire video was shot in the "Quality Waters". Happy fishing.