Fly Fishing the San Juan River – Durango Recreation – Durango Downtown

The San Juan River



Navajo Dam was constructed in 1963 and regulations evolved over the years to the current “Special Trout Waters” (Quality Water). The first quarter-mile is flies and lures only, barbless hooks, and catch and release only. The next three and one half miles are the same with a one fish limit provided they are twenty inch minimum in length. Average fish size is around 17 inches. Seaonal flows can fluctuate between 5000 cfs in the spring to a low of 500 cfs in the winter. While power generation is one Navajo Dam’s uses, it is mostly for irrigation and therefore daily fluctuations of the flow does not generally occur, as is the case with many other tailwater fisheries. The San Juan has an extremely consistent flow.

Discharge water is for the most part a constant 42 degrees Fahrenheit. Due to this, the cold water fishery extends downstream for about twenty miles.The first three and three-quarter miles are of course the Quality Waters, below that public water extends a little below the bridge on New Mexico Hwy 173, which is about another three miles. This public access section below the Quality Waters is referred to as the “Bait Water” and no special regulations exist here.

The regulated or Quality Waters is considered the best fishing, but the bait water has some very good fishing as well. In fact many of the hatches are stronger. Especially Caddis and PMD’s. There are good numbers of fish here, but the average size goes down to about 12 inches. Although scattered big fish can be found and Brown trout are more plentiful.

map of san juan river for fly fishing