Float 'N Fish San Juan Fishing Tackle
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Gift
The type of rod you choose to fish on the San Juan will be determined by where and how you want to fish.  For most fly fishermen, graphite rods from 3wt to 5wt in the 8' to 9' length will do nicely for fishing dry flies and Nymphs.  Rods up to 10' are becoming popular with Nymph fishermen as they make it easier to mend line and keep more line off the water, thereby reducing drag.  The downside of longer rods is that they are more difficult to cast accurately at short distance and also keep the fish a little farther away from you when landing fish.  There are many large fish on the San Juan, when you hook one of these larger fish on light tippets it is important that your rod have a soft enough tip section to help the reel protect the tippet.  Many of the very stiff graphite rods designed for distance casting may compromise a 6x tippet when hooked to an unhappy 5lb Rainbow  who is in a hurry and wants to make a fool of you.  On most large western trout rivers a 9' rod in a 4wt to a 5wt is considered the most versatile rod allowing you to effectively fish small Midge patterns, larger attractors and even small streamers.  For small streams you would probably prefer a 2 - 3 wt rod in the 7' to 8' range. 

For those who fish streamers you will probably want a 9' - 10' graphite rod in a 6wt or 7wt. These rods are powerful enough to cast small to large streamers at the distances necessary for covering water when fishing streamers.  When streamer fishing you will need to use a stronger leader than when Nymph or dry fly fishing, otherwise you will quickly loose the fly when casting or a large fish strikes.  Shorter, stouter leaders handle the stresses associated with casting or double hauling when tied to a large fly far better than lighter tippet. 

Reels
Modern fly fishing reels are a wonderful tool when hooked to a large trout.  The comtemporary large arbor and mid arbor reels with smooth drags make it much easier than in previous years to manage a large trout on the reel.  They are also more precise than reels of the past as the drag tension changes less as line is drawn out.  In previous reel designs with a large difference in radius between a filled spool and an almost empty spool meant that the drag tension effectively increased as more line went out.  In some ways this isn't so bad as the further the fish gets from you they harder it will have to pull to get farther away.  The problem is that the increasing tension on the drag makes it easier to break the tippet, especially on a  quick surge.  The large arbor and mid arbor reels available today help in this situation in several ways.  As the radius of the spool increases more line is stored with each wind on the spool.  As line is pulled from a large arbor reel the radius changes less resulting in a more constant drag pressure.  Also, the larger radius combined with modern lightweight spools makes it easier for the spool to go from stopped to spinning making the design less prone to break offs from sudden surges.  As you are likely to encounter large trout when fishing the San Juan, backing is important to be able to protect light tippets.  Most trout fishermen prefer about 50 - 100 yards of 20 lb dacron backing, so purchase your reel and spools with enough capacity to handle the type of line that you fish (Weight Forward or Double Taper) and the necessary backing.  

Sage Domain ReelModern drag systems have made it easy to adjust and maintain the desired drag setting.  There are subtle differences between the higher price reels and the more moderately priced reels.  One of the important differences is whether the drag mechanism is completely sealed.  Sand and water on non sealed drag systems can be a problem.  Also, if you fish frequently in temperatures below freezing you will want to make sure that none of the drag components can be effected by ice developing on the reel. 

Today's higher priced reels are precision machined, usually from high quality aluminums and come with an anodized finish.  The quality materials, precision manufacturing and look of these reels makes them a pleasure to fish. 

Lower cost reels generally have a cast body and / or spool with a less precise drag.  They can get the job done - but there is pleasure in owning and fishing a high quality reel. 

Fly Lines
Most fishermen on the San Juan will fish floating lines in either a Double Taper or Weight Forward configuration.  Double Taper lines are a little easier to cast and mend at shorter distances as the large belly of the line closer to the fisherman can more easily manipulate the tapered end of the line and leader.  For the same reason Double Taper lines are better for roll casting than Weight Forward lines.  Double Taper lines, however, do not cast as well for distance as do Weight Forward lines.  Weight Forward lines have more of their mass out past the end of the rod tip.  This makes casting Weight Forward lines for distance easier as the larger portion of the line is past the rod tip making it easy to form casting loops suitable for distance casting.  Also, once the heavier belly portion of the Weight Forward line is past the rod tip it can more easily be double hauled for distance as the weight of the trailing line as you "shoot" line is less than a Double Taper line.  If you Nymph or dry fly fish in the winter you will want a line that is not impacted a great deal by cold temperatures. 

For Nymph and dry fly fishing on the San Juan most anglers prefer a floating line that is easy to mend.  The better the tip section floats the easier it will be to mend line. 

For streamer fishermen a Weight Forward line is usually recommended, often with a 10'-30' sink tip.  Sink Tip lines help get the streamer a little deeper.  Sink Tip lines make it a little more difficult to get the fly off the water when starting a new cast, you will need to adjust your casting style when fishing a sink tip line. 

Leaders and Tippet Material
For fishing Nymphs and dries you will want a tapered leader ending in an appropriately sized tippet.  There are two materials generally used for trout leaders, monofilament and fluorocarbon.  Monofilament is more economical and has been the mainstay of the fishing industry for many years.  It has a good strength to diameter ratio and forms good knots.  Some monofilaments are specially modified to be more flexible than others which would be appropriate for some fishing situations.  Monofilament is slightly heavier than water and sinks slowly on its own. 

Fluorocarbon is a newer material and has benefits in some fishing situations, although it is more costly than monofilament.  Fluorocarbon material is generally a little stronger than monofiliment for a given diameter and is also considered to be less visible to fish.  As with monofilaments, fluorocarbon material is available in different "stiffness" to meet different fishing situations.  Fluorocarbon material is denser than monofilament so it sinks quicker.  With the benefits of fluorocarbon most fishermen would probably use it more frequently if not for the higher cost.

Different monofilaments and fluorocarbon materials have different characteristics when tying knots.  In some cases, it may not be wise to tie a monofilament leader to a fluorocarbon tippet and vice versa.  This is not just a problem with monofilaments connecting to fluorocarbons as it can also be a problem when dissimilar monofilaments or dissimilar fluorocarbon materials are tied together.  When mixing matererials pay close attention to knots and test them to make sure that they meet your expectations, otherwise, a good fish may make you wish you had. 

Waders
Changes in waders over the last 25 years have made fly fishing far more comfortable than in previous years.  A major step forward was made with the introduction of neoprene boot foot waders.  These waders provided the benefits of a close fit, durability, repairability, flexibility, insulation and in combination with a boot foot design allowed fishermen to walk to and from a fishing destination much more easily than previous designs.  For years neoprene waders were the standard of the industry.  The downside of close fitting entirely waterproof waders was comfort.  Neoprene trapped moisture near the skin or in socks or clothing creating a sauna effect in warm temperatures and a cooling effect in cold temperatures.  The development of breathable fabrics and breathable membrane materials has produced modern waders much more comfortable than their neoprene predecessors.  The new waders attach a breathable fabric or fabrics to a neoprene bootie producing a much more comfortable wader.  The fabric uppers are able to release some moisture reducing the sauna effect considerably.  Also, moisture in layering clothing is reduced providing more comfort in cold temperatures.  Breathable waders do not offer as much natural insulation as neoprene so good layering products under the waders add the necessary comfort for wading cold waters on the San Juan.  Some of the important differences between high quality breathable waders and bargain brands is the breathability and durability of the fabrics, and the qualitiy and fit of the booties and gravel cuffs.  Over time, these are features that make a difference.  For extreme cold weather fishing where walking long distances is not important, fishermen are preferring breathable waders with built in boots as they provide better warmth. 

Wading Boots
Considerable change has been taking place with wading boots in recent years.  One of the most important changes is the switch from felt soles to rubber soles as it has been determined that felt soles provide a suitable environment for transporting aquatic material containing fish diseases between watersheds.  The new rubber soles provide comperable traction in the stream and probably better traction than felt when out of the stream.  The new boots are also available in studded varieties with improvements in studs and soles.  The better new designs have improved toe boxes which adds considerable comfort when wearing heavy socks.  When purchasing new wading boots you will want to make sure that you have sufficient extra room for your neoprene booties and 1 or more heavy pairs of wool wading socks.
 
Layering
The San Juan is a true four season fishery, however, the appropriate layering garments are necessary to fish comfortably in cold temperatures.  Modern layering materials are able to provide good insulating and moisture transport properties without a lot of bulk.  This makes it easy to fish comfortably in winter temperatures below freezing.  Quality layering products are available for both the lower and upper bodies along with external waterproof/breathable wading jackets for the upper body. 

Vests and Packs
Innovation would best describe what has happened with vests and packs in recent years.  Today there are traditional high quality fishing vests available along with new specialized high tech vests such as the Fishpond line of products.  Fanny packs and chest packs have also become very popular in recent years as they have benefits for certain situations, making it unnecessary to always wear a vest.   Fanny packs have the benefit of moving weight from your shoulders to your hips, making fanny packs with the ability to carry water bottles a welcome relief.   You will probably want a vest and a fanny or chest pack to fish comfortably in different conditions. 

Polarized Sunglasses
The San Juan river allows you to wade close to feeding fish in relatively shallow water.  Quality polarized sunglasses remove most of the surface glare allowing you to see clearly below the waters surface.  One of the most important things you can do to improve your skills as a fly fisherman is to observed feeding trout, quality polarized glasses make this possible.  This is an important tool in locating fish so you can fish to them effectively without spooking them.