A proposed rule to limit the number of flies an angler can use while fishing on the San Juan below Navajo Dam is going back before the state game commission at an upcoming meeting in Farmington.
Meanwhile, one of the rule change’s most vocal opponents, independent San Juan River fishing guide, Jude Duran, has been locked up in a Colorado jail on charges stemming from a failed bank robbery(see San Juan Guide Jude Duran jailed below).
State Department of Game and Fish (NMDGF) staff have revised an earlier proposal to limit anglers to the use of just two flies statewide in an effort to reduce unintended injury and death among game fish.
The amended proposal limits the rule to just the San Juan River and NMDGF staff are expected to present to commissioners more evidence to back up their request.
Commissioners shot down the proposal in February citing the proposed statewide application of the rule and a lack of scientific evidence showing the use of multiple fly rigs were harming fish populations.
Proponents of the rule change includes a number of longtime guides and fly shops on the San Juan River. They claim the use of the multiple fly rigs is damaging the state’s premier trout fishery by foul hooking and ensnaring fish, causing unintentional injury and death.
The proponents report increased sightings of dead fish and entangled waterfowl as their reasons for requesting the rule change on the San Juan River. NMDGF then expended the proposal to include the entire state.
“I think we think we have a much better chance this time now that its been restricted to just the San Juan, “ said Larry Johnson of Soaring Eagle Lodge and treasurer of the San Juan Guide Association.
There is currently no limit on the number of hooks or flies an angler can use when fishing and independent fishing guides like Duran claim it’s a legitimate technique which when used properly has not been shown to harm fish.
And representatives of organizations like New Mexico Trout who argued before the commission in February noted that the use of three fly rigs are a widely used, traditional and appropriate practice in the fly fishing community.
They questioned the need to restrict its use without scientific evidence to prove its harm and found statewide enactment of the rule too far reaching.
The next NMDGF presentation before the commission is slated to include an overview of management activities and trends on the San Juan River including fish population information, habitat improvement projects, interagency coordination, and angler preferences, according to a commission briefing paper about the proposed rule change.
The briefing paper can be found along with the May 29th meeting agenda and other related documents on the NMDGF website at www.wildlife.state.nm.us.
It is estimated there are 70,000 trout living in the quality waters of the four-mile, upper reach of the San Juan River.
Anglers spend 215,000 hours per year stalking them, with a fish is caught once an hour and for every fish landed, at least three break off and get away, according to the briefing paper.
Every fish in the San Juan’s quality waters is thought to be hooked at least once a month, the report states.
Thus any additional hooks in the water may increase the number of fish hooked or landed and thereby induce additional stress on the fish population, the report concludes.
The briefing report’s data appears to be an attempt to address concerns of angling groups that questioned the lack of scientific basis for instituting the rule.
Nonetheless, Mike Maurer, President of New Mexico Trout says he’s still not convinced and thinks the issue is more about politics than science at this point.
In his recent letter to commissioners Maurer stated the rule would only be acceptable if it limited flies to three rather than two.
“This then would not make outlaws of most fly fishers who like to use an indicator fly and two droppers,” he wrote.
If a two fly rule was enacted NM Trout would want it studied in comparison with other mortality factors such as; handling stress, deep hooking, old age, disease, and egg retention to see if it were effective.
Maurer noted that some published studies show that number and type of hooks have little effect on trout mortality but that conditions such as how trout were fought, handled and released, played the most important role in a trout’s survival.
But proponents say the rule should have little bearing on a competent angler’s success on the San Juan River while providing the heavily fished trout population a much-needed measure of relief.
Nonetheless, the whole rule change effort may be a moot point by now, says independent fishing guide, Jerry Saiz, of Jerry’s Guide Service out of Bloomfield.
With all the recent debate surrounding the two fly rule most guides have now voluntarily ceased using them because of the negative perception.
“And you know, if they (proponents) had simply approached us all, one on one, in the parking lot and asked us to quit using them, that probably would have been the end of it anyway,” he said.
Saiz, like Duran, is an independent guide with no affiliation to any particular guide shop.
The San Juan is one of the West’s top trout waters, a legendary, trophy-class trout fishery fueled by consistent flows and clear, cold water. The river lures anglers from all over the world to fish its quality waters.
The first quarter mile of the river below Navajo Dam is strictly catch and release and the remaining four miles have a bag limit of one trout over 20 inches with the angler required to stop fishing once they have taken a fish of that size, that day.
The use of barbless hooks on flies is required in the quality waters but the number of flies on a single line is currently not restricted.
Below the quality waters, anglers can use bait and the normal bag limit is in effect on public access to another 3.5 miles of the San Juan River including the Cottonwood Campground area.
The fishery is estimated to contribute approximately $25 million to state’s economy annually, according to a 2003 New Mexico State University Economic Impact study.
This article also appeared in the Santa Fe New Mexican’s Outdoors section.
San Juan Guide, Jude Duran, Jailed
Jude Duran, 29, of Flora Vista has been indicted on federal charges of bank robbery stemming from the May 13, 2008 hold-up of the Vectra Bank in Montrose, Colorado. Photo Courtesy of the Montrose Poice Department.
The typically busy chat room on Mike Mora’s San Juan River website at www.ifly4trout.com is conspicuously silent these days.
Temporarily silenced due to too much talk about the arrest of popular fishing guide, Jude Duran, and apparently, too little “positive and constructive” talk about fishing New Mexico’s premier trout stream.
Duran’s arrest for bank robbery in Colorado last week dominated the Internet chat room at Mora’s website for days and fueled much of the mystery behind the affair.
“It’s so totally out of character for him, I don’t know what to think,” says a friend of Duran’s, Jerry Saiz, 39, of Jerry’s Guide Service in Bloomfield. “ I’m shocked. He’s such a helpful and nice guy. For him to do something like that, something bad must have happened.”
Saiz said he knows Duran well and saw no signs of financial duress, family problems or anything else that would indicate why Duran would do such a thing.
And while business on the San Juan River had slowed considerably for some guides due to extended high water conditions, Duran had remained busy and his business prospered, Saiz said.
“It’s a mystery to me why he’d go and do something like that,” he said.
And so far information in the case has been long of speculation and short on answers.
What is known is Duran, 29, of 95895 Highway 16 in Flora Vista, NM is being held in the Montrose County jail in Colorado in lieu of $250,000 bond, $100,00 of which must be posted with cash, according to Sgt. Dean McNulty of the Montrose County Sheriff’s Department.
Duran is charged with aggravated robbery, theft and felony menacing in connection with the May 13 robbery of the Vectra bank at 1200 S. Townsend Ave. in Montrose, Co., a city of about 13,000 people located on US 550 about 150 miles north of Flora Vista.
Montrose police say a masked robber armed with a semiautomatic handgun walked into the bank, pointed his weapon at employees and demanded money, according to an affidavit for an arrest warrant filed in the case.
At one point the robber told an employee that “it’s not worth it, I’ll blow your (expletive deleted) head off,” the affidavit states.
The robber then fled with an undisclosed amount of money.
A witness reported seeing the robber driving a white Ridgeline Honda that was later stopped by police and Duran taken into custody.
Money and a gun were recovered from the vehicle and Duran allegedly admitted to having committed the robbery, according to the affidavit.
Attempts to reach Duran at the jail were unsuccessful, he has yet to retain an attorney and his wife declined to return calls seeking comment.
Saiz says Duran has a loyal following of devoted customers, some of whom have indicated their intent to raise money for Duran’s defense.
Others in the small knit community of Navajo Dam where Duran worked would only speak off the record about him and much of what they had to say wasn’t very flattering.
Saiz says Duran success and popularity earned him some detractors in the community especially among those guides associated with the fly shops.
Duran was a hard worker who made good use of Mike Mora’s chat room to spread his name and develop a following.
He frequently offered information on water releases, fishing conditions and commented on politics related to the industry, such as spirited opposition to the proposed two fly rule (see Two Fly Rule is Back above)
Thus his downfall has been a matter of much discussion among his peers.
The FBI is now investigating the case and thus no information can released, said Jane Quimby, Special Agent out of the Grand Junction Office, Co. which is handling the case.
Quimby declined to comment when asked if Duran was a suspect in any other bank robberies.
Bank robbery with a firearm is a federal offense, which upon conviction can result in a maximum 20-year prison term.
Meanwhile, Saiz says like any good friend would, he’ll reserve judgment until he’s heard from Duran himself and has had a chance to consider all the facts in the case.
This article also appeared in the Santa Fe New Mexican’s Outdoors section.