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The famed San Juan River in northwestern New Mexico has deservedly won a following among anglers all over the country. Unfortunately, all that ardor has created a somewhat circus-like environment at times, with anglers quite literally elbowing and fighting their way to such places as Texas Hole, Cable Pool and even Beatis Bend. The attraction here, of course, is the San Juan’s healthy population of rainbows. They are wonderfully fun to catch, and this tailwater continues to generate rave reviews among Angling Report subscribers. Lately, however, doubts have begun to seep in about this destination and the overall quality of the experience it provides.
Enter Soaring Eagle Lodge, located about eight miles downriver from Navajo Dam. The place opened quietly about two years ago and is beginning to catch fire now among anglers who love the San Juan and despise what crowds are doing to the experience of fishing it. Although I have yet to experience this grand setting situated 70 yards from the river, I have spoken with several anglers who have and they have uniformly good things to say about the accommodations and the fishing.
I plan to visit Soaring Eagle soon and, at that time, I will file an on-site report. In the meantime, I can only relay what owner/manager Janet Zachry told me about the place. She says the word "lodge" is a bit misleading, as the accommodations actually consist of 11 independent guest houses constructed out of cedar and redwood, each accommodating up to four anglers. The guest houses have indoor wader-changing facilities, full kitchens and even living rooms with lazy boys and satellite TV. Soaring Eagle also has a full-service fly shop. What it doesn’t have year-round is a restaurant. Zachary says she will prepare meals for eight guests who register together and specifically request them. Otherwise, meals must be taken in area restaurants, the closest of which is about a mile away.
One of the most attractive things about Soaring Eagle is the access it offers to private water. First, there is a football-field-size stretch of water out front of the lodge that can be fished free of charge by guests. Then there are approximately two miles of the San Juan river that can be fished on a rod-fee basis. Zachary says she strictly limits the number of fishermen on this stretch to 12 a day, and likes to point out that, at one point last year, she maintained that limit while 3,000 anglers struggled to fish the nearby public waters.
There are said to be 7,000 trout per mile in this water, with 50 to 60 percent of them huge wild browns. Public drift boats are virtually non-existent on this stretch. Another good thing about this stretch is its remarkable insect life. Two major stoneflv hatches occur here, Giant Stones and Golden Stones. Both begin hatching in May and continue through June. There are also Caddis hatches here that begin in May and peak from mid-June through late July, tailing off in September. These hatches, along with PMDs from July through September, offer persistent anglers rewarding dry fly days.
Guests at Soaring Eagle Lodge can choose from a variety of fishing packages, ranging from fully guided wading and float trips to on-your own fishing in the public water. I will have more details on all this after my upcoming visit. In the meantime, you can contact Soaring Eagle Lodge. Enjoy!
(Editor Note: We would not be leveling with Angling Report subscribers if we didn’t confess to an uneasiness about owner/manager Janet Zachary’s reaction to our fact-checking phone call at press time. She refused to discuss prices for any of her services, saying she had the right to keep those confidential. "Suppose this call was from a would-be guest," we ventured. "Would you tell us how much your services cost…?" Her reply was, she’d send us a brochure. We don’t know exactly what’s behind this reticence to discuss prices because we understand everything at Soaring Eagle is very reasonable. We hope to have more information soon. In the meantime, for the record, we have an uneasy feeling about a place that won’t say what it charges.)