The Ultimate Guide to Fly Fishing in Durango, Colorado
Nestled in the heart of the breathtaking San Juan Mountains of Colorado, Durango is a paradise for fly fishing enthusiasts. With its pristine rivers, shimmering alpine lakes, and abundant trout populations, this region offers an unforgettable angling experience.
Whether you’re a seasoned angler or a novice looking to cast your first line, Durango and its surrounding areas boast some of the best fly-fishing destinations in the United States.
In this comprehensive guide, we will give you all the information you need to plan the perfect trip. We’ll delve into the top fly fishing spots near Durango, highlighting the unique characteristics and diverse fishing opportunities that make each location special. On top of that, we will help you find lessons to get started, all the right gear, and the perfect place to stay.
Let’s start by discussing where you will stay during your visit to the Durango area. Sure, you could stay in a nearby hotel, but in our opinion, fishing and camping go hand-in-hand. Considering there are dozens of campgrounds in the Durango area, it just makes sense to go this route.
That said, there is no reason you should have to rough it while camping. Outdoorsy Bayfield is a gorgeous campground right outside of Durango that offers all of the comforts and amenities you might need while still giving you easy access to the great outdoors and some fantastic fishing.
In fact, Outdoorsy Bayfield has a well-stocked fishing stream onsite where you can do as much catch-and-release trout fishing as your heart desires. This, coupled with the many streams that run through the park and the easy, private access to the Los Pinos River, makes Outdoorsy Bayfield the very best place an angler could hope to stay.
Never tried your hand at fly fishing before? Prefer to head out with a guide in this new territory? Don’t worry, the Durango area has some awesome companies that can help you.
One of our favorite options is Duranglers. Duranglers offers fly fishing classes, clinics, and private lessons. Whether you’re a complete beginner or someone looking for a refresher course, these friendly folks will be happy to help you.
In addition to classes and other learning opportunities, Duranglers also provides professional fly fishing guide services. These are helpful if you don’t know the area or if you wish to visit a more challenging fishing spot.
Need to gear up before you head out? We have a few suggestions for items to throw in the RV before your bug Durango fly fishing trip.
The Redington Path Fly Rod Combo Kit is the ideal starter set for beginners. It is versatile enough to be used in a number of situations and is perfect for learning how to cast. Best of all, the price point can’t be beat, especially considering the kit includes a rod, reel, and carrying case.
You’ll want something to keep all of your gear in. That’s where the Orvis Fly Fishing Sling Pack comes into play. This pack is big enough to hold everything you need, but small enough that it won’t hinder your fishing. The pockets are specifically designed for fly fishing, so everything will be organized and easy to find.
For the most part, fly boxes are all the same. The Cliff Outdoors Super Days Worth Fly Box, however, is an exception. We love that this box includes foam, keeping all of your flies safe from being squished. We also appreciate the magnetic-backed compartments that keep midges exactly where you want them.
This kit by Orvis includes three of the most important fly fishing tools: forceps, a nipper, and a zinger. All are well made and comfortable to use, and they’re great additions to any fly fishing gear bag.
Another important piece of gear? A landing net. Your landing net doesn’t have to be anything fancy, but it does need to be big enough and strong enough to hold your catch. We really like the Fashionwu Fly Fishing Landing Net for a budget-friendly option.
Wading into the river or stream can be uncomfortable after a while, especially if the weather is cold. Simms Freestone Waders are perfect for protecting your legs from cold and wet conditions.
The waders above are likely to be too big for many women. For them, we recommend the Orvis Clearwater Waders, which offers all the same awesome benefits in a smaller size.
Good boots are key when it comes to making it to some of the best fly fishing spots and staying dry while you’re at it. Simms Freestone Wading Boots are made especially for fly fishing, come in both men’s and women’s versions, and are some of the best on the market.
First, there is the Animas River. Flowing right through the heart of Durango, this river is an angler’s dream. Renowned for its robust trout population—including rainbow, brown, and cutthroat trout—this iconic river offers year-round fishing opportunities.
Anglers can choose between the challenging fast-flowing upper section (known for its technical dry-fly fishing), or the more accessible lower stretches (which provide ample opportunities for wading and floating). The Animas River’s stunning backdrop of rugged canyons and lush forests enhances the overall fishing experience.
When fishing the Animas in Durango, be sure to watch for signage marking private property. It’s also good to know that you may not take more than two (2) fish per day from the river, and those fish must be at least 16 inches in length.
Want to fish the Animas further south? Look into getting a Southern Ute tribal permit, as you will be on tribal land.
A short drive from Durango lies the world-famous San Juan River. This river offers some of the best fly fishing in the country, and although the best of this fishing is a bit further south past the Navajo Reservoir, we think the headwaters are well worth your time.
Conveniently, this river flows right through the town of Pagosa Springs, and fishing is allowed there. At this point, it is a wide flowing river with trout up to 20 inches long and is very easy to access, making this a popular place to fish the river. Just keep in mind that there is again a two-fish limit throughout the town.
Other options are found further upstream in the San Juan National Forest where you can choose between the easy access of the east fork or the quiet solitude of the west fork. It is also possible to fish south of Pagosa Springs on Southern Utes tribal land, but you will need a permit.
For those seeking a serene alpine setting, Vallecito Lake is a hidden gem just northeast of Durango in the adorable town of Bayfield, CO. Surrounded by the majestic San Juan National Forest, this beautiful lake provides excellent fly fishing for brown trout, rainbow trout, smallmouth bass, northern pike, walleye, and kokanee salmon.
Anglers can explore its calm waters by boat or cast from the shoreline, enjoying the tranquil atmosphere and picturesque mountain vistas. Sticking to the shallows will likely yield more pike, heading out around the small islands in the lake could get you some walleye, bass can be caught during the summer, and both walleye and trout are easier to catch during the full moon.
Keep in mind that fishing Vallecito Lake requires a permit. Additionally, there is a possession and bag limit for most of the fish in the lake, so you will want to check on those limits before you head out.
In addition to being a great fishing destination, Vallecito Lake is also an ideal location for families, offering various recreational activities such as camping, hiking, and boating.
Looking to escape it all? The Pine River (aka Los Pinos River), located northwest of Durango, offers a remote and secluded fly fishing experience amidst stunning wilderness. This scenic river winds through the rugged landscape of the San Juan Mountains, providing ample opportunities to catch native cutthroat and rainbow trout.
Known for its crystal-clear waters, the Pine River entices more anglers with its challenging but rewarding fishing conditions. With limited access points (a hike or a stay at Outdoorsy Bayfield is required to reach them) and abundant aquatic insect life, this river is a true haven for fly fishing enthusiasts seeking solitude and natural beauty.
It is important to note that much of the river south of the Vallecito Reservoir is on private land. What isn’t on private property is on tribal land. Therefore, it is important to make sure you aren’t on private property and that you have the proper permit before you get started. You’ll also want to go in knowing angling is limited to flies and lures in this watershed, and there is a bag and possession limit of two (2) fish.
Venturing west of Durango, anglers will discover the Dolores River, a hidden gem for fly fishing enthusiasts. This free-flowing river meanders through scenic canyons, offering breathtaking views and an unforgettable fishing experience.
The Dolores River is known for its healthy population of wild brown trout, as well as occasional rainbow and cutthroat trout. While the river’s remote location requires some effort to access, its uncrowded waters and unspoiled wilderness create an idyllic setting for fly fishing enthusiasts seeking solitude and adventure.
While some of the Dolores River winds its way through San Juan National Forest lands, there are sections of the river that are on private land. Make sure the area you choose to fish is on public land by using the San Juan National Forest map, and as always, ensure you have a fishing license before you head out.
As you can see, Durango, Colorado and its surrounding areas provide an abundance of world-class fly fishing opportunities. With its spectacular natural beauty and diverse trout populations, Durango is a must-visit destination for fly fishing enthusiasts looking to create lifelong memories in nature’s angling paradise.
Ready to plan your fly fishing getaway in beautiful Southwest Colorado? Book your stay at Outdoorsy Bayfield today!