Copyright 2016 James Marsh
Fly Fishing On The Animas River In
The Animas River flows through steep canyons,
beautiful mountains, the town of Durango and down
into the state of New Mexico. It starts out small in its
headwaters and ends of large before it flows into the
San Juan River. It is the states newest Gold Metal water
as of the date this was written. Twice ruined by runoff
from mines, the Animas River is again a fine fishery.
The Animas starts near the historic mining town of
Silverton in the mountains north of Durango. There are
several small tributaries in the headwaters. The stream
can only be accessed above Hermosa via train. The
river flows through a very steep canyon. Some anglers
take the train from Durango to fish the section above
Hermosa. I am not suggesting this, but it is a method to
fish the canyon.
The river is basically pocket water with long runs and
riffles and some pools. In the lower section, large
boulders and log jams provide cover for some huge
brown trout. Below Durango the Animas River has
some fairly deep water that doesn't permit wading in
The best water is just south of Durango. There's also
some fairly good fishing in the town of Durango. About
two and a half miles of the river in Durango is public
About seven miles south of Durango the river flows
through the Ute Indian Reservation. Permits are
required to fish that section. Fly fishing the Animas
River is best in the reservation area.
The Animas River is quite wide in some areas. It's
mostly pocket water full of large rocks. There are some
deep pockets and pools. Some areas have long
stretches of riffles mixed in the pocket water. Cobble
stones from about fist size down along with gravel
cover most of the stream's bottom. The river has a
fairly high pH and the bottom is relatively slick, so you
do have to exercise caution when wading.
The trout consist of rainbows and browns. The average
size of the trout is probably about twelve inches but
there are much larger ones in the river. Brown trout
can grow especially large and fish over 20 inches are
not rare. The larger size browns feed mostly in low light
conditions and are not easy to catch but the
opportunity exist for those willing to put forth the effort.
A very large amount of public access makes the
Animas different from most Colorado trout streams.
Miles of public access is one of the best features of this
stream. You can choose from fishing the rugged
canyon sections to fishing in town the fast and easy
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Photo Courtesy Steven Lamb
Recommended Tackle & Gear
4, 5 or 6 weight
Dry fly: 9 to 12 ft., 5 or 6X Nymphing:
71/2 ft., 3 or 4X, Streamers 0-2X
Dry fly: 5 or 6X, Nymphing: 3 or 4X,
Best Fly Rods:
Perfect Fly Supreme Four, Superb Five
or Ultimate Six
For 4/5/6 fly line
Fly Floatants and Misc Items:
Floatants, KISS Strike Indicators
Tools & Accessories:
Nippers, forceps, retractors, etc.
Animas River Fly Fishing Guide:
The fast pocket water is fairly easy to fish
but the smoother sections that hold the
nice browns is far more difficult. The
smoother flows allow the trout a much
better opportunity to closely examine your
fly. They also can create some difficult to
manage conflicting currents, making it
difficult to get a drag-free drift.
The fast, pocket water sections should
always be fished in an upstream
directions. Short cast that allow you to
keep most of the fly line off of the water
work much better than long cast.
High sticking the runs and riffles is a very
effective method to fish nymphs. This is
mostly done in the headwaters but will
work anywhere there's a deeper run.
Although the Animas can have some very
good dry fly fishing, most of the time you
will find that nymphs outperform dry flies.
Although they are more fun to fish, you
will usually do better limiting your dry fly
fishing to those times you actually
observe trout feeding on the surface. In
other words, you will usually end up
catching more trout if you stick to nymph
fishing most of the time.
Except for the Spring runoff, fly fishing the
Animas River is mostly good all year. The
water become questionable during August
in the town of Dunango - yes, the Gold
Metal Water. The stream can become warm
March into April before the Spring runoff is
a good time to fish the river. Runoff is from
late April or early May until sometime in
Animas River Hatches and Trout
Our information on aquatic insects is
based on our stream samples of larvae
and nymphs, not guess work. We base fly
suggestions on imitating the most plentiful
and most available insects and other
foods at the particular time you are
fishing. Unlike the generic fly shop trout
flies, we have specific imitations of all the
insects in the Animas River and in all
stages of life that are applicable to
fishing. If you want to fish better, more
realistic trout flies, have a much higher
degree of success, give us a call. We not
only will help you with selections, you will
learn why, after trying Perfect Flies, 92%
of the thousands of our customers will
use nothing else. 1-800-594-4726.
The aquatic insect populations varies
depending on the section of the river you
are fishing but those listed below are
plentiful throughout most of the stream
from its headwaters to its lower section.
Prior to the runoff, the main hatches
consist of Western March Browns and
Blue-winged Olives. The March Browns
can get caught up in the high runoff water
depending on the exact time. The BWOs
can start as early as late February and
early March but April usually is the most
consistent time for the hatches to begin.
About six different species, mostly Baetis,
species make up what is called BWOs.
There's also a Fall hatch of the
Blue-winged Olives. It usually takes place
from late September through the month of
Midges are very plentiful in the Animas.
Imitations will work well anytime and
become more important when the water is
too cold for most other insects.
There's also a population of small black
winter stoneflies that hatch in the early
season, even when there's snow on the
ground. These are mostly found in the
fast pocket water.
You will find some hatches of Golden
Stoneflies become to come off in late
June to early July. Sometimes the runoff
effects the fishing conditions during the
hatch and on other years it misses it. It all
depends on the snowpack. These are
found only in the fast pocket water
sections. The hatches can last into the
first of August.
LIttle Yellow Stoneflies are plentiful in
some areas in late July and early August.
Look for these stoneflies in the fast water
sections of the Animas.
In June you will find hatches of the large
Salmonflies in some parts of the Animas.
Like the other stoneflies, these will mostly
exist in the fast water sections. This hatch
last about three weeks but usually not
over a week at any one point.
The first caddisflies to hatch are the Little
Black Caddis, called the Mothers Day
hatch in most places in the West. This
hatch starts in late April and last about a
month. In is a sparse hatch but can be
In late June and early July, there's three
or four different species of caddisflies
called Spotted Sedges that begin to
hatch. These are the most plentiful of the
caddisflies and the different species
hatch throughout most of the Summer.
The next most important caddisfly hatch
are the Green Sedges. They hatch from
May through September, depending on
the species. Imitations of the Green Rock
Worms, or their larvae, work year-round.
In late June, usually before the runoff
ends, Pale Morning Duns will start
hatching. The PMD hatch will last most of
the summer and other than BWOs is the
most consistent mayfly hatch. In some
areas of the fast water you will find a few
Pink Ladies that hatch in late August and
Late Summer, August and September,
terrestrials can play an important role in
the trout's diet. Imitations of
grasshoppers, ants and beetles will
become important flies.
Sculpin are very plentiful throughout the
Animas River. There are some other
types of baitfish and minnows but sculpin
are by far the most important in the food
supply for the trout. Streamers that imitate
sculpin, such as our Perfect Fly Brown
Sculpin, will take trout year-round. It is
best to fish streamers in low light
situations such as early and late in the
day and during heavy overcast situations.
The are especially good for taking larger,
pre-spawn brown trout.
Most of the dry fly fishing opportunities
come from the BWOs and PMDs. These
two groups of little mayflies, along with
several different species of caddisflies,
provide most of the dry fly action. Late
afternoon caddisfly egg laying activity
provides some great dry fly fishing
during much of the warmer weather
Don't overlook streamers. They will
consistently catch larger trout. Brown
trout that stay wedged up under the
rocks and banks most of the time, will
take sculpin streamer patterns when
they are out roaming around looking for
Downstream of the Rivera Bridge, the
Animas flows through mostly private land
and the Southern Ute Indian
Reservation. You can obtain a Southern
Ute Tribal fishing permit for this area.
There are plenty of access points along
La Posta Road.
In addition to the Animas River, there
are many alpine meadow streams in the
area near Durango. They can provide a
wonderful fly fishing experience.
Summer is a very good time to fish but the
water can get quite warm during the hottest
part of the summer.
In the early fall the river is low and can be
Late winter the river is normally low enough
to wade and fishing can be good.
|Options For Selecting Flies:
1. Email us (email@example.com)
with the dates you will be fishing this
stream and we will send you a list of our
fly suggestions. Please allow up to 24
hours for a response.
2. Call us 800-594-4726 and we will help
you decide which flies you need.
3. Email us (firstname.lastname@example.org)
with a budget for flies and we will select
them to match the budget and get them to
you in time for your fly fishing trip.
All orders are shipped free in the
U. S. Orders over $50 are shipped via
We have Perfect Fly
website pages on
each of these other
fine trout streams.
Click the links for fly
species of fish, a fly
fishing guide, a fly
fishing report, hatches
trout flies, fly fishing
gear and equipment,
USGS stream data,
local weather and
much, much more
Headlines: The water is getting
pretty cold, too cold for productive
fishing in the middle and upper
sections. The lower river is still
around forty degrees (water
temperature) and that is where we
recommend you fish. The San
Juan tailwater would be a better
choice. Midges and little Blue
winged olive nymphs should work.
Winter stoneflies are hatching.
Keep up with the latest on the
weekly updated fishing report
10/16/15 The streams are a little low right now, but most likely that will change soon. There is
rain in the forecast every day for the coming week. October Caddis are at the peak of their
hatch and trout are taking the Perfect Fly pupa and adult imitations of them. Good conditions
should continue through the next week. I'm sure you have heard about the tragic discharge of
mine waste by the EPA, the government agency that should protect the environment, not
attempt to destroy it.
10/23/15 The Animas is running high for wading right now but should drop back down fast.
There isn't any rain forecast until the first of next week. October Caddis are still hatching good.
The egg layers are bringing trout to the surface to feed in the afternoons. Blue-winged Olives
have begin to hatch again and in two sizes, 16's and 20's.
10/30/15 Keep in mind the brown trout are in the pre-spawn stage, aggressive and territorial.
Our Brown Sculpin streamer fly will food them. Stream levels are still a little high but falling and
should be easy to wade very soon. October Caddis are still hatching in the lower section of the
river. Blue-winged olives have begin to hatch good. The weather will be clear for the next five
11/06/15 The weather is still relatively nice and warm for this time of the year. Our customers
caught some nice brown trout over the past two weeks on the Brown and White Belly sculpin
streamers. That should still work great. Hatches are just about reduced to midges and blue-
winged olives. I would still with nymphs and larve/pupa until I spotted a hatch and then change
to the dry imitation.
11/13/15 The lower section of the river produced some nice trout this past week according to a
customer. He was using the Brown Sculpin streamer. Blue-winged olives and midges are
hatching but mostly on cloudy, overcast days. The stream levels are good and likely will remain
that way for the next week.
11/20/15 The Animas is in good shape, just a little colder than last week. You shouldn't have
much company fishing because 99 percent of those coming to the area are skiers. Most of the
so-called fishing guides become ski instructors. Fish the lower ends of the river for the warmest
water using the Perfect Fly midge pupa and larva and you will catch some trout.
11/27/15 There is light snow in the area that should be around through Sunday, then clearing.
The air temperature are mild for this time of the year. We do recommend fishing the lower end
of the river. You will find the water temperature a little warmer. Few hatches will occur and
consist mostly of midges. The Brown Sculpin streamer has been the hot fly thanks to the
hungry post-spawn brown trout.
12/11/15 The stream levels remain in good shape on the Animas. Melting snow sometimes
stains the water slightly but for the most part, conditions are good. Notice we added Winger
Stoneflies to the fly list. They are hatching in the fast water sections of the river. The Brown
Sculpin streamer has been producing well for our customers. Midges are still the most
important insects to imitate.
12/21/15 There is a winter storm warning for tomorrow and snow fall should be heavy. There is
ice in the water in the middle and higher sections of the river. Fish the lowest section if you
want to fish. Midges should be your best option. Stay out of the current and fish still to slow
moving water where trout hold. The conditions are not good but you may catch some trout.
12/31/15 There is a lot of ice in the middle and upper sections of the river. The only possibility
worth pursuing is the lowest section of the river. It has ice around the banks. Midges and winter
stonefly nymphs are the flies you need to use. The weather is going to be a little warmer this
01/08/16 There is a winter storm warning for the area today but the weather is going to clear
out for the next six days. You may have problems getting to the water because the snow is
deep along most of the banks of the river. The middle and upper sections have lots of ice
along the banks and wherever the water is slow to still.
01/22/16 There is a lot of ice in the water in the middle and upper sections of the river. Fish
the lowest section below Durango. It is averaging in the mid thirties and trout can be caught on
cream and red (blood) midges. Fish the larva and pupa imitations in tandem. The white belly
sculpin streamers is also a good fly to use.
01/29/16 The past week was warmer than it has been in a while and the water temperature in
the lowest section was up to 38 degrees. That is cold, but still possible to catch trout and one
of our regular customers did catch a few. It was slow but worth the trip. There is a lot of snow
forecast for the next week.
02/05/16 Winter stoneflies and midges are hatching. It could warm up enough later this week
that some little BWOs hatch but that happens mostly on cloudy days and the skies will be clear
most of this coming week. Fish the lowest section of the river. The middle and upper part has a
lot of slush ice and is too cold.
02/12/16 The warm weather is welcome and will make it a lot more comfortable on the anglers
fishing. Fish the lowest section of the river. The warm weather will create a mini runoff of
melting snow and slightly raise and stain the water. Streamers like the white belly Sculpin will
be a good choice when that takes place.
02/19/16 Unseasonably warm weather continues and snow is melting like a mini runoff. The
stream levels are higher than normal making wading tought to impossible. The water is stained
to muddy and streamers is your best option. The melting snow is holding the water
temperature down. Midges are the only things hatching at this time.
02/26/16 Stream levels are up above normal from melting snow and ice. It is keep the water
stained, higher than normal and cold, just above the freezing point. The warmest water is in the
lowest section of the river. Streamers are the best fly option at this time.
03/04/16 It is very unseasonably warm and that is melting snow and ice in the watershed. This
is helping to keep the stream levels high and the water colder than it would be otherwise. We
are recommending streamers like or Brown Sculpin and White Belly sculpin. Midges and Winter
stoneflies will also work.
03/11/16 Great weather and good stream conditions continue to exist on the Animas. Fish the
lowest section of the river. Midges, both creams and reds, are hatching along with some little
size 18/20 Blue-winged olives. Fish our White Belly sculpin streamer where the water is a little
stained from snow runoff.
03/18/16 The Animas is staying highly stained from melting snow runoff but it is mostly in the
upper part of the water column. The bottom of the stream, and especially holes in the bottom,
are much clearer. The red midge pupa and larva continues to produce well for our local
03/25/16 The river is flowing a little high right now, and would be too high to safely wade.
Midges and little Blue-winged olives are the only insects hatching. The water is still only around
40 degrees. The Brown sculpin streamer has taken some larger trout for one of our regular
04/01/16 The weather forecast for the next week is absolutely great. It isn't so good for the
skiers but it is for those who like to fish the Animas River. The water is clear and cold but can
be waded in most any section. Midges and Blue-winged olives are hatching good and you
should be able to catch some trout.
04/08/15 The stream levels are too high to wade and rising. There is a lot of rain in the
forecast for the next week. That and the warmer weather will keep the levels coming up. You
can fish from the banks. Little Black Caddis and March Browns have begin to hatch and the
BWOs and midges are continuing to hatch every day.
04/15/16 The Animas is high and badly stained. The situation is only going to get worse, with
rain and snow for the next three days. We think it may be shaping up by the end of the next
week. You can fish from the banks and may catch some trout using flies like our White Belly
04/22/16 The river is in much better shape with flows near normal but the water is still a little
chilly for great hatches to be taking place. We do expect March Browns and Little Black caddis
to start showing back up. The warmer weather is melting snow and keep the water cooler than
we would for it to be.
04/29/16 The catch 22 is when it get warmer, it melts snow and ice and keeps the water cool
and when cold, it keeps the hatches from occurring. The Little Black caddis, March Browns and
little BWOs are hatching in the lower river but for the most part, are sparse and inconsistent.
05/06/16 The river is very high and stained badly, or to put it simple, blown out. This is unlikely
to change for the next few days. There is more rain coming through Monday, then clearing.
You can fish streamers and maybe fish the few hatches taking place from the bank in some
05/13/16 The river is still high and badly stained and will likely remain that way for the next
week. It is from both runoff and rain. There is rain forecast everyday for the coming week. You
will just have to watch the stream levels to know when it is feasible to fish it again.
05/20/16 The river is high and muddy and in a range from top to bottom. It will be a few more
days before the runoff is over and much of any fly fishing opportunity exist on the Animas
River. You can shoot us an email and let us help you plan that next fly fishing trip.
05/27/16 The Animas is in the full runoff stage of life right now and will continue to be high and
muddy for the next few days. You can get ready for some hot action as soon as the water
levels fall and clears. Shoot us an email, and let us help you with the planning. Keep checking
back for weekly updates
06/02/16 The river is raging high and muddy from heavy runoff. It is going to continue to b be
very warm and the runoff won't be letting up anytime soon. This leaves you with no fly fishing
opportunity. We will continue to give weekly reports. Hopefully, the early start will mean it ends
06/10/16 The runoff is still going full blast and this offers no opportunity for fly fishing. It is likely
to be this way for a few more days. You will just have to keep checking back. Hopefully, the
early start will mean an early end to it but it is entirely weather dependent. Fishing will be good
when it does return to a normal level.
06/24/16 The stream levels are down a lot from the past week, the weather hot and lots of
insects are hatching. It isn't low enough to safely wade in all places but getting there. The
water is also much clearer. Sculpin streamers produced some trout yesterday, for one
customer. Lots of stoneflies are hatching.
07/01/16 The river level is down and in good shape from the headwaters to the lower section.
Some sections are low enough to wade safely. Our customers are catching good numbers of
trout. There are a lot of insects hatching. Pale Morning duns are plentiful and so are two
species of caddis. Little Yellow stones and Golden stoneflies are hatching.
07/08/16 The river is in good shape, just a little high in some sections, but much of the river
can be safely waded. The insect hatches vary from the headwaters to the lower section of the
river, so don't expect everything listed in the report to be hatching in all sections of the river.
Our customers are catching most of their trout in the upper part of the river.
07/15/16 The river is in great shape in all sections and our customers are catching lots of
trout. There are many different hatches, but they vary greatly from section to section. Pale
Morning duns are the most plentiful mayflies. Little Yellow stoneflies are the most plentiful
stoneflies and there are three species of caddisflies hatching.
07/22/16 The Animas has good stream levels in all sections of the river from its headwaters to
its lowest end that holds trout. We received two good reports this past week. Pale Morning
duns are hatching good and Tricos have also started to hatch. Little Yellow stoneflies and two
species of caddisflies are hatching. Late afternoon is the best time to fish.
07/29/16 The stream levels are getting low and stealth is required. Stay hidden from the trout.
It is best to fish as high up as you can. The lower the elevation, the warmer the water. Fish
early in the morning and the last two or three hours of the day for the best results. There is
rain in the forecast everyday this coming week and hopefully, the levels will be back up.
08/04/16 The stream levels are currently in good shape flowing about a normal level. There
are flash flood warnings out and it is raining as I write this report. Hatches are still taking place
with lots of Pale Morning duns, Spotted Sedges, Green Sedges, some little Yellow stoneflies
and others. Terrestrials are also working.
08/12/16 We received two good reports from customers fishing the headwaters this past week.
All sections of the river are in good shape, with good stream levels and lots of hatches taking
place. The insects will vary from section to section depending on the elevation of the stream.
Terrestrials such as ants, Japanese beetles and grass hoppers are also working.
08/19/16 We continue to get good reports from anglers and customers fishing just about all
sections of the river. The levels are a little low in places but wading is easy and those that stay
hidden from the trouts are catching them. Terrestrials are beginning to work good. Caddisflies
are the most consistent hatches right now.
08/26/16 The river is in good shape in all sections. There is a lot of rain in the forecast, so
watch the levels for the next few days. The uppermost headwaters are producing some good
numbers of trout for our customers. All sections of the river have some hatches taking place
but they vary with the section and elevation.
09/09/16 The river is in great shape from its headwaters downstream to the lowest section fo
the river than holds trout. Our customers are reporting some good catches. The crowds are
mostly gone and you can have a lot of water to yourself. Terrestrials are working good but
there are still plenty of insects hatching, especially caddisflies.
09/16/16 The river in in as good of shape as it gets at this time of the season. Anglers are
scoring well in all sections from the headwater to the lower end of the river. The sections in
town are doing turning out some trout. The hatches vary depending on the section but there
are still some taking place. Mahogany duns have begin to hatch.
09/25/16 The river is flowing a little strong and high right now but should be falling back down
fast. There is no more rain in the forecast. It is not safe to wade some places, so use caution
and be safe. Streamers should do well right now, but the cooler weather has started several
new hatching including October Caddis. Now is a good time to be headed to the Animas.
09/30/16 The river is still rather high and offers little opportunity to wade. It is falling and there
is littel chance for much more rain the next few days. For now, streamers like our Brown and
White Belly sculpin are the best fly options. There are still plenty of Blue-winged olives,
Mahogany duns and October Caddis hatches taking place.
10/07/16 The stream level is still a little high but you can probably wade some sections if you
are careful. It is currently falling and should be back down in better shape soon. The hatches
are slowing down some but there are still plenty of October Caddis and BWOs. Brown sculpin
streamers are working good.
10/14/16 The stream levels are running at a normal level for this time of the year. Our
customers are catching some very nice fish including some large browns. The are in the pre-
spawn stage and very aggressive. The Brown sculpin streamer will catch them. In addition,
there are some excellent Blue-winged olive hatches taking place along with Mayogany duns.
10/28/16 The river is in good shape from the headwaters to the lowest section of the river that
holds trout. Our customers are catching some very good numbers of trout. The weather is
beautiful and clear and the water level normal and clear. There are Blue-winged olives and
Western Ginger Quills hatching.
11/04/16 The river is in good shape with good stream levels. Wading is easy in most sections.
There are some good Blue-winged olive hatches taking place along with a few Ginger Quills.
The weather is turning a little cooler this coming week. We have added midges to the fly list.
Fish the larva and pupa imitations in tandem, with the larva the bottom fly.
11/11/16 We received two good reports from anglers fishing this past week. Both reported not
seeing another angler. Conditions are as good as they could possibly be at this time of the
season. The water level is a little low and you do have to be careful not to spook the trout.
Midges, creams and reds, and Blue-winged olives are hatching good.
11/18/16 Cold nights are bringing the water temperature down fast but the levels are in good
shape flowing just below normal. Wading is safe most places. The hatches are mostly Blue-
winged olives and Midges. The Cream midges are plentiful most anywhere and the Red or
Blood midges where there is soft bottom. Streamers like our brown sculpin are still getting the
11/25/16 The weather and water is cold. We recommend fishing from town downstream. The
upper river is colder and less productive. Midges, creams and reds (blood) midges are plentiful
and hatching. Blue-winged olives are hatching, especially during cloudy or overcast days. The
Brown sculpin streamer is still catching the larger trout.