Note: This report is a part of the FlyCast Lite reporting program and is updated seasonally or in the event of substantial changes that alter fly fishing tactics. FlyCast Lite reports are intended to give anglers a high level overview on seasonal conditions and general fishing tactics.
While trout that inhabit the Animas, near Durango, are in winter mode, you should see decent results if you are persistent and willing to adjust. Flows have largely held steady and while ice along the bank comes and goes, depending on air and water temps, there is plenty of fishable water. At this point, trout are sticking to the deep and slow stuff most of the day so as to conserve energy. Feeding has been and will continue to be somewhat irregular. However, you'll notice that during the warmest hours of the day, and on warmer days in general, trout are more active and willing to move. With this in mind, depth and presentation are key to success right now. A heavy nymph rig with plenty of weight or weighted flies will do most of the heavy lifting. Tungsten jig patterns in the Perdigon variety have been especially effective, but don't neglect those traditional searchers and attractors like a Copper John, Rainbow Warrior, Flashback PT or Guide's Choice Hare's Ear. Smaller midge imitations like a Pure Fire Midge, Blood Midge, Zebra Midge, Mercury Midge or Top Secret have all been effective as well. We like to lead with something heavier and trail with one or more smaller imitations. Streamers have been hit or miss, but definitely worth a shot. Just remember to strip slowly as bait fish, like trout, are also sluggish in the winter. Midges have been hatching sporadically throughout the day, but surface action has been limited. That said, if you see trout actively rising don't hesitate to rig up a single, double or dry to an emerger setup.
The Animas is a freestone river that originates high in the San Juan mountains in southwestern Colorado and spans over 126 miles before reaching the San Juan River in the northern town of Aztec, New Mexico. From the confluence of the West and North fork, the river travels south through Eureka and Howardsville, Colorado, before turning southeast to Silverton. From Silverton, the Animas travels due south through the Animas Canyon along the Silverton Narrow Gauge Railroad to the town of Durango. The stretch through the town of Durango was recently recognized as a Gold Medal Water and is arguably the best place to fish. The Animas is a large river with some sections spanning 100 feet wide. It is home to a number of trout species, but is most known for its rainbow and brown trout. While the majority of the trout you catch will be in the 18 to 20 inch range, it is home to some of the state’s biggest browns.
With the exception of early spring run-off, the Animas can be fished year round as the river doesn't freeze over given comparatively mild winter weather. Float fishing, via raft or drift boat, is a great way to go, but you are limited to a short window (late spring to early summer) depending on flows and snowpack. Otherwise, wading is another highly effective method of fishing. Wading allows you to take your time fishing the nooks and crannies and really seek out those trophy trout. Sight fishing is a must in times of high water clarity as these trout can be fairly skittish and selective. While freestones are often forgiving, the Animas can be humbling even for the most experienced angler. As far as aquatic bug life goes, midges are present year round and will entice trout in both nymph and adult dun (dry fly) form. In the spring and fall you’ll find BWOs and damselflies among other cross seasonal hatches. In summer, caddis are abundant, but you’ll also find PMDs, golden stoneflies, yellow sallies, green drakes and various terrestrials in the water. During this time, the hopper dropper action is particularly effective, but you can’t go wrong with a nymph rig, similar to the rest of the year. In fall and spring, streamers are effective as trout are particularly territorial and aggressive given spawn activity.
There are a number of great walk-in access points, but the easiest and most popular stretch is in the town of Durango. There is a seven mile stretch that starts at the 32nd bridge and runs all the way down to the Rivera bridge where you’ll find easy parking and public walk-in access. Otherwise, wading access is tricky inAnimas Canyon and south of Durango.
The most popular stretch to float is through town as it is all public water, allowing you to anchor down and get out of the boat and fish. There are a number of put-ins and take outs between the 9th Street boat launch/takeout and the Animas River takeout south of town. Otherwise, you can access the water via the Trimble Boat launch and takeout, north of town, in Animas canyon. This section see’s less pressure as it is mostly private. With this in mind, you cannot anchor down in private water and if flows are too low to float through without portaging, you may get yourself in trouble with landowners or Johnny Law.