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.
Since early July, water temps on the Animas, near Durango, have consistently reached or exceeded 67 def F during peak heat hours. When water temps approach these levels, angler pressure can put trout at risk of survival as there is minimal dissolved oxygen in the water and they are already sluggish. As it stands, the CPW has imposed voluntary fishing restrictions after 12 pm between the 32nd street bridge downstream to the Rivera Crossing Bridge so as to protect current and future generations of trout. Regardless, the morning hours have been and will continue to be the most productive window to fish until air and water temps moderate. While water clarity is decent, it has been prone to swings when it rains. As such, keep an eye on the weather and be sure to give the water some time to clear up following periods of precipitation. Trout are holding idle in the deep and slow pools and runs most of the day, but have been prone to move in and out of the faster riffles and seams to feed on emerging bugs. Additionally, when there are no water clarity impairments, trout have been inclined to feed on surface flies. Midges are hatching sporadically throughout the day and we’re also seeing a fair number of tricos, PMDs, BWOs and caddis starting in the late morning. Double and triple nymph rigs will do most of the heavy lifting, but you’ll want to consider a hopper dropper as terrestrial activity continues to pick up and trout increasingly look to the banks for an easy meal. Otherwise, streamers and dry flies have been effective as well.
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.