The Animas River is the most prominent river in southern Colorado with the headwaters forming in the San Juan Mountains and flowing all the way through to Farmington, New Mexico, joining the San Juan River system. This pristine river can be as wide as 100 feet in some areas and offers some absolutely amazing cold-water trout fishing year-round. The most prominent species in this river is the Rainbow trout, but Brown trout exceeding 20 pounds, Cutthroat trout, and Brook trout also call this river home. The Animas covers so much land that it is best broken into three sections: the headwaters, the town stretches, and the more untouched New Mexico stretch of river.
Animas River Headwaters
The headwaters begin in Silverton, Colorado in the high alpine of the San Juan Range where you are most likely to find the largest variety of fish. Cutthroat trout and Brook trout will be more heavily mixed in with the numerous tributaries including Molas Creek, Elk Creek, Sultan Creek, and Noname Creek. A large majority of the headwater is hard to access but very rewarding with a high fish count, crystal clear water, and TONS of public access. This section, like many Colorado alpine stretches, carries prolific midge and small fly life where you can be successful with flies like RS-2’s and WD-40’s year-round.
Animas River Town Stretch
The town stretch of the Animas is hands down the most popular among fly fisherman alike, but the popularity and pressure shouldn’t deter you! A busy day on the Animas is not like a busy day on the Arkansas or South Platte. Further north and public access makes this river a lot more wading friendly. The seven-mile stretch is a great place to get a line wet if it your first time fishing the Animas as it runs through the middle of Durango is entirely accessible by the public. The water is shallow enough to wade the full stretch and if you prefer to float you don’t need to worry about “whitewater hiking.” The bug life here is much larger than further north with BWO and Caddis hatches – it’s a dry fly fisherman’s dream.
The Animas River in New Mexico
Once out of the towns of southern Colorado and as you transfer into New Mexico you will want to bust out the drift boat or raft as the section becomes extremely remote. The fish count drops off a bit as the waters warm, but quality goes up with the lack of competition and abundant food. Following HWY 550 will be your best bet as access will be the easiest. As far as gear, you’ll definitely want to bring your whole fly selection. What fly you choose will be dependent upon the section you fish, but a good 9 foot 5wt should suite your needs no matter the section, as for leader 3x to 5x should be in your bag.
Pack your tackle box and head to the Animas River this weekend for some great fishing and beautiful sights! If you aren’t comfortable hitting the river alone yet or you’re just looking for a new experience, Fly Fishing Colorado offers guided fishing tours along the Upper Colorado River outside of Kremmling. Call us to book your adventure today!