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By Leah Nott

Embracing the Durango lifestyle means immersing yourself in various activities like skiing, mountain biking, rafting, hiking, camping, and the myriad ways of spending time outside. Even sitting by the river provides a calming sensation. For me, the true magic unfolds while standing in the water in search of trout. I like to pass the time by waving around a stick with some string attached to it, otherwise known as fly fishing. It’s where time seems to stop, and the water reveals its wonders.

My journey into fly fishing began when I moved to Durango, inspired by the sight of anglers casting near the Fish Hatchery. I befriended the staff at Duranglers, approaching the fly shop with outdated gear and not knowing the lefts and rights of fly fishing.

“I know nothing about fly fishing,” I said. “Where do I start? Here’s my budget.”

That was the beginning of a great relationship with an outstanding local business. The support and guidance from local fly shops like Duranglers and San Juan Angler have been invaluable, providing more than information and gear; they’ve also introduced me to a community of fellow fishing enthusiasts.

As a beginner frequenting local fly shops, I learned that guided trips are often the best way to start learning. If you can take a guided trip, the knowledge it affords promises an unforgettable adventure. Expert guides share insights and techniques while leading the way to hidden gems along scenic rivers. With personalized instruction and access to exclusive fishing spots, new and experienced anglers can hone their skills and immerse themselves in the region’s natural beauty. A guided fishing trip in Durango is an unparalleled journey, no matter what time of year you choose to go.

If a guided trip is out of the cards for you like it was for me, San Juan Angler and Duranglers also offer gear rentals so you can get out on the water and start learning on your own. You might even glean wisdom from a friendly angler casting upstream.

Unlike many of the other activities of the region, fly fishing in Durango doesn’t have a specific season. Each part of the year offers unique opportunities and challenges. Spring heralds the arrival of abundant hatches, and trout eagerly rise to the surface to feed on fresh insects. Summer brings warmer temperatures and high water levels, presenting anglers with the chance to explore stretches of river inaccessible during the rest of the year. As autumn rolls in, trout become increasingly voracious in their feeding habits, preparing for the long winter ahead. Streamer fishing comes into its own during this time. Anglers tempt aggressive trout with larger, more apparent fly patterns.

In winter, anglers willing to brave the elements can find solitude on open waters. I find myself on the Animas River more often in the winter when the fish love to hunker down collectively in big holes. If you know how to fish the Animas, it’s some of the most fun you’ll have standing in cold water.

The Animas River, meandering through the heart of town, stands as a perennial favorite for many anglers. Its diverse waters are home to various trout species. Most commonly, the river teems with rainbow and brown trout, providing ample opportunities for novices and seasoned anglers alike. The Animas River drove me to learn more and explore neighboring rivers like the Piedra and San Juan tributaries.

While rivers provide challenges, I find myself in Durango’s secluded mountain streams for a more intimate experience. Cascade Creek and Lime Creek are among my favorites, rendering a refreshing change of pace in the summer when boaters fill the banks of the Animas. These streams are chock-full of brook trout, my favorite among the species. The quest for brookies requires navigating narrow channels with stealth and finesse, where dry flies reign supreme. Delicately placing these fake bugs on the surface of the creek requires focus and patience.

This captivating mix of techniques, from dry fly presentations on the surface to precise nymphing tactics under the current, presents a new take on enticing the fish out of their watery hideaways. Mastering the art of drift fishing is essential in the fast-flowing currents of the Animas, serenity of the Piedra, diversity of the Dolores, and stretches of the San Juan. Each river presents challenges and rewards, requiring me to adapt and evolve my approach.

Regardless of where I fish, there are two sayings I take on the water: it’s a different river every time you step into it, and always fish the FERBS: Foam, Eddies, Rocks, Bends, and Seams. Fishing here sharpened my skills and instilled a deep appreciation for each river’s dynamic nature.

The art of fly fishing transcends mere recreation; it becomes a journey of self-discovery and communion with nature. Durango’s rivers, creeks, and diverse aquatic ecosystems create a sanctuary for beginners and trout bums alike. As I navigate the rivers, each cast becomes a moment of connection with the rhythm of the water and the stillness of the surroundings. Whether casting for trophy trout or simply immersing myself in nature, the rivers and creeks of Durango call with a promise of adventure and whispering tales, beckoning all who seek solace amidst breathtaking natural beauty.


Duranglers Fly Shop and Guide Service

923 Main Ave, Durango, CO 81301

Open Monday-Friday 8 AM – 6 PM

(970) 385-4081


San Juan Angler

600 Main Ave STE 202 UPSTAIRS, Durango, CO 81301

Open Monday-Saturday 9 AM – 5 PM and Sunday 11 AM – 4 PM

(970) 382-9978


Gardenswartz Sporting Goods

863 Main Ave, Durango, CO 81301

Open Monday-Sunday 10 AM – 6 PM

(970) 247-2660

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