Presenting some of the most challenging fly fishing south of Durango, the Florida River is a 62 mile tributary of the Animas River in Southern Colorado.
The length of the river is divided into two sections by the Lemon Reservoir, with upper section extending far into the Weminuche Wilderness.
There is good fishing to be had south of the reservoir, provided you have permission to be on private land there.
The best stretch of water for big rainbows and browns, however, is found in the upper reaches of the Florida River.
Fly fishing Florida River above Lemon Reservoir near Durango, Colorado
The main attractions for the Florida River are rainbows and browns, but there are sizeable brook trout to be had as well.
The more publicly accessible areas near the reservoir tend to be heavily fished though, so unless you are visiting just after runoff or in the middle of the summer peak season, you may not find many of the trout are particularly interested in what you have to offer.
Most local anglers and veterans of the Florida River believe it is best to leave these areas be for the weekend bait fisherman, and instead make the hike northward into Weminuche.
Bear in mind that traversing the area north of the Lemon Reservoir is not for the faint of heart, and it can be hard going even for experienced hikers along the trail that follows the river.
If you are up to the trip though, it is well worth the effort for monster rainbows and brown trout that often exceed 20 inches.
Florida River Fishing Map
Best Places to Fish the Florida River
The best access for any part of the Florida River is found by the Lemon Reservoir, which you can reach via County Road 240.
This road follows the course of the Florida River all the way to the reservoir, and there are a few pull offs and stops where you can try your luck.
This is the most heavily fished area of the river though, and typically doesn’t yield much in the way of big catches.
The banks of the Lemon Reservoir itself present better opportunities for anglers, but it typically only yields big trout early in the season just after runoff.
Anglers who believe they are up to some challenging back country hiking can follow the very rough Forest Road 597 to the trailhead of the Burnt Timber Trail No. 667 at Transfer Park Campground.
If you are willing to hike the first couple miles into the canyon here, there are some amazing pools and waterfalls that seldom see an angler for months or years at a time.
Best Time to Fish the Florida River
After runoff until the late fall is prime fishing season on the Florida River.
The biggest hatches of caddis, mayfly, and stonefly are all during the summer and early autumn months. Midges and forage fish are on the menu year round. The real monsters venture out of their depths more often during the major hatches of the year.
Runoff season makes the Florida nearly unfishable, and until the ice is off the reservoir it isn’t really any good for anything except ice fishing.
Keep in mind that if you are visiting during peak season on the southern reaches of the Florida that it is a popular fishery and you may have to venture further north into the Weminuche to find those bigger fish.
Best Flies for Florida River
Effective fly patterns for the Florida River include:
- Copper John
- Hares Ear
- Peeking Caddis
- 20 Incher
- Yellow Sally
- Elk Hair Cadis
- Royal Wulff
Ventures Fly Co. offers a great selection of dry flies, nymphs and streamers that will catch fish just about anywhere. Set includes 40 high quality, hand-tied flies (see list below) and waterproof fly box.
- Adams Dry Fly
- Elk Hair Caddis
- Blue Wing Olive
- Royal Wulff
- Griffith's Gnat White
- Stimulator, Organge
- Chernobyl Ant
- Rubber Leg Nymph, Brown
- BH Pheasant Tail Nymph
- BH Prince Nymph
- BH Hare's Ear Nymph
- Barr's Emerger Nymph
- Zebra Midge Nymph, Black
- Wooly Bugger, Black (Size #8x2)
- Wooly Bugger, Olive (Size #8x2)
Florida River Fishing Tips
A 9-ft 4-wt is really all you need for the Florida River. Waders are helpful regardless of where or when you fish, but keep in mind that you will have to lug them over some rough trail if you are going into the Weminuche.
Below are recommendations for essential gear to make the most of your time on the water.
Quality rod, reel, line and rod tube at a reasonable price. Backed by Orvis 25-yr guarantee, a brand you can trust.
High performance nylon leader, great for fishing Dry Flies, Nymphs and Streamers.
Excellent knot strength, stretch and suppleness make this the finest nylon tippet. 3-pack of the sizes you'll need the most.
Heavy duty, waterproof, yet breathable. If you are tough on waders, these are for you. Backed by Simms Wader Warranty. If they leak, they got your back.
Most durable, yet comfortable, boot on the market. Excellent foot and ankle support. Great for rocky rivers. Lightweight and designed for all-day wear.
Sweet pack with ample storage. Unique harness system reduces neck strain. Sleek tapered face improves visibility - you can see your feet when wading!
Durable and lightweight. The carbon fiber frame floats. Hooks don't get stuck in the rubber mesh bag . Extra length makes it easier to net fish. Simply the best nets on the market.
Tough, waterproof and priced right. Hold 900+ flies in slotted foam. If you need more storage - you have too many flies!
Simple, sharp nippers at great price. Clip on retractor keeps this must have gear at your fingertips.
Strong with a fine tip. Perfect for removing split shot and hooks. Simply the best fishing pliers.
The 580 Glass polarized lenses are super clear and somehow relaxing on the eyes. Game changer.
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Florida River Fly Fishing Reports
There are a few area fly shops that publish Florida River fishing reports. A few to check out are listed below.
Florida River Fishing Regulations
Aside from the private property south of the reservoir, the banks of the Florida are on public land, and standard Colorado Division of Wildlife fishing regulations apply. No more than four fish per day per angler of any species of trout, and possession limit is also four fish.
Florida River Trip Planning Tips
Durango offers a regional airport and numerous traditional accommodations in the form of hotels and motels that are all a short drive from the Florida River.
If you prefer bed and breakfasts or ranch accommodations to staying in a hotel, there are plenty of privately owned places that will be more than happy to book you a reservation.
There are also campgrounds along the county and forest roads along the Florida River as well. There are local RV parks and camping ground closer to town as well.
Durango is a popular place for fly fishing in the summer and fall seasons though, so be certain to book well in advance.
Don’t forget to check out local vacation rentals as well, as many anglers on a budget often find great deals on a place to stay depending on the time of year they visit.
Featured image by Hallott Photo