Colorado Fly Fishing 3 min read

DIY Guide to Fly Fishing the Florida River in Colorado

Ken Sperry

Posted by Ken Sperry

May 23, 2024

Florida River near Durango Colorado

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.

Read on to learn more about where to go and what you’ll need for a successful fly fishing trip to the Florida River.

About 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

map of fishing access spots on the Florida River in Colorado

Get Directions to the Fishing Access Points shown above with the DIY Fly 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
  • Hoppers

Gear Recommendations

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.

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.

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.

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.

Looking for more places to fish? Visit our DIY Guide to the Best Fly Fishing in Colorado.

Featured image by  Hallott Photo