Eventually, every angler likes a change of scenery. As gorgeous as the wide mountain streams and high altitude vistas of Colorado are, sometimes you just need something with a less rarified atmosphere and a bit more of the frontier flatland feel.
For anglers searching for something new, try the Los Pinos River near Durango. Known locally as “the Pine”, this river and its tributaries offer a delightful change of scenery.
Anglers visiting the Los Pinos can expect small stream fishing in designated Wild Trout Waters throughout the Weminuche Wilderness Area.
Fly Fishing the Pine River (Los Piños), Colorado
Stretching across much of the southwestern flatlands, the Los Pinos River has a definitive division point to its flow.
The Vallecito Reservoir bisects the Los Pinos into two distinct sections: the tailwaters including the Southern Ute Reservation and a large swath of private land, and wild trout streams northward of the reservoir from the borders of the wilderness area to the Continental Divide.
South of the reservoir, anglers with a permit may fish on tribal land near Bayfield, provided they have obtained prior permission.
North of the Vallecito Reservoir there are about 6 miles of private land. Steer clear of that section, and keep heading towards the Continental Divide through the canyon along the Pine River Trail. From here to the Continental Divide is prime backcountry fishing for a good 50 miles of river.
In terms of variety for wild trout species, it simply does not get better than the southwestern Weminuche Wilderness. Brook trout, rainbows, cutthroats, and browns can be found in abundance here.
The further you get from the Vallecito Reservoir, the bigger your fish will be. Many of the wild trout here are in excess of 10 inches due to their plentiful food supply of caddis, midges, and mayflies.
Special regulations govern this area, and the Colorado Division of Wildlife has a two fish possession limit with only artificial flies and lures allowed.
Los Pinos River Map, Fishing Access Sites and Boat Launches
Best Places to Fish the Los Pinos River
For the real river monsters, try your luck below Flint Creek, and keep heading north past the border of the Weminuche Wilderness Area. Larger cutthroats and brook trout are plentiful here.
Rainbows and browns are more common south of reservoir, but they tend to be smaller and are not considered wild trout. You will need to hike the Pine River Trail north to the public access area 3 miles beyond the private property of Granite Peak Ranch.
The further into the canyon you go, the better and bigger your catch will be, though the first two miles offer plenty of easy wading and bank fishing along the bottom of the sheer canyon walls.
If you’re willing to hike further in and aren’t above a little rock scrambling, the faster section of the canyon is less crowded and presents more of a challenge. The numerous boxed in sections of river combined with the faster current creates numerous pockets and riffles.
The wild trout in the area also tend to be less picky about what they will strike at, too. Meals flying by in the rapid flows here are few and far between compared to the quieter section of the river towards the canyon entrance.
Los Pinos River Flow and Current Conditions
LOS PINOS RIVER NEAR IGNACIO, CO
- Streamflow: 0.40 ft³/s
- Gage height: 1.04 ft
Best Time to Fish Los Pinos River
Prime time for trout along the Los Pinos River runs June to October due to the big caddis hatches during this time of year.
Thanks to its more southern climate, winter fishing is not a problem throughout this area, though the hatches tend more towards small mayflies and midges during that time of year.
In springtime, the flow is generally too strong even in normally quiet stretches, so you may want to avoid going too far north into the canyon when the water is high after runoff.
Best Flies for Los Pinos River
Major hatches include caddis, mayfly, and terrestrials during the peak summer months. Here are some of the recommended fly patterns for the Los Pinos River:
- Zug Bug
- Hares Ear
- Pheasant Tail
- Goddard Caddis
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)
Los Pinos River Fishing Tips
Bank fishing is typically recommended for most of the Los Pinos River whether you head north or south of the Vallecito Reservoir, but pack some waders if you plan on heading towards the northern stretch through the canyon.
The brush can get pretty thick along the banks of the canyon base. In some areas, you may be forced to wade in order to maintain a solid footing without snagging your line every other cast. A 9-foot rod with a 3- to 5-weight usually works best for this area,
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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Los Pinos River Fishing Reports
There are a number of area fly shops that publish Los Pinos River fishing reports. A few to check out are listed below.
Los Pinos River Trip Planning Tips
Durango, Silverton, and Pagosa Springs are the nearest large towns surrounding the Weminuche Wilderness Area.
All three are a short drive from the Durango-La Plata Airport (DRO) too, so you can hop a quick flight there from Denver via United Airlines. That short flight means less time driving and more time hiking and fishing, and it’s well worth the small additional cost.
Durango has numerous conventional accommodations with hotels, motels, and a good number of bed and breakfast places.
Pagosa Springs has a resort, and Silverton has quite a few places to stay as well. Check out what local vacation rentals may be available too, particularly if you will be visiting during the off-season for the area. Flexibility in the timing of your trip can easily lead to big savings on your stay.