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.
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.
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.
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
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,
There are a number of area fly shops that publish ABC River fishing reports. A few to check out are listed below.
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.
Ken is an avid fisherman of 40+ years who loves to explore and find new places to fish. He created DIY Fly Fishing to help you do the same.
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