After a disastrous accident flooded southwestern Colorado's Animas River with contaminated mining waste water, locals and visitors to the area have been looking elsewhere to cast a fly.
We stopped by Duranglers Flies and Supplies, who have been guiding and outfitting anglers since 1983. With permits on every good creek, river and stream within 90 miles, at any given time they have 10 to 15 guides on the water.
They had sold out of the standard guide book to fly fishing in the area, and a stream of customers was running through with the same question: where do we go?
From their Main Avenue shop, Jake Ballard gave us tips on clean water and hungry trout.
“This is high country season,” Ballard said. “That's the best place to be this time of year.”
He said mountain creeks are where it's at.
“It's a lot of smaller fish, but they're hungry,” he said. “Lots of dry fly action. Not a lot of technical fishing, just kind of hiking around in the creeks. They're really opportunistic feeders looking to eat, and have a short window to get some calories.”
Ballard said trout will be biting for the next six weeks.
“In the high country it will be cutthroat and brook trout,” he said. “On some of the bigger waters, rainbow and brown.”
From the water, he said the angling community is holding up in light of the Animas. He pointed out that while the spill is a tragedy, water pollution due to mining has long been an issue.
“It's a challenging river,” he said. “We've been dealing with a mine leaking into the Animas for how many years? It has affected the water quality.”
He did say, however, the surrounding vicinity is certainly filled with options.
“It's a great time to be in the area,” he said.
As curious anglers came and went, Ballard pointed most of them to the north east high country creeks. Later, he admitted he spends a lot of time south, on the San Juan River in New Mexico.
“We fish that quite frequently,” he nodded.
Ballard's seven go-to spots. He recommends size 14 to 18 attracter dry flies.
Hermosa Creek: This easy access creek is the site of a recent trout restoration project. “Lots of public access and a great place for cutthroat trout.”
Cascade Creek: “It's a bit more challenging,” he said. “A steeper gradient. Lots of pocket water. Lots of brook trout up there.”
Lime Creek: “There's two miles where the road that follows the creek, and those are great options.”
Pine River and Vallecito Creek: “The Pine is three miles of hiking over flat meadows through private property to get to public,” he said. “Vallecito is one mile. Those are both high mountain creek situations.”
The Piedra: “There are three and a half miles of catch and release fly and lure only, and all barbless flies there.” The Stonefly population is also ideal here.
The Dolores: above the town of Dolores and below McPhee Reservoir.
San Juan in New Mexico, a local favorite. “That's the San Juan Quality Waters,” he noted. Four and a quarter miles of pristine angling.