Best Patterns Sub-surface
Best Patterns Surface
Elk Hair Caddis
San Juan Nat’l Forest upstream of Transfer Park
Rugged canyon – no trails above Transfer Park
Florida is a Spanish word, pronounced flow-REE-da, meaning “lush” or “flowery.” The valley of the Florida River is indeed verdant as the river flows out of the San Juan Mountains to the Animas River. Like the Los Pinos River just to the east, the Florida is divided into two sections by a reservoir, in this case Lemon Reservoir. Below the dam the river is entirely private and anglers must have permission to fish. Some public water is found in the miles above the reservoir, but the best fishing on the stream is in the Weminuche Wilderness. Unlike the Pine, access to the Florida in the wilderness is difficult at best. Angling the Florida is for the most adventurous of fly fishermen.
Lemon Reservoir is smaller and less developed than nearby Vallecito Reservoir. Lemon Reservoir can be fly fished from the banks, from pontoons, or from small boats. Rainbows are the most common trout in the reservoir, and some are over 20 inches. Most attractive to anglers is the presence in spring and early summer of very large brown trout. Midges and forage fish are the most important food sources.
Above Lemon Reservoir the Florida flows through 2 miles of private land. Public water is found between Florida and Transfer Park Campgrounds. With easy access along a gravel road this stretch of the river is fished hard and is best left to the bait fishermen.
Access to the Florida from the end of Forest Road 597 presents the angler with a challenge. Trail 667 begins at Transfer Park Campground and heads north into the wilderness but never comes close to the river. No trail parallels the river from Transfer Park to City Reservoir. The first 2 miles of the river canyon above Transfer Park are very rugged. Those who bushwhack into this rugged area will be rewarded for their efforts with spectacular waterfalls, deep pools, and secluded canyons where few anglers ever venture.
Access to the upper third of the Florida River is easiest from Forest Road 597 and the Endlich Mesa Trail. The trailhead is at the end of Forest Road 597, a long and rough road. The Endlich Mesa Trail leads in 6 miles to City Reservoir and the wide meadows of the Florida below the dam. Only experienced backcountry travelers should attempt this trip because the trail is often difficult to follow. For detailed descriptions of the Endlich Mesa Trail, consult the trail guides for the Weminuche Wilderness or contact the Forest Service office in Durango.
Above City Reservoir, the Florida is a small stream running through a narrow glacial valley. Glacial moraines impound the stream into several small lakes. In the upper valley the scenery is more attractive than is the fishing for small cutthroats.
The difficult fly fishing on the Florida River will not be attractive to every angler, and beginners should take some time to hone their skills on other rivers before going there. Those who are willing to put in the necessary effort to discover its scenic wonders as well as its secret trout holes will be amply rewarded with much more than wild trout.
The Above Information on the Florida River is excerpted from the book “Fly Fishing Southern Colorado” by Craig Martin, Tom Knopick and John Flick. It is reprinted courtesy of Pruett Publishing Company. All Rights Reserved.
Copyright 1997, 2007 by Craig Martin, Tom Knopick, John Flick