River Conditions in April
Unexpected weather is a Durango Spring certainty, but our April fly fishing report might help you succeed on the river. We woke up this morning to an inch of snow and 30 degree temps. By the afternoon it was 60s and sunny. Be prepared for anything! With fluctuating weather patterns comes fluctuating flows. Fluctuating flows means timing can become crucial. Watch the flows and get out on the water during a cooling period when the flows seem to be dropping. Some of the best days can be had this way. However, with changing weather patterns, you may check the flows the night before with everything looking great, only to show up the next morning with the river very off color. Do not be discouraged! Bigger, darker bugs will still bring in the fish, and you may tow in a slab as off color water tends to draw out the larger fish.
April is also the month that many rivers that have been inaccessible or unfishable are now are open! The San Juan and the Animas are our constant producers; but the Piedra, Los Pinos, Williams, Florida, San Juan in Pagosa Springs, Dolores, San Miguel, Gunnison, and Uncompahgre are all picking up. As stated before, if your river of choice looks to be murky and off color; don’t forget that the San Juan, Williams, Los Pinos, Florida, Dolores, and Uncompahgre are all tailwaters. Please also note that the city of Durango is doing work on Smelter rapids until April 15th. This means that the water can be off color for about 2 river miles below the river. This is not necessarily a bad thing and can produce some great feeding lanes with all the bugs being kicked up.
Local flatwater is completely iced of and fishing great. Navajo, Puett, Totten, Pastorius, Summit, Vallecito, Lemon, and McPhee are in full on spring mode. Call the shop or stop in for a daily report and also keep in mind that pike fishing is going off for those interested in something slightly more vicious.
Insects and Natural Food Sources
There are a few food sources of note here in Southwest Colorado in April. They are: midges, baetis (blue wing olives), stonefly nymphs, caddis larva, eggs, aquatic worms, cranefly larva, baitfish and sculpins. The midges and baetis will be in full effect and fantastically fishable with clear water. If the water has turned slightly off color or the small bugs are not doing it, tie on a stonefly nymph, caddis larva, aquatic worm, or cranefly larva. Off colored water usually means weird things are being kicked up and washed through the river system, so don’t be afraid to get creative. If all else fails (or if nothing else sounds as fun), olive, brown, and black streamers…and hit it hard, make it move. If there is anything we can say about streamer fishing it is this: if you want to be successful, make the fish work for it. They will. Here is another tip for you avid streamer fisherpersons, if you are fishing a bright clear day and crystal clear water, try tying on a light streamer such as a rainbow trout fingerling imitation. You may be surprised.
Baetis will also be in full effect on the San Juan below Navajo Dam. Dry fly action will pick up in the afternoons. If they are not eating your baetis dry; tie on a smaller midge dry. As the San Juan is a tailwater: midge larva, midge pupa, midge, emergers, and midge dries will always be on the menu. Other food sources to be aware of are: eggs, annelids, aquatic worms, and leeches.
If you are ready to try your hand at pike, then large pike and saltwater streamers in olive or black will be the go to starting at 5 inches up to 9 inches with larger being better. If you see crayfish in the water, this is also a pike a delicacy. Meat Whistles, Clouser Minnows, or anything large with a jigging action will work great.
Recommended Fly Patterns
Animas and other SW CO rivers: Baetis size 16-20: Juju Baetis, Tungsten Micro Mayfly, Foam Wing RS-2, WD-40, Black Copper John, BWO Comparadun, Sparkle Dun, . Midges Sz. 16-20: Green, black, tan or white; size and color matter more than pattern. Green or black caddis larva and cased caddis nymphs sz. 12-18. Dark stonefly nymphs sz. 10-14 such as a 20 Incher Stone, Prince Nymph, Black Wolly Bugger, Pats Rubberlegs. Streamers: anything that is big, meaty, and has lots of action in the water. Kiwi Muddler, Rainbow Trout Fingerling, Black or Olive Buggers, and Animas River Special. Egg patterns, Sz. 16 in orange, pink, and cherise. Barr’s Cranefly Larva or a wooly worm in size 6 or 8 if you so choose to tie on a cranefly.
San Juan River: BWO’s Sz.18-22; Two Bit Hooker, Juju baetis, WD-40s, Pheasant Tail, RS-2s, CDC Comparaduns. Midges Sz.18-26; Scissorbill Special, Red Brassie, Big Mac, Griffith Gnats, and Zebra Midges. Brown, Olive, and White bunny leaches or buggers of the same color. Tan chamois Leeches size 16. Red annelids Sz. 20-22. San Juan Worms, Sz. 16-20 in tan, pink, or orange. Egg patterns, Sz. 16 in orange, pink, and cherise. Rainbow Trout streamers in the lower stretches of the river such as T&A Rainbow.
If you are after pike, then Engler’s Pike Fly is a good choice. Barry’s Pike Fly, Clouser Minnows, Meat Whistle, and very large Buggers. Try flies in black, olive, purple, red, and white.