Best Patterns Sub-surface
Yel. Stone Nymph
Best Patterns Surface
Yel. Stone Dry
Upstream fm Hwy 160 on San Juan National Forest
Fly & lure catch & release lower CG to Piedra bridge – Huge Stonefly pop.
The Piedra River is one of our favorite streams in southern Colorado. A small river flowing through granite box canyons and tilting sedimentary rocks, the Piedra is more intimate than most other streams draining the San Juans. The complex stream structure and currents make each section of the Piedra interesting and plucking trout from its waters challenging. Add to that the fact that the Piedra is a wild stream with few miles accessible by vehicle and you’ve got nearly perfect trout water.
The Piedra can be divided into three distinct sections. The headwaters drain from the Continental Divide in the Weminuche Wilderness. The East Fork of the Piedra is virtually inaccessible, flowing through a trailless forest above Piedra Falls; part of the Middle Fork of the Piedra is paralleled by Forest Road 636, but most of the stream lies in rugged canyons in the wilderness and can be explored only by strong hikers.Between Forest Road 631 to the east and U.S. 160 on the west, the main Piedra flows through a narrow 24-mile valley broken by two box canyons. This long stretch of hike-in water is a prime fly-fishing section of the river.This section of river is managed with special regulations, catch and release and flies and lures only.Below U.S. 160 the river flows across a broad valley on private land and the Southern Ute Indian Reservation.
The Piedra supports a large population of browns, rainbows, and cutbows, with many fish in the 12- to 14-inch class. On a good day fish seem to charge out from every lie to take flies. Just up from the U.S. 160 bridge near Lower Piedra Campground stocked rainbows dominate, but most trout in the long central valley are wild fish. Deep pools hold difficult-to- fool browns. Most of the rainbows are wild, strong, hard-fighting fish; the browns are wily fighters who often jump and who use rocks and currents to help them do their best to snap leaders.
The upper forks of the Piedra offer miles of virtually untouched trout streams. Both the East and Middle Forks head well within the Weminuche Wilderness and offer miles of trailless, difficult-access fly fishing for brook trout and cutthroats. Downstream from the wilderness area the East Fork flows mainly through private land, but the Middle Fork offers 5 miles of excellent water within a half mile of Forest Road 636. The stream and road come together about 1 mile north of the junction with Forest Road 637. From that point to the Middle Fork Trailhead the river flows just east of the road, and it is only a short walk to reach the water.
The East and Middle Forks join amid the rolling grasslands north of Pagosa Springs, and just below the confluence the main Piedra River enters a narrow valley. The river flows at the foot of Devil Mountain through sedimentary rocks turned nearly on end. Walking through the valley is easy most of the way, as is access to the stream. However, the sedimentary layers are broken by faults that bring ancient hard granite to the surface. The faults create two box canyons, not too creatively named First and Second Box Canyons as encountered by those heading upstream. Access to these rugged double canyons is difficult, and wading through them, when it is possible, requires extreme caution.
A large population of stoneflies is found in the Piedra, especially in and below the Second Box. Both Pteronarcys and Hesperoperla are found in the swift water. During the hatch and throughout the rest of the year, stonefly nymphs are an excellent pattern choice on the river. Any favorite nymph pattern will do: a Giant Black Stone, Brooks Stone, or Bitch Creek Nymph. Although the stream is known as stonefly water, sporadic mayfly hatches occur throughout the day in summer, and caddis are occasionally seen in the afternoon. High-floating, high-visibility attractor flies work well in midsummer. The House and Lot, Humpy, Renegade, and Parachute Adams are some local favorites to try.
The Piedra River area is a wonderful place to spend a weekend.Over three dozen bird species live along the river, marmots hide in the rocks, and bear sign is common. With the abundance of trout and trout lies, one can fish all day and cover only a mile of stream. Start walking from any of the trailheads and force yourself to walk in a mile or two. It won’t be easy to pass up the inviting stretches that you pass, but you can always fish them on the way out. You will rarely be disappointed by doing this.
The Above Information on the Piedra 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