River Conditions in September
What does September mean to you? Cooling temps? Falling leaves? Football? Here in Durango it is what we know as a shoulder season. A shoulder between the height of summer and winter. Between the best summer dry fly fishing and powder skiing. A time of year where our tourism drops off for a little while and things slow down. For us it means a time to get out on the water with a lot less folks on the rivers. Less tubers, less rafters, and less fisherman. However, the fishing is still fantastic; and depending on where you are fishing, it can be the best time of year to be on the water.
Fortunately, the options for fishing will remain pretty vast in our little corner of the state. Depending on the weather, the high country will continue to be a great option for getting into some wild fish. The Animas is our most accessible local river and for good reason; it flows right through town. The fall may be the best time to be out on the Animas as the big browns are on the move getting ready for their yearly spawn. The San Juan will also continue to fish great without the summer crowds. Other great options to consider are: The Piedra River, Los Pinos River, Dolores River, and San Miguel River. Also keep in mind that big browns will be on the move from reservoirs into the rivers to spawn and will be looking for an easy meal in the mornings and evenings.
Keep in mind that Browns have a tough enough time spawning on their own without worrying about fisherman. Please, we would ask that you leave any and all actively spawning fish alone. They are more interested in propagating their species than eating. It is very interesting to watch fish that are on the redds, but please keep walking and refrain from fishing to them.
Insects and Natural Food Sources
San Juan – Hoppers! Midge pupa, larva, and adults. Annelids, aquatic worms, scuds, eggs, leeches, BWOs, caddis, and baitfish in the lower reaches.
Animas – BWOs, Sculpins, Fingerling Rainbow Trout, Crayfish, Hoppers, Salmonfly Nymphs.
Piedra River & Williams Creek – BWO’s, Hoppers, Caddis, Stonefly nymphs, Sculpin and baitfish.
Los Pinos River – (Below Dam) Hoppers, Midges, BWOs, Scuds, Baitfish & Leeches.
Dolores River Above Reservoir, Los Pinos Above Reservoir – Ants, beetles, Hoppers, BWOs, Sculpin, Mice.
Dolores River (Below Dam) – Hoppers, Midges, BWO’s, Flows are really low so fish are very skittish.
High Country Lakes and Streams – Hoppers, Ants, Beetles, Moths, Midges, BWOs. Damselflies, and Leeches in the lakes.
Recommended Fly Patterns
Animas, Rio Grande, and SW CO rivers: Hoppers in size 8-14 such as Chubby Chernobyl, Grillo’s Pool Toy, Olive Madam X, Turk’s Tarantula, Parachute Hopper. Green or black caddis larva and cased caddis nymphs, Hares Ear Nymph, Graphic Caddis, sparkle emerger sz. 12-18. This will be a streamer time of year: Olive Krystal Buggers, Meat Whistle, Autumn Splendor, Near Nuff Crayfish, Near Nuff Sculpin, Josh’s Ziwi in sizes 2-10. After a rain it may also be a good idea to pack a few Pat’s rubberlegs as well.
San Juan River: Hoppers in size 8-14 such as Chubby Chernobyl, Grillo’s Pool Toy, Royal Madam X, Turk’s Tarantula, Parachute Hopper. Olive and tan scuds sizes 14-18. 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.
For the high country streams and lakes; smaller dries will be in order Foam flying Ant, Foam Trude, Humpies, Royal Wulffs, Stimulators, Elk Hair Caddis, Turks Tarantula, and Parachute Adams on hand in sizes 8-18. If you must go under, a size 10 Olive and Brown Buggers, Copper Johns, and Pheasant Tails. If you are headed to a lake, make sure to have some Damselflies (small olive bugger), and certainly buggers.