The 416 Fire – Where Can I Fish?

12 June 2018
Comments: 8

Category: Conditions, News
12 June 2018, Comments: 8

The 416 Fire – Where Can I Fish?

Ross with a solid Animas brown caught as the smoke plume of the 416 fire begins to rise in the background, this past Sunday.

Update!!!!! 6/20/18

Due to our fortunate weather and rains over the weekend, the Stage 3 fire restrictions will be lifted on Thursday, June 21st at 3:00 pm in the San Juan National Forest and BLM.  You can read more here.  La Plata/Durango properties are still under stage 3 restrictions buy may open shortly after.

This means that most backcountry rivers, creeks (Hermosa excluded), and lakes as well as the Piedra, Dolores, and Upper Pine will be open.  Please please please, use responsibly.  It only takes a wayward spark to set off another blaze, which is something we don’t need right now.  Get out, catch a pile of trout, and have fun!!!

So since our last update on the 416 Fire, a few things have changed.  The 416 Fire has grown (mostly into National Forest and the Hermosa Wilderness Area),  and most notably: the San Juan National Forest has issued stage 3 fire restrictions.  These restrictions have shut down access to any San Juan national forest area until the forest service determines that there is enough moisture to prevent further fires.  The reason for these restrictions to public land is that our National Forest service is currently at capacity fighting the 416 and Burro fires.  They cannot handle another fire, so to close the San Juan National Forest is the best move to prevent any human caused incident.  It is also to prevent any needed rescue operation for anyone caught in the back country during an unforeseen incident, be it human or nature caused.  Our firefighters and emergency crews are already working triple time to protect us and our communities.  Please don’t be an idiot and head out into closed areas thinking you have the situation under control, you don’t because nature is not controllable.  Violators will be hit with a $5000-$10,000 fine and face potential jail time…and should someone be the cause of another forest fire the consequences will be much higher.  Please don’t try to be a cool guy.  Respect our community, our firefighters, our livelihoods, and our lives by staying out of National Forest until the stage 3 ban is lifted.

So we are praying for rain.

416 Fire

So while we understand these closures and fully respect the gravity of this situation, it is still rough.  We have 2,000 homes currently evacuated, jobs have been furloughed, and businesses have had to cease operations until further notice.  Going into our busiest season of the year, it is also really hard to watch a large portion of the waters we fish and guide on close down until further notice.  This fire has given Durango an image that can make or break.  It’s hard on our shop AND our local economy that relies heavily on the summer season.

With bad news, comes good too: no one has been seriously injured by the fire (or killed), no structures have been destroyed, and we have seen an immense outpouring of kindness in our community for the firefighters and those displaced by evacuations.

A hearty Rio rainbow

So where can we fish?

With the closures of the San Juan National Forest, CPW properties, City, and County properties comes the question: where can we fish?  Thankfully we are blessed with an immense amount of great and fishable water in our area managed by a variety of entities that gives us options for fishing when situations like this arise.  Some of these options may also not be places you have considered fishing before either!

San Juan River – The world-renowned San Juan River is still very fishable right now and our guide trips have been catching lots of fish.  The section through the town of Pagosa Springs is open to public use.  Below Navajo Dam remains open and the fishing is fantastic.  We have been taking out many clients on float and wade trips, and at 650 cfs the Quality Water has been one of our favorite options.  The bait water is fishing great and flows at 650 have made the river below the town of Navajo Dam a  great float option as well.

One of the more unique aspects to the San Juan River quality waters is the option to chase carp in the backwaters and eddies of the San Juan.  Look for the flooded areas and ponds that you would typically walk by to access the main river, and you will find carp.

Animas River – The Animas is our local constant (plus flows are good right now).  The town stretch remains open and is fishing really damn fantastic.  To our knowledge, the boat launch at Trimble is also still accessible and a Valley float is an option.  The Ute Tribal waters are also open, so essentially a large swath of the Animas is an option.  We still have awesome wade and float trip options available on the Animas.

Through Aztec to the confluence with the San Juan, the Animas is an often overlooked fishery.  With the possibility of large trout around the state line and carp at the confluence…this one is worth a second look.

Rio Grande – We are still holding on to our Rio Grande float season where the dry fly fishing is fantastic.  We still have a couple days available for our floats.  Aside from the float fishing, the Rio Grande is in the Rio Grande National Forest (which is under stage 2 fire restrictions).  Which means the Rio and her tributaries are all open and fishable.

Rio Floats have been lights out lately

Vallecito Reservoir – Vallecito is open!  Well, most of it is opened.  The lands managed by Pine River Irrigation District will remain accessible, which is everything except the Forest Service campgrounds and the adjacent shorelines.  This still leaves a whole lot of the lake open and accessible to wade and boat anglers.  Plus, the smallie bite is on!  We have a few awesome guide trip options for Vallecito for bass and pike, so give us a call.

We have been notified that the managers and residents of Vallecito are acting in accordance with the Stage 3 fire restrictions.  Vallecito was on the list of closures along with McPhee and other lakes.  PLEASE don’t be the one who ruins it for everyone.  Local authorities will be extra vigillant to ensure these rules are being followed at Vallecito to keep lake recration open:

  1. No smoking outside of an enclosed vehicle or building. This includes no smoking on the shoreline, in boats, docks, boat ramp, on any waters and roadways.
  2. No mooring of boats on any part of the lake outside of the designated buoys to be left unattended to either fish or recreate/picnic on the shoreline.
  3. No lighting of any fires whatsoever in the county and at Vallecito.
  4. No parking of vehicles on any grasses or areas that are not designated parking places or roadways.

Navajo Reservoir – Smallmouth and largemouth bass are fishing fantastic on Navajo and a few pike are still around eating flies.  One of the more untapped fisheries on Navajo is the dry fly carp fishing.  Have you ever had tons of shots for carp who are eating dry flies?  We can show you what it’s all about.  If you need the saltwater fix without the saltwater price tag, Navajo is for you.

Puett, Pastorius, Totten, Summit, Narreguennip, Echo Reservoirs – We have also been notified that many local CPW properties are following suit with SJ National Forest and closing many of their managed lands until the stage 3 restrictions have been lifted.  HOWEVER!  These 6 reservoirs will remain open for now.  Please be aware of closures at any time should the weather/fire situation change.  We are permitted to guide on a handful of these reservoirs where we love to target trout, bass, pike, and carp on the fly.

Unfortunately, the Lower Dolores and Fish Creek which are managed by CPW will be closed until further notice.

McPhee Reservoir – McPhee has been closed to wade fishing…but the boat ramp is still open and fishing from a boat is an option.  We currently have some awesome trips for smallmouth bass on the fly on McPhee.

Ute Reservation Tribal Waters – All tribal waters on the Animas, Pine, Piedra, and San Juan is open.  However, be warned that at low flows the water can warm up and trout can become stressed.  Mornings and evenings are best.

Lake Capote – Capote is managed by the Southern Ute Tribe.  There is a $10 entrance fee…but that fee gives you shots at very big largemouth bass as well as trout and panfish.

BLM Waters and Lands – So far, the BLM has not closed down access to their managed properties.  What this means for fishing is many of the waters in and around Silverton are fishable.  The Upper Animas above Howardsville and Cunningham Creek are open and fishable.

The unfortunate news to this is that currently 550 is closed from the town of Hermosa to Cascade Creek due to the 416 fire…however 550 will open from Noon to 6pm tomorrow!  The long way through Telluride and Ouray are the other way around to get to Silverton.  It’s a longer drive but please go visit our northern neighbors in Silverton, this fire is hitting them hard.

San Miguel and Uncompahgre rivers – As you make the journey from Durango to Silverton through Telluride, make sure to stop and fish the San Miguel out of Telluride or the Uncompahgre out of Ridgeway.  Be aware of Burro fire traffic on 145 between Dolores and Telluride and could slow or shut down traffic.

Private Water – If you are one of the fortunate few to have private water access in our area, well count yourself lucky!  The Pine, Florida, and Piedra waters are fishing very well on private land.  If you don’t have access to these waters…well don’t sweat it!  We have some great private water guide trips available on the Pine and Piedra that offer anglers the opportunity to catch incredible fish.  (Please take special note that while you may be on private land, fires don’t abide by property lines.  Take every precaution to minimize or eliminate fire danger.  Don’t throw cigarette butts out, avoid campfires, and keep your grill contained!)

A serious Piedra fish caught this past weekend on the private water we guide on.

Huck Finn Pond – If you have to ask…maybe you shouldn’t fish here.  However, if you need to wet a line with a kiddo, go here.

Lake Nighthorse – As of now, it seems the City has decided to close Nighthorse until further notice.

As we learn more, we will update this page with additional info.

Please note that these updates are as of 6/13/18 at 3:20 pm and are subject to change.

Updated info on the 416 fire can be found here.

Andy McKinley
Andy manages Duranglers Flies and Supplies online store and web content. When he is not plugging away in the basement of Duranglers, he can be found in the shop talking weird flies, throwing spey casts for few fish, eating pizza, drinking coffee, painting, and raising a family in Southwest Colorado.

His fly fishing writings have been published on blogs such as the Daily Drake and Simms Wading Room.

8 responses on “The 416 Fire – Where Can I Fish?

  1. John Lissau says:

    What is it like on the Dolores? Upper and lower?
    Be there next week for some bluegrass

    John lissau

    • Hello John,

      Both the Upper and Lower Dolores are closed due to stage 3 fire restrictions. The National Forest has closed the upper sections and the Colorado DOW has closed the lower until stage 3 has been lifted. You can fish McPhee from a boat or head up to the San Miguel out of Telluride for some excellent trout fishing.

      Thank you!

  2. Ron says:

    Glad you can still fish where you can! People who are not from there or go there quite often have no idea of the devastiation these fires bring. Not just the fire but the run off and silt later, Hope the fire fighters are safe. My prayers are with you. The news media has grown cold for these fires that occur every year. It’s just old news to them. No Boordains or Boddies! The freakin trout are more important!

  3. james says:

    What about lemon resovoir

  4. Wow, these shots are epic! Nothing beats a lazy day on the river with rod and reel in hand…not to mention when you pull out some of those monsters!

    I hope the fire doesn’t affect too many people around there.

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