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Fly Fishing the Piedra River

by | Sep 2, 2022 | Fly Fishing | 0 comments

Fly Fishing the Piedra River is a unique experience in Southwest Colorado.

In fact, fly fishing the Piedra River allows anglers ample opportunity to do some fairly easy hiking. The Piedra River Trail is one of the more popular areas for hikers in that area. So the further you’re willing to walk, the fewer people and the more fish you’re likely to find. And if you’re like us, solitude is one of the primary reasons we put in the time and effort. While Southwest Colorado has many great rivers, the Piedra offers a unique experience in a beautiful landscape.

Above Williams Creek Reservoir, you’ll find a number of different creeks, including Middle Fork, East Fork, West Fork, and more. Each one is unique, rugged, and beautiful in its own way. Most are accessible by hiking deep into the Weminuche Wilderness, Colorado’s largest Wilderness Area at 499,771 acres. That’s why, when you’re fly fishing the Piedra River, it is a totally unique experience.

Fly fishing the piedra river.

Fly Fishing the Piedra River

Below Williams Creek Reservoir is the tailwater of this spillway, with sections of easy public access and limited open camping at USFS campgrounds (fee required). These are enjoyable sections for fly fishing the Piedra River from spring well into late fall providing an amazing backdrop of the San Juan Mountains. However, this once well-kept secret has recently seen a significant increase in public angling, so expect some pressured waters in the public sections just below the spillway.   

All of the creeks eventually spill into the Piedra River, starting the second Piedra Box Canyon. To access these more rugged stretches of river, drive up First Fork Road (from Highway 160), then park and hike either north upstream to the second box canyon or south downstream to the first box canyon into the box canyons. Keep in mind that this is an extremely remote country with questionable road conditions, so we highly recommend that you go with a guide or possibly a local friend.

Both boxes are hard to access at high water, but low water provides ample fishing and lots of bug diversity. Note that, when the river is raftable, it is generally considered a Class IV and is not good for fishing; only experienced boaters should attempt it, and turbidity conditions are so poor that fishing is extremely difficult. 

South of Highway 160, the Piedra River becomes harder to access. It is remote and surrounded by private or Southern Ute Tribal Land.

Expedition Outside has access to private ranches on the lower Piedra through the guide services of our partner, Duranglers (guides are required for these locations). 


Fly fishing the Piedra River just west of Pagosa Springs offers opportunities for anglers of all skills levels to catch giant rainbow and brown trout.

Piedra River Flies and Fish

Because of the high river gradient, you’ll find lots of good stonefly (which trout love) and salmon fly hatches. Later in the fall, the Piedra River gets a great hopper hatch, making dry-dropper fishing a lot of fun. 

The Piedra has mostly brown trout and some rainbow trout, but every now and then, you’ll find a brook or cutthroat trout in the Upper Box Canyon. It’s a pretty long walk to the Canyon. But the trail is not too bad and the scenery is epic. There is also an abundance of wildlife along the Piedra River trail from elk and deer to bears and even the occasional mountain lion.

If you are planning on fly fishing the Piedra River, take a few minutes to browse our private water offerings. While all of these rivers have public access points, you’ll soon discover that there is nothing more “Colorado” than spending the day on the untouched, pristine waters that only private access can offer. 



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