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