Small area lakes for large amounts of fun

Don Oliver

It’s springtime in the Rockies, and as I’ve said before, the weather and run-off at this time of the year makes for challenging fly fishing. There are a couple of solutions. If you haven’t spent your children’s inheritance or grandchildren’s college fund, spend it now and head to warm weather and saltwater fly fishing. If those funds have been spent, or you just can’t get out of town, there is another solution. I suggest you fly fish the small lakes or impoundments in our area.  

By my count there are sixteen of these lakes within an hour’s drive of Durango. To the east along Highway 160 is Lake Capote. North of Durango, close to Silverton are Big and Little Molas, plus Andrews Lake. West of Durango, the rest of the small lakes are in the Mancos and Dolores area. Even though you can use a small outboard motor on some of these lakes, I think a trolling motor is a better power source. However, I think the best way to move around these lakes is in a kayak, float tube, canoe, or paddle board. If you don’t have any floatation equipment, many of these areas are great to fishing from the shore. In fact, if you have a youngster or grandchild that’s too young for fly fish, break the fly fishing rules and drown worms. It’s fun to hear the shouts of a youngster announcing his or her catch. 

One of the things I like best about fly fishing in these area lakes is the variety of fish in them. Depending on the lake, you can catch trout, bass, carp, pan fish, and catfish. One or two of the lakes have all of these species. It makes for an interesting day never knowing what is at the end of your line. Plus, you might end up with the ultimate grand slam. 

For fly fishing in these waters I like to use a five-or six-weight rod with a three-or four-X leader. Flies can be anything you use in the high country plus poppers, large dragon flies, big hoppers, or even mouse patterns. I have seen some fly fishermen use a nymph and indicator set up. If you want to catch a large number of fish, I think a green Wooly Bugger is your best bet. I don’t know why, but I seem to catch more fish, of all kinds, with it in the lakes. However, I like flies that float best. 

Safety while paddling or kicking around these lakes needs to always be considered. The water is cold, and in many cases deep. I never get into my float tube without wearing some type of life jacket. Waders full of cold water, in deep water, are an invitation for a tragedy.  

So, for this stay-at-home spring, invest in a San Juan National Forest map and go fly fish some of the small lakes. You’ll be glad you did. 


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