Fly-fishing Voices

Feeder streams

Photo Credit: Robert L. Ortiz | The Southern Ute Drum

My definition of a feeder stream is a small stream that feeds or flows into or out of a large river or lake. I thought about this as I was fly fishing in a small stream that flows into the Gallatin River. The Gallatin River is a large river that is very popular in Montana and Wyoming. It is host to lots of fly fishers and rafters. The feeder stream I was fishing flows through Big Sky, Montana, has lots of parks, a river trail, a golf course, and great parking lots close to the river. It then feeds into the Gallatin. What it doesn’t have is an over-abundance of fly fishers. In fact, during the two days I fished it, I saw a total of two other fly fishers. I was also able to catch a large number of rainbow trout and one brown trout over 12 inches long. I caught all these fish on my favorite dry fly, a Royal Wulff. 

As I stood in this small feeder stream, catching a large number of fish, I began to think about the feeder streams in the Durango area. The reasons I like feeder streams are two-fold. First, as mentioned above, feeder streams don’t attract as many people as the more popular big rivers. Next, fish seem to really like migrating into and out of big rivers and lakes via small streams. It’s a win-win situation in my book. To find feeder streams around Durango, I suggest you get a San Juan National Forest map and look for the various streams. 

One area I like is the Dolores River area. The Dolores flows into McPhee Reservoir and is fed by several smaller rivers. The West Dolores flows along County Road 38 with multiple pull- offs to fish. For a twofer, go to Fish Creek then fish your way down to the West Dolores. Finish the day where the West Dolores intersects with the Dolores River. 

The Animas River is well known as it flows through Durango, but there are some great feeder areas. North of Silverton is Cunningham Creek. There are lots of campers in this area, but not an abundance of fly fishers. North of Purgatory, Cascade Creek flows into the Animas. However, to get to the confluence takes a long hike into Purgatory Flats. I did it when I was younger, it was great. Hermosa Creek also flows into the Animas. However, most of that area is private property, so be sure and ask before crossing a fence. Another overlooked small stream flowing into the Animas is Junction Creek. I have caught a number of good-size trout up and down Junction Creek that I am sure migrated up from the Animas. 

Lemon and Vallecito are two reservoirs that have several options for feeder streams. The Florida River flows into and out of Lemon. Again, the people using the campgrounds around the Florida River don’t put much fishing pressure on it. Similar to Hermosa, the property downstream from Lemon is mostly private. Just be aware of the signs. Vallecito has two rivers flowing into it. They are the Pine River and Vallecito Creek. Once again, private property along the Pine makes it difficult to access. Vallecito Creek has an abundance of accessible water and good-size fish coming upstream from the lake.  

While many fly fishers are attracted to the bigger rivers in hopes of catching “Moby Trout,” I really enjoy fly fishing without hundreds of my nearest and dearest friends close by. I am at the point in my fly fishing where size is just not important. I really enjoy being able to talk to myself without people around me hearing the good advice I’m giving myself. Get a map, study it, and find some feeders. I think you will enjoy them. 

To top