Williams Creek is a major tributary of the Piedra River north of Pagosa Springs. It is easier to access than the other 2 streams on our list, and because of that it will see a little more pressure, but it is still a great place to get away from the big crowds. Just like our other 2 entries, Williams creek is divided into two sections by a reservoir, aptly named Williams Creek Reservoir. The section above the reservoir is a mix of rugged canyons and deep plunges, with the water opening up into meadows at about the 4-mile mark. The upper section is best done on an overnight trip, packing up to the meadows to set camp, then fishing the meadows and back down through the canyon. There is not an abundance of fish in the upper stretch, but the ones that are there can grow up to 16 inches with relative ease. Fish the slower water around boulders or bends in the stream for your best results.
The section below the reservoir runs for about 6 miles through beautiful meadows braced by volcanic spires and domes as it flows to its confluence with the Piedra. Just before it drains into the main stem, it flows through a rugged canyon that sees very little angling pressure. The meadow section is best fished closer to the confluence, as just below the dam there are 2 campgrounds, Williams and Bridge, that see more angling pressure than the rest of the stream. Browns and rainbows up to 16 inches dominate this stretch, with some bigger specimens caught each year. Just like most of the Piedra drainage, Williams Creek is teeming with bugs. Salmonflies, Golden stones, multiple species of mayflies up to #12, and caddis are all abundant in this stream, but the stoneflies reign supreme. The larger salmonflies usually hatch in mid-June during the height of runoff, which can make dry fly fishing tough at best. By the time runoff has subsided in late June to early July, the golden stones and grey drakes are coming off and fish are generally looking up. For those deeper pools, prospecting with a weighted stonefly nymph like a Pat’s Rubberleg stone or 20 Incher could potentially produce a big fish. To fish the canyon stretch just above the confluence, it is best to hike the Piedra River trail downstream to the footbridge that crosses Williams Creeks, then pushing up the creek into the canyon. High floating dries and weighted nymphs should be used in the swift, tumbling waters of the narrow canyon. The fish here see very few flies on any given year, so attractors and terrestrials should work just fine.
Through the summer, it’s a dry/dropper kind of water on Williams Creek (and most of the Piedra), however, in the shoulder seasons of spring and fall, Williams is a great Euro nymphing spot. With the quick current and plunge pools, your favorite quick sinking euro nymphing setup will work great. We typically fish 2-3 weight rods in 10′ or 10′ 6″ rigged with a simple single tungsten jig, or an anchor fly such as a Jigged Pat’s or the Duracell Jig with an unweighted Pheasant Tail on a tag dropper above.
Williams Creek is accessed by Piedra Road which is just west of the town center in Pagosa Springs. When driving on Highway 160 from Durango, the left-hand turn that heads north towards the reservoir is hard to miss. The road transitions into a gravel road just a couple of miles north of Highway 160. The gravel section, now known as Forest Service road 631, is well maintained and suited for all vehicles. After crossing the main stem of the Piedra near the Piedra River trailhead, the road parallels Williams Creek up to the dam and continues around the lake to the upper Williams Creek Trailhead, which accesses the upper wilderness stretches of the creek.
As fly anglers, we often look for moments of silent contemplation while casting our bugs amongst the riffles and pools of our favorite trout waters. With more and more people taking up the sport each year some of those silent moments we crave have been harder and harder to find. We hope this guide will do you well with finding those pristine and untouched places where you’d swear the trout had never seen a fly.