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Fly Fishing in Denver: Exploring Local Waters

The Hidden Treasures of Fly Fishing in Denver

When people think of fly fishing in Denver, their minds often drift to the miles of crystal-clear rivers deep in the Rockies west of the city. This was certainly the case for me when I first began visiting Denver. However, it wasn’t until I started speaking and visiting local fly shops that I realized there was some quality water not far from my front door.

Since those conversations, I’ve had countless opportunities to land impressive fish not far from the city limits. With a bit of creativity and hard work, you too can experience some beautiful fly fishing in the western United States.

Denver South Platte: Over 15 Species of Fish to Catch

The South Platte River is a legendary place for Colorado anglers. While the “dream stream” portion of the river is a ways away from the city, there is a portion known as the “Denver South Platte” that still produces a nice amount of fish. Stretching for 26 miles from the Chatfield Reservoir all the way to 120th Ave, this section of the river is home to approximately 750 fish per mile.

Trout, walleye, carp, bass, catfish, and a variety of other species can be found in the Denver South Platte. While the water may be somewhat cloudy compared to the pure waters of the mountains, there is plenty of food and fish to be had. Whether you choose to wade fish or fish from shore, exercise caution with your casting to avoid hitting anyone with your line.

Where to Fly Fish on “Denver South Platte”

There’s actually a trail called the “South Platte River Trail” that anglers can use to access the 26 miles of water that flows near Denver. Whether you want to bike, walk, or even take public transportation, you have a chance to land fish. Check out the access point near Johnson Habitat Park. From there, you can work your way up or down the river.

Clear Creek: Trout Water in the City

If you’ve traveled into the mountains from Denver, then you’ve driven past Clear Creek. Accessible starting in Golden, which is about 30 minutes west of Denver, this creek offers a great amount of public access in the “canyon” and right around Golden. Clear Creek is home to rainbow trout, brook trout, and brown trout.

While the creek can get crowded during the spring due to snow melt, the fishing starts to be productive in May as the snow subsides. The fish in Clear Creek are known to hit dries all through the summer, making it an ideal spot for dry fly fishing enthusiasts.

Where to Fly Fish on Clear Creek

To stay close to Denver, fish in Golden. The waters in Golden stay cold and fishable throughout most of the year. The “Golden Mile” of this creek, which starts above the kayak course near the whitewater park and flows to Vanover Park in downtown Golden, is a great place to start your fishing adventure. This section of water is easily wadable and offers excellent fishing opportunities.

South Boulder Creek: A Unique Experience

If you have the ability to travel about 40 minutes north of Denver and get to Boulder, you should consider fly fishing on South Boulder Creek. This tailwater creek flows out of the Gross Reservoir and is known for its population of brown trout, rainbow trout, cutthroat trout, and even brook trout. The stream is filled with large boulders and deep pools, offering a unique challenge to anglers of all skill levels.

Where to Fly Fish on South Boulder Creek

The tailwater section of South Boulder Creek is where you’re going to want to focus your time. The South Boulder Creek kayak run provides easy access. Park your vehicle and head down to the creek. From there, you can work your way upstream or downstream, boulder hop, or navigate along the shore. Take caution as the pools can be fairly deep, especially when wet wading.

Recommended Flies for the Denver Area

The flies you use are somewhat dependent on the water you’re fishing, but there are a few patterns that have worked well for me in the greater Denver area. Worm patterns, heavy buggers, Adams flies, and chubbies have all proven to be successful. The Crystal Bugger in size 6 is a great streamer pattern that consistently produces fish in Denver waters. Additionally, the Squirmy Worm is a favorite among the fish in the area, making it an excellent lead or trail fly on a nymph rig. For dry fly fishing, the Parachute Adams in size 18 is an ideal search pattern.

Recommended Gear for Fly Fishing in the Denver Area

When it comes to gear for fly fishing in Denver, it’s best not to overcomplicate things. A standard 9′ 5-weight moderate-fast or fast-action rod will work well. This type of rod allows you to throw dry flies, high-stick nymphs, and strip streamers effectively. The Orvis Clearwater Combo is a perfectly balanced option that comes with everything you need except flies. However, if you’re hoping to fly fish for carp in the South Platte, a heavier rig with a 7 or 8-weight rod would be more suitable.

Resources for Fly Fishing in Denver

Before hitting the water, it’s important to visit the Colorado Parks & Wildlife fishing page for information about locations and fishing license requirements. The High Plains Fly Fishing Club is a primary fly fishing club in Denver that offers information on events and opportunities for anglers of all skill levels. For guided trips and necessary gear, Trouts Fly Fishing and Ascent Fly Fishing are highly recommended fly shops in the Denver area.

In conclusion, fly fishing in Denver can be incredibly rewarding for those willing to explore the local waters. While many anglers are drawn to the mountains, the plentiful fishing opportunities closer to the city should not be underestimated. Whether you choose to fish the Denver South Platte, Clear Creek, or South Boulder Creek, be prepared with the right flies and gear to make the most of your experience. Happy fishing!

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