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Fly Fishing in Denver: Exploring the Hidden Gems


Denver is often associated with its stunning rivers nestled deep in the Rockies, but there is more to fly fishing in the area than meets the eye. As a novice angler, I was pleasantly surprised to discover the abundance of quality water just a stone’s throw away from the city. With a little creativity and hard work, you can experience the beauty of western United States fly fishing right on your doorstep.

Denver South Platte: A Paradise for Anglers

The South Platte River, known as the “Denver South Platte,” is a legendary spot for Colorado anglers. Although the iconic “Dream Stream” is located quite a distance away from the city, the Denver South Platte offers ample opportunities to catch an impressive array of fish. Spanning 26 miles from the Chatfield Reservoir to 120th Ave, this stretch of river is home to over 15 species, including trout, walleye, carp, bass, and catfish. While the water may not be as pristine as that in the mountains, the abundance of food ensures a successful fishing experience.

Whether you choose to wade or fish from the shore, the Denver South Platte provides ample opportunities to land fish. However, it’s essential to be mindful of your casting and avoid hitting others with your line. One of the best access points for fishing along this river is near the Johnson Habitat Park. From there, you can explore the water upstream or downstream, taking advantage of the 26-mile trail conveniently named the “South Platte River Trail.”

Clear Creek: Trout Water in the City

If you have ever driven into the mountains from Denver, you have likely passed Clear Creek. Located about 30 minutes west of the city in Golden, this creek offers excellent trout fishing opportunities. With a vast amount of public access both in the canyon and around Golden, Clear Creek is home to rainbow trout, brook trout, and brown trout. While the creek can be crowded during the spring due to snow melt, the fishing becomes productive once the water subsides in May. Throughout the summer, the trout readily take dries, making it an angler’s delight.

When fishing on Clear Creek, the “Golden Mile” is a great starting point. This section begins above the kayak course near the whitewater park and flows to Vanover Park in downtown Golden. By wading through this area, you can easily explore the creek and enjoy a fruitful fishing experience.

South Boulder Creek: A Unique Experience

For those willing to travel about 40 minutes north of Denver, South Boulder Creek in Boulder offers a unique fly fishing experience. This tailwater stream flows out of the Gross Reservoir and is home to brown trout, rainbow trout, cutthroat, and even brook trout. Known for its large boulders and deep pools, South Boulder Creek challenges anglers to showcase their skills while enjoying the clarity of the water.

To make the most of your time on South Boulder Creek, focus your attention on the tailwater section. The South Boulder Creek kayak run provides easy access, allowing you to park your vehicle and head down to the creek. From there, you can explore upstream or downstream, bouldering hopping or moving along the shore. Be cautious of deep pools and practice safe wet wading techniques.

Flies and Gear Recommendations

The choice of flies depends on the specific water you are fishing, but there are a few patterns that have consistently produced results in the greater Denver area. When fishing these waters, consider using worm patterns, heavy buggers, and Adams flies. Chubbies and ant patterns have also proven to be successful in landing fish.

A crystal bugger, size 6, is an excellent streamer option for Denver waters. Its dark coloration with black material and green flash makes it irresistible to fish all year round. Additionally, using squirmy worms as a lead or trail fly on a nymph rig can prove surprisingly effective.

For dry fly fishing, a parachute Adams in size 18 is the go-to pattern. When uncertain about what is hatching, this fly serves as an ideal search pattern. Its productivity is especially notable during late evening as the sun sets.

When it comes to gear, a standard 9′ 5-weight moderate to fast action rod will suffice for most fishing in the Denver area. This versatile rod allows you to throw dry flies, high stick nymphs, and strip streamers. The Orvis Clearwater Combo is a well-balanced setup that makes fly fishing in Colorado a breeze. However, if you are specifically targeting carp in the South Platte, a heavier rig, such as a 7 or 8-weight rod, is necessary to handle the larger fish.

Explore the Denver Fly Fishing Community

Before heading out to fish in Denver, it is essential to familiarize yourself with the resources available in the area. The Colorado Parks & Wildlife fishing page provides valuable information on locations and fishing license requirements. Additionally, consider engaging with local fly fishing clubs such as the High Plains Fly Fishing Club and the Colorado Women Fly Fishers Club. These clubs offer opportunities for anglers of all skill levels to connect and learn from one another.

When it comes to fly fishing guides and fly shops, Trouts Fly Fishing and Ascent Fly Fishing are excellent choices in Denver. Both establishments offer guided trips, expert advice, and a wide selection of fishing gear and flies.


While many anglers flock to the mountains, overlooking the waters closer to the city of Denver is a missed opportunity. With perseverance and a willingness to explore, you can find hidden gems and experience the beauty of fly fishing in the western United States right in your own backyard. So, don’t wait any longer—grab your fishing gear, explore the local waters, and discover the wonders that fly fishing in Denver has to offer.

About the author: Danny Mooers is a high school English teacher in Arizona with a love for fly fishing. Having grown up in Minnesota, Danny’s passion for fishing evolved from experiencing various types of angling. His summers spent in the western United States during college deepened his fly fishing obsession. Now, Danny considers it a dream come true to share his knowledge and love for fishing through writing, striving to make it accessible to anglers of all skill levels.

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