When people think of fly fishing in Denver, their mind often drifts to the miles of crystal clear rivers deep in the Rockies west of the city. This was the case for me when I first began visiting Denver. 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 opportunity after opportunity to land impressive fish not far from the city limits. With a bit of creativity and hard work, you can experience some beautiful Western United States fly fishing.
Denver South Platte – Over 15 Species of Fish to Catch
The South Platte River is a legendary place for Colorado anglers. The “Dream Stream” portion of the river is a ways away from the city, but there is a portion known as the “Denver South Platte” that is still going to produce a nice amount of fish. It runs for 26 miles from the Chatfield Reservoir all the way to 120th Ave.
There are assumed to be around 750 fish per mile! You’ll find trout, walleye, carp, bass, catfish and a variety of other species that you can land. Each time I fish it, it’s somewhat cloudy, but I always have success. No, it’s not the pure waters you’d find in the mountains, but there is plenty of food and fish.
Wade fish or fish from shore! Either way, you have a chance to land fish. Be careful with your casting! River load as much as possible because you don’t want to hit anyone with your line.
There’s actually a trail called the “South Platte River Trail” that anglers can use the 26 miles of water that flows near Denver. Almost all of this water is accessible! Whether you want to bike, walk or even take public transportation, you have a chance to land fish. Check out this access point below near Johnson Habitat Park! From there, you can work your way up or down river!
If you’ve traveled into the mountains from Denver, then you’ve driven past Clear Creek. You can access it starting in Golden which is about 30 minutes west of Denver. You’ll find a great amount of public access in the “canyon” and right around Golden. Clear Creek holds a nice population of rainbow trout, brook trout and brown trout. This creek can get filled during the spring due to snow melt, but as soon as that subsides in May, you’ll find that the fishing starts to be productive! The fish will hit dries all through the summer.
If you’re really needing to stay close to Denver, then go ahead and fish in Golden. The waters stay cold and fishable throughout most of the year. There’s a portion of this creek called the “Golden Mile” that starts above the kayak course near the White Water Park and flows to Vanover Park in downtown Golden. This is a great place to start your fishing. You can easily wade through this section of water!
If you have the ability to travel about 40 minutes north of Denver and get to Boulder, you should. Fly fishing South Boulder Creek is a unique experience that will make the effort to get there well worth your time. It’s a tailwater that flows out of the Gross Reservoir! You can even fish this reservoir if you’re more interested in lake fishing. As anglers know, tailwaters have the chance to produce some amazing fish. You’ll find brown trout, rainbow trout, cutthroat and even brook trout. It’s a stream filled with large boulders and deep pools. South Boulder Creek is a great place to test all of your skills. The fish can be spooky, but they’re large and the water is clear.
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 an easy access point. Park your vehicle and head down to the creek. From there, you can work your way upstream or downstream. You can boulder hop or work your way along shore. The pools can be fairly deep, so make sure you’re careful with wet wading!
The flies you use are somewhat dependent on the water you’re fishing, but there are a few patterns you should be sure to use while fishing the waters in the greater Denver area. You are able to land fish with dries, nymphs and streamers, but worm patterns, heavy buggers and Adams flies have all worked for me. I’ve landed my fair share of fish on Chubbies as well as Ant Patterns!
Crystal Bugger- Size 6
If you’re looking for a great streamer that’s going to produce fish in Denver waters, then you’re going to want to use the Crystal Bugger. It’s a darker pattern with black material with some green flash. You can fish this year round and always land fish. The tungsten brings the water lower in the water column, so you don’t have to worry about getting to the right depth.
For some reason, the fish around the Denver area are fans of worm patterns. They may have gotten used to them from spin anglers. However, they’re a great lead or trail fly on a nymph rig that you use. You’d be shocked at how many times the fish have hit my worms instead of my lead fly.
Adams flies are the ideal dry fly search pattern. If you aren’t quite sure what is hatching, throw on a small Adam’s fly and you’re likely going to get a strike. Late in the day, as the sun is setting, you’ll find that Adams flies are especially productive.
Ventures Fly Co. 40 Fly Assortment Has a Great Selection of Flies
This assortment has most of the flies needed lay the foundation for an effective fly box. the most common dries, nymphs and streamers. Check out the on water video review on YouTube – HERE
Don’t get overly complicated with the gear you use to fly fish in Denver. A standard 9’ 5-weight moderate fast or fast action rod will work well. You need to be able to throw dry flies, high stick nymphs and strip streamers. A 9’ 5-weight is going to be able to do all of these things!
The Perfect Fly Rod Combo for Colorado
Orvis originated in the fly fishing business. The Orvis Clearwater Combo is perfectly balanced and comes with everything except flies. It’s so easy to cobble together an outfit that just doesn’t cast right. No worries with that using the Clearwater Fly Rod Combo.
However, if you’re hoping to fly fish for carp in the South Platte, you’re going to want a heavier rig. Bring along your 7 or 8-weight for these fish! They grow to be quite large and are going to require an extra amount of power to land them.
Also, bring along weight forward floating line and have a variety of leaders and tippets available. Usually 3x leader with 4x or 5x tippet will do the trick for most trout. If you’re pursuing larger fish, 0x or 1x leader is what you need.
- Make sure you visit the Colorado Parks & Wildlife fishing page before you hit the water. Here, you’ll find information about locations and any sort of fishing license information that you may need.
- The High Plains Fly Fishing Club is one of the primary fly fishing clubs in Denver. On their website, you’ll find information on events that are occurring.
- The Colorado Women Fly Fishers club is a great option for females looking to begin fly fishing! There are opportunities for anglers of all skill levels.
- Trouts Fly Fishing may be your best bet for fly fishing information in Denver. They’re a full service guide shop. Guided trips and necessary gear are all available here!
- Ascent Fly Fishing is a unique fly fishing company located in Denver. They have one of the best selections of flies in the city, and some phenomenal information on fishing local waters.
Fly fishing in Denver is going to be productive. If you’re willing to put in the time, you’ll find fish. Since most anglers look to head to the mountains as soon as they can, it leaves quite a bit of water for the rest of us to explore!
More Colorado Hot Spots to Toss a Fly
- Get a complete guide to the best places to fly fish in Colorado in this article: Best Place to Fly Fish in Colorado
- Colorado Springs is a fly fishers paradise. Want to know where to go? Read Where to Fly Fish Near Colorado Springs
- Wondering where to toss a fly in the Denver Area? I’ve got the answer – Where to Fly Fish in the Denver Area
- Have you heard about the “Dream Stream” that’s just a little area on the South Platte River – Find more spots in Where to Fly Fish on the South Platte River
- The hidden gem is the Animas…….Don’t say anything, but read THIS
Danny Mooers is a high school English teacher in Arizona with a love for fly fishing. Growing up in Minnesota gave him the opportunity to experience all types of fishing and grow his skills. After living out in the Western United States for several summers in college, his fly fishing obsession grew. Having the opportunity to share in his passion for fishing through writing is a dream come true. It’s a lifelong hobby and he strives to make it understandable for people of all skill levels