The Colorado Front Range is best known for its breathtaking scenery and close location to the Rocky Mountains. Some fly fishermen in this area are also aware of the plethora of water accessible within a short drive from any city along the eastern slope. With large amounts of snowmelt year-round, watersheds close to the Denver area are thriving ecosystems, and are waiting to be explored. Though larger rivers like the Blue River, Colorado River, and the South Platte get the majority of angling attention, the smaller rivers and creeks littered across the front range all offer unique angling opportunities, and should each be appreciated for what they are; gems.
Boulder Creek is one of these watersheds that deserves attention and offers fantastic fishing opportunities for anglers of all abilities. The headwaters of North Boulder Creek and Middle Boulder Creek are found high in the Indian Peaks wilderness, and confluence a few miles downstream from the city of Nederland, to become Boulder Creek. Boulder Creek then flows down Boulder Canyon and directly through the city of Boulder, where it confluences with South Boulder Creek on the eastern end of the city. South Boulder Creek begins in the James Peak Wilderness and flows into Gross Reservoir, then through the famous El Dorado Canyon before meeting with the river’s other fork.
In terms of Angling, each fork of Boulder Creek is unique in its own right. Perhaps the most popular stretch of river is found on Walker Ranch; a 2,880-acre public open space owned by Boulder County. As a tailwater flowing out of Gross Reservoir; large populations of gorgeous, wild trout await the skillful angler. This stretch of river stays ice-free all year, and thus sees a good amount of angling pressure. This should not be seen as a deterrent though, as plenty of fishable water can be found throughout the entire access. Those willing to venture deeper than the general crowd may be surprised by the quality fish and scenery they are able to find. Apart from Walker Ranch, other great stretches of Boulder Creek can be found on just about any part of the river’s three forks, which is just one of the reasons this river system is special.
Insect life in Boulder Creek is abundant and thriving; making fly selection and fishing strategy rather simple. In the warmer months, the creek sees an abundance of terrestrial insects, as well as a variety of Stoneflies, Caddis, and Mayflies. Epic hatches of the famous Green Drake occur in the summertime and are a spectacle no angler wants to miss. In terms of fishing strategy, picking pockets with a dry dropper rig is a safe choice for the majority of the year. Flies like the Chubby Chernobyl, Hippie Stomper, or Joe’s Hopper are all great terrestrial imitations, while just about any bead head nymph will do as a dropper. Obviously it is best to match the hatch, so be sure to observe the water closely while selecting flies.
Hatches can happen anytime, and you should be prepared with a variety of dry flies, nymphs, and emergers for any hatch situation that may come about. Don’t overthink it though. Presentation matters much more than fly selection on Boulder Creek, and making a good drift will entice the majority of fish regardless of what fly patterns you are fishing. The skinnier parts of the creek can be slightly tight quarters at times, so have your cast dialed in and be ready to inevitably pick some flies out of trees. However, if you ensure your bugs are floating drag-free through fishy zones, you should have success.
Boulder Creek is just one of the gems that exist along Colorado’s Front Range. There are multiple other watersheds just as beckoning waiting to be discovered. Next time you’re getting out there, consider choosing some new water to explore. Boulder Creek and other creeks like it offer a quality of experience that may surprise you…
Article and photos from Ameen Hosain; content creator and fly fishing guide based out of Boulder, CO. Follow him on Instagram @thefishboulder.