Fly Fishing in Denver
Some of the best trout fishing in Colorado is just a short drive from Denver. Here are five things you should know before you set out on your fly fishing daytrip.
The most versatile fly rod, reel and line combination trout fishing in Colorado is a 5 weight, 9 ft. rod and matching line. This combination of equipment will work for wading and fishing in rivers, fishing from a drift boat or raft, or fishing small lakes and ponds or high alpine lakes from the bank. Most fish can be hooked and landed with 4X or 5X tippet but you might have to go larger depending on where you are casting because some trout specimens in Colorado can exceed ten pounds.
2. Natural Insects And Fly Patterns
For the most up-to-date fishing report, consult a local fly shop. Here are a few of the more common insect hatches that you can encounter in Colorado throughout the year and fly patterns that match the hatch:
- Caddis - Elk Hair Caddis, Foam Caddis
- Blue-winged Olives - Parachute Adams
- Baetis - RS2s
- Midges - Rojo Midge, WD-40s, Disco Midge
- Stoneflies and Salmonflies - Sofa Pillow, Chubby Chernobyl
- Pale Morning Duns - Hairwing Dun PMD
- Drakes - Hairwing Drake
- Terrestrials - Morrish's Hoppers, High Vis Foam Beetle, Parahopper
- Nymphs - Copper Johns, Prince Nymphs, Pheasant Tail Nymph
Note that rapidly changing weather conditions in Colorado can just as quickly change the insect hatch in a river or on a lake, so bring a variety of flies.
Colorado weather can undergo extreme changes in a short time, so you must always be prepared in the outdoors.
Bring several layers of clothing to provide the best response to Colorado's changing weather conditions because you can add or remove clothing as the weather dictates. A dependable rain jacket or Goretex shell will protect you from afternoon thunderstorms.
Colorado has frequent afternoon lighting storms. If you can see or hear lightning, it's time to consider seeking shelter. When the time between flashes and thunder is less than 30 seconds, get off the water immediately and seek shelter. Be aware of lightning; your fly rod can act a lighting rod.
Colorado rivers are fed by the snow fields at 10,000 feet, so our rivers can be quite cold depending on the time of year you visit. A high quality pair of waders, wading boots, and a wading belt will help protect you from the cold. You should start with a solid base layer of clothing, especially in the spring, fall or winter. This includes polypropylene tops and bottoms.
A pair of quality-polarized sunglasses will protect your eyes and allow you the opportunity to see fish as they swim and feed in the water.
Always bring sunscreen and brimmed hats for protection from the sun as well as the errantly casted fly. At Denver's elevation, there is 25% less protection from the sun's rays, and up to 50% less protection higher in the mountains.
4. Do-It-Yourself Fishing And Guided Trips
There are two basic ways you can fish Colorado:
THE DO-IT-YOURSELF APPROACH: Fishing on your own is great way to experience Colorado's rivers and lakes - especially if you have time. When thinking about a DIY trip, make sure to research river access, stream flows, and try to visit a local shop to get up-to-date information and fly patterns that are effective for those specific rivers at the specific time you are visiting. There can be a tremendous sense of accomplishment when you put all of the pieces to the puzzle together and the result is a beautiful Colorado fish hammering a dry fly that you presented just right.
GUIDED TRIPS: If you don't have the time to research and plan, the other option is to hire a guide. This is probably the most effective way to fish on your first trip to Colorado or if you are new to fly fishing. Fly fishing guides are experienced and specialize in the water they fish and offer fishing on both public sections of water as well as private settings. Make sure to talk to your guide ahead of time to make sure they understand what equipment you have and what equipment you will need to borrow or rent. Also, be very up front about your level of experience. If you haven't fished before, don't be bashful about it. Most guides offer both half and full days. If you are visiting Denver, there are great options - both guided and unguided - within 90 minutes of downtown.
The South Platte River headwaters, high in the mountains surrounding South Park, is feed by numerous creeks and springs. The river cuts through Eleven Mile, Cheesman Canyon, and Waterton Canyon before entering Denver. The best quality trout water can be found in the tail waters below Spinney (Dream Stream, or Charlie Meyers State Wildlife Area), Eleven Mile, and Cheesman Reservoirs. The fish in these sections are as smart as they come. One of the closest sections of the river to fish that is easily accessible by car is the small town of Deckers located less than 60 miles from Downtown Denver. There is plenty of publicly accessible river bank here as well as camping and picnicking areas. Waterton Canyon is easily accessible by foot or bike from a large free parking lot just south of Chatfield Reservoir.
Clear Creek is a tributary of the South Platte River, approximately 66 miles long, in north central Colorado. The creek flows through spectacular Clear Creek Canyon directly west of Denver, descending through a long gorge to emerge at the town of Golden, where it continues east (lined by a bike path) until it joins the South Platte near downtown Denver. Beautiful sections of Clear Creek can be reached within a 30 minute drive of Downtown Denver.
The Blue River runs north from the dam at Dillon Reservoir near Silverthorne to its confluence with the Colorado River near Kremmling. The Gold Metal water section runs from the dam in Silverthorne to the Town of Kremmling. The river acts like a typical tailwater through Silverthorne and more like a free stone river below town. As you drive from the Dillon Dam toward Green Mountain Reservoir, there are numerous turnouts and fishing access points along the road. Camping and picnicking areas are also available. Below Green Mountain, the access is very limited. From Denver, the Blue River can be reached in the town of Silverthorne, 66 miles west of Denver on I-70.
5. Fishing License
If you are visiting from out of the state or out of the country, you must purchase a fishing license and in some cases, a habitat stamp. Here is a cursory summary of the regulations from the Colorado Parks and Wildlife:
ADULTS: People 16 and older are required to buy and carry with them a fishing license
YOUTH: Those under 16 can fish without a license
SENIORS: Colorado residents 64 and older can obtain an annual fishing license from a Wildlife Service Center or license agent for $1
FREE FISHING DAYS: You can fish in Colorado without a license only on the first full weekend of June, each year. All other rules and regulations apply.
HABITAT STAMP: If you are going to be fishing for three (3) days or more you are required to purchase a habitat stamp which costs $10. If you are only fishing for one or two days, you are not required to purchase a habitat stamp.
You can purchase your license at a local fishing retail outlet when you arrive in Denver or you can purchase one in advance online.