Fly Fishing in Boulder
Shaping Boulder’s foot-of-the-Rockies landscape are creeks that rush down from the high peaks cutting deep ravines in the sandstone of the Flatirons before running into the broad valleys of the Colorado Piedmont.
These rocky streams make for ideal trout fishing, though it’s not always easy. This is adventure angling for serious fly casters — you will need to be cognizant of patterns, nymph-like a ninja, cast to small pockets in swift water, and have the agility to scramble over rocks and wade fast water. But, hey, that’s what makes it fun. And if you’re new to the sport, consider booking one of the guides below.
When practicing "catch and release," use barbless hooks and be sure to not injure the fish. Keep the fish in the water while you're handling it for release, and do not touch its gills.
Where to Go Fly Fishing
In town, you'll have easy access to this rainbow trout-rich waterway that runs down from Boulder Canyon, through downtown, and east to the plains. You will find plenty of spots to stalk browns and rainbows along the higher sections of Boulder Creek in Boulder Canyon. Dry droppers are usually the ticket here, giving you the chance to test the bottom and topwater simultaneously.
Local hardware-store-and-more McGuckin Hardware sells fishing gear, and the friendly staff (look for the folks in green vests) might even share their favorite local fishing spots with you if you ask.
South Boulder Creek at Walker Ranch
The roaring mountain stream at Walker Ranch feels far from the crowds of town and offers up plenty of trout for those willing to hike down the banks here. The fishing is not easy, but the spot itself is worth the effort and it’s a beautiful location to draw up rainbows on dry flies or cast a tenkara rod.
Rocky Mountain National Park
Majestic Rocky Mountain National Park is just an hour away. The park shelters and has recovered a strong population of beautiful native greenback cutthroat trout. Head to the North Fork of the Big Thompson River from just outside of the park in the Comanche Wilderness and head upstream on the trail into the park for a good shot at a greenback. If you're visiting late May through mid-October, you'll need to reserve timed-entry spot for Rocky Mountain National Park in advance.
In this postcard-worthy, mountain-ringed crystalline lake awaits cutthroat, rainbow, and brook trout. Brainard Lake Recreation Area is located in the Indian Peaks Wilderness, about an hour's drive west of Boulder. It's a very popular area, so a timed-entry pass system is being implemented. You'll need to plan ahead and visit on a weekday, if possible.
Shops and Resources
Rocky Mountain Anglers and Front Range Anglers will have all the gear you need. They can also give recommendations on flies, water, and recent fish behavior and offer guides who can help you dial in your game no matter your experience level. Plus, local hardware legend McGuckin Hardware stocks a full range of fly fishing supplies and specializes in Tenkara rods and reels if you want to try the simple, effective Japanese form of fly fishing that uses no reel.
You must purchase and possess a current fishing license from Colorado Parks and Wildlife to fish in the state if you are older than 15. You can purchase one at a fly shop or other retailers, but it’s easy to buy a license online here.
Please remember your Mountain Manners as you head out into the area’s beautiful waterways.
Pack it in, pack it out. Inspect your camp and rest areas for trash or spilled foods. Pack out all monofilament fishing line, leftover live bait and bait cups.
Guided Fly Fishing Experiences
If you’d like to learn how to fly fish in Boulder, these outfitters will provide instruction and are sure to get you hooked on the sport. And if you already have some experience and are just looking for a guide to take you to the best spots, they’ve got you covered there, too.