While famous for rock climbing, hiking, and trail running in the magnificent Flatirons, Boulder is a prime — and often overlooked — fishing destination as well. The best thing about fishing in Boulder is the pure variety: There’s something here for every experience level of angler, from small kids to veteran fly casters, and a wide range of species, from picky mountain stream trout to aggressive largemouth bass. What’s more, fishing is one of the best ways to explore Boulder since you can find places to fish here whether you are simply standing underneath the public library, paddling a SUP on the open waters of Boulder reservoir or bushwhacking in the high country. You can also make your home base in Boulder and roam into classic waters in national forests and parks just a short drive away.
With Boulder Creek running right through the heart of town, it's possible to make a day of fishing and exploring downtown Boulder. This is a "come as you are" community, so no one will look twice if you show up in your waders in the middle of drum circles, the Boulder Farmers Market and among recreational tubers.
There are plenty of rainbow and brown trout in the pocket water on Boulder Creek that stretches from the Boulder Farmers Market up to Eben G. Fine Park. (Note: A section of the creek past Eben G. Fine Park to the western boundary of the city is currently closed.) This water gets hit often, but that’s no reason to ignore the easy access. The water right along the Boulder Public Library is ideal for dry flies and nymphs. Try small sizes since these fish can be smart and shy.
When you take a kid fly fishing, one thing matters: Getting a trout on the line. But that’s not always how fishing plays out. Fear not. The tranquil Kids' Fishing Pond smack in the middle of downtown Boulder is only open to kids ages 12 and younger and the Boulder Fish and Game Club stocks it with over 3,000 trout between Memorial Day and Labor Day — which ups the chances your kiddo leaving with a big smile.
The heart of the town of Boulder is the 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.
Past town, you will find plenty of spots to stalk browns and rainbows along the higher sections of Boulder Creek. Dry droppers are usually the ticket here, giving you the chance to test the bottom and top water simultaneously. Construction has been ongoing in the canyon so check current road conditions and plan for the possibilities of stopped traffic and closed parking spots.
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.
Two reservoirs in and near Boulder offer up two very different environments, and plenty of fishing, especially for paddlers.
The popular Boulder Reservoir, or “The Res” as the locals call it, is stocked with rainbow trout and supports a population of feisty smallmouth bass — as well as species more suited to spin anglers including walleye and big catfish. The best way to fish for them is to get out on a kayak or standup paddleboard. Note: You must pay $9 as a non-resident to enter the reservoir park and watercraft must purchase permits for the Res, but Rocky Mountain Paddleboard rents boats and boards right on the water.
Located in the mountains behind the Flatirons, this spacious Gross Reservoir is another spot that’s perfect for anglers who want to stalk fish from a kayak or SUP. You’ll find brown and lake trout here, and if you don’t fancy fishing from a boat, you can always paddle to a remote spot and cast from the shoreline.
The hidden gems of Boulder County are the small bodies of water out on the open eastern plains. These bodies of water, that range from big enough to paddle to so small you wouldn’t think they could even hold fish, are fertile ground for dedicated fly anglers who want to land largemouth bass and carp. They also can be the ideal training ground for kids (and adults) to learn how to cast and hook bluegills.
Open only to those over 65, people with disabilities, and companions under 16, Wally Toevs, a productive pond stocked with bluegill, rainbows, and largemouth bass, levels the playing field for those who can hike out to difficult-to-reach spots.
Walden Ponds is a popular birding area that can be gold for patient anglers seeking largemouth bass and that oddest of quarries on a fly rod — big, powerful carp.
Pack your float tube and paddle out into the quiet waters at Pella Crossing, an east-side spot that support largemouth and smallmouth bass.
The fishing in Boulder is only augmented by great streams just a short drive away.
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.
It requires a ton of knowledge to really be successful fly fishing Boulder, so ask for help. Two local shops, Rocky Mountain Anglers and Front Range Anglers, sell all the gear you need; can give crack 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. Want a guide? You'll find listings for guides and outfitters below.
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. Note you now must have a Colorado fishing or hunting license to visit any Colorado State Wildlife Area, even if you are not fishing. Obey all restrictions on public lands and be respectful of private property and any public lands closures.
Face coverings are required by public health order in Boulder County, even outside, for times when you cannot maintain a six-foot space between others. If you are feeling ill, stay home.