6 Colorado Rivers, Creeks and Lakes for Fly Fishing Beginners
We’ve posted several blogs lately focused on helping new anglers get into the sport of fly fishing. In light of that focus, we want to highlight some of our favorite rivers, streams and lakes that we feel are friendly to novice anglers.
There are many pieces to the fly fishing puzzle that can make jumping into the sport intimidating. Figuring out the fundamental techniques and necessary gear to get started is definitely the first step, but after that, you need to find a body of water that isn’t overly technical and is known to produce more action. It’s easy to get wrapped up in targeting trophy size fish or fishing the rivers everyone raves about, but dialing it back and getting the fundamentals down on an easier body of water, will help you learn faster and have more success. At the end of the day, the fastest way to catch the fly fishing addiction is to catch your first fish on the fly. Therefore, if you’re a beginner or want to help a beginner learn the art of fly fishing, we recommend trying out one of the bodies of water listed below.
Rivers & Creeks:
Bear Creek: Bear Creek is a true mountain stream that runs through the town of Evergreen, Kittredge, Morrison and Lakewood, until it feeds into the Denver section of the South Platte River. This creek is a short distance from Denver and is easy to access from various hiking trail-heads and parks. Bear Creek is a freestone river, which means it fishes the best during the late spring, summer and early fall. While some sections are lined with trees and shrubbery that may make casting difficult, the trout are eager and not fussy when it comes to fly selection and presentation. Regardless of the season, we fish this creek with a dry dropper setup. An Elk Hair Caddis or Amy’s Ant followed by a Prince Nymph or Pheasant Tail is our go-to dry dropper setup.
Clear Creek: Don’t let Clear Creek’s name fool you. Compared to many of the other Colorado creeks, Clear Creek at many points, feels more like a river. It is a common place to fish as well as kayak, raft and tube. Clear Creek starts near Loveland Ski Area and runs parallel to I-70 through the town of Golden. Some of our favorite stretches to fish are in the Golden Canyon, Idaho Springs and above Georgetown. This creek, specifically through the canyon and Idaho Springs, is ideal for a novice angler who is looking to learn how to cast. The trout are eager and similar to Bear Creek, can be targeted with a simple dry dropper setup. Even when the trout aren’t rising, a well presented Caddis or Amy’s Ant will often times encourage a trout to strike. The trout feed consistently on Prince Nymphs, Pheasant Tails and bead head midge patterns, sub-surface.
South Platte River – Eleven Mile Canyon: Eleven Mile Canyon is a beautiful stretch of the South Platte River that is fed by Eleven Mile Reservoir and runs down to the town of Lake George. This is a short drive for those living near Colorado Springs, but can be around a 2 hour drive for those living in the Denver Metro area. This stretch of river holds brown trout, rainbow trout, cutthroat trout and even the infamous sucker fish. While landing a 16+ trout will require good technique, there are plenty of small trout that are easily fooled by a less than flawless presentation. Unlike Bear Creek and Clear Creek, these trout are more selective when it comes to flies. Knowing the current hatch will help you be successful. If you don’t know the current hatches, have no fear, our weekly Eleven Mile Canyon report is always up-to-date with the must-have flies.
Idaho Springs Reservoir: Idaho Springs Reservoir is a small mountain lake located roughly 45 miles west of Denver and 13 miles south of Idaho Springs. This is a fantastic body of water to teach beginners, but does require a short hike. Starting at Echo Lake Park, follow the Chicago Lakes Trail for two miles until you reach the lake. The hike is moderate and can be done in waders but be prepared to work up a sweat! The lake is relatively open which provides for carefree casting that is ideal for beginners. The small brown and brook trout that call this lake home are eager to eat dry flies. Dry and dry dropper setups are the go-to methods.
Beaver Brook Watershed: The Beaver Brook Watershed is a hidden gem in Evergreen, Colorado. Located 6 miles up Squaw Pass Road from Evergreen, the watershed is a viable option for a quick half-day trip. A short one-mile hike down the Beaver Brook Watershed trail-head is a gorgeous lake with plenty of eager brook trout, brown trout and sucker fish. These fish love to eat dry flies, so we suggest coming prepared to fish with Elk Hair Caddis, Parachute Adams or any other dry fly you can find.
Saint Mary’s Glacier: Saint Mary’s Glacier is a hot destination for hikers, skiers/snowboarders and fly anglers. Located 12 miles from Idaho springs, it’s an easy trip for beginning anglers living in the Denver Metro area. The lake draws heavy traffic on the weekends and a $5 parking fee is required. Due to the crowds, casting may be tricky depending on the time of day you visit, so make sure you give yourself plenty of room. It’s not uncommon to see a hiker on the business end of an anglers hook. Similar to the lakes listed above, dry and dry dropper setups are all you’ll need. This is a great lake to catch beautiful brook trout as well as the highly sought after, tiger trout.