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Creek Fishing in Colorado

by Sam Ritter

Colorado has some of the most abundant creek and small stream fishing around. If you can find moving water in the mountains you can bet there are trout in there. For us, fishing smaller creeks brings about an element of adventure. You may not know what you are going to find or run into or how the fishing is going to be, but you can usually expect to have a bit of solitude out there.

Generally speaking, creeks are low flow, high gradient waterways.  Trout will hold in highly oxygenated plunge pools and pocket water.  With the steep gradients comes boulders so being light on you feet and having adequate footwear will be in your best interest.  Most high alpine creeks will only be fishable in the summer months due to snow pack and runoff. Although some of the lower elevation creeks we have here in the Arkansas River Valley can offer fishing year round.

A dry dropper rig will suit you best for surveying the water and finding active feeding fish.  Attractor dry flies such as Chubby Chernobyls, Black Foam Ants, and Stimulators will grab the attention of hungry trout even in the winter months.  A small bead head dropper such as a Pheasant Tail, Copper John, or Hares Ear will produce good numbers of fish.  With these small creeks not having the diversity and abundance of aquatic insects that say the Arkansas River has, the trout typically aren’t too picky.  But while fly selection isn’t crucial, presentation of your flies and being stealth on these waterways is paramount.

With the low flows and crystal clear water typical of Colorado creeks and streams trout can see you before you can see them and they will spook easily.  Focus on fishing upstream and try to minimize your silhouette on the water; slowly work your way up through the boulders and cobble picking apart every little nook and cranny.  Though not essential, wearing camo or natural tones will help in your success with these skittish fish.

Most creeks will be heavily vegetated and casting can be tight, so having a shorter fly rod such as a 7 1/2 foot 3 weight or smaller will give you more room for casting in such tight quarters.  Always be sure to take the time to look behind you before making a cast so that you spend your day fishing and not untangling your line from every bush on the creek.  While some creeks will allow you space to get in a full back cast, these are the spots to perfect your roll cast.

Most of the lower elevation creeks in the Arkansas River Valley like Brown’s or Chalk will hold mainly smaller Browns and Rainbows that are a blast when your little 3 weight is bent in half.  If you’re tired of staring at your strike indicator and standing waist deep in 35 degree water, try something different and go explore one of the many small water options that the Arkansas River drainage has to offer.

We also recommend bringing along some cold ones to enjoy.  Because after all, we are all on the river fishing to enjoy ourselves and we get to do it in some of the most beautiful places.  That’s worth a cheers in our opinion!

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Sam Ritter

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