Cover Story / Culture

COVER: Fishing can be perfect way to experience Colorado lifestyle, scenery

Placing the perfect cast near Rocky Mountain National Park

Placing the perfect cast near Rocky Mountain National Park

By Jeffrey V. Smith
Colorado’s Front Range fishing is some of the best in the world. A wide array of streams, creeks and lakes offer any level of angler a lifetime of water to discover and 35 species of fish. It’s a fly fisherman’s dream and opportunities for spin casting, lake fishing and even hitting a trout farm abound as well. The area also offers breathtaking settings for first-timers to learn the art of the sport. Don’t forget, other than one weekend each year, a fishing license—available online and in a variety of stores all across the region—is required before you can set a hook.

This year, thanks to a heavy snowpack and abundant rain well into summer, conditions are some of the best they have been in years and currently, conditions are at their peak. With plenty of world-class water to call upon and several ways to learn for free, anyone remotely interested in fishing can find a way to make it happen all across the Northern Front Range region. Cutthroat, rainbow, brook, brown and lake trout can be found easily in most of the area’s natural waterways. A wide variety of other types can be found in stocked lakes and ponds and the endangered greenback cutthroat and Colorado River cutthroat, Colorado’s only native fish, can be found in Rocky Mountain National Park.

The best way to get started is visit a shop close to where you’d like to fish and talk to its employees. They, most likely, are wetting their lines more often than most, and are well aware of where to go and what’s biting locally on a day to day basis. Fishing and fly tying classes or monthly events like Bugs and Brews at the Rock Inn in Estes Park are another way to meet local men and women who fish, as well as pick up a few tips, tricks and pointers.

One of the best aspects of fishing in the Front Range, is the ease of access. “We like to say drive less, fish more,” Randy Hicks, owner of Rocky Mountain Anglers in Boulder said, “We have fisheries that are outstanding, that some people in other parts of the country might drive as much as two or three hours to get to. We have them out the back door. You can engage in these before work, during lunch or after work or after school where as that wouldn’t be possible in other [areas]. We tend to say, if you’ve ever thought about fly fishing, strike while the iron’s hot. Check it out right now. It doesn’t get any closer. It doesn’t get any easier to step into it.”

fishingThe area offers anglers warm- and cold-water specials, but “our trout fishing is what I’d consider to be the major draw, the better fishing,” Hick said. “Some the areas that are excellent to fish from the standpoint of ‘drive less fish more,’ Boulder Creek is right up the canyon and it’s wonderful. The [national] park can provide that more spiritual experience where you’re at elevation and the wildlife and you’re away from the road, that sort of thing. I mean some of these spots are 13 miles away yet you feel like 113 miles away.”

Another aspect of fishing in Colorado that can be appealing, especially to those visiting, is that it’s easy to incorporate fishing into an itinerary of other activities Colorado offers. “We have year round fishing possibilities and have a year round season, it’s not open or closed so you can go basically any time you want to, “Hicks explained. “For that reason, you can go and ski in the morning and fish in the creek below the ski resort in the afternoon… to me that is really living the Colorado lifestyle. Some people will mountain bike to a more remote section of a stream to sort of couple two of the things we are known for.

In Clear Creek County, people come from all over the world to go rafting and visit Mt. Evans. “We get a lot of people that will come get a day license and go out and fly fish for a day,” Josh Patterson of Clear Creek Outdoors said. “Some people just want to hit it to get off the road for an hour while other people want to make it their whole vacation. We get people from all over the place.”

This year is particularly good for fishing local waters. “I would say right now we have an excellent water year,” Hicks said, “the rivers are dropping and clearing, which are the best words you can hear as an angler, and there are plenty of bugs hatching. If there are bugs hatching, we should be able to go out and catch fish. Across the state right now, I haven’t had a bad report in the last two weeks anywhere, which basically means we are in… the best six weeks of fishing the state has to offer.”

Numerous resources are available online, in books and at local shops to provide all the information necessary to pick up the sport or take your skills to the next level. Guided trips and classes are a great way to get going quick and avoid frustration. Fishing can also be the perfect way to experience the Colorado lifestyle and enjoy much of what the state has to offer.

image_1“We have what I consider to be world famous national attractions,” Hicks said. “Certainly the wildlife, the flora, fauna and Rocky Mountain National Park can make a day spent in those locals amazing. Then you put into it catching an endangered species like the greenback cutthroat and its sort of something that is over the top. I’ve had people refer to fishing some of the lakes in RMNP that are at tree line, as spiritual experiences. I don’t necessarily know if its life-changing, but it is memorable and it can be different than anything some of these people have done before.”

Most experienced fisherman enjoy the fly fishing over other forms for a variety of reasons. “Fly fishing is what I would consider to be the most productive method,” Hicks said. “The first day I fished out here, I watched a guy who was a fly angler upstream from me catch half a dozen fish while I was struggling with my spinning tackle. That was when I made the full on switch, 25 odd years ago.”

Patterson enjoys the pursuit of perfection when it comes to the sport. “I started out spin casting, but I’ve been fly fishing since I was about five years old,” he said. “There is always something new to learn. You can’t master every aspect of fly fishing, it’s impossible. There is always something new, always some new product coming out or something to try. That’s why I like it, that why it keeps me coming back, it never gets old.”

Colorado Parks & Wildlife *

1313 Sherman Street, 6th Floor, Denver, CO  80203 •303-297-1192

Arapahoe & Roosevelt National Forests:
Boulder Ranger District
2140 Yarmouth Avenue, Boulder,  CO 80301 • 303-541-2500

Canyon Lakes Ranger District
2150 Centre Avenue, Building E
Fort Collins, CO 80526 • 970-295-6700

Clear Creek Ranger District
101 Highway 103, Idaho Springs, CO 80452 • 303-567-3000

Black Diamond Ski & Cycles *
1540 Argentine St., Georgetown, Colorado

Clear Creek Outdoors *
1524 Miner St., Idaho Springs, CO 80452 • 303-567-1500

Safeway – Idaho Springs *
2425 Miner St., Idaho Springs 80452

Mountain Evans Trout Fishing
4125 Highway 103, Idaho Springs, CO 80453 • 303-567-4017

Golden Gate Canyon State Park *
92 Crawford Gulch Road, Golden, CO 80403

Golden River Sports *
806 Washington Ave.,  Golden, CO 80401 • 303-215-9386

Indian Peaks Ace Hardware *
74 South Highway 119, Nederland, CO 80466 • 303-258-3132

Kwik Mart – Nederland *
Nederland, CO

Kwik Mart – Coal Creek Canyon *
Golden, CO

Rocky Mountain Anglers *
1904 Arapahoe Ave., Boulder, CO 80302
303-447-2400 • info@

Front Range Anglers *
2344 Pearl St. , Boulder, CO 80302 • 303-494-1375

Boulder County Parks & Open Space
Rogers Park & Walker Ranch • 303-678-6200

South Creek Ltd. Custom Bamboo Rods
415 Main St., Lyons, CO 80540 • 303-823-6402

Clark’s Hardware *
4100 Ute Hwy., Lyons, CO 80540-0000 • 303-823-6531

Laughing Grizzly Fly Shop *
10675 Ute wy., Longmont, CO 80504 • 303-772-9110

Scot’s Sporting Goods *
870 Moraine Ave., Estes Park, Colorado 80517 •  970- 586-2877

Estes Anglers *
338 West Riverside Dr., Estes Park, CO 80517
970-586-2110 •

Estes Park Mountain Shop *
2050 Big Thompson Ave., Estes Park, CO 80517 • 970-586-6548

Kirks Mountain Adventure & Flyshop *
230 E. Elkhorn Ave., Estes Park, Colorado 80517 • 970-577-0790

Trout Haven Fishing Pond
810 Moraine Ave., Estes Park, CO 80517 • 970-235-3202

Lake Estes Marina *
1770 Big Thompson Ave., Estes Park, CO 80517 • 970-586-2011

True Value/Radio Shack *
461 E. Wonderview Ave., Estes Park, CO 80517

Sasquatch Fly Fishing at YMCA of the Rockies *
2515 Tunnel Road, Estes Park, CO 80511 • 970-586-3341 x1153

Elkhorn Fly Rod and Reel *
3121 W Eisenhower Blvd., Loveland, CO 80537 • 970-227-4707

Rocky Mountain National Park
1000 Highway 36, Estes Park, CO 80517-8397 • 970-586-1206

* = Colorado Fishing Licenses Available

Originally published in the August 2015 issue of the MMAC Monthly

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