Most anglers visiting Colorado have probably driven past Clear Creek while making their way through the Front Range foothills.
It is more river than creek in most people’s estimation, and flows 66 miles from its headwaters near the Continental Divide to the South Platte River.
There is a string of old mining towns along the way as Clear Creek passes through Georgetown, Silver Plume and Idaho Springs, and it is here that you can find some exceptional fly fishing conditions without having to search high and low for a parking spot.
Clear Creek from Georgetown to Golden, Colorado offers excellent fishing for rainbow, brown and Snake River Cutthroat trout..
One interesting fact about Clear Creek is found where it changes course: just outside Idaho Springs, the creek turns away from I-70 at Floyd Hill and instead picks up Highway 6 all the way through Golden, CO. Passing between North and South Table Mountain at Golden, the creek supplies fresh water for the local Coors Brewery features prominently on its label.
Traffic noise can be something of an issue while fishing Clear Creek, but the numerous pools and pockets throughout the course of the freestone fishery provide excellent hiding places for the big hungry browns that lurk in its crystal clear waters.
Sections of Clear Creek between the headwaters and Idaho springs are also home to some larger rainbow and cutthroat as well, but brown trout are definitely the main attraction for anglers trying their luck.
For brook trout fans, you can actually take the North Fork of Clear Creek from Highway 40 between the town of Empire and the Berthoud Pass. National forest land around Empire has lots of public access from the highway, and there are even some picnic grounds where you can park up to eat lunch before heading to the Clear Creek North Fork to catch a few decent sized brooks.
Thanks to its proximity to Interstate 70 and Highway 6, there are few places you can’t get to the water along Clear Creek.
Brown trout are easily found anywhere along the I-70 run of Clear Creek if you look for pools and pocket water, so it’s really just a matter of picking a spot that looks good to you and wading out.
Make sure you don’t park on the I-70 though, as it is a great way to get a ticket. Use side roads and turn offs to park safely and avoid obstructing the shoulder or traffic before making your way down to the creek.
Anglers looking for rainbow and cutthroat trout need to head up to the Continental Divide by the Clear Creek headwaters and work their way downriver to Idaho Springs. Most anglers have the best luck landing these two trout species along I-70 here, though some have been found off Highway 6 past Floyd Hill as well.
If you came for some brook trout, definitely take the North Fork of Clear Creek and park at one of the many pull offs or picnic grounds in the area. Brook trout aren’t common on the rest of the stream, but there is a fairly large population of them to be found on the North Fork.
Water conditions in peak season between June and the end of October are exceptional, and there are few places along Clear Creek that don’t present a pristine view of the bottom of the stream itself year round.
The water clarity is largely due to conservation efforts and cleanup from the prior century or so of mining activity in the area, so make sure you do your part to help keep Clear Creek at its crystalline best when you visit.
You can easily do some winter fishing here as well if you don’t mind the cold, but runoff season in the early spring up until late May makes fishing a real chore. Most anglers would do well to book a trip in advance for the summer or early fall.
A 9-foot rod with a 4-weight should be more than sufficient for this area, and a good pair of waders for midstream action. The big hatches of the year are mostly baetis flies, but midges, caddis, and stoneflies can be found in various areas along Clear Creek as well. Check local conditions with a fly shop familiar with Clear Creek for best advice about what flies to try.
Recommended fly patterns for Clear Creek:
Bead Head Brassie™ (black #26)
I Can See It Midge Fly (black #22)
Elk Wing Caddis (dark #14)
Griffith's Gnat (dark #18-20)
Sparkle Dun (dark brown #18)
Prince NymphSlim (#18)
ANT (dark #12)
October Caddis (orange #14)
Micro streamer (black#10)
Parachute Adams (gray #18)
There are a number of area fly shops and on-line retailers that publish Clear Creek fishing reports. A few to check out are listed below.
Colorado Division of Wildlife standard fishing regulations apply on Clear Creek; four fish limit of any species of trout, and possession limit of four fish per angler per day.
Since Clear Creek runs fairly close to Denver, there lots of quaint places you can stay all over the area that are less than an hour’s drive away. Check out listings for bed and breakfast places in the old mining towns along I-70 like Georgetown and Silver Plume, and Idaho Springs, and there are plenty of traditional accommodations in and around Denver to suit just about any budget and personal taste.
Golden also offer plenty of places you can put up for the night as well, and it’s always a good idea to check out local vacation rentals in the area, too. Sometimes a smart angler visiting Colorado in the off season for outdoor and winter sports can find a bargain on a place to stay if they are flexible about the timing of their trip.
Ken is an avid fisherman of 40+ years who loves to explore and find new places to fish. He created DIY Fly Fishing to help you do the same.
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