For anglers that want a short drive and fast fishing, one of the best possible locations not even an hours drive from Denver is St. Vrain Creek.
A little north and west of Boulder, the three sections of St. Vrain Creek are rife with rainbows, browns, and cutthroats.
While it can be crowded during peak season in the summer and fall, those willing to hike a little ways will not be disappointed in the view or the fishing.
The trout don’t tend to be of the river monster variety in this region, but they definitely have all the fight and wily cunning of their wild river cousins.
The North branch of St. Vrain Creek begins in Rocky Mountain National Park a little south of Longs Peak. Scenery here is about as quintessential Colorado as you can get. It can be tough to access the waters of the St. Vrain here, as most of it runs through steep canyon and the dense national park forest. If you can get to it though, the waters that run from the confluence at Horse Creek all the way to Button Rock Reservoir are CDW designated Wild Trout waters.
Middle St. Vrain creek starts in the Indian Peaks Wilderness area and flows east to Peaceful Valley just west of Highway 72. Access is much easier here, and cutthroats love the pools that dot the creek here and there.
South St. Vrain creek runs closer to the lake country near Brainard, and has the best public access to the St. Vrain out of all three branches of the creek.
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To get to the North St. Vrain, the best way in is a short hike from the ranger station at Wild Basin. This section does flow under Highway 7 at one point, but the surrounding land is private property. Roads can be rough and difficult to navigate here, but the canyon fishing is some of the best in the state.
Getting to the Middle St. Vrain is significantly easier, as there are numerous roads and trails from the Camp Dick and Peaceful Valley campgrounds here. Take Highway 72 and look for the turnoffs and campground parking. A short hike later and you’re on the banks of the Middle St. Vrain. Be aware that there is a lot of private land between Peaceful Valley through Raymond,so mind where you drop your line.
The most accessible section of the St. Vrain is easily the South St. Vrain Creek, as it is accessible here via the Brainard Lake Recreation Area. There is a fee for parking of $5 per car to enter, but you can stay all day. Best of all, the South St. Vrain offers the greatest variety of challenges for anglers, and the nearby lakes also offer plenty of opportunities for some great fishing, too.
Spring and fall offer the best hatches on the St. Vrain, but terrestrials are a good bet pretty much year round for the fish. Stick to afternoon fishing for best results too, as the midday sun tends to draw the fish out to feed more readily.
Springtime fishing sees the sleepy fish of winter feeding hungrily after the cold months, and the fall brings the annual feeding frenzy to prepare for the long winter ahead. Keep in mind that the Middle and South St. Vrain tend to be busiest during the Spring, Summer, and Fall, so you may have to hike a bit to find a spot clear of other anglers.
Midges, beetles, hoppers, and other terrestrials are best for matching the hatch locally, but always check local conditions before packing up for your trip.
Here are the recommended patterns listed by order of importance:
Dave's Cricket(black #10-12)
LePage Tunghead Hare's Ear (dark #14-18)
Micro Egg (roe 5 mm)
Royal Wulff (peacock#10-18) *highly recommended
Chernobyl Ant(dark #12)
ANT (dark #12)
Elk hair caddis (tan #14-16)
Orange Asher(naranja #14, #18
Irrisistable (black #18)
Stick to a 9-foot 4-weight rod for these waters, and keep your casting short. The St. Vrain is narrow with a lot of brush along the banks, and long cast aren’t going to yield the same results as short casting.
There are a number of area fly shops that publish St. Vrain Creek fishing reports. A few to check out are listed below.
Being so close to Denver, DIA is naturally your prime choice for flying in to fish the St. Vrain. Accommodations are plentiful in and around Denver, and Boulder offers some great places to stay year round.
Rocky Mountain National Park offers state campgrounds for those who enjoy outdoor living, and there are numerous hunting and fishing cabins in the area for rent, too.
Always check on vacation rentals for Boulder and Denver too,as these local internet listings can yield some surprisingly cost effective options for a cheap and comfortable stay that is just a short distance from whichever section of the St. Vrain strikes your fancy.
Ken is an avid fisherman of 40+ years who loves to explore and is on a quest to map the best places for fly fishing in America. He created DIY Fly Fishing and the DIY Fly Fishing App to share this information and help you find new places to fish. Have a question? You can get in touch with Ken here.
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