Published: July 11, 2022 By

Rainbow Trout

From its braided headwaters high above Nederland in Indian Peaks Wilderness to the rolling farmlands where it flows into the South Platte River, Boulder Creek is a stream of many personalities. It’s also one that gets overlooked by many Boulder locals and visitors simply because it is so close to home. But for fly-anglers, it represents a true gem that can feel hidden in plain sight.

This will be my seventh year working as a guide for Rocky Mountain Anglers, a fly-fishing shop that’s just minutes away from The Hill and Pearl Street. In that time, fishing — “the pursuit of what is elusive but attainable,” as the novelist John Buchan once wrote — introduced me to clients ranging from prominent doctors and professional snowboarders to foreign families traveling abroad and Midwesterners on Brown Troutvacation.

I’ve guided many of them in Boulder Canyon, where the flatter pools of downtown melt away and car-sized boulders, towering granite walls and stands of ponderosa pines dominate. The reaction I get after telling someone there are hundreds of trout per mile in “the Creek” tends to be one of mild surprise. Then I try telling them that they can fly-fish for wild trout from the concrete sidewalk at Eben G. Fine Park, and the look on their face often turns to utter disbelief.

And it’s hard to blame them given the challenges our creek faces today — mainly in the form of urban waste and water-quality issues. Though great stream improvement efforts have been made by Boulder Flycasters, the local Trout Unlimited conservation chapter, it remains a constant battle to keep Boulder Creek clean, fishable and safe for recreation. In the face of it all, despite flowing through such a densely populated area, the creek continues to harbor plenty of the brown and rainbow trout that local anglers pursue.

Those of us who love this stream tend to enjoy it in all its forms — from the gin-clear waters of the high country to the marshy parts of east Boulder. There’s something mysterious, and sort of improbable, about catching a beautifully patterned wild trout right next to an equally colorful graffiti tag at Scott Carpenter Park. Boulder Creek may not be Montana’s Blackfoot River, enshrined in the sport’s popular archetype of A River Runs Through It, but it has a wealth of secrets to share. Best of all: It’s right in our own backyard.

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Photos by Duncan McHenry