A Guide to Fly Fishing Bear Creek

South Platte River Basin

Evergreen and Morrison, CO

  • Fishable Seasons: Spring, Summer, Fall
  • River Size: Small
  • Distance: 30-45 Minutes from Denver
  • Fish Size: Small – Medium
  • Popularity: Medium
  • Techniques: Dry Fly, Nymph, Streamer
  • Perfect For: Beginners and Up

bear-creek-cold-spring-gulch-2-480x342Bear Creek is a small creek that begins up in the Mount Evans Wilderness and makes it’s way through Evergreen, CO, Kittredge, CO, Idledale, CO and Morrison, CO before entering into Bear Ponds and then into the South Platte River down in town near Englewood. As it moves downstream, Kerr Gulch, Cold Spring Gulch and Saw Mill Gulch all add to it’s flow making it a sustainable river to fish from spring to fall.

Bear Creek is very accessible and perfect for day trips or weekend trips where you don’t want to fish the same water everyday. There isn’t any camping along the creek and it’s really something you drive to and return from every day. This is great for those who live along the front range and are looking for a quick day trip. 30 – 60 minutes of a drive and you can be slaying the baby brown trout all day long.

Characterized primarily as a canyon fishery with lots of pocket water, deep holes and fishy-looking runs, there are tons of trout in this river ranging from 6 inches up to 18 on rare occasions. Primarily a Brown Trout fishery for most of its waters, Bear Creek also holds a population of intermixed rainbows and as you get up high into Mount Evans Wilderness, tributaries and main channels hold some brook trout 12 inches and smaller.


bear-creek-joe-van-der-bosch-2-480x343You can expect to have good success on this river as fish are typically eager to eat and aren’t overly-educated or spooky of fisherman. If you’ve fished the Big Thompson, St. Vrain or Boulder Creek, this will be very similar and you can expect similar results. I’ve found that Bear creek offers slightly larger fish at times than some of these other waters and fishes more consistently than other front range rivers as well. Fish average between 10 – 14 inches on a good day, and you’ll always catch numerous 4-8 inch browns throughout your adventure.

Tip* Though Bear Creek fishes well consistently, it is fairly susceptible in the spring to fall to being muddied up by rain storms.  Pay attention to weather 24 hours before your adventure and if any rain substantial rain happened, it may be better to try another creek or river that didn’t get rain.  This is typical of nearly all front range creeks and rivers that don’t have tailwaters to clear up the waters.

Check out our information below on the fishable sections of the creek and select the other tabs above to view Current flows, weather, reports, top fly patterns by season and access points via google maps. We hope you enjoy our complete resource on fly fishing Bear Creek in Colorado.


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Want 125 More Rivers to Explore?

Yup, you read that right, we’ve put together river guides on 125+ of Colorado’s best waters. We share all the information you need to fish the river with success including hatch charts, top flies to use (names, sizes, colors), tips on fishing the river, weather reports and more.

How to Breakdown a River


Read about how we breakdown our rivers to help you know where the best fishing and adventures are in Colorado.

River Basin -> River/Stream/Creek -> Sections -> Beats -> Holes, Runs, and Riffles

  • River Basins: All of Colorado is essentially divided into 7 Basins.  These basins contain a variety of rivers, streams, creeks, lakes, and reservoirs.  The South Platte River Basin, Colorado River Basin, Arkansas River Basin, Gunnison River Basin, Rio Grande River Basin, San Juan/Dolores River Basin, and Yampa/White River Basin are the major basins that contain 95% of the fishing available in Colorado.
  • River/Stream/Creek/Lakes: These are what you fish (clearly) and are typically the names you refer to when you tell people where you fish.  The South Platte, the Arkansas, The Cache La Poudre, The Eagle, The Frying Pan, etc.  The list goes on and on for over 120 different rivers and countless streams and creeks and hundreds of Lakes.  
  • Sections: Sections are the way we break up rivers into smaller, more manageable parts.  All rivers have different sections.  In Colorado fly fishing reports, users share the section of the river they fished.  Common examples are Dream Stream section of the South Platte River, or the Deckers Section of the South Platte.  For Bear Creek, we’ve divided it into Upper, Middle and Lower sections.
  • Beats:  Some sections have so much fishable water, we need to define them further and provide beats.  A good example would be Dream Stream on the South Platte.  The Dream Stream has a lower, middle and upper beat laid out by the parking lots.  Bear Creek has Parks that are typically the beats, such as Lair of the Bear or O’Fallon Park.
  • Holes/Runs/Riffles: Every river runs in a series of Holes -> Runs -> Riffles and repeat.  It’s just the way they flow downstream.  Every river in the world runs this way though the length and depth of these change drastically based on river size and terrain.  For large rivers, such as the Bighorn River in Montana,  they have names for certain holes and runs that can be used to describe where they fished.  Most of Colorado doesn’t have named holes, runs and riffles as most of our rivers are not large enough to need that detailed of classification.

Sections of Bear Creek

    • Popularity: Low
    • Best Techniques: Dries, Nymphs, then Streamers
    • Fish Species: Brown Trout, Rainbow Trout, Brook Trout

    The Upper Section is defined as anything from the Headwaters down to O’Fallon Park.  Though a majority of the upper section is private, there are some fishable access points that you will see on our access points tab above.  The headwaters beat of this section holds some brook trout if you are interested but can be tough going.  Evergreen Lake is a part of this section and has some fishing opportunities as well.  Directly above the lake is the most popular section of fishable water and holds a bunch of eager brown and rainbow trout.

    • Popularity: High
    • Best Techniques: Nymphs, Dries, Then Streamers
    • Fish Species: Brown Trout, Rainbow Trout

    The Middle Section is everything from O’Fallon Park down to Lair Of the Bear.  This includes (listed from upstream down) O’Fallon Park, Corwina Park, Lair of the Bear.  There is also a fishable section right as you drive over the bridge of Cold Spring Gulch that fishes well but is small and backs into private property. (Which by the way is the Dunafon Castle used for events, but it has ponds with monstrous trout, not sure when I have a need for a wedding since I’m already married, but fishing there would be a lot of fun!)

    Fly Fishing Lair of the Bear is likely the most popular section of Bear Creek.  Don’t be scared off by the hoard of cars in the parking lot, there a lot of day hikers, bikers, and day campers about and likely only 10-15% of those cars carry a fly or spin rod.  There are always fish to be caught in any of these sections and though parking can be an issue on the weekends, there is always some open water to fish.

    My favorite section is O’Fallon Park.  It’s fishable up and down stream of the parking area and is the prettiest water on the creek in my opinion.  Fishing is about as good as anywhere else.  I’d recommend fishing in a variety of locations as it’s fun to try new waters and sections and it all seems to fish well most days.

    • Popularity: Low
    • Best Techniques: Nymphs, Dries, then Streamers
    • Fish Species: Brown Trout, Rainbow Trout

    The Lower Section is everything below Lair of the Bear down through the town of Idledale and Morrison.  You can fish a good amount of this water and the fishing can be very productive.  This section contains more runs and holes in town and has a steep canyon section that holds a surprising amount of fishable water as it cascades down into the town or Morrison.  Refer to our top fly patterns by season for Bear Creek in the tabs on this page for fly selection.

Fly Fishing Bear Creek

Here is a promotional video we did for a Tenkara company. It was all shot on Bear Creek around O’Fallon Park.

Fish Species in Bear Creek, Colorado

Heres a quick view of the species in bear creek, where they are found and the sizes to expect.

Brown Trout
  • brown_trout_iconPopularity: Common
  • Average Size: 7”-14”
  • Max Size: 18”
  • Found in: All Sections

Top Fly Patterns for the River

Fly selection is a vital part of your success when fly fishing Colorado.  Though Bear Creek has fish that are more willing to take a variety of flies, knowing when and what flies to use is the secret sauce to success.  We have listed below some of the top fly patterns for Bear Creek broken down by season.

If you’d like to learn more about the importance of fly selection, you can expand the tab below:

How to Select the Right Fly for Fly Fishing

With literally thousands of fly patterns to choose from that all come in 14 different sizes It really comes down to 3 guidelines that determine your selection:

  • Match the Hatch: A common phrase among fly fisherman. It simply means if you see bugs flying around, go catch one and see what it is and match it as closely as you can to what’s in your box. When in doubt, go a size smaller if you don’t have the exact size and if you don’t have an exact color, Black, Grey and Olive seem to be universally accepted. If nothing is hatching, use a fly fishing seine (or breathable fabric) to put down in the water and as the water passes through the seine, nymphs will be caught. find the most common bug or any patterns (olive nymphs, certain sizes etc) and match that as best as possible.
  • Match Seasonal Bugs: If no hatch is present and you don’t have a seine, it will pay to know your seasonal insects. The major bug categories for fisherman are Midges, Mayflies, Caddis, Stoneflies, Terrestrials, Eggs & Worms and Streamers. Knowing what bugs are hatching during that time of year and river will help you know what flies to throw on in absence of any physical evidence. Generally Speaking it goes as follows:
    • Spring and Fall Seasons: Smaller Bugs #16 – 24 – Mayflies, Midges, Caddis, Eggs & Worms, Streamers
    • Summer Time: Larger Bugs #6 – #14 – Mayflies, Caddis, Stoneflies, Terrestrials, Eggs & Worms, Streamers
    • Winter Time: Small Bugs #18 – #28 – Midges, Mayflies, Egg & Worms, Streamers
  • Throw Your Confidence Bug: If you have a fly pattern that you believe will work, chances are it will. If you don’t see any hatches and don’t know what’s going on in that river, just throw what you can believe in. You’ll be surprised how it improves your presentation and it’s often true that good presentation is superior to fly selection.

If all those options above fail, then the last bit of advice is to do the opposite of what you think will work. Sometimes hopper skated on the surface in the middle of winter makes the fish go crazy, other times, small micro midges in the middle of a hot summer day are all fish want to eat. That’s why the above are set as guidelines instead of rules, because in fly fishing, there is always the exception.

Common Insect Hatches for Bear Creek

Hatch charts are useful, but often times it’s better to understand what bugs exist in the river and the time of year they hatch. It’s not like at the 8th of August, you can’t fish PMD/Sulphur Mayflies anymore. Nature isn’t that rigid, so neither is our advice. That being said, here is a seasonal list of bugs you’ll find in Bear Creek:

Spring and Fall Season

  • Midges Sizes #18 – #24 All Colors, Predominantly Black and Olive
  • Mayflies Sizes #16 – #24 in Olive, Grey, Dark Brown
  • Egg and Worms #10 – #16 Red, Pink, Purple, Brown
  • Streamers #6 – #12 Black, Olive, Yellow

Summer Season

  • Midges Sizes #16 – #20 All Colors, Predominantly Black, Olive, Grey, Red
  • Mayflies Sizes #12 – #18 Olives, Yellow/PMD, Grey, Black, Blue
  • Stoneflies Sizes #8 – #16 Orange, Yellow, Black
  • Terrestrials Sizes #6 – #14 Ants, Hoppers, Beetles, Black, Yellow, Green, Tan, Red
  • Egg and Worms #10 – #16 Red, Pink, Purple, Brown
  • Streamers #6 – #12 Black, Olive, Yellow

Fly Fishing Access for Bear Creek, Colorado

View the map below to see where the river sections are and the beats that are commonly fished. There are 7 common beats that you can fish that are marked with Fish Icons. Gulches and Points of Interest are Red Bubbles. Sections are divided up in different colored lines for easy viewing.

 

Fly Fishing Access Points for Bear Creek

If you are wanting to know where to fish Bear Creek, this is a great map to give you the major access points. Please pay close attention to private property signs as a good bit of the river is private. That said, there are plenty of parks along Bear Creek that are all fishable and hold a variety of browns and rainbow trout. View the rest of our tabs and information to help you plan your trip to Bear Creek in Colorado.

Mount Evans Wilderness Beat

This section can be accessed through Upper Bear Creek Road up past Evergreen or can be accessed from Mount Evans Wilderness on Mount Evans Road, Accessed from Idaho Springs. Brook Trout can be caught up in these sections and is typically un-crowded and provides some of the closest options to catch brook trout from Denver.

Want 125 More Rivers to Explore?

Yup, you read that right, we’ve put together river guides on 125+ of Colorado’s best waters. We share all the information you need to fish the river with success including hatch charts, top flies to use (names, sizes, colors), tips on fishing the river, weather reports and more.

Take the Guesswork Out of Fly Selection

Now you know some excellent places to go fishing, but do you know what to do if the environment changes and the flies we recommended don’t work? We provide an excellent course that will teach you how to identify any insect and match it to a fly in your box so you can catch more fish.

If you’re ready to take your fly fishing to the next level, check out what we have for you…