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Urban River Fishing

Blog by: David Coulson 11/9/2015

Ask someone what an image of fly fishing invokes and Iím sure most will paint a scene out of ďA River Runs Through It.Ē Itís even possible theyíll mention the movie itself.  Thereís little doubt that for many, trout and mountain rivers are core to fly fishing. 

When we lived on the Western Slope, most of my fly fishing was on rivers and streams.  At the time, I typically fished still waters with spinning gear.  My favorites were a fly and bubble or spoons for trout, and jigs for warmwater species. It wasnít until we moved to Fort Collins that I became serious about fly fishing lakes, particularly warmwater fisheries.

The interesting thing about streams and rivers is people love living around them and consequently most rivers flow through a community on their journey to the sea.  These urban stretches of water are often overlooked by anglers. In many ways itís understandable.  First off, few communities have treated their rivers kindly, consequently theyíre often channelized, polluted, with flows a fraction of historical norms.  Couple that with historically limited access due to private ownership and the idea of heading to town to fish these less than scenic waterways havenít held much appeal. 

Times have changed over the last several decades as many towns and cities have recognized that our rivers have greater value than a water faucet and dumping ground.  Efforts have been put forth to reclaim our waterways and turn them into areas all can enjoy.  As a result of these efforts, many urban rivers sport solid fisheries.

Granted, you have to be willing to overlook the less than scenic surroundings, noise, and other less than desirable aspects of town fishing.  Letís face it, even the nicest buildings arenít a substitute for pine forest.  Honking horns arenít nearly as pleasant as honking geese, and I find high country smells preferable to vehicular exhaust. 

Iím not sure when I first tried fishing urban rivers, but I can remember plying the South Platte River back in the seventies.  Since that time Iíve spent many hours fishing within city limits.  Why, you might ask?  The fish!  Over the years some of the most productive days Iíve had on rivers, including some incredibly large trout, came from urban settings.  I have fond memories of fishing waters in Montrose, Gunnison, Denver, Pueblo, Eagle, Vail, Gypsum, Glenwood Springs, Grand Junction area, Boise, Idaho, and Fort Collins to name a few.

Recently Iíve been fishing the Cache La Poudre River around the Fort Collins area.  Thanks to the efforts to complete the Poudre River trail and the numerous natural areas, there is a substantial amount of accessible and fishable river, too much to list here.  However, I must point out that just because thereís a trail along the river doesnít mean thereís public access to fish the river.  That includes a number of ďpublicĒ areas.  Several natural areas are closed to fishing. So before fishing any section of the river, make sure itís permissible.

Right now the river is running low and clear.  As a consequence, the sections Iíve been fishing are shallow and generally non-productive, requiring a bit of walking between the deeper, fish holding runs.  Worth it?  Yes, for several reasons, one, the exercise; two, Iíve yet to encounter another angler; and three, the fish.  Not only have I been catching a few nice trout, but some sections of the river hold a hodgepodge of species, including bass, sunfish, carp, catfish, and suckers. 

Urban rivers donít have the scenic qualities of high country waters, but once you get past the scenery, you might just be surprised how good the fishing can be downtown.

Urban Poudre River rainbow
Blog content © David Coulson
Blog Comments
the fishing dj, CO   11/9/2015 10:24:57 AM
Great write up. I've been spending the majority of my time fly fishing certain stretches of the river in town recently, mainly because its an awesome fishery! Like you said above, nobody else fishing, lots of fish, and some hogs too!
D-Zilla, SC   11/10/2015 2:46:35 PM
You sir are one timely son of a .............. I was just thinking about trying my luck in the platte here around Denver this weekend. (free access, and plenty of fish, or so I've heard)
David Coulson (Flyrodn), CO   11/10/2015 3:28:39 PM
The Platte in town is an interesting fishery, and I occasionally fish, especially in the winter. The one thing about urban fisheries that I find fascinating is, if a species is in the reservoirs upstream, it very well may show up in the river. In Denver I know smallies, largemouth, sunfish, walleye, etc. can all be caught in the Platte. Heck, tiger muskie have even been caught. Have fun. While the fishing can be great, it can also be challenging.
Rsrecurvehunter, CO   11/10/2015 7:08:59 PM
In the few times I fished the south Platte in Denver I was amazed at the variety of fish. I caught carp, a 18" rainbow, sucker, perch smallmouth bass, and saw a largemouth and huge koi fish.
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