The Walker Ranch
By Paul Prentiss

Boulder County began purchasing the Walker Ranch in 1976 and currently controls close to 4000 acres including a BLM parcel. It's located about 8 miles up Flagstaff road. You can gain access via the South Boulder Creek Trail or from the Crescent Meadows trailhead. Alternatively you can hike or horseback ride from Eldorado Springs State Park. It contains 2.5 miles of Boulder Creek below Gross Reservoir.

There is lots of pocket water with deep runs through canyon stretches. You'll find Rainbows, Browns and Brookies in this habitat. We're not talking large fish but a fisherman will occasionally net a 14 to 16 incher.

The scars of a major forest fire in September of 2000 are plainly evident but considerable rehabilitation has been completed to preserve the area. You will find a great diversity of plants, animals and birds. Coyote, deer, black bear, mountain lion and wild turkey frequent the area and elk migrate here from higher elevations in the winter. The Ranch gets considerable usage by hikers, bikers, and fishermen due to its proximity to Boulder, beautiful scenery, and excellent trails. I have a friend who likes to bike up Flagstaff with his fishing gear and then down the South Boulder Creek Trail. A less strenuous biking/fishing program would be to depart from the trail head parking lot. It's just over a mile to the creek down a well marked trail.

One pertinent issue concerns the discharge rates (measured in Cubic Feet per Second) below Gross Reservoir. You can secure real-time information on these rates through the Colorado Division of Water Resources via the Internet. Go to www.dwr.state.co.us/Hydrology/flow_search.asp or to the Front Range Anglers Information Center. Over the last couple of weeks the flow has jumped up and down - under 10 CFS to over 300 CFS! The 440 acre Gross Reservoir is owed and operated by the Denver Water Board which manages these rates. Unfortunately, the interests of fishermen have little, if any, priority.

I like to wet wade it in the summer but it starts to get uncomfortable by late September. The water temperature a week ago was 54 degrees which is OK on a warm summer day but a bit chilly this time of year. When it's safe to wade out in the flow or cross the stream, I'd recommend a wading staff. I always carry one of the folding models with me. As far as rods go, its great water for light outfits - 2 to 4-weight outfits are perfect with 9-foot tapered leaders.

You'll find plenty of stoneflies, mayflies, and midges in along the creek. During the summer and autumn I'll fish a lot of attractors and terrestrials. Yellow and orange bodied Stimulators, Chernobyl ants, large Snoball Beetles, foam bodied hoppers, Royal Wulffs, top the list.

Occasionally, I'll tie on a dropper 16 to 18 inches behind the lead fly using 5X tippet material. If you like to fish nymphs, try a Copper John with rubber legs and/or a Prince Nymph. Make sure you've got sufficient weight on the fly and/or leader to get it to the right depth.
Take your time as you work upstream - all the likely looking runs hold fish. When the flow and water temperature is just right the fishing can be extremely good. During mid-August this year I had a 30 fish day with the best fish almost 16-inches - pretty hard to beat 20 minutes from Boulder.