Where to fish on Boulder Creek during Runoff

Predicting when runoff will hit, and what water levels will be like for our rivers throughout the year is like predicting the weather. In fact, it’s exactly like predicting the weather. Therefore, it’s inherently foolish, but we still play the game. Here are some tips about the different sections of Boulder Creek to help you to continue to enjoy your favorite back-yard watershed even during run-off:


  1. Boulder Creek is not a tailwater. Even though there is a fairly large reservoir at the top, the winter flows do not provide tailwater conditions. Boulder Creek behaves like a freestone in terms of the food and the wildness of the fish.
  1. Guides generally divide Boulder Creek into two major sections, and then some subsections. The two major sections are below and above the falls. The falls, located approximately half way up Boulder Canyon add significant water to the canyon from North Boulder Creek. Before runoff or before they let more water out of Barker Reservoir, it is the primary water source of Boulder Creek. Right now, during pre-runoff, the water is quite skinny above the falls, still fishable if you know the right places, but challenging. Below the falls the water is currently at a perfect level (45cfs). As the water temps warm up this opens up more of the lower canyon to good fishing. The warmer water allows fish that have been holding in pools to start moving out of those winter lies.
  1. The lower section (below the falls) is sub-divided (going upstream) into town, the lower canyon below fourmile canyon, the lower canyon above fourmile below tunnel, and above the tunnel to the falls. Fourmile is a critical drainage, as when it is running (usually after a late snow or heavy rain) it usually muddies the water from the confluence down through town.
  1. At about the same time that Boulder Falls starts pumping a lot of water into the canyon, Barker dam outflows will increase in preparation for full run-off from the upper mountains. Once this happens, the upper section of Boulder Creek becomes much more fishable. This scenario continues until water starts coming over Barker Dam, at which time the whole canyon is typically blown out until the water levels drop enough to stop flowing over the dam. When that subsides, the whole canyon, including the lower canyon, usually becomes fishable again and we are into our prime summer fishing season.