This was my first time fishing Bear Creek - a small, freestone water that starts it’s journey up on top of Mount Evans and eventually finds it’s way to the South Platte. The section of water I fished was at Lair o’ the Bear Park, just off of HWY 74 in Idledale, CO. I’ve been to Lair o’ the Bear numerous times before to hike with the pup, but hadn’t had the chance to dunk a fly.

The water here is narrow and shallow, and depending on the time of year flows can range from unfishably slow to unfishably fast (the runoff season in Colorado pretty well destroys freestone fishing from about Mother’s Day until July 4th).

Bear Creek at Lair 'o the Bear Park
Bear Creek at Lair ‘o the Bear Park.

The Beginning

After having to park off of HWY 74 because the main lot was full, I hiked back to the main entrance and dropped in to the left of the park. The water here was nice and clear, with lots of little pockets and runs. I fished about a 200 yard section of winding water for maybe 40 minutes without any luck.

The Middle

Next, I hiked back through the trail system and dropped down an embankment across from the public restrooms. There was a nice run that was in the shade and turned around a bend. I may have got one small hit from a tiny brown, but again nothing was happening. It didn’t help that 15 yards down river from me was an opening where dogs were playing in the water and little kids were throwing rocks to make splashes. That’s the only downside to fishing Lair o’ the Bear on the weekend - it’s a huge spot for families to come and picnic or do a nature walk, or for MTB-ers to cruise down the trails at top speed, so it’s anything but quiet and peaceful.

The End

As I meandered upstream, I eventually came to an area on the walking trail that was crudely blocked off by a cattle fence. Looking quickly over both shoulders, I hopped the fence and waded slowly into the creek. In front of me was a tiny rapid caused by a wider and flatter part of the creek being pushed over some rocks and squeezed through a smaller section. I could also see a good sized run with about chest-high depth and a nice even drift.

And that’s where my trip got fun. The first few hits started at around eleven, and I missed all of them. I switched flies a few times until I decided on the right combination. I dropped a size 20 black zebra midge below a size 16 hair’s ear pattern, and floated it deep beneath a white thingamabobber. Within about 3 casts I had my first fish - an 8 inch brown with some beautiful coloring. After that, the fish started to gulp at the surface - likely waking up as the afternoon sun poked over the mountains and onto the water. I landed 2 more small browns before I was treated to a silver flash from deep in the center run. After a quick fight, I pulled in a 10-12 inch bow with some beautiful spotting. The size of that fish surprised me given how small and shallow most of the water was. I pulled in 3 more browns after that (one had to have been less than 6 inches), and called it a day.

Final Thoughts

Although it wouldn’t be my first choice for fishing in Colorado by any stretch, the fact that this fishery is only 35 minutes from Denver is very appealing. That and the ability to catch a large number of fish (even if they are small) makes for a fun afternoon. I think that if I fish more places like this, I’ll want to invest in a 2 wt or 3 wt to make the experience even more exciting.

Updated:

Drive time: 35 mins

Take US-85 S to US-285 S and get off at the CO-470 W exit. Take the first exit onto CO-8 W (Bear Creek Ave), which becomes 74 W, and continue for about 5 miles. The entrance is on your left.

Parking: Parking is free, but the lot fills up fast due to hikers/bikers. You can also park on the south shoulder just across from the residential driveway.

Other: On the weekend, this place is busy, so plan accordingly.