Middle Creek

Run Difficulty

blue-black

Fishing Difficulty

blue-black
12.5 miles

This course is the long course for the Middle Creek Flyathlon race series, held every August near Saguache, CO. The Flyathlon is a race wherein you must catch a fish during your run, and your time is adjusted by the size and the species of the fish.

Fishery Information

The Middle Creek watershed is a true gem within the San Luis Valley. In the small waters of Middle Creek and its tributaries, it is possible to catch the Colorado Grand Slam, including brown, brook, rainbow, and cutthroat trout. It is the last species that makes this watershed so special, as the headwaters of the east fork of Middle Creek is home to a robust population of the native Rio Grande cutthroat trout!

From the trailhead, if you head south to Indian Creek, you will catch exclusively brook trout in some pretty skinny water. That said, you are likely to be the only one fishing Indian Creek, so the fish are fairly willing to take even a poorly presented fly, if you don't spook them first.

The mainstream of Middle Creek directly downhill from the trailhead is loaded with wary brown trout who see a decent amount of pressure due to the proximity to the trailhead. The mainstream of Middle Creek runs for approximately 0.75 miles of single thread channel meandering between beaver ponds, all filled with brown trout, brook trout, and the rare stocker rainbow trout.

At approximately 0.75 miles north of the Middle Creek trailhead, the trail forks with the right fork headed up East Middle Creek and the left fork headed up Middle Creek. I always take a right and head up East Middle Creek. Within this creek, you will find mostly brook trout as the trail ascends 2.5 miles up to a set of switchbacks and a waterfall, above which reside the elusive Rio Grande cutthroat trout. The fishing in this upper stretch of East Middle Creek is tight and brushy, but well worth it to catch this beautiful native trout.

What fish you will find

Rio Grande Cutthroat Trout
(Oncorhynchus clarkii)
native

With such diversity of cutthroat trout subspecies, there are a wide range of spotting patterns and other observable characteristics that can make it difficult to differentiate between subspecies. That said, there are some generally observable traits that define a cutthroat. First, in cutthroat trout, the “cutthroat” mark on the lower edge of the jaw is typically bright red or orange, giving the appearance of a bleeding throat. Additionally, when compared with rainbow trout, cutthroat typically have larger black spots on their bodies that get denser (and more irregularly shaped) as you move towards the tail. Further, inland subspecies of cutthroat trout do not have significant spotting on the top of their heads, which rainbow trout and rainbow trout / cutthroat trout hybrids do.

Minimum Length Observed
5 inches
Maximum Length Observed
13 inches
Learn More
Brown Trout
(Salmo trutta)
non-native

The body of a brown trout is generally brownish-yellow but can be highly variable across a broad spectrum. Spots on a brown trout are both black and red and are often concentrated on the upper half of the fish (i.e. above the lateral line). The tail fin is squarish (as opposed to forked) and typically lacks distinct spotting, a characteristic which differentiates it from some other trout (i.e. rainbow and cutthroat).

Minimum Length Observed
6 inches
Maximum Length Observed
14 inches
Learn More
Rainbow Trout
(Oncorhynchus mykiss)
non-native

Rainbow trout are frequently easily distinguished by the faint pink rose-colored stripe that runs along their lateral line. The back is typically a blue-green color and covered with small black spots, including on the dorsal and tail fins. The belly of the rainbow trout can often be more silver-colored than the back, but not always. Juvenile rainbow trout often have vertically-oriented fainted blotches (called “parr” marks) within the pink along the lateral line, but don’t let that confuse you.

Minimum Length Observed
8 inches
Maximum Length Observed
12 inches
Learn More
Brook Trout
(Salvelinus fontinalis)
non-native

Brook trout are actually not a true trout, but are instead are char. All char (including the brook trout) are easily distinguished from brown, cutthroat, and rainbow trout by the absence of black spots on the body. Additionally, the brook trout has a wavy, worm-like pattern on its back and dorsal fin and distinct small red spots surrounded by light blue halos on the rest of its body. Another distinct identifying characteristic of brook trout are that its lower fins have black and white borders that can easily be seen, even from the banks while fishing.

Minimum Length Observed
4 inches
Maximum Length Observed
10 inches
Learn More

Trail Information

Creek crossings are very easy in the fall, harder in the spring. Lots of ticks in the spring. Bring your fishing rod, as it is possible to catch 4 trout species (cutthroat, brown, brook, and rainbow). There are pit toilets and plenty of parking at the trailhead. Cell coverage is terrible, so bring your satellite messenger or a buddy. Trail can be a bit overgrown at times.

From the trailhead, the Indian Creek Trail climbs slowly for about a mile before descending on newly rehabbed trail (2016) towards Indian Creek. There are plenty of brook trout to catch in Indian Creek. From there, the trail crosses Indian Creek and then the trail follows Indian Creek on the south side of the creek for approximately 1 mile before crossing back over to the north. In this mile, the trail is poorly defined but marked occasionally with cairns.

Once you cross back across the creek, the trail climbs steeply for a short period up the affectionately named WTF Hill ("White Tree Falling"). At the top of this hill, there is a directional sign that points to the right. The trail to the right goes up and over the top of the mountain to the East Middle Creek drainage, but is currently not in great shape. Turn left instead, and continue to climb up the Indian Creek cut-off trail. Once at the top, descend back to the trailhead on a gradual and fun descent.

Once back at the trailhead, turn right and head out the Middle Creek Trail. This trail follows Middle Creek for approximately 0.7 miles through some incredible beaver pond habitat. Stop here to catch brook trout and brown trout (and the occasional rainbow trout).

After 0.7 miles, the trail crosses East Middle Creek. Once across this creek, the Middle Creek Trail continues to the left (and is blown out within the first mile or so) while the East Middle Creek trail continues to the right. Turn right.

The East Middle Creek Trail climbs gradually for about 2.3 miles through several beautiful aspen glens before making a final switchbacked ascent to the top of Cow Skull Hill (a moldy cow skull hangs from a gate). Beyond the fence at the top of Cow Skull Hill, East Middle Creek holds many eager Rio Grande cutthroat trout. The fishing is tricky in this section, as the trees crash right down to the creek.

After exploring the creek above Cow Skull Hill, return down East Middle Creek, cross the creek and return to the trailhead via the Middle Creek Trail.

Trail Stats

12.5 miles
trending_upGain: 2,312 feet
trending_downLoss: 2,321 feet
terrainHigh Point: 10,161 feet
local_floristLow Point: 8,924 feet

Nearby Breweries

Three Barrel Brewing

Directionshttp://www.threebarrelbrew.com/about_us

3BB makes its home in Del Norte, Colorado (7,834 ft). Established in 2003, copper-clad Price-Shonstrum Vessels help create artisan handcrafted brews, produced from San Luis Valley grown malt, local hops and honey and fresh mountain water. "We are a small out of the way Southern CO Craft Brewery."

Kegs are still filled and conditioned one keg at a time. Closely-held, family owned and operated; a proud Colorado company.

Crestone Brewing Company

Directionshttps://www.crestonebrewingco.com/

Crestone Brewing Co. is a nano brewpub in the amazing and mysterious San Luis Valley, just north of Great Sand Dunes National Park. We serve up delicious locally sourced food and craft beverages. Surrounded by National Forest and BLM land on three sides and nestled “in the lap of the tiger” just beneath the majestic and powerful Crestone Range in the Sangre de Cristo mountains, we are fortunate enough to serve the tightly knit community of Crestone and the larger San Luis Valley. The area is blessed in many ways including abundant agriculture from which we source our reasonably priced, delicious, local cuisine. Our chefs make everything possible from start to finish which results in incredibly fresh and delicious meals. When it comes to beverages, craft is the name of our game. Our Brewers are masters in their artistry and are always brewing up different and unique styles to keep our 15 taps constantly rotating. We also specialize in house made Kombuchas, Jun, and sodas; the specialty flavors change daily. We have a wide variety of local wine and spirits as well. Come check us out. We look forward to serving you.

The Colorado Farm Brewery

Directionshttps://www.cofarmbeer.com/

The story of The Colorado Farm Brewery began over 80 years ago when Ray Coody (Cody) settled his young family in the San Luis Valley of Southern Colorado. He hoped to create a sustainable living for his wife and two young sons, Billy and Bobby. He broke the barren soil and planted the seed that is now The Colorado Farm Brewery. Four generations later, his grandson and great-grandsons own and operate Colorado Malting Company and now The Colorado Farm Brewery on the same property where Ray homesteaded. In the tradition of their forbearer, Wayne, Jason & Josh have harvested the seed that Ray planted 80 years ago, creating a brewery unlike anything else in the world. Come experience the brewing renaissance!

The San Luis Valley Brewing Company

Directionshttps://slvbrewco.com/

The San Luis Valley Brewing Company began with a desire to offer the finest in craft brews and fine food in an inviting atmosphere -- a place where community thrives. Scott and Angie Graber create the brews on the premise, our culinary staff prepares wonderful food, and local designer Kris Gosar has created a setting where it is easy to savor both. The Brewery opened in March, 2006. We invite you to browse around our website and learn more about us.