Category Archives: Clear Creek

Clear Creek – 05/01/2022

Time: 12:15PM – 4:15PM

Location: Clear Creek Canyon

Clear Creek 05/01/2022 Photo Album

Although a distant second to fly fishing, I am also an avid pickleball player, and Sunday morning began with a visit to a local set of courts. Unfortunately, after 1.5 hours of play, it became clear that the four courts were overwhelmed by twenty-six players. This meant that ten players were sitting out at any given time waiting for a court to open up. Having already played some quality pickleball on Friday and Saturday, I concluded that my time could be better spent on a trout stream.

My go to nearby creek this spring has been Clear Creek, so I made that my destination on Sunday afternoon. I quickly loaded the car and threw together my standard lunch and made the relatively short drive to Clear Creek Canyon west of Golden, CO. The parking spaces were jammed with hikers, bikers, fishermen and rock climbers taking advantage of the nice weekend weather, but I found a nice wide pullout with the absence of other cars. It was 11:45AM, when I arrived at my chosen section of Clear Creek, so I munched down my sandwich and carrots, before I prepared to fish. The temperature was in the low fifties, so I pulled on my light down coat and added my raincoat as a windbreaker, and this proved to be a good decision, as the wind was a periodic factor in the narrow canyon. My fly rod of choice was my Sage four weight, as I desired its stiffness and fast action to combat the wind.

Second Cast Produced Here Along the Seam

Hungry Fish

Based on my experience on previous trips, I began my day with a peacock hippie stomper trailing a size 16 olive-brown deer hair caddis. The double dry delivered five trout in two hours of fishing, as I moved often and executed a significant number of casts. I would characterize the fishing as steady, but I was disappointed nevertheless. Two of the landed fish gulped the hippie stomper and the other three nipped the caddis. These results were accompanied by an abundant quantity of looks and refusals, and this added to my frustration. I began to experiment with different combinations including a classic black Chernobyl ant, a purple haze, and a size 14 gray deer hair caddis as the lead fly. None of these flies delivered results, so at 2:15PM, I modified my approach and switched to a dry/dropper configuration.

Landed One From the Narrow Slick Next to the Large Rock

On previous trips to Clear Creek the nymphs failed to produce, as the trout either looked at, refused or ate the surface fly. I was skeptical that Sunday would be any different, but I reluctantly rigged with a yellow size 6 fat Albert, a beadhead hares ear, and a salvation nymph. Voila! The change worked, and my catch rate elevated, as I moved the fish count from five to thirteen. Initially the hares ear was the prime producer, while the salvation accounted for a couple trout as well. It seemed that the salvation was more effective on the lift, or when the flies swept across the current at the end of a drift; whereas, the hares ear connected on dead drifts.

Hares Ear Looked Tasty

After I increased the fish count from five to nine, I began to notice very spaced out and sporadic rises as well as some small blue winged olives, as they floated skyward after their emergence. I decided to forsake the salvation and replaced it with a sparkle wing RS2. During the last hour I netted four additional trout with the hares ear responsible for half and the sparkle wing RS2 the object of desire for the remainder. All was not perfect during the dry/dropper phase, as several fish refused the large yellow fat Albert, but I learned to ignore these picky eaters, and if I managed nice drifts through deep pockets and runs, I was rewarded with subsurface eats.

Large Pool

My last minute decision to abandon the pickleball courts in favor of a trout stream proved to be productive. Thirteen fish in four hours represents a decent catch rate, but as usual the size of the trout was lacking. One or two of my catch may have stretched the tape to eleven inches, but they were mostly in the seven to ten inch range. I considered the outing a great success given the short drive and the cool windy conditions.

Fish Landed: 13

Clear Creek – 04/15/2022

Time: 4:00PM – 6:00PM

Location: Clear Creek Canyon

Clear Creek 04/15/2022 Photo Album

Wind, wind and more wind. This pretty much describes my spring fishing in 2022 so far. I managed a decent day on Monday on Clear Creek, and I was anxious to complete another fishing trip during the remaining weekdays; however, high winds on Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday precluded any such thoughts. In fact, it was too windy for my other favorite activity, pickleball. Tuesday night was so cold that the overnight temperature dipped to 16 degrees, and my tender radish sprouts felt the brunt of it.

Finally, the forecast predicted some abatement from the wind on Friday, but I decided to join Jane for some pickleball in the morning, and of course that led to lunch and beers at the Stanley Marketplace afterward. I arrived back home by 2PM, and after watering the garden (including frost damaged radish seedlings), I decided to make a late afternoon visit to Clear Creek Canyon. I had fun there on Monday, and the drive was only thirty minutes.

Pocket Water

My gear remained in the car at the ready after Monday, so I took the plunge and made quick work of the drive to Clear Creek west of Golden, CO. The wind remained a factor, but it slowed from its limb rattling force of the previous three days.

By the time I made the drive and rigged my line on my Sage four weight, I was on the water ready to cast a bit before 4PM. I wore my light down coat, and that kept me comfortable in the lengthening shadows of the canyon with the air temperature in the upper fifties.

I began my quest for trout with a peacock hippie stomper and trailed a yellow stimulator on a six-inch dropper. These two flies delivered seven fish to my net in the afternoon on Monday April 11. For the next two hours I worked my way upstream, as I probed all the promising pockets and deep runs of Clear Creek. In the early going the hippie stomper lured two fish to the surface, and I reacted with swift hooksets in both cases to increase the fish count to two.

Clear Creek Respectable

This early action was followed by a lull and some refusals to the hippie stomper, so I swapped the yellow stimulator for an olive-brown deer hair caddis. The move paid dividends, when a small brown trout snatched the caddis from the drift. If the fish were refusing the hippie stomper, why did I change out the trailing fly? My thought process reasoned that at least the hippie stomper was attracting interest, while the stimulator was merely trailing surface debris. I also anticipated that I could execute downstream drifts which would allow the deer hair caddis to drift over potential targets first.

In spite of catching a fish on the deer hair caddis, I was underwhelmed by the performance of the combination, and the size 16 was very difficult to track in the shadows and glare of the late afternoon. I pondered another fly change, and this time I elected to switch the caddis for a gray stimulator size 14.

Last Catch Was a Rainbow

For the last thirty minutes I manipulated the hippie stomper and stimulator combination along Clear Creek, and I netted two more trout including another brown and a twelve-inch rainbow. In both cases the trout smashed the stimulator at the extreme downstream border of the pool, as I lifted to execute another cast. Apparently, the trout could not allow a potential food source to fly off. I had a third trout that was potentially my largest of the day that reacted in similar fashion to the late lift, but it escaped after an abbreviated battle. I caught a glimpse of its side, and it appeared to be another rainbow.

Five trout in two hours of fishing represented an above average catch rate, and I was pleased with my brief tenure on Clear Creek. I fished dry flies with moderate success, and the air temperature remained at the low end of the comfort zone. I look forward to continued trips to nearby Clear Creek.

Fish Landed: 5

Clear Creek – 04/11/2022

Time: 11:30AM – 4:00PM

Location: Clear Creek Canyon

Clear Creek 04/11/2022 Photo Album

I was in dire need of a day like Monday. After two one-fish outings on the South Platte my confidence dipped, and my arm ached for multiple throbs during a day a fishing. Originally when I noted overcast skies and precipitation in the forecast for Tuesday and Wednesday, I considered a long trip to the Arkansas River in an attempt to find a dense blue winged olive hatch, but then I did my homework on predicted wind velocity and changed my plans. Wind speeds in excess of twenty MPH are not conducive to satisfying fly fishing. My search now revolved around wind velocity predictions, and I settled on Clear Creek in Clear Creek Canyon. Afternoon wind speeds were expected to peak around 10 MPH, and I experienced moderate success during my last visit on 04/03/2022.

I took my time in the morning to allow the temperatures in the narrow canyon to warm up, and I finally departed the house by 10:20AM. This enabled me to arrive at a pullout high above tumbling Clear Creek by 11:00, and I was on the water ready to cast by 11:30. I wore my fleece cardigan and North Face light down coat and tugged on my New Zealand billed hat with ear flaps, and I wore these layers through my day on the water. My rod of choice was my Sage four weight, as it is stiff and provides better performance in windy conditions The creek was flowing along nicely at 25 CFS, and the water clarity was perfect.

A Good Place to Start

I began my Clear Creek adventure with a yellow fat Albert, hares ear nymph and ultra zug bug, and by the time I broke for lunch the fish count rested on three. My first two landed fish were small rainbows, and the third was a nine inch brown trout. The fat Albert lured one fish to the surface, and the ultra zug bug accounted for the other two.

Handsome Brown Trout

I was near my car by 12:30PM, and my hands were stinging from being wet and the resultant evaporation effect from temperatures in the upper forties and low fifties, so I climbed the steep bank and returned to the car to eat lunch in the protected environment of my front seat.

Approaching Lunch Exit Point

After lunch I continued upstream with my dry/dropper configuration until 2PM. I swapped the unproductive hares ear for a beadhead black mini leech during this time period, and the three fly combination enabled me to elevate the fish count to eight. Also, the leech never produced, so eventually I replaced it with a size 14 prince nymph, and I experimented with an emerald caddis pupa as well. The yellow fat Albert fooled two more trout, and the size 14 prince yielded three. At around 2PM I hooked a fish, and all three flies broke off. I suspect that I was the victim of an abraded knot, as the fish in Clear Creek are not large enough to inflict this level of damage to a fly line.

Very Clear

Clear Creek Monster

Throughout the dry/dropper period I witnessed quite a few refusals to the hopper, and this observation caused me to question whether a double dry fly approach might be effective. I used the three fly break off to test my hunch, and I knotted a peacock body hippie stomper to my line along with a size 12 yellow stimulator. For the remaining two hours on the water I prospected my way upstream through some very attractive pocket water using the two dry fly approach. I was very pleased with the results of my experiment, as I doubled the fish count from eight to sixteen, before I scrambled up the steep bank to quit at 4PM. In the early going the yellow stimulator notched three brown trout, but then a lull and a wave of refusals to the hippie stomper caused me to swap the yellow stimulator for a size 14 gray caddis. The caddis fooled a small brown, and one trout gulped the hippie stomper, but the catch rate slowed, and I reverted to a size 14 yellow stimulator. The yellow stimulator renewed my confidence in the big hackled attractor, as it induced three additional brown trout to linger in my net.

Attractive Pool

Monday was exactly what the doctor ordered. Sure, the largest fish was only ten or eleven inches, but I enjoyed a steady stream of action. My fishing style clearly leans toward catching many small fish over a couple large fish. Of course a lot of large fish is always the preference. I am already anxiously waiting for the high winds to disappear, so I can return to a Colorado stream before the snow melt begins its annual rush down the mountain valleys.

Fish Landed: 16

Clear Creek – 04/03/2022

Time: 1:00PM – 3:15PM

Location: After Tunnel 1

Clear Creek 04/03/2022 Photo Album

After a week filled with pickleball, gardening and skiing, I was itching for a fly fishing outing. Although the weather was not ideal for other activities, I determined that I could tolerate temperatures in the low fifties for an afternoon in Clear Creek Canyon. I read my post from 04/10/2021, and a twelve fish day over three hours encouraged me to make the short drive to the section of the stream just west of Golden, CO.

I ate my lunch before leaving the house and managed to arrive at a crowded pullout high above the creek by 12:40PM. The other four cars that surrounded mine were associated with rock climbers, as I was near a very popular climbing destination. I wore my light down North Face parka and my billed hat with earflaps, and I crossed the bridge and hiked along a path on the south side of the creek away from the highway. I was positioned next to the stream ready to cast by 1:00PM, and I was approximately .4 mile below the bridge.

Inviting Pool

I knotted a yellow fat Albert to my line and added a beadhead hares ear nymph and krystal stone, and I began to prospect the pockets and runs along the left bank. Within ten minutes I connected with a small trout that quickly evaded my fly, but then after another brief interval I hooked and landed a small brown trout that snatched the trailing krystal flash. I was pleased to be on the scoreboard, and this reinforced my commitment to Clear Creek and the stretch that I occupied.

Head Turned Back

For the next 2.25 hours I continued upstream and explored all the spots that displayed depth and slower current velocity, and I added eight more trout to my count to bring my total for the day to nine. Jane wanted me back at the house by 4:00PM, so I quit at 3:15PM within one fish of double digits, but I am trying to reduce my penchant for counting fish, so staying at nine was a good thing.

Promising Stretch

One of Two Rainbows

In the early going I replaced the krystal stone with a beadhead ultra zug bug to add weight and generate a deeper drift, and the ultra zug bug produced. With an hour remaining I swapped the unproductive beadhead hares ear for a beaded mini leech. The mini leech accounted for my last fish, and all the fish between my first and last snatched the ultra zug bug from the drift. I also experienced five or six temporary hook ups, so the action was rather steady over the 2.25 hours of fishing.

Pretty

Another Nice Run

The air temperature never warmed above fifty degrees, and my hands and feet morphed into stiff joints by the time I climbed the steep bank and returned to the car. The sky was slate gray during the entire afternoon, and I never saw any insect activity other than a few random midges. I considered Sunday to be a successful early season venture on a nearby stream, and a return is certainly a likely possibility.

Fish Landed: 9

Clear Creek – 12/01/2021

Time: 1:00PM – 3:00PM

Location: Clear Creek Canyon

Clear Creek 12/01/2021 Photo Album

My fly fishing outing today, December 1, 2021, simply confirmed why I am not a fan of cold water fishing, even though the air temperature where I was fishing was in the low sixties. I spent two hours on Clear Creek in relative comfort, and I failed to land a single fish. In fact, I think I saw one fish during my time on the water, and even that could have been a figment of my imagination. I am forced to conclude that winter fishing outings should be directed toward tailwaters and streams that drain wide  and open valleys that enable the sun to penetrate.

I played pickleball in the morning, and by the time I showered and loaded the car and drove to Clear Creek Canyon, the clock displayed 12:30PM. I immediately munched my light lunch, and as I observed from the car, the wind seemed to represent an annoying factor. Although it remained present throughout my two hours on the stream, it seemed to subside to some degree, and other than a few tangles, it was not a significant reason for my lack of success.

Promising

I rigged initially with a yellow fat Albert for visibility and buoyancy, and then I attached a beadhead hares ear nymph and soft hackle emerger. The fat Albert was simply a high floating indicator. After a short amount of unsuccessful fishing, I swapped the soft hackle emerger for an ultra zug bug, and eventually I changed out both nymphs for a 20 incher and super nova PMD nymph. None of these offerings aroused interest.

Love the Look of the Run Along the Rocks

I progressed steadily upstream along the roadside bank and covered all the prime pools, before I retired at 2:45PM. Most of the articles I read about cold water fishing emphasized that the fish tend to congregate in deep slow moving pools, so I was quite selective about the target areas for my casts. I dwelled longer in slow moving shelf pools, and I paused to scan and observe the prime spots before casting; however, I never sighted a fish. At one point I waded through the tail of a deep pocket to unsnag my flies, and this was the one instance, when I thought I noticed a fish.

Money in the Summer

As three o’clock approached my right foot began to lose feeling, and I was surrounded by shadows just below the highway 6 bridge, so I called it a day. My confidence reached a low ebb, and I was thinking more about pickleball and Christmas shopping than fly fishing.

Fish Landed: 0

Clear Creek – 09/24/2021

Time: 11:00AM – 4:00PM

Location: National forest area

Clear Creek 09/24/2021 Photo Album

My trip to the Frying Pan River was successful, if for no other reason than I got to spend an evening with my daughter and her significant other, Thirty-two fish in two days was also respectable, and that included a nice sprinkling of fish in the twelve to fifteen inch range. The forecast for highs in the eighties in Denver spurred me to plan another day trip to fish in a local stream on Friday, September 24. The days are rapidly getting shorter, and I was anxious to take advantage of mild weather. My first choice was South Boulder Creek, but a quick check of the DWR gauge revealed that flows were reduced to a trickle of 6.74 CFS. I suspect that I could have caught some fish, but I did not feel that it was fair to fish at such ridiculously low levels.

Promising Water Above and Below the Dam

My fallback option was Clear Creek, and I found myself along the banks of the front range stream at 11:00AM ready to cast. The air temperature upon my arrival at the pullout was 53 degrees, and this reading prompted me to pull on my rain shell for warmth and to act as a windbreaker. Periodic gusts chilled me, while I assembled my Orvis Access four weight. When I quit fishing at 4PM and returned to the car, the dashboard digital thermometer read 67 degrees, and I wore the raincoat during my entire time on the creek. The conditions were pleasant for fishing but a bittersweet reminder that cold weather is imminent in the high country.

Skinny Water Required Stealth

So Pastel

I began my day with a peacock hippie stomper fished solo on a 5X tippet, and in the one hour before lunch I recorded three cutthroat trout. I targeted quite a few very attractive pools with no results, so I pondered some changes. After lunch I extended a one foot leader from the bend of the hippie stomper and fished a double dry setup that included a gray size 16 caddis. The combination produced a trout on the caddis, but it was less effective than the solo stomper, so I once again implemented a change. In this instance I added a beadhead hares ear nymph, but in a short amount of time I realized that the plop of the weighted nymph was scattering the trout on the first cast to a new spot. I quickly made another adjustment and replaced the hares ear with a sunk ant. The ant did not create the same impact upon landing, During this period of experimentation with fly combinations I raised the fish count from three to six. I was beginning to question my ability to hit double digits. In my mind I was debating the reasons for a low catch rate, and my mental list included a marginal stretch of creek, cold overnight temperatures that made the trout lethargic, and my inability to choose the right flies.

Trout Alert

Prominent Slash

In spite of my lowered confidence level I persisted. During this time refusals to the hippie stomper continued, so I downsized the surface fly to a Jake’s gulp beetle and retained the sunk ant. The terrestrial pair attracted a few looks, but no takes, and I once again shifted direction. I removed the double dry fly and migrated to a single lime green trude. This was an archived fly that occupied space in my box, but was rarely used until Friday. The trude exhibited some magic, when it accounted for a cutthroat, and I was certain that I had solved the puzzle. In the next pool a larger than average fish nipped the trude, and I was connected for a very brief moment, until it shed the hook point. I was convinced that this fish was a prize worth pursuing, so I entered the game of changing flies, even though a fish that is pricked rarely eats a second time. The targeted cutthroat actually rose and looked at the lime trude two more times after being nicked by the hook, so I concluded it was worth a few more fly changes. First I knotted a size 18 parachute black ant to my line. Time and again the low riding ant has rescued me in difficult dry fly situations, and on Friday it drew a look, but that was the extent of it. Next I swapped the ant for an olive-brown caddis, and it topped the ant, as it induced a swirling refusal. At this point I surrendered to the king of the pool and moved upstream.

Christmas Colors

Caddis Consumer

I stuck with the deer hair caddis for a bit and landed a few more fish, but the earth toned fly was very difficult to follow in the shadows and glare, so I decided to revert to the hippie stomper, and I added a gray size 16 deer hair caddis as a dropper dry fly. Bingo. This dynamic duo enabled me to elevate the fish count from ten to twenty-eight, before I called it a day at 4PM. I actually planned to quit at three o’clock, but a large and steep bank on the north side of the creek blocked my exit and forced me to continue upstream, until the terrain became more forgiving. Once again I debated in my mind why the fishing improved significantly in the two o’clock to four o’clock time frame. The long, steep bank was certainly a barrier to anglers, and this probably explained much of the improved success along with the direct sunlight and warming of the water temperatures to the optimal zone for feeding. Whatever the reason, I thoroughly enjoyed the last couple hours. I searched for deeper holes and pools and concentrated my casts to the most productive spots. Long casts were more effective than short ones and cautious approaches paid dividends. In short I gained confidence in my flies and knew that accurate casts and properly reading the water resulted in repetitive success. Hopefully I can squeeze out a few more days like Friday before the winter winds blow.

Fish Landed: 28

Perfection with Fins

Clear Creek – 08/16/2021

Time: 9:30AM – 4:00PM

Location: West of Idaho Springs

Clear Creek 08/16/2021 Photo Album

In my opinion cutthroat trout are the most beautiful of all freshwater trout. I find it ironic that the only fish native to Colorado is also the rarest; and, therefore, I am always thrilled to catch these rare and gorgeous fish. On Monday August 16 I decided to pursue cutthroat trout in a relatively close stream.

The high for Denver was forecast to peak in the low 90’s, and the dashboard digital thermometer registered 66 degrees, as I began my trip to Clear Creek. When I parked near my ultimate fishing destination, the temperature was 53 degrees. The impact of elevation on temperature always amazes me. Knowing that the temperature would quickly rise to more comfortable levels enabled me to forego an extra layer, but I did elect to wear my waders. My decision proved to be a solid one, as the high for the day in my location was in the low seventies. The creek was clear and flowing near ideal levels, and the weather was perfect, as I fitted together my Orvis Access four weight four piece rod.

Sweet Spot

I decided to explore a new section of the creek and began casting my flies at 9:30AM after a short hike. For starters I knotted a peacock body hippie stomper to my line, but after covering some delicious pockets and runs with no response, I reconsidered my options. The water was very cold, and I guessed that the local trout were hugging bottom, so I extended a leader from the bend of the stomper and added a salvation nymph. This finally prompted some action, and I landed one rainbow and three small cutbows on the shiny nymph pattern.

Even though I was on the scoreboard, I remained dissatisfied with my catch rate. I attributed some of the lack of action to being closer than normal to the parking lot and path, but my fly choices were also possibly a factor. I decided to go deeper and added another nymph to the end of the tippet, and this time I opted for a beadhead hares ear nymph. The addition of my most productive fly failed to make a difference, and I once more pondered my options.

Big Chunk of Food

I decided to return to a dry fly approach and elected to present a silver hippie stomper with a size 16 olive-brown deer hair caddis. The caddis accounted for one small cutthroat, and the silver stomper picked up a pair. This brought the fish count to seven by the time I sat on a small beach to consume my lunch. Seven fish in 2.5 hours of morning fishing was only slightly better than the standard average of two fish per hour; however, all the landed fish were quite small.

Inviting Run

Lunch Spot

After lunch I once again implemented a change, and in this instance I experimented with a Chernobyl ant trailing the salvation nymph. The Chernobyl generated a few looks, but no takes, and the salvation was ignored. Maybe the looks suggested that the high country cutthroats were looking for smaller terrestrials. I replaced the Chernobyl and salvation with a Jake’s gulp beetle, and the size 12 terrestrial added a trout to the count along with a four-pack of refusals.

Subtle Yet Vivid Colors

I was now frustrated by my inability to dupe these normally aggressive trout. I decided to return to the dry/dropper approach and attached the silver hippie stomper to my line along with a size 18 black stonefly nymph and a sunken ant pattern. Finally I discovered offerings that generated some fairly consistent action, and I moved the fish count from eight to eighteen over the next hour. All the flies produced at least a fish, but the sunken ant was the favorite of the Clear Creek residents.

Mostly Spotless

By 1:30PM I approached a stunning deep pool with a deep run 1/3 of the of the way across the stream from the left bank. The main current then curled around toward the right bank and created a small eddy, and as I observed the pool, I spotted five fish. Two of them were very respectable and likely the largest fish that I saw on Monday, August 16. The larger than average targets were having no part of the hippie stomper, black stonefly or sunken ant; so I removed them and switched to a solitary dry fly. My first choice was a size 16 olive-brown deer hair caddis, but it never generated a look.

Nymph Eater

As I was casting the caddis, I counted four olive hued green drakes, as they slowly fluttered up from the creek. Were these fish selectively looking for drakes? I was certain that was the solution to the puzzle, so I plucked a size 14 parachute green drake from my fly box and knotted it to my line. Nothing. The drake pattern looked perfect to this seasoned angler, but the sighted trout barely waved their tails, when the fly drifted over their position in the pool. Next I tried a user friendly version and then a Harrop hair wing, but each failed to attract interest. One of the big boys hovered just below the surface, so I assumed it was in eating mode. I pulled a parachute ant from my box with the hope that the picky trout could not resist a trapped terrestrial. Quite a few large black ants were crawling about on the logs, as I climbed over them to make progress up the creek, so I was, in effect, matching the hatch. The ant may have created a look from the bigger of the two fish, but that was the extent of the interest shown. I decided to give up on the quality eddy and continue my upstream migration.

Perfect

I returned to the approach that delivered the most fish, and resurrected the peacock hippie stomper along with a size 18 beadhead pheasant tail nymph and the sunken ant. This combination proved to be a winner, and I elevated the fish count from eighteen to thirty-one, before I called it quits at 4:00PM. During this late afternoon period all three flies produced, but the clear favorite was the sunken ant. Next on the cutthroat trout hit list was the hippie stomper, and the pheasant tail produced a couple trout as well.

Riffles Were Productive

The most productive water types were long runs and moderate riffles. In these places I executed relatively long casts, and the stomper paused for a split second, at which point I lifted the rod tip and felt the rewarding throb of a wild trout. The hippie stomper was typically attacked at the tail of a large pocket in front of a large boulder or next to the bank. Structure seemed to be a key ingredient for the trout that responded to a dry fly.

In summary, my quest for cutthroat trout was a success. I struggled early, but once I dialed in the sunken ant and hippie stomper combination, the action accelerated notably. Was it the flies, or did the fish density increase, once I distanced myself from the path and parking lot? Time of day and the presence of more insect activity may have also played a role in my improved catch rate. I will never know for certain which factor was most important, but I suspect they all had a role to varying degrees. The success of the sunken ants that I tied this winter was another gratifying outcome from my day on Clear Creek. I suspect I will return during the 2021 season.

Fish Landed: 31

Clear Creek – 07/14/2021

Time: 11:00AM – 3:00PM

Location: West of Idaho Springs

Clear Creek 07/14/2021 Photo Album

I was completely humbled by the upper Arkansas River on Monday, and I was anxious to atone. Jane and I were scheduled to have dinner guests on Wednesday evening, so I needed a close destination that would allow a return by 4PM. I scanned the DWR graphs for all the Front Range streams, and I narrowed the options down to Boulder Creek and Clear Creek. While most of the state suffered below average snow packs and drought conditions. the Front Range was an exception, and many of my favorite locations were inundated with continuing high flows in the middle of July.

I settled on Clear Creek, because I viewed it first hand on my trip to and from the Arkansas River. In my way of thinking personal scouting always prevails over a graph. When I arrived at my chosen section of Clear Creek, the thermometer registered temperatures in the upper fifties. After a string of days in the nineties, it was refreshing to pull on my fleece and raincoat, as I strung my Loomis five weight line. The reel seat on my Orvis Battenkill reel was loose, so rather than risk it falling in the creek, I elected to dust off the Loomis, since it is shorter than my Sage One and more appropriate for the tight quarters of small stream fishing.

Lush

I hiked a short distance from the car, and I was prepared to cast by 11:00AM. The thick overhead clouds remained throughout my time on the creek, although I did remove the raincoat at noon, as I was feeling a bit overheated. The flows on Clear Creek were high but clear and close to ideal in my opinion. I began prospecting with a size 12 peacock hippie stomper and a size 16 olive-brown deer hair caddis on a twelve inch dropper. Between 11:00AM and noon I landed six cutthroat trout, as two nabbed the hippie stomper, and the other four sipped the caddis. I was pleased with my one hour of morning fishing, but I also felt that I was failing to catch fish in locations that offered potential productivity.

Melon Cutthroat

I used the lunch break to reconfigure my line, and I shed the deer hair caddis and replaced it with a beadhead pheasant tail nymph on a three foot dropper. In a brief amount of time the pheasant tail produced a vividly colored cutthroat, but then I lost both flies, when an errant backcast snagged an evergreen limb. The branch was too high to attempt a recovery, and I broke off both flies, when I applied direct force. I replaced the hippie stomper with another similar version, but I migrated to a hares ear nymph as the dropper fly.

Promising Runs Ahead

The stomper and hares ear combination remained on my line for the bulk of my remaining time on the water. I also experimented with a sunken ant for a brief amount of time, but the fish count surged from six to twenty-five mainly on the strength of the hares ear. I estimated that 75% of the afternoon landed fish snatched the hares ear, and the remainder surged to the surface to crush the hippie stomper. In short, I had a blast and moved from likely spot to promising location at a steady rate. If I encountered slower moving water with enough depth for the fish to hide, I typically managed a landed fish or in the worst case a refusal.

Look at the Neon Orange on This Cutthroat

At one point I actually had two fish on my line at the same time. An eleven inch cutthroat sipped the stomper, and as I began to play the aggressive eater, a smaller cousin grabbed the hares ear. I was rather excited, but the larger of the two slipped free, and only the small one was constrained in my net. I would not characterize the catch rate as torrid, but an average of six fish per hour was certainly hot fishing.

Next to the Roots

Splendid

Light Olive Dominates

Wednesday was a nice bounce back from Monday, and I was thrilled to land twenty-five cutthroat trout in four hours on a small stream. The striking colors of the cutthroats made the day worthwhile, and the cool weather was a nice reprieve from the dry heat of July.

Fish Landed: 25

Clear Creek – 04/24/2021

Time: 11:30AM – 3:00PM

Location: Clear Creek Canyon

Clear Creek 04/24/2021 Photo Album

I rated my time on Clear Creek on 04/10/2021 as a resounding success, and once again I was faced with the first nice spring day in two weeks on a Saturday, so I decided to push my luck and made the short trip to Clear Creek Canyon. On my previous trip I landed twelve trout, albeit small, in three hours of fly fishing, and compared to recent results on the nearby Front Range stream, this outcome was deemed relatively good.

The forecast for Saturday called for a high of around 62 degrees in Golden, but I delayed my departure until 10:30AM to ensure that the air had time to absorb the sun’s rays in the narrow canyon, before I made a first cast. The strategy paid off, and the temperature on the dashboard registered 50 degrees, as I pulled on my light down coat and assembled my Sage four weight in anticipation of a few hours of fishing on April 24.

Lots of Pockets in This Area

When I was geared up, I clambered down a short but steep rock bank, and I configured my line with a size 8 fat Albert, a beadhead hares ear, and an emerald caddis pupa. These flies proved unattractive to the canyon fish population, although the fat Albert introduced a disturbing trend, as three fish refused the large hopper pattern. During the remainder of my time on the creek, I was haunted by refusals to my large surface flies, and minimal response to the trailing subsurface nymphs failed to offset this frustrating condition.

Promising

For dry/dropper surface flies I deployed the fat Albert, a size 10 Chernobyl ant, a peacock hippie stomper, and a size 12 yellow stimulator. Only the Chernobyl ant produced a trout, but a size 16 gray deer hair caddis trailing the stimulator also yielded a fish. I landed six small brown trout during three plus hours of fishing, and each fish devoured a different fly. The four productive nymphs in the dry/dropper arrangement that yielded brown trout were a prince nymph, krystal stone, soft hackle emerger and sparkle wing RS2. A keen reader will note that I was never able to find a consistent producer during my time on Clear Creek.

Caddis Chomper

During the last half hour I noticed some rising trout, and this prompted me to try the double dry technique that frequently contributed to my success during 2020. The fish that nabbed the soft hackle emerger resulted from this tactic.

Monster on This Day

In summary, it was a frustrating day, and I never solved the riddle of Clear Creek. The dry flies were mostly refused, and action on the nymph droppers seemed like a random occurrence. Six trout in three hours of fishing represented an average catch rate, but the size of the fish was not an offsetting positive. Two of the landed browns were so small that they squeezed through the net opening, and I hate dealing with that nuisance situation. What would I do differently, if I revisit Clear Creek in the near future? I would probably experiment with a single dry such as a deer hair caddis, beetle or ant; and I would adopt the double dry earlier in the day. I would also focus exclusively on the water along the bank, and ignore midstream lies and fast water runs.

Fish Landed: 6

Looks Fantastic

Clear Creek – 04/10/2021

Time: 11:00AM – 2:00PM

Location: Clear Creek Canyon west of Golden, CO

Clear Creek 04/10/2021 Photo Album

Clear Creek has the reputation of a small stream with modest sized fish, where it is easy to catch trout. My recent experience with the creek west of Golden refuted the idea that the predominantly small brown trout were pushovers. Thus, it was with a great deal of trepidation that I departed for Clear Creek on Saturday morning. A magnificent spring day was forecast for Colorado, but it was a Saturday, so I knew the popular spots such as the South Platte River would be overrun by stir-crazy fishermen. Clear Creek represented an option that was nearby and not as popular but with miles of public access to absorb zealous anglers.

Pocket Water Produced a Few

I arrived at my chosen location along the medium sized stream by 10:30AM, and after donning my waders I assembled my Sage four weight. The air temperature was in the low fifties, as I departed the car, so I snugged on my light cardigan fleece. The flows were nearly ideal at 25 CFS, and the clarity was perfect. My heart rate elevated in anticipation of casting for trout in these inviting conditions. I hiked up U.S. 6 for a bit and then crossed to the side of the creek away from the highway and continued for another .4 mile. This would be the amount of the stream that I covered in three hours on April 10.

Frisky Brown Trout

I tied a size 8 yellow fat Albert to my line and followed it with a beadhead hares ear nymph and ultra zug bug. I began prospecting the likely holding areas, and in a short amount of time I landed a pair of small brown trout. Both trout nabbed the hares ear, as it tumbled along runs of moderate depth and velocity. In the first fifteen minutes I spotted a pair of decent fish along the left bank, but they ignored my offerings, and this created some concern over my choice of flies, but after I moved upstream and tested some different stream structure, I was reassured by the two trout that responded.

Small Jewel

I worked my way upstream at a steady pace until 11:50AM, when I paused to eat my lunch, and I built the fish count to six. Several rather nice brown trout by Clear Creek standards rested in my net during this time, and all six of the late morning catch nipped the hares ear nymph. After lunch I moved the hares ear to the point position and replaced the ultra zug bug with my new creation; the krystal stone. The combination proved effective, and the fish count climbed from six to twelve in the hour between noon and 1:00PM. Four of the early afternoon trout crunched the krystal stone and the others gulped the hares ear.

Very Nice Run and Pool Ahead

As 1:00PM passed, I was feeling pretty optimistic about my fortunes on April 10, but as soon as my confidence peaked, the fish felt  compelled to teach me a lesson. I endured an extended slump over the last hour of my time on Clear Creek, and I could only speculate that it was the time of day or my proximity to the easier access from the highway, I cycled through a series of fly changes including a 20 incher, sparkle wing RS2 and emerald caddis pupa; but none of these options could replicate the success that I enjoyed in the first two hours.

Fun Catch

As forecast on my Weather Underground application, the ferocity of the wind accelerated by 2:00PM, so I hooked my fly in the rod guide and returned to the Santa Fe. Twelve fish in three hours of fishing was a surprisingly strong outcome for me on a pleasant spring day in a nearby creek. A few brown trout measured in the eleven to twelve inch range, and I was pleased with these respectable fish. Clear Creek is back on my short list of close by destinations for spring fishing.

Fish Landed: 12

Shelf Pool Promising