Clear Creek – 09/26/2019

Time: 12:00PM – 3:00PM

Location: Clear Creek Canyon

Clear Creek 09/26/2019 Photo Album

Once again I was a victim of the allure of fishing close to home. Several times each season I make the short drive to Clear Creek in the canyon just west of Golden, CO, and I anticipate some easy number padding fly fishing. Rarely do the results follow this script, and today was not an exception.

The temperature when I began at noon was in the low seventies, and the creek was flowing along slightly higher than normal for late September at 61 CFS. Since I arrived at 11:45AM, I gobbled my small lunch, before I hiked to my starting point along the creek. I chose my Orvis Access four weight; and I began my day with a tan pool toy hopper, beadhead hares ear nymph and beadhead pheasant tail nymph.

First Pocket, First Fish

On the first cast in a tantalizing shelf pool a twelve inch brown trout elevated and crushed the pool toy hopper. Was my day destined to be this easy? Stay tuned. I paused to photograph the larger than average catch for Clear Creek, and then continued and notched two more trout on the hopper within the first thirty minutes. Perhaps today was going to be an exception to the prevalent pattern of selective small trout.

Very Fine Clear Creek Brown Trout

After my early successes my fortunes took a turn for the worse, and suddenly the trout of Clear Creek reverted to form and began to snub the hopper while paying no attention to the trailing nymphs. After a lengthy lull in the action, I downsized the pool toy to a size 10 Chernobyl ant, but the irritating pattern of refusing the top fly continued. This called for another step down in size, and I swapped the Chernobyl for a size 14 hippie stomper. The stomper generated a pair of takes from small fish to boost the count to five, but then it also became a shunned object, and I once again pondered a change.

The nymphs were merely a nuisance and a risk of tangles, so I clipped them off and tossed the solo stomper for a bit, but flashes and rejection ruled the day. Perhaps these persnickety trout desired something even smaller? I exchanged the hippie stomper for a solo Jake’s gulp beetle, and after a couple additional looks and refusals, I managed to land a pair of small brown trout. The beetle was certainly generating more interest, but it was not exactly what the trout were expecting. During the beetle phase I also temporarily hooked several fish, and it seemed that the eats were very tentative and another indicator that my offering was close but not close enough.

North Side

Once again I paused to consider options, and I suspected that perhaps the trout were focused on aquatic insects such as caddis, so I implemented yet another switch to a size 14 gray stimulator. The hackled dry fly was difficult to track, but it did yield one more trout in addition to a batch of subsurface flashes that avoided contact with the hook. The day evolved in a pattern that mirrored many previous trips to Clear Creek. The small natives ignored subsurface offerings and rejected the majority of the dry fly imitations, that I threw their way.

By 2PM I reached a bridge, so I crossed to the opposite side of U.S. 6 and continued my migration. In a fit of frustration I decided to revert to the pool toy hopper, as it was my most effective fly in spite of frequent refusals. I lengthened the dropper to an ultra zug bug and added a salvation nymph as the point fly. I vowed to stick with this method over the final hour and to move at a fairly rapid pace while focusing only on the prime deep slow moving pockets and shelf pools.

Hopper Dangle

I mostly adhered to this commitment and landed two additional trout, before I called it quits at 3PM. Both trout were browns, and one snatched the salvation, while the other crushed the pool toy. These last trout enabled me to reach double digits, and I was quite pleased to attain that goal on what evolved into a very challenging day.

Wild and Colorful

Ten fish in three hours is a decent pace, but the size of the fish was lacking, although I never expected much in this aspect of fly fishing the freestone creek west of Denver. The twelve inch brown on the first cast was actually large by Clear Creek standards. I never found a consistent top water producer, although the trout were clearly looking for their meals on the surface. I caught fish on five different flies, and that was a strong indication that I never found the favored food of the resident trout population. In retrospect I might have tried an ant and a small caddis, but I will never know if these options solved the vexing puzzle of Clear Creek on September 26.

Fish Landed: 10

 

Clear Creek – 05/13/2019

Time: 1:00PM – 4:00PM

Location: Clear Creek Canyon between Tunnel 3 and Big Easy Access Area

Clear Creek 05/13/2019 Photo Album

A two hour session on Clear Creek on Saturday afternoon along with a weather forecast that included five straight days with high temperatures in the upper seventies encouraged me to make another short drive to the canyon west of Golden. I considered Boulder Creek and Bear Creek, but the flows on Clear Creek were comparable to Saturday, and I decided to take advantage of the close destination, before true run off blasted down the freestone waterway. The downside to Boulder Creek is the highway construction taking place in the canyon west of the city. Bear Creek was an interesting option, that I hope to explore in the near future, if flows remain manageable.

I followed my normal morning routine including my workout and run, and this delayed my arrival at a pullout along westbound US 6 until 12:30PM. I am convinced that the best fishing early in the season is in the afternoon, so the later arrival conformed to this assumption. Since it was nearly noon, I ate my lunch in the car, before I launched my fishing preparation routine that included assembling my Sage four weight. I like the extra length and stiffness of the Sage in canyon situations, when wind inevitably becomes a factor. 71 degree temperatures allowed me to fish with only a short sleeved undershirt and a fishing shirt, and I was comfortable during my stay on the creek.

My Future

I ambled east along the shoulder of US 6 for .2 mile, and then I scrambled down a rocky bank to the edge of the stream. Like Saturday the flow was ample at 70 CFS, but structure remained easily identifiable for prospecting. I configured my line with a yellow fat Albert for flotation and visibility and then added my traditional spring nymphs of an ultra zug bug and beadhead hares ear. I progressed upstream between 1PM and 4PM and netted nine wild brown trout. As was the case on Saturday, most of the trout were in the eight to ten inch slot, although I was pleased to extract a nice twelve incher on a downstream drift in some slack water along the opposite bank. A foot long fish from Clear Creek is a trophy.

Best Fish by Far on Monday

Nine in three hours is an above average catch rate; however, I would not describe the action as easy pickings. I covered a fair amount of stream mileage and fired off a generous quantity of casts to achieve this fish count total. In the first hour refusals to the fat Albert were also part of the equation, but that annoyance seemed to fade as the afternoon advanced. It seemed that casts to very slow shelf pools were the primary initiators of nips and rejection.

When my tally climbed to nine, I focused on attaining double digits, and as is usually the case, the fish began to ignore my offerings, when a goal was within reach. Some heavy clouds rolled above the canyon, and I spotted a very sparse blue winged olive emergence. I decided to react to this observation, and I swapped the hares ear nymph for a soft hackle emerger size 20. This move paid dividends, when a small brown trout grabbed the BWO wet fly, as it began to swing and lift at the end of a drift.

Sleek Body

I glanced at my watch and noted it was 3:50PM, so I decided to test a dry fly for ten minutes. The yellow fat Albert attracted attention, so I plucked a size 14 yellow stimulator from my fly box and spent the remaining time prospecting two nearby shelf pools. Again some clouds blocked the sun, and this created some difficult glare, which made following the size 14 dry fly difficult. My experiment failed to translate to success, but it partially satisfied my curiosity of whether a smaller dry might be a winner on Monday, May 13.

Once again the fish that I landed were small, and although the action was not exceptional, it was steady and held my attention. I must admit that I now feel a strong urge to tangle with some larger fish, and Tuesday may fulfill that wish. In spite of my fears over clarity, the stream was crystal clear and exceeded my expectations for May 13.

Fish Landed: 10

 

 

 

 

Clear Creek – 05/11/2019

Time: 2:30PM – 4:30PM

Location: Big Easy Access Area

Clear Creek 05/11/2019 Photo Album

I generally avoid fishing on the weekend, but after three days of wintry weather, milder temperatures on Saturday planted the urge for an outing on a nearby stream. I proposed a trip to Clear Creek Canyon west of Golden, CO to Jane, and she readily agreed to accompany me for a short venture. We tossed Jane’s mountain bike in the Santa Fe along with my fishing gear, and we arrived at the Big Easy Access parking lot by 2:15.

The Trough on Saturday

I quickly jumped into my waders and assembled my Sage four weight, and I was prepared to attack the creek. The temperature was in the low sixties, but some dark clouds appeared in the western sky, so I wore my fleece and raincoat for additional warmth. Jane decided to remain in the car with her book until the weather improved.

Quite a few outdoor enthusiasts occupied the area including dog walkers, hikers, cyclists, rock climbers and fishermen. In order to create some distance from the other anglers, I decided to hike downstream along the shoulder of US 6 for .25 miles, and this placed me beyond the Peak to Plains Footbridge and the traffic that it attracted. My Garmin Forerunner nearly registered .25 miles, when a sedan pulled off the highway and parked parallel to the eastbound lane. I thought that this was a strange place to park for a fisherman or sightseer. As I continued to walk toward the pullout area on my way to a starting point, a gentleman exited the car and began walking toward me. Was he a tourist interested in fly fishing guidance? Finally his hat came into view, and I read the letters DOW on the ball cap. It was a Department of Wildlife officer, and he was about to check for my fishing license!

I removed my front pack and backpack and produced my license, and he thanked me for having it and showing it to him. He offered some tips on fishing locations within his jurisdiction and asked me questions about my fishing preferences and frequency of fishing trips. We said our goodbyes, and I continued along the shoulder a short distance, and at this point I spotted two fishermen below a huge boulder between the highway and the stream. I reversed my direction a short ways, and then I cut down to the creek while allotting an adequate buffer between me and the closest angler.

Pretty Spot Pattern

With only two hours available to fish I quickly knotted a yellow fat Albert to my line and added a beadhead ultra zug bug on a 3.5 foot dropper. Next I attached another section of leader and knotted a beadhead hares ear to the end position. This lineup would occupy my line, until I reached the section of stream directly across from the car at 4:15PM. The stream was flowing at 70 CFS, and this was a bit higher, than I was accustomed to, so I confined my casts to the slower moving pockets and shelf pools along the bank. The strategy paid off, as I registered seven trout, before I arrived at the Big Easy parking lot. All the netted fish were of the brown trout variety. Three were barely beyond my six inch minimum, and the other four stretched to the eight to ten inch range. Nevertheless it was great fun covering the water, and even small trout were a pleasant surprise.

Slick Behind the White Water Targeted

When I approached the Santa Fe, I greeted Jane, and then I scanned the straight section in front of me. The sky was rather dark, and the wind kicked up, and I was astonished to view three separate rises next to the parking lot. I decided to use my remaining time attempting to fool the risers, so I ducked under the rail fence and carefully slid down the steep bank to the edge of the creek. Initially I sprayed casts quartering upstream and drifted the dry/dropper through the main center current and along the slower moving sections on both sides; however, the fish were not interested. A few more sporadic rises occurred, as this was taking place, so I swapped the hares ear for a soft hackle emerger.

Clear Creek Beast

This attempt to match the blue winged olive hatch was resoundingly rejected, so I stripped in the three flies and removed them and tied a single size 24 CDC blue winged olive to my line. I cast above the scenes of the rises and executed some nice drifts throughout the area, but again my fly was ignored. The sky brightened a bit, and a longer period transpired without any surface disturbance from fish, so I decided to end my day. On the way home Jane and I stopped at the Mountain Toad in Golden for a brew.

Seven fish in two hours of fishing was respectable, and it felt good to get outside on a cool spring day on Saturday. I was not accustomed to the larger crowds of the weekend, but the number of anglers was minimal and did not interfere with my endeavor.

Fish Landed: 7

Clear Creek – 04/25/2019

Time: 12:30PM – 3:00PM

Location: Below first bridge after Tunnel 1 heading west

Clear Creek 04/25/2019 Photo Album

I was interested in a nearby destination to sandwich between a longer trip to the Arkansas River on Monday and a planned trip to Eleven Mile Canyon on Friday. I surveyed Clear Creek on my return trip from Eagle, CO on Saturday, so I was confident that the stream was clear. When I reviewed the DWR stream flows for Clear Creek at Lawson, it confirmed my expectations with the stream level in the 50 – 55 CFS range. This combination of information sealed my decision, and I made the relatively short forty-five minute drive to Clear Creek in the canyon west of Golden, CO.

I Like the Looks of the Slick on the Left

I arrived at a pullout along the right shoulder just beyond the first bridge crossing by noon, and I proceeded to munch my small collection of snacks, before I prepared to fish. The air temperature was around sixty degrees, so I pulled on my light fleece, and then I assembled my Orvis Access four weight. I crossed the busy highway, and then sauntered down a path along the south side of the creek. Because it was spring, the dense vegetation, that normally blocks my path, was not a hindrance, and I was able to hike farther than any previous trips. I was about to cut down a bank to the river, when I stumbled across a small tan two-person tent. What was that all about? I was not certain if the tent was occupied, so I reversed my direction and skipped around a tall vertical rock wall, until I could find a reasonably manageable path to the creek.

Number Two on the Day

Once I was perched on the edge of the small canyon stream, I tied a size ten Chernboyl ant to my line, and then I added a beadhead hares ear nymph and emerald caddis pupa. These flies remained on my line, until I switched tactics in the last thirty minutes. I flicked the dry/dropper configuration to all the likely spots along the left bank, and I was rewarded with fifteen landed trout between 12:30PM and 2:30PM. Of course the trout were very small, as they ranged between six and eight inches with perhaps one stretching to nine inches. Nevertheless I enjoyed myself immensely, as I moved at a fairly rapid clip and popped casts to the slower pockets and pools.

Another Sweet Spot

I ignored the entire stream except for the fifteen feet that bordered the left bank. All the landed trout except for one Chernobyl fan grabbed either the hares ear or emerald caddis, and I estimate that four favored the caddis and the remainder crushed the hares ear. This description makes it sound like the two and a half hours were a mindless easy exercise, but that was not the case. For every landed fish I observed a refusal to the Chernobyl ant, and of course a decent dose of temporary hook ups were part of the mix.

Held Up for Display

At 2:30PM I was perched on fifteen landed trout, so I decided to experiment with a single dry approach. The incidence of refusals accelerated between 2PM and 2:30PM, and this prompted me to convert to a single peacock hippy stomper. The foam attractor brought one trout to the surface to move the fish count needle to sixteen; however, it also prompted three refusals. The last visible trout that refused the stomper encouraged me to execute one more fly change. I nipped off the hippy stomper and replaced it with a size 14 olive-brown deer hair caddis. I tossed the small dry to the top of the small deep pool, and on the third drift the hackled deer hair fly disappeared. I assumed it was sucked under by the random currents, but I lifted the rod tip anyway, and I instantly felt the weight of an eight inch brook trout. The small fighter advanced my count to seventeen, and since it was three o’clock, I called it quits.

This Run Failed to Deliver

Thursday was a decent day on Clear Creek. Seventeen trout landed in 2.5 hours represents an above average catch rate. The trout were small, but that is the price paid for fishing within forty-five minutes of home. Surprisingly the seventeen netted fish included three rainbows and two brook trout in addition to the standard twelve browns. I do not recall catching brook trout in Clear Creek previously. The trout were where I expected them to be, and they were not exceedingly choosy about their menu choices. I suffered refusals, but as long as I kept moving, I found an abundant quantity of residents interested in my subsurface offerings.

Fish Landed: 17

Clear Creek – 10/01/2018

Time: 11:30AM – 2:00PM

Location: Upstream from Tunnel 3

Clear Creek 10/01/2018 Photo Album

After a fun day of fishing with Dan on Sunday, I decided to sneak in a few hours on Monday before the start of the National League western division playoff game between the Rockes and Dodgers. The short time available translated to a nearby destination, and the closest spot was Clear Creek Canyon.

I departed Stapleton by 10:30AM, and I arrived at a wide pullout along US 6 west of Tunnel 3 by 11:15. I threw a light lunch in my backpack and assembled my Orvis Access, before I ambled down the road a short distance, and then I carefully negotiated a short steep bank. I was in position to cast by 11:30. The dashboard temperature registered in the upper 50’s, as I began, and I wore a long sleeved insulated undershirt, and I was comfortable throughout my 2.5 hours on the stream.

I knotted a size 12 Jake’s gulp beetle to my line, and I began plopping the foam terrestrial in the likely fish holding places. Fifteen minutes elapsed before a brown trout cautiously nipped the fly, but I was unable to connect permanently. Two more temporary hook ups extended my frustration, but then a nice eleven inch native crushed the beetle, and I photographed number one on the day.

Great View of the Lip Adornment Beetle

After forty-five minutes that yielded one landed trout, three temporary hook ups, and several refusals; I began to question the effectiveness of the beetle. It was attracting attention, but the fish were backing off at the last minute. I decided to test the dry/dropper method, so I converted to a peacock hippy stomper, ultra zug bug, and a salvation nymph. This conversion produced positive results, as I landed three additional fish to attain a count of four. One twelve inch brown trout attacked the hippy stomper, and two smaller cousins consumed the ultra zug bug. I also felt the weight of two temporary connections, and I was feeling quite optimistic about my switch to a dry/dropper configuration.

Promising

Of course as soon as one gains confidence, the game changes, and I endured a long drought in spite of covering very appealing water. Once again I considered a change. I removed the three flies and tied a size 16 gray deer hair caddis to my tippet. The caddis fooled two trout, and I was pleased to elevate the fish count to six. Again, however, the attraction of the caddis was short lived, and I sensed that I was passing over fish that were available to a desirable fly.

A Very Fine Wild Clear Creek Brown Trout

With two o’clock rapidly approaching, I reverted to Jake’s gulp beetle. I reasoned that the plop would generate interest, and the orange indicator made it easy to track. Shortly after attaching the beetle to my line, two refusals introduced doubt to my thoughts. However, with only a few minutes remaining of my allotted time frame, I persisted with the beetle. I lobbed a relatively long cast toward the upper third of a long attractive pool, and an eleven inch brown attacked the bobbing black fake food morsel. I netted number seven, snapped a photo, and quickly scrambled up a steep bank and returned to the car.

Some Fall Colors in This Scene

Monday developed into a reasonably successful day with seven fish landed in 2.5 hours of fishing. Nevertheless I suffered numerous refusals and momentary connections. I was unable to settle on a fly or combination that yielded consistent results, and I covered a significant amount of stream to achieve somewhat above average results.

Fish Landed: 7

 

 

Clear Creek – 08/24/2018

Time: 10:30AM – 2:00PM

Location: Within one mile east of Tunnel 2

Clear Creek 08/24/2018 Photo Album

Jane and I had tickets for the Cardinals vs Rockies game on Friday evening, so my fishing options were limited to relatively close destinations. The closest choice was Clear Creek, so I made the short drive to the narrow canyon west of Golden, CO on Friday morning. Traffic was flowing reasonably by the time I left the house around 9:30AM, and I arrived at a very wide pullout on the south side of US 6 east of Tunnel 2 by 10:15.

Hot Sunny Day on Clear Creek

The high temperature for Denver was projected to reach ninety degrees on Friday, so I elected to wade wet, and this decision proved to be appropriate. I rigged my Orvis Access four weight for small stream fishing, and I ambled along the shoulder of the highway for .2 miles, until I found a reasonably safe spot to negotiate the steep rocky bank to the creek.

Jake’s gulp beetle historically yielded excellent results on Clear Creek, so a size 10 foam terrestrial became my first fly choice. I lobbed it to likely deep spots, and I observed a few looks, but the trout failed to open their mouths, before they dropped back to the stream bottom. Unwilling to deepen my frustration, I switched to a size 16 gray deer hair caddis, and this matched the small naturals that covered the streamside boulders.

Very Nice Brown Trout for Clear Creek

My move was immediately confirmed as a winner, when I tossed the caddis to a deep hole below a large exposed boulder situated along the bank. As I looked on, a decent brown trout slowly elevated to the surface and sipped the caddis impostor. Needless to say I was very pleased. I methodically worked my way upstream along the left bank and added another representative brown that was quite nice for Clear Creek but smaller than the first netted fish. A pair of smaller brown trout followed, but then a series of refusals ruined my state of fly fishing bliss.

The water type shifted to fast runs and deep pockets, and I speculated that perhaps the Jake’s gulp beetle might be more effective and surely more visible, so I made the switch. Initially the foam beetle accounted for fish number five, but then it lapsed into another ignored or rejected dry fly. At this point I paused for lunch in a rare shady location overlooking a gorgeous run and pool. The deep center run cut the pool in half and created two very attractive shelf pools on each side.

After lunch I extended the leader by eighteen inches, and I exchanged the Jake’s gulp beetle for the size 16 deer hair caddis that provided success during the morning. By now the sun was directly overhead, and its rays beat down on the river and anyone attempting to fly fish in the canyon. Apparently the fish were affected as well, because the same caddis that yielded confident takes in the first 1.5 hour now provoked tentative looks at best. I persisted, however, under the mistaken belief that the right spot along the bank would yield positive results in spite of the bright blue sky and soaring air temperatures.

First and Best on Deer Hair Caddis

After an hour of dry fly frustration I decided to try one last approach before I surrendered to the heat and exited the canyon. I tied a size 12 Chernobyl ant to my line and added a beadhead hares ear as a dropper. Initially I cast this combination to similar locations as those prospected with the dry flies, but after another lull in action, I began to focus on faster deep runs and frothy sections at the top of pockets and riffles. A small brown trout grabbed the hares ear, and my method was finally vindicated.

I moved along and experienced a couple momentary hook ups, but then the small yellow indicator on the Chernboyl began to twist around on the underside of the body. The top fly was not drifting topside up, so I replaced it with a size 14 chubby Chernobyl with a brown body. With the more buoyant surface fly I added a second dropper in the form of a size 16 yellow caddis pupa. I continued to target the faster aerated spots in the creek, and the deep nymph approach paid dividends, when two brown trout mashed the caddis pupa, as it began to swing at the end of the drift.

Smaller but Appreciated Brown Trout

Just before two o’clock the chubby paused in the middle of a current seam, and I responded with a quick hook set, but after feeling some weight for a split second, the line went limp. I stripped in the line and discovered that the hares ear and caddis pupa were missing, as apparently I tied a bad knot between the chubby and the upper nymph. I was within minutes of when I planned to quit, so rather than undertaking the task of tying two replacement flies to my line, I climbed the very steep rocky bank to the highway and paced back to the Santa Fe.

Late August is typically a slow time for fly fishing in Colorado on freestone streams, and the hot weather added to the challenge, so I was pleased to land eight trout in 3.5 hours of fly fishing on Friday. Hopefully I have more time next week, and that will enable some longer trips to tailwaters in Colorado.

Fish Landed: 8

 

Clear Creek – 08/01/2018

Time: 10:00AM – 1:00PM

Location: Above first bridge after Tunnel One

Clear Creek 08/01/2018 Photo Album

In a situation similar to Monday, an afternoon appointment precluded me from taking a long day trip to fly fish on Wednesday, August 1. I enjoyed a productive two hours on Clear Creek on Monday, so I decided to test the local stream once again. I departed my house in Denver at 9:15AM and arrived at the same parking space that served my needs on Monday at 9:50AM. I hustled to pull on my waders, assembled my Orvis Access four weight and zipped through my elbow exercises; and this hasty preparation enabled me to drop a fly on the creek a bit after ten o’clock.

My Future

The sky was overcast and the air temperature was refreshingly cool, as I began my quest for trout on Clear Creek. I began my day just above the first bridge after Tunnel 1 and directly below the parked Santa Fe. A hippy stomper was productive on Monday, so I knotted one with a red body to my line and dropped a cast in a nice deep hole along the bank and in front of a collection of dead tree branches. On the very first drift a small brown trout darted to the surface and unabashedly engulfed the hippy stomper. Needless to say my optimism soared with this instant dose of success.

Zoomed in on the Red Hippy Stomper

I continued on my way westward; however, the early prosperity soon waned, and refusals took center stage. The section of the creek that I occupied was narrow and fast, but it featured numerous quality shelf pools on both sides of the stream, and I was certain that my offerings were ignored by hungry fish. I concluded that the red body was repelling the Clear Creek trout rather than attracting them, so I swapped the top fly for a hippy stomper with a peacock dubbed body. On Monday the combination of the peacock stomper and an ultra zug bug delivered my best action, so I followed suit and added an iridescent zug bug on a 2.5 foot dropper.

Over the next hour I covered a significant amount of stream real estate, and the rapid movement enabled me to boost the fish counter to five. Two of the first five trout crushed the hippy stomper, and three nipped the ultra zug bug. My watch registered noon, as I netted number five, and I was pleased to have moderate success, yet I felt that better results were attainable. I cycled through a series of fly changes in an effort to boost my catch rate, but my goal was never reached.

Typical

I removed the hippy stomper and ultra zug bug and plopped a size 12 Jake’s gulp beetle¬† through four promising pools and pockets, but only a pair of refusals developed. I added the ultra zug bug to the beetle in an attempt to cover surface and subsurface feeders, but the beadhead addition had no effect. Again I removed the two flies and knotted a medium olive size 14 stimulator to my line, and this move provoked only a couple wary looks. I recalled previous Clear Creek expeditions, when a parachute hopper duped the residents, so I tied a size 10 version with a light gray poly body to my line and combined it with the ultra zug bug. The large hopper pattern looked great, as it bobbed through the deep runs and riffles, but the selective cold water inhabitants of Clear Creek simply refused it with some splashy misdirected rises.

Finally I considered a three fly dry/dropper approach. Many times I defaulted to this mainstay method, and it rescued my day. I plucked a yellow fat Albert from my fly box and added the ultra zug bug and beadhead hares ear and spent the final forty-five minutes prospecting all the likely fish holding lies. I theorized that the weight of the two beadheads and the extra length of tippet associated with the second dropper would enable my offerings to get deeper and in front of more trout.

Fish of the Day Took Yellow Fat Albert

Alas the strategy did not pan out that way, although a brown trout surfaced and crushed the fat Albert. When I inspected it in my net, I was pleased to learn that it was the best fish of the day and measured at twelve inches. A seventh brown trout grabbed one of the trailing nymphs at 12:45, and I began a steep rocky ascent to the road at 1PM. When I ambled back to the car along the shoulder of US 6, I was amazed at the distance I covered in three hours.

It was fun to take advantage of some delightful summer weather on Wednesday, but I was somewhat disappointed by my results. The catch rate lagged Monday, and I never uncovered a fly combination that delivered consistent success. Seven fish landed in three hours is a fairly average catch rate for this fly fisherman. I suspect that I will rest Clear Creek for a bit and explore other Colorado streams over the next couple weeks.

Fish Landed: 7

Clear Creek – 07/30/2018

Time: 11:00AM – 1:00PM

Location: Downstream from first bridge after Tunnel 1

Clear Creek 07/30/2018 Photo Album

With only a few hours to fish on Monday as a result of a physical therapy appointment at 2:45PM, I decided to make the short drive to Clear Creek in Clear Creek Canyon west of Golden, CO. I was apprehensive regarding my choice after a mixed bag of success and failure during my most recent trips to the narrow canyon along US 6.

Monday’s projected high in Denver was 77 degrees, and when I arrived next to the tumbling stream, the sky was overcast, and the air was cool, especially compared to the hot weather that settled over Colorado in early July. It was actually quite refreshing, and I appreciated the cool breeze, as I donned my waders and set up my Orvis Access four weight rod. The flows were also very reasonable at 81 CFS. This level enabled comfortable conditions for wading, yet was elevated enough to protect the trout from high summer temperatures.

I parked just west of the first bridge after passing through Tunnel 1, and I shared the pullout with three vehicles that transported rock climbers to the high vertical wall on the south side of the creek. I crossed the highway carefully and hiked along the south bank for three hundred yards, and at that point I carefully picked my way through some rocks and vines, until I was at the edge of the stream.

Very Nice for Clear Creek

I rigged my rod with a Chernobyl ant, beadhead hares ear nymph and prince nymph and began to probe the likely fish holding locations with the dry/dropper method. After ten minutes of fruitless prospecting, I became disillusioned with the prince nymph and replaced it with an ultra zug bug. The change paid dividends, when I hooked and landed a small brown trout, and then in a deep pocket in the middle of the trough-like streambed, a very nice cutbow latched on to the ultra zug bug. The pretty fish displayed the stripe of a rainbow and the jaw slashes of a cutthroat. I was pleased to net a trout that deviated from the standard Clear Creek brown trout.

Nice Long Pocket

I continued onward and experienced a few refusals, and I decided to follow my normal response by downsizing. I replaced the Chernobyl ant with a peacock-body hippy stomper, and with this lineup on my line I upped the fish counter to five, as two browns slammed the hippy stomper and another snatched the ultra zug bug.

My success rate was satisfactory, but I became disenchanted with the tendency of the hippy stomper to sink. I concluded that the two size 16 beadheads were two heavy for the thin foam construction of the hippy stomper, so I reconfigured with only the ultra zug bug as a dropper on a two foot leader. This arrangement quickly evolved into my most successful offering, and I methodically covered the stream until I arrived thirty yards downstream of the bridge. I incremented the fish tally from five to eleven during this period, and the trout split their vote evenly between the hippy stomper and ultra zug bug.

Standard Brown Trout

With fifteen minutes remaining several decent fish refused the hippy stomper, so I decided to experiment with a different terrestrial. I knotted a size 12 Jake’s gulp beetle to my line and finished my foray on Clear Creek by plunking the foam terrestrial in likely spots. The move was futile, and several trout expressed their disapproval of my fly choice by rising to inspect and then dropping back to the stream bottom. I glanced at my watch and noted that one o’clock arrived, so I returned to the car, and eventually made the drive back to Stapleton.

Very Productive Water Type

I was quite pleased to register an eleven fish day in two hours of fishing on Clear Creek. Once I settled on the hippy stomper/ultra zug bug combination, I enjoyed an extended hot streak. My success rate waned, however, as I approached the bridge; and I theorized that the area near the bridge and highway suffered from more intense pressure. The fish were small, but I cannot complain given the forty minute drive.

Fish Landed: 11

Clear Creek – 11/14/2017

Time: 1:00PM – 2:30PM

Location:  West of Tunnel 6 and then between Tunnel 3 and Mayhem Gulch

Clear Creek 11/14/2017 Photo Album

The difference between tailwater streams and freestone streams is accentuated by the cold weather months in Colorado. One day after enjoying a successful outing on South Boulder Creek, a small tailwater along the Front Range, I sampled Clear Creek. Clear Creek is a freestone creek that tumbles from its source near the Eisenhower Tunnel, and the contrast between the two at the same time of the year with similar weather was stark.

I arrived at a parking space along US 6 just west of Tunnel 6 by 12:15, and I immediately devoured my small lunch. The high temperature in Denver on Tuesday was expected to reach 72 degrees, but the dashboard in my car registered 50 as I completed my lunch and assembled my Orvis Access four weight. The narrow canyon was almost completely covered by shadows, and the lack of sun combined with the chilly temperature prompted me to wear my fleece and light down layers. Attired in this manner I was comfortable throughout my 1.5 hours of fishing during the early afternoon. The stream flows were around 44 CFS, and the conditions allowed me to wade fairly easily and to cover both sides of the creek.

Before embarking on my Tuesday afternoon adventure, I read my post from November 14, 2016. I visited Clear Creek on the same date a year prior and landed eight trout. Most of the netted fish were attracted to a hares ear nymph, so on the 2017 revival I elected the same approach. I configured my line with a yellow fat Albert, an ultra zug bug, and a beadhead hares ear; and I began to toss the trio of flies to all the likely pools, deep runs and pockets. I was certain that my focused efforts would secure a few small trout, but after forty minutes of fruitless casting, my confidence tumbled to new lows. In fact during this period of intense concentration, I never witnessed a look or refusal. Generally wading triggers a fish or two to bolt from bank side cover, but even this reaction was lacking on Clear Creek on November 14.

The area west of Tunnel 6 seems to attract more pressure than any other stretch in Clear Creek Canyon, so I concluded that perhaps bait fishermen harvested a proportionately large number of fish from the area. I assumed that general state fishing regulations applied to the length of Clear Creek Canyon. With this thought firmly planted in my brain, I elected to crest the steep bank, and I returned to the car and drove to a pullout halfway between Mayhem Gulch and Tunnel 3. This area was slightly upstream from the section that yielded eight trout on the same date a year ago. Surely the same tactics that worked then would salvage my day.

Snow Remains in the Narrow Canyon Section of Clear Creek

I carefully negotiated the steep snow covered path to reach the edge of the creek, and I resumed my rapid searching method for another fifty minutes. The canyon in this area was even narrower than my first stop, and quite a bit of snow remained on the large rocks that bordered the stream. I focused on deep slow moving sections, and I executed some nice long downstream drifts along the opposite bank, but once again I was convinced that Clear Creek was barren of fish of any sort. By 2:30 I was chilled and bored, and I scaled the bank and returned to the car and shed my gear. I never saw a fish during 1.5 hours of fishing in two locations, and I attributed this to the cold water temperatures from early snow melt, or perhaps the brown trout continued their spawning ritual.

Two positive conclusions resulted from my 1.5 hours on Clear Creek on November 14. I stopped for gas and fulled my tank on my way to the stream, and I eliminated Clear Creek from my list of possible fishing destinations until the spring of 2018.

Fish Landed: 0

 

Clear Creek – 11/03/2017

Time: 12:30PM – 3:30PM

Location: Near Tunnel 6

Clear Creek 11/03/2017 Photo Album

Not all fishing days are created equal. Friday was a stark reminder of the truth of that statement. A second overstated weather forecast lured me into a trip to the western section of Clear Creek Canyon. The temperature in Denver as I drove west at 11AM was 41 degrees, and I based my decision to fish on a projected high of sixty degrees in Idaho Springs. Could the meteorologists be accurate? Amazingly by the time I entered the eastern end of Clear Creek Canyon, the dashboard temperature elevated to 49 degrees; and when I backed into a parking space on the eastern side of Tunnel 6, I was basking in the comfort of 55 degrees. The air temperature seemed to be rising, as one traveled west and gained elevation. It was a peculiar weather phenomenon.

South Boulder Creek on Thursday provided a splendid outing especially for early November, but I ratcheted down my expectations for Clear Creek. Flows were in the ideal range at 55 CFS, but I was concerned that the trout would be preoccupied with procreation given the predominant presence of brown trout. Since my arrival coincided with my normal lunch time, I remained in the car and chowed down on my sandwich, garden-raised carrot and Greek yogurt. With the matter of nourishment out of the way I pulled on my waders and set up my Orvis Access four weight. A well worn path led me down a hill from the parking area to the edge of a long featureless pool.

The Hoped For Fish Attractor

Jake’s gulp beetle was favored by Clear Creek trout in previous autumns and in a few earlier outings in 2017, so I knotted a size 12 version to my line, and I began to cast directly upstream along the left bank. I might as well have been floating leaves in the creek, because no trout stirred or revealed their presence. When I reached the top of the long pool, I made some across and down drifts, and finally a small brown trout elevated and pressed its nose against the beetle and firmly rejected my offering. I was disappointed, but at least I located a fish to target. I sensed that Friday was not going to be a day of fast action, so I decided to focus on this fish, and I exchanged the beetle for a size 18 black parachute ant with a pink wing post. Negative. The fish never even bothered to rise to inspect the small terrestrial.

I finally surrendered and moved to the next section, which was characterized by a series of fast chutes and short pockets. Presenting the small ant in these turbulent conditions caused my confidence to sink, so I returned to the Jake’s gulp beetle, although this time I added a three foot dropper and tied a flashback baetis nymph to the end. Near the top of the cascading pocket water section a larger shelf pool appeared, and I lobbed the two fly combination to the left side of the fast current. On the fourth drift a fish refused the beetle, but on the next drift I lifted the flies near the scene of the rejection, and a barely six inch brown trout nabbed the trailing nymph. Hooray, I was on the scoreboard on November 3.

I was now on the north side of the oxbow bend, where the stream curves around the mountain that was pierced by Tunnel 6, and shadows extended over the entire width of the creek. I began executing across and downstream drifts of the beetle and nymph in slack water areas along the far bank, and I managed to generate one more refusal to the foam beetle. When I emerged from the shadows near the western portion of the bend, I encountered another section with fast shallow water, and I skipped this stretch and ambled westward until I was below US 6. A group of female rock climbers were clustered at the base of the rock edifice on my left before I reached the highway.

Nice Deep Run

I scanned the stream ahead of me, and I spotted a spectacular pool that stood out due to the aqua color of the slow moving water. A smaller pool was situated just below the granddaddy of holes, so I prospected it first, but it offered no proof that trout called it home. I decided to go for the big boy, and I carefully approached the bluish-hued hole. As I paused to observe, I spotted three dark shadows that hovered just off to the left of the curling main current. The fish closest to the lip of the pool maintained a position near the surface, so I targeted it for my casts. Surely I could entice one of these active feeders to consume one of my delectable creations. I began with the beetle, and the visible trout slowly elevated, pressed its nose against my fly, and then sank back to its holding position. Drat, that was not the desired outcome from my effort.

Rather than disturb the pool with more casts, I resorted to swapping the beetle for an ant. Alas, five drifts of the ant generated yet another rejection from the trout closest to the lip of the pool. I paused and observed again, and I thought I noticed some tiny blue winged olives. Of course, I thought to myself, there was a sparse BWO hatch in progress, and one of my CDC olives would finally unlock their jaws. The ant came off my line, and a size 22 CDC blue winged olive replaced it. I fired some nice casts to the edge of the current seam, checked my rod high and fluttered the tiny mayfly down to the surface. The blue winged olive failed to induce even a look, and the constant motion of my casting caused the visible fish to flee out of sight. In addition to my inability to find the right fly to fool the trout, another factor came into play. The wind began to gust in fierce bursts, and my casts morphed into random efforts with the fly landing only a few feet in front of my feet. The whole scene reminded me of tossing dandelion seeds into the wind.

I was once again in the shadows, and my hands were beginning to stiffen. My confidence was a smidgen above zero, so I decided to end my frustration and called it a day. I hiked back on a nice trail above the creek and welcomed the shelter of my car. Why was I able to land only one small brown trout on Friday, November 3? I blamed it on the spawning process. I did not observe any spawning beds or see actively spawning fish, but it is rare to visit Clear Creek and not see much more evidence of the presence of fish. One six inch fish on November 3 was a notable accomplishment.

Fish Landed: 1