Category Archives: Clear Creek

Clear Creek – 10/14/2020

Time: 11:00AM – 2:00PM

Location: Clear Creek Canyon

Clear Creek 10/14/2020 Photo Album

I had my heart set on South Boulder Creek as a destination for Tuesday, but when I examined the DWR flows, I learned that the water managers decreased the releases from Gross Dam from 103 CFS to 7 CFS on October 9. I have experienced decent success at low flows on South Boulder Creek but always at 10 CFS or higher. I passed on South Boulder Creek and instead opted for a two hour drive to the Eagle River near Avon, and I encountered a mediocre day of only four trout in my net, although two were substantial rainbow trout.

Another day in October with a high around eighty in Denver prompted me to plan a second consecutive fishing trip. Since I completed a relatively long drive on Tuesday, I was averse to a similar long trip on Wednesday. I began my search for a suitable Front Range stream by rechecking South Boulder Creek, and I was shocked to discover that flows were actually reduced from 7 CFS to 5 CFS. I quickly scratched my home waterway from my list of possibilities. My second choice was the Big Thompson River with flows maintained at 77 CFS for two consecutive days, but a quick inspection of the weather forecast revealed thirty mile per hour winds in the afternoon. Strike two. My third choice was Clear Creek in Clear Creek Canyon west of Golden, CO. Flows in the thirty to forty CFS range were favorable, and wind speeds in the 8-10 MPH range up until 2PM, when they were predicted to burst into the 18 MPH range, made Clear Creek my choice.

A Place to Begin

I arrived at a pullout along US 6 west of Tunnel 6 by 10: 40AM, and this enabled me to begin casting slightly before eleven o’clock. I utilized my Orvis Access four weight and wore my Brooks long sleeved undershirt and my raincoat as a windbreaker. The air movement was less than predicted for Estes Park, but 10 MPH translated to more than a nuisance. For the first thirty-five minutes I worked a dry/dropper rig through all the promising deep and slow moving pockets along the left bank, and my net remained in an empty state. Early in the game I spotted a fish along the bank, and it ignored all three flies, as they passed over its field of vision.

Lunch View

Scene of My Single Landed Trout

I ate lunch at 11:45AM and then removed the three fly arrangement and migrated to a solo Jake’s gulp beetle. On Tuesday evening I perused my reports on Clear Creek during October from previous years, and a Jake’s gulp beetle was a stellar producer. I persisted with the foam beetle for two hours after lunch, and I managed to dupe one seven inch brown trout to eat the size 12 imitation. I tried beetles in size 10 and 12, and after a subtle refusal I substituted a size 18 black parachute ant. I was hopeful that the larger beetle would cause the trout to reveal their position, and then a smaller black ant would trigger an eat. The theory never grew into reality, and I returned to the beetle.

Beetle Eater

Closer to 2PM I noted a few more refusals, so I decided to experiment with a peacock hippie stomper. The white wing on the stomper was more difficult to track than the orange foam on the beetle, and the wind speed accelerated immensely. The quality of fishing did not justify the hassles of the wind and poor lighting, so I hooked the hippie stomper to my rod guide and returned to the car.

Wednesday was another bust in Clear Creek Canyon. The fishing season is winding down, and my results are ebbing as well. The weather forecast predicts a shift to colder temperatures but no precipitation. Fly tying may be imminent on my calendar.

Fish Landed: 1

Clear Creek – 10/08/2020

Time: 11:00AM – 3:30PM

Location: Clear Creek County

Clear Creek 10/08/2020 Photo Album

Tuesday on the Middle Fork of the South Platte River was a deeply humbling experience. I stayed in a motel in Salida to be close to my fishing destination, and then I wasted one of the dwindling mild fall days on a stream that was extremely low and that contained very skittish fish. I needed a bounce back experience on Thursday, but what were my options? After completing the nearly three hour drive to Salida and back on Monday and Tuesday I was not in the mood for another long trip, so that ruled out Eleven Mile Canyon; a destination that I had been considering for some time. I checked the new DWR graphs for the front range streams. The Cache la Poudre was running extremely low as was the North Fork of St. Vrain Creek, so I ruled them out. The Big Thompson retained flows in the 116 CFS range, and that is actually higher than I prefer. South Boulder Creek below Gross Reservoir displayed flows of 108 CFS. This is another example of a tail water with unseasonably high flows; however, it was within my desired range. It was a possibility. Next I checked Clear Creek, and flows were on the low side, but I decided to give it a try, as the cold narrow canyon would soon be out of play. South Boulder Creek involved a fairly strenuous hike, and after my back to back outings early in the week, I desired a more restful day.

Typical Productive Water

I arrived at my targeted pullout by 10:30AM, and after assembling my Orvis Access four weight I climbed into my waders and completed a .3 mile hike to the creek. The air temperature was 59 degrees, so I donned my light fleece hoodie, and I was mostly comfortable throughout my time on the stream. The creek was, indeed, running quite low; and I instantly had visions of a replay of Tuesday. I banked on the higher gradient and, thus, faster water creating more spots where fish could hide from predators, but I recognized the need for extreme stealth.

Jewel

I began with a peacock hippie stomper trailing a size 18 beadhead pheasant tail nymph, and I approached a gorgeous little tailrace below a natural log dam. I flicked an abundant quantity of casts to the white foam area created by the small waterfalls and allowed the hopper/dropper to drift five feet, and finally on the eighth cast a small cutthroat trout nipped the stomper. Unlike Tuesday I was on the scoreboard early. I was not ready to call Thursday a comeback, and I was correct in exercising caution.

I quickly moved upstream, but at least thirty minutes elapsed before another small cutty smacked the hippie stomper. I landed number two in spite of a relatively tentative strike, and throughout this time quite a few refusals to the hippie stomper were sprinkled into the mix. I covered quite a bit of stream, and very few prime spots presented themselves, so it was unclear, whether I presented the wrong flies or whether the creek was sparsely populated in this stretch.

Alternating Shadows and Sunlight Were Tricky

Small Speckles

I decided to change out the trailing nymph and swapped the pheasant tail for a size 20 classic RS2. The move paid off somewhat, as I landed a pair of cutthroats that chomped the small RS2, but this was in spite of prospecting some very attractive locales with no interest from the resident trout. It was around this time that I began to observe quite a few scattering fish either from my clumsy approach or the plop of the hippie stomper and nymph. I concluded that a lighter presentation would be more effective, and I switched to a pale olive stimulator. The heavily hackled size 14 was ignored, and in a location where I sighted several fish I cycled through a parachute ant, Jake’s gulp beetle, and bionic ant. None of these offerings generated any interest, so I returned to the hippie stomper, and I reprised the RS2.

Log Dam Pool

Where Is Waldo Trout?

As the sun rose higher in the early afternoon sky, it became easier to sight trout, and I used this to my advantage. I skipped shallow marginal pockets and only paused at obvious holes with greater depth. I scanned the water intently before casting, and in many cases I was able to spot a cutthroat to target. This process greatly elevated the probability of success and eliminated wasteful shotgun casts that were spooking the skittish fish. Perhaps this technique would have worked to my benefit on Tuesday on the Middle Fork of the South Platte River?

Spots Confined to Tail Area

At any rate I approached a nice deep, smooth pool, where I could see several fish hugging the bottom. These fish elevated to the hippie stomper, but I could not induce them to close their mouths on my offering. I noted a few very small mayflies in the air above the stream, and I decided to try a CDC blue winged olive. I fired a few casts to the run that fed the pool, and two stunning cutthroats sipped the small mayfly imitation. My ability to sight two fish and then select a fly that fooled the fussy eaters was very gratifying. I vacated the pool and moved up the narrow creek to an appealing deep run, and before I approached too closely, I paused to study the rocky streambed.

Dry Fly Eater

Head Shot

The caution paid off, when I spied what appeared to be a fine cutthroat trout in the eleven to twelve inch range. I stooped down low and stripped out some line and lobbed some casts above my target trout, and on three consecutive drifts, the cutty rose and then dropped back to its holding lie. In one instance the fish literally pressed its nose against my fly, and not lifting and pulling the fly away required the utmost restraint. I paused for a bit to sop moisture from the wing, and then I dipped the size 22 fly in dry shake. After some vigorous shaking action I removed the fly and flicked off any residual powder or crystals and then fluffed the wing, so that it portrayed a nice wide profile. While this fly preparation transpired, I rested the water, and now I was ready for another approach. I flicked the fly upstream and to the left, and when it drifted within six inches of the trout, it curled sideways and then in an exceedingly leisurely manner it sipped the tiny tuft of a mayfly. This scenario was easily the highlight of the day, and I may have shouted a few words of congratulations to myself.

Super Nova Baetis Was Productive

I continued for a bit more with the CDC olive, but the nature of the creek transformed into a narrow tumbling pocket water stretch, so I reverted to the hippie stomper and added a size 20 super nova baetis. I tied these Juan Ramirez patterns during my surgery recovery and noticed a pair in my fleece wallet. I continued for another forty-five minutes by prospecting the dry/dropper, and I boosted the fish counter to ten. The last three trout nabbed the super nova baetis, and it seemed that a lifting action encouraged the takes.

The Last Trout Came from This Prime Location

Number ten came from a nice deep hole just below a single log dam, and my watch displayed 3:30. The shadows were lengthening over the small stream, and the water ahead did not seem especially appealing, so I hooked the super nova to my rod guide and clambered up a steep bank and then picked my way through a sparse forest, until I reached the road. I was .7 mile above my parking space, and that translated to covering approximately a mile of Clear Creek.

Vivid Deep Colors

Thursday was a respectable day, and it taught me the importance of being observant and remaining flexible. Instead of continuing to flail the water with blind casts, I adjusted my approach to sight fish. The modification to my standard fishing style paid off with a double digit day on a clear and very shallow mountain creek. The quality of the cutthroats was outstanding, as each displayed some variation on the watermelon color scheme. The light olive body color was comparable to the skin and rind, and the speckles portrayed the seeds, and the subtle pink spots on the side matched the edible flesh.

Fish Landed: 10

Clear Creek – 09/23/2020

Time: 10:00AM – 3:30PM

Location: West of Idaho Springs

Clear Creek 09/23/2020 Photo Album

After a short layoff upon my return from the Flattops, I was eager to once again match wits with the high country trout of Colorado on Wednesday, September 23, 2020. I would hate to acknowledge that I was outsmarted by pea-brained trout, but that was a risk I was willing to assume. Highs in the 80’s in Denver prompted me to seek out a high elevation stream, before temperatures dropped to uncomfortable levels.

I chose a new section of Clear Creek, and the temperature, when I arrived at the roadside pullout, was sixty degrees, and I suspect the thermometer never spiked above the upper sixties. At lunch time I pulled on my thin raincoat for added warmth, and I removed my sungloves, as the cooling effect of evaporation was chilling my fingers and causing a stinging sensation. When I arrived next to the stream I noted that the creek was quite low, and this dictated stealthy approaches.

Low, But Pretty

I began fishing at 10AM with my Orvis Access four weight, and I selected a peacock hippie stomper for my initial search for trout. The stomper was ignored in several attractive pockets, and then looks and refusals became the norm. Evidently the dependably irresistible hippie stomper was not on the menu for Clear Creek trout on September 23. Finally after fifteen minutes of futility a pair of cutthroats nabbed the stomper at the lip of a pair of pools.

Peacock-Body Hippie Stomper

On the Board

I sensed that I was passing over fish (I saw some dart for cover after I thoroughly covered a pair of attractive pools), so I added a deer hair caddis behind the hippie stomper. The caddis fooled one fish, but it never captured the attention of the stream residents, so I went to a dry/dropper with a very short leader. I added a one foot section of monofilament to the bend of the stomper, and then I knotted a size 18 beadhead pheasant tail to the line. The switch to a subsurface offering proved beneficial, and I raised the fish count to ten, before I broke for lunch at noon. Most of the late morning catches grabbed the pheasant tail near the tail of deep pockets or pools. For awhile I added a salad spinner and zebra midge below the pheasant tail, but these flies never produced a fish and only served as a tangling annoyance, when I hooked fish on the hippie stomper or pheasant tail.

Screaming Trout Home

Some Width to This One

In the thirty minutes before lunch the hippie stomper became purely an indicator, and the white wing was difficult to track in shadows. I decided to convert to a more buoyant and visible indicator fly and replaced the stomper with a size 10 black Chernobyl ant. I kept the pheasant tail as the upper subsurface fly and then cycled through a series of nymphs and wet flies in the point position. The array of trial flies included a partridge and orange, an ultra zug bug, a hares ear nymph, and a Craven soft hackle emerger. Only the soft hackle emerger delivered a fish; however, the pheasant tail continued to be my mainstay fly.

Net Camouflage

The fragile pheasant tail fibers finally tore from the cutting action of cutthroat teeth, and in the process of landing a nice catch, the pheasant tail and ultra zug bug broke off. Normally I grieve at the loss of two flies, but the unraveling status of the pheasant tail offset some of the pain. I gazed into my fleece wallet and spotted a super nova, and this became my substitute for the pheasant tail. The super nova is a Juan Ramirez creation, and I tied a batch during heart surgery recovery and covid19 lockdown. They impress me as a more durable substitute for the ever popular pheasant tail.

Perfection

During the last hour the catch rate subsided, and I covered much more water between netted fish. I decided to try dry flies once again and attached a yellow size 14 stimulator to my tippet. A wave of refusals greeted this move, but then a cutthroat crushed the heavily hackled dry fly. The yellow stimulator became a one fish wonder before an errant backcast donated it to an evergreen tree. Next I moved to a gray size 14 stimulator, but evidently the high country stream residents were not color blind, because gray did not arouse interest. I downsized to a gray size 16 deer hair caddis, and an aggressive fish smashed it, but then the caddis was ignored, and I struggled to follow it in the swirly currents. This would have been an ideal time to once again experiment with a sunken ant, but I am ashamed to admit, that I have not visited the tying bench to produce a batch after losing my one and only black metal head ant.

Big Slash

It was after 3:00PM, and I was about to quit, but several nice pools beckoned a short distance upstream. I exchanged the caddis for a Jake’s gulp beetle, and in a very smooth slow moving pool a nice cutty raced at least five feet to inhale the terrestrial. That was my last bit of action, and I retired at 3:30 and found a path back to the car.

Water Droplet Off My Finger

Wednesday was another fine day on a high elevation stream catching colorful cutthroats. The largest fish merely stretched to eleven inches, but the wild stream residents made up for a lack of size with vivid colors and spunky attitudes. This may have been my last day on this particular creek in 2020, unless unseasonably warm weather continues.

Fish Landed: 23

Clear Creek – 08/27/2020

Time: 11:00AM – 3:30PM

Location: West of Idaho Springs

Clear Creek 08/28/2020 Photo Album

I was itching to return to South Boulder Creek for green drake action after our camping trip on Monday through Wednesday. After Jane and I unpacked the car from the camping venture, I immediately reloaded it with my fishing gear, and I prepared a lunch. I was all set for an early start to my drive to South Boulder Creek. I learned, however, from past experiences, that the Denver Water managers unexpectedly vary the flows from Gross Reservoir, so I made a last minute check on Thursday morning. Imagine my disappointment, when the graph revealed that the flows were ratcheted up to 230 CFS after four days at 140 CFS. I was not interested in battling the stiff currents through the narrow canyon, so I resigned myself to a day of catching up on other matters.

I began to unpack the car, when Jane asked why I did not try the stretch of Clear Creek that a pickle ball acquaintance recommended. I pondered the question and decided that Thursday, August 28, was a day to experiment with a different section of water. I restored my fishing gear to the car, stuffed my lunch in the Coors insulated bag, filled my hydration bladder, and departed for an adventure on Clear Creek. I arrived at my chosen destination at 10:30AM, and by the time I assembled my Orvis Access four weight and tugged on my waders and hiked .5 miles downstream, I was primed to fish by 11:00AM.

Let’s Begin

By late morning, Thursday developed into another hot day with temperatures in the eighties at my high elevation location. I wore my waders, because I was not familiar with the vegetation and terrain, but I soon regretted that decision. The creek was clear and cold and fairly narrow, but enough volume tumbled over the rocky stream bed to create abundant quantities of deep pools, runs and pockets. I would characterize my mood as moderately optimistic, but I was obviously excited to sample a new area.

Glassy Clear Pool

I tied a light brown-olive size 14 stimulator to my line, and in a short amount of time I experienced two refusals and two temporary connections. Clearly the bushy attractor fly caught the attention of the fish, but the takes seemed to be very tentative thus explaining the brief nature of the encounters. When refusals become the prevalent fish response, my first response is to down size, and in this case I accomplished that by exchanging the stimulator for a size 16 deer hair caddis with an olive-brown body. The small low riding caddis clicked, and I began landing stunning cutthroat trout from the small stream. The trout measured between eight and twelve inches, but they were a pleasant surprise, and their colors were vivid in the dry high country environment.

All Day Long 

Many of the trout consumed the caddis, but of course this fly was quite difficult to follow in the dappled shade and sunlight. I grew weary of drying the fly constantly and decided to evaluate a more visible and buoyant option. I knotted a peacock hippie stomper to my line, and almost immediately duped a cutthroat, but after the early success the trout served up a steady stream of refusals. I once again elected to downsize, and I tied a bionic ant to my line. The bionic ant is a foam ant that I tied for the first time this spring during my surgery recovery, and it showed promise, as it fooled two cutties, before I set the hook on water and hurled the fly line into a tall evergreen tree. I quickly determined that the fly was impossible to retrieve, so I yanked hard and broke off the only bionic ant in my MFC fly box. I made a mental note to restock some bionic ants.

Brilliant

I now knew that the local fish savored ants, so I knotted a size 18 parachute black ant to my line. Logic would suggest that this fly was actually more imitative of the ants in the area than the bionic version, but surprisingly it elicited looks and refusals. I considered another fly change, and I stuck with the terrestrial theme and replaced the small ant with a size 14 Jake’s gulp beetle. The foam beetle imitation duped a pair of fish, but frequent refusals suggested that it was not the favorite, that I was seeking. I returned to an earlier productive fly and added back the deer hair caddis on a six inch dropper from the bend of the beetle. Once again the caddis justified my confidence, and tentative feeders morphed into confident eaters. The fish count mounted steadily, and I enjoyed myself immensely, as I migrated upstream. I spotted quite a few of my target fish in the clear water, and it was a thrill to view the casual approach and slurp of the visible cutthroats.

Cannot Wait to Probe This Deep Run

Special Fish

When one of the cutthroats crushed the foam beetle, I struggled to remove the fly, and a damaged terrestrial was the outcome. One of the legs disappeared, and the orange indicator began to rotate to the side as a result of the loosened thread wraps. I decided to make a change, and I scanned my fly box for a replacement. Originally my eyes focused on a size 12 Jake’s gulp beetle, but in the midst of these flies I noted a pair of size 12 moodah poodahs. These were also experimental flies tied during the surgery recovery and coronavirus lockdown, so I selected one and attached it to my line.

I Need More

Caddis Fan

More Gold Than Light Olive

It was at this time that I was locked on fourteen fish, and I had gone without action for a longer than usual period of time. I subscribe to quite a few fishing magazines, and on a regular basis they discuss the ploy of fishing drowned terrestrials. I decided to experiment with the sunken ant concept on Clear Creek, and I plucked a black size 16 hard body ant from my box. This was the only one in my possession, and it was tied by my friend, Jeff, many years ago.

Productive Angled Run

What a choice this combination turned out to be! The fish count surged from fourteen to twenty-three over the last hour, and most of the landed fish snatched the hard ant. A couple cutthroats succumbed to the moodah poodah, but the prevailing preference was the sunken ant. The ant seemed to be particularly effective in small deep oxygenated pockets at the top of a run. My best cutthroat of the day grabbed the black hard body in a deep tight eddy next to a large exposed boulder.

Small Perfection

What a pleasant surprise Thursday evolved into! I went from resigning myself to not fishing. to landing twenty-three high country jewels. All the trout that occupied my net were cutthroat trout, and this result was very satisfying. I will hopefully be returning again before the end of the 2020 season.

Fish Landed: 23

Clear Creek – 08/12/2020

Time: 10:30AM – 2:00PM

Location: Clear Creek Canyon

Clear Creek 08/12/2020 Photo Album

The most favorable thing I can say about today was my decision to wet wade during the sizzling ninety degree heat in Clear Creek Canyon. Will this heat wave ever end? My fishing experience on Wednesday was the exact opposite of Tuesday. It did not take long for the euphoria associated with my splendid day on South Boulder Creek to disappear in the sun and heat of Clear Creek Canyon.

The flows leveled out at 82 CFS, and that level is very close to my ideal for the medium sized drainage west of Golden. I was able to wade comfortably along the north (right) bank, although crossing to the opposite shore was a dangerous proposition that I never attempted. I wisely wore my Columbia fishing shirt with large pockets, as this enabled me to transfer my MFC fly box from my wader bib to my shirt. Waders were not part of my attire, as I pulled on my wet wading pants, socks and wading socks and enjoyed the cool sensation of Clear Creek. When I departed at 2:30PM, the dashboard digital thermometer registered 91 degrees.

Wet Wading

Olive Stimulator in Starting Lineup

After I assembled my Orvis Access four weight, I extended my tippet several feet with 4X and 5X sections, and then I ambled downstream along the shoulder of U.S. 6 for .4 mile, until I found a rough path down the bank to the edge of the creek. I began with a double dry set up that included a peacock hippie stomper and olive bodied size 14 stimulator. These flies have become my primary choice during recent outings during the dog days of August.

Promising

Hippie Stomper Batting First

After one hour of prospecting with the high floating dries, I managed three refusals. The looks occurred early in the game, and the flurry of unfulfilled action was followed by a long lull. I decided to experiment with a dry/dropper approach. and I switched to an Amy’s ant trailing a hares ear nymph and perdigon. This was my first attempt to deploy a perdigon, but it never produced a fish. The hares ear on the other hand was effective, as three brown trout barely over six inches boosted the fish count. A few temporary connections were also part of this phase of my fishing day.

On the Board

After lunch the lull continued, so I elected to make another change, and I swapped the Amy’s ant for a size 10 Chernboyl ant. I also replaced the perdigon with a salvation nymph.  These two flies occupied my line for the next 1.5 hours, and two additonal small fish rested in my net. Actually the fish were so small, that they slid through the holes in my net, and I struggled to corral them. The worst part of catching small fish is re-threading the line back through the hole in the net.

Typical Productive Water

At 1:30PM the action slowed even more. A few refusals to the Chernboyl ant convinced me that the fish were mostly looking toward the surface for their meal, so I decided to downsize to a size 12 Jake’s gulp beetle. I cast it solo, and in a short amount of time four small trout emerged to inspect the beetle, before they returned to their holding position. I seemed to be on the right track with terrestrials, which made sense with the acceleration of wind bursts after lunch. I downsized once again to a parachute black ant size 18, and I sprayed at least ten drifts over a very attractive wide riffle of moderate depth. Much to my amazement the juicy ant was totally ignored. In a last gasp effort to land another fish I reverted to a Jake’s gulp beetle, and a fifth refusal added to my frustration. I glanced at my watch and noticed that it was 2PM, so I slowly climbed the bank and returned to the car.

Sweet Little Pool

Every year I convince myself that Clear Creek is a viable option for dog days of August trout, and every year I return home in a state of disappointment. The brown trout are very small, and they are infuriatingly fussy. The large rocks are polished to a glassy smooth surface, and my studded waders glide over the slanted surface like a greased ice block. Hopefully I can find better options, until the nights begin to cool off in September.

Fish Landed: 5

Clear Creek – 11/05/2019

Time: 11:00AM – 3:00PM

Location: Between Tunnel 3 and Big Easy; Just West of Tunnel 6

Clear Creek 11/05/2019 Photo Album

After an extended spell of snowstorms and cold weather, a short break in the weather tempted me to make another 2019 fishing trip. The high temperature in Denver was predicted to peak at 61 degrees, and I speculated that this translated to fifty in the high country, so I hedged and chose Clear Creek Canyon as my destination. The high for Golden, CO was 61, and Idaho Springs was projected at 52, so I concluded that Clear Creek Canyon would top out in the mid to high fifties.

As I traveled along Clear Creek on U.S. 6 west of the intersection of CO 93, I noted a considerable amount of snow along the creek along with the presence of shelf ice. I should have realized that snow and ice would be a factor, since the low temperature on October 30 was -1 F. In spite of the ice and snow discovery, I resolved to persist in my late season attempt to land a few trout.

Lots of Ice and Snow

I traveled through Tunnel 3 and after a couple miles pulled into a wide pullout along the north side of the highway. The stretch between Tunnel 3 and the Big Easy Peak to Plains Access produced for me on previous trips, and I was convinced that it held promise on November 5.

Once I assembled my Orvis Access four weight, I hiked east along U.S. 6 for .3 mile and then dropped down a snowy angled path to the creek. I wore my North Face light down coat and my New Zealand brimmed hat with ear flaps, and these outer clothing choices served me well, until I entered the ice cold flows of Clear Creek. I rigged my line with a yellow fat Albert, 20 incher and salvation nymph. The 20 incher was selected to provide weight, as I anticipated drifting my nymphs close to the bottom given the 38 CFS flows and melting snow and ice.

Nice Run Ahead

During the last hour of the morning I progressed upstream and prospected likely holding spots with the three fly dry/dropper set up. Originally I probed some short deep pockets and moderate riffles, but these failed to produce, until I encountered a nice long steadily moving trough, where a six inch brown trout latched on to the 20 incher. I was not convinced that another trout was in my future given the challenging conditions, so I snapped a photo of the small jewel. Just before I stopped for lunch, another trout grabbed one of the nymphs, but this connection ended within seconds, when the panicked trout rolled and shed the pointy irritant in its lip.

First Fish on 20 Incher

Shortly before noon my feet morphed into stumps, and a serious chill invaded my body, so I found some nice large ice free boulders along the north bank and consumed my lunch. The break restored feeling to my feet, and I resumed my upstream progression in a slightly improved state of warmth.

I decided to skip marginal pockets and faster water in order to target slower slots and shelf pools similar to the two places that yielded interaction with trout in the morning. The strategy seemed reasonable, but I must report, that I failed to generate any interest in my flies between noon and 1PM. I was successful, however, in acquiring another significant chill, as my feet once again attained a state of numbness, and the cold of the creek migrated upward to my ears and hands. A constant burn and sting emanated from my fingers, and the deep shadows of the canyon prevented the warming effect of the sun’s rays from mitigating my discomfort. I decided that relief from the cold was higher on my hierarchy of needs than catching more fish, and I returned to the car.

As I pondered my next move, I decided that I underestimated the beneficial impact of the sun, and I decided to drive west beyond Tunnel 6. I remembered that the creek shifted to the north side of the highway in the western section of the canyon, and this in turn meant that sunshine would prevail. I was surprised to discover that no cars were present in the wide pullout just beyond Tunnel 6, so I quickly grabbed a prime spot and pulled on my packs and grabbed my fly rod. I ambled east toward the tunnel and then dropped down a bare path between snow-covered rocks, until I perched next to the stream just above a zip line, that rock climbers utilized to cross the creek.

I prospected my way upstream for forty yards and experienced a refusal to the fat Albert and a tentative nip on one of the trailing nymphs. As I surmised, the sun bathed the creek in light, and this circumstance was a welcome development after the frigid shaded canyon section that abused me during the first two hours.

I Spent Some Time at This Pool

By two o’clock I approached a gorgeous deep pool, and I remembered it from several previous visits to Clear Creek. I paused to observe the aqua hued area which was in fact a large eddy. The main current swept along the north bank and then curled around and flowed back toward the western edge of the pool. Initially I spotted only a small trout near the south side of the curl, but as I continued to peer into the blueish clear pool, I noted at least eight fish.

I initiated my effort to fool the pool residents with the dry/dropper, but it was treated like inert flotsam, so I removed the three flies and considered alternatives. Would a size 18 parachute black ant fool these wary trout? I plucked one from my box and knotted it to my 5X, but after ten minutes of casting, I could only point to a couple nose to fly refusals. I stripped in the ant and replaced it with a size 12 Jake’s gulp beetle. I plopped the foam terrestrial in the vicinity of all the visible finned creatures, but once again a pair of inspections with no take was my reward.

I decided that something small was probably the answer, and I once again inspected my MFC fly box. I spotted a vertical row of size 18 gray stoneflies that matched an October and November hatch on South Boulder Creek. I concluded that the tiny stonefly imitation could imitate several aquatic life forms, so I tied it to my leader and took it for a ride. Unlike the two terrestrials, the small stonefly failed to entice even a look from the hovering trout in front of me.

Happy

By now a decent fish was tipping up to sip something from the edge of the current, where it began to curl across the creek. It was late afternoon in early November, and I decided I would be remiss, if I did not try a CDC blue winged olive. I removed a tiny size 24 from my box and replaced the stonefly with the minuscule tuft of CDC with an olive body. The change proved effective, when two nine inch brown trout tipped up and sipped the small olive to increase my fish count to three. The third fish slowly elevate and then pressed its snout against the fly and then slowly inhaled it. I somehow mustered enough patience to allow the excruciatingly slow process to unfold.

Overview

After fish number three a shadow enveloped the north side of the pool, and this made tracking the tiny mayfly along the current seam impossible, so I abandoned the honey hole and moved upstream to another quality area. The creek spread out and created five nice channels of moderate depth. The flows in this area were faster, and prospecting with the size 24 olive seemed like an exercise in frustration, so I swapped it for the Jake’s gulp beetle. I sprayed casts upstream and across, until I covered the many wide troughs and channels, but the trout were either not interested in the beetle or not present.

I retreated to the south bank and worked my way toward the head of the attractive section. A series of narrow deep slots existed along the bank above me, and much to my amazement I spotted a subtle rise eight feet upstream along a large exposed boulder. I plopped the beetle four feet above the site of the rise, and a decent trout elevated and then drifted back to its holding position along the bottom. A second plop, however, evoked another upward movement, but this time the fish sipped the beetle, and I quickly lifted the rod tip and felt a brief throb of weight. Unfortunately the take was very tentative, and the fish quickly flipped free of the beetle. I was certain that I botched my last chance at a fish on November 5, but I flicked another cast six feet above the previous one, and a brown trout rushed from the depths to devour the foam impostor. Fish number four rested in my net.

I continued upstream for another ten minutes and generated another look, but that was the extent of my additional action, before I reached a long wide shallow riffle area. The sun was very low in the sky, and this created an impossible glare, so I hooked the beetle to the rod guide, climbed the bank, and strolled back to the Santa Fe.

Four small trout in four hours of fishing was not a memorable experience, but the move to the sun bathed area west of Tunnel 6 salvaged a chilly November day. The dry/dropper technique was not producing, so I was happy to linger at the large pool and cast to sighted fish. I cycled through four standalone dry flies, but I eventually found one that fooled two fish. Catching three of four trout on dry flies is probably the most surprising aspect of my day of fly fishing on November 5.

Fish Landed: 4

Clear Creek – 10/17/2019

Time: 12:00PM – 2:30PM

Location: Peak to Plains Trail Area

Clear Creek 10/17/2019 Photo Album

The weather was outstanding, and I benefited from a short drive. Those were the two positives from my fishing trip on Thursday, October 17, 2019. Otherwise, my 2.5 hours on the water were forgettable. I experienced numerous fishless days in my fly fishing life, and today I landed three small brown trout barely over six inches, but the combination of slow fishing and stream mishaps placed my Clear Creek outing among the worst.

The flows were 45 CFS, and the water clarity was excellent. The air temperature reached the low seventies, and all three of these factors augured a pleasant day on the nearby front range stream. I chose to drive to the western end of the canyon beyond Golden, since I encountered more rainbow trout in that area in the past, and I attempted to hedge against brown trout spawning activity.

Typically Productive Water

I ate my lunch, when I arrived at the parking lot along the stream, since it was already noon. Once I finished my black cherry yogurt cup, I assembled my Orvis Access four weight and gathered my gear for a few hours on the creek. I found an opening in the fence and cut directly to the stream and then waded along the edge for a decent distance to gain separation from the popular water near the parking lot.

I quickly knotted a size 12 Jake’s gulp beetle to my line and began to plop it in likely locations, but after thirty minutes with nary a look, I modified my approach. I removed the beetle and tied a peacock hippie stomper to my line along with a beadhead hares ear nymph and a salvation nymph. As I removed the hares ear from my fleece wallet, I momentarily last my grip and dropped the size 14 nymph in the water. This was the beginning of a series of adverse events that forced my early exit.

I moved upstream and featured the three fly lineup and eventually landed a brown trout that barely exceeded six inches. I carried doubts whether I would land additional fish, so I removed my sunglove to grip the small trout for a photo and placed the glove on a large boulder along the shoreline. With fish number one under my belt, I continued my progression and landed two additional browns of similar size to the first. One of the midget trout hammered the salvation nymph, and the other slurped the hippie stomper. The size of the trout was lacking, but at least the action was improving.

Fish Number One

As these events transpired, I noticed that long pockets and riffles of moderate depth yielded the most evidence of fish, and I spotted an area along the far bank that fit the criteria of productive. I carefully waded to the center of the creek to position myself to make some across and downstream casts, and suddenly both my feet slipped on an angled underwater rock. I clutched my wading staff in my right hand, but it was useless, as I fell sideways and broke my fall with my left hand, which held my fly rod. The splash down was for only a moment, but my left arm went underwater up to my armpit, and ice cold water trickled over the top of my waders and seeped down to my feet. I cursed my ill fortune, but I was encouraged to realize that my rod remained in one piece, and I was not injured in any way. I mumbled to myself, that three tiny brown trout did not justify the hassle of getting wet.

Hares Ear Visible

I attempted to resume fishing, but I quickly realized that the fly line was wrapped around both wading boots, and this forced me to shuffle to shore to unravel the snarl. Once the line was cleared, I sloshed upstream to resume casting. In a brief amount of time I saw the hippie stomper pause and executed a swift hook set, but the absence of a jaw caused the flies to catapult towards me. Before they could reach my body, they snagged the fly rod and created a monofilament nightmare. In a wet state I patiently unwound the entanglement, but when I was once again prepared to cast, I realized that I was only wearing a sunglove on my right hand. I remembered that I removed the left in order to grip the first fish for a photo.

I was not willing to write off a relatively new pair of sungloves, so I retreated to the scene of my first catch, and sure enough a left sunglove remained perched on a large boulder along the bank. I was closer to the upstream Peak to Plains bridge, than where I began, so I decided to fish to the bridge and call it a day. But my string of unfortunate events was not over. I found a promising long deep shelf pool, and as I raised my arm to cast, my reel released from the seat and plummeted into the creek. Apparently I had not tightened the lower clamp enough, and the reel worked itself loose during my time on the water. Fortunately this happened in shallow water, and I quickly recovered the newly washed reel and once again mounted it below the cork grip.

A couple momentary hook ups in the home stretch did not improve my outlook, so I waded below the footbridge to the bank next to the highway and then circled to the Peak to Plains Path and returned to the car. I retrieved my rarely used change of clothes from my fishing bag and removed a pile of wet apparel and made the short drive to my home.

Thursday was not one of my better outings. Wet wading was not on my agenda, and the three small brown trout did not compensate for the string of mishaps on October 17. Clear Creek continues to be my nemesis, and I need a break from the small stream west of Golden.

Fish Landed: 3

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