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.

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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.

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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.

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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

Clear Creek – 10/20/2017

Time: 11:30AM – 3:30PM

Location: Near Tunnel 5 and 6

Clear Creek 10/20/2017 Photo Album

In two hours of fishing on Monday on Clear Creek I landed seven trout. A return trip was in order, and temperatures were projected to spike at eighty degrees in Denver on Friday, October 20. This windfall of summer-like weather motivated me to make the short drive to the western end of Clear Creek Canyon. I arrived at the parking lot just west of Tunnel 5 by 10:45AM; however, the lot was full, so I exited and parked along the highway a short distance to the west.

After I assembled my Orvis Access four weight and climbed into my waders, I was on my way, and I followed the Peaks to Plains Trail around the oxbow until I reached the point where I exited on Monday. I had unfinished business, and I began my quest for trout by 11AM. On Monday I enjoyed success with a Jake’s gulp beetle, so I knotted one to my line on Friday and began to prospect the deep pockets that existed mainly along the left bank.

After thirty minutes of fruitless casting and wading I paused to eat my lunch on some sunny rocks, and I lamented my lack of action. It was already obvious that the catch rate would probably lag the pace of my previous visit to Clear Creek. Just prior to my lunch break, I waded across the creek at a wide relatively shallow riffle section, and while casting upstream to a moderate riffle, I spotted two decent fish. I interrupted my pursuit of trout to observe, and I noticed that the two fish were rubbing against each other and generally frolicking about at the tail of the shallow area. I surmised that I was viewing some amorous activity, and the brown trout spawn was in progress. Not wishing to interrupt their procreation, I returned to the bank below the path and consumed my modest lunch.

Shortly after I resumed fishing at 12:15, I plopped the beetle into some moderate riffles directly above my position, and I was surprised when a fish elevated and inspected my fly. Unfortunately the stream inhabitant chose not to eat and only inspected. Sensing that I would not have many opportunities to sight fish on this day, I decided to focus on the fish that revealed its position to my observant eyes. I swapped the beetle for a parachute black ant with a pink wing post. The first cast went unmolested, but the second pass floated directly over the place where the trout inspected the beetle, and this time the rainbow could not resist the black ant. I quickly raised the rod tip and connected with an eleven inch rainbow trout, and I snapped a photo in case it was my first and last fish on the day.

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And There Is the Parachute Ant

I settled on the bait and switch routine as my preferred approach on Friday, and I cut off the ant and returned the beetle to the end of my tippet. I prospected with the larger foam attractor fly with the expectation of once again switching to the ant, if I observed another look or refusal. When I reached the bend I encountered some nice wide deep pockets, and I employed the across and down approach that yielded seven trout on Monday. I was very pleased, when I executed a reach cast to a pocket fifteen feet across from me, and just as the beetle was about to accelerate over the lip at the tail, another rainbow trout surface and slurped the foam terrestrial.

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The Rainbow Dwelled in the Slick Along the Far Bank

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A Second Rainbow Trout from Clear Creek

After I released the second rainbow, I continued my upstream progression, and I searched for additional locations suitable for the across and down drift technique. Several appeared, but I was unable to repeat the earlier success, and by 2:30 I was positioned just below the parking lot at the end of the Peak to Plains Trail. I climbed up the steep rocky embankment and tossed my gear in the Santa Fe and drove west beyond Tunnel 6. I chose this spot because I recalled landing a disproportionate number of rainbow trout there in 2016. It was clear to me that the brown trout spawn was in progress, and rainbow trout were more apt to be in a feeding mindset on this warm autumn day.

The move paid off to some degree, as I added three more small trout to the fish count in the last hour of fishing. One of the netted fish sipped the ant on an across and downstream drift, and the other two fell for a similar presentation of Jake’s gulp beetle. Surprisingly two of the victims near Tunnel 6 were brown trout, and one was another eleven inch rainbow trout. I bumped into two other anglers positioned next to prime deep holes, and I was between them and restricted in my movement for my last hour. For this reason I decided to quit at 3:30 rather than drive to yet another location on Clear Creek.

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A Rare Brown Trout on October 20

The weather was glorious for October 20, and I managed to fool five trout. I executed the same across and down drifts that yielded success on Monday, and achieved similar success. Jake’s gulp beetle was the leading character in the fly fishing play, but the black parachute ant played a key supporting role. The trout population of Clear Creek is probably ninety percent brown trout, so landing five trout while the spawning ritual was in full swing was a significant accomplishment.

Fish Landed: 5

Clear Creek – 10/16/2017

Time: 1:30PM – 3:30PM

Location: Near Tunnel 5.

Clear Creek 10/16/2017 Photo Album

I could not resist the temptation to fish again on Monday October 16, since the weather prognosticators projected high temperatures in the seventies. Perfect autumn days do not appear often in October, so Jane and I resolved to take advantage. We ate lunch at home and then packed our gear in the car and departed for Clear Creek Canyon. A forty-five minute drive delivered us to the parking lot just west of Tunnel No. 5, and this became my destination for Monday. I gathered my gear and assembled my Orvis Access four weight, while Jane added some layers and prepared to hike the Peak to Plains Trail. The temperature at our home in Stapleton was 75 degrees when we departed, and the dashboard display registered 64 at the parking lot. A huge cloud hovered above us, and I swapped my short sleeve T-shirt for my Columbia long sleeve undershirt in response to the drop in temperature and lack of sunshine. I also added a fleece layer for added comfort.

Clear Creek was flowing at 60 CFS with exceptional clarity, and my optimism rose, as Jane and I hiked along the trail downstream from the parking lot. We followed the oxbow that circles around the tunnel, until we were opposite US 6 below a very steep rocky embankment. At this point I said goodbye to Jane and scrambled down a rocky path of moderate difficulty to the creek. I was downstream from a narrow white water chute, and the stream was characterized by deep pockets and runs. During October in previous years the trout of Clear Creek responded favorably to a Jake’s gulp beetle, so that is what occupied my line, as I made my first cast.

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The Productive Beetle

After ten minutes of unproductive fishing, I reached a place where some nice slow shelf pools presented themselves along the opposite shoreline. Once again history suggested that Clear Creek trout would respond to downstream drifts, so I lobbed some casts across the stream and commenced some rapid fire mending to allow the beetle to float without drag along the rocky bank. The technique worked, and an eleven inch rainbow trout nipped the low floating beetle just before it began to drag at the end of the slow water. I was quite pleased to land my first fish in uncharted water on Clear Creek.

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The Home of the Rainbow

Another shorter shelf pool existed above the home of fish number one, so I employed the same across and down approach, and miraculously a second rainbow grabbed the foam beetle at the lip. This spunky fish put up a nice battle and measured out at twelve inches. The afternoon was off to a superb start, and my outlook on the remainder of the day brightened.

I continued upstream, and while I made upstream casts on my side of the stream, I also searched for slack water along the far bank, since the across and down tactic yielded two early rainbows. After twenty minutes with no action, I encountered a nice midstream pocket and eddy behind a large exposed rock. The depth was moderate, and I popped the beetle in the middle of the small pool. The terrestrial crept a foot upstream toward the epicenter of the eddy, and suddenly a ten inch brown trout appeared and chomped the beetle. Prior to this success I was concerned about the absence of brown trout, and now I was reassured that they continued to inhabit Clear Creek.

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A Brown Trout Appears

After releasing the brown I decided to plop the beetle in the pool a few more times in case relatives were present. On one of these casts the beetle floated tight to the exposed rock, and just as it curled along the faster current seam, a dark form elevated for a closer look. I suspected that it was a rainbow trout, but I was unable to entice a strike, so I paused and exchanged the beetle for a parachute ant. On the second cast of the ant a small six inch brown trout darted to the surface and snatched the black morsel. I was not able to tempt the larger fish that inspected the beetle, so I surrendered to its selectivity and moved on.

The remainder of my time on Clear Creek mimicked my description of the first hour. I landed three additional trout including two more brown trout and a third rainbow. The last bow slurped the beetle in a shelf pool along the left bank, and it measured a length that was similar to the first two. In addition to the seven fish landed, I coaxed two or three additional brief hook ups by applying the across and down ploy. I cannot explain why this presentation is effective other than the fact that the fish see the fly before the leader.

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Shimmering Rainbow Displays a Foam Beetle

Monday evolved into a nice bonus day of fishing on Clear Creek, as I discovered a new section and reversed the bad karma of 9/18 and 8/29. The weather was unseasonably warm for October 16, and I landed seven decent trout by Clear Creek standards in two hours of fishing. All the netted fish succumbed to surface flies with Jake’s gulp beetle attracting the most interest. Quite a bit of interesting water remained between my exit point and the parking lot, and I plan to revisit in the near future if the weather cooperates.

Fish Landed: 7

Clear Creek – 09/18/2017

Time: 11:00AM – 3:00PM

Location: Between Tunnel 3 and Mayhem Gulch

Clear Creek 09/18/2017 Photo Album

I am experiencing technical difficulties with my blog that prevent me from inserting photos in the body of the text. The link above continues to work should you wish to view my photos from this fishing trip. Hopefully I can resolve this issue soon.

I knew that my first post-Flattops outing would face a difficult comparison, but Monday felt extraordinarily challenging. For awhile I feared that I would not land a single fish. The weather was very summer-like, as the high temperature hovered in the upper 70’s in Clear Creek Canyon. I assembled my Orvis Access four weight and ambled down the highway a bit, before I slowly negotiated an angled path to the creek.

I began casting with a Jake’s gulp beetle, but it failed to attract interest, so I swapped it for a light gray size 10 parachute hopper. The grasshopper yielded two inspections, but no takes, so I added a dropper and attached an ultra zug bug. Apparently nymphs were not on the menu, and the parachute hopper adopted a waterlogged state, so I switched to a red fat Albert leading an ultra zug bug and a beadhead hares ear. Generally these nymphs are money in the bank, but on Monday they produced only unmolested drifts.

While I was in a state of frustration, I found a nice large rock in the sun and munched my lunch. After lunch I continued with the dry/dropper for a while longer, but one cursory look at the red body fat Albert was all I could muster. My ability to land trout was entering crisis mode.

At 12:30 I reached a place, where I attempted to step into the creek to position myself for some across and down drifts to some slack water along the opposite shoreline. I led with my left foot, but it inexplicably continued sliding down an angled rock until cold water spilled over the top of my waders. I never really fell; I just slid into a deep hole! This dose of misfortune nearly caused me to quit, but some distorted sense of purpose motivated me to press on for another 2.5 hours. I despise the feeling of sloshing water, but that was the sensation that accompanied me for the remainder of my time on Clear Creek.

My confidence was at a low ebb, and my wet core caused me to question why I ever returned to Clear Creek. The fish were small and difficult to catch, and the large smooth rocks made wading a risky proposition. On this warm day in September I could not land a single fish. In an effort to pull out of my funk, I shifted my approach. Jake’s gulp beetle proved its effectiveness many times on Clear Creek, so I removed the dry/dropper flies and returned to the size 10 beetle. I found a place to cross to the opposite side with the hope of finding less pressured fish.

To a degree it worked. I landed a small brown on an across and down drift, and then I nabbed a skinny eleven inch brown trout from a deep midstream slot behind a submerged rock. Despite this hard earned success, the south side of the river was covered in shadows, and the lack of sunshine did not complement my saturated state. Before my chill progressed to shivers, I returned to the highway side of the creek and continued my upstream progression. Miraculously I built the fish count to six, and this included a rainbow and cutbow.

All six fish landed on Monday slurped the beetle, so the terrestrial was my savior on Clear Creek. By 2:30 I noticed a very sparse hatch of tiny blue winged olives, so I added a RS2 on a dropper, but the small nymph did not reward my confidence.

Clearly Monday was a subpar day of fishing. The Flattops comparison was unfortunate, but the outing was slow on a standalone basis as well. I plan to avoid Clear Creek for a bit, and when I return, I plan to explore a different section of the canyon.

Fish Landed: 6

Clear Creek – 08/29/2017

Time: 12:30PM – 4:00PM

Location: Between Tunnel 3 and Mayhem Gulch

Clear Creek 08/29/2017 Photo Album

I am experiencing technical difficulties with my blog that prevent me from inserting photos in the body of the text. The link above continues to work should you wish to view my photos from this fishing trip. Hopefully I can resolve this issue soon.

The contrast between the Bow River in Alberta and Clear Creek along Interstate 70 is stark. The Bow River contains wide sweeping runs and glides over a white cobble bottom with an abundant quantity of trout in the fifteen to twenty inch range. Clear Creek tumbles along a high gradient path over large angular rocks right next to a busy highway, and it contains primarily brown trout in the six to eleven inch range. On Tuesday August 29 I chose to shock my system back to reality by fishing in Clear Creek.

Flows finally dropped to 93 CFS, but even that level remains high for this late juncture in the fly fishing season in Colorado. I had a few tasks to complete in the morning, so by the time I pulled into a wide pullout along Clear Creek, the clock displayed 11:50. I decided to eat my lunch, and then I assembled my Orvis Access four weight and found a well used path to descend the steep bank. The air temperature was in the upper eighties, and the sun was brilliant in the solid blue sky. For some reason I wore my waders, when Tuesday was probably the best day of the summer for wet wading.

For some reason I always expect Clear Creek to offer easy mindless fly fishing, but Tuesday reminded me to cleanse that idea from my thought process. I began the day with a size 12 Chernobyl ant, but it possessed a tiny yellow indicator spot, and I had great difficulty tracking it in the swirling currents. I could have overlooked this shortcoming, if it generated action, but it did not; so I swapped it for a size 10 Chernobyl with a much larger yellow indicator. The change did not yield results instantly, but after some persistence, I landed two ten inch brown trout. In both cases I utilized a downstream drift along the narrow band of slow water on the opposite shoreline. This was the only way I could manage a decent drag free drift due to the surge of fast tumbling current in the middle of the creek.

The larger Chernobyl generated quite a few refusals, so despite netting two fish in the first hour, I decided to experiment with a different fly. In recent years Jake’s gulp beetle outproduced most of the other flies in my box, so I knotted one with a peacock dubbed body to my line. This move once again proved to be effective, and I upped the fish count from two to ten over the remainder of the afternoon. The pace of the action improved, but it never approached a state that I would describe as hot. I cast to a huge number of pools, pockets and runs without even a look; however, the fish responded often enough to maintain my interest.

At roughly 2:30 some small blue winged olives made an appearance, as a few clouds blocked the sun for short periods off and on. Initially I ignored them since they were quite small, but by 3:00 I added a 2.5 foot dropper and a size 20 RS2. The addition of the nymph was a positive, and two of the eight fish landed in the afternoon nipped the small nymph. In addition two fish nabbed the trailing baetis nymph imitation, as it began to swing, but I failed to bring these to the net. It was quite apparent that the trout were accustomed to blue winged olive nymphs showing fairly rapid movement. The other six afternoon trout responded to the foam beetle. All the fish landed on the day were brown trout except for one early rainbow that gulped the beetle.

Given the hot sunny conditions and the time of the year, I was quite pleased to land ten small fish on Clear Creek on August 29. Historically fishing from the middle of August until the first week of September is very challenging on freestone streams in Colorado. The major hatches are over, and the weather is hot and clear. Once again Clear Creek was not the pushover stream that many fly shops tout. I worked hard to scramble over large rocks while executing a huge number of casts, but persistence rewarded me with a double digit day.

Fish Landed: 10

Clear Creek – 04/14/2017

Time: 12:00PM – 2:00PM

Location: Upstream of Tunnel 3 in Clear Creek Canyon

Clear Creek 04/14/2017 Photo Album

Friday was a testament to my belief that 80% of fishing success derives from choosing promising destinations. I normally review the stream flows and fly shop fishing reports before I settle on a location, and I followed that path on Friday. After two days on the South Platte River in Eleven Mile Canyon on Tuesday and Thursday, I constrained my choices to local options. South Boulder Creek, the North Fork of the St. Vrain, and the Big Thompson represented strong choices, but I favored Clear Creek, since it required the shortest drive. For this reason I overlooked the spike in flows from 40 to 55 cfs within the past twenty-four hours. I focused on the absolute value of 55, as that is a fairly ideal level, and I made the mistake of discounting the recent change.

I arrived at the pullout along US 6 by 11:45AM, and after a quick bite to eat I eased into my waders and rigged my Orvis Access four weight rod. The creek was relatively murky, but I was encouraged by the decent visibility along the bank, where rocks and gravel on the stream bed were easily discernible. The air temperature on the other hand was quite pleasant, as the reading hovered near the seventy degree mark.

I began my quest for Clear Creek trout with a size 8 Chernobyl ant and a beadhead hares ear nymph, and I embarked on my usual process of prospecting the deep pockets and runs along the right bank. For the next hour I covered quite a bit of the creek with only a refusal to the Chernobyl and then another snub to a size 12 olive stimulator. In fact these were the only fish I observed during the first hour, and this is quite unusual, since I normally spot small brown trout tucked among the rocks along the edge of the stream.

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I Managed a Temporary Hookup in the Foam

I considered quitting, but I decided to give the day one more solid effort, so I swapped the stimulator for a yellow fat Albert and retained the beadhead hares ear and then added an ultra zug bug. This lineup provided more depth in case my nymph was riding over the fish in the water column. The change did not seem to impact my fly fishing fortunes, until finally a small brown trout emerged from the tinted flow and nipped the size 8 fat Albert. I responded with a soft hook set and just as I lifted the nine inch brown from the water, it flipped and slid off the hook. This action accounted for my only catch on the day, and I never enjoyed the satisfaction of seeing it nestled in my net.

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The sudden attention given to the fat Albert allowed my optimism to surge, and I refocused my efforts for the remaining thirty minutes, but once again I fell into casting practice mode. At two o’clock I advanced to a state of total boredom and decided to cut my losses and return home. I theorized that the spike in flows resulted from the warm temperatures and a surge in run off, and the fish did not have an opportunity to adjust to the new conditions. After two days of spectacular dry fly fishing on the South Platte River I was too stubborn to resort to fishing nymphs in Clear Creek with a strike indicator, and I chose to save my valuable fishing time for a destination more conducive to my preferred approach.

Fish Landed: 1

Clear Creek – 03/23/2017

Time: 11:00AM – 2:30PM

Location: Idaho Springs

Clear Creek 03/23/2017 Photo Album

I am beginning to understand that early spring fishing on freestone drainages such as Clear Creek is vastly different from tailwaters such as South Boulder Creek and the North Fork of the St. Vrain. Even on small streams a dam holds back ice cold snow melt and moderates the stream temperatures below, thus creating an artificially more conducive environment for fishing for cold water residents.

After a spectacular day on South Boulder Creek on Wednesday, I scrolled through a series of photos of decent trout posted by flyhunter333 on Instagram. Flyhunter333 indicated that he enjoyed excellent results fishing in Clear Creek within the town of Idaho Springs. I was reluctant to make a trip to Clear Creek after my last visit yielded only a couple fish. On that visit I tossed my flies among small icebergs and carefully negotiated around ice shelves, as I waded upstream. I concluded that the narrow canyon and freestone nature of the stream made it a poor early spring choice. Flyhunter’s evidence of success, however, convinced me to give it another try.

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Fish Number One

I arrived in Idaho Springs at 10:45, and after I assembled my Loomis four weight, I was on the water by 11AM. I began my quest for Clear Creek trout with a yellow fat Albert and trailed a beadhead hares ear nymph. Early in my outing I covered some very attractive deep pockets and runs, but I was unable to interest any resident fish in my offerings. I observed a couple refusals to the fat Albert, and I considered this a bad sign. Eventually a small rainbow latched on to the trailing hares ear, and shortly thereafter a small brown trout darted to the surface and mauled the fat Albert. The brown created a huge snarl, when it twisted the trailing nymph around its body, so I relaxed on a rock and unraveled the monofilament mess.

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What a Snarl

I was dissatisfied with the slow amount of action, so I added a salad spinner as a third fly on a dropper tied to the eye of the hares ear. This move seemed to increase the interest of the trout, but unproductive drifts were replaced by several momentary connections to the small size 20 salad spinner. The wind became a significant factor, but I persisted and moved the fish counter to five, before I climbed the bank and sat at a picnic table in the park to consume my small lunch. Two of fish three through five snatched the hares ear from the drift, and another small brown crushed the fat Albert.

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Downstream Look

After lunch I approached a very attractive riffle of moderate depth, and I was able to spot at least three relatively large trout by Clear Creek standards. I flicked a cast with the three fly arrangement above a visible trout, but it totally ignored the fake food, as it tumbled by. I could not resist the temptation to focus on these fish, since my success utilizing the prospecting method was not paying huge dividends. I snipped off the flies and tied an olive stimulator to my line and then reconnected the beadhead hares ear. Certainly this deadly combination would create interest. On the first cast a small brown trout surfaced and refused the size 14 stimulator, and on subsequent drifts the visible fish paid no attention to my intruding offerings.

I eventually surrendered to the sighted fish, and continued my upstream progression. The stimulator was not attracting interest, so I exchanged it for a size 10 Chernobyl ant, and I added a small baetis nymph with a green glass bead below the hares ear. Again I was frustrated to note two refusals to the Chenobyl. During this time frame I made another inconsequential change, as I swapped the glass bead baetis for an ultra zug bug.

I was now above a bridge, and the creek was narrowing, and I concluded there was limited decent water before I would be forced to reverse my direction. The sky began to display large gray clouds, and the wind morphed from a nuisance to a significant negative factor. I pondered my situation, and I decided to experiment with an indicator nymph configuration. The rainbow trout seemed to be hugging the bottom, and I hoped to gain a deeper drift with the split shot added to the beadheads. The indicator set up also offered no distracting surface fly to induce refusals and fisherman frustration. I selected a beadhead hares ear and an emerald caddis pupa as my deep nymph offerings.

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Another Feisty Rainbow Trout

The move paid off, as I landed two additional rainbow trout, as I worked my way back downstream. I was very selective and cast only to deep slow moving water next to the faster current. In addition to the two landed fish, I connected briefly with another pair, and one of these felt a bit heavier than the previous fish on my line. The emerald caddis pupa produced one of the two fish landed on the indicator set up. Based on my final forty-five minutes of fishing, I concluded that fishing deep with a nymphing rig was a better approach on an icy cold freestone stream such as Clear Creek. Seven small fish in 2.5 hours did not measure up to Wednesday on South Boulder Creek, but I achieved a moderate amount of success, discovered that an indicator nymphing approach was preferred, and explored a new section of the creek. Most importantly I was fishing on a stream on March 23.

Fish Landed: 7

Clear Creek – 03/08/2017

Time: 12:00PM – 3:00PM

Location: A mile west of tunnel 1 and then at MM 264.0

Clear Creek 03/08/2017 Photo Album

Wednesday on Clear Creek was not what I expected. I was still fairly elated over my thirteen fish day on the North Fork of the St. Vrain on Friday, March 3, and I was certain that the return of milder March temperatures on March 8 would provoke some decent fishing on Clear Creek. Unfortunately I failed to account for the fact that the North Fork of the St. Vrain is a tailwater; whereas, Clear Creek is a freestone stream. In addition Clear Creek flows through a narrow canyon, and thus the ice and snow do not absorb as much direct sunlight.

From a weather standpoint it was quite nice with the temperature hovering around sixty degrees, as I geared up to fish at 11:30 on Wednesday. I felt infrequent gusts of wind at my perch along route 6, but I sensed that I could manage the hindrance by taking advantage of the long lulls in between. A flagman was halting traffic just beyond the next bend causing a backup, so I used the stoppage to execute a quick U-turn, and I parked facing east on the other side of the highway just below some construction equipment. The area next to the pullout was largely bathed in sunlight, and the stream segment was near the area I targeted. The section of the stream I planned to fish was the closest to Golden of any of my previous Clear Creek ventures.

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Ice Shelves Remain

Since it was approaching noon I decided to quickly consume my lunch by the car rather than add weight to my backpack. Upon the completion of my lunch, I grabbed my Loomis five weight and scrambled down the steep rocky bank to the edge of the stream. The water was crystal clear, and it flowed along at a desirable pace of 28 CFS. I followed my recent practice and tied on a yellow fat Albert, ultra zug bug and beadhead hares ear and began prospecting the normal attractive spots. Based on past experience I focused much of my casting on deep slow moving pockets and shelf pools along the banks. Unfortunately the normal productive locations failed to be hot spots.

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I fished for 1.5 hours with only a look or two, when I finally induced a small brown trout to grab the hares ear, as the trio of flies arced into a downstream swing away from a narrow slow moving trough along the far bank. Just prior to this dose of good fortune I swapped the fat Albert for a size 10 Chernobyl ant, although this probably had nothing to do with my success. I did experience a momentary hook up on the Chernobyl a few minutes before landing the small brown trout on the hares ear.

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Nice Pool Near the Car

I was frustrated by the lack of action, and I pondered the possible reasons. In my mind I enumerated stream location, choice of lies, and cold water temperature from the low level snow melt as possible prohibitive factors. In an attempt to change one of the variables, I returned to the car and drove west until I reached mile marker 264.0 just beyond Tunnel 3. This area was in partial sunlight, but it contained quite a few ice shelves perhaps attributable to the narrow character of the canyon. In spite of the larger quantity of ice, I found some nice open water pools and resumed my quest for trout.

The fishing in this area was equally as slow as the water closer to Golden, and quite a few icebergs passed by as I worked upstream. Finally at 2:45 I lobbed a cast to a nice slow moving pool, and as I lifted to make another cast next to a boulder, a small brown trout attacked the hares ear. This landed fish was a bonus, as I was resigned to only one fish. I continued for another 15 minutes with renewed enthusiasm, but an attractive stretch of water did not produce, so I called it a day at 3PM and returned to Stapleton.

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Number 2

I arrived with high expectations after two fun days on the North Fork of the St. Vrain, but I learned that all streams are not equal, and each possesses unique characteristics. The abundance of ice shelves and small icebergs were clues that spring has not advanced in Clear Creek to the extent that it has in other front range drainages. Nonetheless I persisted and landed a couple small trout, and I enjoyed a mild late winter outing close to home.

Fish Landed: 2

Clear Creek – 02/20/2017

Time: 11:30AM – 2:00PM

Location: Mayhem Gulch area and then downstream from trail construction

Clear Creek 02/20/2017 Photo Album

Faced with high temperatures in the mid-60’s in Denver, CO, and basking in the accomplishment of landing my first fish of the year on February 17 in Clear Creek Canyon, I decided to venture forth on another February fishing trip. Of course being saddled with an injured knee that prevents me from skiing was another factor edging me toward the stream rather than the slopes.

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Starting Point

Jane accompanied me on another quick visit to Clear Creek, and we arrived at the parking lot at Mayhem Gulch at 10:45. Jane decided to hike the Centennial Cone Trail, while I prepared to explore Clear Creek upstream from the Peak to Plains Trail bridge. The temperature was 48 degrees as I prepared to fish, and occasional strong gusts of wind swept down the canyon, so I elected to wear my Adidas pullover in addition to my fleece layer for the morning session.

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First Fish on Presidents' Day

The creek was clear and flowing nicely at around 25 CFS, as I rigged my line with a three fly offering that featured a yellow fat Albert as the surface indicator and a size 14 copper john followed by a beadhead hares ear nymph. The section of water that I covered in the morning was mostly in the sun, but it was wide and relatively shallow with only a few deep slower moving areas that offered decent prospects for fish. After fifteen minutes of futile casting and searching, I approached a nice slower moving shelf pool, and I lobbed my flies to the edge of the faster current. As the fat Albert drifted into the side pool, I observed a flash and set the hook. I felt a momentary connection, but then the fish was gone, and I was disappointed to miss my first hook up. Fish do not usually feed again after feeling the penetration of a hook, but this trout must have been exceptionally hungry, as it snatched the tumbling copper john on the very next drift. I maintained a taut line and quickly scooped an eight inch rainbow into my net. It was great to experience success early on my Monday fly fishing outing.

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Quite an Ice Shelf

I continued upstream and carefully maneuvered over a large ice shelf until I reached water that was more suitable to edge fishing. Unfortunately the improved stream structure did not improve my luck, and I climbed the rocky bank to access the highway at 11:50. I returned to the car and grabbed my lunch, and after two bites of my sandwich Jane arrived and joined me. We situated ourselves on the eastern side of the Santa Fe and used it as a relatively effective wind screen.

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Yummy Pool

Jane indicated she was open to moving to another location, so after lunch we drove a mile east of the construction zone and parked just below a series of yellow arrow signs at a sharp bend in the road. I hiked west along the shoulder of the busy highway, until I reached a manageable path that enabled me to descend the steep bank, and I resumed my upstream migration with the three fly dry/dropper system. The wind factor became a significant nuisance, as strong gusts played havoc with my casts, but I managed to persist. I added four more trout to my count between 12:30 and 2:00, and one chomped the copper john, while the other three consumed the hares ear.

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Finally a Brown Trout

Surprisingly four of my landed fish on February 20 were rainbow trout and one was a brown trout. Historically I catch 80-90% brown trout from Clear Creek, so the preponderance of rainbows was baffling. The last fish of the day was also the best, as a twelve inch rainbow snatched the hares ear, as it began to swing away from the far bank on an across and downstream drift.

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Distinct Spots

I was quite pleased with five fish during 2.5 hours of fishing on Presidents’ Day 2017, although the fish were admittedly on the small side. The experience was not entirely a pleasure ride, however, as I battled the relentless gusts of wind. Fortunately I tethered my hat to my head with a retaining strap, because it was blasted from my noggin at least three times. I also struggled with two wind aided tangles, and unraveling monofilament between gusts of rushing air was not enjoyable. The forecast for Tuesday predicts even warmer temperatures, but also stronger wind velocity. Should I plan another trip?

Fish Landed: 5

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