Category Archives: Clear Creek

Clear Creek – 08/16/2021

Time: 9:30AM – 4:00PM

Location: West of Idaho Springs

Clear Creek 08/16/2021 Photo Album

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

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

Sweet Spot

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

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

Big Chunk of Food

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

Inviting Run

Lunch Spot

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

Subtle Yet Vivid Colors

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

Mostly Spotless

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

Nymph Eater

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

Perfect

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

Riffles Were Productive

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

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

Fish Landed: 31

Clear Creek – 07/14/2021

Time: 11:00AM – 3:00PM

Location: West of Idaho Springs

Clear Creek 07/14/2021 Photo Album

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

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

Lush

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

Melon Cutthroat

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

Promising Runs Ahead

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

Look at the Neon Orange on This Cutthroat

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

Next to the Roots

Splendid

Light Olive Dominates

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

Fish Landed: 25

Clear Creek – 04/24/2021

Time: 11:30AM – 3:00PM

Location: Clear Creek Canyon

Clear Creek 04/24/2021 Photo Album

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

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

Lots of Pockets in This Area

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

Promising

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

Caddis Chomper

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

Monster on This Day

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

Fish Landed: 6

Looks Fantastic

Clear Creek – 04/10/2021

Time: 11:00AM – 2:00PM

Location: Clear Creek Canyon west of Golden, CO

Clear Creek 04/10/2021 Photo Album

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

Pocket Water Produced a Few

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

Frisky Brown Trout

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

Small Jewel

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

Very Nice Run and Pool Ahead

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

Fun Catch

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

Fish Landed: 12

Shelf Pool Promising

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