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.

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.

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.

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.

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 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.

Nice Deep Pools

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.

Needs to Add Weight

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.

Pretty 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

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.

Still Higher Than Normal at 93 CFS

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.

Yummy Chernobyl Ant Snack

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.

First Victim of Jake’s Gulp Beetle

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.

Beauty Among the Rocks

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.

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.

Typical Water

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

Beadhead Hares Ear

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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

Last and Best Fish of the Day

Clear Creek – 02/16/2017

Time: 12:30PM – 2:30PM

Location: Below first bridge after Tunnel 1

Clear Creek 02/16/2017 Photo Album

As I departed the parking lot near Waterton Canyon, I yearned to see a trout nestled in my net on a gorgeous spring-like day in February. My return route took me to the junction of  I70 and C470 near Golden, and that placed me only a few miles east of Clear Creek Canyon. I left my rod in a fully rigged status, so I decided to head west and inspect the conditions on Clear Creek.

After turning left on US 6 I drove west through the narrow canyon for approximately three miles, until I reached the first bridge crossing over the creek. The pullout was completely vacant, so I pulled over and gazed down at the flowing water along the highway. The stream bed was mostly ice free with only a few sections with small ice shelves, so I decided to test the waters for an hour or two. I climbed back into my waders and wading boots and grabbed my Sage One five weight, and then I crossed the highway and hiked downstream below the bridge for five minutes before I carefully maneuvered over a rock jumble to the edge of the stream.

In the Shadows

I initiated my renewed quest for trout number one with a pine squirrel leech and salad spinner, but after a few futile probes of deep runs and pockets, I exchanged the tiny clear thingamabobber for a bright orange version. This improved the visibility, but the fish did not cooperate with a tug, so I once again paused to revise my approach. I removed all the deep nymph paraphernalia, and changed to a dry/dropper setup. A yellow fat Albert was attached as the surface indicator fly, and beneath it I added a beadhead ultra zug bug, and I retained the salad spinner.

This configuration endured for at least 45 minutes, but again I was stymied in my efforts to land the first trout of the year. As I slowly moved along the narrow stream and probed likely locations, I thought I observed a pair of refusals to the fat Albert, and this prompted me to exchange it for a size 8 Chernobyl ant with brown and black barred legs. If fish were refusing the fat Albert, perhaps the more subtle low riding ant would induce them to eat? Unfortunately as I advanced, I continued to experience only arm exercise with no signs of fish. I was in the shadows in the early afternoon, and the dim light and low riding Chernboyl made following my flies challenging.

The lack of action caused me to lose confidence in the ultra zug bug and salad spinner, so I responded by swapping a beadhead hares ear for the salad spinner. The hares ear is one of my most reliable flies year after year, so why not give it some time on my line? At 1:30PM I approached a nice shelf pool on my side of the creek, so I lobbed a couple casts to some deep water between the point of an exposed rock and some faster water. Just as the Chernobyl drifted into the slow moving shelf pocket behind the rock, I detected a pause and reacted with an abrupt hook set. The tip of the rod throbbed as I connected with a fish, and I quickly recognized a brown trout, as it swirled and deployed ineffective escape maneuvers. I maintained tension and gradually guided the eleven inch brown trout to my net, and then I snapped a couple photos and a brief video, as I released the valiant fighter into the ice cold winter flows. I was not surprised to learn that the hungry brown trout gulped the trusted hares ear nymph.

First Fish of 2017

When I resumed fishing, my left hand grew stiff and began to ache as the moisture quickly evaporated in the dry mountain atmosphere. I realized that I was approaching the bridge, and only a few more attractive spaces remained, so I braced myself against the chill and fished on. Surely additional trout were in feeding mode as a result of the unseasonably warm temperatures. Alas this was not the case, and I reeled up my line at 2PM and called it quits. I managed to land one trout on February 16, but that was enough to activate my dormant fervor for fly fishing. Let the fish counter begin.

Fish Landed: 1

First Crocus of 2017 As Well


South Boulder Creek – 11/15/2016

Time: 11:00AM – 2:30PM

Location: Below Gross Reservoir.

South Boulder Creek 11/15/2016 Photo Album

If today Tuesday November 15 was my last outing of 2016, it was a good memory. Flows continued steady from Gross Reservoir at 58.5 CFS, and the weather forecast predicted high temperatures in Denver in the mid-seventies. Upon returning from Clear Creek on Monday evening I refueled and left most of my fishing essentials in the Santa Fe. My right hand and right hip continued to remind me of some residual soreness from my fall the previous week on South Boulder Creek, but I could not forego fishing on a glorious autumn day in November.

I arrived at the upper parking lot below Gross Reservoir by 10AM and only one other car was present. As I pulled on my waders and rigged my Loomis five weight, I grew suspicious that the flows had changed dramatically. I neglected to check them prior to departing. How else could one explain the lack of vehicles on such a spectacular day in Colorado? Fortunately my fears were put to rest, after I descended the steep trail to the edge of the creek, and I rejoiced to witness ideal flows similar to my last few visits to South Boulder Creek.

As I hiked along the path toward the pedestrian bridge on the Walker Loop, I greeted the occupant of the other vehicle, as he was in the long popular pool, and he also applauded the weather and the stream conditions. I continued downstream beyond the bridge a good ways, and eventually cut down to the creek in an area, where the morning sun beamed on the entire width of water. I used my rubber soles for the hike in order to avoid wear on the felt, so I paused to swap the Korker soles. I was not going to make the mistake of wading in South Boulder Creek on the slippery rubber again. I decided to test a Jake’s gulp beetle to determine if my preferred approach would attract the interest of the resident trout.

[peg-image src=”” href=”″ caption=”The Shelf Pool Along the Bank Was the Home of the First Fish” type=”image” alt=”PB150027.JPG” image_size=”2048×1536″ ]

[peg-image src=”” href=”″ caption=”First Fish on Tuesday November 15″ type=”image” alt=”PB150026.JPG” image_size=”2048×1536″ ]

By 11AM I was finally in the water, and I began my upstream migration by dropping some short casts to some marginal pockets along the right bank. Apparently the trout did not view the spots as undesirable, and I landed three brown trout within the first fifteen minutes. This pace did not continue, but when I paused to eat lunch in the sunshine ten feet above the creek at noon, the fish count rested at six. I was quite pleased with my level of success in the first hour.

[peg-image src=”” href=”″ caption=”The Pool That Delivered the Prize Rainbow” type=”image” alt=”PB150031.JPG” image_size=”2048×1536″ ]

Among the six was a thirteen inch rainbow trout that represented my best fish of the day. I approached a small pool and dropped the beetle into the tiny riffle where water spilled over some rocks at the top of the eight by ten foot smooth area. As the oversized foam beetle bobbed through the deep center section, a fish appeared and moved a foot to view my offering. Unfortunately the beetle did not meet the specifications of the fussy trout, but I persisted with several additional casts with no success. The trout gave away its position when it moved, and I could now see it hovering at the tongue of the faster current and just in front of the deep center trough. I decided to deviate from my normal rule of not lingering on one fish, and I clipped off the beetle and replaced it with a size 18 cinnamon comparadun. Perhaps the South Boulder Creek trout remembered the tasty pale morning duns of August and September.

[peg-image src=”” href=”″ caption=”My Prize Catch on Tuesday” type=”image” alt=”PB150030.JPG” image_size=”2048×1536″ ]

The small comparadun drifted through the center section on the second cast, and in a flash the sighted fish darted to the surface and sucked in my fly! What a thrill to catch a sizable rainbow on a mayfly imitation on November 15 and after pausing to change flies! I persisted with the comparadun for a few more decent pockets, but the fish did not respond, and it was difficult to follow in the dappled sunlight and swirling currents, so I reverted to Jake’s gulp beetle.

After lunch I continued plopping the beetle mainly along the right bank, and I increased the fish tally to ten, although the gaps between landed fish grew in length. For some reason casts to attractive slow areas along the south side of the creek did not produce, nor did the across and downstream drift that appealed to the trout of Clear Creek. Two or three long distance releases were also in the early afternoon mix, and I was quite disappointed to lose one particularly nice trout that smacked the beetle tight to an exposed rock wall. I could see it flash to the surface, and its size may have topped the morning rainbow.

By 1:30 I reached a fast pocket water area with huge boulders strewn about the narrow stream bed. I prospected some nice deep pools on the lower end of this stretch, but then I scaled some large boulders and accessed the path to circle around. The beetle ceased producing, so I resorted to the dry/dropper method, and I knotted the standard lineup to my line of a fat Albert, a beadhead hares ear, and a salvation nymph. The change did not immediately reverse my fortunes, but after a bit, I landed a tiny rainbow trout that snatched the hares ear. I did not count the sub six inch baby, but I was pleased that it recognized one of my nymphs as food.

[peg-image src=”” href=”″ caption=”Another South Boulder Creek Brown Trout” type=”image” alt=”PB150033.JPG” image_size=”2048×1536″ ]

Once again I was forced to climb back to the path to circumnavigate some huge boulders blocking my path. A short distance farther upstream the path angled back to the creek, and before I waded along the edge of a high rock wall, I dropped the nymphs in a short deep hole. The downstream border of the pocket contained a long angled log, and as I lifted the dangling nymphs to make another cast, a nine inch brown trout locked on the hares ear. This trout proved to be the last fish of the day and potentially the last fish of 2016.

I continued along the path and paused at several juicy locations that delivered fish on prior trips, but they were not productive on November 15. One of these spots was the spectacular pool that produced a pair of brown trout on the cinnamon comparadun on November 4. I paused in an attempt to repeat the past, but I was unsuccessful. I did spot several rises, and I once again replaced the dry/dropper with a size 18 cinnamon comparadun, but the pool residents were not interested in my mayfly imitation in the middle of November. I also flicked a size 18 black parachute ant over the rise locations, but the small terrestrial was not on their menu.

[peg-image src=”” href=”″ caption=”Ground Cover Holly” type=”image” alt=”PB150032.JPG” image_size=”2048×1536″ ]

I vacated the attractive pool and sauntered up the path and stopped at a couple more historical hot spots, but by 2:30 I was bored with the lack of action. My confidence was low and very little water remained that was not shrouded in shade, so I placed my legs in the express gear and returned to the car.

When I arrive to fish, I routinely throw my wallet and iPhone in the glove box and lock it. At the end of the day one of the last things I do before turning the key in the ignition is to unlock the glove box and remove the phone and wallet. On Tuesday, however, when I opened the safe chamber, the phone was visible, but my wallet was no where to be found. I searched the manuals to make sure the bill fold did not get trapped between pages, but that was not the case. Next I dumped all the contents of my tote bag on the front seat in case I never placed it in the glove box. I was fairly certain that I stowed two items, but my mind began to suggest that perhaps I was remembering the many previous similar actions.

Finally I gave up my search and concluded that I never packed my wallet after using it to pay for gasoline on Monday evening. Surely it would appear in one of the usual spots upon my return home. I called Jane when I reached cell range, and she made a cursory check of some likely spots with no success. I was growing increasingly concerned, but I was positive the wallet was either in the car or house.

When I pulled into the garage, I unloaded my lunch bag, water bottle, snacks and tote bag first. Jane assisted and inspected the tote bag, while I grabbed my headlamp and returned to the glove box. I opened the compartment and carefully inspected all the contents, but my wallet was not attached to anything. I shined the light on the floor, under the passenger seat, and along the edges of the seat. Nothing. I grabbed my fleece from the rear and checked the pockets in case I deviated from my normal routine and placed it in one of the fleece pockets. This was not the answer. Finally for some reason I returned to the glove box and opened it. I noticed that the compartment pivoted forward and created a four inch gap between the back edge of the plastic top border and the bottom of the dashboard opening. I reached my small hands into the gap, and I was pleasantly surprised to feel the soft leather surface of my wallet. I carefully pinched it and slowly extracted it from the glove box hinterland. I must have shoved it into the gap in my haste to go fishing.

Whew! This was a happy ending to a fine day of late autumn fishing on South Boulder Creek. Will this be the last day of the year? Who knows, but a cold front is predicted to move through Colorado on Thursday leaving high temperatures in the forties for Friday. I may finally be confined to the fly tying bench after all.

Fish Landed: 11

Clear Creek – 11/14/2016

Time: 11:00AM – 2:30PM

Location: Tunnel 3 to MM 264.5 area

Clear Creek 11/14/2016 Photo Album

Surprise. I fished again today on November 14. I felt sufficiently recovered from my bruised hip and hand to venture on to Clear Creek for 3.5 hours. The high temperature in Denver was upper sixties, and this translated to around sixty degrees in the canyon, but it felt more like fifty degrees due to the relentless wind that blasted through the narrow space between tight rock walls.

[peg-image src=”” href=”″ caption=”A Small Tributary to Clear Creek Near Tunnel 3″ type=”image” alt=”PB140011.JPG” image_size=”2048×1536″ ]

I arrived at the pullout beyond Tunnel 3 at 10:30 and after assembling my Loomis five weight and pulling on my waders, I was ready to fish by 11:00AM. Since the air temperature on my dashboard registered sixty degrees, I was surprised to discover that I needed four layers, and even with that apparent excess of clothing, I felt chilled at times. I descended from US 6 where a small side tributary entered from the north, and I immediately tied a Jake’s gulp beetle to my line. I always test this fly first on Clear Creek, because if it works, it is my preferred option.

The first fifteen minutes did not produce any interaction with trout, and I was entertaining thoughts of abandoning the stalwart beetle, when I observed a pair of refusals. This renewed my faith in the beetle, so I persisted, and just before noon I managed to hook and land a small brown trout. I gave the foam beetle a reprieve and continued fishing it, until I broke for lunch just past noon, but it only accounted for one landed fish, two refusals, and a temporary hook up.

[peg-image src=”” href=”″ caption=”My Third Landed Fish Was This Shimmering Rainbow Trout” type=”image” alt=”PB140012.JPG” image_size=”2048×1536″ ]

[peg-image src=”” href=”″ caption=”Looks Fishy” type=”image” alt=”PB140013.JPG” image_size=”2048×1536″ ]

After lunch the wind velocity increased, and I decided to switch to a dry/dropper alignment. As usual I opted for the yellow fat Albert, beadhead hares ear, and beadhead ultra zug bug. The trio of heavier flies would assist my attempts to punch casts into the wind, but I also significantly increased my risk of entanglement. For the most part the shift in strategy paid off, and I accumulated seven additional landed fish before I quit at 2:30. I did experience a few tangles, but I exercised extra care when casting by allowing my line to fully extend before executing the forward stroke.

[peg-image src=”” href=”″ caption=”It Was and Yielded This Nice Brown Trout” type=”image” alt=”PB140014.JPG” image_size=”2048×1536″ ]

Most of the afternoon fish snatched the hares ear, although two grabbed the ultra zug bug. The first two apres lunch eaters were rainbow trout, and I speculated that this indicated that the mature brown trout were busy with their spawning ritual and thus not chowing down. The next five fish landed in the afternoon, however, turned out to be brown trout; so I am not certain that my spawning theory was valid. The pace of action was average, as exhibited by my catch rate, and I covered a lot of stream and scrambled over many rocks in order to achieve my modest fish count. I suspect that the cold overnight temperatures are making the resident trout lethargic, and tight canyon walls block the warming effect of the sun.

[peg-image src=”” href=”″ caption=”Anxious to Drift the Area Next to the Large Rock” type=”image” alt=”PB140018.JPG” image_size=”2048×1536″ ]

Shortly after lunch I approached a nice deep pocket that was located in the middle of the stream. Normally midstream spots do not deliver on Clear Creek, but I decided to allocate a few casts, as I progressed upstream along the right bank. I dropped the first cast in the middle of the deep 4 X 4 hole, and as the fat Albert drifted toward the tail, a trout rose and pressed its nose against the large foam indicator fly. I paused a bit, but then just before drag set in, I lifted with a tentative hook set. I began to curse the refusal, when I felt a tug and weight on my line. Apparently the lead trout initiated my hook set with a refusal, and my lifting action prompted a ten inch brown trout to latch on to the trailing ultra zug bug. If you fish often, you will surely experience new and different events.

[peg-image src=”” href=”″ caption=”One of the Ultra Zug Bug Fans” type=”image” alt=”PB140017.JPG” image_size=”2048×1536″ ]

Overall it was a decent day for November 14. By the time I adjourned to the Santa Fe, my fingers were beginning to ache, and my feet felt like frozen stumps. The fishing was relatively slow, but I continued to take advantage of the mild fall weather. A cold front is predicted for Thursday, so my 2016 fishing adventures may be on life support.

Fish Landed: 8

[peg-image src=”” href=”″ caption=”Keeping an Eye on Me” type=”image” alt=”PB140022.JPG” image_size=”2048×1536″ ]