Time: 11:00AM – 2:30PM
Location: Idaho Springs
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.
[peg-image src=”https://lh3.googleusercontent.com/-yejeMWlrKGA/WNVYMdhKMXI/AAAAAAABH6E/M4yTyGDicHsLCmNBJGOipQHDinb7pUk2QCCo/s144-o/P3230028.JPG” href=”https://picasaweb.google.com/108128655430094950653/6401119403558000033?locked=true#6401119416482410866″ caption=”Fish Number One” type=”image” alt=”P3230028.JPG” image_size=”2048×1536″ ]
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.
[peg-image src=”https://lh3.googleusercontent.com/-h26f8oE0qmk/WNVYN1dXzqI/AAAAAAABH6E/ZEtWeG7voGU3XgtC3TLB4uPFOVFBxBr-wCCo/s144-o/P3230032.JPG” href=”https://picasaweb.google.com/108128655430094950653/6401119403558000033?locked=true#6401119440088845986″ caption=”What a Snarl” type=”image” alt=”P3230032.JPG” image_size=”2048×1536″ ]
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.
[peg-image src=”https://lh3.googleusercontent.com/-k9Y-Jni4EfQ/WNVYNNDZBuI/AAAAAAABH6E/DykRriN7dkgQ6mqDvEVloO-eckWlgHsVACCo/s144-o/P3230030.JPG” href=”https://picasaweb.google.com/108128655430094950653/6401119403558000033?locked=true#6401119429242455778″ caption=”Downstream Look” type=”image” alt=”P3230030.JPG” image_size=”2048×1536″ ]
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.
[peg-image src=”https://lh3.googleusercontent.com/-XQeXCjmz8ds/WNVYOeoGRiI/AAAAAAABH6E/1YOZUUgtcrIorv5JGgfLeZhmTrvNUxhyQCCo/s144-o/P3230033.JPG” href=”https://picasaweb.google.com/108128655430094950653/6401119403558000033?locked=true#6401119451139687970″ caption=”Another Feisty Rainbow Trout” type=”image” alt=”P3230033.JPG” image_size=”2048×1536″ ]
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