Time: 1:00PM – 4:30PM
Location: Western section of Clear Creek Canyon just beyond Tunnel 6.
Fish Landed: 9
I have long stopped relying on Clear Creek as a numbers boosting proposition, and Tuesday was no exception. After fishing in severe temperatures on Friday and Saturday, the projected high of 65 degrees in Denver made me yearn for a day on the stream in mild weather. In addition I organized the streamer side of my fleece pouch, and I discovered a batch of old mangled flies, that I stripped and reconditioned. Since I experienced a fair degree of success with the go2 caddis with a bright green diamond braid body, I elected to tie some caddis pupa Lafontaine style, but I strayed from the original recipe by substituting the green diamond braid for the body. I was quite anxious to give these new go2 sparkle pupa a test.
Since I was planning a longer trip to the Arkansas River on Wednesday and Thursday in an effort to once again meet the caddis hatch, I desired a relatively close destination for Tuesday. Close proximity yields four options: Bear Creek, Clear Creek, South Boulder Creek and Boulder Creek. Bear Creek was evidently in the early stages of run off with flows posted at 265 cfs. This is quite high for the small stream that flows through Morrison, CO. South Boulder Creek on the other hand was being starved for water with releases from Gross Reservoir trickling at 16 cfs. Boulder Creek was rushing down the canyon at 84 cfs, which is probably reasonable, but elevated from my last visit. Clear Creek was bouncing between 55 and 48 cfs, and these are reasonable levels for the small stream that flows west of Golden, CO. I searched my blog and discovered that I fished Clear Creek at 50 cfs on April 28 in 2015 and enjoyed a reasonably successful outing, so this clinched my choice.
I arrived at the pullout just east of Tunnel 6 at 12:30 and decided to eat my lunch before entering the stream. Originally I considered eating on a rock overlooking the creek, but temperatures in the mid-fifties and a breeze persuaded me to reconsider, and I ate in the shelter of the Santa Fe. Just as I finished my yogurt and began to apply sunscreen, another fisherman pulled into the parking lot across from me, and he pulled wading boots and waders out of his trunk. I was deciding whether I could work around this angler, when a Suburban parked at the entrance to the parking area, and an older gentleman, already attired in waders, emerged and headed straight for the creek. Working around one other fisherman was manageable, but two caused me to throw my gear back in the vehicle, and I departed for another location farther west.
I found a nice wide pullout .3 miles west of the tunnel, and I could see another car parked fifty yards upstream, but I concluded that there was enough space for me to fish, and if I encountered another fisherman, I could exit and walk farther west. I quickly rigged my Orvis Access four weight and then climbed down a rough path the the stream. I tied a size 8 Chernobyl ant to my line and added the go2 sparkle pupa on a two foot dropper. In the first half hour I experienced five refusals to the Chernobyl, so I decided to make a change. I downsized the top fly from a Chernobyl to a size 12 Jake’s gulp beetle. This terrestrial was also apparently too large, as two additional refusals frustrated my efforts to land a fish.
Quite a few caddis were present on the streamside boulders and vegetation, so I opted to try a size 14 gray stimulator. It was larger than the naturals, but I hoped that I could avoid going to the less visible size 16 deer hair caddis that probably matched the adults that fluttered about. Finally I hooked and landed a small brown trout on the stimulator, and I celebrated with a smile and congratulated myself. I was disappointed to learn, however, that the stimulator was a one trick pony, and the fish began to ignore this fly as well.
Although I tried to avoid it, I now elected to match the hatch, and I knotted an olive brown deer hair caddis to my tippet. This was what the fish desired, and I landed six additional brown trout over the next 1.5 hours. I quickly learned to ignore the gorgeous deep pools, as these did not even produce a look or refusal. All the fish emerged from slow moving water along the bank or runs of moderate depth that did not exceed four feet. If I stayed back a safe distance and dropped the caddis in a smooth pocket next to a rock with adequate slack, I was likely to catch a fish.
By 3:30 I was near the bridge where route six crosses to the north side of Clear Creek, and the shadows began to cover the south side of the stream. This made it extremely difficult to follow my small caddis, so I elected to return to the Chernobyl ant albeit a smaller size 10. It was a nice attempt to create visibility, but the trout quickly informed me that they did not approve by rudely refusing the large foam impostor.
As the shadows lengthened, I also began to spot a few mayflies, as they slowly glided up from the surface of the water. They were likely blue winged olives, and surely I would not be able to follow one of my tiny CDC olives in the late afternoon shadows and glare. I retreated to the bridge and crossed and then began casting to the pockets on the north side, as they continued to be bathed in sunlight. Some more olives caught me attention, so I took the time to add a six inch section of monofilament to the bend of the Chernobyl, and then I tied on a size 20 CDC olive. I did not find instant success, but in the fourth or fifth shelf pocket, a ten inch brown sipped the trailing BWO, and I moved my fish count to eight.
The double dry produced a fish, but in the next couple prospecting locales, I observed fish inspecting and rejecting the Chernobyl. I concluded that I needed an indicator fly that was more natural and less an attractor, so I exchanged the Chernobyl for a size 16 olive brown deer hair caddis. The move paid dividends in the last small pocket before re-entering the shadows, when a nice brown slurped the blue winged olive imitation. It was getting late, and I did not relish battling the shade again, so I reversed my direction and returned to the water below the car. I was obsessed with double digits, and I worked my way along the south bank for twenty yards, but I could not generate any interest. At 4:30 I reeled in my line and hooked the BWO to a guide and climbed the bank to the car.
Nine fish in 3.5 hours is a reasonable afternoon, and I enjoyed the challenge of solving the Clear Creek puzzle. The small brown trout in the tumbling stream near Denver are not easy pickings. They taught me that lesson on numerous occasions.