Time: 12:00PM – 4:00PM
Location: Half a mile upstream from Tunnel 6.
Fish Landed: 8
Day two of my fly fishing blitz in advance of the inevitable snow melt in Colorado unfolded on Clear Creek on Tuesday May 10. The DWR web site indicated flows of 89 CFS at Lawson, and I knew from experience that this is a manageable level for fishing. The graph did not portray any significant fluctuations within the last four days, so that was another positive. My only concern was clarity, but I decided to make the drive and discover first hand what the stream conditions were. A 9:30AM appointment with the doctor dictated that I fish in a local waterway, and Clear Creek is the closest, and all the factors indicated that it was a relatively safe bet.
I departed from Stapleton at 11:15 and arrived at a pullout roughly .5 mile west of Tunnel 6. The water was fairly murky at the eastern end of the canyon near Golden, but the turbidity gradually diminished as I drove westward and passed several sites where construction equipment was disturbing the earth in the process of building a bike path along the creek. The path will be a future recreational asset once completed, but heavy equipment is playing havoc with stream clarity on the eastern end of the popular stream in the present.
The weather was similar to Monday with more clouds than sunshine. The temperature never surpassed the mid-fifties, so I wore my fleece and raincoat as a windbreaker. The likelihood of rain was real, so I also wore my brimmed hat with ear flaps in the event I needed to pull my hood up. A fair amount of stain was present in the section that I planned to fish, but the rocks and stream bottom were visible throughout the creek, and I rarely fish any portion of Clear Creek other than the edge.
Once I assembled my Orvis Access four weight rod, I marched along the shoulder of route six for .2 mile, and then I dropped down the bank at a location where some nicely spaced boulders provided a natural stairway. I was optimistic that a solitary Chernobyl ant would draw hungry Clear Creek trout to the surface, so I knotted one to my line and began prospecting the pockets and shelf pools along the right bank. Very little time transpired before I discovered that the Chernboyl created refusals. I was looking for commitment not curiosity, so after four or five juicy spots yielded only inspections of the huge ant, I elected to make a change. The emerald caddis pupa caught the attention of the trout on the Big Thompson on Monday, so perhaps the Clear Creek fish were aware of emerging caddis as well.
It was a great thought, but the addition of the dropper did not change my fortunes, so I paused and pondered my next action. Surely caddis were present during May, but I did not wish to default to the small size 16 deer hair caddis just yet. I looked through the dry fly section of my fly box and spotted the size 14 stimulators that I carefully tied during the winter. A peacock body stimulator was my choice, but I was unable to locate one, so instead I slid a gray version from the foam slit and tied it to my line. This fly possessed the same shape and triggering characteristics as a caddis, but it was larger and floated better than the deer hair varieties.
My choice proved to be excellent. I landed seven small trout over the remainder of the afternoon on the gray stimulator. This may sound like some hot fishing, but in reality it was quite difficult. I covered nearly a mile of stream and made hundreds of casts to deliver these fish to my net. The most vexing challenge was the wind which blasted down the canyon in typically unrelenting fashion. In many cases the air currents pushed my light dry fly back to my feet, but more frustrating were the situations where a cross wind thwarted my attempts to place the stimulator in the sweet spot of a small pocket. Whereas normally from a short distance I can drop a a dry fly precisely where I intend on the first cast, on Tuesday such placement necessitated four or five casts, as it was impossible to anticipate the impact of the cross wind on the resting spot of my fly.
Persistence was the name of the game, but it was not easy to endure refusals, wind, and obstinate fish. The large deep pools and eddies once again failed to deliver feeding fish, and the most productive areas were deep still pockets next to large rocks along the bank. In addition a few appeared in riffles over moderate depth, but the steep Clear Creek gradient did not present much of this type of stream structure.
Near the end of my day an errant backcast caused me to donate a gray stimulator to a young tree, so rather than replace it with another copy, I experimented with an olive brown muggly caddis. This fly does not feature hackle, but instead it is constructed with an underwing of snowshoe rabbit foot hair. This fly floated quite nicely, and a spunky brown trout found it desirable in some moderate riffles. Unfortunately number eight was my last fish of the day, and the muggly caddis lost its magic over the last half hour of fishing.
It was great to visit a stream within a forty-five minute drive from my home, and eight fish over four hours represented my average catch rate. I am certain that I could have achieved double digits with more favorable wind conditions, preferably no wind at all, but any day of stream fishing on May 10 capitalizes on borrowed time.