Time: 11:00AM – 3:00PM
Location: Below first bridge traveling west on route 6 and then in upper section of canyon before the second tunnel when traveling west from Golden.
Fish Landed: 21
Perform an internet search on what is trending in the United States, and one discovers Nobel peace prize, guns in America, and plopping beetles. Well, actually I added the last one, since it represents what is trending in my fly fishing life. I actually have to give credit to one of my readers, Matt, who commented that he downsized his Chernboyl ants and experienced improved success on Clear Creek.
After a tremendous day on the South Platte River on Thursday, I was anxious to visit a local stream on Friday. The weather forecast was very favorable for October 9, and I wanted to take advantage of every remaining opportunity before winter placed its icy grip on Colorado. South Boulder Creek continued to rush out of Gross Reservoir at 173 CFS, and my last visit to the Big Thompson was quite challenging. By process of elimination, I chose Clear Creek as my destination. Since Clear Creek Canyon was only a forty-five minute drive from my house, I took my time on Friday morning and departed at 10:00 and arrived at the paved pullout just beyond the first bridge when traveling west from Golden.
My last couple visits to Clear Creek have been disappointing. I generally expect to catch a lot of small fish on big attractor dry flies, but instead I experienced a large number of refusals, and I needed to cover a lot of stream miles to net a few fish. Part way through my last outing, I tried a Jake’s gulp beetle, and this yielded more success, although refusals were not totally absent. As I prepared to fish on Friday, I considered experimenting with the thingamabobber/level line nymph technique that salvaged my trip to the Arkansas River on October 2. Unfortunately this entails a fairly radical change to my normal fishing system, and I was not quite ready to make such a large commitment at the start of my day.
I chose to stop at the first bridge, as I knew from past experience that there was a nice trail on the south side of the creek. I intended to hike down this trail for 50 yards and then fish back to the bridge before breaking for lunch. My plan was to try dry/dropper and beetle plopping, and if these tactics did not prove to be promising, I would reconfigure my line with the thingamabobber/level line set up over lunch. Since I experienced exceptional success with a Charlie boy hopper, beadhead hares ear, and salvation nymph on the South Platte River on Thursday, I opted for the same trio of flies on Friday as I began fishing. The creek in this area is narrow and thus cascades rapidly over large rocks that create plunge pools and deep shelf pools.
Amazingly my first cast produced a six inch brown trout that gobbled the salvation nymph. Perhaps my Thursday hot streak on the South Platte was about to continue on Clear Creek. Unfortunately that was not the case, and I moved through some attractive pools and observed several refusals to the Charlie boy hopper. The pre-lunch period was not all bad news, however, as I landed a couple more small browns on the salvation nymph, but the catch rate was below my expectations, and I was troubled by the number of refusals. In addition I hoped to test the effectiveness of beetle plopping in case the nymphing tactic was in order, so I clipped off the dry/dropper flies and tied on a Jake’s gulp beetle with a peacock dubbed body.
The beetle generated enough interest between noon and 12:30 to convince me that it earned more time on my line after lunch. I landed two more browns to bring my count to five before I climbed the steep rocky bank and returned to the car for lunch. Before eating lunch, however, I drove west and parked in a pullout just beyond a tall solar powered street light. I found a flat rock ten feet below the rim of the highway and munched my sandwich while peering down at the creek that flowed fifty feet below.
The afternoon proved to be a coming out party for the beetle. I clambered down the steep rocky slope below the highway and began to plop my Jake’s gulp beetle in all the likely spots, and more often than not a feisty brown trout responded. Although I did not use a downsized Chernobyl ant, I did deploy a smaller terrestrial, so Matt’s advice paid huge dividends. Some refusals continued to be interspersed with takes, but I estimate that the ratio of success over frustration was five to one. Included in my afternoon fish count of sixteen were a couple twelve inch browns, and this is a lunker by Clear Creek standards.
My greatest concern was my supply of gulp beetles. I tucked the original size 10 that Jake Chutz gave me in my fly box, as I hoped to keep it in reserve to use as a model for constructing my own copies. I tied three after the original gift fly excelled on the Big Thompson, and I manufactured three more before our visit to the South Platte River. The peacock dubbed body versions seemed to outperform the ones with claret bodies, and I was losing appendages on the peacock beetles at an alarming rate. By the end of my outing on Clear Creek, I set aside two peacock beetles with no legs for refurbishment, and I managed to finish out the day with my last size 12 model still intact.
Friday on Clear Creek finally met my expectations. I landed twenty-one small brown trout, and they were eager consumers of the Jake’s gulp beetle. Many fish darted to the surface and slurped the beetle from positions tight to the rocky bank, but I also enjoyed success in the deep plunge pools behind midstream boulders. Toward the end of my time I even landed two or three trout by casting to a slow shelf pool on the opposite bank. I held my rod very high to keep the fly line off the water and avoid drag, and this allowed a natural drift, and the hungry trout responded.
Hopefully I will have a few additional opportunities to test beetle magic before the temperatures plunge. Thank you, Matt, for causing me to reevaluate my fishing methods.