Time: 10:15AM – 2:15PM
Location: Mostly the inlet area, but also next to the lower parking lot.
After two partial days of fly fishing in the Rio Grande drainage I was feeling unfulfilled, so I logged another day of fishing on June 28, 2023. Jane and I were committed to a social obligation on Wednesday evening, so I needed a fishing spot that was not too distant. The Front Range creeks remained high, so I turned my attention to lakes, and I decided to revisit Clear Lake. The high temperature in Denver was forecast to peak in the upper 80’s, so I wanted a high elevation option, where temperatures were moderated by altitude. I experienced quite a bit of success on my previous visit, so I departed for the small stillwater near Georgetown, CO.
I arrived a bit before 10:00AM, and the lower parking lot was full, so I grabbed a space in the upper lot and quickly assembled my gear. My rod of choice was my old Sage four weight, and a temperature of 64 degrees allowed me to proceed with no extra layers. I immediately hiked to the inlet area, and I was greeted by several anglers who arrived before me. Two young men occupied the side closest to the road and another angler was perched on a large rock high above the spot where the creek first entered the lake. My greatest disappointment was a fisherman across from me in the spot that yielded ridiculous quantities of trout on 06/21/2023, but I determined there was adequate space below him, so I crossed North Clear Creek and settled by a cluster of rocks on a point that jutted into the lake. I began my day with a tan size 8 pool toy hopper, a size 12 prince nymph and a size 14 iron sally. The iron sally was crack to the Clear Lake fish on June 21.
I began to lob casts to the lake surrounding my position, and I quickly observed quite a few fish finning in Clear Lake above, across and below me. However, my hopper and nymphs were apparently not on the trout diet on Wednesday. A fair amount of surface sipping prompted me to switch to a double dry approach. I removed the dry/dropper flies and replaced them with a peacock hippie stomper and trailed a size 18 deer hair caddis. The caddis drew some attention but no connections, so I replaced it with a black size 18 parachute ant. The ant fooled a small trout, and I was excited to be on the right track, but apparently the little rainbow eating an ant was an aberration. Once again I made a swap, and this time I replaced the ant with a size 16 olive-brown deer hair caddis. The caddis also generated some looks and eventually a bold feeder grabbed it, as I gave it a twitch. Unfortunately the trout continued to sip periodically, but my flies were not targeted, so I decided to return to the dry/dropper. The man in the sweet spot continued landing fish at a torrid pace, and I concluded he was drifting nymphs in the area that displayed stronger current.
Once again I knotted the pool toy to my tippet, but unlike earlier, I extended the 4X tippet from the bend for at least 3.5 feet, before I tied a beadhead hares ear and size 20 salad spinner (midge pupa) to my line. Finally I achieved a degree of success, and I grew the fish count from two to nine, before I took a break for lunch just after noon. The catch rate lagged June 21, but I finally settled on a fly configuration that seemed to satisfy the appetites of the stocker rainbows. Of the seven fish landed before lunch, five nabbed the salad spinner and two plucked the hares ear. During the late morning time period I gradually edged south along the bank, so that my casts were covering water that exhibited slightly more current, and I feel that this extra movement was also responsible for my greater level of success.
After lunch I resumed fishing the dry dropper above the rocky point, and the fish count moved to twelve. Two of these fish favored the hares ear and one snatched a zebra midge. I replaced the salad spinner with a zebra midge, after I lost the hares ear and salad spinner in an evergreen tree on an overly aggressive hook set. After I landed number twelve, I stared at the lake bottom and noticed that it was a red-brown color. Why hadn’t I observed this earlier? My gaze shifted to the incoming creek, and I was astounded to see red-brown turbid flows entering the lake. The leading edge of the muddy plume contained pine needles and typical debris from the floor of a forest. Very few clouds appeared in the southern or western sky, so a brief thunderstorm as the source was unlikely. I could only conjecture that someone did some digging in the creek and churned up the sediment.
In response to the discoloration, the other anglers departed, but I moved north along the shoreline to a nearby area where the clarity of the lake remained unaffected. The dry/dropper ceased to interest the trout, so I decided to experiment with some streamer fishing. I began my lineup with an olive woolly bugger with rubber legs and below that I added a Mickey Finn. I began to distribute casts in a fan formation from the rocky point, and I was rewarded with two trout that chased and crushed the woolly bugger. I also felt some grabs on the Mickey Finn, but then I noticed that the trout pulled the bucktail fibers from the head wraps, so I replaced the Mickey Finn with another old tie that may have been in the Edson tiger family.
At this point I checked the incoming flows, and they remained a very thick red-brown color, and I grew concerned over my ability to wade across the incoming stream, so I hiked back to the inlet and safely made the crossing. The fish count was at fourteen, and I felt satisfied with my day, so I hoofed it back to the entry road. I intended to end my day, but I stared at the small cove north of the lower lot, and I decided to give the area a try with my streamer combination. I inspected the Edson tiger, and I noticed that some of the yellow and red bucktail had escaped on this fly as well, thus presenting a much narrower baitfish profile than desired, so I exchanged it for a wiggle damsel nymph. In the next fifteen minutes I landed two trout on the damsel nymph and generated several temporary hook ups, but then the action came to a screeching halt, and I decided to finally end my day of fishing.
Sixteen cookie cutter rainbows between seven and twelve inches were a respectable day, and this temporarily satisfied my fly fishing addiction. The surge of muddy creek water was an unwelcome surprise, but I managed to work around it and salvage a fun lake fly fishing day. Experiencing success with streamers in Clear Lake was an added bonus. I suspect that I will be tying some bucktail streamers in the near future.
Fish Landed: 16