Category Archives: Clear Creek

Clear Creek – 05/01/2024

Time: 1:30PM – 3:15PM

Location: Clear Creek Canyon

Clear Creek 05/01/2024 Photo Album

In order to set the stage for today’s report, I must begin with a prologue. I am a user of Instagram, and yesterday’s feed from @charliesflybox included a piece by Max about fishing with small streamers on Clear Creek. He suggested the method as an effective tactic for catching fish on small Front Range streams at this time of the year. This caught my attention.

The second part of my prologue involves my other passion, pickleball. Our favorite courts at Charles Whitlock Recreation Center were shutdown yesterday, Tuesday, as a result of an ordinance that requires courts to be more than 350 feet away from residences due to paddle noise. Yesterday was the last day that Whitlock was available, so our fun group held a party after and during pickleball competition. Jane and I transported our charcoal grill and cooked brats and hot dogs, and others chipped in with the usual picnic fare. We had a great time and bid farewell to our old friend, the Whitlock courts.

Of course, the Whitlock crew questioned each other about our new pickleball venue, and many stated that they would shift their playing time to Prospect Park. Wednesday, May 1, was our introduction to Prospect, and I decided to do a combined pickleball and fly fishing day and packed the car accordingly. After I ended my morning pickleball session, I munched my lunch on the lip of the hatchback, and then I drove to my chosen destination; nearby Bear Creek.

I usually check the DWR flows for area streams, before I commit to a destination, but Wednesday was one the few times, when I overlooked my standard practice. My rare lapse proved to be a mistake. When I pulled over in a wide pullout, I immediately strolled over to the bank to survey the stream, and I was disappointed to see high murky flows. I walked along the path for a bit, and due to the high volume of water, I concluded that the number of fish holding lies would be few, thus, requiring excessive walking and bushwhacking. Clarity was also an issue, although I suspect that it would have been acceptable in slow moving protected spots along the bank. I made a quick decision to short circuit my Bear Creek plan, and I departed for home, however, I quickly decided to detour to Clear Creek in the canyon to scout out that nearby stream. When I returned home on Wednesday after fishing, I checked the Bear Creek flows, and they were indeed elevated at 114 CFS. The graph depicted a huge jump on Saturday, which coincides with the timing of a heavy rainstorm, although I suspect that run off explains the continued rise in water three days later.

Jane and I hiked the Peak to Plains Trail on Sunday, and based on that visit, I knew that Clear Creek was flowing high and stained, but I was hopeful that three days allowed the volume to subside and clarity to improve. When I arrived, I immediately scanned the creek only to realize that the flows remained a bit high, and turbidity remained an issue. In spite of this, I decided to give it a go. I recalled the @charliesflybox Instagram piece, and I decided to commit to small streamers. The air temperature was in the low sixties, so I wore only my fishing shirt with no extra layers, and I rigged my old Sage four weight. I searched in my fishing backpack, and I retrieved my sinking tip line and reel, and I attached it to my four weight rod while dropping my four weight floating line in my backpack in case I decided to convert my method later.

Black Ghost Was a Star Performer

Once I was prepared, I crossed the highway and dropped down the steep and rocky bank to the north side of Clear Creek, and I began to fire long casts and roll casts to the slow moving shelf pool on the opposite side of the stream. My initial fly choice was a black ghost, and I trailed a go2 caddis pupa on an eighteen inch tippet from the eye of the streamer. I was unable to generate strikes or follows, but it was difficult to get swings of any depth due to the strong current pulsing down the center of the creek between me and the flies. After ten minutes, I was quite chilled, as a strong cool breeze swept down the canyon, so I retraced my steps to the car, and I added my fleece hoodie and a rain shell. Some gray clouds were building in the western sky, and I deemed it prudent to have rain protection.

Rainbow Home

When I returned to the creek, I crossed the footbridge and followed the Peak to Plains Trail a short distance, until there was a break in the fence, where I could safely descend to the south bank of Clear Creek. I was now perched next to the soft shelf pool, that I was attempting to reach from the other side. I began looping upstream casts, three-quarters casts, and across and down casts; as I concentrated on working the streamer through the slower moving water above and below me. I altered the speed and depth of my retrieve, and I was pleasantly surprised to feel a bump. I persisted and eventually felt a smack and hooked a nice ten inch rainbow trout with a black ghost in its lip.

Head Shot with Black Ghost

Rainbow Stretched Out

For the next 1.5 hours this game continued, and I landed three trout in total. As I just mentioned, the first was a rainbow, and the next two were small brown trout. All three grabbed the black ghost, and I discovered that the most effective offering was to allow the flies to swing below me and then pause and then strip and pause and strip and pause. In addition to the landed trout, I connected briefly with two more fish, and I felt a couple additional bumps.

Brown Trout Like Black Ghosts Too

The last thirty minutes were fruitless, and I feel the lack of decent holding water was the culprit. I encountered a few relatively nice slower moving sections below large bankside rocks, but the problem was the thick willows along the bank. I was forced to wade along the edge, and I suspect that I scared the fish in the lower portions of the targeted areas. My early success came from the lower sections of the shelf pools, when I dangled and stripped the fly back along the stream edge. If I try this approach again, I will fish downstream, and thus avoid the spooking situation.

Remembering Max’s advice saved my day, and I managed to land three trout, but it was definitely a learning experience, and I look forward to more experimentation with streamers in the early run off season.

Fish Landed: 3

Clear Creek – 03/10/2024

Time: 1:00PM – 4:00PM

Location: West of Golden, CO

Clear Creek 03/10/2024 Photo Album

My last fly fishing outing was on March 1, 2024, and I had a strong desire to revisit a local stream on March 10. The weather since March 1 was either too cold for my preference, or nice weather coincided with days, when I had other commitments. A high in the mid-60’s in Denver on March 10 convinced me to make the short drive to Clear Creek.

The canyon was packed with outdoor enthusiasts including dog walkers, runners, hikers, fishermen and rock climbers. The first two parking lots west of Golden along the Peak to Plains Trail were filled to capacity with Sunday visitors. I earmarked a section, where I experienced previous success, but when I arrived, the entire roadside pullout was filled with rock climber vehicles. I continued onward, until I finally found a wide pullout on the left side of the highway. One car preceded me, and of course the owner was fly fishing twenty yards downstream from my parking space. I decided to either hike a distance above him or to hike downstream and fish back upstream. I exited my new Telluride (nice wheels, by the way), and shouted to the angler as loud as I could and asked how far down he began. Surprisingly he heard me and answered, “around 100 yards”. I decided to hike downstream for .5 mile to get below where he disturbed the stream.

By this time it was 12:15, so I grabbed my lunch bag and carefully consumed my lunch and avoided dropping food in my new ride. Afterward I pulled on my fleece hoodie and strung my Loomis five weight two piece. As planned, I hiked along the narrow shoulder, as a steady stream of cars passed by, and I cut down to the creek after .5 mile. I paused at the edge of the creek and rigged with a yellow size 8 fat Albert, an olive mini leech, and a 20 incher. Ice shelves extended for three to four feet along the bank in many places,  but there was enough open water to allow casting to promising holes and runs.

I focused on the deep and slower moving spots for forty-five minutes, but I saw no signs of trout. Given my lack of action, I removed the leech, moved the 20 incher to the upper position and added a beadhead hares ear nymph to my lineup. Finally my luck reversed, and I landed a small brown trout on the hares ear and then a ten inch rainbow on the 20 incher. Both fish came from a long trough and current seam, and I was on the board with two landed fish within a fifteen minute window.

I continued on in a westward direction, and I managed to net one more rainbow on the hares ear along with a temporary hook up that resulted in an escapee. This time period involved a lot of casting and unproductive drifts. By 3:15 I reached the area bordering my car, so I exited and drove east on US 6 to the spot, where I originally envisioned spending my afternoon. Parking was available, so I grabbed my gear and hiked downstream fifty yards along the opposite bank. I fished back upstream, until I was next to the Telluride, and I was rewarded with two additional rainbow trout that snatched the hares ear nymph.

My watch registered 4:00PM, when I was across from the car, and my exit option was down to one steep climb up a rocky bank, so I took advantage and ended my day of fly fishing. Five trout in three hours was a below average catch rate, but I was pleased given the cold water temperatures and the lack of insect activity. Where are all the brown trout? Normally Clear Creek yields 80% browns and 20% rainbows, but in my two 2024 outings, I have landed nine rainbows and two browns. It is a perplexing question. Hopefully, as we move closer to the official start of spring, I will be able to unleash the new Telluride for a few more productive trips to area rivers and streams. Stay tuned.

Fish Landed: 5

Clear Creek – 02/20/2024

Time: 11:30AM – 3:00PM

Location: West of Golden, CO

Clear Creek 02/20/2024 Photo Album

A predicted high temperature of 64 degrees in Denver, CO on February 20 was a clear invitation for this devoted fly angler to visit a stream. The one drawback to this plan was the forecast of wind gusting to fifteen miles per hour, but I decided to risk the short drive to Clear Creek in spite of this projected adversity.

Near the Start

The dashboard temperature upon my arrival was 51 degrees, so I suited up with my Under Armour long sleeved thermal shirt and North Face light down coat along with my billed cap with earflaps. I pulled my rain shell over my light down to act as a windbreaker, and I assembled my Loomis two piece five weight. By 11:30AM I was perched along the stream and anxiously anticipated my first casts of the new year. The creek was mostly clear in the area that I chose to fish with small residual ice shelves along the banks; however, I was never forced to venture on to unstable undercut ice.

First Fish of 2024

I rigged my five weight with a size 8 yellow fat Albert, and beneath it I attached a black mini leech and size 18 crystal stone nymph. Between 11:30AM and 12:15PM, I prospected upstream and cherry-picked locations with slower current and depth. I managed to experience two temporary connections, before I paused for lunch in a sunny spot along the north bank. One of the trout that showed interest in my flies sipped the fat Albert, and I was shocked by this action, which may have contributed to my loss of the fish. At some point in the morning I swapped the crystal stone for a beadhead hares ear nymph.

Twenty Incher

After lunch I once again reconfigured my lineup, as I exchanged the mini leech for an emerald caddis pupa, and I moved the hares ear to the upper position on my dropper lines. This combination failed to interest the fish, so I paused once more, and in this instance I replaced the hares ear with a 20 incher in the top position. In a short amount of time I realized that I found a winning combination, as I landed four rainbow trout in a matter of thirty minutes. Three nabbed the 20 incher and one consumed the emerald caddis pupa. I deployed the 20 incher as a means to generate deeper drifts, and surprisingly it became the food of choice for some Clear Creek rainbow trout. The rainbows were likely holdover stockers, but I was quite pleased to land them and in so doing register my first fish on the 2024 fish counter. The largest was probably twelve inches, with the others in the ten to eleven inch range.

Largest on the Day

This sudden dose of success spurred me on, and my eagerness for more action allowed me to block out the numbness of my hands and the increasing loss of feeling in my feet. For the remainder of my time on the creek I covered quite a bit of territory, and I landed a small brown trout and a seven inch rainbow. The brown trout was a greedy little guy, as he ate the fat Albert, and the fly fell out of the rainbow’s mouth, so I was unable to determine the object of its hunger. During this time period I endured another pair of temporary connections.

A Brown Trout Joins the Catch List

By 3:00PM I approached a bridge, and this offered an easy exit, so I grabbed the opportunity to transform my feet from frozen stumps into feeling digits. Tuesday, February 20 was a respectable start to my 2024 fly fishing season. I landed six trout and interacted with four more in three hours of fishing. The wind gusted periodically, but I paused during the worst of it. The most productive water was the seams, where fast deep runs sliced through deep pools to create a shelf pool. The trout apparently rested in the relatively low velocity depths and picked off food items, as morsels tumbled by. Landing fish in February was a noteworthy event for this fair weather angler, and weather will dictate my next fly fishing outing.

Fish Landed: 6

Source of a Trout

Clear Creek – 09/22/2023

Time: 11:15AM – 3:00PM

Location: West of Idaho Springs

Clear Creek 09/22/2023 Photo Album

Friday was a success simply because I returned to fly fishing after a long hiatus due to injury and illness. The fly fishing itself was beneath my expectations, but being on a stream instead of tethered to my home was an improvement in my book. My last outing was on Maroon Creek on 08/30/2023, so I endured a 23 day layoff. I will not go into details here, but my woes began on the pickleball court, when I extended to return a shot by the net, stumbled and crushed my mouth in the metal net post. The pratfall necessitated three stitches, but the worst of it was the prescription for antibiotics to prevent infection. The pills caused an adverse reaction in my gastrointestinal tract, and I suffered for two weeks before I felt like a functioning human being again.

Lunch View

For my return outing, I did not want to travel too far, in case I suffered fatigue or a relapse, so I elected to test the waters of Clear Creek. In retrospect I should have paid more attention to the weather, because it was not very pleasant. When I arrived at the pullout, the dashboard thermometer registered 51 degrees in spite of an inviting 64 degrees, as I passed through Golden, CO. Adding to the discomfort was a cold wind that blasted along the top of the ridge overlooking the creek. I pulled on my fleece hoodie and topped it with my rain shell, but I decided against my hat with earflaps. That proved to be a poor decision, as I was chilled nearly my entire time on the narrow and largely shaded creek. Adding to my discomfort were my feet which turned into frozen stumps after an hour of wading.

Small But Pretty

The results of my upstream quest for trout certainly did not justify this taste of early winter-like fly fishing. I landed three small cutthroat trout during 3.5 hours of relatively intense fishing. In addition I hooked two temporarily that managed to quickly slip free, and I netted three tiny juveniles that did not meet my six inch threshold to count. Unlike an earlier trip to this area, I hardly saw any fish beyond those that I just mentioned. Normally steady action is accompanied by numerous looks and refusals, and fish that scatter upon my approach, but on Friday, this was not the case. I am baffled by this circumstance and can only hope that the creek is not the victim of an overzealous summer catch and kill crowd.

A Productive Spot

For flies I cycled through a peacock hippie stomper, size 16 gray deer hair caddis, beadhead salvation nymph, beadhead hares ear nymph, tan pool toy hopper and size 10 parachute hopper. I was really convinced that the realistic looking parahopper combined with the salvation nymph would unlock the code, but other than a pair of nymph eaters, it was not the ticket to success.

Coiled for Release

By 3:00PM my club feet condition forced me to exit and climb up the long bank and return to the Santa Fe. Adding to my resumption of fly fishing woes was a two hour and forty-five minute return drive due to road repairs on Interstate 70 just west of Wadsworth Blvd. Normally this trip takes one hour and fifteen minutes. Hopefully I can bounce back with more decent outings in what remains of September and October, before cold temperatures once again sideline this avid angler.

Fish Landed: 3

Clear Creek – 08/15/2023

Time: 9:45AM – 3:45PM

Location: National forest

Clear Creek 08/15/2023 Photo Album

Although my fishing outing on Tuesday, August 15 was decent by most standards, it could have been even better. Let me explain.

After a fun day on a high mountain stream on Friday, I was yearning for another day on a Colorado stream; however, I was in favor of a closer destination, so I chose Clear Creek. I left the house at 7:40AM in order to pass through Floyd Hill before the rock scaling operations began at 9:00AM. CDOT announced that motorists should be prepared for delays between 9AM and 3PM on Mondays through Thursdays. I successfully avoided this scenario and arrived at my chosen pullout without incident.

Stream Improvement

The air temperature was in the sixties, but highs in the nineties were predicted for the metro Denver area. When I left the stream on Tuesday afternoon the dashboard digital display read 77 degrees. It was a splendid day to be in the mountains with mostly clear skies and the absence of wind. I assembled my Orvis Access four weight and fought my way through the trees and brush to arrive at the creek and begin fishing by 9:45AM. The water was exceptionally clear, and the flows were nearly ideal. I began my search for trout with a Chernobyl ant, and the all foam terrestrial produced four trout in the early going, although I experienced an equal number of temporary hookups. In fact, the escapees seemed to be the largest fish, and I was quite upset about this circumstance.

Sparse Speckles

In an effort to convert a higher rate of takes, I downsized the Chernobyl ant to a peacock body hippie stomper, and this change produced a couple fish, before it lost its luster to the local trout. I added a salvation nymph on a short sixteen inch dropper, and the salvation contributed a few additional catches to the fish count. During the late morning time frame I attempted to roll cast the dry/dropper, and I was unaware of an overhanging evergreen bough, and this foolish action resulted in breaking off the hippie stomper and salvation. I pulled another stomper from my fly box, but I opted for a sunken ant as the bottom fly, and the ant yielded a pair of trout. By the time I paused for lunch the fish count rested on ten, as four devoured the Chernobyl, two grabbed the salvation, two nipped the sunk ant, and the remainder crushed the hippie stomper. Ten fish in two hours of fishing was respectable, but I could have easily doubled the numbers, if I converted a higher percentage of my hookups to the net, and I am forced to reiterate that the fish that managed to free themselves also felt like the larger trout.

Lovely Pool

Jake’s Gulp Beetle

Beetle Chomper

After lunch I changed things up significantly, as I was not satisfied with the catch rate or the size of the fish. I grabbed a size 12 Jake’s gulp  beetle from my fly box and fished it solo. The change paid off handsomely, and I elevated the fish count to seventeen. During the early phase of the beetle slapping session, the trout responded very positively, and in many cases the trout smacked the terrestrial as soon as the foam imitation splashed down. Unfortunately, in one scenario a very nice fish sipped in the beetle and upon feeling the hook set, it raced downstream. I applied side pressure to keep the prize in the small pool, but it twisted its head, and the beetle was hurled skyward. Adding to the insult of losing the fish, the beetle came to rest in a tall evergreen twenty feet above me, and I was forced to apply direct pressure and snapped off another fly.

Subtle Beauty

The interest in the beetle seemed to fizzle after an hour of intense action, so I implemented yet another fly change. I plucked a lime green trude from my fly box in a fit of nostalgia, and the size fourteen dry fly notched a small cutthroat. The magic of the lime green trude was short lived, however, and I defaulted to the hippie stomper with a gray size 14 stimulator in the trailing position. The combination of the two buoyant dry flies, worked for while, but then refusals began to escalate, and I swapped the stimulator for a size 14 light gray deer hair caddis. The caddis worked its charms on the wild trout, until I quit at 3:45PM, and the double dry fly tactic enabled me to boost the fish count from seventeen to twenty-six over the course of the afternoon.

Side Pool Was Attractive

Melon Color

I landed a pair of twelve inch cutthroats, but the remainder were rather small and ranged from six to eleven inches. These cutthroats more than compensated for their diminutive size with an explosion of vivid colors. Pastel olive and tan provided the body background, but ink black speckles, pink accents, crimson gill plates and the classic orange slash finished the pallet of colors. I had numerous opportunities to land slightly larger trout, and this was particularly the case in the morning time period. Nevertheless, Tuesday was a fun summer day with nearly perfect weather and ideal stream conditions. One cannot ask for much more than that.

Fish Landed: 26

Urad Lake -06/30/2023

Time: 11:30AM – 2:30PM

Location: Inlet area

Urad Lake 06/30/2023 Photo Album

Friday was available for a short day of fly fishing, since Jane and I had a whitewater rafting trip planning session on the agenda for Friday evening. I checked the Front Range flows, but they remained unfavorable, so I once again chose a lake for my fly fishing outing. The Big Thompson River was actually a stream possibility with flows at 124 CFS, and I have had moderate success at those levels in the past, but I felt more comfortable with a lake adventure. It has been several years since I visited Urad Lake, so I decided to revisit the high elevation gem just up the mountain from the Henderson Mine. Fortunately the mine is not visible from the end of the lake, where I fished, but the drive on a rough dirt road to the parking lot was not scenic. Actually I had very little time to look at the scenery, as the access road was extremely bumpy with potholes everywhere. I suspect that my average speed was less than 5 MPH, as I crept along fearful of bottoming out on one of the bumps.

Weather was another consideration. The closest Weather Underground station was Idaho Springs, and the graphic depicted thunderstorms in the morning and then again at 2PM. I gambled that I could sneak in three hours of fishing before the weather forced me to quit. I drove through the morning thunderstorm and showers, and when I arrived at the parking lot just under 11,000 feet, the temperature registered a cool 41 degrees. I pulled on my Adidas pullover and followed that with my North Face light down coat and then covered those layers with my rain shell. My New Zealand billed hat with earflaps was a no brainer, and I was pleased for every layer that I added. For casting, I assembled my Sage R8 four weight pole, as I expected an abundant quantity of longer casts.

South Looking North

The Cove Beyond the First Inlet

I climbed a steep four wheel drive road for .2 mile, and I paused three or four times to catch my breath. Once the road evened out, I maintained an even pace and then dropped down a winding trail with switchbacks to the edge of the lake by the eastern inlets. Two creeks enter the lake at the southern end of the stillwater, and I began my day with the first one that I encountered. I began with a tan size 8 pool toy hopper, a prince nymph and a salvation nymph. A prince and pheasant tail were suggested by the book. In this case the book was not helpful, so after a reasonable amount of time I swapped the salvation for a salad spinner. These flies proved ineffective, and I exchanged the salad spinner for a zebra midge, and finally a small rainbow trout followed the flies and then turned and snatched the midge imitation. I was on the board with one fish before lunch.  I sat on a grassy bank and inhaled my lunch, and by now some blue skies appeared, so I removed my raincoat and stuffed it in my backpack.

Brilliant

After lunch I stayed with the dry/dropper; however, I replaced the prince with a hares ear and added a zebra midge as the end nymph. I wanted lighter nymphs to combine with the less buoyant hippie stomper. I could see sipping rises throughout the plume of the entering creek, so I was fairly certain that the trout were tuned into some form of midge. I decided to explore the other entry creek, and I moved west to a prime spot, where the faster water spread out and dropped off in the lake. Quite a few fish were visible in the narrow riffle section of the creek right above the entry point, and fish rose along the current seam that flowed into the lake. I began prospecting the riffle area, and the fish count mounted to five, as rainbows and brook trout picked off the zebra midge and hares ear. This period of success was accompanied by quite a few refusals to the hippie stomper.

Look at the Speckles

After I disturbed the water considerably by landing fish, I turned my attention to the deeper water of the lake proper. I pivoted to face the lake and several sporadic rises were evident to my right. I fired some casts to the vicinity of the rises, and in one instance after I allowed the flies to rest for a thirty second count, a fish raced to the surface to crush one of my flies. I was certain that it took the stomper, but when I settled it in my net, I found the zebra midge in its lip. Moreover, the fish was a six inch tiger trout. I am not sure I ever caught a tiger trout before, so I was rather excited despite the small size.

Inlet Number Two

Beauty Over Size

Next I focused on the deeper water, where the entering current fanned out, and here I landed a couple very small brook trout, but the hippie stomper continued to elicit splashy refusals. After a particularly long lull in action, I stripped in the flies, and I made another significant shift. I removed both flies and attached a single light gray size 16 deer hair caddis to my line. The move was a roaring success, and over the remainder of my time the fish count elevated from eight to fourteen. The solitary caddis was particularly effective in the riffles of the creek, and some spectacularly colored rainbows in the eleven to twelve inch range lingered in my net. A few hungry feeders also nabbed the caddis where the creek fanned out into the lake.

Yellow, Blue and Green

Love This

By 2:00PM some threatening dark clouds appeared above the ridge to the southwest, and I heard the din of distant thunder. The wind escalated, and I pulled up my hood and snugged my collar around my neck. It became increasingly clear that I was in the bullseye of the storm, so I hooked my fly to the rod and began the .5 mile hike back to the parking lot. I ascended the steep hill to the rough road, and at this point heavy snow flakes began to pelt my body. My raincoat did a fine job of protecting me, but my bare hands took the brunt of the wet snow and sleet. Ice accumulated on the cork rod handle, and I switched the grip from left to right and back to left in order to shove the off hand in the fleece lined wader pockets. My hands were stiff claws, when I reached the Santa Fe, and the stiffness inhibited my ability to remove the fly and breakdown the rod. The parking lot was muddy, so I left my fleece lined tights on under my jeans, and I did not bother to swap out my socks. When I was ready, I jumped in the car and turned on the defroster and ran the heater for five minutes, before I made the challenging pot hole drive down the four wheel drive rock garden.

Submerged

Lovely Shade of Pink

In spite of the rough drive and the adverse weather, I enjoyed my brief day on Urad Lake. I was challenged to solve the riddle, and eventually success came my way. This was an instance where experimentation and persistence paid dividends. It was evident that Urad Lake has not been stocked yet in 2023, but I actually liked the challenge of catching wild or carryover trout. Hopefully I can transition into edge fishing bigger rivers next week, but if lakes continue to be my destination, I feel like like I have made significant progress in my lake angling evolution.

Fish Landed: 14

Clear Lake – 06/28/2023

Time: 10:15AM – 2:15PM

Location: Mostly the inlet area, but also next to the lower parking lot.

Clear Lake 06/28/2023 Photo Album

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.

My Spot Near the Inlet

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.

Fine Rainbow

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.

A Bit More Color

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.

From the Parking Lot End

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.

Roadside Grazing

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

Clear Lake – 06/21/2023

Time: 10:30AM – 4:00PM

Location: Next to parking lot and inlet area

Clear Lake 06/21/2023 Photo Album

The rivers and streams of Colorado remained in an elevated state, and I was attempting to ratchet back the strenuous nature of my endeavors for a few weeks, so I decided to visit another lake. On Wednesday, June 21 I opted for Clear Lake, and this was another example of a lake described in my Colorado’s Easy Access Mountain Lakes book. The weather was predicted to be cooler than earlier in the week, and the threat of precipitation was minimal.

I departed Denver at 8:30, and I arrived at my chosen destination by 10:00AM. I quickly assembled my Sage four weight, and I ambled a very short distance to the south side of the beach area next to the parking lot. The easy access book repeatedly emphasized not fishing right next to the parking lot, but I ignored this advice. The sun was bright and the air temperature was in the upper sixties, so I wore no layers beyond my fishing shirt and stuffed my raincoat in my backpack.

Double Dry in Place

In the early going I tossed an olive hippie stomper and trailed a size 16 gray caddis, and this double dry fly combination enabled me to establish a fish count of three. Two of the stocker rainbows caught during this time frame nipped the size 14 stomper, and one grabbed the trailing caddis. I also experienced quite a few brief connections, as the trout bumped the caddis without fully chomping down. The book suggested working along the southern shoreline, but it consisted of a steep rocky bank, and I was reluctant to negotiate the relatively severe terrain with my pledge to reduce stress. I clipped my flies to the rod guide and mounted a dirt bank next to the entry road and then followed a rough two-track to the inlet section. The book suggested that the inlet was the place to be, and the author described hours of hot fishing with a dry/dropper.

Salivating Over This Area

Initially I persisted with the double/dry, but other than a refusal or two, the offering was not effective, so I decided to make a switch. I followed the author’s lead, and I rigged with size 8 tan pool toy hopper, beadhead hares ear nymph and a size 12 prince nymph. This combination proved to be the ticket, and I notched five additional trout before lunch to increase the fish count to eight. The hopper accounted for one fish, but the others nailed the prince. I began fishing the inlet by prospecting the faster run where the creek emptied into the lake, and this locale yielded a fish or two, but when I slid westward, so I was beyond a moderate-sized exposed boulder, I began to enjoy more success. The lake in this area dropped off and still carried some current; however, the tongue of the run fanned out to much slower moving water.

One of the Better Fish

Just before lunch I inadvertently broke off the two nymphs, so after lunch I replaced the prince as the top subsurface offering and then added an iron sally. What a fortuitous move this turned out to be! Just before lunch some thick clouds blocked the sun for an extended period of time, and I grew quite chilled standing in the waist deep water. I decided to return to the car for another layer, but I left my rod and all my gear on the gradual shoreline. I decided to vacate the area, and a solo fisherman was below me, so I approached him and made the offer for him to take my spot. He was very thankful, but I was not certain he would change his position.

I quickly hiked back to the car and grabbed my North Face light down coat, and upon returning to my pile of gear, I snugged the down coat under my thin rain shell. My comfort level zoomed to positive and remained in that status for the remainder of the afternoon. Not wishing to wade waist deep again, I began shooting longer casts to the deep and moving water that rolled by forty feet across from my position. The fun began instantly. On the first three casts a rainbow trout attacked the iron sally, and for the remainder of the afternoon this torrid success level continued, until I boosted the fish count to thirty. Sixty percent of the time a trout locked on to the nymph on the drift, but a strip or twitch initiated action the rest of the time.

Got a Grip

After an hour of this trout catching bonanza a trio of kids arrived, and they set up operations fifteen yards below me. The male of the group was likely in his late teens, and the two females were probably ninth or tenth grade. Their tools consisted of two fly rods and two spinning rods. They were not having much success, and they looked on in awe, as I hoisted fish after fish from the honey hole that was across from me.

At one point between fifteen and twenty landed fish, I snapped off the prince and iron sally on a backcast, and I retooled with a beadhead hares ear as the top fly and stayed with an iron sally for the bottom offering. During this time one of the young ladies asked to see my fly, and when I showed her, she produced her fly box and asked which of her flies I thought would work. I pointed to four flashy hares ear nymphs.

Next to the Bank and Between the Boulders

After breaking off two valued flies I decided to follow the gentleman who was below me before lunch. He crossed the creek above the lake and scaled a steep bank and positioned himself along the opposite shoreline thirty yards below my position and that of the teenagers. I hoped to eliminate the risk of loss during long backcasts, as the prime water ran very close to the bank across from me. The tactic worked, and after a brief creek crossing and short hike I was prepared to cast from the north shore.

Nice Gleam

I was pleased to discover that my catch rate resumed at a similar pace, if not perhaps even greater. The rainbow trout were all over my nymphs, although the hares ear began to produce, albeit at a lower ratio than the iron sally. Several narrow evergreens invaded my space, so I was forced to be very cautious with my backcasts and hooksets. Short roll casts served the purpose of keeping my flies in the water and out of the timber.

From the Opposite Shore

By 3:30PM I grew weary of the easy fishing (I cannot believe I am writing this), so I snugged up my line, climbed the bank, followed the trail, crossed the creek and returned to the trio of teenage friends. I asked the young man, if I could look at his line, and he gleefully handed it to me. He told me the rod was new and called it a Crosswater (I think). I inspected the fly, and he had a thick leader with a tiny elk hair caddis knotted to the end. What comes after 0X? I nipped off the fly and added three feet of 4X using a surgeons knot, although it was very difficult to cinch the thick leader side. I asked if he had any large foam flies, and amazingly he produced a size 10 chubby Chernobyl. I knotted it to the 4X, and then I asked to inspect his fly box. I instantly spotted a pair of flashy beadhead hares ear nymphs, so I added a three foot dropper to the chubby and added the flashy nymph. I proclaimed him ready to catch a fish and suggested that he cast to the area, where I was landing fish after fish from both sides of the lake.

The young angler gave it a game effort, but he was unable to extend a cast more than thirty feet or so, and the sweet spot required another ten feet. He was left handed, and he was applying his forward stroke way too early, and this drained all the energy from the line. I attempted to instruct him on how to pause to allow the rod to load, and he managed it a few times, but then he angled his arm on the forward cast and landed the flies upstream in still water rather than the target area. I began to shout at the moment that the rod loaded on the backcast, and that helped, but his flies continued to fall short. Meanwhile the two females landed a pair of fish on the spinning rod, and I sensed he wanted to transition back to that form of fishing.

One of the Better Rainbows

I said my farewell, and they thanked me for my assistance, and I returned to the small cove next to the parking lot. Several fish rose sporadically, but the hopper/dropper was not their cup of tea, so I clipped off the flies and tied on a size 16 gray deer hair caddis. For the next fifteen minutes I fished this tiny morsel solo, and I increased the fish count to thirty-five, before I called it quits and ambled back to the car. Of the last five fish to feel my net, three reacted to a twitch or strip, and the other two crushed the fly, while it sat in a stationary position.

Ram Tough

Wednesday, June 21 evolved into a fish catching orgy. All the trout were rainbows except for one brook trout that barely exceeded my self imposed minimum of six inches. The iron sally was far and away the favorite of the lake residents, although the prince, hares ear, pool toy, hippie stomper and deer hair caddis contributed to the haul. I suspect another lake fishing adventure lies in my near future, and my confidence in the Easy Access Mountain Lakes book is growing.

Fish Landed: 35

Clear Creek – 04/17/2023

Time: 1:00PM – 4:00PM

Location: Clear Creek Canyon

Clear Creek 041/17/2023 Photo Album

Monday, April 17 was a gorgeous spring day in Denver with the high temperature in the mid-seventies. I could not resist the urge to wet a line and settled on a trip to nearby Clear Creek for my fly fishing fix. I was planning another trip to the South Platte River on Wednesday, so I was averse to undertaking a long drive on Monday. I evaluated the typical Front Range options, and I eventually settled on Clear Creek. I was disappointed to note that South Boulder Creek and the Big Thompson River were already rolling at elevated levels, with SBC 111 CFS and the Big T 99. Both of these are manageable, but they are above my ideal range. Jane and I hiked along Clear Creek on Sunday on the Peak to Plains Trail, so I had first hand knowledge that the creek west of Golden was running low (27 CFS) and clear, and I liked the certainty of this option.

Because my destination was relatively close, I opted for a two hour pickleball session on Monday morning, and when I returned home, I gathered my gear and downed my lunch. I arrived at my chosen parking lot by 12:45PM after being forced to stop twice by flagmen, while highway maintenance sessions were in progress. I quickly pulled on my hooded fleece for comfort in the shadows and against the breeze, and then I rigged my trusty Sage four piece, four weight.

Off and Running with Perhaps the Best Fish of the Day

Ultra Zug Bug Produced

I waded upstream for .2 mile, until I reached a place where the creek bed narrowed, and this topography created more deep runs, riffles and pockets. Given the low and clear conditions, I chose to begin my quest for trout with a yellow size 8 fat Albert, beadhead ultra zug bug, and beadhead hares ear nymph. During the first hour I prospected upstream and managed to net three medium sized brown trout by Clear Creek standards in the nine to eleven inch range. Each fly accounted for one fish. The catch rate was fair, but the three landed trout were accompanied by quite a few looks and refusals to the fat Albert, so I decided to downsize  and go with a double dry. More fish seemed to be looking toward the surface for their meals than lower in the water column. I switched to a peacock body hippie stomper and trailed a gray size 16 deer hair caddis. The hippie stomper fooled a small rainbow trout, but it was slow going, so I swapped the caddis for a size 14 yellow sally dry fly and positioned it behind the hippie stomper, and this combination delivered another brown trout that selected the hippie stomper.

Nice Current Seam Here

Trough Near the Left Bank Log Stream Improvements

It was clear that the double dry was generating less interest than the earlier dry/dropper, so I once again changed course and reverted to a dry/dropper. For my last assault on the Clear Creek trout population I deployed a classic size 10 Chernobyl ant and a beadhead prince size 14. This proved to be my best move of the day, and I built the fish counter from five to twelve. Two of the last seven trout crushed the Chernobyl ant, and the remainder nabbed the weighted prince nymph. I avoided adding a second nymph, and this reduced the inevitable rash of tangles associated with a three fly configuration.

Prince Turned the Tide

Chernobyl Ant Gets In on the Action

By four o’clock I approached a convenient exit point, and I took advantage. The last thirty minutes featured dark gray clouds and reduced lighting, and a breeze became an ever present companion. I was pleased at this point to have had the foresight to wear my fleece hoodie. Unfortunately I never witnessed a blue winged olive in response to the overcast conditions.

Afternoon Success

Second Rainbow Trout

Monday’s day on Clear Creek surpassed my expectations, as I landed double digit trout. Once I settled on the Chernobyl ant and prince nymph, the pace of action accelerated a bit, and I grew confident that I could interact with trout, when I encountered the proper structure. I am fairly certain that the larger and weighted prince accounted for the biggest difference from my earlier approaches. It was good to learn that Clear Creek can produce some decent action within close proximity to my home.

Fish Landed: 12

Promising Deep Trough Along the Right Bank

Clear Creek – 04/02/2023

Time: 12:00PM – 3:00PM

Location: Clear Creek Canyon

Clear Creek 04/02/2023 Photo Album

I endured the last two weeks of March with no break in the weather that promised a solid day of fly fishing. Nice days in March consisted of high temperatures in the low fifties in Denver. and highs at that level translate to low forties and thirties at best in the foothills and mountains, where I fish for trout. Fortunately the weather forecast projected a brief window of nice weather on April 1 – 3, so I jumped at the opportunity. Unfortunately the best day was Sunday, and as a retiree I am loathe to fish on weekends, but I decided to leverage the small window of seventy degree weather before another cold front rushed across the state.

Nice Starting Pool

I reviewed my Front Range options and settled on Clear Creek in the canyon west of Golden. Why? High winds were a factor on South Boulder Creek and the Big Thompson. Bear Creek and Boulder Creek were viable options; however, flows were low, and these two destinations do not offer as much space in case of crowded weekend conditions. The North Fork of St. Vrain Creek was also considered, but I experienced minimal success on my first trip of the season, and I was also fearful of elevated fishing pressure there.

Source of Rainbow

I arrived at my chosen starting point at 11:30AM, and I layered with my fleece hoodie. The temperature was a comfortable 64 degrees, but the wind accelerated periodically, and I was in the shade of the narrow canyon from time to time. I rigged my Loomis five weight two piece, and then I devoured my small lunch, since it was approaching noon.

Fat Albert

Another Decent Trout

Big Pocket

After lunch I hiked downstream from my parking space and fished mostly along the south bank of the creek. Thick patches of snow and ice shelves remained, but they receded significantly from previous scouting hikes along Clear Creek, and the stream was in fine shape at 27 CFS. I began my quest for trout with a size 8 yellow fat Albert, a beadhead hares ear nymph, and an ultra zug bug. In the early going I landed five rainbow trout, and I was quite pleased with the success. One of the bows grabbed the ultra zug bug, and one aggressive feeder crushed the fat Albert, while the remainder nabbed the hares ear nymph. Based on past experience I knew Clear Creek as primarily a brown trout fishery, so I was unable to explain the heavy weighting of rainbows on this fine spring outing.

One of the Better Fish

Finally a Brown Trout

Number six was a thick ten inch brown, and I built the fish count to eleven over the remainder of the afternoon, as I steadily worked my way upstream. On my hike to my starting point along the south side of the creek, I passed at least six other fishermen stationed on the north side, but by the time I reached their positions, they had abandoned the effort.

Sweet Spot

My lineup of flies remained the same as the start, and on the day I tallied one on the fat Albert, three on the ultra zug bug, and seven on the hares ear nymph. Most of my action materialized from riffles and the tail of runs that consisted of three to four feet of depth with a slowing current. Nine landed trout were rainbows and two were browns. I have no explanation for this aberrant ratio of species compared to my normal experience.

Lifted Briefly

I am off and running with a double digit day to start April, and hopefully the weather will afford me more opportunities than were available in March. It is blue winged olive time, so trips to the Arkansas River and South Platte River are highly anticipated.

Fish Landed: 11