Time: 11:00AM – 4:00PM
Location: National forest area
Clear Creek 09/24/2021 Photo Album
My trip to the Frying Pan River was successful, if for no other reason than I got to spend an evening with my daughter and her significant other, Thirty-two fish in two days was also respectable, and that included a nice sprinkling of fish in the twelve to fifteen inch range. The forecast for highs in the eighties in Denver spurred me to plan another day trip to fish in a local stream on Friday, September 24. The days are rapidly getting shorter, and I was anxious to take advantage of mild weather. My first choice was South Boulder Creek, but a quick check of the DWR gauge revealed that flows were reduced to a trickle of 6.74 CFS. I suspect that I could have caught some fish, but I did not feel that it was fair to fish at such ridiculously low levels.
Promising Water Above and Below the Dam
My fallback option was Clear Creek, and I found myself along the banks of the front range stream at 11:00AM ready to cast. The air temperature upon my arrival at the pullout was 53 degrees, and this reading prompted me to pull on my rain shell for warmth and to act as a windbreaker. Periodic gusts chilled me, while I assembled my Orvis Access four weight. When I quit fishing at 4PM and returned to the car, the dashboard digital thermometer read 67 degrees, and I wore the raincoat during my entire time on the creek. The conditions were pleasant for fishing but a bittersweet reminder that cold weather is imminent in the high country.
Skinny Water Required Stealth
I began my day with a peacock hippie stomper fished solo on a 5X tippet, and in the one hour before lunch I recorded three cutthroat trout. I targeted quite a few very attractive pools with no results, so I pondered some changes. After lunch I extended a one foot leader from the bend of the hippie stomper and fished a double dry setup that included a gray size 16 caddis. The combination produced a trout on the caddis, but it was less effective than the solo stomper, so I once again implemented a change. In this instance I added a beadhead hares ear nymph, but in a short amount of time I realized that the plop of the weighted nymph was scattering the trout on the first cast to a new spot. I quickly made another adjustment and replaced the hares ear with a sunk ant. The ant did not create the same impact upon landing, During this period of experimentation with fly combinations I raised the fish count from three to six. I was beginning to question my ability to hit double digits. In my mind I was debating the reasons for a low catch rate, and my mental list included a marginal stretch of creek, cold overnight temperatures that made the trout lethargic, and my inability to choose the right flies.
In spite of my lowered confidence level I persisted. During this time refusals to the hippie stomper continued, so I downsized the surface fly to a Jake’s gulp beetle and retained the sunk ant. The terrestrial pair attracted a few looks, but no takes, and I once again shifted direction. I removed the double dry fly and migrated to a single lime green trude. This was an archived fly that occupied space in my box, but was rarely used until Friday. The trude exhibited some magic, when it accounted for a cutthroat, and I was certain that I had solved the puzzle. In the next pool a larger than average fish nipped the trude, and I was connected for a very brief moment, until it shed the hook point. I was convinced that this fish was a prize worth pursuing, so I entered the game of changing flies, even though a fish that is pricked rarely eats a second time. The targeted cutthroat actually rose and looked at the lime trude two more times after being nicked by the hook, so I concluded it was worth a few more fly changes. First I knotted a size 18 parachute black ant to my line. Time and again the low riding ant has rescued me in difficult dry fly situations, and on Friday it drew a look, but that was the extent of it. Next I swapped the ant for an olive-brown caddis, and it topped the ant, as it induced a swirling refusal. At this point I surrendered to the king of the pool and moved upstream.
I stuck with the deer hair caddis for a bit and landed a few more fish, but the earth toned fly was very difficult to follow in the shadows and glare, so I decided to revert to the hippie stomper, and I added a gray size 16 deer hair caddis as a dropper dry fly. Bingo. This dynamic duo enabled me to elevate the fish count from ten to twenty-eight, before I called it a day at 4PM. I actually planned to quit at three o’clock, but a large and steep bank on the north side of the creek blocked my exit and forced me to continue upstream, until the terrain became more forgiving. Once again I debated in my mind why the fishing improved significantly in the two o’clock to four o’clock time frame. The long, steep bank was certainly a barrier to anglers, and this probably explained much of the improved success along with the direct sunlight and warming of the water temperatures to the optimal zone for feeding. Whatever the reason, I thoroughly enjoyed the last couple hours. I searched for deeper holes and pools and concentrated my casts to the most productive spots. Long casts were more effective than short ones and cautious approaches paid dividends. In short I gained confidence in my flies and knew that accurate casts and properly reading the water resulted in repetitive success. Hopefully I can squeeze out a few more days like Friday before the winter winds blow.
Fish Landed: 28
Perfection with Fins
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Time: 11:00AM – 4:00PM