I tie up a fresh fly for Clear Creek. This design seems to strike the fancy of the resident smallmouths.
I go upstream and test the slow current there--no fish today--but I'm eager to go downstream and explore some new water. I pass up the long bend and head for the fast water.
I pause on a sycamore log to get my water bottle out of the vest. As I lean my rod on the log I notice a geode sitting there. It's a beauty, left, I presume, by someone who already has a house full of them. I'll take it home if it's still here when I come back. I still have room.
I break in the fly on a rock bass at the top of the rapids.
On down a little ways, in a new spot, I hook into a smallie. It leaps madly into the sky and throws the hook. I mark the spot--the soft water behind the rock--and move on.
I'm learning that you can tell it's a smallie by the high voltage that surges up the rod and shocks you into stunned silence.
Amazingly, just a few feet on downstream I hook a second smallie. The story is the same. It switches into spin cycle and throws the fly back in my face. It was right there in that seam behind the big rock.
I ready myself and go on downstream, letting the fly swing deep. It happens again, in the slot behind that riffle. I just stand there and gurgle along with the riffle.
Unbelievably, there's a fourth fish deep under this slick. It grabs the fly and starts to gyrate. It jumps, but it stays on the hook. I work it in carefully. I get it close. As I move it toward my hand it rolls and flips and is gone. It takes the fly with it. The knot has finally failed under the sustained assault.
That was a remarkable sequence of events. I now know of four new lies in that long weave of fast water. For that matter, I've learned that any little pocket of soft water in these rapids could hold a fish.
This creek continues to surprise me.
I tie on another fly, one of the orange muddlers, and fish on. Down in the long pool, right under a tumble of rocks, I get another hookup. This one sticks. The fish takes me downstream--I'm being cautious--but I finally get him in hand.
This is a fine little fish, but how does it stack up with the ones I missed? Hard to say. I watched some of those others gyrating in the air as they threw the hook, and, yes, they looked bigger than this one. A couple of them torqued the rod harder than this one did. I'll just have to catch them to know for sure.
That will be my pleasure.
I keep going downstream where unexplored territory beckons.
I go farther than I have before and discover a lovely island. The right channel, as the stream divides around it, is very slow.
The left channel, though, is a thing of beauty, a textbook riffle and run. I begin to swing the fly through it.
And just where it hits maximum depth another fish grabs the fly, feels the resistance, leaps high into the air, and throws the hook. Yes, it looked like a bigger fish than the one I caught before.
I go back in, of course, and get more bumps and two hookups. My theory is that the big fish have moved out leaving the little guys to take their chances. It's nice to know that this classic riffle and run is full of smallmouth.
At the foot of the island there's another riffle that swirls down into a deep pool. I fish it carefully but don't find any fish. At least not this day.
I look on downstream. Lots of intriguing possibilities there, but it's time to begin the hike back upstream.
I fish that beautiful little run on my way back and catch another little smallmouth.
I wade upstream, pushing through the current that seems to want me to stay a little longer. But I'm hot and tired, my water's gone, and I'm looking forward to the water bottle waiting in the truck.
All the way back I think over the day, and make my plans for the next time I can come.
Here's the plan: catch more; lose less.