Fishing Clear Creek

Clear Creek is a crystal-clear, picturesque stream running through western Monroe County. Clear has become one of my favorite little honey holes over the years. It’s easy to access, is full of fish and I have never seen more than one or two other fisherman on the stretch I frequent. Smallmouths, largemouths, spotted and rock bass all inhabit this creek and I catch plenty of them regularly.

I especially enjoy fly fishing Clear Creek, but it’s fine water for spin-fishing as well. The water is beautiful and easy to read, and there are deep pools, shallow runs, riffles, riprap banks, blowdowns and numerous other forms of structure that hold fish. The creek is a place you should be able to figure out quickly, and if a spot looks like it should hold fish, it probably does. If you can read this water then you can read any river out west.

I use white streamers as my go-to fly. I prefer the Harry Murray’s, White Marauder. Wooly Buggers, Clouser Minnows or just about any streamer should work. The Sneaky Pete and other surface poppers are fun, but the water is skinny and clear so topwaters work best early and late. For spin-fishing, any shallow-running crankbait should serve you well. A 2-inch floating Rapala would probably be my first choice followed by a small Rebel craw. A simple tube jig should work too.

The scenery along Clear Creek is exceptional with high limestone bluffs and beautiful rock formations. At times, it honestly takes a moment to convince myself I’m still in Indiana.

Sometimes the name of the place just makes sense. Hidden away in the southwest corner of the county and roughly 12 miles south of Bloomington, 23-acre Cedar Bluffs Nature Preserve offers visitors a short, scenic escape. With a trail system that has less than one mile of footpath, the most significant value in visiting Cedar Bluffs is found in witnessing the namesake scenery of a steep bluff dotted with gnarled cedars.

Cedar Bluffs is managed by the Indiana DNR, and this land is home to a dense population of eastern red cedars and features numerous limestone outcroppings protruding from the 100-foot-tall bluff. The trail leading into Cedar Bluffs is well worn and marked by a sign. Follow the trail through the initial creek bank lowlands until you reach the bluff. From this point, turn right and follow the base of the bluff until you get to the confluence of Clear Creek and another small stream. Here, the trail turns to the left and begins its climb to the top. Up top, the trail winds along the edge of the bluff through a maze of cedars before reaching the property boundary, just before the power line cut. At this point, do not follow the path out into the open power line, as this is private property. You must either return the way you came or descend the trail down the steep bluff.

Spectacular wildflower blooms draw many to Cedar Bluffs in spring. Columbine, meadow rue, shooting star, green dragon and wild ginger are common on the lower parts of the bluff. The moist, shaded northeast side abounds with ferns, cliff brakes, hepatica and snow trillium. Red cedars dominate the tree species, but white, black and chinquapin oaks as well as dogwoods also grow in the preserve.

Clear Creek makes up a portion of Cedar Bluffs’ southern border. After rushing through bridge embankments and a small riffle, the gentle waterway widens into a large, lazy pool at the base of the bluff where fishermen, particularly fly-fishermen, are drawn to in hopes of angling a few of the creek’s hearty smallmouth bass.