With a sweet breeze in the air and the itch for fishing, Nate and I hit the road for a Sunday afternoon of fishing through the mesmerizing Sluice Box State Park. Belt Creek is a completely different looking creek above Armington Junction as it runs through shear rock walls, cliffs and caves. Massive boulders litter the creek bed of this gem and the pristine gin clear water calls for light tippets and spider-man like stealth. We hiked down along the beaten path near rocky ledges and 100 foot drop offs to a point past a set of cliffs usually inhabited by weekend cliff jumpers and recreationalists. The path down into the canyon to the creek bottom was steep and skiddish, though worth it as the view was absolutely stunning as we waded through the soothing water and into the prolific rocky walls of the canyon.
I immediately start nymphing a run along the walls that empty into a deep pool. The crystal clear waters were an added bonus as it was easy to see into the pools and scout any fish feeding off the seams. I looked around for any hatches, not much air born insect activity so I decided to tie on a hopper dropper setup. I tied a Stalcup's hopper on top and a type of iridescent bead head Lightning Bug. After moving through some slow runs with no looks on top and no takes below, we came to a nice run with some swifter water tailing out from some shallow riffles into a deep run about 20 yards long. I fished the tail out of the riffle with numerous casts before finally getting a fish on the bottom fly. The hookup came as I lifted my rod for another cast. I stripped in the little fighter of a rainbow and was pleased with the vivid array of colors on his sides.
I drifted the hopper/dropper pattern through the run another dozen times, witnessing a couple flashes at the hopper, but with disinterest, the trout would retreat, revoking the tasty morsel.
I moved up to a deeper pool where I could see a belly up trout in the bottom of the pool. It looked as though he could have possibly been snagged by a broken off line and had lived his last days trying to escape this watery grave. While checking it out, I saw a healthy 16-17 rainbow lurking a foot or two above the grave site moving in the current for passing tidbits. I had to retie a quick fly on as my dropper rig was too shallow for this deeper pool. After a world record fly change, I drifted a bead head flashback PT through the pool only to see the beast distracted and languidly move upstream. We saw a few more fish in this same run/pool, but the fish seemed a little lethargic, with not much of an appetite. By this time it was about almost 5:30, and with the combination of a few thunderclaps and some clouds moving in, I figured a prime window of fishing might occur. After hiking up and around a second set of cliffs with people hanging around the banks swimming, a drizzle began. We couldn't see another way down so we decided to hang out in a cliff overhang while the rain subdued a bit. It was a nice mellow rain, mixed with bright sun rays peaking through the clouds. It felt good sitting to watch the storm from the view of the jagged surrounding of the cavernous rocky wall.
After a short while, the rains let up a bit enough for us to make our way back down the banks to fish. We came across some cool looking caves near some of the cliffs we saw people near earlier. We decided to fish the spot though we figured no fish would reside in the area due to popular human activity. We wanted to press our luck. Hoping some hatches had popped off and the fish were looking up, I tied on a brown caddis dry. No risers and no hatches, I relentlessly casted and casted hoping to persuade a brown who just might have been looking up. No luck. It was worth the try, but we were right, no fish in the area.
By now it was about 7:30 and the rain was back, this time it came down harder, the thunder was louder now right above us, and this time accompanied by lightning flashes surrounding us. We should have gotten out of there while we had the chance. We found another rocky cove to wait it out again. We were mostly concerned with the lightning, so we laid our rods flat and a few yards away from us. We were very low and away from the creek so the odds of getting hit were extremely diminished. A short break in the storm came about a half hour later, so we bolted for it. We still had a 45 minute hike out on a slippery trail with spine-tingling drop-offs to worry about. We kept our cool, staying relaxed and safely made it to the car without a hitch. We were soaked and just happy to be out of the wet. It was a trip well worth it in my eyes. The jaw-dropping beauty I hadn't seen since a trip in the late 90's was gorgeous and reminded me of the considerable passion and enjoyment the outdoors gives me, even though nature's temperament can be tested on a moments notice, I was thankful we had made it out unscathed. Although the fishing wasn't very productive, I know I will return soon enough to find another hole or run in this rock walled paradise with its charming little creek quietly running through it.