Clear Creek: Hidden Gem in Monroe County

Clear Creek, a crystal clear, picturesque stream running through western Monroe County 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. Smallmouth, largemouth, spotted, and rock bass all inhabit the creek and I catch plenty of them regularly.

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

I use white streamers as my go to fly. The streamer I prefer is Harry Murray’s, White Marauder. Wooly buggers, Clouser Minnows, or just about any streamer should work though. Sneaky Pete’s and other surface poppers are fun as well, but the water is skinny and clear, so top waters 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 also work very well.

The scenery along Clear Creek is exceptional. There are 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 place just makes sense. Hidden away in the southwest corner of Monroe County, roughly 12 miles south of Bloomington, Cedar Bluffs Nature Preserve offers visitors a short, scenic escape. With a trail system consisting of 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 Nature Preserve is a 23-acre property owned and managed by the The Nature Conservancy. The property is home to a dense population of eastern red cedars, and features numerous limestone outcroppings protruding from the 100 feet 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 reaching the bluff. From this point, turn right and follow the base of the bluff until reaching 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, for this is private property. You must either return the way you came, or descend the trail down the steep bluff

Spectacular wild flower blooms draw many to the Cedar Bluffs in the 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 of the bluff is 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 nature preserve.

Clear Creek makes up a portion of Cedar Bluffs Nature Preserve’s 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, fishermen, particularly fly-fishermen, are drawn to the pool in hopes of angling a few of the creek’s hearty smallmouth bass.