My name is Beau Lebens. In July of 2014, I moved to Denver, Colorado, and with zero experience, decided to take up fly fishing. This is a journal of my experiences learning and (hopefully) improving my technique. I’d love to hear of your adventures or tips and tricks (via the comments), or you can get in touch.
Today was my first real fishing trip this summer, and also the first time I’ve taken out our “new” truck (2002 Ford Ranger), and my bike to get me around. It was a triple-win — the bike in the back of the truck worked nicely, riding was a perfect way to get to the good spots in Waterton Canyon, and I actually hooked and landed my first (and second) ever fish!
I was totally stoked. I rode up to the Strontia Springs Reservoir first, just to check it out. That took me about 6.5 miles along the Colorado Trail, which allows bicycles in most sections (might be worth checking it out for more riding?). The dam is restricted-access, so I just took a break there, had a snack, then started rolling back down the trail (a well-kept gravel road) to find a good spot to drop a line.
After not too long, I spotted a nice little bend that seemed to have a bit of an access trail. I stopped and scouted it out, and knew that I’d found a perfect spot to set up for a while. Since I would be down at the river, I locked my bike up (just to itself), and headed down a short trail that lets you out at a pebble beach, with perfect river access. From there, I could get around to the right (downriver) and a little to the left (upriver), giving me some space to try some different casting and waters.
It was a perfect little, secluded spot, and allowed me to fish for about 2 hours, catching both of these little guys (maybe 10″ and 8″?). Absolutely loved it and will probably be back. Adding in the riding is a nice change as well, and opens up new areas that aren’t as accessible on foot.
Over the weekend, I attended a wilderness skills workshop up past Ward, near Camp Tahosa. On the way back (via Nederland), I came through Boulder Canyon. Luckily I’d planned ahead, and have whittled down my kit a little, so I’d thrown in my tenkara rod + flys etc. I stopped off within the 2 miles that has been adopted by Tenkara USA, and dropped a line in for about 30-45 minutes.
I was wearing some new sandals I’d picked up, so I just wet-waded directly in them, and it worked pretty nicely. I would have had very little access without getting in the water, and being able to wet-wade was infinitely more convenient than suiting up in waders, boots, etc. The sandals are definitely not particularly stylish, but they’re functional, and give me something pretty sturdy to wear during summer:
Here are a few more snaps from where I was fishing. As usual, I was skunked. I don’t feel like I have much of a technique right now, and haven’t gotten back into it this season enough to establish a good feel for it, so I definitely need to spend some more time on the water to get that back.
Today was the first time I’ve been out in a few months; I got sick of how cold it was, and didn’t really know how to deal with the ice shelves that I was finding everywhere. Erika was back from her road trip to CA, so I had access to our car again, and decided to head to Boulder Creek and drop a line in on (Easter!) Sunday morning. I didn’t get to sleep until about 1am, so I was a bit slow to get started in the morning, but managed to get on the water by about 10am. Fished for a few hours but really didn’t see much of anything, nor get even a nibble. I also underestimated how cold the water would still be, so my toes got a bit cold because I wasn’t wearing particularly warm socks.
I just took the tenkara rod, and didn’t change flies at all, figuring I’d give it a shot to see if I had any luck with the single kebari. I didn’t 🙂 On the way to the water, I did see a young snake, so that was a bit of a surprise
Today was a surprisingly warm day (up around 60!), so I got down to Waterton Canyon for a bit of tenkara. I actually saw more people fishing here today than I have before — probably 6 or 8 people in total I think? I’ve decided that unless I take a bike, it’s probably not worth going to Waterton any more. I’d like to try taking my bike and ride up to Strontia Springs Reservoir (or just below it), because I hear that’s where fishing is best. Without a bike though, it’s just a long trudge along the road to get to some good spots, and it’s not much fun in waders + boots.
Anyway — this was a pretty unfruitful trip. I was fishing straight tenkara, no nymphs or anything, and didn’t catch a thing. I saw 2 dead fish (one pictured below), which is always a shame, and I did see a few live ones here and there, but couldn’t hook anything up. I had trouble finding spots to get into the water as well, between steep banks and ice shelves it just wasn’t that accessible.
I’m a little disillusioned with winter fishing thus far, and might end up giving it a bit of a break until some of the ice melts off. Maybe I’ll make another trip to Deckers, we’ll see.
On Saturday I attended the Denver Fly Fishing Show which, according to the sign out the front, is the largest show of its kind in the world! There was a huge range of merchandise and services on show, and it was a pretty energetic scene. The show covered all sorts of things, including:
- Tackle (flies, leader, tippet, etc)
- Waders and boots
- Cane/bamboo rods (really impressive pieces of art!)
- Fly tying
There was also a decent presence of tenkara-related stuff (both merchandise and information sessions). I stopped in at 2 tenkara sessions, and saw a few different booths with tenkara gear (including, of course, Tenkara USA). I got the latest copy of Tenkara USA’s magazine (which is just as good as the first edition), and another book about tenkara just to see what it has. I guess I’m hooked.
While I was there, I also picked up a beautiful hand-carved fly-box and a kind-of-matching spool, which both turned out to be crafted by Dave Burchett (based in Boulder, CO). Really beautiful work, and a nice small fly box, perfect for tenkara. See below. All in all it was a fun day, and I saw a bunch of interesting stuff. Some of the trips that people were promoting sounded really amazing (llama-packing, multi-day fishing trip in the Colorado wilderness? AWESOME!). I might eventually hit up Kirk’s Flyshop and get out on one if I’m lucky. It was also great to see my local shop, Trouts Fly Fishing represented with a cool-looking booth (see below also).
As I mentioned, Erika got me a tenkara rod recently. Between waiting for some tackle to arrive, some travel, and cold weather, today was the first chance I got to actually try it out. It’s Christmas Eve, and here in Colorado that apparently means 50 degree weather. I’m definitely not complaining. I was expecting it to be colder as I gained some elevation, but it was right around 50 up on Clear Creek, and it was actually a pretty nice temp to be fishing in. Definitely a lot more bearable than a few weeks ago when it was closer to 40.
I honestly wasn’t too concerned with catching anything today, which was lucky because I didn’t even see a single fish. I was more interested in getting a feel for the rod, which is really quite different from a “western fly rod”. Because it’s so long, and so light/flexible, the tenkara rod needs barely any effort to cast, and you can place the fly quite precisely (even me, a rank beginner). It took me a few minutes to get a bit of a hang of it, but I think I can handle it reasonably well now. I fished an Amano Kebari, although as I mentioned I didn’t even see anything there. While dropping a nymph (or 2) off of that may have increased my chances of a strike, I wanted to get a decent feel for the “pure form” of tenkara before experimenting a bit more.
Probably my favorite thing about the experience was just how simple the rod is. I was set up (tied on a hook, rigged up the line to the rod) in a few minutes, and was off and running. When I moved from place to place, it was really easy to either wind up the line and collapse the rod, or just keep it as-is if I had a clear path.
As far as the winter side of things goes, I was a bit nervous about the ice shelfs that were everywhere, so that made getting into the water a bit tricky. Once I was in there it was pretty comfortable though, and my waders worked wonderfully. I had thermals and thin track-pants on underneath them, plus some woolen winter socks. I could feel the temp difference, but wasn’t particularly cold. It was definitely a weird experience fishing and having “ice bergs” banging against my legs as they came sliding down the river. I also managed to catch a few ice-cubes to keep things interesting (see below).
With my phone in its new QuadLock case (the second one I’ve owned), I put it on my running band and had it on my upper arm. A bit of a risk, since if I went for a swim it’d definitely be toast, but it did allow me to snap a few pics one-handed, without having to actually juggle my phone and risk dropping it.
As an early Christmas present, Erika got me a 12ft Tenkara USA Iwana rod! Now I’m really psyched to get back out and try it, even if it is cold 🙂 Given that I’m about to leave on a work trip though, I’m not going to get a chance until right around Christmas.