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.
I went on an overnight backpacking trip just north of Silverthorne, which involved a few lakes. You can read about the hike itself at the link above, but the fishing was pretty slow. I mainly fished at Upper Cataract (although I dropped a line in at Eaglesmeare as well), and didn’t catch a thing. The water was clear enough to be sight-fishing, but the fish I was after were not interested in my flies in the slightest. Oh well; beautiful scenery, so it’s definitely not all bad.
On Day Four of my SCOUT Epic, I hiked up to Blue Lakes in the Mt. Sneffels Wilderness, and camped the night there. I got soaked on the hike, but by the middle of the afternoon things had dried out, so had a chance to try my luck fishing in Lower Lake. I should have tried on the second lake as well, which apparently is fished much less, so I’d have probably done better.
Since I’d already walked around the edges a bit, I’d seen that the fish mostly hung out where a few small streams fed into the lake. That’s where I fished, and worked my way back and forth amongst the different streams. I don’t know if I had the wrong fly, or if it was the super clear water, or just that the fish are used to people trying to catch them, but these guys were not biting. I’d cast right in front of them, and they’d lazily take a look at my fly, then just slide right past and keep feeding.
With nowhere else to be, I tried out a few different flies, and eventually got a nice, solid hit from a Rainbow. After a quick fight, I had her landed, snapped a pic and let her go again. Amazingly, she just kept on circling in the same area.
A little later on, I was chatting with another guy who was there also fishing (and who I’d passed on the trail). He had apparently caught a few, and he gave me the fly he was using, which was one that he’d tied himself, so he had a bunch of them (pictured below).
Day Three on the SCOUT Epic had me stopping off near Cimarron (which isn’t even really a town) at the Gunnison River. There’s a huge dam there (Morrow Point Dam), and the river below that is beautiful. It runs down into Black Canyon (and the National Park sharing that name), and apparently you can take a boat tour down there if you want.
There’s a short trail along the North side of the river (accessible via footbridge), so I went down there and tried my luck for a bit. On the way there, I chatted with a Ranger for a minute, and he mentioned there was an area near the base of the footbridge where Cimarron River meets the Gunnison that he’d seen some fish rising. After going down and back on the trail, I was going to head there, but saw that a younger guy was already there. Apparently he’d been successful as well, because he had a full net of cleaned fish that he was taking home with him.
When he was done, I dropped my line in there for a while, and came up completely empty handed. Not a single nibble. I don’t know what rig he was fishing with, but my dry flies on a tenkara rod was definitely not working that day.
The first stop on my SCOUT Epic adventure was in Deckers, where I stopped off at a few places along Hwy 67 to wet a line, and get the trip started. I had thought I’d be able to get away with wet-wading in sandals, but the water (and the weather) was a lot colder than I’d hoped, and that turned out not to be the case.
When it started raining a bit, I decided I didn’t really want to start the whole trip off wet, so I bailed and headed on my way.
On the last night of our Boundary Waters canoe trip, Brandon and I paddled out and used his spinning rig to grab two smallmouth bass in quick succession. It was pretty crazy how quickly/easily we were able to grab them.
From our main little island, we had a spit that we could walk across, to another little island/rock. Once we scrambled up there, we spotted a rock shelf where we could actually see a few fish swimming around, so we decided to come back in a canoe and drop a line in there. Within a few minutes, we’d each caught one, and we had what we needed.
That night we oiled, salt and peppered them, then wrapped them in foil and cooked them over the fire. So delicious. It also crossed 3 things off my bucket list at once:
- Going on a multi-night canoe-camping trip
- Camping on an island on a lake
- Eating fish I’d just caught, cooked over a campfire
Pretty hard to top that.
As part of my Boundary Waters canoe trip, I took my Tenkara rig, and had a shot at fishing in the lakes there. Since I didn’t really like my chances dry-fly fishing in these big lakes, I found a little river (between 2 lakes) right near our campsite, and fished up there a bit. I didn’t catch (or see) anything, but it was a pretty beautiful place to wet a line. It was fun paddling over and getting dropped off via canoe as well.
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