Upstate New York’s Batten Kill River

In October, I managed to combine 2 trips into one, and spend almost a week in Upstate New York for 2 conferences, with a day of fun in between. The two conferences were LevelUp Con (great, new conference!) and WordCamp Saratoga, which I spoke at. On the Friday in between the 2 (Oct 10), I had the day off to check out what Saratoga Springs had to offer.

Luckily for me, I have a few colleagues in the area, and 2 of them were willing to be my guides that day. First up, Sheri took me out for some kayaking in Fish Creek. She has a few boats, so I paddled in a smaller whitewater kayak, and she was paddling in an amazing, really impressive, Hornbeck boat. That thing is crazy — it’s so light and sleek. I’d love one, but don’t think I could justify it unless I lived really close to somewhere that I could use it all the time.

After that, Ben met us at the dock and then we headed off to the Batten Kill river for some fly fishing. Ben’s an avid angler, so he’d done some research to find a spot for us to check out, and luckily he had enough equipment for all three of us to fish at the same time.

The Batten Kill is an absolutely beautiful river (these photos don’t do it justice), surrounded by amazingly picturesque countryside. It really was gorgeous there, especially at this time of year (peak fall!). Apparently it’s notoriously difficult to fish, and I guess we demonstrated that by not seeing a single fish (in perfectly crystal-clear water!) the whole time we were there, let along getting a bite.

I also managed to lose one of Ben’s hand-tied flies by back-casting in a tree (that’s what I get for not having waders and being able to create some space). Regardless of the downsides, it was an awesome (albeit short!) fishing trip, and I’d love to go back in that area at some point.

Clear Creek, Idaho Springs, CO

After my last trip to South Platte, where I finally hooked something, I was feeling a bit better about maybe actually landing a fish at some point. My buddy (and brilliant co-worker) Michael mentioned fishing Clear Creek, so I thought I’d go and check it out and see if I could 1. find somewhere new to fish, and 2. actually catch something.

I basically just had a look on Google Maps, then plunked a pin down and got directions to head out there (not too hard — straight out 6th, onto 70 and keep going). When I got off at Central City Parkway however, I missed my turn/stop, and ended up on Central City Parkway itself. I figured I’d just turn around as soon as I found a good spot… which turned out to be Central City, another 9 miles down the road. That place was a bit creepy, so I checked my directions, flipped it around and headed back to where I was supposed to be.

Once I got back to the turn off, I stopped in and grabbed some jerky, and also asked the guy there if he knew of any good fishing in the area. He suggested I could go right behind the shop, or else under the highway and back towards Denver a little on the other side. I went down to the river behind the shop (which looked nice) but it was pretty windy and it seemed like casting would be a nightmare. Heading under the highway and down to the end of the frontage road turned out nicely, and lead me down to the river as it followed along the highway. There was one other angler there who looked a lot better equipped than me (waders, chest-bag etc), so I said hi, wished him luck, then headed off with my pack + rod.

Since I don’t have waders, I was relatively limited as far as where I could get into the creek. There were a few spots though, and when I walked down far enough I found a section where there was a little side-stream, separated from the main current by a long “island”. I managed to get across to it without getting wet, and trawled back and forth a bit working the smaller stream, trying to pick out a couple smaller fish I could see in there. They proved too sneaky for me though (and it was really hard to get a rod in there without getting tangled in the low trees).

Eventually I gave up there and went for a bit of a walk. I spotted a few fish in different places, but couldn’t for the life of me get a bite. Not a single nibble. I tried a dry-dropper rig and a straight dry fly, but couldn’t get anything to happen. I even spent a really frustrating period (mid afternoon) trawling through a group of rising, heavy-feeding fish, and couldn’t tempt a single one to take a fly. When I was packing up, out of interest, I even put my rod in the water and touched one of them — that’s how intent they were on feeding. I’m not sure what I was doing wrong there, but I guess I either didn’t have the right fly, or just wasn’t presenting it in a way that interested those fish. Frustrating.

Trouts Fly Fishing, Denver CO

Trouts is my local fishing shop; it’s about a 20 minute walk or a 10 minute ride from home, so it’s super convenient. They have a bunch of flies, waders, bags, hats, accessories, rods/reels etc. The whole deal. They seem to be a pretty busy little place, and the guys there all seem to be polite and friendly. They also stock Tenkara USA rods, flies and lines (more on tenkara in another post).

I’ve already stopped in there a few times and picked up a bunch of flies, tippet, leader, foreceps and a retractor. They’ll probably become my go-to store for picking up whatever I need since they’re close, have a great range, and I like to keep it local.

Header image taken from Trouts’ website.

South Platte Park/Carson Nature Center

The final class that I took was held on the South Platte river, just near the Carson Nature Center. I went back there on my own on this weekend since it was a place I knew about, it was close and really accessible. It’s about a 30 minute drive from home, and still falls within the greater metro area, so it’s not a remotely “backcountry” experience, but like I said, it’s really easy to get to.

On this day I learned a really valuable lesson: enjoy the experience and process; don’t worry about recording it.

The reason for this lesson can be seen in the header image. That’s the photo that I took while I was supposed to be brining in and attempting to land the first fish I’d hooked properly on my own. Instead, I snapped 2 pictures, and then the little guy fought his way off the hook and got away 🙂

I was mostly fishing with a dry-dropper rig that day; something along the lines of an elk-hair caddis up top, with a zebra-stonefly-midge type thing on the bottom. The water was much lower than it had been when I was there previously, but still maybe a foot or so, and moving pretty nicely.

Next time, focus on landing the fish, then maybe worry about getting a picture of it. Or perhaps even just enjoy the experience and don’t bother with the picture at all.

Utah Guided Trip (Middle Provo River)

This year, my company held our annual Grand Meetup in Park City, Utah. As part of the trip, I managed to make it on a guided fishing trip in the Middle Provo river with a bunch of other interested folks. This was the first time I’d been on a guided trip, and it was a massively different experience to fishing on your own.

  • You don’t have to know much of anything — the guide hands you a rigged rod, points you where to cast (even does a few demo casts to show where you want it), and then you start fishing.
  • If things aren’t working out, the guide will rig a different rod, then switch you out until you get something that works.
  • Got a snag/tangle/break a fly off? No problem — the guide will re-tie or hand you a different rod and you just keep on fishing.
  • They know exactly where, when and how to fish their local waters, so you get a “force-multiplier” and just dive right into the deep end so to speak.

It’s amazing having someone with that level of local knowledge, who’s also there to take care of the less interesting (and often time-consuming) parts of the process. As I said, a very different experience to when I go on my own.

Oh, and the big thing? I finally caught my first fish! I actually caught 3 trout that day, all of a decent size (caught and released). I only partially count them as catches though, since I didn’t feel like as much of the process was “me”. I’m still holding out for my first catch on my own rod, on a line/rig that I put together.

This was also my first time using waders, and it’s a totally different experience compared to fishing from the banks/shore. I really enjoyed it, and recognize that it opens up a lot more waters for you to fish. Now I want some waders 🙂

 

All pictures below (and the title image) taken by Jeff Golenski. Except for the cell-phone pic of us in a parking lot 🙂

Colorado Fishing Atlas

The Colorado Fishing Atlas is an amazing online resource designed to help you find legal fisheries within Colorado, plan your trip, and make the most of it. It combines a wealth of information in attempt to provide you with everything you need to decide on your next adventure. I’ve been poking around on it to see if I can figure out some new places to try, and combined with some tips and tricks I picked up from Tenkara Magazine (more on that in another post), I think it’s going to be really useful. Some of the features that I find interesting:

  • Turn on and off different layers/markers (family friendly, remote fishing, boat ramp, campgrounds etc) to help you pinpoint exactly what you’re looking for
  • Information on what’s stocked and what’s not
  • Fishing Pressure information (how heavily is an area fished?)
  • Elevation; useful for figuring out what’s going on between 2 nearby fishing holes
  • Fish type details; tells you what fish you’re likely to come across in an area.

All in all it’s a great resource, especially for a beginner, who’s new to the area, and barely knows where to start. Maybe once I have some regular spots I’ll use it less, but in the meantime it gives me ideas on where to go, and I’m sure will be handy when I get into new areas to explore.

Kriley Pond, CO

After finally getting a US driver’s license, I was able to head out on my own and go fishing. I consulted the Colorado Fishing Atlas (more about that in another post) and decided that Kriley Pond in Golden Gate Canyon State Park looked like a decent place to check out. I got up early on a Sunday morning and headed up into the mountains on my first solo drive + fishing trip. Once I got there, I picked up an annual pass to all state parks ($70), and then set out to hit the pond and see what I could come up with.

To make a long story short, I caught absolutely nothing again here. It was more practice on my casting (with a few hookings on the back-cast, because they were rehabilitating the banks of the pond and had that mesh stuff holding it together). I didn’t feel too bad because there was (what looked like) a grand-father, father, son trio who were bait fishing, and I only saw them catch one fish the whole time I was there. The fish were taunting me a bit though, and I saw a few rises here and there which kept me going for a while. There was one dying fish floating near the North-East corner of the pond which was a bit weird (I fished along the North shore, to give the family space on the South-East corner near the parking lot).

After a while of no bites, and it not being particularly interesting to fish a dead-calm pond, I gave up and decided to go for a hike. GGCSP has a bunch of trails, and it was a really nice hike up into the forest a bit. There are some undeveloped campgrounds back up in there that might make for a nice weekender as well (no water/facilities, but a pretty short hike to get up in there).

Nearby (just down the road) Slough Pond might be worth a shot if I head back to this location.

Cherry Creek Reservoir/State Park

With nothing else planned for Labor Day, I decided to go fishing at Cherry Creek State Park (Reservoir). I got Erika to drop me off (she was headed to IKEA or something I think), and I strolled around looking for a spot to fish from. I found a small stone “spit” and decided to give that a shot. Still don’t really know what I’m looking for when it comes to “good places to fish from” though. The reservoir itself was pretty heavily trafficked with folks on paddle boards, boats, etc, so even though this was a relatively quiet spot, I didn’t have very high hopes. The kids stomping around throwing rocks into the water from the spit probably didn’t help, and I didn’t get any bits from there.

After a while, a family left from a nearby small section of beach, so I gave that a shot as well, but had no luck there either. It ended up being a day of just practicing my casting (don’t know if I’m doing it right, but it seems to get out there).

When Erika came to pick me up a few hours later, I hadn’t had a single bite, sign of a fish or anything. I’d tried a few different fly options (don’t remember which), but nothing had helped. I don’t even really know if there were any fish in there (and the water was pretty cloudy), so don’t know if I “should” have caught anything, but it was a nice day out anyway.

IMG_9176

Fairplay Fishing

By a turn of luck, a friend of a friend has access to private, stocked trout-fishing ponds. They’re out near Fairplay, CO (home of South Park!), which is only about a 1:40 drive from Denver, so pretty accessible from here, unless you follow Google directions blindly and end up at the top of Mt Evans; then you have to detour out and around Breckenridge and it takes more like 3 hours 🙂

We did an overnight camping trip there and I tried my luck in the lakes, but couldn’t catch anything. Erika managed to catch her first fish though, which was a bit of a hit to my pride, since she’s never taken a class or anything. Had a great time regardless, although the wind came in pretty strong and made it really hard to cast.

Fly Fishing Lessons

Soon after arriving in Denver, I went ahead and booked a class (three actually) with Denver Fly Shop, so that I could learn how to do this fly fishing thing. I chose their “Learn to Fly Fish” special ($195), after coming across them in Google (searching for “denver fly fishing classes”). It’s a 3-part class that covers the basics of knots, casting, flies, some river tactics (working with the current, where to cast etc), and also includes the basics to get started (rod, reel, some flies, a small fly box, nippers; see image).

The classes weren’t comprehensive, and through a scheduling snafu, I still haven’t actually taken the casting class, although at this point I probably won’t bother. The intended class plan is something like this:

  1. Classroom Session: Learn all the names of things (rod, reel, leader, tippet, line, etc etc) and how they all fit together. Learn about some basic rigs, and the knots required to tie them. Familiarization with some of the ideas around how different rigs work, how fish behave, which flies are imitating what, and other things along those lines. This is done in a back room at the Denver Fly Shop, and in my case there were only 2 of us being taught, so we got a lot of direct instruction which was good. We received a handout during this class which summarizes a lot of the content and provides some good background as well.
  2. Casting Class: This is the one that I still haven’t done because of some scheduling issues. My understanding is that you go to Washington Park in the middle of Denver, and learn/practice the traditional fly fishing cast.
  3. River Tactics/On The Water: The third class (which I took as my second class) involved heading to the South Platte River (within Denver metro area) and practicing on a moving body of water. It was really fun to get a feel for fishing on moving water, and to have to work with the current, try to place the fly, etc. Because we were standing on the bank, we were mainly using a roll-cast, where you cast upstream, let the fly travel with the current (dead drift style), and once it’s downstream behind you, cock your rod and cast back upstream to do it again. There were three of us at this class, and none of us hooked anything.

Overall, I think doing these classes was a good way to get started. It gave me a basic vocabulary, some conversation with a seasoned angler, basic knots, and a basic kit (rod, reel etc); enough to get out on the water on my own, even if I still basically had no idea what I was doing.