Went fishing with Erika and her friend Rachel today! None of us caught, or even saw, anything. Oh well. I fished tenkara, they were fishing traditional fly.
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.
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.
This weekend I headed down to Waterton Canyon to fish a section of the South Platte River (technically, just further upstream from when I fish Carson Nature Center). I picked this spot based on the book I picked up a few weeks ago, “Colorado’s Best Fishing Waters“. I’m not a huge fan of the book to be honest — it doesn’t seem to give a huge amount of information other than “there’s pretty good fishing in almost all running water in Colorado”, except for a few places that it mentions as being “barren”.
Anyway, I picked Waterton Canyon because it seemed accessible and they describe it as having “very good fishing” (although they mention needing to go further upstream than where I was to get to the best stuff). I didn’t get a single bite the whole time I was there.
I only actually saw 2 fish; one just below and one just above a small waterfall/dam constructed within the stream. The one I saw above the dam was mottled and looked like it was crossed with a goldfish or something, although it was hard to tell while it was underwater. I lost a nymph trying to cast towards it, because it was hiding near the banks, under some overhanging branches.
This trip was spent mostly fishing with an elk hair caddis dry-fly, and some of the time (until I lost it in a branch!) I had a zebra nymph dropping off that.
If nothing else, this trip convinced me to get some waders (and wading boots) so that I can get access to more waters — it’s been frustrating at times to only be able to cast from whatever spots I happen to be able to get at from the shore of a stream. More on the waders front in another post.
It’s a nice little stream, which I’d like to come back and try fishing again, preferably further upstream next time (so either a longer hike, or maybe take my bike and ride further up before giving it a shot).
I was deciding whether to go to Clear Creek again, or to try out Boulder Creek, but I luckily noticed this tweet:
— Tenkara USA (@TenkaraUSA) October 18, 2014
so I went to the Orvis in Boulder to hear Daniel Galhardo speak about tenkara (more about that in this post), and came away with a new map book (updated version of this book) and a hand-tied tenkara fly from Daniel. After that stop-off, I headed to Boulder Creek and picked a pull-out pretty randomly (which I later established as turnout #2, according to a map of the area) to try my luck. Once I put on the fly that Daniel had given me, I got one step closer to finally landing my own fish — I hooked one, fought it in, then almost landed it. Since I didn’t really know what I was doing as far as landing a fish without a net, I tried to grab it once I got it in, and instead managed to hook my finger, and lose the fish 😛 . I think part of the lesson here is to make sure the fish is worn out a bit more, and also to get them to an easier to maneuver place before trying to get a hand on them. I was perched on a rock, and didn’t really have a good angle to get to the fish before I tried to grab it.
Walking upstream from the turnout, there’s a fording/crossing point (for cars, in the right conditions), and just above that there’s a bit of a pool area where I spotted a few fish that were feeding. Despite all my best efforts I couldn’t hook one of them; I think I’m just not presenting my fly convincingly enough for them to take interest.
At that point it was getting pretty late, so I decided to call it a day and, appropriately, ended up at a sushi restaurant in Boulder. Since I was solo, I got sat in a single empty seat at the bar, and the guy next to me turned out to be a visitor to the area (a physician, attending a conference in Boulder). He was Japanese, and tenkara turned out to be an interesting topic of discussion. We ended up splitting some sake, and then said our goodbyes so that I could make the miserable drive back down the construction-plagued Denver/Boulder Turnpike (36).
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 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.