Winter Tenkara on Clear Creek

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.

Deckers/South Platte/Winter Fly Fishing

On Thursday night, I went to a session at Trout’s Fly Fishing about winter fly fishing. Their marketing manager, Kyle Wilkinson, presented a bunch of great info in a very informal session (with free PBR!) to a group of interested folks. He talked about what sort of rig and flies he’s using in the winter, where he’s going, and what sort of areas he’s looking for fish in. He also talked about 40 degrees being a good rule of thumb — if the water isn’t getting over that then it’s going to be tough to catch anything.

Inspired, wanting to finally try out my new waders and boots, and with Erika out of town for Thanksgiving, I headed towards Deckers for the day to see if I could catch anything. To cut right to the chase, I didn’t catch a thing. Not even a bite. I did see some fish, but they were spooked really easily, and mostly scattered as soon as they spotted me. I’d see a fish or 2, get near them and cast a few times if I was lucky, and they’d be gone. It didn’t really feel like a productive session at all — it didn’t feel like I had my hook in the water that much at all (especially given the 1.5 hour drive each way).

Apart from not catching anything (as usual), this was my first try at anything resembling winter fly fishing. Funny that I combined that with the first time I’ve been able to stand around in the water as well. Ironically, it wasn’t at all my feet/legs that were cold — it was purely my hands (and I guess my face a bit as well). My hands were the worst. By the time I was packing up, I couldn’t even grip my nippers enough to clip off my flies and put everything away.

During the session at Trouts, Kyle talked about using a 3-fly rig, but I didn’t really get enough details on how it was all set up, other than having 3 flies on there, and a bunch of weight to get it down to the bottom. 3 flies feels a bit like cheating, so I stuck with 2, but I did add some weight to get them both down underwater. I should go and pick up some of the other flies that he talked about: San Juan Worms, Eggs and Blue Wing Olives, which apparently work well.

As a bit of fun (and since we all need to eat anyway), I also took along a package of Patagonia’s Tsampa Soup mix (recently acquired, hadn’t tried yet) and my Jetboil. The soup was pretty good, although my Jetboil doesn’t have a fully-sealing lid (the lid has a pouring hole and straining holes), so the 9 minute wait for it to cook in its own liquid didn’t really turn out that great. It was a bit undercooked, but still pretty darned tasty. I think next time I’ll try cooking it a bit longer upfront, and also having the oil/parmesan/salmon in it that they mention on the pack. Having some hot food in me really helped deal with getting skunked, yet again, only this time in around 40 degree temps.

This section of the South Platte is pretty nice, although the drive out there is about the limit of what I’d want to do for a day-trip, and the roads aren’t great. There’s a crazy 15 degree slope on the gravel W. Pine Creek Road (the way I took in), which was so steep that I didn’t want to attempt it with the tires currently on our car. Instead, I took “Highway” 67 back, which is also gravel, although quite well-maintained. There are a bunch of campgrounds in the area though (including some weird ones along the side of the road), so maybe an overnighter there could be a way to get in some more fishing, without having to have 3 hours of driving in a single day.

Pardon the horrible mustache in my pic below, I blame Movember for that 🙂