Sunday, March 27, 2016

Trip Report: Spring Tenkara in the Canyons

It’s pretty safe to say that spring has sprung in the canyons.  The ice has long since disappeared, the baetis are alive and well, and with the recent arrival of daylight savings time, I can fish longer and I don’t have to hike out via headlamp.  Even as I sat here yesterday in my office, with the woodstove cranked, while a spring snowstorm dumped several inches of late March slop, I knew that come Sunday it would be back up to near 60 degrees.  I just love spring snowstorms along the Colorado foothills!  It looks like winter one day, and it’s back to shirtsleeve weather the next. 

I just came off four straight days of guiding tenkara clients on one of my favorite streams.  With warm (albeit windy) weather, willing browns and rainbows, and the best clients on the face of the earth, it was a simply amazing week!  We spent each day on different water, and each day we tasted a different flavor of this canyon.  When my guys flew home to Utah yesterday, I knew they had experienced something special, and I’ll bet it won’t be the last time we poke up into deep cracks containing tiny blue lines together.

My clients this past week, brothers, fishing together.

Fishing a bend.
Another one falls to the reliable RS2!

As for the fishing, it was fairly consistent.  Japanese mountain water and Colorado wilderness streams may lend themselves to only fishing one traditional kebari pattern all day long, but these gnarly canyon trickles require opening your mind to other tactics.  These canyons contain fairly fertile streams with heavy doses of emerging blue-winged olives this time of year.  You have to pay attention to what the fish tell you, and the browns and rainbows in the canyons told us they wanted to munch on a slightly weighted two-nymph rig all day long, with the venerable #20 gray sparkle wing RS2 the clear winner.  That’s not to say that the fish wouldn’t take a #18 Nosepicker or bead head pheasant tail once in a while.   However, they wouldn’t give a sakasa kebari the time of day.  Even though the blue-winged olives were hatching in the late afternoon, the fish wouldn’t take a dry off the surface because of the wind.  The hatched adult BWOs just simply blew away.  That didn’t matter much, because our little nymph rigs were extremely effective.  We fished them on size 3.5 and 4 level line, with 12-foot (360 cm) rods.  We cast middle-of-the  road medium-flex (6:4) rods, and they did just fine.  The gusty wind oftentimes made the decision for us to switch over to heavier size 4 level line.

Fishing one of countless pockets.

Along with sharing spectacular landscapes and water with my clients, I also enjoy providing backcountry epicurean delights along the banks of the stream.  I nearly always pack a homemade, mostly dehydrated hot meal in on my back.  The highlight of our week was a hot meal of alfredo pasta with sautéed portabello mushrooms and Italian sausage (from the best butcher shop in town, Hilltop Market), rehydrated and warmed up on one of my backpacking stoves.  There’s just something special about kicking back in the middle of nowhere, savoring homemade Italian cooking, after a morning of tenkara!

Backcountry, homemade Italian cuisine.
Cherry cheesecake, hauled in on our backs!

The canyons never cease to amaze me, and recent trips have been no exception.  Some relatively big browns and rainbows weave their way up these creeks and end up living in some pretty obscure spots.  Targeting the deepest pools along rock walls on the outside of the bends in the creeks, and undercut banks covered in thick grass produced several fish over 16 inches.  That’s a trophy trout in water that’s only flowing at less than thirty cubic feet per second!

A nice 18" rainbow taken on a lightweight two-nymph rig.

I hope you have a chance to get out and fish very soon, because this is one of my favorite times of the year!  As I sit here on Easter Sunday, watching the sun rise, I’m already trying to figure out how I can sneak out of the house late this afternoon after things warm up and some of the snow melts.  Happy Easter and happy spring tenkara to you!