Tenkara has a lot to do with community, especially here in the United States. As a member of this thriving community I get to experience this frequently. Recently, an awesome friend, Dennis, and I planned a trip to the Colorado high country for a few days of fishing.
This was going to be a backpacking trip, unfortunately it was not meant to be. Dennis somehow hurt himself getting out of the rain after having fallen asleep in his hammock in his backyard. We were going to explore a few very special spots that required some backpacking.
None the less, we made the decision to continue with our trip irregardless of physical injuries. The trip went from a backpacking trip to car camping trip.
Departure Into The High Country
After I got done with work I made my way to Dennis’ home where we loaded his rig with our gear. Shortly after, we headed West into the Colorado Rockies for three days of fun, tenkara, good talk, and a fair bit of drinking when our hands weren’t holding a fish or tenkara rod. We did take a cooler with us, as we were planning on eating well out of the back of the car.
Arrival In The High Country
We drove up to a piece of land that Dennis manages called Project Orion, located deep in the heart of Park County, Colorado. Project Orion is 80 acres of private land with absolutely amazing views. With our arrival Dennis gave me a tour of the property before we set up our temporary homes for the evening. Dennis was in his hammock and I was in Casa Whistlepig.
With our lodgings in place, Dennis and I decided that it was high time to head out to get a little fishing in before the sunset on a most gorgeous day.
Tenkara Day One
Dennis took me to a location I was not familiar with called the Cline Ranch State Wildlife Area. Cline Ranch is one of those places that I will not soon forget. I was very intrigued by the fact that Cline Ranch is operated on a beat system. There are currently four (4) beats here with four (4) corresponding parking spots. The regulations state that to claim a beat you must park in that space. If you desire to move to a different beat you must move your rig as long as there is an open beat. I have to admit that it was nice to have the beat not have a fee associated with it.
When we arrived we found Beat Four (4) open where we parked the rig. Both Dennis and I geared up for the afternon of fishing! Thank goodness we did get onto this beat as it was truly quintessential tenkara water. Getting there was a bit of a walk yet it was totally worth it in the end. I will admit I was truly awed by the tenkara perfection that I was seeing with each step. The river was no more than fifteen (15) feet wide in some places with amazing pockets and holes that were rather deep. The trees growing along the river were quite tight to the water. Because of this, I get the sense that I was miles from the nearest road.
Rigged with a Tenkara USA Sato rod, a fourteen (14) foot tapered line, four (4) feet of 5x tippet and an Ishigaki Kebari I was ready to go. I knew this was going to be an awesome experience right from the get go. Dennis just smiled as we started working the beat.
Tenkara Fish Day One
In a very short time, casting became catching as I got into one fish after another. Each fish ranged in size from eight (8) inches up to twelve (12) inches. Each fish I caught was a truly sporting adversary. These fish required a perfect cast along with an even more perfect presentation.
In an interesting twist on the “One Fly” concept that many tenkara anglers follow, I found some fascinating requirements. Using my Ishigaki Kebari, I found that almost every fish expected a different presentation with no presentation being the same.
Dennis and I leap-frogged each other for the better part of the afternoon. Dennis and I kept in contact just by listening for the whoops and hollers of each other when we hooked into a fish or lost a fish. We were participating in an activity that many consider to be a solitary past time. Even though we were seperated by bends in the river and thick brush we were still actively fishing together.
There was a rather nasty looking rainstorm brewing, causing Dennis and I to regroup before heading back to Dennis’ rig. The storm was moving rather slowly, Beat One (1) was beckoning us, and we decided to fish a bit longer. Unfortunately, the fish were not so obliging on Beat (1) One as they had been on Beat (4) Four.
Meeting in the middle of Beat (1) One Dennis and I headed back to the rig having decided dinner was in order. We headed back to camp and a hot dinner with a rain storm for an additional companion. The lightning was pretty spectatular for most of the night.
Heading Deeper Into The Rocky Mountains
We awoke to a glorious sunrise highlighting the beauty of Colorado. With the sunrise came the call for the Elixir of Life, coffee, and the breaking of camp. With the sunrise awakening us, neither one of us felt a need to rush to break camp. Although with food in our bellies and caffeine coursing through our veins, we did eventually motivate to get on with our day.
Having struck camp, Dennis and I both agreed that we needed to seek out more coffee for the day ahead. Luckily, the fates were looking out for us, leading us to black gold. With a cup of black gold in hand, our motivation for new water blossomed anew.
Dennis took me to another State Wildlife Area I had never been aware of. Unfortunately, with high winds and a rumbling morning storm barrelling down the valley, we were skunked, at least in my case!
Exploring Summit County, Colorado
Feeling slightly dejected but no less optimistic Dennis and I made the decision to drive to Summit County. The mighty Blue River running North out of the Dillon Dam called our names. With a brief stop in Silverthorne for some supplies Dennis and I made our way to the new base of operations.
We were going to be staying at Dennis’ in-laws cottage located on a private stretch of the Blue River just North of Silverthorne. It did not take long for us to drop our gear and get out for another afternoon of fishing.
While driving in we noticed a pond loaded with fish rising to a prolific Pale Morning Dun hatch. Suffice it to say we were drawn to these lunkers like a moth to a flame.
Within a few casts, both Dennis and I were into fish of impressive size and strength. Fighting fish pushing the border between football and pig made me switch from my Tenkara USA Sato to my Tenkara USA Ito. I made this switch to shorten up the landing time of each fish.
We spent a few fun filled hours pulling fish after fish from the pond. With the Blue River so close Dennis and I agreed it was time to fish the river. Sadly, I must report that the fish apparently had no love for our flies, although it could have been the way we were holding our mouths.
Dinner came and went, followed by a bit of Saké and great conversation to round out the day. Our conversation developed into what will become a future episode of an online tenkara fireside chat series. Starting off the series with Dennis as the first guest was a really cool experience and one I will cherish for some time to come.
With dead batteries in our cameras and in our bodies, we headed to bed.
Awakening the next morning, Dennis and I packed up and headed home to our families and the realities of life. This was by far one of the better trips I have done with another tenkara angler in quite some time and I look forward to many more with Dennis.
I hope that you, dear reader, find this as fun to read as it was for me to write. Maybe this will get you motivated to plan a trip with one of your good tenkara buddies or even contact me to plan something.
Just as a reminder, the Tenkara Grasshopper Site Sweepstakes is running until October 28, 2016 at 12:00 AM MST. If you have not registered, take a moment right now to get in on the fun. And while you are at it please share this trip report with your family and friends.