Way Out West Part 1--Trout and Cactus
by Alan Luecke
(Kansas City, MO)
Rocks and Willows
In July Vern B. and I spent several days with Paul Vertrees in the rugged canyons above Canon City, Colorado. Paul guides for Royal Gorge Anglers and is the most experienced Tenkara guide in the state.
We had planned on splitting our time between the canyons and the Arkansas River which is the dominant feature of the area. Unfortunately, the Arkansas, like much of the water in the West, was still blown out from the run off of last winter's record snow fall (180% of normal in the Canon City area). The result was three days in the canyons which is where I really wanted to be anyway. I've come to realize that small stream Tenkara is my favorite way to fish. If I'm catching trout or shiners it doesn't matter as long as I'm in a beautiful creek.
I have always associated Colorado's Front Range with the area to the west and north of Denver, specifically Rocky Mountain National Park with it's forested mountains and lush, green meadows. This not like that. The low mountains are very dry. Cedar and juniper along with lots of cactus cover the rocky, very rough terrain. This creates an extreme contrast with willows, tall grass and cold water down in the steep canyons. The water originates in the high Sangre de Christos to the west and is collected in a reservoir which conserves and regulates the flow through the summer.
The creek had both Rainbows and Brown trout. The Rainbows were mainly in the deep holes while the Browns were spread through the riffles and grassy edges. The water was generally open and 12-13 foot rods fit the bill. Care was needed around the willows regardless of rod length. I fished the TenkaraBum 40 everyday.
I had success with Kebaris along the edges and Perdigon and Pheasant Tail nymphs in the holes. Paul likes two fly rigs with either a hopper dropper or a two fly nymph rig with the trailing fly being quite small. Vern had good luck with this in some of the big holes.
It was a great week with good friends in a beautiful place. I had fun catching fish, but the strongest memories are of climbing, hiking and getting to know this rough, powerful landscape. Paul grew up here and it was a privilege to get to share this special place with him.
“The bitterness of poor quality remains long after the sweetness of low price is forgotten” – Benjamin Franklin
"Be sure in casting, that your fly fall first into the water, for if the line fall first, it scares or frightens the fish..." Col. Robert Venables 1662
As age slows my pace, I will become more like the heron.
The hooks are sharp.
The coffee's hot.
The fish are slippery when wet.
Beware of the Dogma