Every June since 2013, I have taken a trip to Colorado to fish a few days with my brother Shawn. We fish Shawn’s home waters, which he knows and fishes well. There have been a few times when he has wiped my eye with his fishing skills. Regardless, we always have fun together.
Last year was the first time that I brought only a tenkara rod for the trip because its smaller case makes it perfect as a carry on for the flight. Also, my experience with tenkara was limited to a few days on a tiny mountain stream near my grouse coverts in the fall and one spring afternoon on the Henry’s Fork. So I was excited to see what I could do with the tenkara.
In 2015, Colorado received so much precipitation during the winter and spring months that many of the rivers we typically fish were blown out. So we had to try and locate fishable waters. Shawn had told me many times about a small brown trout stream he loved which can be technical. The creek is named after the Native American word for a low point in the mountains where the buffalo pass over between the valleys (that’s the only hint I’m giving you!). We’ll call it “Buffalo Creek.”
Early Friday morning, our second day, we traveled over the Sangre De Cristo Mountains to Buffalo Creek. The mountains surrounding Buffalo Creek are not as high and majestic as the Sangre De Christos, but are rounded and pine crested. The lowlands are covered in sage brush. The area reminded me of my home turf in Southeastern Idaho, so I liked it from the outset.
As we traveled, Shawn made it clear that he was not a fan of tenkara. He told me a crude, but funny, “Dirty Johnny Joke” (which I hesitate to tell you because this is a family friendly blog). The joke begins with Dirty Johnny cursing and stomping on ants calling them “worthless.” Mother Theresa happens to see Johnny doing this, chastises him and asserts that “Nothing is worthless. Everything has its purpose.” As punishment, Mother Theresa tells Johnny that he has to try and think of three things that are completely worthless. When she comes back and asks for Johnny’s response, he replies: “Boobs on a nun, balls on a priest, and those freakin’ ants!” And, to make his sentiments on tenkara clear, Shawn added, “And tenkara rods!”
“We’ll just see about that!” I responded with a laugh.
Buffalo Creek is a meandering meadow creek about ten feet wide in most places. With all the rain Colorado had been receiving, the creek was high and a bit off-color, but fishable. I opted to fish downstream with my tenkara rod while Shawn fished upstream with his little blue fiberglass rod I have dubbed, “The Limp Blue Noodle,” because it is super flimsy and hard to cast. Why Shawn loves it, I really cannot say.
Little did I know that the tenkara rod would prove to be the perfect rod for Buffalo Creek. I fished downstream using a Stimulator with crossing rubber legs and a chunky nice brown soon rose for it along the right bank right where I thought he’d be. The fish was much bigger than the ones Shawn described as we earlier discussed Buffalo Creek.
As I worked my way downstream, I caught a few other browns, but in areas outside of the heavier current. All the while the sun was high and bright overhead, which is not the best condition for brown trout fishing. One nice brown took a dropper nymph in a eddy alongside the creek’s left bank. I fished all the way down to the bridge and started to walk back to truck, but Shawn drove up before I could even reach the main road.
“How’d you do?” I asked Shawn.
“I got skunked!” replied Shawn. “I didn’t even see a fish rise.” I then told him about my success with tenkara. Shawn’s only response was, “Really?”
“Yep.” I stated with a smile thinking back on Shawn’s earlier joke.
Shawn and I then drove over to a tributary to Buffalo Creek about half its size. Let’s call it “Pine Creek.” We found a full blown green drake hatch and we fished together taking turns catching numerous fish. I’ll write more about this experience later on the blog. However, I will say that on this small creek, Shawn and I were pretty evenly matched with our different rods.
After lunch, we went and fished the Taylor River with limited success. As we headed home, Shawn wanted to fish Buffalo Creek as our last hurrah for the day. I think he hoped for a chance at redemption. Of course, I opted for my tenkara rod, but this time fished upstream with Shawn. I used one of my Dad’s Red-butted Double Renegades and, though it was hard to see on the water in the failing light, I got hits regularly. The eleven foot tenkara rod made it nice because I could keep most of my line off the water. All said, I caught six browns in the last light of the day.
On the other hand, Shawn continued to use the Limp Blue Noodle and, though he had one strike, he ended up going home with the essence o’ Pepe Le Pew. The problem? I’m convinced that his rod was too short making it so he could not cast far enough for those spooky brown trout. Also, with the Limp Blue Noodle, Shawn couldn’t keep his line off the water and he was spooking the fish.
On the way home, Shawn told me “I am humbled. You kicked my butt tonight!” While he didn’t admit it, I know that Shawn gained some respect for tenkara that day. He still refuses to give it a try, but maybe a rematch at Buffalo Creek this June might change his mind. Loser buys the milkshakes and has to fish a whole day with tenkara or the Limp Blue Noodle! What do you say, Shawn? Ready for another slice of Tenkara Humble Pie?