ROOT BEERS, MILKSHAKES, RENEGADES & MOUNTAIN LAKES

My parents had eight kids and now all of my siblings are married with kids of their own.  So, to sum it up, the Wayment family is simply huge (pronounced like the POTUS).  We all love each other, get along, and treasure the rare times when we can be together.  Last July, we rented a cabin in Garden City, Utah for a much-needed family reunion.  I believe the last time all of us were together was when our beloved dad passed away in 2014.

When the Wayment Family gets together, you can pretty much bet on three things: (1) Some of us are going hunting or fishing; (2)  Mexican Food will be eaten (or some other good food like Cajun or BBQ); and (3) gourmet root beers will be consumed (we’re Mormons so we don’t drink alcohol).  Last year’s reunion was no exception to this rule.

 

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Speaking of Mormons, this root beer named after Brigham Young was one of my favorites from the trip.
Most of the family arrived at the cabin on Thursday, July 7th and we just sat around and enjoyed each other’s company.  Brother Shawn had brought a whole cooler of gourmet root beers and, of course, we sampled a few.

The following day we had to spend the obligatory time on the sandy beaches of the Idaho side of Bear Lake, the “Caribbean of the Rockies.”  Honestly, I can take or leave that, but my kids enjoy it.  I talked my wife into sneaking away to go get one of those famous raspberry milkshakes Bear Lake is known for, so the day wasn’t a total loss.

After dinner, things improved tremendously as my daughter, Nessy, and brother Scott agreed to go fishing with me on St. Charles Creek in Idaho.  My nephews, Jared, Easton, and Steele also tagged along for the adventure.  Nessy and I shared a Tenkara USA Rhodo rod and Scott and Jared used their western fly rods and reels.   The creek was overgrown in most places making it difficult to cast and to wade, but we caught a few small trout.   In a seam where two currents conjoined below an island, a beautiful brook trout rolled on my  Renegade and I quickly brought him to hand.  Nessy got a little frustrated with the thickness of the foliage and the technicality of the creek, but gave it a good effort.  Our problem was that we had a hard time finding water open enough for her to cast.

As darkness descended upon us, we came upon a high beaver dam.  In the failing light, we could see the wink of rising trout in the calm water above the dam.  My tenkara rod did not have the length to reach these fish, so I borrowed my nephew, Jared’s rod and reel.  I caught a few fish on Renegades, including a nice Bonneville Cutthroat.  Though the fishing was a little tough, everyone had fun.  We capped off the night with a raspberry milkshake in Garden City.  That made two in one day for me.  Can life get any better?  I submit that it cannot!

 

Saturday, the bulk of the Wayment clan hiked up to a popular high mountain lake.   I’d tell you the name, but the lake is already so overcrowded as it is.  Have you ever seen that video meme on Facebook in which a dude swings on a rope swing out into this pristine lake and gets munched by a monstrous fish? I believe that video was taken at this particular lake.  Too bad there aren’t any monster fish in the lake like the one in the meme.

Once at the lake, I used my 2-weight St. Croix Ultra Legend rod and reel , Tommy, the Rhodo, and Nessy, the Badger Tenkara Medium Flex Classic.  I caught a bunch of fish on Pistol Petes.  Both Tom and Ness caught fish on nymphs.  The water was so clear that we sight-casted to cruising fish both in the lake proper and its outlet.

 

After catching one particular rainbow, Nessy shed a few tears as she worried that it would not make it.

With a smile on my face, I said to her, “There’s no crying in fishing!” as I helped her unhook and release the fish back into the lake.  And, if you are wondering, it swam off and we did not see it go belly up.  So that was a relief.

I really enjoy fishing high mountain lakes.  This may be sacrilege for a tenkara blog, but tenkara is not the best tactic for lake fishing because you can’t cast as far or strip the flies in like you can in western streamer fishing.  However, it is a great method for kids because the rods are easy to cast and kids learn quickly that you simply have to move the rod tip to move the fly.  I was glad to see my kids catch a few on tenkara by themselves.

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Nothing gets me more excited than to see my kids learning to love fishing.
To sum up, the Wayment Bear Lake Family Reunion was a good time.  It was fun to be together with my favorite people on earth in such a beautiful place.  I drank a total of four raspberry milkshakes (the family record, I think) and who knows how many root beers?  Shawn and I got to shoot our bows a few evenings.  And, to top it off, we caught a few trout.  I’d call that a successful trip if ever there was one.

Shawn shoots the long bow…I mean a recurve.
That’s some dang good root beer right there!
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Most of the Wayment grandkids, but not all. That’s a pretty big pile of kids!
 

 

 

 

 

 

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BEAUTIFUL BULLIES

“If I fished only to capture fish, my fishing trips would have ended long ago.”

 

–Zane Grey

Since I started fly fishing over twenty years ago, I always wanted to catch a bull trout.  I remember hearing stories of big bullies on rivers like the North Fork of the Clearwater, Kelly Creek, or the St. Joe, but never had any strike my dry flies or nymphs when I fished those rivers during law school.   I wasn’t much of a streamer fisherman back then so I didn’t use the most effective techniques.   

 

Right after law school, my dad and I drew deer tags in a unit near the Middle Fork of the Boise River.  The early season hunt occurred in August and it was sweltering hot.  In the afternoon, Dad and I took a break from the heat to fish the beautiful Middle Fork.  I caught some nice rainbows on nymphs and saw some huge trout sulking in the depths of the clear river, which I assume were bull trout, but couldn’t get them to chase my flies. 

During the summer of 2003, I moved to Idaho Falls.  There aren’t any bull trout in the rivers and streams around home, so my goal would have to wait.

 

My friend, Chris Hunt, has written three books on fly fishing, which I really enjoyed.  In two of his books, he tells about a small, remote river in central Idaho that holds bull trout that you can catch on dry flies (if you want to know the name of that river, you’ll have to buy Chris’ books).  In one of his books, Chris mentions that his son, Cameron, caught a 17 inch bully on a grasshopper pattern.  I don’t always remember everything that I read, but Chris’ descriptions of this river stuck with me over the years and I always wanted to experience this intriguing place.  I have followed Chris’s hints and suggestions many times and have never been disappointed.     

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I dream about this place in the winter. 

 

 

In the past, I fished the lower reaches of this particular river in Idaho a few times, but never touched a bull trout in the desert valley.  A friend and I tried to make it up to the headwaters over Memorial Day Weekend in 2015, but were turned back by black clouds and a pounding rainstorm.  On this failed trip, we realized that it’s a dang long drive to get to the stream’s remote headwaters.   

 

On Saturday, July 16th, 2016, the day before my birthday, I told my wife, “All I want for my birthday is to catch a bull trout on tenkara.”  Fortunately, my wife conceded and I set out early Saturday morning with my Brittany, Misty.  As I remembered, it was a long drive up the remote desert valley before I made it to the mouth of the canyon from whence the river flowed. 

As soon as the car turned up the canyon, the scenery instantly changed for the better.  In fact, the surrounding mountains took on a red tint like the Sangre De Cristos of Colorado, but not so high in elevation.  One of my favorite cutthroat streams flows from the rugged peaks of the Sangre De Cristos, so the resemblance instantly endeared the area to me.     

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Idaho’s version of the Sangre De Cristos.

About fifteen miles up the river, we came to a campground situated at the confluence of two creeks, each with roads following their courses.  I stayed to the right and followed the road up the main fork.  I had no idea where to go, so I parked at the next turnoff, pulled out my Tenkara USA Rhodo, tied on a Renegade, and let out Misty of her kennel.  Her company would be appreciated in this primitive landscape.  I planned to wet wade in sandals, but the air temperature felt cold for July.   

 

I hiked through the thick old growth pine forest to the river and tentatively stepped inside.  The frigid water numbed my skin to the touch.  I gritted my teeth and waded forward looking for a likely place to present my fly.  I soon found a decent run spotlighted by the sunlight piercing though the forest canopy overhead and cast the fly.  Sure enough a decent sized fish slurped in the Renegade.  I set the hook and quickly brought the thirteen inch trout to hand.  To my delight, a beautiful bull trout lay before me looking much like a brook trout, but more aqua green with pink spots.   With little fanfare, I had finally achieved a lifetime goal.

 

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First Bull Trout.

 

I caught a few more bulls along this shady stretch choked with deadfall, but soon grew too cold. So I decided to try to find a stretch of river with more sunlight.  Surprisingly, along the creek, grew a gorgeous wild flower that I have only personally seen along Can’t Tell Ya Creek in the Sangre De Cristos named the “Purple Monkey Flower (Mimulus Lewissi).”  The allure of this creek for me grew by the second. 

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After Misty and I made it back to the car, I drove up the road to where it ended.  While there were still pine trees around, they were not so thick to block the sunlight from the creek.  In fact, the sun shined so brightly, it irradiated the golden-orange stream bottom surrounded by striking green riparian foliage.   I thought to myself: This looks like the photos in Chris’ book.   This has to be the right place!

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Misty and I hiked upstream and fished every likely looking spot.  I assumed that the higher I went, the better the fishing would be.  However, the further upstream I ventured, the narrower and more choked the creek became and the tougher going.  As I tried to maneuver through one tight spot, sharp deadfall shredded my bare shins, which bled profusely.   After a few more similar impassible spots, Misty and I retreated downstream and I fished a few holes along the way. 

 

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Bleeding Shins.

 

As I fished, I sensed that something was watching me, and looked up to see a coyote about fifteen feet away.   Worried that he was not alone, I commanded Misty, “Heel!”  When the coyote heard my voice, he beat feet out of there.  The coyote had either smelled Misty or the blood from my bleeding shins and curiosity got the best of him.  I was so glad it was not a wolf or a mountain lion, but still felt a little unnerved that a wild animal was stalking me. 

 

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I think Misty enjoys fishing as much as me. 

 

Ironically, I later found the best fishing near where I parked.  In this area, the creek is wider and more open and I found plenty of trout in every likely place.  The creeks flows are so clear that you can see most every fish before you cast to them.  In his books, my friend Chris mentioned that the river holds rainbows too, but I only caught bull trout that day.  I found that—like cutthroat—these bullies loved the skittered Renegade and chased whenever the fly moved contrary to the current’s flow.  Tenkara was perfect for this technique.  No, we didn’t catch any monsters, but that’s beside the point.  This outing was all about the adventure.  

    

When it came time to go, I hated to leave.   I totally fell in love with this remote creek and its bull trout.  In fact, I loved it so much, that I went back the following Saturday for another chance at those beautiful bullies and had a wonderful afternoon.  Someday, I would like to explore rivers in Idaho where bulls grow large and primarily eat other fish, but for my first encounter with them on this little river, I’m already an admirer of bull trout.      

 

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More subtle than a brook trout, but beautiful nonetheless.

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DESERT TENKARA

I’m an Idaho boy at heart and will never move permanently away from my rivers, streams and coverts. But that’s not to say that I can’t appreciate what other states have to offer. Over the last four years I have found that Colorado is an angler’s paradise with so much diversity that it never gets boring. In three days, you can experience anything from high mountain lakes to rugged glacial fed brooks, to meandering meadow streams, to boulder strewn rivers in desert canyons. If variety is the spice of life, Colorado is spicy!

On day two of our annual Colorado fishing trip, we decided to stay closer to Shawn’s cabin and fish some of the local desert rivers and streams because the Arkansas was totally blown out for the second year in a row.

We met up with Shawn’s friend, Tyler Sessions, at Barry’s Den near Texas Creek and enjoyed a big breakfast before going fishing all day. The Spanish omelet with chile verde sauce is good for the soul, I tell you! Tyler is a student and a fishing guide from Boulder who guides clients in Rocky Mountain National Park. I had to smile when I heard that a fishing guide was taking a day off to go fishing. Tough life buddy!

When I told Tyler I only brought my tenkara rod for the trip, he didn’t give me too hard of a time. Although, with a big grin, brother Shawn asked me, “You know what the most difficult thing about tenkara is?”

I took the bait: “No what?”

“Telling your parents you’re gay!” Shawn exclaimed with a laugh!

Hardee har har, punk sucker!

With his love of bird dogs, double guns, and fly fishing, Tyler was easy to relate to. Shawn had forgotten to bring his fly tying kit and had asked Tyler the night before to tie us some Renegades. In response, Tyler brought us a box of phenomenally tied Renegades, which was greatly appreciated.

We decided to fish a small freestone river that originates in the Sangre De Cristo Mountains, flows into the valley and then cuts through the Wet Mountains, which name kind of seems like a misnomer to me. This smaller range is really more desertous than wet most of the time. According to Shawn, however, when the rain pours in this area, the numerous dry creek beds can become raging, impassible torrents and the canyon roads often have dips or washouts where such insta-rivers can escape when they spring up. Shawn told me that such floods can be extremely dangerous to the unwary traveler. So maybe the name of the range is a warning. The smaller river eventually joins with the Arkansas River not far from Canon City.

Upon approaching our destination ,we dropped into a big cholla-filled desert canyon cut by the river. I instantly liked the looks of things. Except for the vandalism on the red-rock canyon walls, the area felt wild, a place where one might expect a Rocky Mountain bighorn sheep to come down to water.

 

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The trail down to the Creek.
After parking and gearing up, Shawn, Tyler, and I all hiked about a mile downstream, while avoiding the cholla, and commenced fishing, me with my Tenkara USA Rhodo and Tyler and Shawn with their regular rods and reels. At first we stayed together.

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Watch out for Cholla. It bites!
However, curiosity got the best of me and I kept moving upstream. I would describe my style of fishing as “running and gunning.” I like to move quickly and cover as much water as I can hitting the prime lies and catching (or trying to catch) fish out of every likely spot. The river had many nice pockets, runs, and eddies where trout readily rose to a Renegade. The abundant buttery browns fit their adopted desertous environment perfectly. The fish were on average about 11 to 14 inches. I did not catch any bigger ones, but suspect they are in there.

 

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Along the bank of the creek, I came upon a huge, warty toad. He too seemed to fit in this environment amongst the cholla cactus that will reach out and stab you and giant fishing spiders the size of your palm. It was a foreign landscape to this Idaho boy, for sure, but beautiful in its own way.

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A face only a mother could love.
After meeting back at the truck, we headed back to the cabin and enjoyed a cold Boylan’s root beer while we cared for Shawn’s setter and considered our options. We decided to try another smaller desert stream not far from Shawn’s cabin rumored to hold big brown trout. In the canyon stretch where we parked, this creek was also high and a little off color, but definitely fishable. Upstream from where we parked, we found numerous manmade improvements to prevent erosion which created deeper holding water for fish.


Due to the thick foliage along the creek bottom, the going was tough everywhere except for in the creek, but the higher flows made it slow going. We all stayed together and everyone caught a few smallish browns, but not as many as on the bigger desert river.

While I wouldn’t say this was my favorite day of the trip, it certainly didn’t suck. I enjoyed fishing in this unique environment. Tenkara was no handicap whatsoever on either of these desert rivers and I had no trouble fooling numerous browns with Tyler’s Renegades.

TRY AGAIN TOMMY

“I am not concerned that you have fallen — I am concerned that you arise.”
Abraham Lincoln

 Our Memorial Day Weekend camping trip had mostly been a disappointment for my 12 year old son, Thomas.  Every year we camp with some of our best friends and their families at Birch Creek to fish and ride four wheelers or motorcycles.  Our friends with the four wheelers would not let Tommy drive by himself and would hardly let he and his friend, Adam, hitch a ride.  And Tom, who oftentimes lacks a filter, repeatedly let everyone know of his disappointment.  So this trip was mostly a bummer for him.    

 One of the main reasons why our family goes to Birch Creek every Memorial Day is to give the kids the opportunity to catch some fish on the fly.  There is no better place to teach youngsters how to fly fish and tenkara makes its easy.  Although he has often fished with me in the past, Thomas did not once ask to fish on Friday or Saturday. We did not fish on Sunday, but just spent time together as a family.   

 “This is the worst camping trip of my life.  There is nothing to do.  I am so bored!” Tom had complained more than once over the weekend. 

 While I did not voice my opinion, I felt that Tom’s negativity stemmed from his lack of trying to enjoy nature, and more particularly, fishing.  I truly hope that my kids will learn to love fishing, but I do not want to force this on them.    

On Monday morning—a warmer, sunnier day that the previous three days—four of my six kids all wanted to catch fish using tenkara.  Of course, it didn’t hurt that I promised a prize if they could catch a fish all by themselves.  Nessy, Eden, Lily, and Ben all took turns with the Tenkara USA Rhodo and caught fish.  It was a fun, successful morning.  Of course, all of the kids bragged to everyone, including Tommy, about winning a Jamba Juice by catching a fish. 

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Lily’s first fish on tenkara.  Can’t beat that smile!
Not wanting to miss out, Tommy finally asked after lunch, “Dad, I want to try to catch a fish.”    Before that, he and Adam had been whining about not being able to ride four wheelers, which made their owners even more unwilling to give them a ride.     

I sent Tom down to the creek, with the tenkara rod and a nymph and indicator rig, to fish from the bank where Eden and her friend Becca had caught numerous fish earlier that morning.  Try as he may, Tom could not catch anything and I didn’t help him.  To be honest, I was a little miffed that Tom only asked to fish just before we were getting ready to pack up to go home and only because he wanted a Jamba Juice. 

Tommy soon stomped back to camp kicking the ground and yelling, “I CAN’T DO ANYTHING RIGHT! I SUCK AT EVERYTHING! I’M THE ONLY ONE WHO CAN’T CATCH A FISH!” 

Everyone in camp was staring at Tommy’s temper tantrum and shaking their heads.  To gain control of the situation, I made Tom sit in my car until he calmed down.

After about five minutes, I went to the car, opened the door and said, “Try again Tom.  Go put on your shorts and Grandpa’s wading boots and I will go down to the creek with you and help you to catch a fish.” 

Tommy obeyed and we both went down to the creek with the Rhodo in hand.  For the first time ever, Tommy waded with me in the creek.  I showed him how and where to cast and how to present the fly.

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Misty admires Tommy’s fish. 

 In about twenty minutes, Tommy caught two fish but both got away before we could photo them.  Both times, I hooted and hollered, “Alright Tommy!” while jumping up and down.  The whole camp above us overheard our jubilation.  I can honestly say that I was more excited about these two fish than any others brought to hand over the weekend. 

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Fish on!

Tommy and I fished up the creek together and I pointed out where the fish typically held and showed Tom where to cast.  We had a good bonding moment like my late father and I had experienced so many times before on this special creek.  This is exactly what I was had hoped for.       

 We didn’t get any more fish, but Tom said, with a smile, as we stood shin deep in the creek, “This is my favorite part of the camping trip.  Thank you so much Dad!”

 Truth be told, it was mine too.  I was so glad I spent the one on one time with him.

 

DON’T LET YOUR MOUTH WRITE CHECKS YOUR WALLET CAN’T CASH

Every Memorial Day, my family and I go camping at Birch Creek in Idaho. It’s the perfect place to take kids fishing and to help them catch fish on a fly. All of my kids like to join in on the action and they all have become big fans of tenkara. Like me, they like to yell “TENKARA!!!” in a Japanese accent with a Karate stance.

 

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Birch Creek

Last year on Memorial Day after breakfast, I took my young son Benny fishing with my 2 weight St. Croix Ultra Legend fly rod, while my second daughter, Jenness, fished with my Tenkara USA Rhodo rod. We all fished this nice run with big boulders that we could stand on and a nice hole on both the upper and downstream ends. Ben came out and stood on the rocks with me. Nessy was with us and took some beautiful pictures as we landed a few trout.

Benny admires our fish.

Nessy also caught a few fish on tenkara. Of all my kids, Nessy has really taken to tenkara and can’t understand what other fly fishers have against it. She feels that it is effective, easy and fun. I snapped a few photos of Nessy with her fish. I’m so proud of that girl!

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Nessy getting it done with tenkara!

After we finished fishing, we went back to camp to relax. However, it wasn’t long before my third daughter, Eden, approached me and said, “Daddy, I really want to catch a fish.”

“I’ll tell you what,” I said to Eden and all of my kids. “If you can catch a fish all by yourself, I’ll buy you a Jamba juice.”

Not only did all my kids take up the challenge, but many of their friends, whose families were camping with us, wanted in on the action and the spoils. I suddenly feared that my wager was maybe a bit too generous.

Eden and her best friend, Becca, went down to the creek below camp and I showed them how to cast with the tenkara rod from the bank, but then left them to their own devises. Surprisingly, those two young ladies caught a bunch of trout. Birch Creek was in a good mood and being generous. I took a few photos as they giggled and took turns. We even let Becca’s little brother, Lincoln bring in a few.

After Eden’s success, my youngest daughter, Lily, wanted her turn with tenkara. Unlike Eden, Lily got right out into the shallow creek and waded beside me in her flip flops. Lily caught two fish that morning and was so excited. I was sure proud of her. Of course, I was starting to feel the forthcoming financial crunch from having to buy so many Jamba Juices for victorious kids.

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Lily picked tenkara up quickly.
 
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Can’t beat that smile.

As Benny, my four year old, watched from the bank, I decided to let him bring in a few in from the bank. No, he didn’t hook them himself. I did and then handed him the tenkara rod. Some of my very favorite pictures of the trip are of him fighting the fish from the bank. I figured that this qualified him for a Jamba Juice too.

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Benny fights a fish on tenkara.

As I will write about in another chapter, “Try Again Tom,” my son Thomas also caught two fish on tenkara. So all of my kids, except my oldest, Emma, who did not try, caught fish (yes, that’s six kids in all if anyone is keeping track).

Call me cheap, but at six bucks a pop, a trip to Jamba Juice for so many kids didn’t seem too financially feasible. So I decided to renegotiate and, instead of Jamba Juice, ended up buying all my kids Stewart’s Key Lime Sodas. That was a little more friendly to my wallet and they loved it!

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Stewarts Key Lime: To the victors the spoils!

Moral of the story: Don’t let your mouth write checks your wallet can’t cash. Tenkara just makes it so fun and easy for kids to catch fish.

BROWN TROUT HEAVEN

(Day One: Part Two)

The fishing was so good Thursday morning on Pine Creek and I Dunno Reservoir that Shawn and I decided not to make the trip into Gunnison to eat dinner at Garlic Mike’s—a world class Italian restaurant—as  originally planned, because we both wanted to keep fishing (now, if it was tacos, we probably would have chosen otherwise). 

Instead, we opted to travel a short distance to a small river, which flows through lush, green pastures.   The creek is actually named after the Indian word for the low point in the mountains where buffalo would cross over, but I’ll call it “Brown Trout Heaven.”  The buffalo are now long gone, but it is not uncommon to meet a bovine beauty queen along its bends and runs. 

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Shawn caught a cutthroat at Brown Trout Heaven.

 

Robert Traver aptly wrote “trout do not lie or cheat and cannot be bought or bribed, or impressed by power, but respond only to quietude and humility, and endless patience.”  Nowhere is this statement more true than with brown trout.  For years I hunted big browns near home on Idaho’s Snake River with traditional fly fishing gear and streamers and learned to love and respect them.  In my opinion, they are the wariest of the trout family.  It takes both stealth and skill to consistently catch big brown trout.  They spook easily and will generally only hit a fly once before the gig is up.  And, once they get past twelve inches, browns don’t take dry flies as readily as other trout species.  It sure is fun when they do. 

For my trip to Colorado, I only packed my Tenkara USA Rhodo rod and planned to use it exclusively, come what may.  When Shawn and I made it to Brown Trout Heaven mid-afternoon, I fished upstream and Shawn fished down.  The tea-colored creek was still high from the runoff, but the edges were clear.  The wading was a little tough due to potholes, sharp willows, and thick gumbo mud caused by cattle.  A few times, my sandals were sucked from my feet and I had to fish them out of the reeking mess. 

Despite the difficulty, the fishing was excellent as nice browns (i.e. 10 to 12 inches) slurped in my Renegade at each likely looking spot along the edges.  The key was to quietly sneak into casting position, cast precisely to the likely looking spot, keep as much line off the water as possible, and get an absolute dead drift.  Oftentimes, only my fly was on the water when the fish rose. 

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Andy with a decent brown at Brown Trout Heaven.

As the sun started to set, I was fishing a run near the road when Shawn drove up in his truck and watched as I worked a boulder strewn run.  The trout of the day rose to the Renegade in a fishy pocket beneath a willow.  I set the hook and giggled as I fought and landed this 15 inch beauty.  With Shawn patiently waiting, I realized it was time to call it day—a glorious one for sure. 

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The fish of the day.

On the way home, Shawn, who regularly teases me about tenkara, admitted that it is a very effective method of fishing for this size river and that he had mimicked the tenkara techniques with his glass rod that afternoon to great success.  No doubt about it, tenkara worked wonderfully to achieve the stealth and quietude necessary to fool the fish at Brown Trout Heaven.      

 

LIGHTNING STRIKES TWICE

(Day One: Part One).

There’s an old idiom lightning never strikes twice, which means that most people believe that the same rare thing never happens to a person twice.  From my first day of fishing in Colorado with Brother Shawn, I can testify that lightning sometimes does strike twice in the same place–and in more ways than one.

To our chagrin, the Arkansas River was once again blown out for my fourth annual Colorado fishing trip in June of 2016.  Like last year, Shawn and I would have to find other rivers to fish.  As we discussed where to go, we talked about the epic fishing we experienced the previous year on a big creek named after the Indian word for a mountain pass where buffalo would cross over to the other valley (that’s the only hint I’m giving you) and a smaller tributary I’ll call, “Pine Creek.”  Last year the fishing on Pine Creek was epic due to hatching Green Drakes, smaller stone flies, Yellow Sallies, and PMD’s.

“Do you think we’ll see any Green Drakes on Pine Creek?”  Shawn asked hopefully.

“I think it’s possible,” I replied, “but my experience with Green Drakes is that they are hard to time correctly.  It’s usually the classic: You should have been here yesterday! I say we give it a try anyway and hope for the best.”  We both concurred that this was the game plan for our first morning.

When we pulled up to our parking spot early that morning, we both nervously walked up to the creek hoping to see some of the big green mayflies.  The tea-colored creek appeared about the same exact flow as last year.  It was as if we had never left.  It didn’t take long before we saw a spinner drake dancing above a riffle.

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It was like deja vu. The little creek looked perfect!

 

 

“Brother, that’s a Green Drake!  Can you believe that we timed this right?”  Shawn exclaimed.

We both hustled back to the truck and rigged up our rods; Shawn, a Southern Appalachian Glass fly rod, and me a Tenkara USA Rhodo.  I tied on a Green Drake Cripple and was on the creek fishing well before Shawn even had his rod rigged up.  In fact, I had a nice brown hooked, landed and photoed before Shawn even stepped foot in the creek.

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First fish of the trip: A nice brown on a green drake cripple. 

 

Shawn and I decided to fish upstream together and take turns at each likely looking pool, run, or bend.  We were stoked to observe copious amounts of stoneflies, Yellow Sallies, Caddis, PMD’s and a few Green Drakes all along the creek.  Despite the abundant tablefare, Shawn struggled at first to get the finicky browns to take his fly.

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Little Stonefly.

 

“Brother, it’s all about the drag free drift and keeping as much line off the water as possible.  These fish won’t take your fly if they see your line. Tenkara is perfect for this little creek, because the fish are only seeing my fly,” I explained to Shawn.  Shawn followed my advice and soon started catching fish in every likely looking spot with his glass rod.

After catching numerous nice brownies, I lost the Green Drake Cripple that had served me so well.  Shawn struggled to catch fish on the various Stimulator patterns he had tied.  We both naturally gravitated toward the classic Renegade in a size 12, which we tie with a red, purple or blue butt.  In my opinion, the Renegade is one of the most versatile and effective attractor patterns ever created.  We quickly found that Renegade worked just fine as we both caught numerous nice browns and brook trout.

The fishing on Pine Creek was technical in that we had to sneak into casting range to not spook the wary fish and then cast the fly precisely with a drag free drift.  On one bend of the creek, Shawn watched a nice brown rise to the surface and eat a natural fly.  He then cast the Renegade above the brown’s lie at the bend of the creek and we both watched as it drifted perfectly into position.  Of course, the brown rose up, slurped it in and Shawn soon landed him.  Multiple times that day Shawn said out loud: “My favorite fish of the day was that brown that I watched take a natural and then I got him to take my fly.”

“Yes, that was pretty darn cool, brother.”  I had to agree.

As we had the previous year, we fished all the way up to where beaver dams blocked our progress.  In the pond above the beaver dam, we watched trout sipping naturals on the glassy surface.  I then cast the Renegade lightly to where we saw the last rise and the eager fish quickly gulped it in.  When I set the hook, the acrobatic fish blasted out of the water unlike the browns and brook trout before.  I quickly brought the rainbow to hand and we snapped a picture.

With our progress stymied, Shawn and I hiked out of the creek bottom though marshlands interspersed with wild irises–a favorite wildflower of mine–back to the road.  We stopped at the truck for a break and cracked open two Boylan Root Beers.

“Here’s to hitting this creek perfectly two years in a row,” Shawn said as we clinked our bottles together.

“Amen to that brother.”  The gourmet root beer was the perfect compliment to our morning.

Not wanting to call it quits on Pine Creek, we decided to hike downstream a ways and fish back up to the truck.  As we hiked, three cow elk blasted out of the creek bottom and up a pine-covered hillside.  We took it as a good omen.  The creek downstream looked excellent and we were excited to give it a try.

We didn’t fish long, however, before a dark storm cloud rolled over the little valley.  As we approached another little beaver pond, the heavens let loose with thunder and lightning.  I don’t mind fishing in the rain, but standing in a creek with a lightning rod during an electric storm is just plain dumb.

“We better get the heck out of here!” said Shawn as we witnessed lightning flash overhead.

“Yeah, buddy.  Let’s get out of Dodge!”

As we were both trying to get out of the creek, I stepped into thick mud and pea-sized gravel suddenly filled my Simms wading sandals making the going extremely tough and painful.  Moreover, my fly snagged on a willow near the beaver dam and I struggled to get it loose.  All the while, thunder boomed and lightning cracked all around me.

Not long after I pulled the fly free, marble sized hail starting to pummel us.  Shawn decided that it was each for his own and he bolted down the trail to the truck as fast as he could.  I, on the other hand, hobbled along as the gravel in my sandals tortured my poor feet.  Yet, I didn’t dare stop to take off my shoes because of the overhead onslaught of hail that stung my neck, ears and arms.  My only recourse was to pull my fishing vest up over my head and keep moving.  To my relief, I soon saw the truck and jogged over to it despite the rocks in my sandals.

By the time I reached the truck, there was an inch of hail on the ground.  As I took shelter in the truck, Shawn laughingly reported that he had filmed my misfortune with his phone.

“Dude, that really sucked!” I hollered, “But it was kind of awesome too! I’m just glad we didn’t get struck by lightning. I couldn’t go any faster because I had rocks in my sandals!”

“That was dang scary!  I had rocks in mine too, but I ran anyway.”   Shawn replied.

Despite the crazy weather, we both agreed that the morning was a stellar success.  Lightning had struck twice both figuratively and literally.  Any way you slice it, this was an adventure to remember.

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A bend in my rod at the bend of the creek.