Sunday, February 12, 2017

Unfinished Business - Tenkara USA Summit 2015

Well I'm excited to hear that Tenkara USA will be hosting another Summit this year in Estes Park, CO in September. I was at the last one, and it was the kind of experience that helps connect the dots, if you know what I mean?

I was looking at old photos and it dawned on me that I had never really finished the third and final installment of that series as I had intended to, which covers the last day of the trip on some beautiful water. Better late than never...

The morning started when a number of us gathered to fish a meandering meadow section of river. I'm not sure if I remember the whole crew but I believe it was Daniel, his wife, TJ, Yoshikazu Fujioka, Go Ishii, Adam Trahan, Mike Willis, Mark and maybe someone else? Its been almost two years, so cut me some slack ;)

The meadow stream was pretty, but it was full sun and the fish would surely be spooky. At this stage I was still nymphing with a Keiryu rod quite often and I must have looked silly casting with the rest of the crew, who were mostly fishing Tenkara... its funny to look back and laugh at myself now.

Daniel was taking some photos, and I was kind of just enjoying the surroundings and trying to reach the overhang on the far bank, hoping that I could annoy a trout into darting out from its cover to grab my fly. I got a few nice strikes but somehow failed to connect. 

Walking back down stream, I found Ishii-San casting to the only set of riffles in the whole area, created by a very minimal change in elevation on the stream. Unlike everyone else, he was fishing downstream disco... and pulling them in one after another. It was quite funny to watch. He knew something most other people didn't, and he was one of the only anglers catching fish on this stretch.

After a while we all gathered back near the cars and waited for a few lingering anglers. While we waited, a large bull-elk walked out of the forest and slowly meandered towards the road. Undeterred by cars and people, the elk clearly wanted to cross the road and get to the meadow we had just fished.

As is the case with wildlife, this bull-elk didn't really care much for cars or people and decided to pay no mind to any of that... the driver of the car, which was moving quite slowly already, clearly didn't understand this basic reality of life and almost got trampled by the elk. It was quite entertaining to watch.


We got the message and backed away as it walked along the fence, looking for a place to access the meadow and be on its way. Everyone laughed nervously and looked on as the elk harmlessly walked by, snapping photos in awe.

After that we said some goodbyes, and I was off to explore some more! I started by driving the road that went towards the Continental Divide, gaining some serious altitude and watching the mercury dive. It was breathtaking to say the least.

What you can't see in the photo below is the way those mountains USED to look, with glaciers and snow remaining ALL YEAR. I wish my camera hadn't cut that off. It was a shocking reminder that Climate Change is undeniably real. There's a feeling I can't quite communicate here that I felt, and it was deep.

Glaciers or not, the scenery was spellbinding.

I continued up to the area where the Divide is and it was basically like alpine tundra in all directions.

I started to feel a little light-headed from being that high up so suddenly, and so I decided it was probably a good time to head back down to a reasonable altitude below 9K. I headed for a section of stream I had wanted to fish the previous day.

And it was heaven.

I was catching some rainbows in the lower section of the stream and enjoying the afternoon sun.

The fall colors were just setting in, and I was lucky enough to be able to experience some of this magic in person.

On this stream I ended up landing rainbows, browns, brookies AND cutthroats. It was a particularly fun day due to this "grand slam."

I cannot remember if each of these photos of fish were my catches, or if some were caught by another angler I had met at the event, as we fished together for some of that afternoon. I believe at least a couple are his...

I believe his name was David? But again, its been a long time.... if you're reading, please comment below so we can re-connect if you plan to return to the Summit again this year?

After a while I was starting to feel the altitude. I stopped to eat some lunch and take a break to enjoy some of Colorado's finest "special green dubbing" material ;) I am glad I have good balance, because at 24% THC, this was was a heavy hitter. I instantly felt better and my appetite returned... it was a much needed break.

After lunch, my blood sugar was back to normal and I felt great. I continued to fish up the stream - the increase in the gradient was yielding more plunge pools, and more brookies & cutts than down below. These fish do much better in the headwaters than the browns and rainbows.

Things got tight higher up and I switched from Tenkara casting, to lobbing a bead with a shorter line.

This is a pretty typical example of a bead head fly that I tie. This one was tied in about 30 seconds the night before, with borrowed materials. I wasn't even planning to use it, but it was the only bead left in my box at this point. It must have grabbed 20-30 fish... and still going strong.

These shaded pools are perfect habitat for headwaters trout.

Up top it was mostly cutties, as even the brookies began to fade. I began to hear branches breaking around me and I hoped it was an Elk rather than something else. I couldn't see whatever animal it was, and (maybe) luckily I never found out.

I was too distracted by fishing and climbing between some nice plunges to be concerned about the wildlife, and I figured I would have seen whatever it was if it was something approaching me and posing any danger...

On the way down I snapped one last photo of the early fall colors. My adventure may have been at an end for this trip, but the memories and people have stuck with me since that day.

Looking forward to the 2017 Tenkara USA Summit, hope to see you there!

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