The Poudre River is recovering from the 2012 High Park fire, and it is apparent that she has been impacted by the fire and the wear and tear is obvious. One is initially grabbed by the impact the fire had on her and words do not come easy as you stand at the bank and you think about what she will still have to endure. The sediment has made stretches of the lower Poudre look like moonscape. The sediment is thick, black and has removed definition from some parts of the banks. The smell of wet sand and a slight hint of sulfur are in the air around the wet sand.
Yet there is a confidence and a hidden strength in her that you sense and you know that she will be okay. Just beyond the silt covered banks, new life is already taking hold. Vegetation is refusing to yield to the fire, the birds are announcing that spring is here and even though winter is still refusing to let go of its grip, my friend is going to be okay! She faces additional trials as Colorado has not had the snow fall yet that we need to ensure a normal spring and summer; however, there are those that would call the drought the new normal... I am still optimistic and holding out for more snow. Mother nature will take care of her own! Although pretty bummed, I became excited about the potential and being able to be by my friend's side as she calmly and quietly went about her recovery.
Amazing, never asking for anything and always knowing that in the end she would be okay!
It was 8:00 am on Friday morning and I was surprised to only see a handful of fly fishers that were as excited as I was about the 70 degree projected weather forecast and the ability to throw some nymphs. You might recall, the last time I was fishing on the Poudre, I was standing on an ice pack. Today was different... It was clear, sunny, and no wind. A calm sense that is not always found along US 14 was welcoming. I drank my coffee and took everything in around me. Those that fish with me know that it takes me a while, read very slow, to get on the water. I take a few minutes to let life get placed on hold and a strange sense of meditation takes over me. I find that fishing zen place, you have all been there.
I decided to use my Tenkara and stay in the frame of mind I was in... Tenkara, chest pack, waders and sunflower seeds. Off I went. It was a rare occasion that I was on the river by myself and not fishing with one of my fishing buddies; however, life does happen.
I appreciated the quiet. If you have not given Tenkara nymph fishing a try, find someone that has a rod and try it! I am constantly blown away by the silence when I am fishing with the Tenkara. I know you wouldn't think that the reel makes that much noise but you would be surprised. I appreciate the simplicity. I have found that given the fact that I have limited amounts of line at my disposal, I have to be better at reading the water, finding the route I am going to take, and focus on my presentation that much more. It is an overwhelming simplicity!
The sun was just peaking over the tops of the foothills. The river was perfect...no wind, NO ICE, and although the water was low for this time of year I was excited about the number of holes, runs, and pockets that were yelling fish. The water was clear and the sun had not reached large sections of the river and I could see the bottom very easy. The river made the gentle white noise that drowns out our cares and helps us transport to another place. Although the air temperature was warm enough to go without a fleece jacket, the bite of the water against my boots and waders left no doubt that I should not forget that it was still March in Colorado. You could smell the wet sand, the moisture from the morning air, and the light hint of sulfur from the fire sediment. No rising fish, oh wait, wasn't looking or counting on them.
I was unsure whether or not I would find fish let alone fool them into thinking I had something they wanted. I fished for approximately three hours and I soon discovered that the fish were still in the water, holding in there normal winter lies, and where just as excited to let me know they were there as I was to know that they were there. The drifts had to be slow and close to the bottom; however, the fish had no problem letting you know when you were in the zone.
I managed to convince rainbows ans browns that I had something they wanted to eat. A few of those that made my day are below. All beautiful fish... The fish ranged in size from 8 -16. A 16 inch rainbow with a winter hang over the the fish of the day. I used a size 18 black zebra midge and a size 18 olive ABU. With the exception of two, all were caught on the ABU. The drift was very slow and I tried to stay as close to the bottom as possible.
The weather held the entire three hours that I fished. I took time to admire the resiliency and the beauty that is the Poudre River and smiled to be able to enjoy it if only for a few hours.
The fish are alive and well as we approach whatever the spring run off will be. Their next test and the next hurdle for the river will be the ash and sediment that finds its way into the river.
The Poudre is going to be the quality fishery it has always been. When you get a chance on the next trip you take, stop and appreciate how small we are. How small our worries are. The next time you stand on the banks of your favorite home water, image the stories the river could tell if we could only understand it!