Tenkara Trip Reports Trout & Char

Breathtaking Brookies (& Cutthroats)

The day had finally arrived! I was extremely excited to cash in an offer to go fishing with Karel Lansky during the 2014 Tenkara Summit in Colorado. Karel and I had been friendly online for several years, and briefly met at the 2012 Summit in Salt Lake City, Utah, however I was never fortunate enough to share water with him.

Swinging by the hotel around 7 AM, followed by a quick pit stop at Dunkin’ Donuts, Karel & I sped off to our fishing destination of the day, the North St. Vrain Creek via the Wild Basin Trailhead. Karel was excited to try and get me a greenback cutthroat, while I was pretty thrilled just to be going after some colorful brookies. (He later explained that brookies aren’t as loved out West as they are in the East; they’re considered invasive and have crowded out native species).

Michael Agneta - Breathtaking Brookies Cutthroat - Trailhead

To say this area was picturesque was a total understatement. I honestly wasn’t prepared for the beauty of the cascading water as we waded the creek and walked the trail upstream. While some of the tighter areas were somewhat similar to some water I’ve fished back East, the scale was just magnificent to behold. Huge boulders, plunge pool after plunge pool, pocket water galore, big downed trees… damn, this was some beautiful water.

Michael Agneta - Breathtaking Brookies Cutthroat - Beautiful Water

We started out the day beneath some falls, plucking out a few eager brookies. Karel was kind of disappointed that the fishing was “slow,” but I was having a blast. He probably didn’t understand that when I fish, the “numbers” are usually kept on one hand. I think those fishermen out West are just spoiled! That said, he was certain things would pick up once the sun got a little higher in the sky and things warmed up a bit.  He was right.

We continued to work our way upstream, sometimes taking turns working the same water, other times spreading out a bit and leaving some space in between.  It seemed the further we went, the better the fishing!  Brookie, brookie, brookie, brookie! Certain runs and pools were just rapid fire. I probably caught a dozen, Karel easily 2x that; it seemed every stretch we tried held fish, it was just a matter of figuring out how to get them to hand. We were so into it, we really didn’t even stop to take a lunch break, only hungrily chomping down trail mix and Clif bars on the go.

Then the trail went slightly vertical, and my sea level lungs were not quite ready for it. Screw you altitude! We kept going up because the higher up we went, the more likely we’d be able to get into some greenback cutthroat trout. But once we got to where the trail leveled out again, I thought my lungs were going to explode. Hunched over, I told Karel to fish at the first run while I composed myself and tried not to pass out.

After a little bit I was fortunate enough to gather enough of my wits to get that first greenback cutthroat hanging out right beneath the froth of a small plunge pool. I’ll be honest, my head was still swimming, so I’m not sure I let out the proper amount of emotion once the fish was brought to hand. It did feel damn good though, and was well worth the pain.

Michael Agneta - Breathtaking Brookies Cutthroat - Greenback Cutthroat Trout

We continued up, as it was Karel’s turn to catch his greenback cutt, which he did slightly after we reached Calypso Cascades. It was a very nice fish, I wish the picture was better.

Karel also picked up another greenback cutt on the way back down in one of the most “gangster” ways to do so. He basically walked in to a spot. Cast once, and BAM! Fish on. It was so awesome to see, kinda like Babe Ruth calling his shot!

Michael Agneta - Breathtaking Brookies Cutthroat - Karel Lansky

We fished our way back down to the car, each picking up a few fish along the way. It was much easier hiking down than it was going up.  

Michael Agneta - Breathtaking Brookies Cutthroat - Upstream Plunge

The ride back to the hotel was probably just as enjoyable as the fishing. Karel is a very entertaining story teller, and we traded tales of work, families, including our similarly aged daughters (who both happen to love Minecraft), and other random things, like the first three Star Wars movies (chronologically, not numerically).

I honestly could not have asked for a better afternoon hopping rocks, probing pocket water, hiking trails, and trading tales.

It was a pretty outstanding day of fishing that I won’t forget very soon and I can’t thank Karel enough for showing me around and playing the role of unofficial “guide.” I hope to return the favor some day!

Gear Summary:

  • Tenkara USA Rhodo
  • Tenkara USA 2.5 Level Line
  • Assorted Sakasa Kebari
  • Tenkara USA Tamo (net)
  • Karel taught me his method of fashioning homemade “EZ keepers” out of brass paper tacks and rubber bands for easy line management
Michael Agneta - Breathtaking Brookies Cutthroat - Tenkara USA Rhodo with keepers

This article originally appeared in the Fall 2015 issue of Tenkara Angler magazine.

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  1. Hi Mike – I remember that day very well, one of those that will stick in your memory for many years! It was great fun fishing with you, hopefully we’ll be able to repeat this soon! Cheers, Karel

    1. Ah, yes. It was definitely a fun memory that popped up as I’ve been re-posting old Tenkara Angler magazine articles to the website. Karel – You may not know/recall this, but it was also my first time fishing in Colorado (well, not counting dabbling in the creek that ran next to the hotel I was staying at), so it was incredibly memorable for me.

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