Trip Report by Dave Noll
Each year one of the highlights is a day of fishing with tenkara guide extraordinaire, Paul Vertrees on some small stream in Colorado. I have been fishing with Paul since 2013, first with RIGS Fly Shop out of Ridgway and currently at Royal Gorge Anglers in Cañon City, Colorado.
In 2018 when I checked in with Paul the day before our trip to see where we were headed, he said, “I’m going to take you someplace out of your comfort zone”. Instead of a small stream and kebari we were headed to big water and size 22 nymphs.
Fast forward to 2021. Because of COVID, I missed fishing with Paul in 2020 and was really eager for this year’s trip. Once again the plan was to hike quite a ways up a small creek and fish a small mountain stream. However, nature doesn’t always take our plans into account. The creek (which shall remain nameless) and our second choice, the Arkansas were both blown out. Plan C was, once again, big water using a double nymph setup plus lead shot in order to get to the required depth – a combination I never use.
The area we were headed to is very popular, so we met early and we were rewarded with an empty parking lot. We quickly got down to the river and started fishing. Since we were looking at rainbows and browns well over 20” Paul would ask me at each spot what my plan was for landing a fish. After a while he headed upstream to check out a run where he had seen a very large fish a couple of days earlier. He came trotting back with a big grin and I headed upstream to try our luck.
Long story short, I hooked into my largest fish ever, and with instructions from Paul had it a couple of feet from his net when my Nissin Oni 395 Honryu shattered!
I probably said some bad words and then Paul reached down and picked up the front sections and found that the fish was still attached to the line. I started slowly lining in the fish in but when it was a couple of feet from the net it spit out the size 22 fly which bounced off my sunglasses; we just stood there and laughed.
At that point Paul gave me his DRAGONtail Hellbender to use for the rest of the day. As Paul was setting the rod up we saw another large fish surface and it was game on again. After a few casts I hooked into another beast and this time we got it into the net; it was easily the largest fish I had landed on a tenkara rod.
We fished until noon and then took a break for lunch. Paul always serves up a great meal and he always has an ice cold O’Douls along for me. After lunch we headed back to the river and by the time the day ended I had hooked 18 fish and landed 7. Time and again, after a nice fight, the fish would spit the fly out. We just laughed and handed out high fives. I have often hooked and landed many more fish, but I have never had as much fun or had my heart race like that!
Getting out of your comfort zone isn’t a bad thing. I’m already looking forward to my next trip with Paul.
On this trip Dave used the Nissin Oni 395 Honryu and DRAGONtail Hellbender rods. “I hooked into 6 fish over 20″ and the Hellbender was never even close to being overmatched!” At the end of the set up were Paul’s Tactical Tenkara nymphing line and a Trico that Paul clips the wings short.
Dave Noll lives in the Minnesota Driftless Area and in 2010 decided to take up fly fishing. After reading an article in Backpacking Light, he purchased a Hane, and in early 2012 contacted Chris Stewart about rods to purchase for fishing in retirement. Dave has now fished in 10 states plus Spain and Patagonia and usually gets out over 100 times a year.
This article originally appeared in the Winter 2021-22 issue of Tenkara Angler magazine.
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