Most of us nod our heads at the old cliché, “Dance like no one else is looking.” Well, the same is true about learning to fish, or getting back into the sport after a lifetime of being a responsible adult.
Since my own retirement right after the turn of the millennium, I’ve been a zealous member of the Loveland Fishing Club, (Our Motto: the club is open to everyone, but we fish during the week and we meet at the Chilson Senior Center). Over the years we have welcomed a fairly steady stream of newly retired folks. A few join us with enviable skills, armed with the latest equipment and knowledge of some or all freshwater sport fish. Most were like me, though, a guy who remembers being a legendary angler in my teen, but that was half a century ago and I sometimes forget things. They come seeking fishing buddies and maybe a little help getting back in the game. Let’s talk about how to do that. This will be the first in an occasional series on what some of us have learned the hard way, and how you may choose to restart your own fishing passions. Please feel free to join the discussion.
First, I think most of our newer members are reluctant to talk about their skill level, or more importantly, reluctant to ask for a little guidance. Truth be told, most of us like to talk about what we’ve learned about fishing as much as what we actually catch. And most of our long-time buddies really don’t want to hear our cherished opinions about lure choices or how to read the water. So you can take advantage of our lack of a reliably good audience.
Also, one frustrating but ultimately wonderful aspects of fishing in the Rocky Mountain region is, there are many species to choose from, and many ways to enjoy the chase. You can pick one, like stream fly fishing or tournament bass or walleye fishing. Or do like me and many other members of my generation of reborn anglers (again with the cliches’): become a “Jack of all Trades, Master of None.” If you do that, you may not be the very best trout or bass or walleye fisherman. But you can keep on learning and improving right up to the moment they pry your rod from your cold dead hands.
I don’t claim to be an expert on any one type of fishing (and regularly prove that on the water.) I DO know that most of the national fishing shows you can find on television or You Tube channels are created by anglers who live in other parts of our nation. Personal opinion: an awful lot of what is offered as Gospel from Southern and Midwestern anglers will not work worth in our fishing holes around here. Thank the good Lord for local legends like Terry Wickstrom, Bernie Keefe and Dan Swanson, who know what works around here, and when, and are willing to share. But you also have to figure the finer points of Colorado fishing for yourself.
So. You have barely fished for years and can’t quite remember how that happened. If you’re ready to get back in the game, be prepared for surprise: the sport and its options have changed drastically. Don’t start by rushing and investing in a bunch of Powerbait jars and a spin cast rig like you had as a kid. Think first about where you live, what kind of fish thrive in your area, and whether you can over time parlay your spouse’s outrageous spending on other hobbies to justify a few reasonable investments of your own.
In our little corner of the world, I have evolved to where I get by with lighter and lighter spinning tackle. I have some nice fly rods, and bait casters, and heavier spinning gear, but they’re gathering dust. Around here, unless you want target catfish, I’d recommend medium light or even ultralight equipment. The sensitivity and castability of a modern-day quality, well-balanced rig is a thing of joy. But honestly, you’ll find even pretty inexpensive gear is pretty darned good in the 21st Century. So start thoughtfully, but start small. Stick to a brand you recognize or a friend recommends, and do the same with baits. You WILL probably want to switch to a better quality line. We’ll talk about that and various rigging options in a future column.
You don’t want to get too heavily invested in gear only to discover an unexpected love for something like fly fishing high country lakes, or Tenkara for tiny fish on tiny high country streams. You may learn to love fly fishing for carp; that’s going to require heavier gear than most of our trout or bass. Truth is, here in northern Colorado we enjoy a multitude of species, but live with the fact that
- Growing seasons are short, occasional drought is just something that will happen now and then, and water conditions are subject to human as well as divine intervention.
- Someone else owns all the water and
- Those same folks are notoriously willing to drain your favorite fishing holes without warning or apparent conscience.
You may find yourself with companions willing to travel for their sport, which will open your options tremendously. If so, be really nice to them, and flexible. If not, for now think a lot about the waters close to you, and the opportunities they present.
If you are blessed with reasonably experienced fishing companions, start by just going wherever they want to go, and try to figure out why. They may just be creatures of habit, fishing for the same stocked trout or stunted bluegill season after season. But hopefully their choices are based on the quality of the resource and, equally important, the season.