Presently, Pueblo’s Arkansas River Tailwater is flowing at 60 cfs. A trickle of skinny water. This is not the best flow for veteran fly fishers who have experienced the fabulous fishing of this past year and even this past summer where we saw reasonable flows between 200-300 cfs. Yet, this skinny water was fine for a group of 4th and 5th graders I took on a field trip this past Friday. The low flows are much more manageable for kids.
For the past two decades, as a teacher and counselor, I have been taking groups of kids on their first fly fishing trip. How could I not? To see kids' faces light up as they catch their first trout on a fly is one of the most amazing experiences. And from an educator's perspective, the fact that such experiences cannot be measured or assessed on some standardized test makes it all the more wonderful.
This past Friday, the kids managed to catch small rainbow trout by drifting a small RS2 fly in the riffles and runs. A size 22 RS2 nymph continues to be one of the most consistent fly patterns for this section of river. The kids were amazed that such a small hook could actually catch fish.
The bigger fish eluded us. That is, for the most part. One 5th grade girl, though, was fishing in a run when suddenly her strike indicator shot up stream. She lifted the rod and was battling a good size rainbow. She respectfully listened to my instruction as she did a great job of letting the fish take out line when it surged away and yet she also kept the slack out and reeled quickly when the fish moved back upstream. Back and forth they battled. He'd bolt upstream. She'd turn him. I could tell she did not really know how big the fish was as it remained below the surface during the fight. Finally, I slipped the net under the 15 inch rainbow and lifted the fish out of the water for her to see. I said, “Look at this fish you caught!”
Her face lit up. Her laughter was ecstatic, perhaps, in part, in disbelief as she observed the colorful rainbow trout in the net. Her first fish. Her first fish caught fly fishing. The skinny waters of Pueblos Arkansas River tailwater is fine for kids and a great place for them to catch their first fish.
See photos of this 5th Grader's first fish on the Angler's Facebook page.
-- Anthony Surage
Orvis 101 Introduction to Fly Fishing
Orvis 201 Streamside