Forgiving Boulder Creek is a story written by Sasha Barajas about her discovery of tenkara and renewed connection with Boulder Creek, which was subject to alarming floods last year. It is a feature story in the first Tenkara Magazine. The story has been receiving great feedback and we thought you’d enjoy reading it. Photographs by Kate Mason
Forgiving Boulder Creek
About a quarter-mile from the hustle and bustle of downtown Boulder, Colorado runs a small creek. In the heat of the summer giggles are frequently heard as children wade in the water and college students aboard black tire tubes float by. This autumn, with several days of heavy rain, the creek grew to monstrous proportions, enveloping the landscape and ravaging our mountain town.
Just one month later the creek runs swiftly within its previously defined banks. Although we have resumed biking, running, and skateboarding along the winding Boulder Creek Path, for many of us our relationship with the creek is still on the bedrocks.
With a couple of friends in tow I ascended the windy road into the recently re-opened Boulder Canyon. For me this adventure is not only about learning about tenkara fly-fishing but also to see if I will be able to mend my relationship with the creek.
I have always found fly-fishing to be a bit mysterious. The casting, though a beautiful dancing of the line, has always been a bit too elusive to try to wrap my mind around. Though I have had some experience hunting aquatic life (fishing for stripers from a river dock and unsuccessfully trying for bluefish on a rocky beach in Maine) I recognize that I have much to learn.
Though the all female group I’d collected for this adventure varied in experience and abilities, we all had one shared frustration: was management of the fishing line when reels are involved. Endless twists in the line, dirt and debris jamming up the reel, not to mention annoying casting hiccups. We were all elated to learn that with tenkara fishing has become simplified. After all tenkara fishing only involves a rod, a line, and a fly.
Our ever-so-patient mentor Daniel carefully walked us through setting up the traditional tenkara line and extending the telescopic rod. With our waders adjusted, boots laced up, and wading belts secured we shuffled over the large rocks to the rushing creek below.
Daniel shared with us some fish psychology (who knew fish were spooked so easily?) as well as strategies for positioning ourselves in or along the creek. With rods in hand we were finally ready to give fly-fishing a go.
Overall we found that the slower casting and shorter casting stroke were quite intuitive. One attendee, Salome, noted that for her, “it’s a new, easy technique. Rods are light and easy to handle. I like that the length of the line doesn’t change.” For Margaret, “learning the basics of tenkara was relatively easy (we did have a great teacher). I think mastering tenkara will be a refreshing challenge!”
Though I did manage to catch more trees than fish, I learned a lot about myself and my ability to overcome obstacles. I easily recognized that with fishing I had a choice with challenges as they arose. I could yank on the rod violently in hopes that the line and fly would miraculously free themselves. I could huff, puff, and stomp in the water (probably scaring most of the fish in Boulder Canyon). Or, I could take a breath, assess the situation, pull the tree branch down, and mindfully unwrap the line. Ultimately, the choice was mine.
I am extremely thankful for tenkara, it has taught me a great deal about myself. I am also happy to again think of the Boulder Creek as place to retreat, regroup and be mindful. After all, I’m rarely further than a 10-minute walk away from its banks.