October in Colorado is as close to perfection as you might find anywhere in the country. The air is cooling in the evening and morning, but there is still a midday warmth that keeps you comfortable in your favorite t-shirt. Hillsides are lit up with the golden glow of aspens and meadows have begun the shift from greens to browns.
With a limited number of warm weather days remaining, I’m thinking about all of the trips that I’d like to take this Fall – camping trips, kayaking trips, fishing trips, hiking and hunting trips and I realize that I’m facing a free time deficit. What I typically think of as outdoor adventure requires a fair amount of planning, travel and a half or full day commitment. Often, the magnitude of the “adventure planning” can sabotage the opportunity to get out into nature. This is not to say “Don’t plan big trips.” I’m simply saying there is big value in small trips.
So, what if we take a more pragmatic approach to getting outdoors? We look to capitalize on the scientifically-backed mental and physical health benefits by actively participating in short adventures, rather than solely planning grand adventures that live in bucket lists. This is how my personal pond fishing challenge was born.
To kick off the challenge, I asked my wife what she thought about heading to a neighborhood pond and doing a little fishing. At first, she gave me a funny look, but after a minute she asked for more details. I told her it would be a catch and release trip and we would leave the cellphones at home (I left out the part where I would be bringing a camera and recording everything).
With several publicly accessible ponds within a five-minute drive of our house, the plan was to get out and back while our son was at soccer practice. Everything about the outing was pretty straightforward, so we decided to up the ante by fishing with a bubble and fly. And as an added challenge, we set a hard budget for our supplies.
Keep it simple
We had never fished the pond, but we figured there would be typical warm-water fish, probably some bass and bluegills. With our spinning rods at home, we only needed a couple of additional supplies. A quick pass through the fishing aisles to grab six flies including wooly buggers and hopper patterns, a couple of bubble floats and a pack of snap swivels and we were fully outfitted for the adventure.
Pulling up to the pond to fish put the setting in a new light. We both surveyed the pond and picked out spots. With the Flatirons as a backdrop, the pond felt like it had been pulled from the pages of a calendar. It’s funny how easy it is to overlook the beauty that’s often the backdrop of any Colorado excursion, be it local or a trip to the mountains. I’m not sure who said it first, but we shared the same sentiment. “What a beautiful pond.”
Immersed in the environment, we ended the small talk and got down to the fishing. We flipped for flies – Helaine won a woolly bugger and I got my pick of hoppers. With our bubbles half-filled with water and flies tied to the end of the six-foot monofilament leaders, we were ready to go.
Three or four casts in, I noticed Helaine was already landing her first fish – a small bass. To record the event, I dropped my rod and ran over for a quick fish photo. With the obligatory photo checked off, we returned to our fishing. The action was on the slow side, but it didn’t matter. The weather was great, the scenery amazing and we were not on our phones or the couch.
I invite you to join in my challenge or some variation of it. Find a nearby fishing spot and head out for an hour on a weeknight after work. Whether you’re putting on waders and grabbing your favorite fly rod or heading to the store to pick up your first fishing rod, the concept is the same. Challenge yourself, your friends and your family to get outdoors and reap the benefits. The neighborhood ponds are waiting.
Our fly and bubble supplies
Written and edited by Doug Skinner. Skinner is an editor for Colorado Outdoors Online and is a media specialist for Colorado Parks and Wildlife.