COLUMN: Kids plus fall equals fishing

Joel Evans' grandson Davis Abbott with a fish from Chipeta Lake.

Not having lived in a tropic climate, I can’t say what it would be like to have summer year-round. I suppose if that is all you knew, then it would seem great. Oh, I know the tropics have their seasonal variations with relatively moderate changes.

But year after year and decade after decade of the same climate seems limiting to me. Although the absence of seasons seems a loss to me, someone from the tropics would likely argue the opposite only in favor of endless summer.

For me, I love summer, but I welcome the change to fall.

So what will you do with your fall season? I suggest taking a kid fishing. Certainly the virus has altered our lives in many ways. I’ll not opine on that — you already know. But I will say that with different thinking these days about our schedules, fall is an ideal time for such an activity.

Parents and grandparents, most notably, but also friends and in-laws and neighbors and maybe even third cousins — pick a nice day here soon before the weather no longer favors a day or an hour on the water to fish and relax with a youngster.

I know, kids are so involved in activities through school or clubs that is seems ridiculous to suggest something more. But hey, look at where we live! If you never take a trek into the surrounding hillsides, then you might as well live elsewhere in a concrete jungle.

Ok, so you like the idea. Now where to go? Having fished this area for decades and invited a youngster along a time or two, I have some suggestions.

I know kids want to catch a fish right now and it can take repeated catches to hold their interest. But the commonality of these places is not an abundance of fish that will jump into your net, but rather topography that is easy to get to, relatively safe for kids and open enough for casting and moving around.

Ponds and lakes are the safest and easiest. For a town setting that is short on time and cheap on gas, head to Baldridge Park or Chipeta Lake in Montrose, or Confluence Park in Delta.

Baldridge Park has a pond by the softball fields that has small sunfish that eagerly nip at food. These are little fish, so think small hooks and bait, or flies. Chipeta Lake south of Montrose is stocked with trout, as well as containing catfish, bass and sunfish. The cooler days of fall are more conducive to fishing. A fly and a bubble rig on a spinning rod works great in the afternoon when the fish are actively surface feeding. In Delta, Confluence Lake is larger and warmer, therefore having a little later prime season and a good alternative when recently stocked with trout.

All three — Baldridge, Chipeta and Confluence — are adjacent to rivers. So for the older kids who are big and wise enough to go near a river, you can combine lake and river fishing in one place. These rivers, the Uncompahgre in Montrose and the Gunnison in Delta, are only safe to be around for kids during the late summer and fall when the water flow is lower.

Within an hour of Montrose, look to Buckhorn Lake and Ridgway State Park. Buckhorn is a city park southeast of town on Storm King mountain. Take Buckhorn Road out of Colona. The road to Buckhorn is somewhat rough, best traveled in a truck or SUV. A beautiful setting with two lakes to fish.

Ridgway State Park offers not only the reservoir itself, but also a kids fishing pond below the reservoir. For the reservoir, friendlier access is at the upper, or southern end where the banks aren’t as steep. Below the dam at Pac-Co-Chu-Puk is a small pond with small stocked fish that is very kid friendly.

Another suggestion is local private ponds. I can’t name specifics since they are private, but hey, it’s a small town, people are friendly and sometimes you just ask. If you mention that it is to take a kid fishing and not the adults, then permission is more likely. You probably know a friend or neighbor who has or knows of a place near town.

For the older kids who can be around a river, avoid the high spring and summer flows, but go in the fall when the water is clear and low, and fish are concentrated in the deeper holes. Consider the San Miguel River between Placerville and Telluride, the forks of the Cimarron above Silver Jack Reservoir, and Currecanti Creek across and down from Blue Mesa Dam. These three are easy to get to and offer a good chance at catching fish.

Take a kid fishing — it will do the both of you good.

Joel L. Evans is an avid fisherman, outdoor writer and photographer who has explored Colorado for decades.

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