Colorado Winter Fishing

As rivers start to warm, let's reflect on the awesomeness of winter fishing with kids!

  • Jason Dinsmore, Director of Conservation Partnerships, National Wildlife Federation Great Lakes Region
  • Jun 28, 2023

Don’t let perfect get in the way of good enough.  I’ve used that phrase plenty over the years in my career as a lobbyist, policy specialist and organizer of campaigns of all levels.  More than once (read plenty of times), I’ve had to make the case to those gathered around a common goal or idea, that while they they might not be getting everything they want or be presented with the perfect set of circumstances to continue a march forward, the stars have indeed aligned and what we’re getting is “good enough” to get the conservation victory we sought.  Sometimes it works, sometimes is doesn’t.

Some fights demand the purity of absolute victory, at all costs.  Others, while just as virtuous, have the luxury (is that the right word?) of negotiation and movement whereby victories can be secured in face of stalemate or loss.  With that said, I found myself on the other side of the discussion last week in an unexpected situation. Fishing.

Winter fishing

I’m a jack-of-all trades angler.  Definitely not a specialist in any one technique or pursuit, I house an avid desire to be in the out-of-doors; be it on a river, lake, or ocean.  Casting, fly fishing, trolling, bait  (of all types) fishing, shore, boat, ice…I’m there.  Worse than my own fishing neurosis, I’m willingly contagious, seeking to engage as many others in the sport as possible, my kids chief among them.

My older son, Logan (13…teenager!) has been an easy convert.  His passion for fishing has come on strong over the last two years and it is something that, honestly, I found myself in new territory over recently.  We were in Colorado for spring break.  Technically, we were there to ski.  My wife had organized the trip and designed it as a family ski trip.  We’d be visiting a family condo we’ve been to many times, so we also knew that the fishing would be pretty good in early March, assuming we could find a river open enough for it.  So Logan and I packed our waders, fly rods, and whatever else could fit in our river bag.  With that, a ski trip became a fishing trip with some skiing.

Child with trout

Our first day in the mountains was a ski day.  That morning, on the slopes, at lunch, and on the way home Logan’s constant inquiry was whether we were going fishing “today.”  I demurred each time, wanting to respect my wife’s intention that this be a family skiing trip, while also knowing that I hadn’t scouted the rivers, spent any time “researching” (visiting the local fly shop), or any of the other things I would usually do in preparation to taking to the water, or a specific waters, for the first time that year.  Words matter.  Beyond that, how those words are perceived matter.  What he heard, and what he reported to my wife, was “Dad doesn’t want to go fishing with me.”  CRAP!  Fail.

Family skiing together

I was letting my need/desire to present him with the “perfect” outing, get in the way of just going out and experiencing one.  We had the gear.  Nothing was really holding us back from venturing out for a few hours.  Yes, I was hoping to put new leaders on our lines that night. And I didn’t know what flies were “hot” on the river (or if we had them in our boxes).  And I honestly didn’t know which river we were going to try (I had a few options pre-scouted online).  But it didn’t matter.  He just wanted to get out, and the need to have it be the most “fish-productive” outing didn’t outweigh that.  So there it happened…my wife kindly reminded me of one of my favorite sayings, “don’t let perfect get in the way of good enough.”  Honestly, she chuckled at turning it on me, and I deserved it.

Cards on the table, we didn’t catch anything on that first evening out.  But it didn’t matter.  He just wanted to get on the river and he wanted me to do it with him.  That should have been enough and in the end it was…thanks to a kind reminder from a person there for the skiing, but never one to lose the forest for the trees.

End note. The rest of the week was spent skiing most mornings, fishing most afternoons, and all was right in the world.  Logan landed more fish than I can count and he learned, applied, and mastered proper netting and release techniques, things I would have had to do for him previously.

As the Director of Conservation Partnerships for the northern Great Lakes, Jason Dinsmore keeps NWF’s independent affiliate organizations connected to NWF to set our priorities and help accomplish our mission while connecting NWF resources to them to help accomplish their missions. Not only that, but Jason previously worked for one of his affiliates and recently served as interim executive director for another.

Hunter with harvest


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The Great American Outdoors Act will fully and permanently fund the Land and Water Conservation Fund while investing in a backlog of public land maintenance, providing current and future generations the outdoor recreation opportunities like boat launches to access fishable waters, shooting ranges, and public lands to hunt as well as the economic stimulus we need right now. 

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