As a professional angler and TV show host, I get the ol’ “what’s your favorite…” question all the time. Could be lure, rod, reel or whatever…peeps want to know the fav’s. In almost all cases where the question involves tackle, I can’t honestly answer the question; my favorite is simply the one that works for the condition I’m facing when the question is posed. Having said that, I can name fav’s when it comes to fish species - loves me some largemouth bass in freshwater and snook in the briny stuff - and places to fish. And when pressed to name my favorite place to ISUP fish and frolic, I can easily name a winner…
Horsetooth Reservoir is an iconic Colorado cool water reservoir hanging in the foothills just west of Fort Collins. Boasting 2000 surface acres, and almost 100 miles of shoreline at full pool, “The ‘Tooth” as it’s locally known is a growing hotbed for all sorts of water based activities that has become almost mecca-like for paddlesports enthusiasts, and for good reason. Not only is the lake absolutely beautiful with its red rock formations, four separate dams to contain all seven linear miles north to south, numerous sheltered coves complete with boat-in camping, and a bunch of day use areas that serve to spread visitors out more evenly, but it’s also home to fish ranging from smallmouth bass to trout to tasty walleye. That’s the part my inner angler really likes! Given that surface temperature of this 170 foot deep lake hovers around 70 degrees in summer, bass and walleyes can be found prowling shallow shorelines from about May through late September…a time frame that corresponds nicely with paddle boarding weather. Add the fact that iSUPs can be launched from any of three Larimer County public boat ramps or walked to the water’s edge from Lory State Park which borders the reservoir and you have a recipe for great paddle board fishing. If it’s windy or power boat traffic is too much, simply launch in a sheltered cove, all eight of which are wakeless boating. In a serendipitous twist, bass can be caught in all the coves most of the year.
Another big part of why Horsetooth Reservoir gets my vote for SUP fun is the diversity of users; there are SUP yoga classes, SUP races, and even several SUP rental companies that allow folks to try the sport before buying their own. Clearly, I’m not the only one that thinks Horsetooth Res is a great place to SUP. That The Tooth adjoins a college town - Fort Collins is home to Colorado State University - certainly helps the sense of adventure found here.
Having said all that, I have to be honest…I live on Horsetooth Res. It’s my favorite place to SUP and fish because I can do so on a whim; the lake edge is out the back door. Stressed? No prob…I’ll launch the 1138 Bonefish and paddle and cast my stress away. Have a great day? Awesome…jump on the board, load up my Black Lab Danger, and celebrate with a summer evening paddle sesh. In my mind, anytime a hobby can be easily participated in, it’s a good thing, and I keep both the 1138 and 1132 Bonefish boards inflated and ready all season. For the record, a few fishing rods stay rigged and ready as well.
For those visiting the lake, smallmouth bass are the primary species you’ll encounter. Try surface poppers on fly or conventional tackle for maximum fun, but streamers and jigs work great as well. If you’d rather try your luck at walleyes which are a serious challenge from a paddleboard, fish rocky main lake banks during low-light periods, and at the other end of the difficulty spectrum, SUP’ers can easily catch bluegills around shoreline bushes on ultralight fly or conventional tackle.
When you add it all up - the easy access, vibrancy of the users, combination of a big lake with plenty of sheltered water, and the popularity of amongst the SUP community already, it’s easy to see why Horsetooth Reservoir gets my nod as the favorite. Waking up to the lake view each morning only cements my opinion!