Living in Lyons, Colorado is a wonderful thing. Walking two blocks to the St. Vrain river to drop a fly in the water is certainly a privilege, and one I don’t take for granted. But the town stretch – like many easily accessible Front Range rivers in Colorado – sees a good deal of pressure, particularly in the summer months. Which means it’s time to head up into the local high country, the Indian Peaks Wilderness.
Tenkara fishing to me is inextricably linked with moving through the mountain wilderness. It is so complimentary to hiking and scrambling around in the alpine, it’s almost silly. Here in the Indian Peaks there is an abundance of low volume, high gradient streams full of trout. And then there’s the high alpine lakes. The tenkara lake fishing is phenomenal, and the whole area is tailor-made for this simple method of fly-fishing.
Trip Report by: Brad Trumbo
Dust billowed as my buddy Derek and I traveled an old gravel road through western Augusta County, Virginia. An interesting feature of many streams draining the George Washington National Forest is the myriad small flood control reservoirs which sever wild brook trout streams, isolating populations to the extreme headwaters in many cases. The water behind one such reservoir was our destination.
Many of these reservoirs are well known and stocked with hatchery trout, our destination included. Yet, the volume of fishermen that frequent this reservoir scarcely acknowledges the disguised trailhead leading into one of Appalachia’s wild brook trout strongholds.
Parking under a canopy of sycamore and maple, a lush carpet of jewelweed and poison ivy greeted us, the trail barely noticeable through the greenery. Embarking on the short hike to the river, we immediately noticed brookies darting for cover as we tramped across a shallow riffle. “It’s gonna be a good day!” I remarked, smugly.
Hi I’m Jen, I help manage the social media for Tenkara USA. I usually hang back behind the scenes, but Daniel has asked me to come on here and give you guys an idea about what it’s like to tenkara in my neck of the woods, in Idaho, where I live. I will write a couple of posts for you this summer, but for now we’ll start with tenkara in the Sawtooth Mountains.
A few years ago we decided to sell our home in Colorado and relocated to rural southeast Idaho for a number of reasons, but mainly the fishing opportunities are what caught our eye. Not that Colorado doesn’t have great fisheries, but after living there for a couple of decades we were excited to explore new waters.
World class fishing is literally in every direction from us. The South Fork of the Snake River is our “home water” and flows south. Just north we have Harriman, Henry’s Fork and Yellowstone (and Montana). To our east the Tetons (and Wyoming), and to our west the Sawtooths. We had not explored central Idaho and done tenkara in the Sawtooth Range yet, so we set out to change that.
Since we were trying to keep the packing simple, I chose to only take my Tenkara USA Hane this time. At only 15″ closed and extending out to a length of 10′ 10″, it’s a great option for an all-around adventure rod.
Driving west into the center of Idaho doesn’t initially look very promising. First we had to get through the high desert and home of Idaho National Laboratory (nuclear facilities), so believe me when I say it’s pretty bleak. But as soon as we got to the foothills of the Sawtooths the landscape changed rather quickly from short desert sage shrubs and grasslands, to tall pines and flowing crystal water. You instantly know you’re in the right place, and it’s perfect tenkara water.
While the larger rivers in the foothills are muddy from runoff this time of the year, it’s the little creeks and streams that we were looking for. The higher you go, the smaller and clearer the water becomes. It’s also where the trout are spookiest, so we had to be clever and really watch our approach.
It was really helpful to have the white colored Hane in the open pockets, blending in with the backdrop of the sky instead of looking like a spooky shadow above the water. Our tenacious efforts were rewarded with a few smaller cutthroat gems from skinnier water and a some beefier beauties from the deeper pockets. It turns out the Hane was a terrific rod for tenkara in the Sawtooth mountains, especially as we focused on some of the smaller waters this time.
We only touched a small fraction of the water up there, but it was a great inaugural trip and we will definitely be returning for more. Plus, I didn’t catch a golden trout yet – I know they’re in there!
(If you want to learn more about tenkara fishing in Idaho and tenkara in the Sawtooths, listen to Daniel’s podcast episode on tenkara fishing in Idaho with Chris Hunt.)
Tenkara USA had its origins in San Francisco, California. San Francisco is by no means a fly-fishing destination, but that’s where I lived when tenkara came to me. The best opportunities for tenkara were in the Sierra Nevada. Every opportunity I got, I would make the drive to different parts of the Sierras, exploring its diverse waters as I tested rods, made short films on tenkara and just all around had fun learning tenkara.
Margaret fishing tenkara, Sierra Nevada, California
Because it is such a huge area, Sierra tenkara fishing is unique and varied, and as such the ideal Sierra tenkara rod might vary depending on the focus of your fishing. You can find small waters choked up with trees along the foothills and in some nooks of the mountain range, but you can also find wide open waters with large boulders and few trees, big rivers with calm waters, and tiny meandering meadow streams. This post can not cover every situation possible, so we will paint the Sierra in broad strokes this time as we recommend tenkara rods to consider to fish in the Sierras. Down the road will narrow it down to more specific areas.
Our main recommendation if you’re in California or Nevada and regularly fish different parts of the Sierra Nevada would be our longer rods. This would especially include the Ito, our longest adjustable tenkara rod if you know you like fishing the bigger waters, or the Sato or Iwana, both great all-arounder tenkara rods that travel well from small waters to big, and targeting small to large fish of the Sierras.
Boulder in Colorado is our home, and we fish all the waters around here frequently. Thus this is a good place to start our, “Which tenkara rod to buy for my region?” series. In this case, “Which tenkara rod to buy for Colorado” focusing on the Boulder and Front Range areas.
Boulder sits right on the foothills of the Rocky Mountains. To the West we have the mountains, to the East we have plains. Going North we can reach the larger rivers of Wyoming, and going into the mountains we can choose to fish small streams or large rivers. The diversity of waters around Boulder is one of the reasons we chose to move Tenkara USA here many years ago.
The variety of waters can also mean a variety of tenkara rods can be used successfully around here. But hopefully this will help you narrow down the ideal choice of tenkara rod to use here.
One of the most common questions we get is which tenkara rod to buy for use in “my” area?
We can give two types of answers: a generic “this tenkara rod is ideal for small streams”, “The Ito is ideal for fishing larger streams and rivers”, etc. Or, we can attempt to be more specific to the area where a tenkara angler will find himself. We have done a good job at the first type of answer. But, today, I will attempt to start giving more specific examples focusing on regions where tenkara anglers are going with their tenkara rods and recommending the tenkara gear they need.
This is essentially what we already do when we participate in fly-fishing shows around the country. We normally try to fish while we are visiting a new area, but when we don’t have experience in a particular region, we have local people helping us at our booth who are very good at giving the answers that really resonate with people. Bringing up the imagery of a specific stream a person is already dreaming of fishing makes the future experience real.
Over the weekend I created my longest video/podcast episode for the Tenkara Cast yet. This time I cover everything about tenkara nets (also known as tenkara “tamo”): where do they come from, how they are made, how to use a tenkara net, and how to make your own. I go into a lot of detail into every aspect of tenkara nets in this episode. The episode clocks in at over one hour and twenty minutes, so I also added timestamps of different sections if you’re interested in one area over another.
Please check out a new episode of the Tenkara Cast, in which I discuss my method for covering water, stealth, and fishing in windy conditions. In this episode I also do a 5-minute guided meditation in the end, something a bit out there (as tenkara may be anyways) and hope that it helps someone in these crazy days we are living.
The Tenkara Cast is available via your favorite podcasting app, and now also on Spotify.
NOTE: Our warehouse is still open, but it will be closed for one day on Friday, April 10th. Orders need to be placed by Thursday at 11am MST to avoid delays in shipments. Shipping resumes on Monday, April 13th, but the situation continues to evolve, so get a rod on sale while you can.
We are reviving the Tenkara Cast!
After a fairly long hiatus from recording the podcast, the recent circumstances we are all facing made me realize that our need to connect is bigger than ever. We are being asked to socially distance ourselves, but I think we should simply “Distance together” as I may have heard somewhere the other day.
Fly-fishing content will be a refuge that we can look to for to take a break from the anxiety producing news cycle of today. And, of course, there is getting outside and fishing too, although there may be some restrictions on where can, can’t, should or shouldn’t go at the moment.
There are two episodes that just came online. One a few days ago where I talk about socially distancing, and just a little bit of what kept me from recording over the last year. And, today I recorded this episode on finding and exploring new waters. You can click the images below to listen to each of the episodes right within our site, or you can use your favorite podcasting app to subscribe, just look up Tenkara Cast.
I hope you’ll enjoy these, and I’d love to hear from you about what strategies you use to find new waters and if this time of socially distancing is making you explore waters closer to home, whether you have fished a new place or for new species because of covid-19, or simply how you are using fly-fishing (indoors or outdoors) to cope.