Go With The Flow – Tenkara Waters With Stronger Currents

On August 15, 2022
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Written by Martin Montejano

The flows on one of my favorite rivers are just about perfect, the fish are biting, and they should be hanging in the stretches of riffles and deep pools until the end of the season! 

While I plan to spend most of my time over the next few months fishing around the boulders and cobbles that line the bed and banks of the river, I will be reinstating a few practices that I’ve found to be helpful on tenkara waters with stronger currents.

The first thing is safety! Being out on the river in an area where cell reception is shoddy at best means I have to assess my movements with a more reserved perspective. A combination of swift flows and slippery rocks can make wading a bit sketchy. I often find myself walking upstream, then wading and fishing my way back down when there may not be any good casting spots along the banks. Moving with the current is much easier and less exhausting than trying to fight against or cross it. Making sure my feet are firmly planted before each step helps to ensure I won’t slip as I move along the rocks. I also suggest using any firm, sandy little trails along the bed or banks whenever you’re able to as you move to the next run. Climbing out of the water and onto a boulder can also put you in a tough spot to get back into the water when the currents are strong, or the rocks are slippery. Use your best judgment when using a large rock for a break or to get a higher casting point!

While you work your way either upstream or down, be sure to look back on pools you’ve previously fished as you move. Sometimes a difference in positioning and perspective can give you a better opportunity to present the fly than you had before. Take advantage of the different angles you can fish a pocket or section of riffles and try different presentations. A presentation that may not have worked on the first few tries might be better received when tried from a different angle. On the other side of that, your bodily position in relation to where you’re fishing may also open up opportunities for a different presentation!

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As you fish the pools and riffles, one of the best spots to cast to are the eddies that swirl around the back of large rocks or line the banks. Food (for fish) often gets trapped in the little whirlpool that circles around in the slower-moving pockets making it easy for a trout to hold there and have its meal delivered. One of the strengths that is offered by a tenkara rod is to be able to hold the line off of the water, enabling you to hold a fly in a spot without the interference of the current that flows between you and that spot. Be sure to use this to your advantage! A stiff hackle fly such as a futsu kebari is perfect for these spots, as it tends to stay anchored a bit better in the circular current and holds a better profile than that of a sakasa. 

If you are fishing with a sakasa kebari or another soft hackle fly, dead drifting the fly and then pausing it right around a boulder or just outside of the pocket behind it can entice a strike as well. Tomeokuri can be very effective when done right. By keeping the rod tip at an angle and briefly holding it at a point where the line tightens and stops the fly in its drift, you can suspend the kebari and cause the hackle to open up while it’s suspended in the current.

Be sure to use your positioning to your advantage and to create the best opportunity to present the fly to a waiting trout.

At the end of a stretch of riffles, you can often find a deep pool. Using the water that rushes over the rocks can be a great way to sink a fly into the deeper water, giving you another opportunity to present the fly to waiting trout. A simple dead drift is the best way to start off after the fly dives down into the water. From there, a Leisenring lift will often catch the attention of a fish that may be waiting a bit further away from the inward flow of water. By slowing the movement of the rod tip and putting more tension in the line, you create an upward movement of the fly. To add a slight animation in the fly, slowly drawing little circles in the air with the rod tip will impart a swimming motion. Combining this slight pulsation as the fly rises toward the surface can be a killer combination when fishing a deeper pool. When you do get a strike and set the hook, just be aware that the flows in the deeper pools can be a bit deceiving at times.

Whether you’re fishing in a stretch of riffles or in a pool, be prepared to move a bit when you do hook into a fish! Fighting a fish in stronger flows can be difficult. While they won’t often swim against the flow, fish will use the current to try to get away from you. I have lost plenty of catches to powerful currents, whether it’s in the riffles or a strong current in a pool. So now, instead of fighting them, I try to redirect them. Safely moving downstream and away from the water when possible makes easy work out of what could be a long struggle. Using the rod tip to steer or coax the direction of where the fish moves can keep them out of the stronger flows and help you bring it into a slower patch of water, closer to the bank, and into the net!

While these tips can help while fishing swifter currents, they can also be applied to smaller creeks as well, although some of the presentations may require more space to perform. Be sure to be safe on the water and have fun!


Martin Montejano is a Northern California-based fixed-line angler. From spring-fed creeks in the mountains to rivers that run through deep-cut valleys, he fishes a multitude of waters in and around the Sierra Nevadas.

You can follow along as he shares his adventures and experiences at @sagehearttenkara on Instagram.

Martin’s favorite TUSA rod is the ITO™ 13′ / 14’7″ (adjustable)

You may also be interested in reading some of Martin’s other posts about Tenkara Techniques:

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