How to Fish Mountain Streams

Adjustable tenkara rods with a Lifetime Warranty

May 20, 2020

Tenkara Cast · How To Fish A Mountain Stream

Mountain streams are a beautiful refuge for anglers, and tenkara really shines in mountain streams above all other methods. Fishing mountain streams has its unique challenges, things to look for, and some techniques that can be handy to know. This episode covers all of that and more so you can make the most of your tenkara rod when you go fish mountain streams.
Coincidentally, and unbeknownst to me, while I was recording this episode, Jen (who handles our social media) was posting this terrific and very timely video on the Tenkara USA Facebook page. It really shows the use of an adjustable tenkara rod, and the side-arm casting technique I discuss in this episode.

Referenced in this article:
Adjustable Tenkara rods
Gaia GPS app*20% discount
Wading boots I like – The Devil’s Canyon are my favorite, and I’ve had one pair I have used regularly for many years

*Affiliate link, Tenkara USA may earn a small commission on these.

Transcript of podcast episode How to Fish Mountain Streams

This is Daniel Galhardo and you’re listening to the Tenkara Cast, the podcast about a simple Japanese method of fly-fishing, tenkara. In the Tenkara Cast, I’ll be sharing information with you on techniques, history, gear and philosophies as well as tenkara stories from anglers all over the world. This podcast is brought to you by Tenkara USA, introducing tenkara outside of Japan since 2009. It is only possible we create content such as this podcast and all the videos that we create because of your support. So we thank you so very much for purchasing Tenkara USA rods, lines and flies. I hope you enjoy learning more about the simple Japanese method of fly-fishing, tenkara.

Hey, everyone and welcome back to another episode of the Tenkara Cast. It’s been a couple of weeks. Actually, it’s been about 20 days since I’ve been able to record a podcast. Apologies, I’ve been wanting to do these about every two weeks or so, but some of you might have seen that we held this mystery box sale about 10 days ago. And that, what that was was a… We just had all of these products that we had accumulated over the years that we couldn’t really put back in inventory, whether it had some damaged packaging. Some of them were demo rods that we used for our shows. Some of them were missing cases. We had a bunch of stuff and we were doing a little bit of spring cleaning. I decided that it’d be fun to just put those out there, instead of having them sit in our storage, let’s put them to good use. So we put these mystery boxes together, just an assortment of things and something that I expected to maybe be in our website for a week at least, we sold out in less than 10 hours. But in the last couple of weeks, Faith, my wife Margaret, myself have just been really busy packing all of those boxes. It’s been a lot, it’s been a lot of work, but it was a lot of fun putting those together and we’re excited to have people started getting them in their hands because we put a lot of thought into that, into the boxes making them really fun. That’s what one of the main things that has been keeping me busy.

The other thing, we have a new shopping platform that’s gonna come out on our website at very shortly. We’re in the middle of tweaking it all, getting it all ready. Hopefully, within about a week, we’re gonna have the new site up and ready. It’s not gonna be a completely new website. We’re just kinda making the shopping interface more intuitive, giving you some tools to look around for the products that we offer and find what you need. But also stay tuned for those future mystery boxes. We kinda get stuff out of inventory once in a while into our office out of our warehouse, so I think we’re gonna have to based on the success we’ve had, instead of trying to do one huge one, maybe we’ll try to do something a little bit more frequent, a little smaller. That’s kind of what’s been keeping me busy, but today, I wanted to talk about how to fish a mountain stream. I realized it’s the type of fishing that I love doing the most. It is the type of fishing that I do the most by far. Yet, I have never covered that as a topic in this podcast. And part of the reason that I thought about it was because a couple of weeks ago, I went on a hike with a couple of friends right by our house here.

And the hike, a large part of the hike follows a little stream close to my house called Bear Creek. Bear Creek does not have trout. I really wish it does, it did, because I can walk to it from my house and it’d be really fun to fish, but in any case, we just kinda went into the mountains here, started hiking, followed Bear Creek for a good amount. Some of it really looks very fishy kinda water. Disappointingly, it doesn’t, as I mentioned, but at one point, my friends wanted to turn back around. I think we were about four miles into our hike and they just wanted to go back and I realized that I’ve lived next to this stream for almost eight years now, seven and a half years and I didn’t know exactly where Bear Creek originated. I’ve seen it on maps. I’ve seen the potential source on a map and I know the topography of the terrain above and I kinda had a hunch of where it could start, but in reality, I just didn’t know the stream that well. And it just kinda started making me think about how one of the things that I love about fishing mountain streams is getting to know the stream. That day, my friends turned around. I decided to keep hiking and I went off the trail following Bear Creek, which was getting… It kept getting smaller and smaller and smaller.

And eventually, after my friends left, it was probably about two miles in, I found the actual source of Bear Creek and it was really fun. It was not exactly how I expected it would have originated. It got really, really small and then near the top, it had… It kinda looked like a spring creek, the beginning of a spring creek, where it had some little weeds and just very shallow water, but a little bit more widespread, but that wasn’t quite the source. I kept… At least not at the moment, I kept hiking up a little bit more and found the place where the stream disappeared. And it was essentially kind of like a meadowy area and there was ground water feeding into Bear Creek, but it was just a really kind of nice window in into getting to know a stream and it was a day that I wasn’t focused on fishing. I’ve talked a little bit in the past, a few weeks ago about getting to explore a stream close to home and I also talked in an episode before that about the idea of going out to maybe observe fish, to get to know a stream, not necessarily with the intent of fishing, but just to kinda observe things. And that’s kind of what I did that day, it was just a little bit of a thing to pay attention to things other than trout.

And there were some really cool little things that I saw, some undercut banks that I didn’t expect to be there and I saw some wildlife tracks. There were some places I expected to be bushwhacking, but to my surprise, it was actually pretty open. There was all kinds of cool little things. And so today, I’m gonna talk about mountain streams and the first thing that I think we need to talk about is trying to define what a mountain stream is. When I started introducing tenkara to the US, we used to use the term, small stream. Tenkara is perfect for small streams. And very quickly, I realized that small streams, they have all kinds of definitions, they can mean different things to different people. So it was really hard to convey why tenkara was ideal for small streams when we’re using 12-foot long rods. There was not a very clear definition of small stream for somebody who’s fishing. Pennsylvania is gonna be vastly different from the small stream that I’m fishing here in Colorado, for example.

Some people like fishing small streams up in the headwaters, which are gonna be really tight, very canopy, kind of choked up canopy-heavy streams. Other people might like to fish the small stream closer to home. So, same thing is kind of applying to mountain streams. We have all kinds of mountain streams, and some of them are gonna be really small, very tight with a lot of canopy overhead. Other parts of mountain streams are gonna be very open, like no canopy whatsoever overhead, some of them are gonna be very narrow. I’ve fished mountain streams that are three-feet wide and I’ve caught fish out of those. I’ve also fished mountain streams that were maybe 60-feet wide, and perhaps a little bit more shallow ’cause the water kind of got to spread. Some of them are open, some of them are closed in terms of trees overhead and so forth.

So today, I’m gonna be covering all of those in a way. But the one thing that all those mountain streams have in common is gonna be moving water and well-defined features. And so when we’re talking about a spring creek, you see this flowing water, a lot of times the features may not be super well-defined. When we’re talking about lakes, we don’t have moving water. So I think the one thing that ties a mountain stream together with another one is gonna be the presence of moving water and well-defined features, whether that’s gonna be bigger boulders that maybe sticking out of the water or submerged, there’s gonna be whirl pools, it’s gonna be like little undercuts so you can see well. So that’s kind of what I want us to envision, whether it’s a very small mountain stream or a larger one, they’re gonna have those features.

Now, what I like about them the most is exactly that. So first of all is the moving water part, I just love the water rushing by. But more important, what I love about them and what keeps me going back to mountain streams is that everytime you step into one, every step you take into a mountain stream, every step that you take upstream, it’s gonna reveal a different body of water. And it’s amazing, it’s almost like an infinite number of possibilities because, you get to a pool and if you’re looking at it facing upstream from the tail-end to the head, that pool is gonna look one way. If you move upstream a little bit and you look at it across, you’re gonna see a whirlpool on the other side or some kind of seam in the current on the other side, that’s a completely different situation, scenario, and that kind of thing. If you go to the head of the pool and then look down to the tail, it’s gonna be different.

Now, you step on to the next little pool, and you go around the next bend, and you have a completely different body of water. So, if you get to a stream and you’re fishing for a day, and maybe you’re gonna cover a mile of a stream, you fish like in incredible variety of waters, in incredible variety of conditions. Some of them are challenging than others. Some of them are… Trees overheads, some of them had whirlpools. And that, to me, is really, really interesting and very very different from, let’s say, a meandering kind of meadow, river or even a stream or a lake. Yeah. Yes, you get some variety but not quite as much. So that’s a part of the reason that I like fishing mountain streams. Other ones, of course, there’s clear water. I am a trout fisherman, even though during a runoff, I will… And as I have, I will fish for a carp and bass and that kind of thing, I like those, but I think a mountain stream is what keeps really coming back, pulling me in.

Now, the other part of it, one part that we need to discuss, how easy is it to fish mountain streams. Are they the easiest bodies of water, or are they the hardest bodies of water to fish? And that’s something that comes up often times when people are asking me like, “Where should I go? I’m a brand new angler, what is the easiest place for me to get into fishing?” And there’s a couple of ways to look at it. So, often times, lakes and ponds close by they’re gonna be more accessible. Often times, they’re gonna have more fish activity in terms of like, you might see the bluegill or a little bass moving around, but you might have to find them. Every body of water has its own challenges, but what I like about in terms of telling people to go fish a mountain stream when they’re starting to fly-fish is because you see these really well-defined features. It’s a different type of fishing altogether but you have the currents. And one way to look at it when you’re starting off in fly fishing is that the currents are bringing the food to the fish, so you know that. And the mountain stream is gonna be doing that.

And the other thing is that, “Where are the fish gonna be hanging out?” So we know the food is gonna come with the current, where are the fish? The fish are typically gonna be close to those currents because the currents are gonna be bringing the food to them. But a fish does not wanna be fighting the current all day long because it’s gonna be exhausting. It’s gonna be spending a lot more energy than it might gain. So the fish, specifically trout in this case, even though we can also fish for other species, and I can talk about that in a second.

The trout in particular, but other fish, they’re gonna like to hang in calm water close to currents so typically, where a calm water meets fast water, that’s a good place to fish. In a mountain stream with really well-defined features, that’s a little smaller, it’s typically a very good bet just to target the slowest pools of water that you can see it, the slowest moving water amongst all the fast water. So in that sense, it makes fishing a mountain stream fairly easy because you can identify where you think the fish are gonna be and how is the food gonna be moving and that kind of thing, other bodies of water, you have different types of things. The challenge of fishing a mountain stream is that many times, especially when you’re beginning, you may not be able to see the fish, they’re really good at camouflaging, with time you start picking up on them a little bit more, polarized sunglasses help a lot here so that is one of the challenges. The other one is how to deal with the canopy, the trees overhead, if it’s a smaller or a slightly tighter stream. So that’s a couple of things that I’m gonna be talking about today and just kinda try to kinda give you an overview.

So, let’s deal with the first one, challenge, “How to deal with trees?” because that’s kind of a big one. When you fishing mountain streams you know where to find a fish, now, let’s get the fly in the water, and not get it snagged as much. So when you’re fishing a mountain stream that has more trees, the trees might be behind you, they might be overhead. I think one of the most important skills to have, is to have a really good awareness of where those potential snags are gonna be. I have done a episode in the past about snags, how to avoid them, how to deal with them, when you do get snagged how to try to get your fly out so look up for that podcast episode. I don’t wanna get too much into this right now, but the one thing that is really, really important is gonna be every time you step into a new body position, you’re facing a different angle or you move up a foot or two feet up, if you don’t know exactly where the tree branches are, look up, it takes you one second to look up over your shoulders look up behind you and identify where those potential snags are gonna be, so that you can try to avoid them. And then a mountain stream, when we’re fishing it, that’s the number one step in reducing all frustrations that you might have is gonna be knowing where those potential snags are, and then adjusting your casting accordingly.

So you’re typically gonna try to get your rod to move towards the openings in the canopy, if there’s a lot of trees above your head, you might have to start getting into different techniques or casting over water. So awareness is number one and adaptability, just changing your casting style a little bit. Instead of always doing the up and down cast if there’s more trees, you might have to do more of a side arm cast, if there’s a lot of trees you may have to move your rod tip completely sideways over the stream, so you’re doing a side arm casting to get your line moving, to get you where you want to. Every single cast is just gonna be the same exact motion, just using different angles to avoid those snags. So that’s mostly kinda what I wanna get into you in terms of that. Always take a look at what’s up above you, especially when you’re getting started. With time that kind of awareness starts becoming a little bit more natural. It’s gonna be a little easier to just know before you move, what are you gonna wanna avoid, that kind of thing.

With that being said, we all get caught, no matter how much experience you have. My teachers in Japan have been fishing for decades, myself, we all get caught on trees, on occasion and we all have better days than other days. I’ve had days that I fished the entire day without losing a fly. Not very often, but I’ve had those. I’ve also had days that it seemed to me like I was losing a fly in every couple of casts that just kinda comes with our mindset that day like are we distracted? , Are we more aware? And so forth. So when those frustrations gonna happen to you fishing a mountain stream, do not be too discouraged by them. We’re all gonna have those days. Try to get your fly. Listen to my podcast episode about snags and that kind of thing. Hopefully, that’s gonna help.

The other thing with a lot of mountain streams is gonna be your technique, in terms of, particularly in terms of the drifts that you’re gonna get, they’re gonna be a little bit shorter. So let’s talk a little bit about techniques here. In tenkara, oftentimes, you might come across articles writing that we’ve done about fly manipulations. And in my book I covered the main techniques that we use. But with that being said, I wanna mention that a dead drift, where you’re flies drifting with the speed of the current, is gonna be your main tool, your main technique in a mountain stream. Oftentimes, as I mentioned, the current is gonna be bringing the food to the fish and that food is essentially bugs that are caught in the current in the rivers sometimes they’re gonna be moving, but oftentimes, they’re just kind of drifting depending on the speed of the current and that kinda thing, they’re gonna move less or more but a dead drift is the main skill for you to master and that’s typically in any kind of situation. But I wanna make sure that I mentioned that sometimes we focus so much on a fly manipulation, it’s a really important skill of tenkara that we forget to emphasize how important a really good drift is. A really good dead, drag-free, dead drift is. So one tip that I’ll share here with you today, you know, focus on those.

And one tip is, always start with your arm close to your body when you’re fishing across, or as soon as the fly starts going a little downstream from you. Any time the fly is gonna go from in front of you to downstream, start with your arm close to your body. And as the fly starts going downstream in the current that you picked out, start pushing your arm out towards the other shore and downstream at the same time. That’s a technique that can vastly improve your drift. Even those times that you think you’re getting a really, really good drift without doing that, if you do this, it just pushes the, let’s say, the efficiency or the efficacy of the dead-drift from a 95% good dead-drift to 100% good. So that’s one little tip today. Any time the fly is going from in front across from you to downstream, push your arm out towards the other shore and downstream at the same time to keep up with the fly. And what that does is it keeps the fly in the lane that you picked without making it drift a little bit towards you. So that’s a very effective thing.

Now, in the other part of it that kinda goes along with techniques is how do you fish a mountain stream? One of the really cool things about fishing a mountain stream that I kind of alluded to a little bit earlier is that every pool that you come across gives you a variety of vantage points, and what that means is that it’s also a variety of fly presentation angles that you can have. So presenting a fly casting directly upstream when you’re in the tail of the pool is gonna be different from when you present the fly from the side of the pool, and it’s gonna be different from when you might present the fly from upstream towards downstream. So that’s one thing that we should take advantage of in a mountain stream.

You get to a pool, it looks good, looks fishy, and you’re… Typically, we’re moving upstream. I’m not gonna get too much into that. I fish up and downstream, just to mention it briefly. I think both can be very, very effective. Primarily, I like going upstream because I can see the pool’s a little bit better. If the stream is very steep in gradient, I can also take advantage of being a little bit more hidden from the fish up above. And if there’s other people fishing in the water, I’m not gonna be crossing paths with them destroying in different waters and that kind of thing. But let’s say, we’re moving upstream just as a standard. You can get to the tail-end of the pool, you cast upstream, have your fly land on the water, no line. As the fly starts moving towards you, you start angling the rod up and back towards you to keep up with the speed of the current. So that’s your presentation number one. And you might do that maybe three times.

If there is no fish that came up, the pool looks really good, and you really think there is a fish there, you can all of a sudden… In this pool, it doesn’t matter how big it is, but let’s say, a 10-foot pool, you can fish it from the side. And instead of casting completely upstream, maybe you’re casting a quarter upstream, let the fly drift in front of you in downstream. And if it still looks really good and you wanna try a different technique, you can maybe pulsate the fly o and down. So all of a sudden you have a third presentation right there in the same pool.

If you feel like you haven’t spooked whatever’s been in the water and you wanna try something different, you can move up to the head of the pool, especially in a larger pool, and you can cast downstream towards the tail-end of the pool. And maybe there’s a fish, they’re hanging in front of a rock, for example, and you can drag the fly on the surface or you can just pause there or you can drag-and-drift it. You can do a few different techniques. So all of a sudden, in one pool, let’s imagine a 10-foot by 10-foot pool, we’ve had maybe six or seven presentations to try to entice the fish that are now there. Of course, that’s without thinking that we didn’t scare the fish away and that kind of thing, if we approached them carefully. But that’s a huge advantage when you’re fishing a mountain stream because you have one spot, variety of presentations in a variety of places where the fish may be as well. So that’s a little bit of terms of technique.

With that being said, as I talked about moving, one other thing that I like to mention about fishing mountain streams is to move. So when I first started learning under Dr. Ishigaki in Japan, one of my teachers, I would go… We were always fishing mountain streams. That’s where we fish when we go to Japan. And I would… I always thought that I’ve moved enough in a stream, but I would get to a stream, fish if for a few minutes, and he would always be on top of my shoulder saying, ” Don don, don don,” which literally means gradually, but it’s a way of saying, “Keep moving, moving, moving gradually.” So that’s when I learned about the importance of moving, because in a mountain stream, you cast a fly to the pool, the pool is not… But if the pool is not particularly large, the fish, there’s a good chance it’s gonna grab your fly in the first or second, maybe third cast. Once you’ve done that, yes, there’s chances of catching fish still after some other presentations but not quite as much.

So, in my opinion, a more effective way or a more efficient way to fly-fish a mountain stream is to keep moving, not spend much time in one pool. And that’s, in particular, if it’s a mountain stream without any traffic. You have the whole stream, you can cover a mileage instead of spending time in one pool and there’s nobody else around you, you’re not trying to… Not being concerned. If there’s a lot of people, if it’s a stream that gets a little bit more pressure, then, yes, I think maybe we wanna stay a little bit longer in a pool, and not very long because it’s not gonna make a huge difference oftentimes, but we also wanna just kinda don’t wanna keep moving all of the time if there’s a lot of people fishing.

So that’s kind of a very important tip I think in terms of fishing a mountain stream because sometimes we’re used to fishing slower water, bigger pools, like a larger river, where it might be wider, might be deeper. You might have a much larger number of places where the fish may be holding, larger depths that’s you might wanna cover. A mountain stream is a little different. It’s generally speaking, and I’m making generalizations here, slightly more limited number. Even though we have a huge variety, as I said, you can cover the variety pretty quickly. So three casts. Typically speaking, as a rule of thumb, what I do is if it’s a small-ish pool, talking about 10 feet by 10 feet roughly or less, I’m gonna typically do maybe three or four casts, more generally speaking upstream. Maybe three or four casts from a different angle. Where whether it’s side or top. And then I’ll fish the next pocket or next pool up above. So that’s how I typically approach that.

Now, hopefully, that gave you enough on the techniques and strategies to break a stream up and fish those. Now, let’s talk a little bit about the equipment. So a mountain stream can be a variety of things. As I mentioned, small, large. So there’s gonna be a variety of equipment combinations that you can use as well. But here’s where I think tenkara… I think we talked a lot about how tenkara really shines in moving water. Tenkara absolutely kills it on mountain streams. And that largely comes from the fact that we’re using longer rods, and we’re able to cast an incredibly light line. And typically speaking, just fishing with tip-it and fly, or maybe a little bit of the line tip-it and fly in the water depending on the technique.

But the long rod is the key here. Oftentimes, when we’re thinking about mountain streams, we’ve associated them with small. It doesn’t matter whether it’s small or large. You’re gonna wanna use a road that’s as long as you can get away with. Keep in mind with a long rod, you always have the option to choke up on the grip, potentially collapse a segment. You have different techniques. You can kneel down a little bit. And then when the pool gets bigger, you still have the reach. With a shorter rod, it fits really well in the places that are very tight. So if you’re fishing almost exclusively very small streams, a small rod is definitely the way to go. But you lose the reach. That’s a little harder to make up for.

With a long rod, you can make up for some of the shortcomings. With a short rod, it’s a little bit harder. So my main recommendation is get the longest rod that you can for the average kind of water you’re gonna be fishing. The longer rod, usually the better. The rod that you’re gonna find in my hand as I’ve talked over and over and over again, is usually the Ito even in a small-ish mountain stream. Because I know I can shorten it. I know I can choke up on a grip. I can tie a shorter line to it and that kind of thing. Still have a lot of flexibility. With that being said, the Sato is probably one of my main recommendation. It’s an all-around rod because you can fish it as a small rod, 10 feet 8″ on the short end, or a fairly long rod 12 feet 9″. And that’s actually the main range lengths of most popular tenkara rods out there. So we put all the most popular lengths of a tenkara rod in one package so you have fewer decisions to make in that sense. A really good rod for mountain streams, whether you’re just beginning or whether you’re experienced.

The Ito tends to be a slightly better rod if you have a little bit more experience in my opinion. Still fine for a beginner, but just a little bit better in the hands of an experienced angler. And then the Rhodo is a small mountain stream rod. 8 feet, 10 inches. Very, very few, if any, tenkara rods in the market in Japan, for example, are that short. That’s an incredibly short length. And we designed that rod, the Rhodo to be fishing a place that has a lot of canopy. We wanted to give you that sub-nine foot length. If you choke up on a grip, and you’re holding the end of the first section, you’re essentially fishing a 7-foot rod, which is really, really short.

But we also wanted to give you that length and the longer length. So 10 feet 6 inches is the long length of the Rhodo. It’s not a long rod by any means in tenkara standards. But it gives you a little bit more reach when you want it. So the adjustable rods that we carry they tend to be my favorite for fishing a mountain stream. And the reason for that is because, like I mentioned a second ago, you have the more effective techniques for fishing a mountain stream is usually gonna be to move.

Now, here’s what a tenkara rod that’s adjustable is gonna be doing. You’re in one pool. Let’s say I’m fishing the Sato. I’m fishing the small pocket in front of me, 10 feet wide approximately. The next pool up above me is maybe 12 feet or so up above. And there’s some rocks. The Sato, I’m gonna fish it at 10 feet 8″, fishing a small-ish mountain stream. Keep it a shorter length to make you feel lighter. That’s one of the things. When you’re using an adjustable rod, shorter length is gonna make it feel lighter in the hand, because you’re bringing the center of gravity down towards your hand. Longer length is gonna be a little bit heavier, but it’s gonna give you much more reach. So which one do you want? So if I’m fishing maybe a shorter length is good if I’m fishing all day, a small-ish stream.

But… One thing that we have to be very mindful of, is not to spook the fish. So, I use the adjustable feature of tenkara rods all the time, when I’m fishing in the mountain stream because I can be in this pool, the 10-foot-wide pool, the next pull-up above me is 12 feet away and without moving, I can just turn my body, face upstream a little bit more. And I can extend the sections that I want out of the adjustable tenkara rods, and I can fish the next pull-up without moving at all. So that’s gonna reduce the chance of a fish getting spooked tremendously. And then I kind of fish it from being in below, and do a few casts from there and then I approach it kind of carefully to fish the further section of that pool, I can keep the rod extended or shorten it, at that point. So some people say that they don’t use the adjustable rod features a lot. When I started developing the rods, I did not expect, that I would use it a whole lot. I kind of started developing the concept, I knew the rods were around. We didn’t create, you know, the first adjustable tenkara rods, but when I started fishing with it, I was using the adjustable features, all the time; so I can have the, you know, more reach when I want it.

And now, let’s say, I move up to the next pull-up and there’s a little bit extra canopy overhead, there’s a little bit more branches hanging up above the stream. I can shorten the rod again, make it shorter. So that’s my recommendation there. In terms of lines, the line is gonna be… Matched to the stream, you know, the line length in particular is gonna be matched that the stream that you’re fishing. As I mentioned before in previous episodes, I usually like to carry two lines with me; what I’d consider a short line roughly the same length as a rod and a longer line.

If I’m fishing one little stream I’m gonna fish shorter one, if I ever get to like a larger tributary or main river I might switch to the longer one and so forth, but the line is gonna depend on the type of stream you’re fishing. It’s gonna be mostly a personal preference. Now let’s talk a little bit about flies. So this is where… The philosophy or the idea of using very few fly-patterns really comes in handy and it can be incredibly effective. So, some of you might have heard oftentimes tenkara anglers in Japan, they use one fly pattern, they don’t switch very much at all or at all. And they get away with it, they catch a lot of fish. Large part of the reason I think is, because they’re fishing moving water, where the fish are truly just trying to get as much food as they can and they don’t have quite as much time to make the decision to analyze the fly and that kind of thing. So I think that the one fly kind of system works in a variety of conditions. I fish mountain streams, I fish spring creeks, lakes, canals, all using like the one, there are a few flies that we sell on our website, essentially one fly pattern. But I feel the most confident of using one fly only when I’m fishing a mountain stream… Because of that, and I can also present the fly in different ways, I can make the fly behave in different ways and that kind of thing.

The only rule of thumb that I kind of follow, if I don’t have a fly… So we offer four different flies on our website, essentially almost the same pattern. Size 12 is the middle, you know, kind of average-sized fly, size 16 is really small, size eight is the larger fly. Only rule of thumb that I typically adopt, is that when a stream is running kinda high, for that type of water, you can notice it’s running kinda fast, a little bit higher than usual or a little bit murkier. Then, I like to start off with a large fly, which in my opinion is gonna be giving a fish a better chance to see the fly, and as I mentioned, they just wanna maximize that caloric intake, so it’s gonna give them a more of an incentive to kind of grab the fly if the water’s running faster and higher.

Other than that, I just kind of tie whatever I am in a mood for, and I’ve had a lot of success with a variety of flies in mountain streams. This is where I think the flies are not quite as important as a lot of people think. You can use any fly you want, you can use your dry flies, you can use your nymphs, and that kind of thing, but the tenkara flies can work wonders, in a mountain stream. In terms of multi-fly rigs. Often times people like, they ask me and they like to use multi-fly rigs, like a dry dropper where you have a dry fly that’s tied to the line and off of that you have maybe a foot of tippet and another little fly that’s designed to sink. Sometimes people use that for the mountain streams.

Umm… Like when I fish with John Gerard in that angle, for example, my first visit to Colorado, that’s the rig that they wanted to use and was trying to convince them to use the tenkara flies but they would have none of it ’cause they’re so used to using the dry dropper like an Elk hair Caddis, a little, you know hairs-y or nymph or something like that. I personally don’t think I need to use multiple flies, I… I don’t use multiple flies regardless of situations, but I think in a mountain stream, is where you can get away with even less using multi flies. But here is a very important point that I wanna make today… Asking you not to use multiple flies in your rig.

Somebody shared a post with me on Twitter recently, where he saved a bird that was caught in a fishing line, and it just happened to be in a state park really close to where I live. And he came across this bird and the bird was tangled up in fishing line and the bird went out and it was very clear from how it was tied up to the tree still, that the bird saw this nymph dangling, thought it was an insect, went to take it, got caught in the hook and then the line above it wrapped it. I came across exactly the same situation many years ago in Yellowstone National Park, where I was coming across a bend on the river, same exact thing happened. A bird had obviously tried to take an insect, nymph with a hook, it got caught, it wrapped around the line. I saw this thing kind of fluttering; It was the very end of the day. If I hadn’t come across the bird right when I did it, the bird would have almost certainly died. So I think after that is when I really became a little bit… Not a little bit; I became kind of adamantly opposed to using multiple flies in my own fishing.

If you do use multiple flies, if you feel like that’s necessary and you happen to snag yourself on a tree, try, please try as hard as you possibly can to get the fly back. At least one of them, because that fly is gonna be hanging. And these are not the only two accounts, I’ve heard of a multiple other accounts of similar things happening. Sometimes dead birds, sometimes live birds. So if you are gonna use multiple flies, please try as hard as you can to get those back. But I think using a single fly, if you get snagged, flies caught on a branch, never ideal. Always try to get a fly back as much as possible ’cause there’s gonna oftentimes be fishing line anyways, but I think a single fly is a little less dangerous. So that’s my soapbox about that.

Now let’s talk a little bit about dressing up. How do you fish a mountain stream in terms of what you should wear and boots and that kinda thing. So I think that anytime you’re going out dedicated to fishing for a few hours, using waders is really nice. It’ll keep you more comfortable, it keeps you dry, it keeps you warmer. If you come across a mishap and get trapped as I’ve seen happen, or read about having happened, you get trapped in a rock in the water, you’re gonna be a little warmer, in a better situation. So that’s that on that. But be mindful that waders can be dangerous as well. If you’re fishing deeper mountain streams, please learn how to take the air out of your waders. So the way to do that is you’re gonna put the waders on, before you put your belt on you’re gonna kneel down to squeeze all the air out, and then you’re gonna tighten your belt around your waist.

Be very mindful in that because if you don’t do that, you’re gonna have extra buoyancy, you might lose a footing a little bit more easily. And the dangerous part is that a wader can fill up with water. If you’re fishing in a more remote, deeper, bigger mountain stream, be very aware of that. If I’m fishing in winter, definitely I like you using waders with warm clothing underneath it. If I’m fishing in the summertime, that’s where I think that wet wading can be really good. Even if I’m fishing for several hours, first you’re not gonna be quite as warm or hot, I should say, but you come in and out of the water really quickly, you’re staying fresh, you can dry off, go back in.

So that’s a personal preference to be honest. Generally speaking, I like to use waders into the shoulder seasons or winter. In the summertime I wet wade, but I do like to use neoprene socks and sometimes even a warm sock inside of that to keep my feet warm. ‘Cause even if it’s a hundred degree day out there and you’re spending a lot of time in the water, your feet can get cold. So you’re, well, let me go back. If it’s a hundred degree day, I’m gonna use probably no socks or just some lightweight socks. But if it’s a little bit colder your feet can get cold quickly. So neoprene socks or something like that with wading boots or sandals can be really handy. Now a mountain stream can be really, really slippery. You might be coming across boulders that are covered in algae, all kinds of things like that.

So wading boots that are sticky can do a really good job at keeping you safe as a wading staff would. So I just wanna point out the possibilities here, right? ‘Cause then everything is a matter of personal preference, it’s gonna vary according to seasons. You have to keep a few things in mind. Some people may like using a wader to stay warm, some people may like to not use a wader so they don’t get too hot. Wading staff, if you have a little bit of trouble with mobility or you’re going to a place that is really, really slippery, wading staffs are really handy. And the nice thing about tenkara is that you don’t have to use two hands to fish, so you can keep using a wading staff as you fish with your other hand. So some people like that about that. I typically use boots when I fish, wading boots specifically, and I usually like to use rubber. There was a whole argument about felt versus rubber. I like rubber sole boots for the simple reason that if I’m stepping on slick boulders outside of water, they’re not gonna slip as much as something with just pure felt or with cleats. If I’m walking on grass, like dry grass, same thing, or snow. So I found that rubber boots for me with very aggressive soles tend to be more effective or more versatile, work in a variety of conditions more. Felt tends to be really grippy when it’s wet rocks and that kinda thing. So I’m not gonna get into the argument, but I wanted to point those things out.

One other thing is how to find and stay found on those mountain streams. I just did an episode recently about exploring home waters, the idea of not getting lost. The nice thing about fishing a mountain stream is that typically you’re following it and if you’re moving upstream you know you can just go deck downstream to where you came from. So it’s a little harder to get lost, but I do wanna point out that I’ve had situations where you come across a small little fork in a mountain stream and you think that they’re gonna join back together and all of a sudden you’re in a different drainage. So just be mindful of that. And actually I haven’t done an episode since Gaia got in touch as well. But Gaia GPS, the service that I mentioned on the exploring different waters got in touch with us and they’re offering a 20% off discount for tenkara anglers who are listeners of this episode.

They do give us a small commission, 5% but I don’t really care too much about that, it was just nice that they’re giving a discount. You just have to go to if you’re interested in getting a map so that you know where the drainages are gonna go. And that’s where it comes in most handy for me. I look at the drainages before I go fishing more often and see if there’s forks that I wanna explore and that kind of thing. So looking at a topo map, to see if there’s gonna be a drainage they could get sucked into is important. Seeing how steep that might be as well is also important so that you know you’re not getting to something that’s over your head sometimes.

So that’s mostly it. Yeah, I think I covered it all. I made a list today. I tend to ramble on and I got that feedback as well recently so I am trying to make notes before I can start talking your ears off. But thanks so much for listening to another episode of the Tenkara Cast. I really appreciate all of you who are subscribers to the podcast. If you haven’t yet, if you’re new to listening to the podcast and you haven’t had a chance yet, please leave us a review on your favorite podcast app. But iTunes tends to be the best one. If you… However you find this podcast, if you’re able to leave us a review, that’ll be great. Really appreciate that. It makes people more willing to listen to it. If I have something good to say, if you appreciate it, the information that we share, really appreciate that.

For a little bit more information that I might have referred to this, go to and I’m gonna try to put a couple of references like the Gaia GPS app, and wading boots that I like and that kinda thing, I’m gonna put on this podcast episode. If you have any tips to share, anything that I might’ve missed, just leave a comment on this podcast page. People have been good at leaving comments sometimes, things that they have experience with and so forth. That has been really handy for other people as well. So if you have anything to say, please don’t hesitate to contact us or leave a comment on this podcast episode. Right, thanks again. And until next time on the Tenkara Cast.

And as always, I’d like to especially thank Nick Ogawa Takénobu. You can find his music at as well as our Spotify playlists. In Spotify, just look up tenkara and you should find tenkara tunes with a lot of Takénobu’s music. Find any information referenced to this podcast at Just find the link to this podcast episode and you’ll find any photos, links or other information referenced right there. This song is called Voyage Across the Sea by Takénobu.

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