Essay by: Joel St. Marie
Local water travels from many places on the Eastern side of the Sierra Nevada Mountains. Small creeks from the headwaters above meander through the meadows, forest, and the high alpine. Icy water runs as the snow melts and is met with the bubbling hot spring water heated by the geothermal cauldron beneath the Earth’s crust. Spring fed rivers snake the open lands of the caldera and carve the deep gorge as it makes its way beneath the table lands and beyond.
I’ve been fortunate to explore the local outdoors on many levels as an outdoor enthusiast; as a climber, biker, fisherman, hiker, photographer, skier and more. Often revisiting the same area multiple times depending on the activity or adventure. The gorge is one of these places I first explored as a climber nearly 25 years ago with one thing on my mind; to climb the steep pocketed cliffs above. The gorge offers miles of exploring other than climbing as well. On bike you are limited to the the few roads that allow access to the gorge. On foot is another option and has its many advantages to exploring this historic destination.
Hiking in the cooler months to avoid the number of rattlesnake encounters, I find myself wadding and rock hopping with my rod in hand through the narrows looking for tenkara pocket water riffles and runs holding wild browns and bows. The excitement never dulls as the gorge continues to offer what seems to be endless, if not a lifetime of new water to explore.
Exploring the gorge has its challenges though. I would go as far to say it is not for the faint of heart, or even the beginner fly fisher man or woman. The deeper pockets/pools, riffles and runs present additional challenges and dangers when the water runs high. I personally love the problem solving of bouldering hopping, balancing on rocks of all shapes and sizes between the islands, shores and at times the sheer walls that tower towards the sky.
The simplicity of tenkara is perfect for this type of adventure. Being able to collapse my Iwana down to just a bit more than the length of its handle is perfect for this balanced hands-on approach. I also find the additional length at 12 feet makes for a stealth approach while high sticking or reaching over bushes, boulders or faster water to present my fly. In addition to tenkara’s simplicity, it does have its limitations which I feel brings me closer to my environment as it pushes me to think outside the box on how to approach a specific piece of water.
Sometimes the journey is greater than the destination and this holds true in the exploration of the gorge. The destination in this case is the journey with no end in sight. I will continue to explore around the next bend and hop rocks, and wade through the riffles and runs. With so much more to learn about the local waters and how to fish them as the seasons change; one thing has been learned that I won’t forget and will pass on to others and that is the best rod you have is the one that you have with you.
Since I’ve been fishing with my tenkara I find I fish more than ever simply because my kit is with me and ready to fish all of the time. Whether I’m biking, hiking or photographing near water there will always be room for my tenkara in my pack, in my hand or strapped to my bike.