Beginner Reflections

The statewide season for trout fishing will close at the end of October (until ~June 1st) and I am nearing the end of my 2nd year fishing small to mid-sized streams 100% of the time using Tenkara rods.

I am a member of the FFI affiliate club; the “Alpine Fly Fishers”. There are really only a few of us that actually venture to fish high remote water. Most of the members like to fish big PNW rivers for salmon, steelhead, and travel to Montana to fish the Clark Fork, Madison, etc. or BC lakes to fish for big Lahontans. There are 3 of us that fish Tenkara rods & methods but our monthly “Liars Cup” reports about landing 8" to 10", with an occasional 15" fish tend to “…get no respect”.

The club meets once a month but takes a hiatus over the summer. Last night I attended the September meeting where everyone gives a summary of their summer fishing adventures. It was very lightly attended; around 20 members, but almost unanimously the reports told of a disappointing summer. Some of the reports reflected the sad state of the once world famous PNW summer steelhead runs, others were weather (high or low snowpack/water levels) related.

But as I was looking back and going over my (rather detailed) records before last night’s meeting, I noted a few interesting things. In 2018 the region had 110% to 120% of normal annual mountain snowpack. As a result streams at the more fertile lower elevations had great water levels with excellent fishing for good sized trout up through the end of July.

My 2019 fishing was hampered by a state DFW bureaucratic bungle that designated one of my “year-round” low elevation drainage trout streams to “statewide rules” with an end of May opener merely for “rules simplification”. The water was too low by the time the season opened at the end of May to provide the great Tenkara fishing I had experienced in 2018, and for years earlier with western rod & reel. Thankfully it’s back to year-round now after many complaints. And because of a 90% to 100 % of “normal mountain snowpack” last winter, that was generally the story for nearly all of the other PNW lowland stream locations in 2019. Record high rainfall in July and September did little to nothing to raise the water levels.

As a result I was hiking 2 or more miles to relatively sterile “high water” much earlier than I did in 2018. As the summer progressed I sought out harder to access higher gradient water with moderately deep plunge pools I had passed on and that were even unsafe to fish in 2018. But the log stats revealed that even though I had 25% fewer trips in 2019, my logged catches are already double the (respectable) number from 2018 and I still have another month left! There were even a couple of “magical” days that rival my best small stream days as a fly angler since the mid-1970s. This captured some real interest and prompted a few questions at the club meeting.

I attribute this to three things.

  • The fish in the higher relatively sterile water are more aggressive, and Tenkara is an ideal way to fish for them.
  • Techniques I’ve learned from reading-watching TBum, DT, TF, 10CT… tutorials and articles.
  • Applying those techniques along with my own “epiphanies” that only practice and experience provide.

The ability of Tenkara rods to be able to both feel and make playing small fish sporting, and that same rod able to fight and land fish (so far for me) to 15"+ is astonishing, and an awful lot of fun. I want to Thank @Peder for this site, along with Chris, Daniel, Dr. Tom, Adam, Paul & John, and everyone who contributes and shares their vast knowledge with the “Tenkara community”.


Can we vote this as post if the year?

It’s got my vote.