Summer brings unique challenges and joys to tenkara fly fishing on Driftless spring creeks.
By late June, the conditions on Driftless spring creeks have changed dramatically from the easy going days of Spring. Grass and weeds along the banks grow jungle-thick and face high. Pesky insects like gnats can swarm thick enough to make you run screaming back to the truck. Heat waves can drive water temps so high that we often stop trout fishing for weeks at a time. But sometimes things line up perfectly for a spectacular day of tenkara fly fishing - which is exactly what happened on the Summer Solstice!
Balance, Power, and Precision for Unconventional Tenkara Fishing
Mike rides the power curve with a nice smallmouth on the hook.
As Summer slides ever closer and the weather here in Wisconsin continues to stabilize, our tenkara fishing focus shifts from trout to bass. We've started making the rounds on our local smallmouth streams, and slowly but surely, the bite switch is definitely moving into the "on" position! The timing couldn't have been better - we just got our first shipment of the new WISCO 2 rods in and we've been excited to get them on the water. We took them out to "Little Left Branch" to see if the Bronzebacks were ready to play, and got to put the rods through the paces on some nice fish...
Remember to think on your feet when tenkara fishing
I was losing the fight. In the moment, I couldn’t figure out what I was doing wrong. In retrospect, it is all terribly clear. The fight in mention was a sparring match during a recent Tae Kwon Do tournament. My first round opponent was a good guy that I have beaten a number of times. I certainly was not taking him for granted, but I was perhaps a little too certain I would make it to the next round. This time, though, he came at much more aggressively than I anticipated and I immediately went into defensive mode. To paraphrase Mike Tyson, everyone has a plan until they get hit in the face.
Attention to detail helps sharpen the fundamental skills of successful Tenkara fishing
When we say "small water tenkara" we mean it!
I had a few extra hours to spare on the first day of spring, so I swung by one of my favorite "small water" gems to sharpen up my game. This tiny, spring fed stream barely registers on most angler's radars. Averaging about 18 inches deep and 2-3 feet wide, the water is crystal clear and rarely moving fast enough to break up the surface. It is best to fish early in the season before overhanging brush clogs the casting lanes, but I visit it on and off throughout the year when I want to polish my casting and stalking skills. Because make no doubt - fishing small water will push your abilities to the limit!
Hard to reach blue lines can make for excellent tenkara water
It is not like we record these conversations for posterity, but I think it went something like this: “Hey Matt, I found a pretty little creek that I think will be loaded with brook trout and sees almost zero fishing pressure. You interested?”. Not surprisingly, Matt responded in the affirmative. He always does.
Druid Creek had actually been on my radar for several years. While we mostly fish the Driftless region in Wisconsin, some of our best times are had along a stretch of billion-year-old worn down mountains not too far from our base of operations. Little creeks trace the divides on these ancient hills. Some of them are little more than a seasonal trickle, others have wiped out bridges during spring flooding. So far, everyone of them we have explored has held fish. Native brook trout are the usual inhabitants, but we have also found browns and warm water species. The problem with Druid creek is the access. It largely runs through private land, and while the creek itself is in the public domain, getting to it proved vexing. Ultimately, I found a creative and legal solution. Not all of our creek gambles pay off, but this one did!
The Tenkara Jam is one of the community's signature events
The Appalachian Tenkara Jam is one of the most exciting events of the year in the Tenkara community. The 3rd annual gathering was held in Cherokee, NC over the weekend of October 15-16 and exceeded expectations on all levels!
If you haven't caught on yet - Badger Tenkara is just short of obsessed with fishing for Smallmouth Bass on Tenkara rods. Seriously - we are thrilled to live on some of America's most unique trout water, but we countdown to when the creeks warm up enough for the Bronzebacks to get fired up. I made it out over the weekend to fish a new section of a smaller river. Things started out so slow I almost packed it up and left - intermittent rains moved in and likely water wasn't producing. I told myself I'd fish one more likely run before heading back to the Jeep. Luckily...that is when the bite kicked in!
The first and obvious question is “what the heck is a machaca?”. The short answer is “the most perfect tenkara sportfish species you’ve never heard of”. The more precise answer is that the machaca is relative of the piranha that inhabits rivers and lakes in Central America. They share the piranha’s intimidating dental hardware, but have a vaguely carp-like body. They take flies aggressively, and fight like smallmouth bass...only angrier! And, dare I say it, stronger.
Tenkara fishing for Smallmouth on the Wisconsin river during the Crash feeding Frenzy
It is a great time of year on the lower Wisconsin. The weather is warm, the bugs are not yet too thick, and most importantly, the annual phenomenon known locally as "The Crash" has finally begun. What's that you say - never heard of it? It's a month or so period of time where schools of ravenously hungry, thug-like big river Bronzebacks cruise around corralling bait-fish in places they can trap them against restrictive terrain features - and then gorge on them in splashy feasts that boil the water as the entire school feeds and the baitfish attempt to flee for their lives. Bass fly through the air, smash fish on the surface, and swim in crazy circles as they pursue their prey. It sometimes leaves you awestruck just watching them, and it is almost enough to make you forget to fish - almost.
"As I was driving along a country two lane, I noticed a trail marker I had not seen before. I pulled off and took a look. There was actually a trail map! It looked like the trail ran along a creek. The topo map showed canyon-like features. In my opinion, there’s not much prettier in this world than rocky stream running through a canyon, so I mustered some energy and decided to give a go."