Can "solar eclipse magic" help counter the challenges of small Driftless streams when tenkara fishing in late August?
Driftless small streams in late summer mean high grass, and that means you better be ready to dial your game in tight.
Nope. Badger don't believe in any "solar eclipse magic" nonsense! That being said, I hit the water on Monday hoping that some extra darkness would give me an edge for tenkara fishing, but the truth is I don't think it made a lick of difference. Maybe it looked a little more like a gloomy February day then a gloomy August day, but the fish didn't seem to care. They were tucked safely into rocky cut-banks protected by tall grass overhangs that blocked most of the clear casting lanes. It was a good opportunity to hone my skills, so despite extremely overgrown condition of the stream, I got to work.
The target zones were small. 1-3 feet wide, and 2-4 ft long. Depths maxed out around 3-4 feet, but that was only on a few holes, mostly I was working water about 18 inches deep. Every space had cut-banks and overhangs for the fish to dive for once hooked, so all of the fights were short and focused on landing as quickly and cleanly as possible. It was sweaty, hot, and tiresome pushing through tall grass looking for spots to cast to - but I brought close to 20 brown and brook trout to hand in about 3 hours! Sizes ranged from 6-14 inches. How did I make my tenkara fishing produce in such restricted terrain?
1) I fish a rig I am well practiced with. I can sense the casting range, balance, and weight shifts very easily because I am highly familiar with it. Practical Consideration: Get to know your rod and rigs, introduce disruptive system changes slowly and as a last option. Learn the feel of the casting range of the rig. This is critical and extremely useful!
2) I've developed confidence in dealing with snags. In many cases now, I can gently pull and lift most grass snags back and recover them. Practical Consideration: The key to this may be found in the cast and the way your fly presents. If you are watching it present and it falls on grass - don't yank or pull back hard, causing a "hard snag" that requires an up close and personal recovery. Instead, freeze - then bring it back softly and see how many less snags spoil those nice bends you are targeting.
Brook trout caught at the time of Eclipse totality.
3) Using the system familiarization from point #1 to dial in my tenkara fishing, I do a of casting to target zones that I simply cannot see. But If I know the zone looks clear, then I can stay out of fish sight lines to deliver the cast and work the drift. Practical Consideration: Using your ability to sense balance and weight on the system, and watching your line to maintain proper tension, you can still get excellent drifts in the in the top water column. A secondary consideration to this is knowing just where to stop your cast to make sure you do not lay too much line down and spoil the drift, or too little and leave the fly dangling in the air.
4) I work shorter drifts and accommodate for obstacles. Practical Consideration: Focus on delivering solid technique, and make those presentations count for the short amount of time you have. Be prepared to alter your drift and technique to address obstacles as your line navigates the course. I have executed drifts were I guided the fly slowly through a 4 ft section, moving the rod tip gently to ensure that the line stayed clear of grass overhangs along the way, and picked up fish 3/4 of the way through the drift. You have to steer without disturbing the fly's drift or action, and maintain proper line tension while doing it.
This hefty 14-inch Brown was the best of the day.
Like most things in life, there is no magic shortcut to productive tenkara fishing in challenging conditions. It requires a focus on the fundamental skills, attention to detail, and a willingness to push your limits. The cool thing is, if you work hard on that - it may start to feel like you ARE working magic!