Early Summer Tenkara in Wisconsin's Driftless
Despite this, it's my favorite time of year to tenkara rod fish the Driftless. The trout are hungry and more oriented towards the surface, so I can focus on fishing wet flies. I like to target the top 6 inches of the water column. While I can drown the fly and let it sink deeper and out of sight, I usually don't. Instead, my goal is to draw a surface strike. To me, there is nothing more exciting than watching a trout appear out of nowhere and smash a fly!
Over the course of 3 days of fishing I easily broke north of 60 trout to hand fishing tenkara rods. The conventional anglers I was camping with were using size #16-#20 patterns and were surprised I was having success with "big patterns". My experience is that putting a generally buggy looking meal in the right position of the water column is of more critical importance than the fly pattern being used. While there are some highly pressured fisheries that require meticulous fly pattern selection, the Driftless as a whole isn't one of them. It's much more important to "hone the zone" by targeting specific lies with appropriate presentation at depths where the fish's attention is oriented. This experience has been consistent on most waters I've fished in other regions, too.
I primarily fished the surface, catching most of my fish in the top few inches of the water. Precise tip control and definitive casting stops can produce devastatingly effective fly-only drifts with tenkara rods. Developing consistent "stop control" in the forward cast allows the angler to adjust the potential depth the fly can sink to. A shorter tip arc stops the line system from giving the fly enough slack to sink when it lands, instead producing a tensioned line that only allows the fly (or a few inches of tippet) to reach the water. The properly tensioned line grants you clean drifts, increased control over the fly, and clean hooksets.
- Matt @ Badger