The Bad Axe Tenkara rod goes up against Lake Ontario Steelhead!
One of the coolest things about owning a tenkara rod company is getting messages from happy customers after they have fun on the water. We got an exciting email with pictures last week from our friend Ryan L. that we just had to share with you all! He wrote "The steelhead steams that I fish are really small, and having a reel provides little advantage in these streams...I had a hunch that steelhead could be landed on light fixed line gear." Turns out he was right - read on!
"I made a spur of the moment decision as I was packing the car for a trip to reunite the grandkids with the grandparents in Erie, PA for the Holidays. Trips back home in fall or winter typically includes plenty of steelhead fishing. This year, acting on a whim, I left the 8 weight and switch rods back in Madison and threw my BT Bad Axe in the car instead. Leaving my conventional gear at home would also force me to test out my hunch that steelhead could be landed on light fixed line gear. I figured if I needed the big guns, I could always borrow my dad's conventional fly gear.
There are about a dozen tributaries in Lake Erie that host good runs of steelhead. Four of which are medium sized by most standards. The remaining creeks are on the smaller side, measuring only 30 feet or less from bank to bank. These shale-bottomed streams have pools that are spread out between shallow riffles. Unless there is a significant flow of water, hooked fish do not have a lot of room to make long runs. Therefore, I thought that these creeks might provide a unique opportunity to target large fish with a tenkara rod.
While fishing I targeted deep pools in between riffles, that in my estimation would provide a high probability of landing a hooked fish. In addition, I looked for holes with a sandbar banks that would allow me to follow hooked fish up and down stream. I outfitted my Bad Axe with 10ft of high-vis 4.5 level line and three feet of 5lb tippet. A small plastic strike indicator was placed at the bottom of the level line. For fly selection, I chose a chartreuse/orange egg pattern and used a single split shot to keep it on the bottom.
After fishing for about ten minutes, I lifted a big steelhead to the surface that threw the hook after a few headshakes. About twenty minutes later, I hooked up again. Luckily, the fish zig-zigged back and forth, instead of swimming speedily in a straight line. At one point, the fish made a turn downstream and was headed for a log. The Bad Axe had just enough back bone to coax the fish away from the log. I shuffled my feet to follow the fish up and down stream for about three minutes until I was able to land it in shallow area. WOW, I must say that I have caught many Lake Erie Steelhead in my life, but this was one of the most thrilling. Not having a reel forces you to be completely present in the moment while fighting a larger fish.
After another hour I had to call it a day, but I can't wait to try to battle them on tenkara gear again when I return next year."