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!
I typically fish the longest rod that conditions allow. Normally, I'd fish this water with a longer Classic or Bad Axe, but today the conditions were windy - so I needed the control offered by the shorter and lighter UNC. The 8.5 ft rod was rigged with 7 ft of #4 level line, 2 ft of 5x tippet, and a #12 Pink Squirell. The combination of small target zones, short system reach (about 15 ft) and gusty winds blowing against my casting diretion upstream were going to make it challenging to catch the wild Brown and Brook trout that live there.
Short range casting for small water tenkara.
Short casting range meant I had to get close, so I stayed low, crouching and casting from my knees in many cases, moving slow so as not to drive heavy vibrations through the bank as I moved. An early cast drew a "follow" from a fish that released from cover on the near bank to investigate...but it did not commit. I proceeded to target small overhangs that signaled potential trout cover on the bank, drifting across the near bank first because their blocked sight-lines provide the highest chance of an unobserved approach.
Overhangs (highlighted in green) are prime holding positions for small water trout.
I took my time and fought smart. Watched the water and observed the terrain ahead, and made a plan before I moved up and fished it. Visualized my approach, the target zone for the cast, and the lane for the drift. Tried to wait for lulls in the wind to cast.
The conditions fought back ruthlessly. Misjudged casts went long, or wide, ended up in the grass, and were pushed off target by gusts of wind. The fly snagged repeatedly on both sides of the bank. I got too close to the bank at bad angles where the sight-lines left me perfectly exposed and visible through crystal clear water, and fish spooked upstream. There is no forgiveness of mistakes on a windy small water day.
And that is exactly why I hit this creek a few times a season. The tough fishing there forces me to pay attention to detail and helps me sharpen the fundamental skills I need for successful Tenkara fishing - stealth, situational awareness, accurate casting, and drift control.
Despite the extremely tough conditions on the first day of spring, I managed to bring it all together and put a wild Brown in the net. It was a satisfying few hours, and I left the stream feeling energized and confident that my skills are polished enough to make any "regular" day on the water a great one! - Matt @ Badger
A hard earned wild Driftless Brown trout caught during Tenkara training.