Lake Tenkara

1175486_10151709433067530_998173809_nOur annual family vacation is held in a lakeside house at the Wilson Ranch in Mazama where it is only steps to a small private lake that holds rainbow, brown and tiger trout.   I’ve fished this lake for the last decade with a western rod and this year I did pack a 4-weight but also packed my Amago for the lake and an Iwana for the small creeks in the vicinity.   I vowed to use tenkara and only pull out the western rod if I wasn’t catching fish.   I never had to pull out the western rod.

I rigged my 13′ 6″ Amago with a 18′ level line and my standard Hare’s Ear Kebari and set out for the lake.   My plan was the same as always, stalk around the lake shore looking for a cruising fish and then casting to it.  Most anglers on this lake tend to pick a spot and cast straight out, a strategy I’ve never found productive.  Most of the time you can find fish cruising within 15′ of the shoreline and I’ve found that a well placed cast will usually get their attention. This was sort of key to getting tenkara to work in a lake since there was no way to reach the risers 30-40′ out which are almost always present.

On our first day we headed to the water and I rigged my 8 year old granddaughter up with a spinning rod.  She had an 18″ rainbow on in minutes and another one of about 14″ within ten minutes so I spent a lot of time netting her fish (she got nice fish each day on the spin rod actually).   I missed the first few fish I got to turn on the fly then finally connected to a nice 16″ rainbow which, at the time was the largest fish I’d landed on tenkara.   I also got a 13″ tiger trout that evening, two of the three species in the lake already.

Over the next several days I got rainbows and brows up to 20″ out of the lake including a crazy half hour period where I landed four fish over 18″, two bows and two browns.   I figured out that the key to tenkara success was indeed casting to individual fish, letting the kebari sink a bit ahead of and to the side of the fish then very slowly lift the rod tip in a twitching manner getting the kebari to seductively dance toward the surface as it intercepted the fish’s position.   This would inevitably bring a rise and most often a hooked fish.   The trout just couldn’t seem to resist the softly emerging kebari.   Each of the four big fish in that magic half hour came this way, one cast to the fish, slowly causing the fly to emerge and a rise.

I also learned about playing big fish on a tenkara rod where they want to run and you can’t let them.   Changing angles on the fish is key, always moving them gently in the opposite direction and, at times, moving up or down the shoreline if the fish is moving parallel.   I wasn’t sure I’d be able to subdue these fish with a tenkara rod since I knew that they often ran for deep water and took out line when fishing with a reel but the bend in the rod handled the fight well and the fish would tire to the point I could lift it and slide it to the net (my big net, not my little tamo).

So while tenkara was designed for the small mountain streams like the one I snuck out to one afternoon with my 11′ Iwana to catch 6″ cutthroats, the Amago worked great in the lake with big fish.  I would say a 14-15′ rod would even be more effective as you could cover a bit more water but with a slightly longer line I had no problem reaching the fish I could spot while walking the shore.   I think next year I’ll just leave the 4-weight at home.