Tenkara Fly Fishing on a Pacific Isle
by Rory E. Glennie
From its birthplace on an island along the far western edge of the Pacific Ocean, tenkara style fly fishing has successfully emigrated to an island along the far eastern edge. Much like the mountainous Japanese birthplace of tenkara, Vancouver Island is blessed with countless waters particularly suited to this style of fly-fishing. Small streams during normal/low summer flows offer good trout fishing opportunities. Streams like the Englishman, Little Qualicum and her Big Qualicum sister, Tsable, Quinsam and Elk rivers come to mind, as do many tiny mountainous headwater flows of larger rivers.
There are some streams I know, where at places you can actually jump across without getting wet. They hold some surprisingly nice trout in the random deep spots. These are without exception pretty trout in pretty surroundings. This is secretive fishing in intimate surroundings. The nature of tenkara fly fishing is much in keeping with the laid-back lifestyle which comes with living on a small island along the Pacific coast of Canada… no rush, take it as it comes.
A tenkara setup is perfectly suited to handle small trout in small streams. By small I mean our wild, native-born Cutthroat and Rainbow trout in the ten to sixteen inch length, in streams where you can easily maneuver into position to bring the fish to hand. These fish most often strike with wild abandon, once. After making the move to your fly and missing it, they seem to get very cagey about rising again anytime soon. The clarity of the water and the natural survival instinct of these wild trout probably collude against the fisher.
Zen in the Art of Stealth
Simplicity in tenkara style fly fishing frees your mind to concentrate on becoming one with the environment. Dress in muted Earth tones to blend in. Move with purpose and dexterity so not to alarm your quarry. Cautiously ease into the water only when absolutely necessary. Visualize the rise before making the cast. Meld with the moment… and enjoy the surprise as the shock of reality snaps you back into being when a good trout takes your fly.
Summertime flows limit trout to specific habitats; greenish hued pools where you cannot see the bottom. Undercut banks with overhanging bushes. A washed-out hole in the substrate near a partially submerged log. The dark watery cavern next to a log jam. These are the prime spots to sneak up ninja style, and drop in your fly.
The Excitement Quotient
These are hungry trout that are willing to oblige with a solid surface rise to a dry fly. The principal is the same as in using a traditional kebari. Toss the fly up into the perceived hot-spot. One or two quick twitch-hops to enliven the fly, then repeat to cover all the prospective fish holds. Unfortunately for many tenkara fishers, that often means experiencing a close-combat style reaction to this visual stimulus; as none of the muscle twitching excitement of a good fish rising up in a lazy S-bend to suck in the fly is missed.
It takes a modicum of self-control to not yank the fly out of the fish’s mouth… thankfully, with practice, that response can be learned.
This original entry was penned by Rory Glennie, a resident of Vancouver Island, British Columbia who has been fly fishing the mountain streams for wild, native-born trout since 1970. He is the only Canadian member of the Tenkara USA Guide Network and has been a Staff writer for Island Fisherman Magazine since 2009. His work will also appear in the upcoming Spring issue of Tenkara Angler magazine.