Article by Steven M. Platek, PhD & Spencer J. Platek
We love to fish. Two summers ago, we decided to keep track of the number of fish we caught in an Excel spreadsheet. Every morning we were the first ones in the neighborhood to wake up and before playing ball, riding bikes, etc., we would hit our local neighborhood lake that we refer to as the “hood pond.”
That summer we fished almost every day; we would fish a few hours in the morning and a few hours before sunset. We ended up logging over 1,000 fish. To be exact we caught 1,084 fish out of that lake over the course of the summer. Most were variants of panfish: bluegill, shellcrackers, pumpkinseeds, redbreasts, but some were brown bullhead catfish, and others were bass.
I think it was that summer that we developed a love of fishing together. We love to spend time as father and son on water catching fish, or sometimes other critters like crayfish and salamanders. It was at the end of that summer that I decided that we were going to start taking an annual father-son trip that involved the outdoors, namely fishing. We even have a scratch off map to track our adventures.
Our first trip was to the coast of Georgia, Tybee Island. We rented a quaint little cabin right on the bay that allowed us to crab right in our weekend backyard. We also took a “kids’ charter” boat fishing in the sea. I can’t recommend this enough! We caught croakers, whitefish, sand sharks, black tipped sharks, skates and rays.
And Spencer got to drive the boat back to dock.
Our second trip was also local. We went camping just north of Helen, Georgia. The campground had a dozen or so primitive campsites and a decent sized creek that split the north side of the campground from the south. This was our first-time camping, but what we lacked in camp prep was made up for by time spent in that creek. (Hesitant to reveal creek name, because loose lips can destroy small creeks.)
We had just started to learn how to fly fish and we were slanging a small Chinese fixed line rod that was bought for about $8 and some change off Amazon. We caught probably 50 fish over the course of the weekend. They were all wild/stream-born rainbow trout, most in the 6-10-inch range. Spencer even caught a double, which was very exciting! This trip strengthened our love of fishing, the outdoors, and our father-son trips.
In the time between that camping trip and our most recent 2018 father-son trip, two things aligned to really turn us onto fixed line/tenkara methods. The first was a company that asked me to do a review of a tenkara rod for Amazon.com. They provided a free rod, leader, tippet, and tenkara style flies. We put that thing through the ringer on both the “hood pond” and our local tailwater, but we still weren’t sold.
It wasn’t until I became friends with Chris Lynch through a local trout message board, North Georgia Trout Online (NGTO), that we really learned the subtleties of fixed line fishing, as well as the possibilities. Chris told us about different styles and manufacturers of rods, made recommendations about lines and flies, and we were off…
This year we wanted to do something different. We wanted to go on a trip, on a plane, to “travel.” We also wanted to chase a few bigger trout. And, we wanted to use fixed line/tenkara methods. Thanks to the lovely lady in our life who booked an Airbnb and airline tickets we were off to Utah. After a few email exchanges with Devin Olson and Lance Egan, we decided to hire a guide from FlyFishFood who was proficient in fixed line angling.
Our accommodations were not only affordable, but perfectly located within a 10-minute drive to the Provo River tailwater (still not sure which section, there are three, but we were in Midway, Utah). Maybe best of all they had a dog that was super sweet named Gracie.
Our guide, Larry, came prepared with a few tenkara rods that were all rigged traditionally: lead at the bottom, two small midges or sow bugs, and a Thingamabobber. At first, this seemed odd, but once we got fishing we realized the lethality of this method. It took Larry about 5-minutes to teach us how to cast this rig then he created some separation between us and really instructed Spencer where to fish. He was an excellent guide.
Spencer drew first blood, hooking into several really good stream-born browns. People always say wild, tailwater browns are so spooky, and they are, but using a good presentation and quality drift, it seemed like fixed line was the method (at least for a seven-year-old) that allowed us to stay close, but not too close to the fish and catch them, pretty much one after the other. Looking around, not too many other anglers were hooking up.
After our guided trip, Larry gave us a few pointers about how to setup our own rig. He also gave us a few of the flies that were working that day and after a quick stop over at the local fly shop near our house in Midway, we were off to fish the section of river that might as well have flowed through our backyard. And wouldn’t you know it, first cast and Spencer was hooked up with a really good high teens brownie.
We continued fishing until sunset and caught several more browns, but that first one was the largest. When we got home, we hit our local tailwater using a similar method and also caught fish. Smiles all around!
Spencer’s already started planning our next trip. Apparently we are either going to be chasing huge bass in the deep south or bull trout in Canada. Either way, it sounds like we are going to need a larger, stronger rod!
Steven M. Platek PhD is a Professor of Psychology/Neuroscience, but makes every attempt to spend as much time in the wilderness as possible. He’ll fish using any methos, but has recently realized the simplicity and effectiveness of fixed line angling. His favorite fishing buddy is his son, Spencer.
This article originally appeared in the Summer 2018 issue of Tenkara Angler magazine.
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