Tenkara Trip Reports Trout & Char

Escaping the Heat Dome

Trip Report by Rory Glennie

This day was another trip up into the mountains looking to find more wild, native trout; cutthroats and/or rainbows. This time, self-discipline held, and some familiar waters were passed by in favour of testing more remote portions of the stream. To beat the lowland heat wave, we ventured up into the highest hills. Disappointed, the clear skies and strong sunshine had arrived before us making it hot up there, too. A saving grace was, the brisk thermal breeze which made our skin broiling bearable. 

Those same gusts helped carry our lines out over the water and made imitating a fluttering caddis child’s play. The trout loved it; often jumping clear of the water to drown the fly on their downward plunge. And, as we learned, if we were patient enough to wait a moment, the trout would circle around and take the subsurface fly solidly; then the fight was on!… a natural, light hued, size 14 Elk Hair Caddis was mouche du jour.

Escaping the Heat Dome - Rory Glennie - Tenkara Angler

Wading wet was a sensual delight. My digital thermometer – fingers and toes — informed me water temp was cool, but not cold. Much like Goldilocks pilfered porridge, it was just right. Good thing, too, as much stealth in thigh-deep wading was required to jockey oneself into proper position to make an effective presentation.

Escaping the Heat Dome - Rory Glennie - Tenkara Angler - Wet Wading

For those unfamiliar with tenkara style fly fishing, you may get the picture when visualizing an angler utilizing only a rod, a line, and a fly; no fly reel to store extra fly line to pullout to make a longer cast or to payout when fighting a strong pulling fish. This fixed line style of fly fishing is the pinnacle of close-quarters combat. And it is so fun, even if that is sometimes in a “Gong Show” sort of way, with the fish swimming through or around one’s legs.

At the end of the day each of us had tallied several fish brought to hand with many, many more jumped and missed; mostly through having a too-quick trigger finger on the strike or by not being patient enough to wait for the trout to turn and take the fly solidly. The catch was about equally divided between rainbows and cutthroats. They were all in the eleven to thirteen inch length range and full of piss and vinegar, with one grand cutthroat of fourteen inches and a bit. And to tell the truth, all were quite a handful on a tenkara rod… just right.

Escaping the Heat Dome - Rory Glennie - Tenkara Angler - Coastal Cutthroat Trout

Sometimes, if you are really sneaky, or supremely lucky, you can get so close to a feeding trout that it is all but impossible to make a cast to it without your movement spooking the trout away. Such is often the fate of a tenkara style fly fisher since most fishing is done at close range. Wading slowly upstream helps. The resting fish in the photo held in the tail out riffle and graciously allowed me to back down and cast above it. It rose to my dry on the first cast.

As usual, in these tiny streams, the deeper holes and scoured-out pockets around big boulders and flood stranded brush-piles are where trout make a home. Maybe one nice sized trout and a couple of tiddlers hold there. In this case, nice sized means twelve inches or longer. It’s very unusual to find two big trout vying for a meal in such close confines. Today was no exception; one and done, then on to the next likely looking hole, with a lot of hiking in between. 

Each new hole offered promise and delivered often. Some yielded a solid hookup, others gave up a rise and a miss, or misses. A high-riding Elk Hair Caddis moved fish to the surface and got the most solid hookups with fewer refusals. A size 14 Klinkhammer, which worked its magic last time out, only brought rises and rebukes. That seemed a bit odd, because at this time of the year when breezes are blowing all sorts of detritus into the water, a high floating dry fly sometimes gets lost in the muddle; whereas a suspended body fly pattern hanging below the surface simulates easy prey.

Fish logic… go figure?

Gear Notes:

I use either a 13’6” Amago or an Ito zoomed to 14’7”, both models are made by Tenkara USA. My line is a 13’ traditional furled tenkara line with about 4’ of 6X (4lb.) fluorocarbon tippet. An improved clinch knot attaches my tippet to fly. From May to October a dry fly is all that is needed to interest a trout and gets plenty of rises. The visual stimulation one gets from seeing a fish come to the surface in such clear water is the best part of this type of fishing. Rarely do I need to resort to using a small weighted nymph to catch a trout.

Rory Glennie is a veteran field editor, columnist, and feature article contributor with B.C.’s Vancouver Island based Island Fisherman Magazine. Rory promotes tenkara style fly fishing both through the magazine, and within the Comox Valley Fly Fishers club website. Mountain stream tenkara is one of Rory’s fly fishing passions.

This article originally appeared in the Winter 2021-22 issue of Tenkara Angler magazine.

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