Article by Arran Kerr
My name is Arran Kerr, and I have a burning passion for trout. I live in east Tennessee in arguably one of the best trout fishing zones in the world. I’ve always loved fishing for rainbows and browns my whole life. As the years went on, I went to discover we had lake trout in the lakes near me, and my research paid off heavily after finding out about the Southern Appalachian strain brook trout. We’re all aware that lake trout and brookies are actually char. How is this related to tenkara you may ask? I’ll get to that!
I’d like to talk more about our brookies. Yes, I said Southern Appalachian strain. They are a sub species of brook trout that can only be found from north Georgia to southern Virginia. These fish are very special and rare. Many locals refer to them as “specks”. What’s the difference between a southern strain and a northern strain you may ask? Well, the northern strain can be raised in hatcheries for one. The southern strain can’t survive hatcheries because they are very susceptible to disease and other hatchery hurdles. The northern strain has a different diet and can grow much larger. I’ll always say that these southern strain fish may not get as big and that may not appeal to some anglers, but to me they are twice as beautiful.
What else makes this fish rare aside from the inability to succeed in captivity? Logging in the 1800s devastated their habitat. Then came the historical stocking of rainbow and brown trout. Of course, we all know rainbows and browns can grow to be massive, and feed on smaller fish, i.e., our little, native brookies. Brook trout are also a great indicator species of clean waters. Which means of the water is too polluted, they’ll die. (I’ll go ahead and take a second to tell everyone to clean up your waters.)
Now we’ll get into tenkara for our special sub species! I’ve very recently started fishing tenkara. In fact, I’m coming close to a year of it now! I fished spinning gear all my life. About 5-6 years ago I got a western style fly rod and fell in love with fly fishing. I found a documentary called “The Great Shaku Hunter” that showed the beautiful Japanese yamame and iwana.
They were fishing western style in this documentary. I started doing research into these Japanese trout, char, and salmon. Low and behold I inevitably stumbled upon tenkara! I had to get a tenkara rod now, it wasn’t a choice! My love for Japanese culture and fly fishing practically forced me into the obsession of tenkara and other forms of fixed line fishing!
When I found out about these fish, and this form of fishing I’d never heard of, I had to try it for my southern strain brookies. After all, brook trout are very similar to the iwana in Japan! I managed to beat my personal bests that I caught on both spinning and western styles with a mondo foot long Southern Appalachian strain brook trout. Yes, that is very big for these fish.
Once I finally figured out how to fish a tenkara rod, it was game time. Within a year I’ve caught hundreds, maybe even a thousand and beyond of these beautiful southern strain brookies and I strongly encourage anyone and everyone to try it out.
Arran’s rod quiver includes the Tenkara Rod Co. Rocky & Teton Zoom, Tenkara USA Amago, and Tiny Ten 2 (his daughter’s rod). He pairs them with Ikari Model S & T line holders/fly boxes, Tenkara Rod Co. 16 ft high vis orange level line, 10 foot high vis chartreuse level line, 13 foot red furled leader, 13 foot chartreuse furled leader, or 8 foot hybrid line. Arran’s tippet choice is based on situation; HitenaUSA Nynix copolymer 6x, 5x, 4x (4x on bigger rods for streamers, 5x for nymphing and other mid to low column fishing, and 6x for dry flies or smaller patterns on smaller rods).
This article originally appeared in the Winter 2021-22 issue of Tenkara Angler magazine.
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