Fixed-Line Fly Fishing Techniques Tenkara Trout & Char

Tenkara Tips : Odds and Ends

“Odds and ends, odds and ends. Lost time is not found again.”
Bob Dylan

I sometimes have these little tenkara ideas and tips that I’d like to share, but they don’t seem to warrant an entire post of their own. So I figured I’d gather a few of these odds and ends together.

I’m in the midst of preparing for a trip to the Wisconsin Driftless. And by “preparing” I mean procrastinating. So I’m thinking about previous trips and places I want to get back to. While walking down memory lane I’m also reminded of some of the techniques or tactics that I’ve used there. Of course, this stuff isn’t necessarily limited to Wisconsin.

Short Line Long Tippet

This is a matter of form following function. When I fish the small and medium sized limestone streams of the Driftless this particular thing happens. I didn’t think it up it just happened. I end with a line + tippet length that’s about the length of the rod I’m using. Not too unexpected – given the size of the streams. But I’ll often end up with a much longer tippet than I usually use and a much shorter line. For example I may end up with 7′ of line and 5′ of tippet. Or something thereabouts – I haven’t really thought to measure things and it’s not an exact science anyway.

I end up with this set-up for a variety of reasons. Perhaps the main reason is that I like to fish limestone streams very thoroughly. And that means fishing all different water types from extremely skinny water (more on that later) to deeper runs and pools. The long tippet with the short line allows me to effectively fish a wide range of water depths with the small bead-head nymphs that I love using, and keep the overall line+tippet length reasonable. This rigging style is not great for casting lighter and/or more wind resistant flies, but it’s not too bad with slim bead-head nymphs.

Another advantage that this rig can have is that it can be a little less spooky. On those sunny blue-bird sky days (especially if the water is clear) it can be really easy to spook fish with shadows of the line. I feel like the longer tippet helps keep the heavier line and its shadow a little further away from the fish. You’re still going to have to be very careful on those days, but I think it may help just a little.

Don’t Overlook Shallow Riffles and Edges

A lesson I learn and re-learn constantly. Sometimes fish are in those really shallow riffles. Don’t over look these spots. I’ve encountered this many times. Perhaps it is hatching bugs that lure them into the inches-deep riffles. Whatever the reason, sometimes the fish are there in abundance. If you’ve never fished those riffles and you think they’re too shallow, give them some casts. You may be surprised.

The same goes for edges. In limestone streams fish often sit along the bank in surprisingly shallow water. Especially if there is some structure in the form of rocks, logs, little clumps of grass in the stream, or overhanging stream side grass or branches, etc…

Tenkara Tips : Odds and Ends - Tenkara Angler - Anthony Naples - Riffles

Accurate Casting Pays Dividends & Inches Matter

If you’re hoping to do well fishing the structure and those small pockets on the edges of the stream then focused accurate casting is key. Pick your spots and hit them. Think sniper rifle not shotgun. Often, the fish holding in those little pockets sit pretty tight and they may not be willing to move much to intercept your fly. Inches can really matter.

It the photo below you’ll see the kinds of small bank side pockets that can be very productive (circled). The more obvious deeper run at the left in the photo is easier to identify and will likely hold fish too, but hitting those other spots can be fun and challenging fishing with good results.

If you learn to recognize these fish lies you can have good fishing. Often this kind of water gets overlooked by other anglers that focus on deeper pools and runs and/or don’t take the time to develop the accurate casting needed to target it effectively.

Tenkara Tips : Odds and Ends - Tenkara Angler - Anthony Naples - Side Pockets

Sometimes You Have to Get in the Water

Often you’ll hear people say not to wade if you don’t have to. They’ll warn against wading, saying that you’ll spook fish. And this can often be good advice. But sometimes the exact opposite is true.

Tenkara Tips : Odds and Ends - Tenkara Angler - Anthony Naples - Steep Banks

Streams with high banks like this are pretty common in the Wisconsin Driftless. The scale is hard to see in this picture but those banks would be higher than an angler standing in the water. These high banks can sometimes be treacherous to clamber about on and you may be tempted to walk along the flatter ground up top to fish. You can sometimes get away with that especially if the weeds are high and the water is off-color. But at other times you may end up spooking fish that are 50 feet in front of you if you walk up there. Believe me, I’ve done it.

Sometimes getting down in the stream is the only way to do it. And I’ve found that the noise of an angler wading and landing fish isn’t nearly as spooky to the fish a that overhead threat that you are when you walk up on that high bank.

Tenkara Tips : Odds and Ends - Tenkara Angler - Anthony Naples - Brown Trout

Do you have a story to tell? A photo to share? A fly recipe that’s too good to keep secret? If you would like to contribute content to Tenkara Angler, click HERE for more details.


  1. Add… slow down. We too often rush in and start casting. We can miss an opportunity to just be where we are. Use all of your senses. Listen to the sounds, feel your feet and your whole body in that space, smell the air, look at the water and think about where would be the best place to stand. Watch the water and imagine the fishy places. Where to cast? Then breath without any intentions in mind. Keep coming back to this place. The goal is not to rush. The goal isn’t even to catch the fish. There is no goal or destination really other than to be where you are. Doing what you are doing.

    1. For sure. There’s no hurry. After all when we’re not fishing for sustenance there’s nothing at stake – might as well be mindful about it

  2. I’ve found the same thing about getting in the water and the Driftless area is my home waters. All movement and shadow can scare fish. But the lower angle of sight from in the water, combined with really slow movement to create no wake, and soft footfalls on the stream bed (i.e. slow, deliberate and gentle movement) scares fish much less than the heavy footfalls, shadows and more profile in line of sight of walking the bank. If you move correctly in the stream, it’s not unusual to have fish holding in the current by your feet.

  3. Great tips Anthony! I’ve never tried those line/leader proportions, but then again, there’s aren’t any stream here similar to the ones in the Driftless (that place is still on my bucket list). I’d like to try it out next time I face the right conditions.

    One finding fish in the riffle, it’s really interesting to me you mentioned that. Back when I lived in the East, I would commonly catch fish in shallow, faster riffles most people would overlook. I never left an area without making sure I fished the riffles.

    But since I moved to Colorado (25 years ago), I NEVER catch anything in the riffles. I mean, never ever. And I’ve tried fishing the hell out of them. But the fish just don’t seem to be there.

    I can’t account for this. The only thing I can think of is that since we have an abundance of pocket water, maybe the fish just have so many options for holding lies that there’s no reason to put themselves in danger of herons by holding in the riffles. I don’t now. Any ideas?

    P.S. Have a great trip! I’m looking forward to seeing the pictures and what takeaways you come back with this time!

    1. Interesting observation. I can’t really say why that may be- it would all be speculation on my part. Maybe it’s a spring creek thing? Have you fished any of the western spring creeks? I have not. Wonder how the fish behave in those?

    2. Hi Jason. Maybe water temp and thus higher oxygen content. Fishing here in Vermont this afternoon, and I have found that the fish are in the ruffles today with it being 90+ degrees out. Also water fast approaching 70. I just left the stream due to that.

Let's Discuss in the Comments:

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

%d bloggers like this: