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