I ended up fishing the Driftless region of Wisconsin twice in as many weeks this past June. Volunteering with Matt Sment at a women’s fly fishing event sponsored by Trout Unlimited, I finally had the opportunity to fish alongside of him for few hours. This would be the first time we fished together since meeting up several times before at different tenkara campouts around the eastern United States. Matt took me to the legendary West Fork of the Kickapoo, which he has frequented over the years and I was pretty stoked to be out there on the water with him. We started around 10 AM and fished for three hours.
Having fished the Driftless a week prior, I decided to use my go-to Tanuki Ninja Snow 350 and use the 12’ tapered PVC line I had grown accustomed to. I used the same tippet length, if not a few inches longer than I normally would in the overgrown summers of the Appalachian Mountains since there is room to cast, hookset, and land the fish in these spring creeks. So, maybe 3-4 feet of tippet total. I definitely could have gone longer as Matt was fishing with much longer tippet than me, but I was more confident in my casts with it at a shorter length for control and accuracy.
I am usually a “one fly” kinda gal, frequently fishing a dark, soft hackle sakasa. This day was no different as I tied on a Hungarian partridge, soft hackle sakasa with reddish Jamieson’s Shetland Spindrift wool yarn for the body. I call this fly the “ofsakasa” and it is my spin-off of the renowned “Red Ass Monkey” by Rob Worthing of Tenkara Guides, LLC. I love when this wool yarn gets wet and turns an earthly, dark shade of buggy red/black and the soft, black speckled white/grey Hungarian partridge hackle cascades toward the body of the fly and sticks to the wool. It was the hero of the day as I netted several and hooked even more brown trout in a few short hours heading upstream on the creek with Matt.
I’ve learned that these spring creeks in the Driftless region, especially this one, are wide open and it is something I was not comfortable with as it was not what I am used to. Honestly, these types of waters intimidate me and when I made that known to Matt he was right there with words of encouragement and some advice to help me throughout the time that we fished.
Having room to cast and hookset was welcomed as I could choose a longer setup than usual and could stay further away from the fish as compared to a forested streambank. Also, in mountain streams, I tend to use the water to hide my sounds when approaching fish; without as many riffles and rocks in the open fields, I had to adjust my tactics. This experience has definitely broadened my tenkara horizons and adjusted my fishing, perhaps even for how I fish my home waters in the Appalachian mountains.
As the day carried on, so did the heat. The sun towered over us and although it was no match for the prior week, it was still humid and would get uncomfortable to fish if you were standing out of the water. The catching started to slow down, but we still managed to net several modest sized brown trout. I eventually threw on a tungsten beadhead “pink squirrel” that I had purchased from the local fly shop, the Driftless Angler and caught a few more fish with it.
I decided to go after one more fish after Matt finished up. He said he landed one towards the tail end of the run, and it was a good fish for him to end the excursion. I cast and worked my way upstream into a drop off between two seams. I had initially thrown on this beadhead because I thought that if it was hot, then surely the fish might be sticking to the bottom to stay cool. Well, this size 14 “pink squirrel” stirred something up because on my first cast I saw a yellow flash deep in the current.
A few casts later, I decided to hit the water with my nymph before the drop off and let it tumble down deep into the run. This presentation paid off! I caught a lovely brown trout, probably my personal best in size! I don’t measure my fish often, so one can only speculate, but this was surely my largest fish this year and in the Driftless.
Thank you to Matt for netting this fish for me and letting me slap him with my line a few times in the face as I wrestled it. Also, thank you for the pro tips and encouragement on casting, landing fish and reading water. If you ever happen to find yourself in a position to fish with him, I would highly recommend it! – Amanda
After having met Amanda at a few tenkara events, I was excited to hear that she was travelling cross country to volunteer for an outstanding Driftless outdoor program, the Wisconsin Women’s Flyfishing Clinics. (Thanks for stepping up! And props to Jared Willadsen of Tenkara Genki for volunteering too!). We broke free of our responsibilities to hit the water ourselves, and had a blast!
The #14 “ofsakasa” she gifted me caught on my first cast. It performed strong on the surface/in the film, fished like I do with the Pass Lake. As you’d expect from two tenkara obsessed anglers, we talked a lot about tactics and techniques along the way, comparing notes on our two very different “home waters” as we went. Good weather, some nice fish, and great company made for an excellent day on the water. I look forward to fishing with Amanda again! – Matt
Amanda Hoffner, a half Japanese angler from Pennsylvania, began her tenkara passion when researching fly fishing methods from Japan. She can be found deep on a blue line in the East coast/Appalachian Mountains fishing for native brook trout. Her Instagram name is @ladytenkarabum.
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