Today my journey began. I have been preparing for today for weeks. Not in the usual way one prepares so much by gathering everything you need but in putting together only the things I needed. Today’s theme was “don’t add anything”. Once I had the basics together of having the basics needs, I had to wait until I could finding time in my schedule to get away and try to fish Tenkara.
Fly fishing for me is a form of meditation. The elements of casting, reading the water and being in that moment have always spoken to me. When I am on a river fishing everything drops away except the moment.
Over the last 4 years I have been doing my best to learn to fly fish in the traditional western style. I have had my share of line tangles, crap casts, snags, and gear purchases. I’ve taken guided trips and found some favorite spots to fish. I feel lucky that I’ve had those opportunities.
Today both the weather and my personal schedule allowed me to get away and finally try for real, for the first time… Tenkara fishing.
I took a quick run up to a canyon above Golden, CO to fish Clear Creek. The trip itself was a little odd because from the moment you turn west up into the canyon you can start looking for a turn off to get to the water. You could pretty much do just that too.
But I did hold back. I was anxious to get on the water but I was not going to rush my experience. Instead I was going to let the experience unfold. Finally, I convinced myself to pull over. I found a nice run of water and stepped out. The first question I had looking down the hill to the water was “Will I really need waders and boots?” I decided “no” Let’s see how this goes.
My conversion to Tenkara has been about simplifying the process and more specifically “not adding” things that aren’t really a necessity. I rigged up in about a minute, changed out the fly that I had on the leader still from the practice casting I had done at a near by neighborhood park a few days earlier and tied on a fly I had created myself and named “my first kebari”. I’ll have to add a page on this blog for my designs..
Down to the water and the first thing I notice is that I should have probably not been so overzealous in rigging up until I was down the hill. All this should be done at the water’s edge. But I shrug this off with a deep breath and then I look at the water. Nice riffles and slow pocket water here and there. Time to cast.
Earlier last week I spent a morning of practice casting in the park. I was a little self conscious when I did it. I think a lot of people walking around the park must have thought I was crazy fishing in the middle of a soccer field but looking back I can say for sure the practice helped out immensely.
One new element that I hadn’t had to deal with was wind. I began to realize that I practiced on a wind free day so these sudden breezes that blew up through the canyon were something new. What I learned was that I had to think a little differently.
Casting a line in the wind and having it blow about with little control could put some people off I suppose. For me it was a moment that I realized that this type of fishing and casting would require me to be even more in touch with and present to the moment I was in. As the wind blew my line in each cast I learned to adjust my cast and even use the wind to my advantage. Let the wind do the cast? It seemed to work and didn’t take much effort to learn to make work.
As I kept my line just touching the water and letting my drifts carry into rocky areas I got hung up a couple times on snags. What I learned here was that with Tenkara, snags are very easy to undo. I could just pull my line in and give a gentle tug but half the time by the time I got my line to my hand the snag broke free…Or maybe drifted free?
I fished a pocket then moved down stream a little then back up stream above where I started. I was mostly practicing my casting and getting a feel for it.. Still I was hoping to hook a trout in the process.
…And then I did.
Not a huge fish but a fish. I had actually hooked my first fish using Tenkara. I let him run a little but thought I should get him in pretty quickly or I would lose my first fish on Tenkara and have to settle for landing the second one I hooked instead. It was very easy to pull the fish in. I didn’t use my net but just brought the fish into shallow water. Pulled my phone out and took a fairly quick shot.
This fish must have really loved the look of the fly I made..It was lodged way down in the fish’s mouth.. almost swallowed it. So I grabbed my hemostat and dislodged the hook. Took a moment to admire the fish one last time and let it down back into the water.
I then took a mental break to rest and just ride the excitement I was feeling. I decided to drive a little further up the canyon and found one more pull off with another nice run of water. If the the first fish convinced me and the second one converted me. I drifted my fly right into a classic spot near a log where you would be expecting a fish to sit. He was a little bigger and put up a very good run. I savored the run a little more this time and let him swim about a bit before bringing him in. This is going to be great!
How do I know I’m converted?
I’ll close this post out with a short closing story…Somewhere in the midst of everything I had lost my hemostat. Probably on the hike back up the hill to my car. So I decided on the way home I would go pick up a replacement at a fly shop that was right on the way home. As I plopped the hemostat on the counter the clerk said "is that all today?"
"Yep…it was the only thing I lost today while fishing" I said.
"Well could of been worse" he says.. "could have been your rod or reel.."
Without missing a beat said “nope.. I don’t use a reel.”
…”Ah Tenkara…” he said.
This is the beginning. I can’t wait to see where this path takes me.
Dennis Vander Houwen lives in Colorado with his patient and supportive wife, talented artist son, a smart older dog, a new river puppy, and a very lucky cat.