I have been a practitioner of tenkara fishing for over five years now. Like many of you, I have caught a lot of flack from friends, family, and others on social media about my enjoyment of the method, but I’m an attorney, so I am pretty thick-skinned. The truth is, in many situations, tenkara is as effective (or more so) than a western rod. For small creeks and rivers, I use nothing but tenkara, but still use a rod and reel for big rivers and streamer fishing. Last year, for me, one area where the verdict was still out on the effectiveness of tenkara was alpine lake fishing. I had done it before, but was not convinced it was an effective method.
Last July, I had the good fortune to hike with my daughter and a few others from church up to a high mountain lake on the Wyoming border. While the hike was not super strenuous, it was long. However, my pack was not too heavy with my lunch, water, and fishing gear. The hike to the lower lake was about four miles and it is–at least–an extra five miles to reach the upper lake, but the hike was so worth it!
Upon reaching the lake, it was way bigger than I expected and its turquoise hue was absolutely stunning, but with the tight trees all around its banks, how would the fishing be?
Once at the lake, all the kids and youth leaders rested and ate their lunch, but I grabbed the Badger UNC tenkara rod, telescoped it out to length, and scanned the water for any cruising fish. Sure enough, there was a nice cutthroat less than ten feet out. I quickly cast the Renegade in its course and, without any caution at all, the fish rose up and sucked it in. I hooked the fish, but it quickly got off before I could land it.
Within a half hour’s time, I hooked and landed plenty of other good sized cutthroat, enough to bring one of my tenkara nay-saying friends, Scott Johnson, over to try his hand at a few. I can honestly say that for this lake, tenkara was no handicap whatsoever for either of us.
My daughter Eden spent much of the lunch break hanging with her friends, but after watching Scott and I land numerous fish, she came over and said, “I want to catch some fish!”
“Okay, come climb up on this rock and look for cruising fish to cast to.” I replied.
As if she had been fly fishing her whole life, Eden began spotting fish and casting toward them. We both watched eagerly as a fish rose to fly. Eden struck, but was a bit slow the first try.
“Man, that was close!” I lamented. “Try it again!” Fortunately, there is no shortage of targets in the lake and Eden quickly placed the fly in the path of another.
On the second strike, she drove the point home and was able to quickly land the trout.
“Alright, Eden!” I praised in excitement.
The leaders of the hike soon called for everyone to pack up and get back on the trail, but before time ran out, Eden landed three or four trout. We hated to leave such a beautiful place.
After this experience, I would without hesitation add tenkara as an effective method for high-mountain lake fishing. I think my daughter Eden would agree.