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.
My parents had eight kids and now all of my siblings are married with kids of their own. So, to sum it up, the Wayment family is simply huge (pronounced like the POTUS). We all love each other, get along, and treasure the rare times when we can be together. Last July, we rented a cabin in Garden City, Utah for a much-needed family reunion. I believe the last time all of us were together was when our beloved dad passed away in 2014.
When the Wayment Family gets together, you can pretty much bet on three things: (1) Some of us are going hunting or fishing; (2) Mexican Food will be eaten (or some other good food like Cajun or BBQ); and (3) gourmet root beers will be consumed (we’re Mormons so we don’t drink alcohol). Last year’s reunion was no exception to this rule.
Most of the family arrived at the cabin on Thursday, July 7th and we just sat around and enjoyed each other’s company. Brother Shawn had brought a whole cooler of gourmet root beers and, of course, we sampled a few.
The following day we had to spend the obligatory time on the sandy beaches of the Idaho side of Bear Lake, the “Caribbean of the Rockies.” Honestly, I can take or leave that, but my kids enjoy it. I talked my wife into sneaking away to go get one of those famous raspberry milkshakes Bear Lake is known for, so the day wasn’t a total loss.
After dinner, things improved tremendously as my daughter, Nessy, and brother Scott agreed to go fishing with me on St. Charles Creek in Idaho. My nephews, Jared, Easton, and Steele also tagged along for the adventure. Nessy and I shared a Tenkara USA Rhodo rod and Scott and Jared used their western fly rods and reels. The creek was overgrown in most places making it difficult to cast and to wade, but we caught a few small trout. In a seam where two currents conjoined below an island, a beautiful brook trout rolled on my Renegade and I quickly brought him to hand. Nessy got a little frustrated with the thickness of the foliage and the technicality of the creek, but gave it a good effort. Our problem was that we had a hard time finding water open enough for her to cast.
As darkness descended upon us, we came upon a high beaver dam. In the failing light, we could see the wink of rising trout in the calm water above the dam. My tenkara rod did not have the length to reach these fish, so I borrowed my nephew, Jared’s rod and reel. I caught a few fish on Renegades, including a nice Bonneville Cutthroat. Though the fishing was a little tough, everyone had fun. We capped off the night with a raspberry milkshake in Garden City. That made two in one day for me. Can life get any better? I submit that it cannot!
Saturday, the bulk of the Wayment clan hiked up to a popular high mountain lake. I’d tell you the name, but the lake is already so overcrowded as it is. Have you ever seen that video meme on Facebook in which a dude swings on a rope swing out into this pristine lake and gets munched by a monstrous fish? I believe that video was taken at this particular lake. Too bad there aren’t any monster fish in the lake like the one in the meme.
Once at the lake, I used my 2-weight St. Croix Ultra Legend rod and reel , Tommy, the Rhodo, and Nessy, the Badger Tenkara Medium Flex Classic. I caught a bunch of fish on Pistol Petes. Both Tom and Ness caught fish on nymphs. The water was so clear that we sight-casted to cruising fish both in the lake proper and its outlet.
After catching one particular rainbow, Nessy shed a few tears as she worried that it would not make it.
There’s no crying in fishing!
Pretty little rainbow.
With a smile on my face, I said to her, “There’s no crying in fishing!” as I helped her unhook and release the fish back into the lake. And, if you are wondering, it swam off and we did not see it go belly up. So that was a relief.
I really enjoy fishing high mountain lakes. This may be sacrilege for a tenkara blog, but tenkara is not the best tactic for lake fishing because you can’t cast as far or strip the flies in like you can in western streamer fishing. However, it is a great method for kids because the rods are easy to cast and kids learn quickly that you simply have to move the rod tip to move the fly. I was glad to see my kids catch a few on tenkara by themselves.
To sum up, the Wayment Bear Lake Family Reunion was a good time. It was fun to be together with my favorite people on earth in such a beautiful place. I drank a total of four raspberry milkshakes (the family record, I think) and who knows how many root beers? Shawn and I got to shoot our bows a few evenings. And, to top it off, we caught a few trout. I’d call that a successful trip if ever there was one.
“If I fished only to capture fish, my fishing trips would have ended long ago.”
Since I started fly fishing over twenty years ago, I always wanted to catch a bull trout.I remember hearing stories of big bullies on rivers like the North Fork of the Clearwater, Kelly Creek, or the St. Joe, but never had any strike my dry flies or nymphs when I fished those rivers during law school.I wasn’t much of a streamer fisherman back then so I didn’t use the most effective techniques.
Right after law school, my dad and I drew deer tags in a unit near the Middle Fork of the Boise River.The early season hunt occurred in August and it was sweltering hot.In the afternoon, Dad and I took a break from the heat to fish the beautiful Middle Fork.I caught some nice rainbows on nymphs and saw some huge trout sulking in the depths of the clear river, which I assume were bull trout, but couldn’t get them to chase my flies.
During the summer of 2003, I moved to Idaho Falls.There aren’t any bull trout in the rivers and streams around home, so my goal would have to wait.
My friend, Chris Hunt, has written three books on fly fishing, which I really enjoyed.In two of his books, he tells about a small, remote river in central Idaho that holds bull trout that you can catch on dry flies (if you want to know the name of that river, you’ll have to buy Chris’ books).In one of his books, Chris mentions that his son, Cameron, caught a 17 inch bully on a grasshopper pattern.I don’t always remember everything that I read, but Chris’ descriptions of this river stuck with me over the years and I always wanted to experience this intriguing place.I have followed Chris’s hints and suggestions many times and have never been disappointed.
In the past, I fished the lower reaches of this particular river in Idaho a few times, but never touched a bull trout in the desert valley.A friend and I tried to make it up to the headwaters over Memorial Day Weekend in 2015, but were turned back by black clouds and a pounding rainstorm.On this failed trip, we realized that it’s a dang long drive to get to the stream’s remote headwaters.
On Saturday, July 16th, 2016, the day before my birthday, I told my wife, “All I want for my birthday is to catch a bull trout on tenkara.”Fortunately, my wife conceded and I set out early Saturday morning with my Brittany, Misty.As I remembered, it was a long drive up the remote desert valley before I made it to the mouth of the canyon from whence the river flowed.
As soon as the car turned up the canyon, the scenery instantly changed for the better.In fact, the surrounding mountains took on a red tint like the Sangre De Cristos of Colorado, but not so high in elevation.One of my favorite cutthroat streams flows from the rugged peaks of the Sangre De Cristos, so the resemblance instantly endeared the area to me.
About fifteen miles up the river, we came to a campground situated at the confluence of two creeks, each with roads following their courses.I stayed to the right and followed the road up the main fork.I had no idea where to go, so I parked at the next turnoff, pulled out my Tenkara USA Rhodo, tied on a Renegade, and let out Misty of her kennel.Her company would be appreciated in this primitive landscape.I planned to wet wade in sandals, but the air temperature felt cold for July.
I hiked through the thick old growth pine forest to the river and tentatively stepped inside.The frigid water numbed my skin to the touch.I gritted my teeth and waded forward looking for a likely place to present my fly.I soon found a decent run spotlighted by the sunlight piercing though the forest canopy overhead and cast the fly.Sure enough a decent sized fish slurped in the Renegade.I set the hook and quickly brought the thirteen inch trout to hand.To my delight, a beautiful bull trout lay before me looking much like a brook trout, but more aqua green with pink spots.With little fanfare, I had finally achieved a lifetime goal.
I caught a few more bulls along this shady stretch choked with deadfall, but soon grew too cold. So I decided to try to find a stretch of river with more sunlight.Surprisingly, along the creek, grew a gorgeous wild flower that I have only personally seen along Can’t Tell Ya Creek in the Sangre De Cristos named the “Purple Monkey Flower (Mimulus Lewissi).”The allure of this creek for me grew by the second.
After Misty and I made it back to the car, I drove up the road to where it ended.While there were still pine trees around, they were not so thick to block the sunlight from the creek.In fact, the sun shined so brightly, it irradiated the golden-orange stream bottom surrounded by striking green riparian foliage.I thought to myself: This looks like the photos in Chris’ book.This has to be the right place!
Misty and I hiked upstream and fished every likely looking spot.I assumed that the higher I went, the better the fishing would be.However, the further upstream I ventured, the narrower and more choked the creek became and the tougher going.As I tried to maneuver through one tight spot, sharp deadfall shredded my bare shins, which bled profusely.After a few more similar impassible spots, Misty and I retreated downstream and I fished a few holes along the way.
As I fished, I sensed that something was watching me, and looked up to see a coyote about fifteen feet away.Worried that he was not alone, I commanded Misty, “Heel!”When the coyote heard my voice, he beat feet out of there.The coyote had either smelled Misty or the blood from my bleeding shins and curiosity got the best of him.I was so glad it was not a wolf or a mountain lion, but still felt a little unnerved that a wild animal was stalking me.
Ironically, I later found the best fishing near where I parked.In this area, the creek is wider and more open and I found plenty of trout in every likely place.The creeks flows are so clear that you can see most every fish before you cast to them.In his books, my friend Chris mentioned that the river holds rainbows too, but I only caught bull trout that day.I found that—like cutthroat—these bullies loved the skittered Renegade and chased whenever the fly moved contrary to the current’s flow.Tenkara was perfect for this technique.No, we didn’t catch any monsters, but that’s beside the point.This outing was all about the adventure.
When it came time to go, I hated to leave.I totally fell in love with this remote creek and its bull trout.In fact, I loved it so much, that I went back the following Saturday for another chance at those beautiful bullies and had a wonderful afternoon.Someday, I would like to explore rivers in Idaho where bulls grow large and primarily eat other fish, but for my first encounter with them on this little river, I’m already an admirer of bull trout.
“I am not concerned that you have fallen — I am concerned that you arise.”
― Abraham Lincoln
Our Memorial Day Weekend camping trip had mostly been a disappointment for my 12 year old son, Thomas.Every year we camp with some of our best friends and their families at Birch Creek to fish and ride four wheelers or motorcycles.Our friends with the four wheelers would not let Tommy drive by himself and would hardly let he and his friend, Adam, hitch a ride.And Tom, who oftentimes lacks a filter, repeatedly let everyone know of his disappointment.So this trip was mostly a bummer for him.
One of the main reasons why our family goes to Birch Creek every Memorial Day is to give the kids the opportunity to catch some fish on the fly.There is no better place to teach youngsters how to fly fish and tenkara makes its easy.Although he has often fished with me in the past, Thomas did not once ask to fish on Friday or Saturday. We did not fish on Sunday, but just spent time together as a family.
“This is the worst camping trip of my life.There is nothing to do.I am so bored!” Tom had complained more than once over the weekend.
While I did not voice my opinion, I felt that Tom’s negativity stemmed from his lack of trying to enjoy nature, and more particularly, fishing.I truly hope that my kids will learn to love fishing, but I do not want to force this on them.
On Monday morning—a warmer, sunnier day that the previous three days—four of my six kids all wanted to catch fish using tenkara.Of course, it didn’t hurt that I promised a prize if they could catch a fish all by themselves. Nessy, Eden, Lily, and Ben all took turns with the Tenkara USA Rhodo and caught fish. It was a fun, successful morning.Of course, all of the kids bragged to everyone, including Tommy, about winning a Jamba Juice by catching a fish.
Not wanting to miss out, Tommy finally asked after lunch, “Dad, I want to try to catch a fish.”Before that, he and Adam had been whining about not being able to ride four wheelers, which made their owners even more unwilling to give them a ride.
I sent Tom down to the creek, with the tenkara rod and a nymph and indicator rig, to fish from the bank where Eden and her friend Becca had caught numerous fish earlier that morning.Try as he may, Tom could not catch anything and I didn’t help him.To be honest, I was a little miffed that Tom only asked to fish just before we were getting ready to pack up to go home and only because he wanted a Jamba Juice.
Tommy soon stomped back to camp kicking the ground and yelling, “I CAN’T DO ANYTHING RIGHT! I SUCK AT EVERYTHING! I’M THE ONLY ONE WHO CAN’T CATCH A FISH!”
Everyone in camp was staring at Tommy’s temper tantrum and shaking their heads. To gain control of the situation, I made Tom sit in my car until he calmed down.
After about five minutes, I went to the car, opened the door and said, “Try again Tom.Go put on your shorts and Grandpa’s wading boots and I will go down to the creek with you and help you to catch a fish.”
Tommy obeyed and we both went down to the creek with the Rhodo in hand. For the first time ever, Tommy waded with me in the creek.I showed him how and where to cast and how to present the fly.
In about twenty minutes, Tommy caught two fish but both got away before we could photo them.Both times, I hooted and hollered, “Alright Tommy!” while jumping up and down. The whole camp above us overheard our jubilation.I can honestly say that I was more excited about these two fish than any others brought to hand over the weekend.
Tommy and I fished up the creek together and I pointed out where the fish typically held and showed Tom where to cast.We had a good bonding moment like my late father and I had experienced so many times before on this special creek.This is exactly what I was had hoped for.
We didn’t get any more fish, but Tom said, with a smile, as we stood shin deep in the creek, “This is my favorite part of the camping trip.Thank you so much Dad!”
Truth be told, it was mine too. I was so glad I spent the one on one time with him.
Every Memorial Day, my family and I go camping at Birch Creek in Idaho. It’s the perfect place to take kids fishing and to help them catch fish on a fly. All of my kids like to join in on the action and they all have become big fans of tenkara. Like me, they like to yell “TENKARA!!!” in a Japanese accent with a Karate stance.
Last year on Memorial Day after breakfast, I took my young son Benny fishing with my 2 weight St. Croix Ultra Legend fly rod, while my second daughter, Jenness, fished with my Tenkara USA Rhodo rod. We all fished this nice run with big boulders that we could stand on and a nice hole on both the upper and downstream ends. Ben came out and stood on the rocks with me. Nessy was with us and took some beautiful pictures as we landed a few trout.
Nessy also caught a few fish on tenkara. Of all my kids, Nessy has really taken to tenkara and can’t understand what other fly fishers have against it. She feels that it is effective, easy and fun. I snapped a few photos of Nessy with her fish. I’m so proud of that girl!
After we finished fishing, we went back to camp to relax. However, it wasn’t long before my third daughter, Eden, approached me and said, “Daddy, I really want to catch a fish.”
“I’ll tell you what,” I said to Eden and all of my kids. “If you can catch a fish all by yourself, I’ll buy you a Jamba juice.”
Not only did all my kids take up the challenge, but many of their friends, whose families were camping with us, wanted in on the action and the spoils. I suddenly feared that my wager was maybe a bit too generous.
Eden and her best friend, Becca, went down to the creek below camp and I showed them how to cast with the tenkara rod from the bank, but then left them to their own devises. Surprisingly, those two young ladies caught a bunch of trout. Birch Creek was in a good mood and being generous. I took a few photos as they giggled and took turns. We even let Becca’s little brother, Lincoln bring in a few.
After Eden’s success, my youngest daughter, Lily, wanted her turn with tenkara. Unlike Eden, Lily got right out into the shallow creek and waded beside me in her flip flops. Lily caught two fish that morning and was so excited. I was sure proud of her. Of course, I was starting to feel the forthcoming financial crunch from having to buy so many Jamba Juices for victorious kids.
As Benny, my four year old, watched from the bank, I decided to let him bring in a few in from the bank. No, he didn’t hook them himself. I did and then handed him the tenkara rod. Some of my very favorite pictures of the trip are of him fighting the fish from the bank. I figured that this qualified him for a Jamba Juice too.
As I will write about in another chapter, “Try Again Tom,” my son Thomas also caught two fish on tenkara. So all of my kids, except my oldest, Emma, who did not try, caught fish (yes, that’s six kids in all if anyone is keeping track).
Call me cheap, but at six bucks a pop, a trip to Jamba Juice for so many kids didn’t seem too financially feasible. So I decided to renegotiate and, instead of Jamba Juice, ended up buying all my kids Stewart’s Key Lime Sodas. That was a little more friendly to my wallet and they loved it!
Moral of the story: Don’t let your mouth write checks your wallet can’t cash. Tenkara just makes it so fun and easy for kids to catch fish.