TRY AGAIN TOMMY

“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. 

IMG_0727.JPG
Lily’s first fish on tenkara.  Can’t beat that smile!
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.

img_0865
Misty admires Tommy’s fish. 

 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. 

img_0867
Fish on!

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.

 

Advertisements

DON’T LET YOUR MOUTH WRITE CHECKS YOUR WALLET CAN’T CASH

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.

 

img_0899
Birch Creek

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.

Benny admires our fish.

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!

img_0950
Nessy getting it done with tenkara!

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.

img_0953
Lily picked tenkara up quickly.
 
img_0954
Can’t beat that smile.

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.

img_0955
Benny fights a fish on tenkara.

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!

img_09041
Stewarts Key Lime: To the victors the spoils!

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.

BADGER TENKARA CLASSIC-MEDIUM FLEX

(Note to Readers:  I first wrote this review of the Badge Tenkara Classic-Medium Flex on Upland Ways in March of 2015.  I sure do appreciate the guys from Badger helping me get into tenkara.  I thought the readers of this blog might enjoy this!)

In the last few years, it seems like just about everyone has jumped aboard the Tenkara bandwagon. Tenkara seems to be everywhere in social media Facebook, Instagram, and numerous blogs. Some may argue that this is just a fad that will pass. No doubt, fads come and go, but what do you say about something that has been around for over 200 years?

 For those of you who don’t know, Tenkara is an old form of fly fishing invented in Japan. A Tenkara rod is much longer than your typical fly rod (i.e. 12 to 14 feet as opposed to 7 to 9 feet) and there is no reel. The modern Tenkara rods telescope outward.

When I first read about this form of fishing, it piqued my curiosity, but—based upon the written descriptions—I really didn’t quite understand how it worked. However, last fall, a good friend of mine, Matt Tower, agreed to show me how to Tenkara fish after a grouse hunt. I took him to a favorite hole on a tiny stream I call “Trickle Creek” and even filmed him catching a nice trout.  Matt let me try it out and I instantly became a fan of Tenkara fishing and had to have one.

I approached the gentlemen from Badger Tenkara—Matthew Sment and Mike Lutes—about reviewing one of their rods and they graciously agreed. I explained that I planned to fish it on small mountain creeks and asked for their suggestion. Within a week, I received the Badger Tenkara Classic-Medium Flex rod. This telescoping 12 foot rod came in a nice plastic green tube, with screw on lids that open at either end. The rod itself was in a black cloth sheath. They also sent me about twelve feet of Badger fly line. In short, everything is super nice.

IMG_2104
Unlike a regular fly rod, there are no ferules on a Tenkara rod. Rather, the line is attached to a small piece of woven nylon at the rod’s tip called a “Lillian.” I had to go to the Badger Tenkara’s webpage to learn how to tie the appropriate knots for the line-to-Lillian and the line-to-tippet connections.

Matt Tower fishing Trickle Creek.
Matt Tower fishing Trickle Creek.
The same week I received the rod, I called Matt Tower and we planned again to fish Trickle Creek with our Tenkara rods. Though the creek was low and clear, the numerous Yellowstone Cutts rose to nearly every well-presented fly. The real challenge was to not spook the fish with a clumsy approach or cast. I missed the first few fish as my timing was a little off with a twelve foot rod (as opposed to the seven foot rod I typically use), but I eventually dialed in and started to catch a few small cutthroat.

Andy fishing Trickle Creek.
Andy fishing Trickle Creek.
At first, I found it a little difficult to keep the line from tangling in the tall brush around me and I snagged my fly in the trees overhead more than once. I think that comes with trying to get used to a longer rod and the loose line. Matt had purchased some line keepers from amazon.com so that when we moved to the next hole, he simply wrapped all his line on the keepers above the rod’s cork handle to keep it from tangling with all the natural obstructions that lay before us. I will definitely invest in this for this summer and fall fishing. All said, I caught numerous fish that evening and missed many others. I truly enjoyed myself, but was surprised that it was more difficult for me than I expected.

Tenkara means "from Heaven" in Japanese.
Tenkara means “from Heaven” in Japanese.
My major goal last fall for acquiring the Tenkara rod was to be able to quickly fish while out bird hunting as it seems that grouse and trout are often in close proximity. Unfortunately, I didn’t get to use the Badger Tenkara rod as much as I would have liked last hunting season. However, there was this one glorious day mid-October that was the perfect opportunity. Mother Nature was showing off in all of her autumn splendor that day and the hunting was phenomenal. By 4:00 p.m., I already had two blues and one ruffed grouse in the bag. I wrote the following about the remainder of this wonderful afternoon:

Even though I do not yet have my limit of four birds, I decide that three is plenty. I turn back down the road and head for the car with a smile on my face. The only thing that would make this day any better is to catch a cutthroat out of Trickle Creek and that is exactly what I plan to do with my new Badger Tenkara Rod. Once back to the car, I load up the dogs and drive up the road to fish a favorite stretch of the creek.

After stringing up the Tenkara rod, I tie on one of Shawn’s Chubby Mormon Girls and start fishing the familiar water. In a deep hole, a large yellow fish rises and I miss it. I cast the fly into the hole again and the same big cutty rises again. I stick him, but he is off in a flash. This has to be the biggest fish I have ever seen on Trickle Creek.

In the skinny water, the fish are skittish, but I manage to catch four or five beautiful Yellowstone Cutthroats, none the likes of the one that got away, but special nonetheless. My love for this special canyon, its birds, its little creek, and trout abounds.

And so did my love of Tenkara fishing. I can honestly say that the Badger Tenkara rod was perfect for what I had in mind that glorious fall day.

So what do I think of Tenkara fishing? I love the simplicity of it. Notice that I did not say that Tenkara fishing is “simple” because it is not. Rather, it hails back to a time when life was simpler—when man did not have all of the conveniences of modern life but made do with what he had. In that sense, Tenkara never was or will be a passing fad. A friend of mine with whom I often fish recently teased me about taking up Tenkara fishing and said that “Fishing without a reel is like riding a bike with training wheels.” I think maybe it’s the other way around. Oh well, to each his own.

No reel necessary.
No reel necessary.
As I did a little research for this article, I found that the word “tenkara” means “from heaven” in Japanese. Honestly, that made me love Tenkara fishing even more. Indeed, any fly fishing—including Tenkara—is heavenly.

*****
I appreciate Matt Sment and Mike Lutes from Badger Tenkara for allowing me to review the Badger Tenkara Classic-Medium Flex. The rod is reasonably priced ($85.00 to $105.00) and casts great. I have no problem recommending the followers of the Tenkara Wandering to Badger Tenkara for all their Tenkara needs. Matt and Mike are great guys and are more than willing to answer any questions that you have to help you get started—not to mention that Mike has great taste in music (“I want to make friends with the Badger!” –The Dead Milkmen). Here is the link to Badger Tenkara’s website.

"I want to make friends with the Badger!!!"  --The Dead Milkmen.
“I want to make friends with the Badger!!!” –The Dead Milkmen.

BROWN TROUT HEAVEN

(Day One: Part Two)

The fishing was so good Thursday morning on Pine Creek and I Dunno Reservoir that Shawn and I decided not to make the trip into Gunnison to eat dinner at Garlic Mike’s—a world class Italian restaurant—as  originally planned, because we both wanted to keep fishing (now, if it was tacos, we probably would have chosen otherwise). 

Instead, we opted to travel a short distance to a small river, which flows through lush, green pastures.   The creek is actually named after the Indian word for the low point in the mountains where buffalo would cross over, but I’ll call it “Brown Trout Heaven.”  The buffalo are now long gone, but it is not uncommon to meet a bovine beauty queen along its bends and runs. 

IMG_1320
Shawn caught a cutthroat at Brown Trout Heaven.

 

Robert Traver aptly wrote “trout do not lie or cheat and cannot be bought or bribed, or impressed by power, but respond only to quietude and humility, and endless patience.”  Nowhere is this statement more true than with brown trout.  For years I hunted big browns near home on Idaho’s Snake River with traditional fly fishing gear and streamers and learned to love and respect them.  In my opinion, they are the wariest of the trout family.  It takes both stealth and skill to consistently catch big brown trout.  They spook easily and will generally only hit a fly once before the gig is up.  And, once they get past twelve inches, browns don’t take dry flies as readily as other trout species.  It sure is fun when they do. 

For my trip to Colorado, I only packed my Tenkara USA Rhodo rod and planned to use it exclusively, come what may.  When Shawn and I made it to Brown Trout Heaven mid-afternoon, I fished upstream and Shawn fished down.  The tea-colored creek was still high from the runoff, but the edges were clear.  The wading was a little tough due to potholes, sharp willows, and thick gumbo mud caused by cattle.  A few times, my sandals were sucked from my feet and I had to fish them out of the reeking mess. 

Despite the difficulty, the fishing was excellent as nice browns (i.e. 10 to 12 inches) slurped in my Renegade at each likely looking spot along the edges.  The key was to quietly sneak into casting position, cast precisely to the likely looking spot, keep as much line off the water as possible, and get an absolute dead drift.  Oftentimes, only my fly was on the water when the fish rose. 

IMG_1321
Andy with a decent brown at Brown Trout Heaven.

As the sun started to set, I was fishing a run near the road when Shawn drove up in his truck and watched as I worked a boulder strewn run.  The trout of the day rose to the Renegade in a fishy pocket beneath a willow.  I set the hook and giggled as I fought and landed this 15 inch beauty.  With Shawn patiently waiting, I realized it was time to call it day—a glorious one for sure. 

IMG_1152
The fish of the day.

On the way home, Shawn, who regularly teases me about tenkara, admitted that it is a very effective method of fishing for this size river and that he had mimicked the tenkara techniques with his glass rod that afternoon to great success.  No doubt about it, tenkara worked wonderfully to achieve the stealth and quietude necessary to fool the fish at Brown Trout Heaven.      

 

LIGHTNING STRIKES TWICE

(Day One: Part One).

There’s an old idiom lightning never strikes twice, which means that most people believe that the same rare thing never happens to a person twice.  From my first day of fishing in Colorado with Brother Shawn, I can testify that lightning sometimes does strike twice in the same place–and in more ways than one.

To our chagrin, the Arkansas River was once again blown out for my fourth annual Colorado fishing trip in June of 2016.  Like last year, Shawn and I would have to find other rivers to fish.  As we discussed where to go, we talked about the epic fishing we experienced the previous year on a big creek named after the Indian word for a mountain pass where buffalo would cross over to the other valley (that’s the only hint I’m giving you) and a smaller tributary I’ll call, “Pine Creek.”  Last year the fishing on Pine Creek was epic due to hatching Green Drakes, smaller stone flies, Yellow Sallies, and PMD’s.

“Do you think we’ll see any Green Drakes on Pine Creek?”  Shawn asked hopefully.

“I think it’s possible,” I replied, “but my experience with Green Drakes is that they are hard to time correctly.  It’s usually the classic: You should have been here yesterday! I say we give it a try anyway and hope for the best.”  We both concurred that this was the game plan for our first morning.

When we pulled up to our parking spot early that morning, we both nervously walked up to the creek hoping to see some of the big green mayflies.  The tea-colored creek appeared about the same exact flow as last year.  It was as if we had never left.  It didn’t take long before we saw a spinner drake dancing above a riffle.

IMG_1141
It was like deja vu. The little creek looked perfect!

 

 

“Brother, that’s a Green Drake!  Can you believe that we timed this right?”  Shawn exclaimed.

We both hustled back to the truck and rigged up our rods; Shawn, a Southern Appalachian Glass fly rod, and me a Tenkara USA Rhodo.  I tied on a Green Drake Cripple and was on the creek fishing well before Shawn even had his rod rigged up.  In fact, I had a nice brown hooked, landed and photoed before Shawn even stepped foot in the creek.

IMG_1142
First fish of the trip: A nice brown on a green drake cripple. 

 

Shawn and I decided to fish upstream together and take turns at each likely looking pool, run, or bend.  We were stoked to observe copious amounts of stoneflies, Yellow Sallies, Caddis, PMD’s and a few Green Drakes all along the creek.  Despite the abundant tablefare, Shawn struggled at first to get the finicky browns to take his fly.

IMG_1149
Little Stonefly.

 

“Brother, it’s all about the drag free drift and keeping as much line off the water as possible.  These fish won’t take your fly if they see your line. Tenkara is perfect for this little creek, because the fish are only seeing my fly,” I explained to Shawn.  Shawn followed my advice and soon started catching fish in every likely looking spot with his glass rod.

After catching numerous nice brownies, I lost the Green Drake Cripple that had served me so well.  Shawn struggled to catch fish on the various Stimulator patterns he had tied.  We both naturally gravitated toward the classic Renegade in a size 12, which we tie with a red, purple or blue butt.  In my opinion, the Renegade is one of the most versatile and effective attractor patterns ever created.  We quickly found that Renegade worked just fine as we both caught numerous nice browns and brook trout.

The fishing on Pine Creek was technical in that we had to sneak into casting range to not spook the wary fish and then cast the fly precisely with a drag free drift.  On one bend of the creek, Shawn watched a nice brown rise to the surface and eat a natural fly.  He then cast the Renegade above the brown’s lie at the bend of the creek and we both watched as it drifted perfectly into position.  Of course, the brown rose up, slurped it in and Shawn soon landed him.  Multiple times that day Shawn said out loud: “My favorite fish of the day was that brown that I watched take a natural and then I got him to take my fly.”

“Yes, that was pretty darn cool, brother.”  I had to agree.

As we had the previous year, we fished all the way up to where beaver dams blocked our progress.  In the pond above the beaver dam, we watched trout sipping naturals on the glassy surface.  I then cast the Renegade lightly to where we saw the last rise and the eager fish quickly gulped it in.  When I set the hook, the acrobatic fish blasted out of the water unlike the browns and brook trout before.  I quickly brought the rainbow to hand and we snapped a picture.

With our progress stymied, Shawn and I hiked out of the creek bottom though marshlands interspersed with wild irises–a favorite wildflower of mine–back to the road.  We stopped at the truck for a break and cracked open two Boylan Root Beers.

“Here’s to hitting this creek perfectly two years in a row,” Shawn said as we clinked our bottles together.

“Amen to that brother.”  The gourmet root beer was the perfect compliment to our morning.

Not wanting to call it quits on Pine Creek, we decided to hike downstream a ways and fish back up to the truck.  As we hiked, three cow elk blasted out of the creek bottom and up a pine-covered hillside.  We took it as a good omen.  The creek downstream looked excellent and we were excited to give it a try.

We didn’t fish long, however, before a dark storm cloud rolled over the little valley.  As we approached another little beaver pond, the heavens let loose with thunder and lightning.  I don’t mind fishing in the rain, but standing in a creek with a lightning rod during an electric storm is just plain dumb.

“We better get the heck out of here!” said Shawn as we witnessed lightning flash overhead.

“Yeah, buddy.  Let’s get out of Dodge!”

As we were both trying to get out of the creek, I stepped into thick mud and pea-sized gravel suddenly filled my Simms wading sandals making the going extremely tough and painful.  Moreover, my fly snagged on a willow near the beaver dam and I struggled to get it loose.  All the while, thunder boomed and lightning cracked all around me.

Not long after I pulled the fly free, marble sized hail starting to pummel us.  Shawn decided that it was each for his own and he bolted down the trail to the truck as fast as he could.  I, on the other hand, hobbled along as the gravel in my sandals tortured my poor feet.  Yet, I didn’t dare stop to take off my shoes because of the overhead onslaught of hail that stung my neck, ears and arms.  My only recourse was to pull my fishing vest up over my head and keep moving.  To my relief, I soon saw the truck and jogged over to it despite the rocks in my sandals.

By the time I reached the truck, there was an inch of hail on the ground.  As I took shelter in the truck, Shawn laughingly reported that he had filmed my misfortune with his phone.

“Dude, that really sucked!” I hollered, “But it was kind of awesome too! I’m just glad we didn’t get struck by lightning. I couldn’t go any faster because I had rocks in my sandals!”

“That was dang scary!  I had rocks in mine too, but I ran anyway.”   Shawn replied.

Despite the crazy weather, we both agreed that the morning was a stellar success.  Lightning had struck twice both figuratively and literally.  Any way you slice it, this was an adventure to remember.

IMG_1295
A bend in my rod at the bend of the creek.  

 

 

 

 

 

 

RUDE, CRUDE AND UNCOUTH

This summer is flying by on wings of lightning.  I have had an absolute blast fishing the past few months, mostly with Tenkara.  I seriously have a year’s worth of blogging to catch up on.

I should first mention that I had an article entitled, “Zenkara” published in the Summer issue of Tenkara Angler.  For any of you interested in reading, here is the LINK. I’m way impressed with the quality of this online magazine and will definitely support it in the future.

Also, last month I flew out to Colorado for three days of fishing with my brother and best friend Shawn.  To sum it up, we had more fun than two adults ever should.  We were like two kids eating good food, fishing to our heart’s content, and drinking every gourmet root beer we could find.  You can read Shawn’s lies about our adventure on Upland Ways.  If any are interested, here is the link to Shawn’s article, Renegades, Root Beers & the Avett Brothers.

IMG_1150
Root Beers, Renegades, and Tenkara

Over the next few months, I will definitely add my two cents worth about this epic trip, but today, I wanted to share a quick anecdote about still water fishing in Colorado with tenkara.

On Thursday, after an epic morning of dry fly fishing on a small creek I’ll call Pine Creek and getting pounded by a hail storm, I said to Shawn, “That sure is a pretty waterfall over there.”

“That’s not a waterfall.  It’s a spillway for an old reservoir.” Shawn replied.

“Seriously? I never would have guessed that.”

“You want to go check it out?  The fishing is pretty good.” Shawn asked.

After being literally pummeled by hail on the creek, we decided that a change of scenery might be nice. And we also hoped to keep a few trout for Shawn’s smoker.  Shawn and I usually practice catch and release, but I asked him to teach me how to smoke some trout while we were together in Colorado.  We figured that reservoir trout were more worthy of death than their wily brethren in the creek below.

Shawn then drove us down a two track that led to the trailhead to the reservoir.

As we hiked toward the waterfall along a path strewn with wild raspberry canes, I soon saw the old manmade dam and the spillway causing the beautiful waterfall.

Once on top of the dam, Shawn commenced fishing with his traditional rod.  All I had was my Tenkara USA Rhodo rod.  I realized that tenkara was probably not the most effective rod for this type of fishing because of the shorter casting range and that I needed something that would attract the fishes’ attention.  While this may be total sacrilege to the purists, I am a big fan of the Pistol Pete, a wet fly with a little metal propeller near the eye of the hook.  Many claim that this is not a fly at all, but rather a lure.  Regardless, Pistol Petes catch fish!  I cannot tell you how many times this fly has saved my day and worked when nothing else would.  So naturally, I opted for a little silver flash Pistol Pete.

I flung the fly out as far as I could with the tenkara rod and then towed the fly back to me using my arm and the long rod.  On the first or second cast, I hooked into a nice rainbow, but it quickly got off.  It wasn’t long before another one slammed the Pistol Pete and I brought this one to hand,  dispatched it, and created a little pool with boulders to put him in.

When the thundering clouds overhead threatened lightning, I headed over to the far left side of the dam to–if it became necessary–quickly take shelter against the cliff from lightning or more hail.  As I stood in this spot, I caught numerous other rainbows and brookies, many of which suffered the same fate as the first unlucky trout.  Shawn also caught a few fish, but not as many as Me Ol’ Friend Pete.

IMG_1314
Andy catching fishing fish on I Dunno Reservoir.

Seeing fish rise just outside of my casting range, I got creative and skirted the cliff’s rocky shelf to get into better casting range.  This technique worked pretty well and I soon brought a few more fish to their doom.

IMG_1316
Scaling the cliff’s ledge to get to rising trout.

Since I started tenkara fishing, I have received a lot of guff from naysayers.  I have been amazed at the hostility this style of fishing ignites.  Many say it’s nothing more than cane pole fishing.  At one point while fishing this reservoir, I smiled as the thought struck me that my actions at that moment probably ticked off everyone in the sport of flying fishing.  Here I was fishing tenkara, with a Pistol Pete, and bonking a limit of fish on the head.  Undoubtedly, many would consider this triple combination as rude, crude and uncouth.

IMG_1123
Fish murderer.

The truth is, I don’t really care!  The technique worked.  I had fun and I later learned that smoked trout are a tasty treat, especially the pink-meated brookies.

IMG_1210
Our haul on the Little Chief Smoker.

 In hindsight, I can honestly say that tenkara was no handicap for me whatsoever on this trip. In fact, tenkara can sometimes be more effective than traditional fly fishing.  Now when somebody criticizes me about tenkara (or Pistol Pete for that matter), I simply respond, “I let the fish be the judge.”

KEITH’S CREEK

“Sometimes the veil between this life and the life beyond becomes very thin.  Our loved ones who have passed on are not far from us.”

-Ezra Taft Benson

It had been three years since I fished this creek.  The last time I fished it was in July of 2013 with my Dad, Keith Wayment.  Dad asked me what I wanted for my birthday and I responded: “To go fishing with you!”  Dad agreed and showed up early Saturday morning with a box of his hand tied flies and a twenty dollar bill for my birthday.  While the gifts were appreciated, I was just glad to spend the day fishing with him.

Dad at Birch Creek
Dad fishes with my Brittanys on Birch Creek in 2012.

Our first stop for the day was a large creek on the Idaho-Wyoming border.  Anywhere else, this creek would have been considered a river.  However, like all the creeks in the area, it was overshadowed by the goliath Snake River downstream.  This creek has a proper name, but I like to give small creeks nicknames just like my grouse coverts to protect them and to endear them more to me.  At one time, I kicked around the name of “June Creek” because in the month of June bigger fish run up this creek and you can catch them just as the runoff drops and the creek clears.

IMG_1062[1]
Keith’s Creek

In mid-June of 2013, a friend and I caught numerous nice trout on this creek.  However, Dad and I went there mid-July and, by then, the bigger fish had moved back downstream.  I caught a few skippies, but Dad got skunked.  Before he could figure things out, we had to abandon the area because of a black storm cloud and rain.  We stopped at a few other creeks on the way home and Dad finally caught a cutty on a creek I call “Siren Creek.”  This was one of the last fishing trips I had with Dad before he passed away the following spring.

Life got hectic over the next three years and I never could seem to find my way back to this special creek, until yesterday.  My law partner, Aaron, asked me to take him and his son David fishing and this seemed like the perfect place.  Since it was June, I hoped that we would still find some of bigger fish.  Also, with it being Father’s Day weekend, I thought this would be a good place to go and remember Dad.

Upon arrival, we found that the creek was a little off-color which—I thought—was perfect conditions.  However, the big fish were not as abundant as in 2013.  I’m not sure what made the difference, but we had a harsher winter this past year.  Unlike the last time, however, there was not a cloud in the sky.

I strung up the 2 Weight St. Croix Ultra Legend fly rod that my Dad built and tied on one of his Red-butted Double Renegades.  This seemed like a good combo to begin with.  When I fish, I like to keep moving upstream.  I call this “running and gunning.”  I’ll stop and fish the better holes for a while, but if I don’t get a strike after numerous casts, then I keep moving and searching for the primer spots.

As I headed upstream I caught numerous small cutthroat, but no big ones.  I worked up to the head of a long, aqua-green run and skittered a Renegade across the seam between two currents. A beautiful yellow cutthroat rose, but missed the fly.  That is a bigger fish!  I thought to myself.

I tried dead drifting the fly, but the fish ignored it every time.  After skittering the fly cross-current four or five more times, the aggressive fish finally got ahold of it and he was on.  This cutty gave me a good fight on the two weight and I ended up landing him about 20 yards down river.  I was excited about the nicer fish and thought how cool it was to catch him on a rod built by Dad and a fly that he tied.

IMG_1065[1]
Snake River Fine Spot Cutthroat on Dad’s fly rod and Red-butted Double Renegade. 

I then went back downstream to check on Aaron and David, who stayed near the vehicle.  In my absence, Aaron had caught a big cutthroat on a rubber leg.   Since the fish were biting dry flies, I decided to switch over to Tenkara and a Renegade, which was the perfect combo.

As I worked my way upstream from where I had earlier left off, I thought a lot about Dad.  I wished he could have experienced this creek in its glory.  He would have loved its boulder strewn runs and pockets, though he may have had some trouble wading the slick, boulder-laid bottom in some areas.  Although he never heard of it during his lifetime, Dad would have liked the simplicity of tenkara.  A man of faith, he would have appreciated that tenkara means, “from heaven” in Japanese.  Of all people, Dad understood the strong spirituality that is connected with fly fishing and the outdoors.

June Creek” is a little generic of a name, I thought to myself. Maybe I should name this creek after Dad.

As I was thinking about these things, I came upon a dark green hole that just screamed of fish on the left bank.  I cast the Renegade into the run and the biggest cutthroat of the day rose and engulfed the fly.  Upon setting the hook, the fish gave me a wonderful scrap and just as I was almost ready to land him, my tippet snapped.  I knew there was a knot in my line that I should have fixed when I tied on my fly and that was my undoing.  I had just lost the fish of the day and all I could do was smile.  Dad, who had a great sense of humor, would have appreciated that.

Having been away from Aaron and David for a while, I decided to go check up on them and made my way across the stream to an area shaded by big pine trees.  I then saw a small swing with a wood plank seat and looked up and noticed a metal plaque secured to the tree, which read, “IN MEMORY OF DAD, 1-20-24 to 3-10-02.”

IMG_1064[1]

As I reflected on my own father, I was amazed that I stumbled upon a memorial that another family had posted for their dad.  Somehow, I don’t think this was a coincidence.   I resolved right then that the name of this creek should be “Keith’s Creek” in honor of my Dad.  I thought this was the perfect tribute to my hero and father. 

My hero
Happy Father’s Day, Dad!