My Tenkara Fix

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Photo by Louis Cahill

Photo by Louis Cahill

By Justin Pickett

We had hardly settled into the lodge in Patagonia and already I’m itching to wet a line.

There is a pond in front of the main lodge, with a small stream meandering through the backside of the property, as well as the Chimehuin River just a hundred yards away, through the trees. To say that I’m dying to float a fly on either of these pieces of water is an understatement.

My clothes are still in my big Simms duffel. All of my gear is strewn about the floor of mine and Louis’s cabin. Dinner is being prepared and most everyone else is drinking wine and relaxing while enjoying the sunset.  After all, we’ve been traveling for the past twenty or more hours, making connections and hiking from gate to gate. Apparently the airport in Buenos Aires is going through some “renovations”, requiring what seemed like a ten mile hike from the international terminal to the domestic terminal. Sheesh!  Not to mention the long drive through some amazing landscape required to get to the lodge. So needless to say, to those that were relaxing on the porch, I probably seemed like that crazy first-timer who’s just jones-ing to catch his first trout in Patagonia, and I’m not afraid to admit that’s exactly who I was.

I started grabbing fly boxes and getting out my rods while I was explaining to Louis what my intentions were. I could’ve cared less about wine and dinner at this point and time. First off, I’m in freaking Patagonia to fish! Second, I’m a beer guy.

Halfway through rigging up my rod and reel Louis made a great suggestion. “I think that little stream would be a perfect place to use the Tenkara rod.”

What a great idea! The stream was indeed just a trickle, and was said to only hold smaller trout. I knew while I was rigging my five weight that it was overkill, but I hadn’t packed any gear for small stream fishing. So when Louis said that he had brought his Tenkara rod, I was even more excited to get on the water.

This would be my first experience with Tenkara. What better way to get acquainted with it than on a small stream in Patagonia? The scenario was perfect.

As we approached the stream we could see several trout rising in the tail of a deeper pool. Looking further downstream, I could see many other trout rising as well.

The Tenkara rod is long, and limber. Way more “flexy” than even the eleven foot, three weight nymphing rods that I’ve become accustomed to using. The idea of not having a reel, or any line to control with your free hand was a new concept for me as well. I feel like Ricky Bobby during his first post-race interview.  I don’t know what to do with my hand! Anyways. The cast is slow and deliberate. The tempo reminds me of an old fiberglass rod, and that’s just fun. You can feel the rod flex all the way down into the handle, communicating your casting motion, and revealing your flaws. With every cast, you get closer and closer to “getting it”. For me, it was all about slowing things down, simplifying my casting motion, and enjoying the freedom of running around with only a rod and a couple flies stuck in the brim of my hat.

Several casts and a few decent presentations later, and we still hadn’t enticed one of those little guys to commit to an eat. Apparently these trout had seen crazy ass anglers like me before…. Waving these damn sticks around in the air like mad men. From a trout’s perspective, I bet we look like complete imbeciles. If only they could talk….

We worked our way down the bank, covering the water thoroughly with a few different patterns without success. I even tied on a small olive zonker…. I just can’t help myself…. It’s a sickness, I swear!

As the light was fading, and the sounds of babbling stream becoming my only reference as to where it flowed, the calls for dinner came from the porch of the main lodge. I couldn’t leave without the “one last cast”, and this time it served me well.  On that cast, one little guy decided that I at least deserved a chance at hooking up with my first Patagonian trout that evening. Just as my caddis began to swing into the dark shadows, a small rainbow, no bigger than eight or nine inches, rose to my fly and nipped it from the water’s surface. I set the hook firmly and the fish immediately jumped, spiraling through the air. Just as this little fella disappeared back underneath the surface, the fly came unbuttoned and, just like that, the game was over in a matter of a few seconds.

To say I was completely satisfied would be a lie. Of course I wanted badly to land that fish, however the big smile on my face was something genuine, and the fun I had just experienced was immeasurable. The way the simplicity, the fun, and the technical aspects all came together better than a Ron Burgandy hairdo, and that just makes me smile.

If you’ve been him-hawing around about trying Tenkara, you should do yourself a favor and either borrow a rod from a friend, or bite the bullet and purchase one for yourself. Personally I can’t wait to get my Tenkara rod back out on the water and catch a whole mess of bluegills and shellcrackers. These little guys are a blast on Tenkara! Give it a try!


Justin Pickett
Gink & Gasoline
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4 thoughts on “My Tenkara Fix

  1. Justin gets it. How often have you gone on an outing Up North, not to mention freakin Patagonia, to find breakfast lining up perfectly with the trico/bwo hatch and dinner and drinks with the evening spinner fall. I’m with Justin, pop a top for me.

    • I fully agree – Justin gets it. Great post about an awesome trip, and we heard nothing about how the actual trip unfolded. When and if we do, I want to read about it from Justin’s perspective.
      I’d be eating Clif bars the whole time….. if I ever forced myself to take a moment and cram one down.

  2. I have been meaning to get one. I keep a generic 5wt rigged with a hopper dropper in my boat for when I run across a school of ‘gills. I think a tenkara would work even better.

  3. You’ve had a great intro! Congratulations! I switched to Tenkara six years ago from singlehanded, Switch, and Spey and have hardly looked back. They are all great equipment and tactics. The thing with Tenkara is to not fish it like your traditional techniques and flies. Its like surfing … just you and board and the ever changing waves. Simple but infinite variations. I have caught far more fish than ever before after learning what Tenkara is all about. Made me a better fisherman.
    Seek out the Tenkara flies like the Sasaki Kebari style, learn to tie them, and learn Tenkara techniques. It’s not the rod alone, it’s what you do with the rod and the fly. You’ll be attracting fish from ten feet away from the fly.

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