July 24, 2012

Tenkara Tuesday - Today Is Tenkara Day

Welcome to Tenkara Tuesday.

For today's installment, I'm honored to present a guest post by Mark Kautz, (aka Shoreman), a fellow blogger known in these circles primarily for his fishing website Northern California Trout.  As a trout fisherman that is just as likely to pick up a spinning rod and some Powerbait...or hop in a float tube with a fly rod and some thin mints...or more recently, tackle a small stream with a Tenkara rod, his perspective is uniquely unclouded by the silos in which many anglers place themselves.

In this installment of Tenkara Tuesday, Mark explores a "Tenkara Day" - the which includes the complete experience of a day on the water.  Please Enjoy!


Early on a summer morning you’re standing on the side of a small creek near where you live. It has trout in it, you know it does. You’ve gotten up early, stopped at your local coffee hole for a cup because you know that if you don’t, you’ll have to pay the skunk man.  Yes, you’re superstitious, but you’re a fisherman and most fishermen are superstitious.

Today is a Tenkara day. You’re wadered up, have your vest on, rod in hand, and are ready for whatever the creek throws at you. Your fly is attached to your tippet, that’s attached to your traditional Tenkara line, rolled on the blue spool that the salesman said you needed to keep the line under control. Funny thing is, he was right.

Now you’re ready to make that first cast. You pull the plug on your rod and slip out that little red tag on the tip of your rod. You make the proper loop as you were taught and attach the traditional line to your rod. You unroll your line and carefully extend your rod to the full length as you’ve been taught.

Now you’re ready, but you still stand there staring at the water in anticipation of what’s to come. You’ve fished these waters before and you know that there are one or two trout somewhere in the creek, you’re just not sure where. You gently set the fly on the water for a perfect dead drift as far as the line will reach.

The fly bobs on the water as it drifts downstream for a couple of feet and then a trout comes out of nowhere and takes a shot at your fly. You’re so lulled by the surroundings that the trout has come and gone before you could even lift the rod to set the hook. So you drift it again over the same spot and once again the trout comes and goes because you didn’t expect it to take another shot at your fly.

Ok, it’s time for you to wake up and pay attention. You continue to drift your fly down that section a couple more times, but by now the trout’s figured you out and there is no way he’s going to touch that fly again. So you do what fly fishermen ever where do and that is move your fly and drift another part of the creek. This time you’re paying attention and when the trout comes out of nowhere, you’ve got him.

He’s not big by trout standards. He might be four inches or if you’re lucky he might be eight inches, but he’s a native and beautifully colored. In some cases he is a Rainbow and in others he might be a Brown or even a Cutthroat. You stick your hand in the water and gently as you can take out the hook and ease him back into the water. On some occasions you hold him long enough to take a picture so you can share the experience with your friends.

After you’ve drifted your fly a few more times and none of the residents of that part of the creek show any interest, you collapse your rod, roll up your line, and walk to the next access to the creek. This time you’ve come upon a small pool. It has a little plunge at the head, some slow water in the middle, and swifter water just before it moves to the riffles at the bottom.

Your first instinct is to rush to the head and fish the water under the plunge, but you put yourself in check. Then you think of the story about the old bull and the young bull standing on a hill looking at a herd of cows. The young bull says “Let’s run down there and get us one of those cows” and the old bull says “Let’s walk down there and get them all”. You start drifting your fly just above the riffles while eyeing that spot by the plunge. Because you’re eyeing that spot by the plunge, you miss that trout that took a swipe at your fly. You come to your senses and drift again, but he’s not having anything to do with you a second time. Hey, he gave you one shot and you weren’t paying attention. You ease a couple of feet upstream and drop the fly in the middle of the pool. This time when the trout comes up for the take, you’ve got him. It’s another little Rainbow, Brown, or Cutthroat. This one maybe a little bigger than the last one or maybe a little smaller, but you don’t care because it’s fun.

Now you’ve worked the bottom 2/3rds of the pool and you can finally put your fly in that “Glory Hole”. You gently set your fly to the left side of the plunge and watch it drift across the pool and almost to the riffle. You pick it up again and set it on the right side of the plunge this time and again watch it drift across the pool to the riffle. Again and again you perfectly set that fly and again and again it drifts idly past you without so much as a notice from a trout. By this time you’re ready to take that Tenkara rod and break it over your knee, but sanity overtakes stupidity and you gently collapse the rod, wind the line on the spool, and walk to the next spot.

You work the creek this way for miles and miles (well maybe ¾ of a mile to a mile) catching a fish here and there and missing a fish here and there, but the fun is in the catching and the missing, because you never realized that there were that many fish in this creek.

The longer you’re on the creek, the higher the sun gets and you know that when the sun is on the water, the fish go into hiding and have no interest in what you’re presenting them. Then your watch gongs 11:00am and the bite all but disappears, but you try a couple more places just in case the fish aren’t aware it’s 11:00am.

You’ve fished the last riffle, you’ve collapsed your rod, wound your traditional line around the spool, and slipped your spool over your rod as you’ve been shown. You stick the butt part of your Tenkara rod in your back pocket and start the long haul back to your truck. But wait, that pool with the “Glory Hole” is right there. Do you try one more time or do you continue your walk? It’s the perfect pool, it’s in the shade, the big one has to be there. Decisions, decisions, decisions. You finally give in to the urge and pull your Tenkara rod out of your back pocket, unroll the line, and extend the rod. This whole process takes less than a minute and you gently drop the fly right by the plunge to be rewarded with a nice eight inch rainbow that was just waiting for your presentation. Where was he the first time?

On feet as light as air, who the hell are you kidding, your ass is dragging, you finally make it to the truck, open a bottle of cold water from the ice chest, and collapse in the seat. The collapse in the seat part is after you’ve taken the Tenkara rod out of your back pocket and returned it to its case.

You’re hot, tired, and elated with the amount of fish you brought to hand and even those you missed knowing they will be there another day. This day was fishing Tenkara at its finest.      


About the Author:

The many works of Mark Kautz can be found on this fishing blog Northern California Trout, his woodworking website Mark's Original Wood Planters, as well as the Amador Ledger Dispatch as a regular freelance contributor.  A published author, Mark released his first book this year (2012).  Entitled Fishing, Ghosts, And My Mother's Gray Hair, his "book about fishing and other stuff" is available on his website or on Amazon.com.  

Mark lives in the mountains of Northern California with his wife Katherine and their three cats.  


Are you a Western tenkara angler? Do you have a story, pictures, video, fly recipe, or simply a fishing report from one of your recent tenkara adventures? If so, Troutrageous! wants to hear from you for a future Tenkara Tuesday post! Feel free to send an email HERE, or check out this previous post for more information.


  1. Great write up, Mark...but, I didn't expect any less. Now, if I can just have one fish on the Tenkara... You make it sound pretty fun. I know...patience! Learning curves... Lol.

  2. I enjoyed every word...thanks. Mike, glad to see Tenkara Tuesday's again.

  3. Hey Mark, good to see you here. I have to say that my one experience with Tenkara was interesting. If I would have caught a fish I would have said Unbelievable...but that's my fault. I'm looking forward to crawling out of the tub next time and try it on moving waters that have fish. Good job!

    Mike...Take it easy on my friend Emily when you fish with her. If she asks you to help guide her through some shaky looking waters...decline, she falls.

  4. Well done, Mark, sounds like an interesting day and fun too boot. I am not a Tenkara guy yet, but, you never know. Well written posts like this one might just tempt me sometime.