October 11, 2018

The Tenkara Campout: Damn, That Was Fun

This past weekend was pretty awesome.

I took last Friday off from work and headed about six and a half hours north up to the Pisgah National Forest for the Tenkara Campout, a small gathering of like-minded anglers loosely organized by Jason Sparks of the Appalachian Tenkara Anglers Facebook group.

Look, I'm not much of a camper, and thankfully, this wasn't hardcore camping. The Davidson River Campground has nicely manicured campsites, flush toilets, even showers. Plus, it's no more than a mile or two away from all the creature comforts of civilization, like a strong cell signal, Walmart, & Taco Bell (as well as the Davidson River Outfitters fly shop).

So when I got there early on Friday evening, I set up of my little MSR 1-person tent, quickly downed a bag of Mountain House turkey dinner, and then wandered over to the other campsites to find the rest of the crew.

Over in Hemlock Loop was where most of the evening festivities took place. There was beer, fly tying, storytelling, more beer, blue line mapping, off-color jokes, and even more beer. That went on fairly late into the night, until midnight or 1AM-ish. I think...

Jason, Dennis, Jeff, & Cain zeroing in on prime fishing spots... or just bullshitting...

Landis & the other Jeff two-fisting and rod gripping respectively...

Even though the Davidson River was super-close and recently stocked with all kinds of delayed harvest fish, a group of us decided we were going to head out a ways and tackle some off-the-grid wild brook trout water. Well, because a native brookie > a stocker any day.

On Saturday morning, Hugh, Jason, & I drove a while, parked the car, and then hiked in about an hour before we reached a beautiful, high-altitude brookie stream. The hike in followed a pretty steep trail, descending about 1000 feet straight down, but when there are brookies to chase, you don't really think about the difficulty of the hike back out afterward.

What ensued was just a bunch of rock hopping, short casting, fun. Hugh & I fished together, alternating runs & plunge pools as we headed back upstream, while Jason went rogue downstream for a bit. While there were areas where longer rods could be used, this was prime sub-300 class tenkara rod water. The shortest rod I had with me was the Nissin Royal Stage 320, so that's what I used, in tandem with a really nice soft-hackle kebari.

The rest was a blast. Hugh caught fish, Jason caught fish, I caught fish. It was pretty awesome. It wasn't a legendary day by fish count standards, I think at most we each caught around 8-10 brookies that were mostly 4-8 inches in length, but who grades their outing by fish count or size? Since I don't fish with fellow tenkara anglers too often, it was a joy not only getting into some colorful Appalachian jewels, but also observing others do the same.

Here are a few photos. Some are a little fuzzy as I've been experimenting using my phone in a waterproof pouch as my primary camera, but you'll get the point. This kind of water is what I live for.

Hugh working a run

Jason about to locate a brookie

Photo Credit: Hugh C.

And then the sky opened up. We fished a little bit more in the rain, but we eventually decided it was time to head back out. We had fished for a nice bit and still had at least an hour's vertical hike up to the car, and needed to conserve a little energy for that adventure.

Photo Credit: Jason S.

Back in the car, we recollected the day's fishing (and mountaineering) as we drove back to camp.

That night we met up with some other folks that had arrived earlier on Saturday (Rob & Kaylan came from Kentucky, as well as Bryan and his family) and grabbed a bite to eat at a local BBQ joint. It was great to get to know everybody a little bit better outside of a fishing setting. Bellies full, the campsite awaited for another late evening of campfires, beer, and storytelling.

Unfortunately, I didn't get to fish on Sunday or Monday. I had to leave early on Sunday morning to get back to Florida for the work-week... but I hear there was another day of epic fishing and camaraderie that took place.

While it sucked missing Sunday's events, Friday night and Saturday were well worth the 13-hour round trip.

Damn, that was fun. I really need to get back soon.


  1. Michael

    I am GREEN with envy! Sounds like a proper Tenkara trip. Photos were superb. Thanks for sharing.

    1. Thanks for the kind words on the photos, it was a really fun trip, albeit far too short!

  2. Michael
    What a perfect way to fish some beautiful streams!!! Thanks for sharing

  3. Great write up and pictures, thanks for sharing. If my ride had not fallen through, I would have been there and am sure I would have thoroughly enjoyed it. Thanks for sharing.

    1. Sounds like there will definitely be a next time...

  4. It's been my belief that you have to fish every nook and cranny of a creek. Your trip shores up that belief. You miss a spot, you might miss a fish. Nicely done Mike.

    1. I believe in your theory as well. Thanks for stopping by Mark!

  5. Great post Mike. From what I see I wish I were there.
    The streams, brookies and that beautiful simplistic fly are what I love.

    1. Would have been great to have you! Know you're not a tenkara guy, but that little glass rod of yours would have been right at home!

  6. What a great time you had! I am so glad. Brookies are so beautiful. I know that I would be using a bow and arrow cast with my fly rod on those creeks!

    1. It was definitely tight in some places. Bow & arrow, or a solid roll cast would get it done with the fly rod of your choice.