Thekara High Lake Fishing Stratiges I
I recently put up 2 posts on Tenkara/backpacking fly fishing trips I made into high mountain lakes, providing information on the fishing conditions, fly patterns fished, and the results achieved. My purpose in doing all that was to provide board members with information that might improve their fishing results on alpine stillwaters. I believe my efforts fell short of their intended purposes because I did not take the time, nor did I have the space, to properly explain the reasons why I did some of the things that I did. I intend to correct that omission now with what will become a series of articles on high lake Tenkara fly fishing.
Why Tenkara Tackle Is Great For Fishing The Alpine Lakes: I have been fishing alpine lakes for more than 40 years with western fly fishing tackle, and about one and a half seasons now with my Tenkara tackle. As everyone here probably already knows Tenkara tackle was developed for fishing small mountain streams in Japan. But Tenkara tackle (but not necessarily traditional or "pure" Tenkara tackle) offers some distinct and significant advantages over using western fly fishing tackle for fishing high mountain lakes. This is not because of the differences between the two types of tackle in and of themselves, but because of the better suitability Tenkara tackle shows for fishing the unique environments of the high mountain lakes for the trout who live in them. Alpine lakes are cold and deep waters, with lake bottoms that were gouged out of solid rock by rivers of ice. The winters up there are also long and cold, the ice free growing seasons are very brief for the trout compared to lower elevation lakes, and the trout's food supplies are scant at best. The most productive areas of these lakes for the trout's food to be produced is found in the shallows, generally right against the windward lake shore. So the ability to throw a long line is not really needed or even desirable for fishing these high lakes. Good eyesight and the ability to spot fish in the water before they see you, the capability to sneak up on the fish without scaring them, and the patience to wait it out with out moving and scaring the fish for shore cruising trout to come within your casting range is all much more important than being able to cast a long line on these sky waters.
Rod Considerations And Where And When The More Traditional Tenkara Lines Still Have Their Uses: The light relative weight of the long telescoping Tenkara rods make them perfect for the backpacking required to reach these high lakes, with considerable weight and bulk savings over what even the lightest and most compact of western fly fishing tackle can provide. But for fishing timbered lakes (which are always found in abundance on your way to reach the higher treeless lakes) the longest rod you can get is not necessarily an advantage because there will be plenty of places you can't lay the rod back far enough to be able reach your line to get a fish in. The answer to this problem (besides fishing with a shorter rod) is to fish with a shorter line, which also works better for doing the bow-and-arrow cast, allowing you to place your fly in or on the water with a minimum of fish scaring rod movement and increasing your stealth factor greatly. In this application the more traditional level and hand-tied tapered fluorocarbon lines will be the better ones to use, with less visibility to the fish if they are low visibility lines. And the more traditional lines will also be as useful as ever for stream fishing as well, of course. Most approaches to high lakes are made along stream and river corridors, so there will usually be plenty of stream fishing available in addition to the lake fishing.
Why A Floating Tenkara Fly Line Is The Way To Go For The High Lakes: The two primary food sources for the trout living in these impoverished high lakes are the aquatic midges, and land based terrestrial insects, which are deposited into the water on an almost daily basis by afternoon thermal up-slope-blow-in winds. Lake midges (often referred to as chironomids) are much bigger in size than their running water counterparts are, and the terrestrial land based insects (which includes but is not strictly limited to only ants, beetles, hoppers & spiders) are best fished with a non-traditional floating style of Tenkara fly line. That's because the terrestrials drift on wind generated surface lake water currents, and collect against the windward shores of the lakes, where the bugs concentrate and the fish tend to concentrate there as well to feed on the bugs in the splash-back zone of the wind driven waves hitting the lake shore. The Traditional Furled Tenkara lines, the level FC lines and the hand-tied tapered FC lines all sink, which creates drag in a floating fly pattern on the lake's moving water surface currents, and will eventually pull the floating fly under the water. The floating line casts better in the windy environments of the high lakes than the FC lines do, and the floating line drifts along on the surface currents at the same speed as the fly does if you place them correctly on your cast, giving your fly long free drifts. Of course floating flies can be fish with the more traditional Tenkara lines, and drag can be avoided with them by holding your line up and off of the water, but the wind will blow the light FC lines all over the place, creating all kinds of drag and making it nearly impossible to keep your fly on or in the water in a strong wind. So a floating Tenkara fly line is the way to go under windy conditions, and wind is an almost constant fact of life for a high country angler.
The Need For More Separation Between The Fly And The Floating T-line: Like in western fly fishing the use of a floating Tenkara fly line will require a more substantial separation between the fly and the visible floating fly line than the more traditional Tenkara lines provide. This, more or less, means the introduction of the beginnings of, if not the full inclusion of, a leader. Rigs 10 and 12 foot long Floating Tenkara Fly Lines come with a 24 inch long section of 15 Lb. test HiViz red Amnesia mono tied to the end of the floating fly line, with a tippet ring tied to the other end of the Amnesia for tippet attachment. I cut the ring off of mine and replaced it with 14 inches of 12 Lb. HiViz gold mono line, then 12 inches each of 10, 8, and 6 Lb. FC line, to which is looped on the length of 5x FC tippet material required. As far as I am concerned this is a permanent addition to the floating fly line - only the tippets are going to be replaced unless something gets damaged in the future.
The Preferred Rod Actions For Casting In High Country Lakes And Other Floating Line Options: Because of the windy conditions usually encountered in fishing high lakes, I believe 6:4 or faster action T-rods will work better than the 5:5 action rods will but, it is your fishing - use what ever you like to use the best. Rigs recommends their Floating T-lines for 6:4 and faster action rods. There is another alternative available to the Rigs Floating Tenkara HiViz Fly line option but it will require a little work on your part to set it up. The pluses are that for a 39.95 investment you get 100 feet of RIO's PowerFlex Core Running/Shooting Line, which is 0.024 inches in diameter for the 20 Lb. test, and comes in an orange colored floating running line, which will make up a number of different length lines for different rods or different fishing conditions. Well I think that pretty well covers the high lake Tenkara tackle considerations and choices available to us. Next time we will look a little more into what the fish can actually find to eat in these lakes.