My First High Lake Tenkara Fishing Experience This Year
My high lake Tenkara fly fishing is getting off to a late start for this year. That's because the stream flows were at late August levels right from the season opening on the last Saturday in April in this second year of a drought, which is very hard on stream living fish. But high lake fish benefit from dry years because the iced over lakes thaw sooner and remain ice free longer, giving the lake fish a much longer than normal feeding period in which to grow and pack on more weight to make it through the coming winter in better than normal condition.
Fishing Conditions: For the purpose of this piece we shall call this lake, Hambone Lake, which is not its real name. An old out of print Angler's Guide describes this lake as, "Elev. 9,100; 3 acres; 30 feet deep; alpine, glacial, near timberline; bordered by wet turf and willows; good food and spawning. Contains nice self-sustaining population of eastern brook. No planting required." It was clear, hot and sunny, with a breeze coming up later on in the day when I got to the lake. The lake had been fished by a party of anglers the preceding weekend, making for fewer fish that were much spookier and more tippet shy than they normally would be when I am the first angler to fish this lake each year.
Fly Patterns Fished And Their Respective Catch Numbers: Three quarters of the lake had sunlight falling on the water by the time I had hiked into it, but the fish were still rising to midges so I went with a size 12, Orange Midge Pupa first, and it landed its 10 fish limit before I had reached the first of the shadowed water on the south side of the lake. For the shadowed water I put on a size 14, Black Midge Pupa, and it landed its 10 fish before I got out of the shadows, by which time the midge activity was pretty well over. Some of the brook trout would take the midge pupa as soon as it hit the water, but in most cases I would let the fly sink for a a while and then give it a staccato pulsing retrieve to swim the fly back toward the surface of the lake, and most of the fish would take the fly on its way up. I had a new to me fly pattern to try: a Floating Damselfly Nymph, which was really fun to fish because a pulsing retrieve made the abdomen and the paddle gills on the fly wiggle back and forth just like a real damsel nymph swims in migrating to shore to crawl out on structure to emerge into an adult blue damselfly. The fish really jumped on the Floating Damsel, taking it with much more vigor than they did the midge pupa patterns but for some reason I couldn't figure out I was only hooking about 1/2 of the fish that were taking that fly. I was having so much fun fishing with the Floating Damsel that I was not going to stop at 10 fish. But on my cast to the 11th fish I hung the fly up in a tree and lost the fly and my tippet trying to get my fly back. My final fly of the day was a size 12, Two-toned X-rated Ant Pattern, which I went to because the breeze was beginning to come up. The ripple the breeze put on the water relieved the fish's tippet qualms considerably and the brook trout stayed on the ant pattern a lot better than they did on the Floating Damsel pattern - and I ended up releasing 50 fish on the ant pattern by the time I had fish completely around this 3 acre Lake, making for an 80 fish day.
Tackle Notes: The rod fished was Diawa's 43 MF, which is a 12.5 to 14 foot long zoom rod that I like a lot better for high lake angling than I liked my 13.5 foot long TUSA Amago rod. One of the drawbacks to fishing with such long rods is that it can be very hard to impossible to get a hold of your line to break the fly off when you hang a fly up in a tree. Fixed line rods are more delicate than western fly rods are and if you pull on the rod hard enough to break the tippet, you may and probably will jam the rod joint sections so tightly together that you will break the rod trying to collapse it at the end of the day, which I did with my Amago rod the first time I used it on a high lake last year. This lake was the first lake I fished last year after getting the replacement tip sections for my Amago rod, which took 6 or so weeks long to get because TUSA was out of tip sections when I ordered my replacement parts for that rod, so how the two rods fished in comparison to each other is still very fresh in my mind.
The Amago rod just rubbed me the wrong way right from the beginning. And I understood why Tenkarabum said he didn't think he would want to fish with a rod much longer than the Amago rod is long when he did his review of the Amago rod. My first T-rod was a 12 Ft. Iwana rod, and the Amago was so much heavier and more tip heavy than that rod is that I really didn't like fishing with the Amago nearly as much as I liked fishing with my Iwana rod. The 43 MF is lighter in weight and not nearly as tip heavy as the Iwana rod is, let alone the Amago rod. The 43 MF has a slightly softer tip that protects light tippets better than the Amago rod does, and it does not over power the smaller fish nearly as much as the Amago rod. Yet the 42 MF has more backbone to it for handling big fish better than the Amago rod does. And the 43 MF is so much better balanced that it is a lot more fun to fish with than either of those other two TUSA rods in my view. For sure the 12.5 foot length on this zoom rod is the most fun to cast and fish with because of its better balance compared to the 14 foot length, but the 14 foot length of the 43 MF is a big improvement over the 13.5 foot length casting and fishing characteristics of the Amago rod, and I didn't feel near the need to fish the 43 MF two-handed while playing hard fighting fish as much as I feel I have to do with my Amago rod.
The line used for fishing on this day was Rigs' size 3.5 HiVis Floating Tenkara Line, in the 12 foot length, to which was added a leader extension and 5X tippet that extended its total line length to about 18 feet for the first fly. Each fly change after that shortens the line length slightly, so I start out a little long to begin with. On stillwaters a floating line is a big help over the sinking T-lines for shallow feeding fish and in fishing floating dry flies. The floating line also casts better in the wind than level FC lines do. And casting into the wind directly to a quartering angle gives you drag free drifts in fishing with terrestrial dry fly patterns on the surface of lakes that I find to be highly effective on the high lakes when it is windy in the afternoons.
MY First High Lake of The Season Tenkara Fly Fishing Conclusions: Although I didn't do as well here as I did last year, it was still a pretty successful day. That Floating Damselfly Nymph is going to be a valuable addition to my sinking Sparkle Yarn Damselfly Nymph pattern, especially for shallow water fishing where the sinking pattern tends to get caught on the bottom a lot. And the performance of the 43 MF seems to have hit the perfect compromise between delicacy and power for my high lake angling, and the take down length of the rod fit perfectly into my backpack and didn't hang up on anything going through the thick brush I had to get through to get to this little lake. The grip was nice and comfortable for me. I had no cramping, hand or arm fatigue the way I did with my old style, straight cylinder, grip profile on my Amago rod grip. All in all I am quite pleased with how things worked out for me on this trip....Golden.