Tenkara fishing the Driftless on the Solar Eclipse

Can “solar eclipse magic” help counter the challenges of small Driftless streams when tenkara fishing in late August?

Nope, because there is no such thing as “solar eclipse magic”! I hit the water on Monday hoping that some extra darkness would give me an edge for tenkara fishing, but the truth is I don’t think it made a lick of difference. Maybe it looked a little more like a gloomy February day then a gloomy August day, but the fish didn’t seem to care. They were tucked safely into rocky cut-banks protected by tall grass overhangs that blocked most of the clear casting lanes. It was a good opportunity to hone my skills, so despite extremely overgrown condition of the stream, I got to work.

The target zones were small. 1-3 feet wide, and 2-4 ft long. Depths maxed out around 3-4 feet, but that was only on a few holes, mostly I was working water about 18 inches deep. Every space had cut-banks and overhangs for the fish to dive for once hooked, so all of the fights were short and focused on landing as quickly and cleanly as possible. It was sweaty, hot, and tiresome pushing through tall grass looking for spots to cast to – but I brought close to 20 brown and brook trout to hand in about 3 hours! Sizes ranged from 6-14 inches. How did I make my tenkara fishing produce in such restricted terrain?

  1. I fish a rig I am well practiced with. I can sense the casting range, balance, and weight shifts very easily because I am highly familiar with it.

Practical Consideration: Get to know your rod and rigs, introduce disruptive system changes slowly and as a last option. Learn the feel of the casting range of the rig. This is critical and extremely useful!

  1. I’ve developed confidence in dealing with snags. In many cases now, I can gently pull and lift most grass snags back and recover them.

Practical Consideration: The key to this may be found in the cast and the way your fly presents. If you are watching it present and it falls on grass – don’t yank or pull back hard, causing a “hard snag” that requires an up close and personal recovery. Freeze, then bring it back softly and see how many less snags spoil those nice bends you are targeting.

  1. Using the system familiarization from point #1 to really dial in my tenkara fishing, I do a of casting to target zones that I simply cannot see. But I know the zone looks clear, and I can stay out of fish sight lines to deliver the cast and work the drift.

Practical Consideration: Using your ability to sense balance and weight on the system, and watching your line to maintain proper tension, you can still get excellent drifts in the in the top water column. A secondary consideration to this is knowing just where to stop your cast to make sure you do not lay to much line down and spoil the drift, or too little and leave the fly dangling in the air.

  1. I work shorter drifts and accommodate for obstacles.

Practical Consideration: Focus on delivering good technique, and make those presentations count for the short amount of time you have. Be prepared to alter your drift and technique to address obstacles as your line navigates the course. I have executed drifts were I guided the fly slowly through a 4 ft section, moving the rod tip gently to ensure that the line stayed clear of grass overhangs along the way, and picked up fish 3/4 of the way through the drift. You have to steer without disturbing the fly’s drift or action, and maintain proper line tension while doing it.

Like most things in life, there is no magic shortcut to productive tenkara fishing in challenging conditions. It requires a focus on the fundamental skills, attention to detail, and a willingness to push your limits. The cool thing is, if you work hard on that – it may start to feel like you ARE working magic!

– Matt @ Badger


Big news for kids fishing rods: Tenkara fishing debuts at the 2017 National Scout Jamboree!

More than 40,000 Scouts can fish Badger Tenkara kids fishing rods at the National Scout Jamboree

It’s no secret by now that tenkara is an excellent way to introduce children to fishing. We’ve discussed it in our blog posts (Tenkara and Kids & Family Fun with Tenkara*) and both of us have done a lot of fishing with tenkara rods and young anglers. It has proved itself a standout choice among kids fishing rods because it is easy for kids as young as 2* to catch fish and have fun! This is important to us because here at Badger, we believe that positive experiences with the outdoors as a child are the foundation for healthy relationships with the outdoors as an adult. We believe this because that is how we became avid sportsmen ourselves!

We were both participants in Scouting as we grew up. Our troop was exceptionally active, with a camp-out every month (even in Winter!), and week-long summer camps. We hiked, camped, learned first aid, paddled canoes, fished, and did service projects; all under safe supervision by dedicated volunteer adults who set excellent examples of leadership and citizenship. It was a highly positive formative experience for us, and we both feel it set the tone for our outdoor adventuring as adults.

The Badger Tenkara SCOUT rod will be introducing participants to tenkara at the National Scout Jamboree

This is why we are honored to announce that Badger Tenkara is proudly sponsoring the Fly Fishing Merit Badge Activity Area for the 2017 National Scout Jamboree! For the first time in the event’s history, tenkara will be available in the fishing activity area; over 40,000 Scouts will have the opportunity to explore tenkara at the Jamboree by using our SCOUT tenkara kids fishing rods.

We first started discussing the merits of tenkara with Scouting leadership a few years ago. After a long conversation at a trade show, they quickly recognized the advantages that a collapsible, ultra-lite, fixed line rod offers young anglers on outdoor adventures.

At that point, we began to support the BSA National Fishing Task Force in their evaluation of tenkara style fly fishing. They were well suited to perform an extensive assessment and determine how tenkara could best fit into Scouting. The testing occurred over several months, and we were excited to serve as a resource for the process.

The Scouts have reached an important conclusion that we are very excited to have been authorized to share with you:

Tenkara fly fishing rods are now officially​ a valid choice of gear to use when Scouts are completing requirements for the

​Fly Fishing Merit Badge!

Matt will be at the Jamboree getting the SCOUT kids fishing rods rigged up and spending a few days fishing with Scouts as the Jamboree begins. Stay tuned to Badger Tenkara for updates as we make tenkara history, and introduce a record setting number of young anglers to tenkara!

This post was originally published at http://www.badgertenkara.com/badger-tenkara-blog/big-news-for-kids-fishing-rods-tenkara-fishing-debuts-at-the-2017-national-scout-jamboree

Simply Superb! Tenkara Fly Fishing on the Summer Solstice

Summer brings unique challenges and joys to tenkara fly fishing on Driftless spring creeks.

By late June, the conditions on Driftless spring creeks have changed dramatically from the easy going days of Spring. Grass and weeds along the banks grow jungle-thick and face high. Pesky insects like gnats can swarm thick enough to make you run screaming back to the truck. Heat waves can drive water temps so high that we often stop trout fishing for weeks at a time. But sometimes things line up perfectly for a spectacular day of tenkara fly fishing – which is exactly what happened on the Summer Solstice!
When we were making plans to fish the 21st, we really wanted to chase smallmouth, but knew that recent rains had blown out the streams we fish, so that was off the table. As luck would have it, a cold front brought cooler air into the area, and we were certain that we could find fishable trout water in the smaller watersheds that clear quickly after rains. The challenge would be that the forecast was for a bright and sunny day – a combination that doesn’t mix well with crystal clear spring creeks.
Now then, usually weather will conspire against us. If conditions are cloudy and cool when we leave the house, the sky will typically clear up and go bright blue about the time we hit the pull-out and get geared up. But somehow this time we won the lottery! A light cloud cover moved in as we got closer to the stream. By the time we got there we had perfect conditions – overcast, very little wind, and water temps of 59 degrees – A SUMMER SOLSTICE MIRACLE!
We access this section of Parr Creek legally by parking near a small feeder and following it to the main channel. The feeder itself is too small to fish, except for this pool right by the road. We refer to it as the “Batting Cage” because we like to fish it as warm-up before moving on to the main event. As we approached from downstream, several fish were feeding the top – a good sign.
I slipped into the creek to get low, kept close to the bank using the grass to mask my profile, and moved slowly into position. Dead-drifted presentations of a Cranefly Orange Snowcone Kebari produced two Brookies from the tail-out in rapid succession. A few steps forward and another cast produced a Brown. Mike finished rigging and swapped out into the casting slot, prospecting the same zones I had hit with his favorite size #16 pheasant tail nymph, producing a few more. We traded shots while working the entire pool, taking fish off the surface with the kebari and along the bottom with the nymph, picking up a dozen trout in 15 minutes before the pool shut down. Not a bad start!
We moved out to fish the nice pool that forms where the feeder joins Parr creek, again slipping into the water downstream and creeping up into position, and again happy to be greeted with rising fish. This pool produced several fish in the open areas and head, but offered some unique challenges. For example – the plants growing in the water created a raft that made it very difficult to place a presentation near the “true” cut banks along the left side of the pool. Even though we worked it thoroughly, we were unable to draw any fish out of the deep cover – the rafts pushed the presentation zones too far from the holding positions, and the fish either couldn’t see the flies or were unwilling to move 3-4 ft to get them. We know they were there, as we spooked several out of the bank when we moved forward through the pool. Still – don’t pass those up when prospecting summer streams, you never know if you’ll get lucky!
It wasn’t just aquatic vegetation that proved challenging. High grass interferes with an angler’s ability to fish from the bank. Overhanging stalks seriously restrict casting and drifting lanes. Presentation zones shrink to pinpoint slots in snag-magnet areas. You’ve got to get serious about targeting and fly control to get the most out of Summer water. The good news is that a tenkara fly fishing rod with proper line tension delivers that in spades; it is the right tool for the job!
Despite the obstacles, we had a phenomenal day, as the fish were eager to feed below surface and above. We brought just under 40 to the net in three hours, including a hefty 12-inch wild Brook trout. On some pools we pulled 4-6 fish at a time. Sometimes, it was “one cast, one fish” all the way up a run, other times we had to make extremely technical casts at difficult angles to reach a prime lie. We pushed ourselves and racked up fish that we would not have caught if we weren’t willing to take risks.
This was one of those days when everything lines up and conditions are…perfect. Heck, I even fished the entire day with one single fly – I can’t remember the last time I hit the water didn’t lose at least one!
Learn the fundamental tactics of tenkara fly fishing and keep a close eye on local conditions, and if you throw in a little luck – you may be gifted with a day like this too!

– Matt @ Badger
This post was originally published at http://www.badgertenkara.com/badger-tenkara-blog/simply-superb-tenkara-fly-fishing-on-the-summer-solstice

Tenkara Fishing for Smallmouth Bass with the WISCO 2

Balance, Power, and Precision for Unconventional Tenkara Fishing

As Summer slides ever closer and the weather here in Wisconsin continues to stabilize, our tenkara fishing focus shifts from trout to bass. We’ve started making the rounds on our local smallmouth streams, and slowly but surely, the bite switch is definitely moving into the “on” position! The timing couldn’t have been better – we just got our first shipment of the new WISCO 2 rods in and we’ve been excited to get them on the water. We took them out to “Little Left Branch” to see if the Bronzebacks were ready to play, and got to put the rods through the paces on some nice fish…

It’s no secret that Badger is a big fan of tenkara fishing for smallmouth bass. We designed the original WISCO rod to target bigger fish, and the refinements we made to the WISCO 2 make it an even better fixed line fly fishing rod for throwing larger patterns at bigger prey.

We both rigged up with Badger-lite floating line and hit the water. The rod threw 13-16 ft lengths of line with another 6 ft of 6lb test mono-filament line with ease. We cycled through streamers and crayfish patterns ranging up to size #2 hooks, dropping them in place with smooth, accurate casts. Weighted patterns up to about a size #4 were manageable to cast, though not particularly gentle on the presentation.

The new design is extremely well balanced. Dropping the grip length down to 14 inches shaved off an ounce of weight. The refined 7:3 action casts and loads the force of a hooked fish at an exceptionally smooth and consistent rate.

We spent most of the trip fishing streamers on down stream swings, which produced about 20 bass up to 17 inches. Most of our luck came prospecting low in the water column.

The direct control offered by a tenkara rod makes for amazing streamer action! You can move it up and down different depths pretty much at will, making it easy to adjust tactics quickly.

Once hooked, the rod managed both fish and current without breaking a sweat. It sets into a firm but flexible power curve and puts you in control. The 17 incher in moderate current felt like it was on the low side of the rod’s comfort zone. Foot-longs and below fell well below the rod’s radar, truth be told.

All and all, it was a great day out. Its clear that we are still a few warm weeks short of kicking Smallmouth season into high gear. Regardless, it was a perfect opportunity to test drive the WISCO 2 on the bass we’ve been waiting for since we finalized the design!

This post was originally published at http://www.badgertenkara.com/badger-tenkara-blog/tenkara-fishing-for-smallmouth-bass-with-the-wisco-2

Tenkara Flies With a Wisconsin Flavor

Our new Tenkara Flies are Inspired by Japanese Kebari and our home waters in the Driftless Area

​When we first considered offering premium tenkara flies at Badger, there was already several good sources for well-known Japanese patterns in the marketplace. While we admire and respect the historical catalog of regional Kebari patterns, we’ve always believed that what made them special was that they were genuine; organic to the development of Japanese tenkara, developed on the waters where they are fished. We wanted our offerings to be similar in spirit, so we worked with a good friend and talented fly tier (local guide Ben Lubchansky) to develop unique patterns that were developed and proven right here on the streams and rivers of Wisconsin…

The kebari inspired patterns we kept simple, but used a variety of colors known to be solid producers in the region.

The “Snowcone” comes in a natural Olive drab, Cranefly orange, and a vibrant Caddis green. Featuring a webby hen saddle hackle and a snowshoe hare collar, this is an extremely versatile pattern. It can be drowned and fished wet, or if you keep it dry – it will float straight up and down in a vertical position! These tenkara flies work great with traditional tactics, and are especially effective when skittered across the surface.

The “Crystal and Cloud” is another multi-purpose pattern – but we’ve found it performs best fished in the film. The spindly legs and crystal flash produce eye-catching, strike-inducing action.

Of course, it wouldn’t be the Driftless if we didn’t use the color pink, so we are offering the classic “Takayama Sakasa Kebari” pattern as our “Peacock and Pink Kebari”.

Being Badger, of course we took things a little further than kebari!

The heavier flies needed to submerge and provide the necessary tension for tight-line tactics, but not be so heavy that they over-powered a fixed-line rod. They also needed to a bold profile. This was accomplished by using full bodied hackles and larger hooks – and leaving out unnecessary materials.

The results were lethal! The “Ittymeaty thingy” streamer is built on a #1 wide gap hook that produces super-clean hook sets, but casts well on most tenkara rods despite its size. Its got a sweet swimming action both on the drift and on an active retrieve. Its hard to beat classic black for versatility – plus we are the exclusive outlet for the white version, get yours while they last!

You’ve heard us talk about the “Nosedive” before, and we are excited to offer them to you directly. This large profile nymph on a jig hook is a real workhorse – it has moved fish for us in the toughest conditions, in every season, temperature, and condition. It has earned a permanent place in our personal fly boxes.

​We are very excited to share these Tenkara flies with you, and we’re confident that they will be as productive on your water as they are on ours!

This post was originally published at http://www.badgertenkara.com/badger-tenkara-blog/tenkara-flies-with-a-wisconsin-flavor