Look Both Ways Before You Cross The
by TJ Ferreira
Remember that old saying that your mother would tell you,”make sure you look both ways before you cross the road”? I have been hearing Ebisu lately from high in the heavens telling me the same thing when I enter a river to go play with trout. He has also told me I have much to learn.
Reading trout waters is something every tenkara angler must learn, and it is something I continue to work on. Learning to read the waters to spot where trout are likely to hold may be the difference between being skunked and catching fish.
I was fortunate to be able to fish with Daniel Galhardo and John Geer of Tenkara USA in Virginia during the Tenkara Summit 2013. I kept an eagle eye on them most the time trying to soak up fishing knowledge as we traversed the river. In the last almost 4 years I have learned a great deal on how to go tenkara fishing but I consider myself still an amateur at best. I know enough now to cast well enough, present a fly well enough, and to stumble on the rivers just well enough to, well…. catch trout. One thing I do know is that I have a long way to go before I can say I really know how to read a river well and that I am a seasoned fisherman.
Don’t get me wrong, I have come a very long way since starting tenkara back in 2010, but it is
refreshing humbling to watch those that have fly fished for many years wade into almost any river and immediately start catching trout. When I go out on my solo trips, catching trout is always a bonus and in the last couple of years I have learned enough and fished often enough where I catch at least one trout every trip. It is a wonderful feeling knowing a kebari I tied and a cast that I made is catching many surprised trout where my tenkara rod takes me. But, there is always plenty of room for improvement and that means being humble enough to know one never really becomes a master of something, although some seem to get darned close. Maybe when I get to my 90s I will be decent enough.
For 2013, one of my goals is to keep up with my casting and try to continue to improve. I do well enough but with every 10 really good casts, I always have some bloopers on every fishing adventure. As the day progresses, I am either in a zone and kicking butt or there are days I get too tired and lazy and my casts go to pot. They may be good enough to catch fish but I am striving to do better anyway. My main goal now though is better reading of trout waters. I have a number of books on just this subject and they have been very helpful. Books like Reading Trout Waters by Dave Hughes and The Orvis Guide To Reading Trout Streams by Tom Rosenbauer are “must haves” for any tenkara fisher-person. But… the best place to learn how to read the trout waters is out on the water with friends that have more experience than you where you can watch them with an eagle eye and see what they are seeing.
I was able to use my eagle eye during the Tenkara Summit 2013 and was amazed at how well Daniel and John read the river. Daniel wanted to get some video of me catching and landing a trout and him and John said fish here. I proceeded to connect my line to my rod, telescoped the rod, and started making my way into the river. Half the way into the river I hear the Family Feud Buzzer going off in my head telling me, “hey dummy, why did you not make a few casts to the water you just walked through”? Looking back the odds were slim trout would have been where I had just walked to since the water was real fast, high, and the spot did not look fishy, but… it does not hurt making a couple casts anyway just in case.
I then proceeded to cast downstream into plunge pools and pockets I felt trout would be. I actually officially caught my first trout of the trip in that spot but the water was so fast I had the trout on for maybe 3 seconds before he popped off. I had my taste buds going though after that!
Daniel took a nice picture of me casting into an area trout would be and I have annotated the image to show some great spots where I cast to right away. Looking back at this image though there was a nice “slow water” area above the plunge pools I should have cast first. I was greedy though and went right for the picturesque pockets I felt my best chance of snagging my first brook trout. On this image I have marked it as “Try First” because I never did that day. I just waddled like a bull onto the water and started casting to the prime spots.
Prime spots where trout could be and where I should have tried first before entering the river.
The image I marked up does not mark all spots I feel trout are but you get the idea. The issue I wanted to point out is look first, both ways, and even up and down, before heading into the river. At a minimum, make a few casts to where you plan on walking out to just in case a sneaky trout is there waiting for some good bugs. After those first casts, look across from where you are standing and see if there are any other spots that may hold trout before really working that pristine spot. Of course do this quietly and effectively not to spook off the trout from that pristine spot that first caught your eye.
This blog is not a manual on how to read the water but to signal to you to look both ways before you proceed into the river. Read, analyze, enter, catch trout. Having watched Daniel heading toward some spots he felt trout were he kept casting as he approached that spot. During this time he is talking to John and I watching him as he looked back at us. Next thing we know he has a brookie on board (surprised him too), one of those sneaky ones that wanted to ride the good ship Tenkara Ito. Just went to show that keeping the kebari in the water and making casts to spots that may or may not hold trout, can make you head home that night not skunked. I don’t mind those accidental trout one bit.
If you take anything away from this blog post, keep this in mind. Cast to places you are about to tread on if you think they have any chance of holding a trout, and if you don’t think they do, cast there once or twice anyway. Next, look both ways, and even up and down, to see if there are any spots you can quickly and quietly make a cast to that may hold a sneaky little trout. These spots may reward you with a nice new friend. Most folks probably go right to the pretty water right away yet some of that uglier water may have some of the prettiest trout of the day.
Glad I listed to my mom when I was a kid and will remember to look both ways from now on.