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How Can Tenkara Make An Effective Alpine Lake Kit

A place to discuss techniques and rigging options for use in "non-mountain stream" areas such as lakes and warm-water areas, as well as non-traditional tenkara techniques such as nymphing.

How Can Tenkara Make An Effective Alpine Lake Kit

Postby Karl Klavon » Sat Jul 19, 2014 3:03 pm

Introduction: With the limited casting range that all fixed line rods are known to have, how can a Tenkara outfit compete with a Western fly fishing set up when it comes to effectively catching fish in any high mountain lake fly fishing environment?

The answer to that question is not so much a matter of any unique qualities that Tenkara tackle happens to have, but rather a result of the dynamics of the high lake fly ishing environment and its trout. Tenkara tackle was developed for harvesting fish from relatively small, steep mountain streams in Japan, a function it performs remarkably well. But when faced with the featureless appearing wide open expanses that even a relatively small alpine lake presents to its anglers, it would appear that the fixed line rod would have to operate at a huge disadvantage due to its limited casting range compared to Western fly tackle, with its easily adjustable line length and superior distance casting reach abilities. But the alpine lake fly fishing environment has some unique inherent qualities about it that will even things out considerably between the two types of tackle, and allow fixed line rods, tackle and anglers to turn in a much better performances than at first appears to be possible.

Trout Food Challenged Sky Lake Waters: High mountain lakes are, except for fairly rare exceptions, largely impoverished bodies of water. Most have very low mineral and food rich nutrient content levels. The water is usually very cold and unable to support large and diverse aquatic insect communities. Forage fish, other than the young of the trout that live in those lakes that can support reproduction, are mostly absent. So the food base the trout have to live with is quite limited in most high lakes. The two most prevalent and dependable trout food forms available at these elevations are midges and up-slope-blown-in wind deposited terrestrial insects. There will usually be a smattering of mayflies and plenty of lake dwelling caddis about in most lakes. The off hand damsel and dragonfly populations will also be there if there is enough aquatic plant life to support those life forms. But more often than not there is little to almost no plant life found in most high lakes. This puts the food producing areas of the lake in the shallowest water, located the closest to the shore line, where the water is warmed by the sun and light can easily penetrate for plant growth.

Up-Slope-Blow-In Winds And Their Importance to High Lake Fish: The trout in most of these lakes could not survive if it were not for the daily deposition of land based insects that the Up-Slope winds deposit into the high lakes. Just what is an Up-Slope-Blow-In Wind? As the sun rises the light strikes the highest peaks first, which heats up the rock over time. The warm rock radiates heat back out in to the surrounding air, which also warms up and gets lighter and that causes the warmer air to rise, creating an Up-Slope-Wind nearly every afternoon. These Up-Slope winds sweep tons of land based insects along with them, sometimes from thousands of feet lower in elevation, as the winds race up the ramparts toward the peaks. The cooler than the land lakes act as heat sinks that slows and cools off the up-drafts to some extent, causing a rain of terrestrial insects to fall on the waters of favorably located lakes on an almost daily basis, once the lakes are ice-free until they will begin to ice-up again as winter approaches the next fall.

Always Fish The Windward Side Of The Lake First If You Can: Wind will generate surface currents on the water when it blows, which will accumulate the bugs along the side of the lake in the direction that the wind is blowing. Usually, concentrating the insects along scum and foam lines in the splash-back zone as the waves bounce back off of the lake shore in the opposite direction that the wind is blowing. The trout will cruise very close in to the shoreline, anywhere from a few inches to a number of feet out, picking off the bugs as they come upon them at the surface and slightly below it. This creates great dry fly fishing action in the afternoons on the high lakes all summer long. And all this action usually takes place well within easy Tenkara casting range.

The Best T-Lines To Use To Take Advantage Of The Bounty of Wind Drifting Bugs: Traditional Level FC and Furled T-lines do not work all that well for fishing when you have to cast into the wind. And most of the more traditional lines also sink readily, which creates drag with floating fly patterns. Rigs (an Official T-USA Dealer) has developed 12 and 15 foot long HiVis, Floating, PVC coated, Level Tenkara fly lines that cast better in the wind and will allow you to do drag free presentations better than can be done with the more traditional T-lines presently available. Being solid, opaque and light in color, the floating T-lines are quite visible to both you and the fish. But they come with a 6" long Fl-Red Amnesia Indicator section tied to the front of the floating fly line, and then a 24 inch or so long piece of size 3.5 clear FC T-line for stealth, with a tippet ring tied to end of the clear 3.5 line for your tippet attachment, which they claim will turn over up to 5 feet of 5X tippet. Here is a link to their line page: https://fishrigs.com/products-page/rigs-tenkara-lines/floating-tenkara-level-line-with-hi-viz-tip-126-5/

How To Put A Leader On Your Floating T-Line For Better performance: With big wind resistant dry flies, the tippet will have a tendency to hinge and collapse on itself when casting into a strong wind with the factory floating T-line. So you can get better results by building a hand-tied tapered leader of your own and adding it to your Floating T-line, with 6 inch or so shorter successive sections tied into each successive length, of 10, 8 and 6 Lb. test nylon or FC line or leader material, with your preferred 5 or 6X tippet material looped on to the end of the leader for your fly attachment. This will also give you a much greater separation between the highly visible fly line and your fly patterns, but it will also require a hand-over-hand line handling technique in order to land and release your fish with such a long line.

Fishing Timbered Right Down To The Water - Lakes: One of the advantages that fixed line rods show over conventional Western fly fishing tackle is the ability for the T-angler to make casts out into a lake where there is little to no back casting room. Here the longer than Western fixed line rods help a lot, but there is no need to go to the longest fixed line rods available. You still need to be able to set the hook under trees and get a hold of your line to land your fish, which the longer rods make much more difficult. The total line length (including the tippet and fly) should be no longer than the rod is long for these fishing conditions, and a couple of feet shorter than rod is long actually works even better for doing the Bow-And-Arrow Cast. Both overhead and side arm casts can also be made with no back casting room, simply by holding the fly at the bend of the hook in your off hand, and releasing it just as you make the cast. A hand-tied tapered FC line will perform better for these casts but the floating PVC T-line can also be made to work.

Conclusion: So do not be intimidated by the large expanses of open, flat water that even the smaller high lakes present to you because you are fishing or thinking of fishing with a fixed line rod. The fish will be patrolling the shorelines at some point during the day, well within easy T-casting range. And the floating T-lines will also work well in presenting midge Pupa fly patterns to midge feeding fish, and for pulsating presentations of your wet flies of any type, as well as with dry flies. The floating line gives you a degree of control over fly pattern position and presentation that you just can't get with sinking lines. You can do repeat rise to the surface and sink back down presentations with far less linear movement than a sinking line requires. There is not much point in going to a long line technique for lake fishing as your retrieves are done by moving your rod. You can puppet the fly pattern around any way you like until you run out of rod length. I don't see much point in going any farther in line length than you can move with the rod because it then becomes a matter of hand line fishing with a fly, instead of fly fishing with a rod. But hey, that's purely up to you. Its your color of Tenkara to do as you please with it.
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Re: How Can Tenkara Make An Effective Alpine Lake Kit

Postby TenkaraElevated » Sun Jul 20, 2014 7:23 am

I actually fish the same exact long line, single kebari setup on my ito in the high alpine lakes as I do everywhere else in Utah. I've never had a day up in the mountains where I couldn't cast, hook into/land fish or didn't see plenty of bugs (sometimes annoying large numbers of bugs) lol. I guess we all have what works for us. Great read however, you're a good writer.
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Re: How Can Tenkara Make An Effective Alpine Lake Kit

Postby adventureR » Mon Jul 21, 2014 9:46 am

Awesome info Karl,
If I was venturing to an Alpine lake I'd defiantly study up on all your extensive posts. Such great diversity in the different places our community's utilizing T-gear not to mention one lake from the next.

Thanks Karl!
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Re: How Can Tenkara Make An Effective Alpine Lake Kit

Postby telepavski » Wed Jul 23, 2014 3:03 pm

Very good info Karl,
It was like reading Fly Fishing Magazine. I am getting that T-line soon.


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Re: How Can Tenkara Make An Effective Alpine Lake Kit

Postby telepavski » Sat Jul 26, 2014 6:58 am

I tried Tenkara fishing on the mountain lake this week :)

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