I’ve been teaching a lot of anglers how to use tenkara this season. When I tell people that you can use tenkara for all types of freshwater species, I’m often asked what my favorite is. I think people are surprised by my answer. Most of the time they are expecting me to say something like “trophy” size rainbow or brown trout in the rivers of western Massachusetts. But in reality, I’d rather be fishing for native or wild brook trout all over New England. Whether I’m fishing the thinnest blue line or a raging river, to me nothing beats landing a native brook trout.
This summer I spent a weekend in the White Mountains of New Hampshire and had the best time fishing some really small brooks and streams that could only be accessed by hiking trails. We parked the truck at a trailhead just above Lincoln, NH and hiked down a trail to a beautiful brook. The brook had ice cold water running over a lot of rocks and boulders. The water was crystal clear and was only a foot or so deep. There were several pools along the brook that were several feet deep. The bottom of the brook was mostly gravel and sand that made the water look like cream soda. Approaching the brook required some stealthy tactics so as not to spook the brook trout.
At a distance, it looked like this brook wasn’t holding any fish at all. Truth is they had a lot of structure to hide under and only made appearances when food was floating by. So we rigged up some beefy attractor flies and dropped some tiny wet flies below, using the first fly as an indicator. It didn’t take us long to see some results. Casting upstream and letting the flies dead drift downstream immediately drew some brookies out from under the rocks. It was quite the sight, looking into the clear water and watching these beautiful trout appear from the shadows and take the wet flies. The attractor or indicator fly was very helpful in following your line as the sun was beaming down and reflecting off the rocks.
I caught a pretty little brook trout on the very first cast. My friend Mike, who I’ve been teaching tenkara headed upstream to a great spot under a bridge. He caught the biggest brook trout of the day, probably measuring about 8 inches in length. But we weren’t concerned with catching trophy size fish, we were looking for native brookies that survive with no help from man. They say if the water is holding these fish then it’s a great sign that the surrounding environment is doing well. Kind of like the canary in the coal mine.
Now is a good time to mention that some of our native fish need our help. There are some great native fish advocacy groups that are mostly funded and served by volunteers. In New England, we have the Sea Run Brook Trout Coalition and the Native Fish Coalition. The SRBTC concentrates its efforts on restoring and improving the habitats of the famous Salters or sea run brook trout and have made tremendous strides in the waters of southern Massachusetts. The Native Fish Coalition is a new group that is concentrating its efforts on New Hampshire, Maine and Vermont. I urge all anglers to support these and other advocacy groups so that future generations will be able to experience these beautiful fish.
So do I enjoy casting a fly to some trophy size fish in the Y-pool of the Swift River hoping to land that big fish and take a great picture? Of course, I do, but nothing beats the feeling of hiking through the woods to a remote little brook and seeing a native brook trout appear from the shadows to chomp a fly, knowing that this fish is the descendant of fish that have been here for hundreds of years. So next time you’re headed out to wet a line, maybe skip the trophy fish and head out to a remote brook or stream and get lost in the moment looking for that special little fish with the awesome colors because native brookies are where it’s at.
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