Swift River Tenkara

I took Friday off of work, ran a quick errand and headed to the Swift River in central MA. It’s been extremely hot and humid during the second half of summer and I needed to get to cooler water and some good size fish.  It was a cloudy morning in the high 70’s and there were threats of a possible thunderstorm. I got to the river around 10:30 AM which was later than I hoped but some things can’t be helped. When I arrived, the small lot was pretty full so I decided to park across the street.

Route 9

 The full lot meant that the famous Y-Pool section would probably be pretty busy with anglers like me that took Friday off for some on-the-water therapy. I decided to fish the Rt. 9 bridge area first and put off the Y-Pool until later. I had heard good things about fishing the bridge and further downstream. Besides, I always prefer to fish the more remote sections. I’m a bit of a loner when it comes to fishing, but aren’t most of us?

I brought a good selection of euro nymphs with me for this trip and I was anxious to try them out. I’ve been researching euro nymphing techniques as it is quite similar to Tenkara. As most already know, you can and should use all types of flies with the Tenkara method. You don’t have to stick to traditional Japanese kebari flies. After all, what’s more American then adopting something from a foreign land and combining it with our own methods to come up with an even better solution or method.
brook troutI made my way down to the river under the Route 9 bridge and could immediately see some decent size trout hanging out. I tied on a blowtorch nymph because it has been working in a lot of areas this summer. After about 10 minutes and no takes, I decided to switch flies. This time I went with a tungsten surveyor bead head. This one looks like a sow bug and has some flash. A couple casts and dead drifts got me my first strike. I set the hook and brought the fish to net, a little wild brook trout. I continued to use this fly and it produced about 8 or 9 brook trout, mostly small, but a few decent size.

brown troutAfter a while, I decided to switch flies again, and this time went with a rainbow nymph, another bead head with flashy color. It didn’t take long to feel another strike. This time I landed a beautiful brown trout, probably 9+ inches in length. I stayed in this spot for another hour or so, getting lost in the moment. It was a great day to be out of the office and thinking about nothing at all, just fishing.

brown trout releaseNext, I decided to head to the famous Y-Pool. I collapsed the RBT ONE rod, wound up my line and walked the trail inward. I made several stops along the way to look for fish, knowing that the Y-Pool might be crowded. This river is so clear that you can spot fish very easily. I didn’t have any luck along the trail and decided to head straight to the Y-Pool.

When I got to the Y-Pool there were several anglers wading right in the middle of it so I decided to make my way around them. I crossed the bridge and headed along the bottom of the big berm towards an area that is a little more difficult to access but a lot less busy. I found a little path that was barely cleared and squeezed through it to the water’s edge and out on to some rocks. A collapsed Tenkara rod comes in handy when making your way through some tight landscape.

I stepped into the water and onto the outcrop of rocks that we’re right in front of a deep pool. Looking into the pool I could see several rainbows and browns circling about. The excitement was building as I don’t get to sight fish in great places like this very often. I decided to stick with the euro nymphs that were working downstream. But after several attempts and no takes I decided to run through my smaller flies hoping something would get some attention. It’s well known that the fish in this river see a lot of action and don’t respond to most flies. I have heard that the smaller the fly the better your chances.

After an hour and no strikes, I decided to switch my strategy again. I tied on a black and yellow stimulator fly, a furry looking dry that I usually use with a dropper. The first cast I got some attention but was too quick with my reaction. A couple more casts and a nice size rainbow went for it. It was awesome to see him move like a shark and chomp this big fly on top of the water. I lifted the Tenkara rod immediately and set the hook. The bend in the rod let me know this was a good one. I played him a little before pulling him to my net. Today I had my small brook trout net and he filled it. I removed the fly and as I was admiring my catch he flopped out of the net and into the water. I was bummed that I didn’t get a photo. It was a beautiful rainbow trout of good size, not the biggest in the pool but special none the less.
While fishing that spot the clouds started to move in and I heard some thunder. Once the rain started I decided to head back to the car and have some lunch. I was hoping the thunder and lightning would pass through quickly. On my way out I talked to a few anglers who were curious about Tenkara so I gave them a quick demo. Back at the car I ate lunch while checking the weather on the I-phone. Luckily, the weather was improving so I decided to head back to the river. It was getting late but I wanted to get a few more casts in before heading home. I went back to the highway bridge because I was short on time. I was able to land a few more brook trout before deciding to call it a day.
While packing up the car I had time to reflect on what a great day it was to get away from the office and the usual daily stress that life can throw at you. On the ride home I couldn’t help thinking that I have to take more days like this and unplug from reality. Until next time… “no reel, no problems”
-Bill Holleran
Water - Swift River Tenkara

1 comment

  • John Reid

    Hey Bill: Very cool. I live vicariously through you.

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