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Weekend Reading: Magical Mountain Meadow Tenkara

Weekend Reading: Magical Mountain Meadow Tenkara

by TJ Ferreira

I had one of those magical fishing events last weekend, at least for me that is.  I have been dreaming of fishing what I consider a mountain meadow stream or creek.  I have seen all these pictures of fly fisher-folk kneeling down about 10 feet away from a small wiggly strip of water in a big mountain meadow, and I wanted a piece of that action.

My dream came true this last weekend in the mountains of California.  I googled and read of waters to fish in the Northern California mountains and found some info about a small 10-campsite campground, one with few amenities but with fishing nearby.  The campsite was free, 1st come 1st served. It had no running water but at least it had a bathroom; as my wife was coming along having that was important <grin>.

We left around 10:30AM, drove up to the mountains to a place I had never been before.  I had read some notes on the websites I visited that the roads were not car-friendly, so I drove my trusty 2007 Toyota FJ.  This ended up being a good idea because the roads were very rugged logging roads, off the beaten path, with fairly large rocks and such that a low-rider car would not have faired well or at all.  The FJ cruised over them like butter though.

We got a little lost along the way as the websites were vague on how to get to this campground but in the end, about 5 to 10 miles off-track and figuring I better back-track, I found the site.  We arrive around 1PM, snagged a campsite to park in for the day (only 4 or 5 were taken), and set up shop.

Shop meant my wife had a cooler full of soda, a bag full of goodies, and a good book to read.  Shop for me meant a mountain meadow, tenkara gear, and plenty of brook trout.  At first I was not sure what this creek looked like or where it was exactly, but I followed my senses into a field where I saw some trees, and I figured H2O was present.  Wife and I walked out into the meadow and I said, “hold on, listen…. I hear water dribbling”.  Another 30 feet and I found my sliver of water in the middle of this mountain meadow.

I arrived first and quickly saw out the corner of my eye a few shadows of small trout swimming quickly to get away.  My wife snuck up behind me and I told her to watch the water, and soon enough more trout swam by.

Quickly I felt giggly and told my wife, I am gonna fish!  I practically hopped like a bunny and  went back to the campsite, she setup her shop, I setup mine, and for the next 1.5 hours, I fished like a fool.

I decided to use the Iwana 11’ rod with a line just a little longer than the rod.  About 8.5’ of 3.5# Pink Hi Vis with 3’ of 4X Tippet with a size 14 Salt & Pepper Sakasa Kebari I tied earlier this year.  On my way to the creek I snuck like a thief in the night back to the creek and made my 1st casts.  This creek was super small.  We are talking about 2 feet wide in spots, and on bends little pools maybe 3 to 4 feet wide swelled up.  At times the creek was about 1’ wide with tall grasses poking up through the water to then form a creek again with just water and no grasses blocking my kebari.

Here is a quick video showing the small meadow creek I fished.

Within 2 to 3 casts I caught my 1st brook trout of the day. In fact, this was my first brook trout in California.  To date it has been mostly rainbow trout and a couple browns, but the higher mountain brookies I had not met yet.  Well this last weekend I met about a bakers dozen in 1.5 hours of the mountains finest small brookie family.

At one point I was casting into a small pool that had a large spider web spanning its opening where if I wanted to get into the pool, I had to cast the line across the spider web.  My thought was that once the level line or tippet hit the spider web, the web would break.  Amazingly, my tippet dropped right on top of the web and just rested there with the kebari dangling, confused, just inches from the water.  I moved my arm forward and the tenkara fly dropped into the creek.  I dangled it there for a spell to see if any brookies were home.  No brookies were home in that spot but I was able to pull the cast back and left the spider web intact.  How amazingly softly a tenkara rod can present a fly!  This was just so cool.

As I progressed down the creek, it widened a tad in spots and here is another short video of the mountain creek I fished.

It was so much fun casting into a sliver of a creek, catching brookie after brookie, ranging in size from 4” up to about 8”.  My shorts were covered by the end of the day with smudges of mud and my face was rosie pink with a smile from ear to ear.

Video link of a trout being released back into the mountain meadow creek.

My 1st Magical Mountain Meadow Tenkara Adventure was a treat for sure.  Amazed these little blue slivers of water are homes to schools of brookies and just makes me love California that much more.  The Sierra Mountains are like the Colorado Rockies, just Tenkara Perfect!

To top off the day, the skies drew dark and we started to hear some good thunder claps.  We decided to get all wrapped up and head home.  On our way out of the campground the rain started coming down and then it started to hail.  Took a quick video of the hail storm as we departed.  The weather quickly went from upper 80s to mid 60s within seconds.  So cool!

Heading home my wife and I were in need of some nourishment so we stopped for a great New York Steak at the Willo, a popular bar and restaurant on historic highway 49 near Nevada City, CA.  The Willo Bear greeted us to a job well done catching so many mountain trout.

Before the end of the season I will make it back to see my mountain meadow brook trout friends, they can bet on that.  My Salt & Pepper Sakasa Kebari seemed to hit the right spot for their appetities and the Iwana 11’ rod was like a fast Porsche to these little brookies.  They requested I come back soon so they can test drive tenkara one more time.  I will be happy to oblige.