Wrong rod for Whitefish?
I headed out to the Crooked River in search of the December mountain whitefish action. The river is packed with whitefish, but usually you catch mostly trout. During the spawning season the whitefish action picks up, and if you find the right pool you can have a "many many" day..There is no limit on whitefish--this river has 6,000 per mile-- and I thought I'd fill the smoker if I found some.
The Crooked is a river in which I have yet to completely convert to Tenkara, so I brought my 5-wt as well as my Nissin 2 way 450 ZX soft. I started with the 5-wt, and had a little action, a few trout on a foam caddis indicator fly and one nice whitefish on a Utah Killer Bug dropper. Then I found the pool. I hooked and landed six more whitefish in short order. They were not too far out there so I thought I'd switch to the Tenkara rod.
Now the whitefish has a small and delicate mouth---one article I read stated:
" Soft hands are essential as a hard hook set will pull the fly out of the fish’s mouth. A good way to compensate for a lack of soft hands is to use a fly rod with a soft tip. "
And of course Chris has told us:
Tenkara rods aren’t designed for a normal fly rod set, they can’t handle it, and to be brutally honest, a normal fly rod set just isn’t necessary....
I’ve gotten to the point that my sets are little more than just line tightening. Often almost questioning “are you a rock or a fish?”
None of this sage advice worked. I hooked and lost four straight fish. Six for six on the 5-wt, and 0 for four on the Tenkara..tough for a budding Tenkara evangelist like me to take.
The drift was good though and they were biting better with the Tenkara rod than they were on the draggy floating line of the 5 wt, so I tried just giving them a good sidearm whack of a hook set. That worked, and I landed the next four fish, including a 17 incher. The rod handled everything just great. I had my load of fish to smoke and headed home.
I hate casting stiff rods, but I guess the tip of the the Nissin 2-way was just too soft for the fish and water depth. I have a Shimano Kozuka 39NT which is 33 pennies as opposed to the 21 penny Nissin. I'll go try it.
An aside: I usually smoke my fish with nothing but sea salt and apple wood. I avoid the sugary brine recipes. My smoked steelhead gets rave reviews. The whitefish came out pretty good, but seem a bit bitter, sometimes too salty, sometimes a bit bland. I have a another reason to try a stiffer rod---I want to compare a batch done in a salt-brown sugar brine.
Walk softly and carry a long stick. - Teddy Roosevelt (almost)
Tenkara has no strict rules. Enjoy tenkara in your own way.
- Eiji Yamakawa
“The bitterness of poor quality remains long after the sweetness of low price is forgotten” – Benjamin Franklin