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First Year on the Fly

by Alan Luecke
(Kansas City, MO)

Exactly one year ago I decided I could catch more fish if I could put small buggy lures closer to the fish. I purchased a 6 weight combo from Cabela's and signed up for a casting class at a local fly shop.

Since it was still winter I kept reading and planning. In the process I came across tenkara - strange, no reel, how could this work? I kept looking and found Tenkarabum, I read every word. It was interesting, it made sense and most of all everyone was so enthusiastic and seemed to be having so much fun. When Chris posted a note that he was about to run out of Soyokazes I immediately ordered a "Kids Starter Kit" thinking it would be a little fun on the side -- little did I know.

While visiting the in-laws in South East Kansas I went prospecting at a small community lake with the Soyokaze and a black wooly worm. I found the bluegills and everything changed. Catching small fish on a tight line at close range was so much fun I couldn't stop. My wife was pleased but suspicious about my new found enthusiasm for visiting her mother.

Jumping all the way in, I joined the Heart of America Fly Fishers club. This group is nearly 30 years old and is an incredible resource of knowledge and experience -- one member guides in Patagonia and Mongolia. They're traditional Western style fishers but everyone had heard of tenkara, some had rods and no one had a bad thing to say -- it's just fishing. Hanging out, I began to hear talk of clear local creeks, secret spots and urban carp -- oh boy.

As the year past I fished more than I ever have, caught more fish than I ever have (by multiples) and caught the largest and smallest fish I ever have. I had big fun in my canoe fishing residential lakes with lots of stone walls and docks. I caught "The Big Carp" in a small muddy city lake. But the thing I am most excited about is small stream wade fishing. It turns out that the Kansas City area has miles of small, rocky public access creeks that are full of all kinds of fish -- if only they were cold enough for trout.

As I think about my favorite images from the year two come to mind. Both wade fishing local creeks.

Mill Creek in suburban Johnson County, Kansas is clear and rocky with some great holes separated by long shallow flats. Wading one of those flats, prospects didn't look good but as I waded in knee deep water, the sun through the trees, I cast my Zerosum with a Partridge and Orange into every shadow and under the roots and branches, sometimes sidearm. Every place that might have a fish had a fish -- green sunfish, a pumpkin seed, a small bass and then creek chubs, my first creek chubs like baby trout. The rod, the fly, the day, the fish -- perfect.

For variety I like wading the Blue River in a wooded park area in Kansas City, MO. this is really a big creek most of the time but does carry more water than my other creeks. It is also less clear and generally rougher. I worked my way down a quarter mile section with a Daiwa 33SF, a short line and a big, ugly, weighted version of a Little Dark Kebari, sort of a "Mucho Kebari". This set-up let me twitch the fly on the surface, pulse it in the water column or bounce it off the bottom. I caught green sunfish, bluegill, pumpkin seeds, a bass, a catfish and a short nosed gar. I can't imagine another set up that would do this, and with only one hand.

Some rods are going in the suitcase for a Mexico beach vacation in Feb.-- I'm thinking some shrimp patterns around the rocks and some tide-pool micro fishing. Next summer I have two days booked with Paul Vertrees from Rigs Fly Shop in Colorado. I've found a creek in Missouri that the Conservation Dept. claims has 41 species of fish. Spring can't come fast enough.

I want to say a special thank you to Chris Stewart for finding all this neat stuff and presiding over such a friendly, informative and well run place for it to be shared (and of course purchased).


Alan Luecke
Kansas City

Comments for First Year on the Fly

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Dec 28, 2013
Nice summary
by: John L

Alan, that was a really well written summary of your busy first year fly fishing. You describe nicely the charming simple effectiveness of short fixed line fly fishing.

And you are another person that Chris has helped have fun.

Dec 28, 2013
Kansas City
by: Jimi Fly

I live in Warensburg Mo. Loved your post especially the reference to Mill Creek and the creek with 41 species in it. I'm always keeping a look out for new places to fish close to home. See you on the water!

Dec 29, 2013
Suspicious Wife
by: Anonymous

The next thing your wife will get suspicious about is all the packages you keep receiving in the mail that are all 'folded up tenkara rod' sized. I thought I could get by with one or two rods... now when I look in the mirror, I see an obsessive-compulsive rod collector (that struggles to find the time to use them all). ENJOY!

Dec 29, 2013
Looking forward...
by: Paul Vertrees

I'm really looking forward to introducing you to some really nice trout streams in the San Juans next summer!

I just spent a few days in eastern Missouri, hiking along Pickle Creek in Hawn State Park. Looking at that rocky, gin clear creek I was disappointed to find a total absence of fish. However, I'm going to keep my eye out for other creeks like it in the eastern Ozark/Ste. Genevieve area. It's very pretty in the woods this time of year.

See you in the summer!

Dec 29, 2013
Full disclosure
by: Alan Luecke

Hello Paul, looking forward to the trip. Missouri has some incredible warm water fishing, but the opposite is also true--no warmth, no fish.
Full disclosure about my wife. It's fun to tease but I am in fact the luckiest guy around. She thinks the excitement and exercise of my fishing is a great thing. When I'm all geared up and heading out the door she thinks I look "cute". Not my word but I going with it.

Dec 11, 2014
You should
by: Peter

Convince your wife to go with you one time. Then not all the little tenkara rod sized boxes in the mail would be yours. In fact should she catch the fishing bug as it were the bonus would be her being more understanding when you order something else =)

Jun 01, 2015
other KC hotspots
by: Jeff D

You might try the Little Blue River in Eastern Jackson County. There is a nice walking/biking path along a long portion of it. I haven't hit it with my new tenkara gear yet, but in the past I've caught tons of sunfish, catfish, mooneyes/goldeyes, drum, and small catfish on ultralight spinning gear (usually a white Roostertail type spinner.

Best places to fish are the wash holes directly below where rapids have been created by placing rip rap in the stream, usually under overpasses.

I'm going to hit it up soon and report back here!

Aug 16, 2015
Blue River Parkway
by: Brenton Dowdy

I'm late in this conversation, but have you fished Blue River anywhere between the state line and red bridge recently? I was sneaking around a couple miles of that strip with a fly rod and hardly ever saw anything. Saw a few gar and an occasional carp. I thoroughly enjoyed the river and the scenery, just couldn't find any fish. I'm new to Kansas City and fairly new to fly fishing. Would sure love a hint or two of where to have an enjoyable day of fly fishing nearby.

Dec 11, 2015
Blue River
by: Jeremy Drouin


I too have been curious about good stretches to fish along Blue River and Indian Creek. I did a little scouting in the Swope Park area this past summer, but the accessibility wasn't great. However, the trails along Indian Creek provide great access.

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“The bitterness of poor quality remains long after the sweetness of low price is forgotten” - Benjamin Franklin

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Col. Robert Venables 1662

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