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Frontier Fishing

by John Evans
(San Antonio, TX)

An Unnamed Creek and the Nissin Air Stage Hakubai 240

An Unnamed Creek and the Nissin Air Stage Hakubai 240

This article is not about backpacking into the remote wilderness or flying to a distant country. Instead, I’m using “frontier fishing” to describe a different type of angling: seeking out the under-used water near home and catching the under-appreciated species.

According to my old Random House dictionary, one meaning of “frontier” is “an undeveloped region.” Some fishing spots, even close to home, may be undeveloped in the sense that they’re not actively sought by other anglers. This is where tenkara and keiryu angling can offer a real advantage. You can explore areas that most anglers overlook and learn to enjoy fish that others ignore.

My guess is that most locales have several spots like this. You just have to keep your eyes open for the opportunities. For example, there are several creeks near my home that are teeming with fish, but almost no one fishes them! Or maybe I should say that there are stretches of water that no one fishes. Other anglers, with more traditional western equipment, may think that the water is too shallow or the brush is too tight. That’s where a good set of waders and the right tenkara rod come in.

What does it take to enjoy this kind of “frontier fishing”? The equipment is pretty simple:
1. First, use your eyes. You have to search for the possibilities. Some of my best days of fishing have been in spots where the water never got over a foot deep. Several times I’ve caught dozens of fish before another angler came along and asked, “You’re fishing there? Right there, in that little dab of water?” In my experience, there are almost always more fish than people imagine, even in tiny creeks.
2. Good waders and boots can help. Of course, in the right spot and weather, one can just wet wade. But, if you want to get to water that most anglers ignore, you have to get INTO the water. If anyone can get to a spot, then EVERYONE is going to fish it. As soon as I step into the water, I leave 90% of the other fishermen behind!
3. You need the right rod for close quarters. This local, “frontier fishing” is often a tight affair. Three rods I use with great success are the TenkaraBum Traveler 27 (actually, I have the earlier Keiryu Special version of the rod), the Nissin Air Stage Hakubai 240, and the Suntech Kurenai HM30R. These are exquisite rods. The Hakubai is more of a micro-fishing pole, incredibly light and sensitive. The Kurenai is longer and will handle a little bigger fish. The Traveler 27 is THE small creek rod, if you’re not sure what you might catch. Using a slingshot cast, you can fish these rods under limbs, around roots, and close to cover. (It occurs to me that Chris’s finesse spinning gear would also work well.)
4. Learning to tie a few flies will increase the enjoyment. Any fish is fun when you catch it on a fly you’ve tied. If a person only knew two or three simple flies—say a Utah Killer Bug, an Elk Hair Caddis, and perhaps an emerger—he would be in fine shape. Find the flies that work in your home waters. It always creates a sense of wonder in me when I catch a fish on a hook, some turns of thread, and a few inches of yarn. Tying simple flies is not hard; it just takes a bit of patience and practice. Most fish don’t care how neat you are in tying. In fact, scruffy flies often catch more fish.

Perhaps the greatest requirement is simply to enjoy the fish you find, wherever they live. Tiny bass, big shiners, sunfish, small catfish, cichlids, they all possess a unique beauty, and all are wonderful sport on the right equipment. Don’t worry about what others think when you catch a 3-inch bluegill; YOU enjoy the experience. This is the best kind of exploration, and it’s available to just about everyone who enjoys angling.

Comments for Frontier Fishing

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Apr 07, 2018
Another Great Article John!
by: Les Albjerg

Interesting that you took the words right out of my mouth! However, you forgot the Red Wiggler or it's fly substitute The Overhand Worm. With no weight or a #10 Dinsmore shot, it can be worked into those small areas with fish too.

On my way home from Wilson Springs this week, I checked out a small creek that is flowing from a slough from the Wildlife Refuge. It looked very fishy! I'll be trudging in to that creek less than a mile from the house next week. I'll fish it with either the Shimotsuke Kiyotaki 24 or the Tenyru Spectra Spinning Rod. It is a tight creek! I have two other "Frontier" creeks that I drive over to work everyday that I have neither explored nor ever seen anyone fishing.

Thanks for the gentle reminder to explore more even closer to home than I do.

Apr 07, 2018
Quiet Fishing
by: John Evans

Thank you for the comments. Another point I neglected to mention is the importance of fishing quietly so as not to spook the fish. Too many anglers make WAY too much noise in and around the water. Fish spook easily--even little fish. I find that my catch goes way up when I wade quietly . . . cast quietly . . . do everything gently. In tight creeks, when you're so close to your quarry, this may be especially important. I figure I'm doing something right when the fish come up and start nibbling on me!

Apr 09, 2018
Unlikely spots can be anywhere, even in the middle of a destination fishery
by: Jeff D

I spent last weekend at Roaring River State Park, a very popular area for trout fishing in Missouri. There is of course, the eponymous Roaring River. However, flowing into Roaring River is Dry Hollow Creek. The park has built a crude stone dam of boulders across the junction of the two streams to keep the stocked trout from entering the creek. Dry Hollow Creek is a typical small Ozark warm water creek. You never see anyone fishing in it. I aim to change that soon! Who knows what kind of interesting micros and sunfish inhabit this creek?

Apr 15, 2018
The Silver Lining in the Cloud
by: Les Albjerg

My son bought his first house. His comment to me was, "I wish I had paid attention when you tried to teach me stuff growing up." I could have gone steelhead fishing yesterday. Priorities prevented me from going. My fishing partner Josh sent a picture of his 8 year old son grinning from ear to ear with a steelhead yesterday. After church today, I went over to my son's house to finish up a few things. I missed my turn on the rod, and low and behold, crossed a fairly nice creek! I didn't even know it was there. I got out and explored. This is worth wading and seeing what is in there! Thus the silver lining. Another frontier stream to check out! I followed it on Google Earth and it begins as a spring about 10 miles from my son's house.

Next weekend, I will be up in the pines Bear hunting. Just below where we hunt is a nice creek just begging to be fished with the new rod Chris is offering. That said, it fished well with Shimotsuke Kiyotaki 24 that I already own. I caught several 3-9 inch rainbows and brookies last year. One of the things I learned this year is that in Japan, Tenkara fishing and Bear hunting go together, so I am in good company!

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

"Be sure in casting, that your fly fall first into the water, for if the line fall first, it scares or frightens the fish..." -
Col. Robert Venables 1662

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The hooks are sharp.
The coffee's hot.
The fish are slippery when wet.

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