Headwaters Paradise

by Les Albjerg
(Caldwell, Idaho)

Headwater Creek

Headwater Creek

I had the opportunity to go on a nine day bow elk hunt in Eastern Idaho. I just got back. We were into elk everyday, but couldn't close the deal. That is another story. I had the opportunity to fish several of the headwater creeks of the Blackfoot River 5 afternoons. What a blast! In my book, there is no fresh water fish more beautiful than a brook trout in its fall colors. I caught one cutthroat in my 5 days. All the other fish were brookies from 4-8 inches.

The rod of choice for chasing brook trout was the Suntech Kurenai HM30R. I have fished this rod several times before, but last week, I began to really understand this rod, and how magnificent it is when used in its intended environment. The feather light weight of the rod and its smooth progressive nature made me feel totally connected in both modes of fishing the rod, casting and playing the fish. By the third day, I wasn't really thinking about the rod. It was an extension of my arm. I am addicted to this kind of fishing now! I never realized it could be so, so much fun!

Before continuing my story, I would like to thank the folks at Tenkara Guides for teaching me to match the line to the stream. I watched a YouTube video where they matched the line to the stream. It is amazing how it lowers the frustration level. I used 2.5 level line for all of my fishing.

On the first day, I thought, "This is going to be easy, I can see the fish!" After throwing 12 different dry flies at a school of 5 brookies and they showed no interest, I was frustrated. I dropped from 6.5x tippet to 9x tippet. No change in their reaction. I changed to a Kebari, no takers! This was getting frustrating! I pulled out the Utah Killer Bug - no takers! I sat and watched the fish for about 10 minutes. They were eating something. So, I thought about my red wigglers at home, and then remembered that I had brought Mummy Worms with me. I put on a red Mummy Worm with my favorite Gamakatsu R10B hook. Five drifts later that went by 4 fish that I could see, no takers, but 2 were interested. I switched to a natural colored Mummy Worm. On the third drift it sank and Wham! fish on! It was a nice battle with a 5 inch fish! Since I was low on natural colored Mummy Worms, I switched to Pink since I had a full container. The same thing happened! Realizing that the fish would not take them off the surface, I added my secret weapon, Dinsmores #10 shot 3 inches above the Mummy Worm. I can't say enough about these tiny spit shot. In the five days that I fished, I didn't see any fish put off by this shot that looks like a tiny stone. There is no better way to fine tune your drifts than with Dinsmores #10 shot! It then became a "Many Fish" day! It wasn't a fish every cast, but almost.

The next day, I fished a creek that began less than a mile from where I fished. I hiked up to the 3 springs that were the source of the creek. One of the springs literally came out of the side of the mountain. This was faster water. I continued to fish with the Pink Mummy Worm, Dinsmores #10 shot setup. This was a more classic, upstream day, except I wasn't using a fly. Again, I made a line adjustment. I counted, and it was a 28 fish day. I fished about 200 yards of the stream. The effortless nature of the Suntech Kurenai HM30R made it a delightful day!

The third creek I fished had a lot of undercut banks. The fish were there! The big lesson I learned is that fish are really wary when they are in crystal clear water that is only 18 inches deep at the most. I saw 9 fish disappear into an undercut as soon as I approached. One could walk the bank of this creek and think there were no fish in it. I stood there and ate my apple and sure enough the fish wandered back out near a downed log, and the action began! I stuck with my same setup. I followed the old motto, "If it isn't broken don't fix it." Besides, I only had at the most 2 hours a day to fish. It was in this creek that I caught the cutthroat. I was primarily elk hunting.

The fourth creek that I fished had its beginnings in a bog. the water wasn't as crystal clear as the other three. I was getting low on Mummy Worms so I switched to Utah Killer Bugs. The third cast into the riffles took the fly into the pool below, and Wham! fish on. So, that was the method of the day! It was a "Many Fish" day.

The last day I fished, I was back at the first creek because it was closest to camp. It was fun to be back at familiar water, and have a better idea of what I needed to do to catch fish and where to fish. I explored a beaver pond on the way back to camp, and caught 2 fish.

We had a guy next to our camp that was working in the Phosphate mine a few miles away. The last day we were there, his family came up. We had dinner together and his son who is 15 is an avid fisherman. He said to me, "There aren't any fish in the creeks around here." I showed him my pictures. He was astonished. I then told him about fixed line fishing. I brought out the Suntech Kurenai HM30R, and his eyes got as big as saucers as I extended it out. He couldn't get over how light the rod was. He was frustrated that it had no reel or eyes. So I gave him a few casting lessons, and we went to the little creek that I set my tent up on so he could cast to some water. I never saw a fish in there, and didn't even try to fish it. On his third cast with the Utah Killer Bug he caught a 6 inch Brookie! I gave him a card from TenkaraBum that I always have in my wallet. He went up to his Dad and asked if he could cancel his monthly subscription to his video games and save the money to buy a rod like mine! I am not sure what his Dad's answer was.

I have done a lot of tailwater fishing in my life, usually for big fish. I enjoyed the peace and solitude of headwater fishing much more. Often seeing the fish, having to be stealthy is a special experience. Enjoying the experience as a Keiryu fisherman made it even more special. I fulfilled one of my goals for the year and that was to do some real headwater fishing. There is nothing quite like it.

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