July 30, 2013
Good Tenkara Target: Pink Salmon
By Kirk Deeter
Those of you who read along know that I am a freak for tenkara—a traditional Japanese style of fly fishing that involves a long rod, with a line connected directly to its tip (no reel). It's kind of like attaching a leash directly to the fish when you hook one, as there is no give or play in the actual line, the rod itself serves as the shock absorber. I think tenkara is a great teaching tool, as it forces anglers to sneak up on fish and avoid making overly long casts (a common mistake).
Tenkara is primarily for little trout. It makes an 8-inch brookie feel like a big fish. But I have a habit of not limiting myself to those fish. In Guyana, I caught baby tarpon on tenkara. In Saskatchewan it was northern pike and grayling. On a recent trip to Alaska with Hal Herring and others, we got into masses of pink salmon. Now, pinks are probably the least appreciated salmon among sport anglers. They are very abundant, but they aren't very big (less than 10 pounds). If you catch them in the salt and bleed them right away, they are pretty good to eat, but I wouldn't compare them to a good sockeye, king, or silver.
Nevertheless, there they were, and we were catching them by the score. After about a dozen pinks one afternoon, I decided to do what any normal angler who happened to be holding a tenkara rod would do—I tied on a pink streamer and twitched it through the run. Sure enough, it got bit, and I added another species to the imaginary tenkara trophy room.
Of course, at some point, you reach a point of diminishing returns. I am sure some idiot will eventually try to land a baby mako shark on tenkara someday. It won't be me. But I will keep pushing the "reasonable" limits with different species. Which fish would top your tenkara target list?