Tenkara Fishing The Ozarks by Bicycle
A basic outline of some practices and equipment choices.
After the last OCA bike fishing piece a few months back some questions were posed to me about my preferences in bike fishing. Here I present for your perusal a selection of thoughts on the subject.
As I have fished by bicycle over the past three years I have come to embrace the minimalist approach of Tenkara. What is Tenkara you might ask. That is a very nuanced question and it is one that perhaps I will not endeavor to fully answer here. Simply put, Tenkara is fly fishing with a fixed line. This fixed line approach means no rod or reel. This style of fishing was originally developed in Japan by commercial anglers in the high mountains. They found it an effective and simple method of catching fish.
So why choose Tenkara as the best fit for bike fishing in the Ozarks?
Tenkara is a very simple way to fish and I can go out with the same minimal gear to fish for a few minutes or to go on a long all day ride. A Tenkara rod can collapse to a very small length for transport and can easily be packed into a bag or strapped to a bike. Because of their simplicity Tenkara rods are very fast to deploy. One can be off the bike and fishing in less than a minute if you pass a place that looks fishy.
A good day out Tenkara Fishing the Ozarks by bicycle doesn’t have to be a major undertaking. My time nowadays for recreation is fleeting. I would love to say that every week day is filled with maps and plans that are fulfilled on the weekend but that just isn’t the case. Some of my most enjoyable days fishing yet have been because I just happened to have my Tenkara gear with me on a normal bike ride to or from work. I sometimes seize a moment either at lunch hour or perhaps late in the day after kids are in bed to grab the pack and hop on the bike. I typically head off toward a nearby water source and just see where the day takes me. If I have a long ride planned I might try to include my fishing kit just in case. For instance, I carried it with me at the Buffalo Headwaters Challenge this past January.
Tenkara often uses a much longer rod than traditional fly fishing and this makes it a great fit for many of the Ozark streams, creeks and small rivers that crisscross our area. The extra length of the rod allows for a much more delicate presentation of the fly in hard to reach places with out the need for lots of back and forth casting. There are many options for Tenkara rods ranging in length from 8 to 13 feet or more. Opinions abound about rod choice and almost all the opinions that I have heard about rod length seem based on good logic. In the real world I have found that just like bikes a person will get to know their own rod and understand the way it performs. I have a 12 ft rod that works amazingly well for all but the tightest canopies.
Anything you bring with you have to take along for the ride on your bike. After all this is bike fishing. You have to transport all the things you think you will have to have by the conveyance of your choosing. Here are a couple examples of my favorite ways to combine bike and fishing.
These aardvark straps are awesome for strapping your rod tube to the top tube on larger frame bikes. They originally were inteded to carry a pump as shown. But I have found them to be great for attaching almost anything circular to the bike.
I also am a huge fan of the rod tube attached to the handle bar of mountain bikes. The most stable rig I have yet experimented with made it through the Buffalo Headwaters Challenge with out moving a bit.
Also since bike fishing is becoming more popular (ok so there are like 15 people doing it) some custom bags are starting to pop up that combine the hip pack with a strapping system that allows for easy on bike transportation. John Sandy has been putting his sewing skills to the test by fabricating some really neat bags for the purpose of bike fishing.
My bag preference for Tenkara Fishing the Ozarks by bicycle is a hip pack. This preference might have something to do with the fact that I am a child of the 1980’s and fanny packs are deeply rooted in my psyche. I might consider a camelback or back pack if I was going to go on an overnight or in the case that I might need to bring waders, but in the Spring, Summer, and Fall I much prefer the simplicity and ease of use that a hip pack provides. I can get anything I need to carry in there and if I can’t fit it in then I probably don’t need it.
When it comes to actual fishing gear I like to keep it simple and light. The more you carry the more you have to lose or get frustrated by. I have never been frustrated by not catching fish but many times I have become angry while fiddling with some unneeded bit of stuff that I should have never brought in the first place. A fly box, hemostat, line nippers, tippet. That is all that I take for fishing in my bag.
Of course sometimes the fishing isn’t that good and bike fishing is just an excuse to be out of the house for a bit. For days like those your pack should also have room for some non fishing activities that can be enjoyed stream side.
A ride down a remote gravel road or the local bike path can equally be good places to bike fish. Keep your eyes peeled for quiet pools that look accessible. Once you find a spot that you want to try, figure out how to get to it. You might have to get a little wet to get to them and in the summer time chiggers, ticks and thorn bushes are normal hazards. Also be aware of private property and always respect the land owners of the places that you may fish. Take time to look around you when approaching the stream chances are you are sharing the area with many other animals that you don’t see often while just riding by. Blue herons, have become one of my favorite fellow anglers. I always defer to them in the case that we may have both scoped out the same fishing hole.
Once on the water a few casts with a favorite fly can tell you whats going on in the water. I have not been fly fishing long enough to feel comfortable waxing poetically about the best flies to use in all situations, however I have a few favorites that I like. I use them to test the waters so to speak and see if anything is biting. My only true criteria for a fly is that it must be barbless and non toxic. If the hole is not an immediate success you can choose to stay and see what happens or just pack up and ride on to the next place that looks fishy.
If you are still reading this at this point you might be interested in some up coming rides that I have planned to introduce Tenkara fishing in the Ozarks by bicycle to those who have an inkling to try it. Keep an eye on OCA for more info on upcoming bike fishing rides. You can also follow the Highroller Cyclery social media if you are so inclined. Or, if you must, you can follow @intotheozarkswego for sporadic Tenkara fishing the Ozarks content and as always…
Thanks for reading.