Middle River Dispatches is a gumbo of posts about fly-fishing, conservation, politics and days afield.

Tenkara Mouse!

Fish with a tenkara rod long enough and you will start looking for ways to push the envelope. It is the nature of fishing and anglers, but especially that of fly fishers.

As Mossy Creek Fly Fishing’s tenkara guide, the notion of catching one of our spring creek browns or rainbows using a mouse pattern and a tenkara rod has always intrigued me. Last summer, we dabbled around with it and you only need to see the award-winning film Blood Knot to see the result (Spoiler alert: Brian Trow catches and lands a 19” brown trout with a mouse on a tenkara rod. It is one of the more exciting “eats” in a film chock full of exciting eats).

The Mossy Creek Fly Fishing guides gather two or three Friday evenings a month to down a few PBRs, try out some new flies or just put a challenge on each other. We call it “Fishing Friday.” It is invitation only and very ad hoc.

Earlier this month, I had a chance to replicate Brian’s tenkara mouse mastery during a recent Fishing Friday “mouse only” challenge, landing a 19’ brown trout. That sealed the deal as far mousing as goes -it went from a novelty to a “go to.”

The Set Up

For a tenkara mousing rod, I like the Tenkara USA Ito. As a “zoom rod” — going from 13 feet to 14 feet 6 inches — it has the reach needed to get up and over the weed beds in the water and the tall grass along the banks of spring creeks like Mossy and Beaver here in the Valley. It also has the backbone to cast a big fly and land big fish.

In order to turn over the wind resistant mouse pattern, I use a 14 or 16 foot light floating line that we customize here at the shop. I like the ability to “anchor” a small portion of the line on the water during the presentation and also to “steer” the mouse a bit with the line. I go short and heavy on the leader/tippet combination, running about three to four feet of 3x from the end of the fly line.

The Presentation

Many folks think that nighttime is the right time for mousing and I won’t disagree, but on a very recent guiding gig we had a frenzy of activity at 3:30 PM, in bright sunlight. Brian caught the brown mentioned above in the early afternoon on a bright July day last year.

First, you have to think like a mouse. Look at your surroundings, take note of where you are fishing and think about how and where a field mouse could get in trouble and wind up in the water. That is where you want to aim your cast.

Next, think about what happens when they hit the water. Mice and other small rodents are not designed to swim and it shows in the water. Think about a dog in the water, they are mostly underwater, with just their back and head above the surface. Same with the mouse, mostly just its head is above the water. They have spurts of activity then tire and dead drift. Mice are not going swim long distances or for long periods of time. All these details factor into your presentation.

When you can, make a quartering upstream cast. You aren’t going for a delicate presentation here, you want a splash close to the bank. Mice don’t just fall from the sky like spinners. Make the cast, let the mouse pop to the surface (if it doesn’t get eaten when it hits) and then twitch it a bit. Don’t go wild with the twitches. Try and let it drift near the bank if the current runs that way. If the current moves it toward the middle, then start fishing it like a surface streamer. Short quick twitches followed by a dead drift seem to work well. When the mouse swings around and heads up stream, unless you are in an eddy or really slow moving water, you can start to recast — mice don’t swim upstream to well.

The Trade Secret

On a recent tenkara mousing excursion, after a few good presentations the fish were simply ignoring our offerings. We knew the fish were there, because we could see them. They weren’t spooked and we watched them take a nymph now and then. Of course we could have switched to a dry-dropper or a nymph rig, but instead I tied on a weighted nymph off the hook bend of the mouse.mouse-dropper

It didn’t take more than a couple of casts before the fish started showing interest in the mouse and the nymph and the client connected with a nice 16” rainbow.

The “mouse-dropper” rig has some distinct advantages when fishing a mouse. First, the weighed nymph sinks the back end of the mouse pattern, making for a more realistic representation. Second, the nymph acts like a sea anchor and helps keep the mouse in the seam or current. Finally, and most obviously, is the fact that you have the nymph there to offer the fish if they don’t want the mouse.

Author’s note: This article first appeared in Hatch Magazine.

Blood Knot Wins Big at The Drake Film Awards

One of the annual highlights of IFTD, the fly fishing trade show, is The Drake Film Awards. This was the 9th annual awards show and an especially exciting night was in store for Mossy Creek Fly Fishing and TwoFisted Heart Productions as Blood Knot took two awards in front of a audience of fly fishing industry pros.

As Brian and Colby said “it was pretty exciting to have Blood Knot get included in F3T, then get nominations in The Drake Film Awards, but none of us expected this…”

Brian and Colby Trow accept the award for Best Freshwater Movie at the 2014 Drake Film Awards

Brian and Colby Trow accept the award for Best Freshwater Movie at the 2014 Drake Film Awards

Colby’s post on Facebook captured the gratitude in winning the award, “Unreal. Overwhelmed. Utterly blown away. Thanks to everyone who supported the film. Nick and Kami Swingle Ladson Webb, Two TwoFisted Heart Productions for creating this film! Tom Sadler for getting us all mixed up in the industry. The Orvis Company, Tenkara USA, Art Webb with BCF, Virginia Tourism, and of course the lovely wives that put up with our shenanigans. Best Freshwater Film? Seriously. Thanks Tom Bie , The Drake Magazine, and F3T!”

Still pumped from the previous honor, the night got even more fantastic when they were called back to the stage!!!

Best Movie

Brian and Colby Trow accept the award for Best Movie of the Year at the 2014 Drake Film Awards

Colby on Facebook again, “BLOWN AWAY! We have no words. Thanks to everyone who has believed in our shop and guides. Nick Swingle Kami Swingle Ladson – We need to PARTY!!! The Drake Magazine Thanks for the love. Best Film…..really? This is insane. Party time!”

Then the smiles really broke out!

Brian and Colby show their appreciation to Tom Bie, The Drake's editor.

Brian and Colby show their appreciation to Tom Bie, The Drake’s editor.

 

There are two special people that make the video magic that is Blood Knot happen. Kami and Nick Swingle of TwoFisted Heart Productions are the brains behind the scenes and the camera that make it all come together. Colby and Brian shared the awards with Nick and Kami -fittingly on the banks of Mossy Creek, last Sunday.

Swingle Trow Trophys

Brian and Colby share The Drake Film awards with Kami and Nick Swingle. Photo by TwoFisted Heart Productions.