Read about my complete Uinta Highline Trail experience, including prep, gear, logistics, and post-hike impressions.
I grew up fishing with spinning and casting reels. I’m not a great angler by any means, but I do enjoy fishing. I rarely eat what I catch, opting instead for catch-and-release. The exemption is when I’m deep-sea fishing; I’ll take all the seafood I can get. I haven’t fished much over the past several years, which is funny because I spend much of my free time backpacking around rivers, lakes, and streams that are teeming with trout.
I’m a backpacker more than a camper. I wake up at dawn and walk until sunset. To save time, I only cook at night. I almost exclusively use the freezer-bag cooking method when I’m backpacking. That means I rehydrate—rather than cook—my dinners. I don’t usually make fires, I don’t cook meat and vegetables in foil packets, and I don’t spend half of my day fishing. I don’t usually have any leisure time at all.
I’m hiking with a partner on the Uinta Highline Trail and we’re only doing around 12 miles per day. That means we’ll have some downtime in the afternoons. The lakes up there are supposedly teeming with brook, rainbow, and cutthroat trout. I want to fish, but I’ve never been able to justify the weight of a rod, reel, and tackle. Then I found out about Tenkara fishing. I’m not going to get into the whole Japanese backstory of this fishing style. You can read about all of that on Wikipedia. I specifically want to talk specs.
Tenkara rod and tackle
I bought the Tenkara USA Hane Fly Rod. When the rod is closed, it measures 15 inches and weighs a mere 3.5 oz. The rod features an 8-inch handle and telescopes out over 12 sections to a full length of 10 feet, 10 inches. In terms of packable weight, I also include the line and tippet keeper. The keeper also houses a few flies, which is all I’m taking. All of that comes in under 5 oz.
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This kit packs up small and fits neatly behind my water bottle. It’s fixed into place by my upper side pocket. I’m not planning to take any more fishing gear. I have my classic Swiss army knife and some soap. That’ll have to do in the event that I choose to eat some trout. I’m not going to haul a pan, cooking oil, and seasonings across the High Unitas. I can do that back home. If we eat the fish, it’ll just be a boiled supplement to the freeze-dried dinners we already have planned.
If you’re curious about the ins and outs of Tenkara fly fishing, Tenkara USA has a YouTube channel. And even though we should be isolated at high altitude during most of our hike, I’m planning to pay $40 for a 7-day, non-resident fishing license when we pick up some gear in SLC. You vote with your wallet, and I vote for more sportfish stocking in the backcountry.
I’ll update this post with my impressions of the Tenkara fishing system after the hike.
This is a cool little fishing system. I pulled the rod out three times on my trip through the High Unitas—twice at dusk and once during the middle of the day. I was fishing large lakes each time rather than the kinds of streams where this system excels. I didn’t catch anything on my trip, but I had fun. It’s easy to use and weighs very little.
I should add that I wasn’t looking to eat any trout on this trip. I didn’t bring any seasonings and I would have had to add the fish to my freezer bag meals in order to cook the meat. That said, I would have liked to do some catch-and-release. I humbly blame user error for the lack of success. Still, I’m happy to own this rod and can’t wait to start taking it on trips through my usual stomping ground of Pisgah National Forest.