Toddler Tenkara

This essay was written on June 17, 2020 and previously published by Tenkara Angler.

Toddler Tenkara

Today was a good day, just another day in a long series of days getting my almost three year old daughter out on the water. This day she would be no spectator, now she was an active participant in the search for wild trout on the fly.

With her Tiny Tenkara rod in hand, the homemade five foot braided line looped to the lillian, a hot pink thread worm in size ten secured to two feet of 5x tippet and a net man ready to land her river monsters; she set off down the densely covered creek to accomplish three things:

  1. To eat every darn pretzel in her snack bag.
  2. Try to pick all the leaves within her reach.
  3. Catch a fish.

The pretzels were long gone, dad was running block on the skunk cabbage and now there was only one thing left to do.

Carefully picking our way through the briar and brush, we arrived at a spot that usually escapes us. The trees here hang low over the bend in the creek, low enough to prohibit anything but a bow cast and an awkward retrieve. Today we were using a much shorter rod with a much shorter operator. A few casts with dad’s hand guiding and then the independent spirit takes over.

Her first cast landed on the water, but it was instantly retrieved and cast again. This time she lets it sink before retrieving and casting again. Third cast and to her credit each cast was landing in close proximity to the one before. A few more tries and her retrieve had a tiny flopping ‘baby’ fish on the hook.
My daughter’s first solo catch was a black nosed dace.

She insisted on holding it for a picture, and releasing it herself.

It seems she’s been watching me intently on these outings. Without any coaching she crouched at the edge of the water, delicately offering the small fish back to the stream, hand open and slowly submerged until its occupant lifted free and darts away.

We fished our way upstream. I caught some trout, she tried some more and our water walking was coming to an end.

I let her release a couple trout I caught further along.

Each time her wet hands cradled the fish and practiced the utmost care. On the way back to the trailhead, a small hand in mine tugged towards that secluded spot where the trees hugged the water.

We stalk around the trees and into position, she was thrilled to be tip toeing towards trout; as if they could see us from the water? We stay low, get right up to the edge and she lets fly. Again she fished alone, casting and retrieving. First cast makes me lurch forward. I’m ready to add my assistance if what I saw decided that ludicrously colored fly is worth grabbing. At the last instant, a swell of water and a distorted view of our target makes Natty retrieve the fly. That action would have set the hook if the trout had taken it.

Relaxing back from my hovering, I take a step back and allow her to fish. Taking my phone from my pocket, I take a picture of her standing there casting. I realize I’m taking a picture of her fighting a fish.

She lifts the rod tip, pulling a gem of a wild brookie from the water. I pull out my handy pak net and secure her catch.

Her ‘mommy’ fish was a looker, her reaction was one of excitement but also a quiet observation of the hook removal. “The fly out of the mouth?”.

Again she would be in full control of the release. Wet hands, a gentle return into its home and time is closer to her nap; time to go home.

Published by natescamp

New England based outdoorsman, Nate is a devoted husband, father, Marine Corps Veteran, chef, Backcountry Hunters & Anglers Member, Trout Unlimited Member, and Tenkara Adventure Outfitters Ambassador.

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