|The first signs of fall in the Athabascan woods.|
Our guide from Blackmur's Athabasca Fishing Lodges, Louie Isadore, made one simple comment as we set foot out of the boat and began our mile-long trek into the northern Saskatchewan backcountry: "Hey Chris. Watch fer da bear."
Then it started raining. Awesome.
With my friend Kirk Deeter leading the way, and Louie bringing up the rear, we were an odd mix of characters wandering off through the wilds of the Land of the Living Skies to catch the sailfish of the north–two pudgy American fly fishers and one native Canadian (Louie's a member of the Black Lake First Nation) armed with Japanese Tenkara fly rods whistling a British military march.
It was an international effort, to be sure.
And, as the rain continued to fall, we pushed our way through head-high brush, following a soggy trail that promised some amazing fishing at its end. Louie's ominous warning about "da bear" was enough to keep us all chatting or whistling. For a few minutes there, we each recounted some of our more harrowing experiences with ursus americanus, but the stories proved too unnerving in the thick cover we were traversing. We went back to whistling.
|The Grease River.|
The Tenkara method might be the best way to chase unwary Arctic grayling. These fish live largely unmolested (and, frankly, under appreciated) in the Grease River and scores of other waterways throughout the Canadian north. Cousins to trout and salmon, these fish, armed with their stunning dorsal fin and an aggressive disposition common among the fishy critters up here, grayling don't hesitate when chasing a fly. They seize the opportunity with gusto more fitting a fish much bigger and much toothier.
|Success on Tenkara.|
I've said this before: Tenkara is so simple that it looks like a handicap thrust willingly upon its devotees out purism, but, in truth, it's an ideal moving-water weapon, at least for the cast and presentation. Granted, it has some limitations when it comes to actually battling fish, but I've found that wise use of the supple rod can make the Tenkara every bit as effective as a traditional fly rod in most circumstances. The more you use it, the better you become–just as with anything else. The challenge, of course, is forcing yourself to use the rod, to have confidence in it.
|Deeter with a Tenkara grayling.|
There, on the banks of Canadian river, two giggling Americans and their First Nation guide put a Japanese method to use catching grayling. On the walk out, the River Kwai March rang through the woods, a celebratory tune after a morning of some of the finest river fishing we could remember.