Come to the dark side...we have worms.


Bait fishing. When you're around fly anglers, those two words are often spoken with a certain tone of voice imparting the sentiment "bless their dear hearts they haven't become fully enlightened 12th-level aqua mages like us fly fishers."

I'm a fly angler through and through. I also fish with bait. FOR TROUT. 

OK, I hope you've recovered. I am not above soaking Powerbait to catch some stocked rainbows for the frying pan in put and take cold season lake fishing. But what if I were to tell you that there is a very effective active bait fishing method more akin to fly fishing? And what if I told you that this method even makes catch and release possible with bait fishing?


Such a method does exist, and it's called keiryu fishing. Keiryu means "mountain stream" in Japanese, and is much more popular than tenkara in Japan. Like tenkara, keiryu rods are fixed-line fishing tools. The difference is that keiryu rods are designed for fishing with weight (usually split shot) whereas tenkara rods are designed for fishing unweighted or lightly weighted flies. The bait can be anything: red wigglers, meal worms, salmon eggs, even aquatic insects collected from the stream you're fishing.

Just as in tenkara, the essence of keiryu is the drift. Keiryu lines are often quite light (4x or smaller tippet material), and for good reason: eliminating line sag. This keeps the main line off the water so that drag is minimized. However, this thin line is often very hard to see so some sort of indicator is needed to detect takes. Unlike conventional fly fishing indicators, keiryu markers are suspended above the surface of the water. 

Keiryu indicators are usually small sections of brightly colored synthetic yarn, tied to the main line above the line/tippet junction. It's best to use multiple markers a few inches apart for maximum visibility and sensitivity. It's the sensitivity that makes keiryu compatible with catch and release fishing. When keiryu fishing with a tight line, even the lightest takes will show up via the indicators as a dip or movement to the side. All you have to do is lift the rod tip to set the hook. The quick strikes result in almost all fish being hooked exactly as they are when fly fishing. Just as in fly fishing, there are the rare instances of deep hooking, but nothing like the gut hooking you get from bottom fishing with bait.

If this sounds to you to be a lot like Czech nymphing with bait, then you're on to something. Keiryu rods make excellent nymphing rods as well, in fact much better than most tenkara rods. That is a topic for another post.