142: Coldholler Trout Pond

Last May, after doubling the acreage of Coldholler by purchasing adjacent property that holds two trout ponds, half an acre of flat camping ground, a 115' deep well with 60-gallons-a-minute yield, and the large area I logged and will graze goats, I decided we needed fish.

Not needing another gear-intensive sport, I followed a tip from a trout-guide friend and investigated Tenkara, a simple method of fly fishing imported to the USA from Japan by an entrepreneur named Daniel Galhardo.  Learn all about it here, but suffice it to know that there's no reel, the telescoping rod is elegant and very long yet fits in my Camelbak for MTB trips into Panthertown or any kind of hike, and uses simple technique to great, fun-filled advantage.  I got a Sato rod that stops at 3 lengths and promptly caught a small brook trout at the creek that flows through my campus where I work, on the second cast.

I built a dock, stocked the pond, and fun commenced.  Stocked it with about 25 rainbow trout in June, and then had a friend of mine who is a professor of aquatic/stream ecology in our biology department come up in July.  We paddled around, and he took oxygen and temperature readings at different depths.  It stays cold enough down below, but the O2 isn’t high there.  He pointed out a healthy bluegill population that needs thinning, and bass would do that.

I rigged a gutter pipe to bring the inflow across beneath a tripod and drop several feet onto the surface, which helps.  Surprisingly, all 25 big trout made it through August and September, and as soon as the water temp dropped to 60 I stocked it with lots of smaller (10-12”) rainbow, but there’s no way that I’d risk letting that many go through the summer.  On warmer days, they eat a good bit right now (it’s 3 degrees today so it’ll be next week before the ice melts and I can feed them again).  In April, I’m going to start actively harvesting them, letting my small boys catch them on willowy Tenkara rods.  When they’re thinned down this summer, we’ll see if the remnant makes it again and I’m going to introduce a few bass to grow into game fish and thin the bluegill (although I’m concerned about what they’ll do to the stupendous frog population).  For fun, if this works out, we’ll over-winter with some trout againHere are some pictures:

Adding 150 more 10-12" rainbow in October

Most of our trout are about this size, some smaller, some larger...

The Sato bends in half but doesn't break!  It's 13' long!

Another catch for dinner...

Tons of small bluegill too -- will need to thin them to achieve better growth.

Nice little Bluegill!


Should we smoke it?

See the fish -- no reel means careful fishing -- have to tire it and then net it.

Fish on the line!

Boys, trying out the Sato (Thanks TenkaraUSA!) - it's kid-friendly, too!

Used my Eagle Scout craftiness to lash a tripod to elevate the inflow and aerate water in the pond for the fish.

Ponds aren't just for fishing!

Other view...

Line holders for Tenkara.

Sometimes, a line and a pole just aren't enough.  Here we're after a 30-pound catfish that has worn out its welcome. 

Threw that in cast iron on hot coals less than 5 minutes after hooking it!

Getting some lunkers at the hatchery in my truck -- it was a nailbiter but we made it work.

Kicking off my fishing phase, here's the Sato, scoped down...

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I use this blog to chronicle certain aspects of my life near the Smokies. I'm building a cabin. I kayak. Sometimes I bike.