Grand Marais angler uses unconventional rods to fish North Shore streams

Behind Tofte, a rock cliff rises perhaps 40 feet, and above that white pines reach for the clouds. Across the stream from him, the wall is not so high and gives way soon to overhanging maples and cedars. Spongy moss clings to the rock walls. Ferns grow out of bare stone.

Tofte, 28, casts his unorthodox fly rod now. It’s a Tenkara rod with no reel attached, just an 8-foot, telescoping fly rod with a small piece of line dangling from its tip. To that, Tofte has tied a few feet of fly line, and to that a short monofilament tippet and his fly — a worm nymph.

The Tenkara setup, Tofte says, is ideal for these intimate North Shore streams where there’s little room for back-casts with a conventional fly rod and fly line.

“I love traditional fly-fishing,” Tofte says. “But I only use that when I’m out on lakes. On the river, you don’t need to cast 50 feet.”

The Tenkara rod offers him two options for casting. One is an overhead cast, in which he flicks the line and fly in a more traditional fly-casting motion. The second option, which Tofte uses frequently, is a slingshot-style cast. He draws back the fly line and tippet with one hand, loading the tip of the rod with energy. When he lets go of the line, the fly zips to Tofte’s target.

Once the fly is on the water, Tofte lets it drift downstream naturally, moving the rod tip along directly above the fly.

“You can have these super-long drifts that are totally natural,” he says. “The line doesn’t drag.”

Hungry brook trout

Now his supple rod forms a graceful arc over the pool he’s fishing, and he is rock-hopping his way downstream on shore. A brook trout has taken his worm nymph, a skinny worm imitation fished near the stream bottom. The fish is a classic North Shore brook trout, full of wild fight. All 9 inches of it.

Tofte lifts the rod high and reaches out to grab the line, drawing the fish nearer, slipping his net beneath it.

A 9-inch brookie from a small stream is a prize. A really big one is a foot long.

When Tofte acquired his…

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