Fishing Marble Trout with Tenkara.

By Lesly Janssen, NL

I come from a fly fishing background but have been practicing tenkara now for two seasons. My first experience with Tenkara was on the Ucja river with a dry fly. I was amazed at how easy it was to present a fly without drag over long drifts. Since then, many things in the fishing itself have become easier. But my goal to catch a good sized, spooky marble trout on tenkara brought new challenges. In pursuit of this goal, I tested my gear to its limits. I caught and lost many good sized fish with a trial and error in approach. Stalking fish in these crystal clear rivers with a fairly short Tenkara setup offers a challenging combination of fishing and "hunting" that suited my style perfectly. I am not a Tenkara purist who only fishes kebari's. I’m more like a hybrid who gives each situation exactly what it asks for to get results.

Lesly with marble trout, tenkara catch

My biggest marble trout caught on Tenkara gear. This one was close to the 70cm mark. I presented a white woolly bugger perfectly on the first cast. The fish just sucked it in like trout candy. Adrenaline moment!

My Setup.

My favorite rod is a 13 ft, 7:3 like the TryTenkara 390. This will cover most fishing situations and fish sizes. I tried different lines but I got stuck on the orange fluoro carbon, size #3, a foot shorter than the rod. I rarely use longer lines; I just try to get closer to the fish and I try to avoid hand-lining fish. I fish a 3 to 4 ft. fluoro carbon tippet, generally in 6X or 7X ,but I will use 5X for big dry flies and small streamers.

The Flies.

I use 3 boxes of flies to cover every situation, all season. One box contains small mayflies, klinkhamers, needle flies, ants, beetles, and midges to match the hatch for steadily rising fish. One whole box is dedicated to my favorite big dry fly, a size #12 elk-hair caddis. It is attractive and works perfectly to provoke a strike by looking like a good meal for every marble trout. My thrid box contains a couple of small weighted streamers for getting down to the bottoms of deeper pools.

I only use one kebari-like fly. This fly gets deep fast with a golden tungsten bead and thin black body. It is attractive with an upward  partridge hackle and an orange hot spot. This killer is my most fished and most effective subsurface fly. It works all the time on just about any fish.

The Tactics.

Sight fishing is the way to go. The waters are clear, so spotting the fish is the easy part. It can be more difficult when the fish are deep because they have such good camouflage they blend in with the background. Even then, spotting fish is the easy part. The flipside of such clear water is that the fish can see me just as easily. I look for opportunities where I can stalk specific marble trout and deliver one perfect cast, like a sniper, thus provoking unwary strikes. This is my favorite fishing style but is incredibly difficult. Getting close to a marble trout without spooking it is a serious challenge.  In between dry fly opportunities, I fish the kebari to visible fish and likely looking spots and pools. I make around 10 casts with dead drift before I walk on to the next spot.

Marble trout pond
 Most fish in the pools hold where the main current slows down and the gravel comes up.

What Guarantees Me More Succes:

I walk a lot in search for opportunities. I stay out of the water on higher ground to scan larger parts of the river looking for fish. Good sized marble tout claim the best spots in any secition of river so I pay extra attention and take more time to observe these interesting spots before I get too close.

This is a typical marble trout spot. They prefer dark places with overhang. I would approach this spot from the opposite bank with a low posture, using the rocks as cover.

I always walk upstream. Most fish face upstream, so approaching them straight from behind is the way to keep out of sight and increase your chances from just seeing a fish to actually catching a fish.

Marble tout can be found in unusual spots in the river. Keep an eye out for contrasting forms and colors close to the river banks, walls, and obstacles.

When I spot a good fish, I take the time to make a plan by observing its behaviour for a while. I find a way to get close enough. Sometimes I need to walk back downstream, cross the river, and try the appoach from another angle. As long as I stay directly behind the fish, I am safe from discovery. I choose the best fly for the job and check that the knots are secure. I also try to plan the drill and the choose the best landing place before I even start the approach. I don't hurry; my mindset shifts from "fishing" into "hunting".

During the approach, I concentrate and keep in mind that when the fish sees me my chance is lost, so I need to approach with stealth and stay invisible. I Keep a low posture and, if possible, try to use the natural surroundings to cover me so that the fish don't see me coming. I use things like bushes, rocks, and flowing water to block the fishes’ view, thus allowing me to get close enough to make the cast.

If there are no streamside features to hide me, I use the broken water surface of the currents to stay as unseen.

The first chance is the most productive chance so the first cast must be perfect. Marble trout don't give away second chances very often. When the fish is close to the surface or in shallow water, I use the big caddis. It does the job everytime so long as I remain unseen. I want to cast the fly close to the fish’s head so it can take with minimal effort.  When the fish are holding deep, I dead-drift the attractor kebari in the strike zone. I focus and fish a very tight line to feel even the lightest takes.

When I got a hookup I prepare for a sprint. The fish will likely take off in the first moments after the hookset. I'm not only lifting my rod backwards but also switching to the left and the right to desorient the run direction by pulling the head of the fish in stream. This method will push the fish towards me keeping it close. Because fishing with barbless hooks is mandatory, keeping constant tension and pressure is very important to not lose the fish. Running after the fish is not uncommon so I keep going with this drilling style to tire the fish, eventually leading it to quiet water, and finally scooping it with the net.


Slovenia has a fairly easy licence system. No state licences are needed and they are easy to get at shops, hotels, apartments, and campsites.  They can be purchased for only one day but you get discounts for 3 or 5 consecutive days. For a full list of licence providers, take a look at the fishing club website:  Or visit the Soca fly fishing shop in the center of Kobarid.


The link above also shows a list of places to spend the night. Prices vary from 15 to 100 euro's per night and can include breakfast, lunch, and dinner. To keep things practical, I suggest choosing a place within the Kobarid, Tolmin, Most na Soci, or Idrija pri Baci range to stay central and have all the rivers close by. For precise inside information or good advice please don't hesitate to send me an email or visit the fishing shop in Kobarid. 

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