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Fall 2017

FALL 2017

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Front Cover: Jim Vandagrift Back Cover: Bernard Dagenais Logo Design: Nick Cobler

Golden Trout Adam Klagsbrun


From The Editor Falling Forward


Thank you for taking the time to page through this issue of Tenkara Angler. How awesome was this past summer? I really hope you made a lot of memories that will last a lifetime. Personally, I was able to spend a lot of time with family, a fair amount fishing, and also some moments reflecting on the future direction of this magazine. In traveling to two tenkara "events" over the past three months (the Tenkara Bug Out and the Tenkara Summit), and speaking to several of the readers of this magazine, I asked many what they would like to see potentially change in upcoming issues. Of the feedback received, a few things were mentioned more that once... Readers seem to want to see more content from different voices, they'd like to see an easier way to get print copies, and finally, they'd like to read about more technique & strategy (Rob Worthing's

'Advanced Casting' articles were mentioned several times). A Tenkara Angler podcast even came up once or twice... yikes! Now I'm not certain exactly how to go about checking all of these boxes off, however I'm probably going to give some a go. Moving forward, I'm going to "pin" a suggestion box to the top of the Tenkara Angler Facebook page, please don't hesitate to use it to send in your ideas for future issues. I welcome them all, and want to help bring you the best tenkararelated content possible. With all that said, I hope you enjoy the latest edition of Tenkara Angler. You'll find a lot of awesome content in these pages that was a joy to compile. A huge THANK YOU goes out to everybody that contributed.

Michael Agneta Editor In Chief




Photo: Tristan Mills


Do you want to contribute to the next issue of Tenkara Angler? Tenkara or conservation-themed articles, essays, fly tying recipes, gear reviews, tips, tricks, & photography are all fair game!

See for more information



Chasing Salters Bill Holleran

I finally made it to a special brook that has been on my list to scout for the elusive, wild sea-run brook trout of Massachusetts. The sea-run brook trout, or salter as we refer to them here in New England, are a very special fish. The salters hatch in freshwater brooks, streams, and rivers and then travel to the sea to feed and grow and then return to the freshwater to spawn. I have been spending a lot of time researching and studying our native brook trout, but I haven’t had any real success landing one. There is a reason that these special fish have survived the Industrial Revolution and all of mankind’s destruction in the name of progress. These fish spook very easily, and they are very picky when it comes to chasing flies.


Stealth and patience is required when chasing these beauties. So last Sunday, on the day before our 18th wedding anniversary, my lovely wife agreed to spend the day with me fishing for salters in a little-known brook in Southern MA. She must have been tired of listening to me talk about these special fish… that and the fact that I also agreed to take our two dogs and do some walking along the nearby trails. She is a wonderful woman who understands and supports my angling pursuits. I will have to think of something special to make up for this one. When we arrived at a parking area that holds about five cars, I jumped out of the car and grabbed my tenkara gear like an excited kid going to the amusement park.

Of course, fishing tenkara requires minimal gear. For outings like this, I only carry an Orvis sling pack, a small net, and of course my RBT One tenkara rod. No waders and boots necessary for this little brook, but water sandals are a good idea. So we gathered up the dogs and headed for the trails with Dixie, our little Italian Greyhound Chihuahua mix leading the way. This little pup loves to walk the trails and is a bit of a hunter. Her pack mate, Roscoe, is the same mixed breed, but he likes to hang back with his humans. The trails along this brook are very tight with lots of vegetation on the sides and above. It was a very hot and humid day, but on the trails there were some relief in the shade. The walking is a little difficult as the ground is muddy and loaded with tree roots. A short distance from the parking lot, at the first bend in the trail I spot some really big rocks on the edge of the brook. Below the rocks is a small pool that looks like an ideal place for the salters to hang out. I already have my RBT One rod set up with a furled casting line, a couple feet of tippet, and a caddis emerger bead head fly. I set the rod at its shortest length, just under eleven feet because of the tight canopy of trees and make a short cast upstream. The fly lands gently upstream of my intended target and I let it drift downstream. I kept the casting line off the water knowing how smart the salters are and let the fly drift naturally with the stream.



went for the fly as it drifted by. I saw him take the fly and quickly raised the rod to set the hook. The excitement was unbearable as I started to direct him towards the net and handed my wife my iPhone to get a picture. I finally landed the most amazing fish in our region. I carefully netted him, removed the fly, and briefly admired his awesome colors before setting him free. My wife was laughing at my child-like excitement as we continued on down the trail. Catching a wild sea run brook trout is an awesome experience if you take the time to reflect on what these fish have overcome. Thankfully there are groups like the Sea Run Brook Trout Coalition that are doing heroic works to ensure that future generations can experience these amazing fish. They are making strides by removing dams, using volunteers to restore streams, and of course, educating the public. I urge every angler to support

As the fly drifted right in front of the rock I was standing on, I saw the salter take notice. He was right below me under the cover of the rock I was standing on and


their efforts by donating or volunteering their time. You can visit their site at As we made our way downstream via the trails, I made several stops to cast and try for more salters. Along the way, we met a really nice couple who said they fish the brook all the time. They were locals and told us how special this place was and that you could spend several days there and not catch a single fish. I told them of my luck on the first cast here, and they shared in my enthusiasm. They asked about the tenkara gear so I gave them a quick demonstration, not wanting to sound like a sales pitch. They mentioned that I was traveling light, and I said that’s the beauty of tenkara. Travel light and keep it simple. I gave them a card so they could check out our website if they so desired, and we continued on down the trail looking for the next good location to cast a line.


We found another great looking spot with good hiding spots for salters and more depth. I lost the bead head I was using earlier and decided to go with a kebari or tenkara fly. I chose a pheasant tail kebari because I’ve had a lot of luck with this


particular fly this season. After several casts without any signs of salters, I decided to use a pulsing method that many tenkara anglers use. I cast the fly downstream and began to pulse forwards and backwards with short arm movements against the gentle current. A kebari fly has a reverse hackle, meaning the threads/ feathers go in the opposite direction. This gives you the opportunity to use the hackle as a parachute and can be very effective in attracting fish. After a few casts, another salter took notice and went for the kebari. I set the hook immediately and landed another beautiful salter. After removing the fly I gently set him free, remembering how special these awesome fish really are. We only spent a short time at this special little brook, but this was a day that I will remember for a very long time. My only regret was that I didn’t have the GoPro on and that I didn’t take better pictures. Thank you to my beautiful wife for being my best friend and supporting my outdoor pursuits as I drag her to all sorts of out-ofthe-way places. I’m looking forward to the next eighteen years.


Downstream Angling Jim Wright

Fly fishing downstream for trout in small tributaries was the first angling method that I practiced as a wide-eyed youngster. Weekends and summer vacations would find me flailing my coarsely tied fly at eager little rainbows. It has become my method of choice wherever I can practically employ it. And most happily on little blue-line tributaries where the tactic really shines, and may likely be the only reasonable plan of attack. I have found that I can get my kebari just as deep as in upstream presentations, but with better control and (I feel) a more natural drift. The method that I am presenting here seems to work best in pocket type water on shallow streams, small pools and in tight spaces.


Ishigaki-Style Kebari

The gear couldn't be simpler. I prefer a rod between 8 and 11 feet for any fishing on my tight headwaters. This seems a practical length depending upon bank cover. I haven't used one, but a zoom rod should be ideal. Line length should ideally be short in brushy stretches and longer in more open water. Ideal kebari for the tactic might include: 1. The venerable Dr. Ishigaki style in black/brown, red/brown, gray/grizzly and all black. Sometimes purple/grizzly. 2. Any wool body sakasa soft hackles or killer bugs, buggers and they're related kin 3. Sakasa (noted above) plus a midge as a dropper off the bend of the top fly hook 4. And most importantly, whatever works for you. This is often a very personal call! My own favorites include the above plus: sunken ants, Partridge and Peacock sakasa soft hackles, black Killer Buggers, Sawyer style Killer Bugs with a wool tail and unweighted Killer Worms. NOTE: All the above should be selected in a few different colors, for use depending upon lighting conditions. Also, selected to fish at different water depths. The method is straight forward. Just steer the fly into the fish's mouth. Well, almost. Let's see how it would work. Facing downstream you see a 12-footwide stretch of water with rocks, cobbles



and branches, relatively shallow but with obvious holding spots. The bank side vegetation makes it difficult to exit the water, except for (sometimes) narrow beaches and the occasional deer trail. The tree canopy is fairly clear above, so you have chosen a longer rod and line for today's angling. You will need it to keep some distance from feeding fish. The broken water ahead will hide your movement if you: A. go slowly, B. avoid

kicking up much sand or silt and C. keep your posture fairly low. But these are wild fish and the response to any shadow above will be automatic and swift! Enter our longish rod and line. Simply drop your kebari into the stream near you. Let it drift away from you as you maintain line control, but not tightly as your kebari must penetrate the water surface and sink if that is desired. This can


require a wee bit of slack. As the kebari proceeds, drop your rod tip in sync with the water speed until your rod is horizontal and the kebari comes close to hanging in the current below. This is a hot spot for strikes so be alert.

important. Remember when we talked about choosing kebari for different depths? Whatever you tie on should have the ability to fish a somewhat varied but specific depth range, depending upon the aquatic environment.

Just as it comes back up to the water surface, be ready and lift it free of the surface film. Now lift your rod, swinging the kebari through the air toward you and letting it drop again into the water near you, but in a slightly different spot. And that is really all there is to the process. Simple yes? I love simple.

The Dr. Ishigaki is a great choice. It begins its maiden voyage on top and then sinks to cover the top third of the stream depth (more or less). Likewise, the wool body kebari soaks up water making it penetrate the surface film and sink quite nicely to mid depth. A heavy hook helps here.


As you slowly progress downstream, you will find that you need to adjust your approach. Moving slower or faster, avoiding obstacles or temporarily stepping onto the bank. But your main objective will be to spot a productive looking current lane flowing past, between and around rocks, logs or next to undercut banks. Now drift that kebari to cover as much water as reasonably possible. Getting your kebari to the correct depth is vital to success in many, but not all situations. Occasional slower and clearer water will allow a fish to spot your offering and move appropriately to intercept it. However, fish in moving water must avoid swimming against current for food that doesn't replace the energy expended to catch it. They will also need to make that a snap decision as most often the water flow is fast enough that little time is available for the decision. Wild fish are very good at this. So, to repeat an important point, getting your kebari to the correct depth is


The added copper wire under body of killer bugs and buggers ensure that the lower water layer is covered as well, without unduly handicapping a tenkara rod. And, with those three or four kebari styles you can get that fly in front of the nearest (and hopefully largest) fish in fine angler fashion. This technique is most useful when a cast is impossible in an upstream direction. I once used it in a shallow tributary of a small stream, where the willows grew out into the water, which was full of wild brookies. After carefully threading my way through the multitude of small trunks and positioning myself upstream, I waited to be sure that I had not spooked the pod. By letting the killer bugger float down the current, I could take two trout before putting the others down. This is often how angling in a tiny stream progresses. It's a patience game but, the downstream drift is an excellent way of presentation when the going gets tough. And, may give you a leg up at any other time when conditions allow you to pull it off.



Settling In Sam Larson

I know it’s fall because the fox squirrels have moved back into the eaves. We chase them out every year, cover all the holes with chicken wire and scraps of wood, but something about how this cabin is settling into itself over each passing year opens up new cracks and burrows. Since we have to keep the baseboard heat on year round, or at least on enough to keep the pipes from freezing, the cabin becomes a hotbed of animal activity through the winter. Fox squirrels, chipmunks, mice, and voles all love to scramble inside and bask in the relative warmth, away from the frozen ground outside. It doesn’t hurt that there’s usually some scraps left in the corners of the pantry. Each spring at the cabin was filled with the scent of D-Con and decomposing mice, the


remnants of a long winter and all of the poison we laid out at the end of the year. But the addition of some young grandchildren and a dumb dog mean it’s not safe to toss poison all over the floors any more. So now we lock the doors and cover the windows when the snow starts to fall and entrust the cabin to our offseason roommates and their tendency to chew the bedspreads. We haven’t reached winter yet, though fall is settling its way into the upper reaches of the mountains around us. Above nine thousand feet or so the aspens are cloaked in shimmering, wind-tossed gold, fading to the silver-green of summer on the lower slopes. The creek still flows below the cabin, lower now than in summer, but the brookies are there and ready for almost

any fly. The season’s end seems to put them into a food-focused panic, rising to and snapping at anything that might be food. I favor my shorter, softer tenkara rod this time of year. Everything in the creek is looking up so there’s no need for the extra backbone needed to toss a beadhead nymph. I can leave the porch and walk to the creek knowing that I’ll be casting nothing but dries or kebari all day. I appreciate the simplicity that this situation brings to a day spent fishing. A single row of flies pinned to the fly patch on my chest pack is usually enough. I can leave the nymph box and the larger box of dries and streamers at home. I’ve never been quite at ease with the single fly approach to tenkara but this time of year, when the mornings hang onto the overnight chill and the river doesn’t quite wake up until the sun is on the water, I can almost get away with it. My cast feels slow and smooth, and my fly of choice, a deer hair emerger, lands softly in a slow eddy behind the center piling of the foot bridge that spans the creek. It hangs in the eddy for a second and then drifts easily into the seam that trails away from the piling.


A brook trout, eager for a meal before winter’s cold settles in, snaps at the fly as it floats above him, rising almost halfway from the water and falling sideways with a splash. The fly drifts further down the seam, unmolested and riding easily on the current. A little too eager, I think, but let’s give you another shot. I stand in the creek, feeling the current push and pull against my waders, and give the brookie a count to thirty. A high, slow back cast and I feel the rod load behind me. The fly lands in the eddy with a soft flick of my tenkara rod,

two inches, maybe three, from where it landed the first time. The brookie charges the fly again and swallows it whole, hooking himself as he dives back towards the creek bed. The brookies in this creek average six inches, and a monster pushes ten. When I get the brookie to hand and pull the barbless hook from its jaw it measures barely longer than my hand. The brookie’s black eye whirls at me as I lower the fish back into the water. It lingers for a second, fins and gills gently brushing my palm, and then darts for the darkness beneath the willows overhanging the bank. I wander upstream a way, casting at eddies and slicks behind rocks. The flows have fallen and the creek is fully a third skinnier than it was a month ago, and even in the deep runs the water barely rises above my knees. The brook trout lie in wait where they always do, but they spook easily in the low, clear water. I’m not sure how many more weekends I’ll be able to fish this creek before it’s too low for all but the most delicate casts and approaches. Around me, along the shore, the heather and scrub oak beneath the pines has a tint of red and gold. Fall, I think as I walk up the creek feeling the rainbow gravel crunch beneath my boots, is almost the perfect time of year. I’ve found my rhythm, in between the thousands of casts and all the miles walked along streams and rivers over the previous season. It’s day such as this that I carry with me into the winter, to mull over and remember when the streams are iced over and brook trout huddle deep in the current awaiting the arrival of spring’s warmth.


Haunted By Rivers Christopher Seep

Like many, I am haunted by the river's voice, especially mountain creeks. Born of snowmelt, cold, transparent water obeys the imperatives of gravity and terrain, its marathon journey to the sea just begun. Haunted also by the promise of trout, the sudden snatch of the fly, the electric connection to a fish via rod, line, and fly; somehow its energy flowing to me in reverse; the possibility of fooling a trout with my counterfeit. Haunted also by shards of persistent snow on a Rocky Mountain peak in summer, by the unique clarity of mountain sunlight, by cool, dry air on my face; possessed, too, by the fecundity of an Appalachian stream, its pleasant claustrophobia of mammoth rhododendron, mountain laurel, and spruce, so overwhelmingly green. I dream of a ceiling of stars on a new moon night, bright pinpricks in the dark celestial fabric above a leaping campfire, or of a bright moon with its peculiar quicksilver light casting a tent-shadow on snow. I imagine myself now standing in the river, the pleasant press of flowing water against my legs, straining to hear the water's whisper, trying to decipher its language, so ancient that none can understand it but perhaps the wind. I am haunted by rivers... and I'll wager you are too.



Tenkara Traditions:


Are They Important? John Vetterli

I’m sitting at my desk here at Tenkara Guides LLC’s global headquarters finishing up final details for Oni School 2017 and getting ready for Tenkara Tuesday weekly clinic at Sundance Mountain Resort when it kind of hit me suddenly. Are traditions in tenkara important, necessary, and what value do they bring to me? When tenkara first arrived here in the USA, it immediately divided into two camps.


Tenkara the Method or Tenkara the Tool. Tenkara the Method was the camp of everything Japanese. Tenkara was only to be done using Japanese style unweighted kebari in a mountain stream and trout was the only acceptable fish species. We were using all kinds of Japanese words we didn’t understand, we were trying to glean information from Japanese tenkara sites, blogs, and forums in a language pretty much none of us spoke. All kinds of random and strange things

were happening all over the country as this small band of intrepid anglers bungled their way through “pure tenkara.” The other side of the fence was Tenkara the Tool. This was the group that latched on to the phrase my good friend Eiji Yamakawa, a very experienced tenkara angler from Japan, said once. “In tenkara anything goes.” This was the group that started mixing what they knew, western fly fishing, with this long, noodly fixed line rod and something new started to emerge. Fishing with any and every type of fly imaginable, lines made from every conceivable material, fishing for warm water fish like bass, bluegill, crappie, and even carp. Big rivers, lakes, ponds, ocean, trout, salmon, bonefish, you name it, we were trying it. There were no rules of any kind, no dogma,


and the first official "Tenkara War" was off and running as the two camps argued back and fourth over what tenkara is and how it is supposed to be done. Well, it’s been almost a decade since we started fishing with tenkara rods. A few of us in the Western tenkara community have traveled to Japan to learn from teachers in the land of tenkara’s birth and have started to learn Japanese tenkara and its culture, traditions, nuances, and this nasty little biting fly called bujio. (One of the worst insect bites you will ever experience. Like a mosquito only a gazillion times worse). Tenkara the Tool and Tenkara the Method have begun to fuse together here in America and what I call the American Tenkara Method is starting to coalesce into something new and unique. It is coming into its own as a complete fixed line fly fishing system. So back to my question...



Tenkara traditions, are they important? I believe that they are. I am one of those people that has traveled to Japan to learn from several master tenkara anglers/teachers and in the process, I began to study with Masami Sakakibara and I eventually became one of his dedicated students. My relationship with Masami has opened the door to delve deep into not only Masami’s Oni Tenkara methods and skills but to also learn about the traditions of tenkara in Japan. It has been a fascinating journey to learn where the term “ten colors of tenkara” came from and what it really means.


Masami has taught me a lot about mountain life culture in Japan, the Japanese ideals of living with nature instead of bending it to our will. And the food, I gotta be honest, the food we have eaten in some of these small mountain villages is amazing. All the food is planted, grown, harvested and the fish caught right there in the village. It’s all fresh and prepared in the most traditional ways. The food alone is worth the trip. All these nuances of tenkara techniques, cultural values, learning a new language, and the food (I know, food again, but trust me on this, it’s awesome), all this has deepened my enjoyment of the sport. Learning about these and other cultural/ tenkara traditions has allowed a sport that

I love to permeate other areas of my life. Tenkara has become something I am instead of something I do. Now, I’m not saying everyone must go to Japan to fully appreciate tenkara. What I am suggesting is that we as American tenkara anglers should do is to develop our own tenkara culture and traditions. It is happening as I write this and as you read it.


There are tenkara events and gatherings happening all over the country, people are sharing ideas, theories, and developing new things all the time. It’s an exciting time to be a part of tenkara in America because we are all playing a part in this. I believe we should all be making conscious efforts to add the things that will build this community and its evolving traditions into something that will stand the test of time and be passed on to future generations. These traditions are the spice of life that make life interesting and for some it will become a part of who they are.

Some of the things I’m doing are building a tradition in my family with my young son Jack who is 11 years old as I write this. Jack and I take a special week-long camping and tenkara fishing trip each year where we work on things like stream craft, fishing skills, wood craft, orienteering via map and compass, fire craft, wilderness first aid and survival skills. The bushcraft skills are things we work on in the back yard all year round. These things are our family tenkara traditions and it has brought so much fun and enjoyment to both of us. There is an ulterior motive though, Jack is being trained to be the next generation of the Tenkara Guides LLC crew. He just doesn’t know it yet. I hope everyone is out there enjoying tenkara in a way that they love and establishing their own personal, family, and community tenkara traditions. Because that is the heartbeat and soul that will keep the sport living on for generations to come.


Championship Tenkara


Danièle Beaulieu

Photos: Bernard Dagenais

After participating in a few Canadian and US National fly fishing championships as a Controller, and then as a Sector Judge at the Commonwealth Fly Fishing Championship in 2016, I was often asked why was I not competing? That's when it hit me, why not? So, in January 2017 I wrote to the President and a member of the Board of FIPS-Mouche, (The International Sport Fly Fishing Federation), to see if I could compete with tenkara tackle. I waited impatiently and after a few days both wrote me back


saying that tenkara does have a place in the FIPS-Mouche regulations! So, for the first time in the world somebody was going to fish the Championships with a tenkara rod! The championship was held at the Foret Montmorency, Quebec (featured in the Spring 2017 issue of Tenkara Angler). It was four sessions over two days. Two sessions were on the river, and two sessions were on the lake (Loch Style). The session were 3 hours of non-stop fishing with a

Controller that recorded the number of fish caught and released. The competitors were required to fish with barbless hooks only. In the river, we could fish with two flies, and in the lake, three. I decided to stay as simple as tenkara can be, so I fished with only one style of kebari fly for all the sessions. I only changed from an Ishigakistyle kebari when I wanted to fish as a dry fly, and a Takayama-style kebari when I wanted to fish wet, or sub-surface. It was the first time the Championship was held in the eastern part of the Province of Quebec, Canada so it brought many new faces to the competition including three women of the sixteen competitors. Half of us were new to competition style angling. The more experienced anglers did a good job of taking care of us by teaching us the basics of the competition. Two of the competitors were going to the FIPSMouche World Championships in Slovakia


in early September. The competition is judged as a team (this one was two) as well as individually. We were separated into two groups as to not be matched with your teammate in lakes, and to not have both in the same part of the river simultaneously. Regarding the competition, tenkara performed well in the river, but had its disadvantages in the lake format. The fixed line could be a bit short, whereas the other competitor could easily cast near the shore. So, for people that want to experience competition fly fishing, I suggest practicing with multiple flies. and bring a big net (both per FIPS-Mouche regulations). As for me, I really loved my experience in a real competition, but it's not for me. I will stay a volunteer; but I truly hope that it will continue!

Aiming at the right spot can be very rewarding



Tenkara in the lake is good, but not as effective as traditional fly fishing for competitions

The Controller counts the number of fish caught by the competitors; very important to the success of the competition


Lessons Learned... Tenkara & Others Jack Harford

Each year is an opportunity to experiment and learn something new… or relearn something forgotten. This year has been an interesting one. About 90% of the time the creeks and streams have been blown out with all the rain that has drenched this portion of Indiana. Particularly, the local stream that gets most of my attention has been mostly unfishable this year. This situation can offer a couple of options:


1. Give up fly fishing and go play golf, or… 2. Fish the local ponds The closest pond has in the past been notoriously selfish in giving up fish… almost always difficult to get much action. However, this year, with a couple of different strategies and techniques the fishing has been much better. First, fly tying this year has focused on


traditional wet flies and soft hackle flies. Most of these have been tied in sizes 10-16 which is a little smaller offering than had been presented in the past. Bluegills, bass, even some crappies, and that one monster that flashed in the water and immediately broke me off have mistaken the wet flies for a snack or dinner. The subsurface offerings have accounted for about 80% of the flies caught by fish this year compared to around 20% catching top water flies. In previous seasons, top water flies had been the focus, so the increased use of subsurface wet flies may be one of the reasons for increased hookups. Another experiment this year has been using a 12-foot Tenkara rod with about 15 feet of line/leader. To be honest, at first the limitations of a fixed line rod were a bit frustrating. Fly casting is a beautiful thing and that feeling of executing a great cast just wasn’t there. A good cast produces a great amount of satisfaction as the weight of the line gracefully shoots through the guides and the fly lands elegantly in the proper location at a good distance.


However, the limitations of Tenkara have also revealed a few of the limitations of long distance casting with the traditional fly rod. Davy Wooton’s DVD “Wet Fly Ways” was a good lesson in working the water. Many times, the longer casts result in “lining the water.” Lining the water means that the fly line is scaring the fish when it lands on the water. The line is cast out, scares the fish off, and then the fly is stripped or played through that very same water that was disturbed by the fly line. Davy’s advice was to keep the amount of fly line out the end of the rod to a minimum and use a long leader of 9 to 12 feet (even more in some situations). Make several casts to one area and then move up or down stream (or around the pond in this case) the length of the leader and make a few more casts and continue in this fashion. With this method, the fly is played only in the area of the less visible leader. Only 9 to 12 feet is covered in each cast and then a

new cast made. These are relatively short casts with only 10 or 20 feet of fly line out the end of the rod. The Tenkara rod forces a shorter cast since there is only a fixed amount of line attached to the rod. Targeting water that has not been disturbed by the fly line may be another reason for increased strikes by the fish. This method allows the angler to work the water effectively and efficiently. Interestingly, most of the fish that snagged a fly were between 2 and 10 feet from the bank, including a nice 14” Largemouth Bass that took a Gartside foam hopper about 4 feet off the shore. The lessons learned within the limitations of the Tenkara rod can then be applied to fly fishing with any rod. Each fisher will find that something a little different will work best for them and that is great. It is one of the things that makes fly fishing a continual learning process, interesting, and enjoyable.


A Look Back at the 2017 Tenkara Summit in Estes Park, CO Top: Estes Park Event Center, home of the 2017 Summit Bottom: Daniel Galhardo's opening remarks


Clockwise from top left: Matt Sment of Badger Tenkara, Tenkara Path Line Spools, Handcrafted Wooden Fly Boxes, Tenkara Pies for sampling


Clockwise from top left: Chris Zimmer of Zimmerbuilt, Adam Trahan casting accuracy, Tenkara rigging demonstration, Patagonia founder Yvon Chouinard


Top: Dr. Hisao Ishigaki casting session Bottom: Music by Paper Moonshine


Top: Dr. Ishigaki tying signature patterns Bottom: Q&A group panel featuring Matt Sment, Yvon Chouinard, Dr. Ishigaki, & Daniel Galhardo





Chris Stewart Say what? Seiryu! Like many Japanese words, seiryu doesn’t quite translate directly into English. The literal translation is “clear stream” but when describing fishing gear it refers to a class of fixed line rods generally used in streams after they have already come down from the mountains. The target species are not trout or char, as with tenkara, but chubs and dace. Chubs and dace? Seiryu rods are wonderful trout rods! (Assuming the trout aren’t too big, of course.) In Japan, most of the trout aren’t too big and a few tenkara anglers do use seiryu rods for tenkara


Kurenai Creek Chub

fishing. I believe their “go to” seiryu rod has been a Daiwa Rinfu – a wonderful rod that Daiwa discontinued years ago. People often ask me why a good rod would be discontinued. The answer is simple: in Japan the market is small and the competition is stiff. To survive, companies must continually introduce new, improved products. It’s not just Japanese rod companies, either. How often does Apple come out with a new iPhone? How often do car companies come out with new models? The good news is that the rod companies generally replace a discontinued model with a new one that fills the same niche. For Daiwa, that new one is the Seiryu X,

which effectively replaces the Rinfu as Daiwa’s seiryu rod. It comes in four lengths: 3.5, 4.5, 5.4 and 6.4 meters. The 3.5 is a surprisingly light rod that is just a wonderful small fish rod. How small is “small?” I honestly don’t know. The rod is pretty soft but it is rated for 5X tippets, so it might be quite a bit more capable than I think! The progressively longer rods can handle progressively longer fish (up to a point).


Daiwa is not the only company that has a seiryu rod. Gamakatsu has the really nice Ryokei, of which Tom Davis is particularly fond. Shimano has one model, which I saw and wiggled at the Osaka Fishing Show one year but have never fished with. I do not know of anyone in the US that has one. Suntech has several models. Suntech’s Kurenai HM series has developed a bit of a cult following in the US, and even has its own fan club on Facebook: 469019429971019/

Of all the Japanese rod companies, Nissin has the most extensive line-up, with eleven seiryu rods! What I find most interesting is that Japanese anglers use seiryu rods mostly on lowland streams rather than in the mountains. In the US, though, we often use them in the headwaters – what would be considered “genryu” in Japan. Genryu fishing could be tenkara, western fly fishing, lure fishing or bait fishing. If you look for “genryu rods” in a rod catalog, though, what you’ll find are stiff bait fishing rods, the very antithesis of the ultra-light, ultra-soft seiryu rods that we in the US use in the headwaters for wild brookies and ‘bows. Seiryu rods also make great panfish rods. Although the sunfish in Lake Havasu can get surprisingly large, the sunfish that most people catch are well within the capability of a soft, sensitive seiryu rod. Even a Suntech Kurenai or Nissin Air Stage

Seiryu X Brown Trout


Tsuzumi Brook Trout Fine Mode Bluegill


Hakubai, each of which carries a 6.5X max tippet recommendation, is plenty strong enough for all the sunfish you are going to catch in the town park. The sunnies will still put a bend in the rod and make the line sing, though.


Seiryu rods are just ideal for smaller fish, whether sunfish in a farm pond or little wild brookies in little wild streams - fish for which your normal tenkara rods are just overkill. In my articles and presentations on micro fishing I generally say you should match your gear to your intended quarry. That same idea holds true for fish that are modest but hardly micro. The average tenkara rod is well suited for fish in the eight to eighteen-inch range. Below that they’re overkill. Above that many are outgunned unless in the hands of

an angler experienced in landing larger fish. For this article on seiryu rods we can safely exclude the 18” plus fish (in fact, we’d better exclude them if we want the rod to have the same number of pieces on the drive home as it did on the drive out). For the smaller fish though, from threeinch sunnies to maybe 10-12” trout or bass, they’re just fine. Actually, they’re not just fine. For those fish, they’re damn fine. They’ll put a smile on your face that might get stuck if you catch too many. The goal, as I see it, is to maximize your fun in the limited “fun time” you have. We all work a lot more hours than we play. Make the most of your play time. If most of the fish you catch are 9-12” stockies or 5-6” sunfish, fish with a rod that is ideal for that size fish. Don’t fish with a stick and a string. Fish with a gossamer line and a magic wand!

Syunki Guadalupe Bass Photo: John Evans


A Different Drift David West Beale


The boulders are green and moss covered and span the rushing river like a giant's stepping stones. Just a bit too widely spaced to travel across without a small leap of faith. Jumping from one to another, the boulders give me the chance to work my way to the middle of the channel and cover a different drift. The water is deep and fast but it's a managed risk - I am quite safe here. Safe from the pressures of design deadlines, sales targets and tricky clients. Safe from the everyday worries that might elsewhere crowd in, demanding my attention. Here, the healing music of the stream just washes them all away. It washes my kebari away too, plucking the fly out from the slack water and flinging it downstream like an unwanted plaything. But I resist the temptation of tying on a weighted fly. Instead I'm looking for a down-welling current to pull my kebari deep and keep it


drifting there. A solid tap on the line and a head shake precedes an ejected hook, but now I know I'm on a good line. Another drift and this time I'm rewarded by the prettiest of wild brown trout. It's still amazing to me to search a place like this and find such jewels. Another day and another stream. Where yesterday's water was deep and moody and shaded, today's stream is light and bright and shallow. And very small everything is scaled right down here - the stream, the fish and hence the tackle, and you have to make yourself small too to stand a chance. It's not a water for waders. It's a water for creeping along the shoreline, casting upstream to micro pockets and pools. I spend a long time keeping low and sneaking into position but I'm rewarded on my first cast with an emphatic take, as soon as the kebari touches down. A virtuoso performance of trout ballet

follows as my fish goes airborne not once, but four times. Unlike the deeper river yesterday, here there are no depths to run to, so these fish love to leap. Often it's a head shake and game over as the hook comes free, but I'm content enough with this long range catch and release.


Today though I'm blessed and my fish comes to hand. There's a steeliness to these little trout and I wonder if it's because the surging Atlantic Ocean is just six hundred yards downstream. Comparing my photos I see how finely the trout can change colour to blend with their environment. The peat stained water and butterscotch trout of yesterday are replaced today by little metallic rockets that are all but invisible in this riffle and foam. Two streams, two very different populations of wild trout and I'm hoping today on my third river to compare and contrast the fish here too. But try as I might, on what is usually the easier river of

the three, there is not so much as a rise or even a spooked fish to betray the presence of a trout population. Today, a visitor could be excused for thinking that this stream holds no fish at all. From earlier visits and catch reports, I know better, but it's still a mystery to me where the fish go to sometimes. The mood of this place is slightly unnerving and the absence of fish seems to underline my feeling of not being entirely welcome here. My favourite streams energize and uplift me. This stream seems today to drain away my resolve so that as I fish I begin to feel a homesick longing to to be elsewhere. There is a break in the rain clouds and briefly the sun shines through, painting different hues around. My spirits lift and I push on, working back downstream now, always searching for trout. As I reach the ancient stone bridge where I first entered the river at last I see some trout skittering around on the edge of the flow. The sun seems to have lifted their spirits too.


Brookies & Beer John-Paul Povilaitis








Expedition Alaska Karin Miller

Sitting down at my computer and sifting through emails can be a daunting chore. I have 5 different addresses to go through. But on one particular morning back in July, I had a surprise waiting in one of my inboxes. It was an invitation from Deneki Outdoors to travel to Alaska and be a guest at Rapids Camp Lodge in King Salmon, talk tenkara and fish. The idea was to teach the method, explain the set up and work with guides on landing big fish. Without even thinking I immediately responded, “Yes!” and spent the next 24 hours figuring out flights, arranging my absence and doing a little research on Alaskan Trout and Salmon


fishing. Just what had I agreed to do on a tenkara rod? I had been pushing the boundaries of this method all year long with big browns in Patagonia, shark and tarpon in the Florida Keys and bonefish in Mexico, but salmon silvers, chum, sockeyes and king were massive, powerful, huge fish that hit hard, bolted, fought and ran like the wind. Was this even possible? I guess we were about to find out in 2 weeks... and besides, I had never been to Alaska. I booked a direct flight from Denver to

Anchorage then another short flight into King Salmon. Rapids Camp Lodge is conveniently located about 10 miles from the airport yet provides the distinct feeling of being isolated and away from development. Although, after touring King Salmon, with Eddies Fireplace Inn and Ace Hardware as its highlights, isolation was no issue. Driving down a mostly paved road for 15 minutes, we arrived in time to settle in, do a little exploring, have a cocktail, then enjoy a sumptuous dinner followed by a debriefing for the next day. It was early evening, but I soon found out that 8pm would feel like 2pm for the rest of the trip, and at 11pm I’d have to fight the urge to “get up and do something” because my circadian rhythm and the almost perpetual sunlight would be whispering in my head to go out and play. Ear plugs and an eye mask proved to be extremely helpful. After dinner on the first night we cast rods in the courtyard, and I showed off my wares to all the guides. Even the chef and pilot were interested and curious to cast the rods with no reel. Those two eternal questions that I always get when I talk tenkara, were posed again, “How do you land the fish?” and “What happens when they run?” My response is always the same, “We’ll find out tomorrow, won’t we?” And that’s how my Alaskan tenkara adventure began. The mornings were chilly, damp and foggy. That meant flying out on the Beaver float plane would be reserved for after lunch and the day would start on the Naknek River by boat, scouting for circling birds and surface busts which meant fish were feeding on schools of smelt. To add to the


options, sockeyes were pumping up the edge of the river and cruising kings and silvers were occasionally taunting us too. I was in fishing heaven. We set up a Zen Sagi Rod which is a 13.6 foot, 7:3 soft flex made of the highest quality carbon fiber available. That means the rod is not only extremely light and super strong, but it bends and flexes like the yogi practitioner I dream of being. That flex acts as your built-in drag system which would be severely tested during this Alaskan expedition. Most mornings we set up with a 25-30 foot, 8-weight floating line and used a size 6 articulated streamer that imitated a smelt. Some days we used obnoxiously bright colors and literally pissed fish off so that they’d take the fly out of annoyance versus hunger. We’d search for birds, then watch for busts on the surface while standing ready at the bow or stern of the boat, nerves on end, poised to cast at frenzied feeding fish making their way up river. It was like popcorn in a river full of hot oil. You stood watching, waiting and anticipating in this case, hungry fish instead of kernels, exploding in the water. My heart was pounding and I kept having to release my grip on the rod and consciously relax my hand. The closest thrill I had had to this was casting to shark in the Florida Keys into chummed waters as I stood on the open bow of a flats boat only 3 feet off the water. Only this time I wasn’t worried about being eaten. Ready to throw line at any minute in any direction, I hoped I could tempt the fish to take my fly as I pulsed it with my rod parallel to the water into the middle of the ravenous chaos.


I’ll admit, on the tenkara rod, there were busts I missed… I simply could not adjust my line length to the distance I sometimes needed to cast to. Whether it was too close or too far, I had to wait until the bust came to me. Was that frustrating? Did I feel disappointed? Was tenkara a failure? No, I didn’t, and no it wasn’t. I had plenty of opportunities and was able to fully participate in the fish boil. My friend was casting off the stern of the boat with a regular fly rod and reel set-up. He landed about the same number of fish. He cast at some that were out of my reach, but I cast at some that he missed while too busy trying to hit targets 65 feet away. Truth is, if the timing is right and you’re in the middle of a river full of busting fish, just by the sheer numbers, you’re gonna have plenty of targets that are in range. The issue wasn’t whether I could reach fish, it was whether I could land the beasts. I found out, it was possible. Easier in the



water than out though, because I had more options for movement. In fact, I kinda went AWOL after losing a couple and decided the next fish-on, was going to stick. After casting and moving the fly across the water with a gentle but consistent pulse, I hooked up and when it ran, I jumped… jumped right out of the boat and into the water. Admittedly I freaked Kyle, the guide, out. Completely. And I promised to never do it again (but I landed the fish and was all smiles.) Over the course of the week we fished for rainbows, grayling, char, chum, sockeye, silvers and had a few opportunities to cast to kings. The sockeye, while being crazy strong and even crazier fast, were an absolute hoot to fish for. Once we dialed in the 40-pound test we needed to keep them from breaking the line, they were landed successfully. To stand on the bank and watch hundreds of thousands of fish continually pump up the sides of the river


was mind blowing. It was perfect on a fixed-line too. They hug the bank as they cruise about 10 feet off shore along the edge of the rocks. They do this with their mouths open and feed on plankton while they swim. Sockeye don’t chase flies, instead you use a sinking line with lots of split shots to get it down quickly. The hook (because sometimes we actually used a naked hook) trails about 3 feet under the weights and lays out in the water about 1 foot off the bottom. As the fish pump through, you literally snag them and set the hook in the corner of their mouth. Then, you hold on like you’re about to ride a rocket, because these fish blast off like nothing I’ve ever felt. It was thrilling to say the least. A 10 weight intermediate sinking line fit the bill perfectly on the Sagi. The line was about 8 feet long with about 4 feet of 40-pound Maxima. We spent several days in the Katmai National Park on Grosvenor Lake and hiked back to pristine creeks that held monster fish. It was breathtakingly beautiful and although we opted to skip flying to the famous Brooks Camp Falls to fish and bear watch, we were spoiled with places like Contact Creek where fish were hooked literally every cast and we had to abandon honey holes to hungry brown bears that lumbered up and down the river totally apathetic to us or our lost fish when lines were cut in order to retreat. That day was particularly special not because of the bears, but because of the fish that were perpetually offered up by the river. Massive chum that would hunker down and refuse to move, Dolly Varden and char, thick and beefy in that fish sortof-way. I could have stayed there forever.



The tenkara rod performed magically. I moved and had gravel shoreline from which to maneuver from. The water was no more than 4 feet deep and usually much shallower. I’d cast up stream and lift the rod tip higher as the fly came closer and in front of me, then let it back out doing a small ticking motion. This action took the place of stripping and bringing line in that you would normally do with a reel. The method worked great. On that day we also learned a cardinal rule for landing big, 15-20 plus pound fish on tenkara, don’t grab the line to pull them in, no matter how tempting. Work the fish into position, then with your net partner ready, lift away and bring the rod up, lifting the fish’s head while the guide nets it. This method worked exceptionally well and once we stopped grabbing the line, no fish were lost. On a different afternoon, we flew to the Ugashik Lake and fished the Narrows for grayling after grayling on tenkara. These were fun, beautiful fish that weren’t as huge as the salmon but fought hard, jumped and did acrobatics that reminded me of trout back home in Colorado. Each day after lunch when the fog lifted and the weather cleared, we had a whole new adventure waiting for us and were flown to the most spectacular, remote areas. That alone was a thrill and offered breathtaking views of glaciers, rivers and wilderness that few eyes get to behold. We even flew over a herd of beluga whales. Simply wondrous. I could really go on and on because each day at Rapids Camp Lodge the staff were well prepared and ready to get us into fish,


whether on a reel or a fixed tenkara line. They were willing to experiment and learn along side of me. They played with the rods, cast and got into fish to feel and experience the landing process for themselves. I loved that they were open, adventurous, ready to problem solve and think creatively. Each day they were as amazed as I was, at what the rods could do and how Alaskan beasts could be tamed and netted in a new, fun and seriously thrilling way. Each time we landed a monster there was an incredible urge to “chest bump” and embrace in high-fives. You worked together with your guide and became partners celebrating the catch and landing with all out pride.

I prefer to work like this from the side. I can manage my rod bend and see the fish simultaneously. I also have more control over steering the fish and work continually to maintain a deep arch. Once that arch is achieved I work it in a 180 degree angle from the surface of the water on my left, to the surface of the water on my right. And generally, my most vulnerable position is straight up at 90 degrees. At this position I am limited with where I can go, how high I can reach, and how far back my arm can go. I no longer can see my rod so I have no idea if I’m nearing a break, and the fish literally now has 360 degrees of possible movement on a long line.

So how do you land a 20+ pound salmon and manage not to lose them when they run? We’re back to those two eternally asked questions.

From a sideway vantage point, I can move forward or backward and can rotate the fish completely around while always maintaining the “ultimate flex position” of the rod which is its strongest position, flipping my rod carefully to the left or to the right in response to the fish’s effort to throw the hook or prepared to run. In this position I can maintain a two handed grip on the handle easily and comfortable, pulling back with my upper hand and pushing forward with my lower.


First and foremost, you better have a rod that can handle the load and was designed for big, no I mean BIG, fish. A 5-10 pound fish is small in Alaska. We used the Zen Sagi and a proto-type Zen rod designed to flex and carry the stress of big, aggressive fish. Know and understand your rod flex intimately. I immediately feel when my rod is in its ultimate flexed position or arch. Rob Worthing coined the term, “power curve.” I think of it much more extreme than a curve. It’s a deep, continual bend in the rod, one that extends the full length of the rod, right into the handle. This creates a large arch. I work from a plain parallel to the water rather than hold the rod perpendicular to the surface, or worse, behind me where I can no longer see or manage my bend, increasing the probability of snapping the upper sections.


I can change the fish’s direction and control where the fish goes, until the last moment when we go to net. Interesting, I could anticipate, by feel, when the fish would attempt to the throw hook or run, and each movement that transferred up the rod and directly into my hands felt very different. I could tell the guide to move away, remove the net or stand clear because the fish was about to bolt or attempt to release hook. It was incredible to be able to predict what the fish was


about to do. This is the connection tenkara and fixed-line fishing provide you. And this is what makes me so passionate. Once in the arch, stay on your feet, ever ready to move. Know where you want to take the beast… You should have previously scouted the water and have a general plan. Your goal is to get to an area of water that’s shallow enough for you to move through, but not so shallow that is causes your fish to freak. If their belly starts to hit the ground they will panic and try to rocket into deeper, safer water. This

can make landing the fish more difficult and increases the chance he’ll run. Be prepared, sometimes you’ll need to become a ‘human reel.’ If you lose your arch, even for a moment, or if he’s enormous, he will run and you will become the drag, and will need to move with the fish to regain control and work to steer and turn him back into position. Once this happens, you are moving quickly to get back into the ultimate flexed position of your rod, the power arch, and maintain control. But, hear this, you cannot be stationary and successful. Moving is key.



As an experiment on the 7th day of our 8 days of fishing. I hooked into a chum weighting in at least at 17 pounds. The guides were both downstream helping to land other fish. I figured it was an opportunity to try to land the thing myself since, worst case scenario, I’d lose it anyway. I did everything the same working to maintain the arch and every time I felt the fish about to run, I’d lay my rod over to the opposite side and steer him in a different direction, all the while, slowly but surely, walking back towards


shallower water where I had more personal control & could maneuver easier. When I finally felt a pause, I quickly grabbed the line (there was about 28-30+ feet about 9 feet of leader), let go of my rod and started taking up line by hand. Each time I felt the fish start to panic, I’d release some line and let him calm. It took only a few times of doing this and letting out only a few feet each time, when I realized the fish was right there in front of me. I was able to retrieve the hook and

after a little reviving (which as a practice, I always do), he was let go and I was beaming. To land something like that by hand-lining with no net, well, it was one of the proudest, most exhilarating moments in my life. The fish fought but not to exhaustion. He was healthy, solid and swam off strong.


According to all the Rapid Camp Lodge guides, the tenkara adventure was “the most fun they ever had guiding.” They became swift and proficient at netting mammoth salmon. They learned how to shorten the radius of the line from rod tip

to hooked fish, in order to quicken and ease the landing and netting process. Even more critically, they were problem solvers, being experts at guiding Alaskan waters and now understanding the challenges a set line distances can present, they were adventurous and creative anglers willing to brainstorm set-ups and varying line types and lengths to hit the mark. Their willingness to be innovative and have fun was matched only by my own passion and desire to play, push limits and always welcome a challenge, as an opportunity to learn something about tenkara, my rods and myself.

Curious to see how Karin used the "power curve" of her tenkara rod (and some fancy footwork) to battle such large fish? Check out the video below:

Also available: 53




Dynamic Tenkara: Hopper-Copper-Dropper-Floater Paul Vertrees

Field Journal Entry (September 6, 2015):

I forgot to take my headlamp out of the truck and stick it in my waders. It’s dark, it’s 8:00 PM, and I’ve stumbled my way back upriver to where I parked along the highway. I got to the boulder garden at 5:00 PM, threw a hopper-copper-dropper rig for two hours with a 12-foot floating line, switched over to a single hopper pattern for the last hour, and caught around twenty browns. I didn’t count. This is what September in the canyons is all about!


Over the past 30 years or so I’ve come to realize that there are very few, if any, absolutes when it comes to fly fishing. However, there ARE some things that work undeniably well, and John Barr’s three-fly system, the hopper-copperdropper (HDC), is one of those, and there’s no reason why this can’t be done with a tenkara rod! There’s a lot that open-minded tenkara anglers can learn from western fly fishing experts, and Barr is certainly one of those, among many. There are times and places

for going trad, and my full-flex rod, 3.5 level line, and eyeless sakasa kebari patterns are what I go for. Some days I’ll fish that way with only one pattern, and it’s very enjoyable. Then there are other times and places when it’s equally enjoyable to test the capabilities of a tenkara rod combined with western fly fishing strategies. That’s what this article is about. This is an article about my approach to non-traditional fixed-line fly fishing, which I call “Dynamic Tenkara”, and a specific assemblage of western attractor dry flies combined with dropper nymph patterns. It’s proven to be extremely effective, and it’s one of the main ways I fish at certain times of the year. In an article on I read a while back, co-written by Barr and Charlie Craven (another Colorado fly fishing standout), they had this to say about the HCD: “Barr’s three-fly method removes most of the agonizing gamble that comes with deciding what trout might choose to eat on any given


day and where. John Barr, who conjured up the solution from his tying bench in Boulder, Colorado, calls it the ‘Hopper-CopperDropper’, an alliterative way to describe a setup that is as risk-free as angling ever gets... Barr didn’t invent the three-fly method. Anglers have been tossing–and tangling– multiple-fly rigs for years. But he has refined that approach into a system that has not only proven itself on Colorado’s hard-fished waters but around the United States.” I’ve been pushing the envelope of what tenkara is capable of doing for quite a while, hence “Dynamic Tenkara”, so I thought why not give the HCD a try? I’ve basically taken the “traditional” HCD used by western fly anglers, refined it for use with tenkara, and the results couldn’t have been better! This isn’t an approach for ALL mountain water, but it is an approach for a LOT of mountain water, especially if your personal adventures take you to the Poudre, the Colorado, the Gunnison, and especially the Arkansas (my local “big” river) here in Colorado. Rivers like these are spread all over the American West!



A classic (western) HCD setup includes a #10 BC Hopper strike indicator/top fly, a relatively heavy #14 Copper John dropper, and a smaller midge emerger, caddis pupae, or baetis emerger bottom fly. I started out with the pattern sizes that would be used with a typical 5 or 6 weight western fly rod, and found them to be too big. So here’s one tip… go down one size on all three, if you can. This will make the three-fly rig a little more wind resistant when casting or when it’s windy, and it’ll work with the more flexible tenkara rod (more on rods later). You can still ring the dinner bell, and ring it hard, with the downsized top fly! Here are my favorite HCD combos for tenkara: A #10 BC Hopper. A classic top fly for HDC with a western rod, but a bit too big for a Hopper/Indicator Patterns: tenkara rod. #14 Baby Boy Hopper #14 Moorish Hopper #14 Hippie Stomper (red) #16 Yeager’s Trude Neversink* #14 Amy’s Ant (red) #14 409 (red) #16 Chubby Chernobyl (tan/tan) Copper John/Mid-size Droppers: #16 Copper John (red) #16 Rubber Legs Copper John* #16 Poxyback PMD #16 October Caddis Larva #14 Amy's Ant (red) #16 Psycho Prince (purple)* #16 Montana Prince #18 Two Bit Hooker Bottom/Smallest Dropper: #18 Gunkel’s Shot Glass Emerger* #18 RS2* #18 CDC Pheasant Tail #18 Gold Ice #18 Jujubaetis #18 Jujubee Midges *Indicates Paul's Favorites


#14 Hippie Stomper (red)

#16 or #14 Chubby Chernobyl (gold or red)

#14 Moorish Hopper

#16 or #14 Baby Boy Hopper

Classic #16 "coppers" for HDC-Floater on a tenkara rod

HDC-Floater "droppers' all #18



The HDC system works best with a floating line, and I won’t fish it with anything else. There are some great floating lines out there, and my first one was a RIGS line, a line that pioneered tenkara floating lines. I now exclusively use a 12-foot Zen Tenkara floating line, which are made right here in my home state of Colorado USA. The Zen floating lines have proven their worth in Patagonia, Alaska, and right here at home on my local Arkansas River.


Here’s why floating lines are best. First, these are (in the tenkara world) big, brawny rivers. Most native flows are well over 400 CFS, and the water is often 75 feet across. The wind almost always blows, especially in east-west running canyons like the Colorado and the Arkansas. You need a line that’s functional in the wind, floats so you can anchor the drift with a big, floaty hopper drag-free, and one that can effectively cast a relatively heavy three-fly rig. A fluorocarbon level line or furled line just won’t do that effectively, so a quality floating line is what I use. With the largest usable tippet for tenkara set at 5X, that’s where I start from the tippet ring on the line down to the top fly. Tippet rings are a godsend, as my 54-yearold eyes appreciate the bigger target the ring presents for the end of the tippet. I use mono for this section of tippet. I use fluorocarbon tippet material from the top fly down to the first dropper, staying at 5X. The section from the first dropper down to the second gets 6X fluoro. Going with fluoro on the bottom two sections of


tippet keeps visibility down in the water (flouro reflects way less light), and fluoro is both denser and stiffer, which helps turn the cast over better than with mono. I will typically run around 5 feet of tippet from the line down to the top hopper/indicator fly. The droppers are each run about 16” below the preceding fly. So, from tippet ring to bottom fly, this setup is just shy of 8 feet in length. Add a 12-15’ floating line into the equation, and you have 20-23 feet of line from rod tip to bottom fly. That’s a lot for a tenkara rod to handle, and you really need the right rod to make this work best. Rods are next.


The rivers are usually “big” on the tenkara scale, the canyons are usually windy, and the HCD and floating lines are comparatively heavy. You don’t want to take a 5:5 level line tenkara rod on a trip like this. What you DO want to take is a rod that flexes toward the tip (a stiff 6:4 or a 7:3) and is at least twelve (360cm) feet long. Rods that have performed well for me in the past, fishing a HCD on a floating line, are the venerable and now-discontinued Amago by Tenkara USA, the beautiful Nissin Zerosum 400 7:3, the very capable and now-discontinued (but still available, if you look hard) Daiwa LT39SF, and my personal favorite Zen Tenkara Sagi (with performance tip), which is a 13.5-foot 7:3 flex big water rod that really performs. I’m sure there are other rods out there that will do a good job, as long as they have the stiffness of a 6:4 or 7:3 flex, and are at least 12 feet or 360 centimeters in length. These are the ones I’ve used personally to

fish this way. In a pinch, the Iwana by Tenkara USA would do, and if you have the Daiwa LT36SF it would do even better, since it’s a little stiffer. Both rods are a little short at twelve feet and 360 centimeters respectively, but they’ll work. I think you get the idea… a 12-foot-plus, tip-flex rod. You’ll need a rod like this because of the weight of the line and flies, and the everpresent wind. A mid-flex rod simply can’t keep up with either. A third factor that a tip-flex rod will handle better is current. Bigger water means heavier flows, and turning a 16” brown trout in 450 cfs water takes a robust rod. Casting an HCD rig requires a slower cast, a little more pause at the end of the


backcast, and a bit of a push going forward to deliver it to the water. It’s not complicated, but it’ll take a few casts to get in the groove. Once you get in that groove, it’s pretty easy to nail the same seam, the middle of the same big pocket, or the mid-current glass that you’re aiming for. Well, there you have it, non-traditional tenkara at its best. Some may even say that it’s not really tenkara. Matters not to me. What I do know is that I’m using a tenkara rod, catching a bunch of trout on my home water, and it’s a whole lot of fun! This entry originally appeared on Paul Vertrees’ blog, Tenkara Tracks, in September 2015. It has since been revised for Tenkara Angler Magazine.



Fire Season 2017:

Fall Fishing Along The St. Joe River, Idaho Diane Kelly-Riley

Finally. I won the annual lottery to stay at the historic Red Ives Ranger cabin in the Idaho Panhandle National Forest. The cabin overlooks the upper reaches of the wild and scenic St. Joe River about 40 miles southeast of Avery, Idaho in northern Idaho in the inland PaciďŹ c Northwest of the United States. The Civilian Conservation Corps built the cabin in 1936 and along with several other buildings were listed on the National Register of Historic places in 1986.


Every season, the St. Joe Ranger District holds a lottery to rent out the coveted cabin for three days at time. While there are plenty of beautiful camping sites along the river, staying at the cabin affords a uniquely comfortable experience in the rugged backcountry of Idaho along catch and release cutthroat trout streams. The St. Joe River begins in the Bitterroot Mountains on the Idaho/Montana border and ows through the Idaho panhandle

into Lake Coeur d’Alene a 40 mile long lake carved by the Lake Missoula floods 12-15,000 years ago. Cutthroat trout (Oncorhynchus clarkii) are native to Idaho and are the state fish. The upper St. Joe River is designated as a Wild River and contains abundant West slope cutthroat trout identified by red slashes beneath their lower jaws. When we received the notice of our winning cabin assignment in the spring, we were elated—fall fishing on the St. Joe is the best as tourists have moved on and hunters haven’t moved in yet. We didn’t imagine when it was our turn to stay at the Ranger cabin that the


Pacific Northwest would largely be on fire or be covered in smoke from wildfires. The Strychnine Fire burned about 20 miles from us, and smoke blanketed the region from active fires in Western Montana, Oregon, Washington, Idaho, and British Columbia. We’re surrounded by wildfires on all sides. The air quality hovered between Very Unhealthy and Hazardous. Undaunted, Theresa --my neighbor, good friend, and tenkara angler -- and I set out for the cabin with face masks in our packs. Once we got up the St. Joe River, we

Smoky Haze Potlatch, ID

Washington State University Smoke Forecast: 9/7/2017

Red Ives Cabin Exterior (L), Interior (R)



Photo: Theresa Grenier

stopped at the Idaho Fly Fishing Co. owned and operated by Dan Mottern who generously shared hot flies with us. Don’t believe anyone who tells you that cutthroats will take anything. Former Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O’Connor fished the St. Joe one day in the summer of 2005 and was skunked. Like her, I have fished the St. Joe many times only be rewarded with beautiful scenery. We arrived at the Red Ives Ranger Cabin in the afternoon and surprisingly found a respite from the terrible air — it was clear and cool, instead of hot and smoky. We got out our tenkara rods — mine a Tenkara USA Sato and Theresa’s a DRAGONtail Tenkara Shadowfire — as well as our traditional western fly rods and set out for the river. The cutthroats did not disappoint. I caught several beautiful, healthy, wild trout that evening. Once it got dark, we


enjoyed gin and tonics and dinner on the front porch. Theresa read the cabin’s guest book entries: reports of no fish, days of rain, moose, and fishing tips — small flies, long leaders = cutthroat trout. The next morning, smoke had moved in and we heard several planes overhead. The Buck Fire burned about 20 miles away, and we worried about the possible change in the fire. We still went out fishing. I had luck with both my Tenkara USA Sato rod and my western fly rod. That morning along the river, we saw a Belted kingfisher (Megaceryle alcyon) and soon after a Merlin (Falco columbarius) divebombed after it. The kingfisher dove into the water and sought the safety of the river. The merlin chased the kingfisher down the river darting from side to side of the tall trees. Occasionally, the kingfisher would wait on the shores looking skyward for the merlin. Like the kingfisher, we kept our eyes skyward too.





Simple Tenkara Nymphing Anthony Naples

I rarely nymph on the mountain streams that I most often fish in southwestern PA — it’s usually just not necessary. But when I head to the limestone streams of central Pennsylvania or the spring creeks in the Driftless region of Wisconsin I like to have the nymphing card to play. Tenkara nymphing has resulted in lots of excellent fishing days for me and the main purpose in this article is to emphasize the idea that you can have great success with tenkara nymphing without the need to add complication to your rigging and gear.

The Nymphing Goal

In rich aquatic environments like spring creeks, trout are often content to sit tight in feeding stations near the bottom of the stream, have food drift to them, and not move much to chase flies. When they’re


sitting tight and not actively moving for flies that’s when nymphing is a nice skill to have in your tool box. At its most basic, nymphing for trout in moving water is designed to target these fish by casting upstream and drifting a nymph with the current. The goal is for your artificial nymph to mimic an insect larva, pupa, nymph or even aquatic worm that is drifting helplessly with the current near the bottom of the stream. If you just toss a weighted nymph, or beadhead fly into the water unattached to a tippet and line it will sink pretty well. Tie it to a tippet and a line at the end of a rod, and suddenly it’s not going to sink as well. The tippet, and the line will work against your goal and try to pull the fly to the surface. The water velocity varies from the top of the stream to the bottom. Generally the water will be fastest at the surface and slowest near bottom. Figure 1 illustrates the basic idea of the current velocity gradient.


My Typical Rig: Short Lines and Long Tippet My reality is that I need to keep things simple. If something requires too much forethought, and preparation, too many doodads or special supplies I will not do it. So I stick with a very basic setup when tenkara nymphing: 12 foot rod (sometimes longer), Hi-viz fluorocarbon level line (#3 usually), tippet, fly. Basically the same stuff that I use in my “regular” tenkara with the exception that the fly may be weighted or have a bead-head. The basic set-up allows me to move from more traditional tenkara to tenkara nymphing

on the fly. (See Figure 2, next page) Shorter lines help because they are more easily kept off of the water than long lines and they allow you to lengthen tippets while keeping the whole length of line +tippet manageable for tight-line nymphing. The goal is to have just fly and tippet in the water. By keeping the tenkara line off of the water you can reduce the drag that wants to pull the fly up to the surface. Increasingly smaller diameter tippets will have increasingly less drag: 5X will sink better than 4X and so on. Typically I don’t



go much smaller than 6X, it’s a personal choice. For best results you may consider denser (but much more expensive) fluorocarbon tippet, but I use regular old nylon too. It’s just fishing for fun after all and you’ll catch plenty of fish with nylon tippet. Lengthening the tippet is another part of the trick that allows you to fish deeper and still keep the line out of the water. Figure 3 is a simple illustration showing this rig of a short line and long tippet in action. The terms “short line” and “long tippet” are relative. I’ll define “short line” as a line no longer than the rod (and usually shorter) and “long tippet” as one that is 4 feet long or longer. So for example, when using a 12 foot rod I may start out with an 10 or 11 foot line and 4 feet of tippet. If the water is particularly deep I may lengthen the tippet up to as much as 6 or 7 feet. I want the nymph to be ticking the bottom of the stream from time to time. If I’m not occasionally snagging on the bottom I figure that I’m not getting deep enough and I may put on a slightly heavier nymph or lengthen my tippet or both. I want the tippet to be long enough to allow my fly to get to the bottom without any tenkara line being subsurface. If I need to use 6 or 7 foot tippets I may need to shorten the line even more so that the whole length of tippet+line is still manageable— perhaps I’ll be using 8 or 9 foot line with 6 feet of tippet on a 12 foot rod. I don’t want to give you hard and fast rules


about tippet and line length but just give you the notion that a long, thin tippet can help sink a fly deeper, and if you want to keep the line off of the water as tippet lengthens you may need to shorten the line. Armed with that notion you can experiment on you own.

Strike Detection

The requirement of no extra doodads or special equipment is part of my simple nymphing methodology, so I do not use additional strike indicators. Luckily the typical hi-viz tenkara level line is a pretty excellent strike indicator. During the drift I am constantly moving the tip of the rod to keep the tip of line downstream of the drifting nymph. Ideally leading the nymph but not dragging it unnaturally. The end of the hi-viz tenkara line is the strike indicator. With a tight connection to the fly and as little slack as possible when a fish takes the nymph I will have the best chance to notice a hesitation in the drift of the line or even feel the take. Slack line will not allow you to effectively detect strikes and set hooks. But even with great diligence and practice I am sure that many fish take and spit flies without detection. If you’re new to nymphing, strike detection can be a challenge— but you’ll get better with experience. Many nymphers will speak of a “sixth sense” that they develop regarding strike detection. It’s a real thing. Of course I don’t think it’s supernatural, but you will develop this sixth sense as you get tuned into the way a nymph drifts and what your line does


when a fish takes. Other visual clues will be used too, such as a flash of fish movement, or if you can see your nymph, the sudden disappearance of said nymph.


A Word On Flies

The challenge with selecting flies is that you want a fly that can sink near the bottom in a reasonable amount of time, but not sink too quickly. If the fly is too heavy for conditions you will be constantly snagging bottom and that’s no fun. I try to use the lightest fly that I can get away with. Typically an unweighted wetfly tied on a heavyweight size 10 or 12 hook or a size 16 tungsten bead-head is a starting point for me on small to medium sized streams. But will go heavier as needed.


In all honesty my belief in magic fly patterns has really waned over the years. I have caught so many fish on so many different flies that I am pretty convinced that particular patterns do not matter all that much most of the time (let’s leave hatches out of this discussion). With the one big caveat that the fly needs to be doing what you need it to do functionally (ie. sink quickly or float or whatever).


One last big piece of the puzzle is casting. All of the details that go into successful tenkara nymph casting are beyond the scope of this article. But I need to talk about it briefly to complete the picture. As with traditional tenkara casting, the goal is to make the fly hit first and to keep the line off of the water. But when

nymphing you want to do it with a little more force and with a slight tweak that something like the tuck cast allows. The tuck cast will actually drive the fly more vertically down into the water than a typical cast. The way I do this is to stop high on the forecast, maybe a tad earlier than I normally would and more aggressively.


If executed properly the line will stop suddenly and the tippet and fly will dive downward and slightly back toward you “tucking” under the line and into the water with a downward trajectory. You may need to put a little more energy into the forecast than you normally would as well. It’s harder to describe than it is to do really— just get out and practice it.

Also as flies get heavier (and tippets longer) you may need to adjust your backcast to avoid a face full of fly. Basically I find myself tilting the rod away from the vertical on the backcast. Essentially doing a sidearm backcast and bringing the rod around to nearer vertical on the forecast, this is similar to what is called a Belgian cast in western fly fishing. This keeps tension on the which helps avoid excess shock on the backcast with heavier flies. Be careful with the weighted flies and it’s probably a good idea to wear some sort of eyewear to protect the peepers. And be aware that a beadhead fly hitting your tenkara rod can break it— I haven't done it yet but it can happen.


Tenkara Gold in the High Sierra: Chasing the Iconic Golden Trout Along the John Muir Trail Adam Klagsbrun

Guitar Lake outow with Mt. Whitney in background


This summer I had the pleasure of backpacking the John Muir Trail, which happens to be one of the most beautiful and iconic backpacking trails in the United States, and requires a heck of a lot of commitment and planning – both in terms of time and effort. I quit my job and built a long road trip around this idea, but the JMT was the crux as well as the peak of the whole experience by far. The trail officially runs for 211 miles, from Happy Isles in Yosemite National Park, to Mt Whitney, with an elevation change of almost 47,000 feet… and it crosses through Yosemite National Park, Inyo National Forest, Sequoia National Park, Kings Canyon National Park, the Ansel Adams Wilderness, the John Muir Wilderness and maybe more that I’ve left out by mistake. There was a lot on the table for me in this experience… I was warned that I would have to navigate the snowiest season in recorded high-sierra history, contend with actually life-threatening water crossings (two women died in the weeks just before I hiked the trail,) as well as survive a bumper-crop of mosquitos and smoke from two fires burning just as it was time to begin the trek… but let me get this out of the way right now… the only thing that ended up being an issue out of that list of warnings was the mosquito hatch. Everything else ended up being overblown and it was by far the most perfect possible year in which to hike the trail. I feel lucky. Possibly the best part of all of this for a Tenkara angler is knowing that along the way, I’d have the chance to fish some of the most fantastic tenkara-friendly water in


the country… and that one particular trout native to that region was calling my name… the Golden Trout! Golden Trout are native to a very limited area in the Southern High Sierra mountains of California. The details relating to their range and history are rather complicated and best digested with a bit of time, as well as a glass of whiskey. Frankly, I didn’t concern myself with all of those details, and focused on the more important elements of surviving a long distance through-hike in style, while still feeling the energy to fish along the way. Some of the Golden Trout I caught were hybrid, while others were pure. Some were native where I caught them, while others had been introduced. One thing that was always for sure was their willingness to hit a fly… almost any fly… when one was presented. Catching Golden Trout was surprisingly easy. Getting to them, and being where one can present a fly, however, was not. Healthy Golden Trout populations exist mostly far above 10,000 feet, and along the Southern portion of the trail. In the Northern section of the trail, and at lower altitudes, I caught rainbows, browns and brook trout, with the latter being the most prevalent fish other than the Golden Trout up at the higher elevations. I remember vividly coming over Seldon Pass, and down the most beautiful little gorge along some tight switchbacks… there was quite a bit of snowmelt flowing off of a mountainside snowfield… as I walked down into this beautiful area, I noticed some particularly colorful trout


Heart Lake

dashing up and down the current of this tiny little stream… they were my first look at pure Golden Trout, and they were beautiful! Below the pass was Heart Lake, and looking down from the trail, one could see literally hundreds of these beautiful trout hanging out in the inflow, feeding, in a post-spawn frenzy that put a huge smile on my face. Fishing lakes along that middle section of trail was just a taste… many more passes, lakes and streams lay ahead for me to fish.


Survival in the High Sierra is something that clearly all forms of life struggle with, as one can see from hiking this trail; even during August, a month we would consider solidly Summer even in most highmountain regions. The record levels of snowfall this year meant additional challenges for us, but also additional beauty to observe. The flowers, normally fighting for drops of water to support a few buds, were instead blooming with abundance all around. The wilderness of the high sierra was unusually lush, green, and teeming with life. It was amazing.

But just as the wildlife and flowers were thriving in this ideal environment in the High Sierra, humans surely were not. I learned many valuable lessons about pitching tents with rocks, positioning oneself behind breaks to help with the high winds, and choosing a forested site when possible to avoid condensation. Carrying the right warm clothing, a trekking umbrella, a good shelter, some micro-spikes, a warm backpacking quilt and extra food were absolutely necessary at all times. Along the way I heard many stories of people who weren’t prepared not making it… there were a few missing people along the trail near the South Fork King’s river… and as I fished for some Golden Trout there, a ranger questioned me to see if I


had seen them. I was constantly reminded by the dangers of nature all around… yet my experience went without so much as a hitch beyond a prematurely worn out pair of hiking shoes. The most epically beautiful area that I caught Golden Trout in, was near the base of Mt Whitney’s Eastern side. The surrounding mountains were all dissected by streams and rivers that were teeming with hungry Golden Trout… Which brings me to the fishing aspect. There really isn’t much to say other than that its absolutely amazing. The fish are just always hungry. They have a few precious months in which to eat, and then they are stuck in a frozen world for the rest of the year. All you need to do is


Top: Typical High Sierra Terrain Bottom: Typical Golden Trout Stream



position yourself in a way that does not spook them, and present a fly. Pretty much any fly… and you can present it sloppily, too. Usually the fly gets eaten as soon as it hits the water, or at least as soon as it sinks, if the fish aren’t feeding in the top of the water column. Throughout the trail, I found myself fishing in the most beautiful areas, with some of the most beautiful backdrops of my life. I was able to focus on my technique, casting with mostly open sky above, picking

pockets and enticing trout to appear from the depths below to viciously attack my fly… honing my skills… even though they weren’t needed at all. There was something incredibly special about being up at these extreme altitudes and following in the footsteps of some of the earliest wilderness explorers; living a dream, chasing a different kind of California gold, traveling the mountains without knowing exactly what I was looking for… and finding it anyway.


Behind the Scenes of “Tenkara in Focus” Season 2


Paul Gaskell

Photos: John Pearson & Paul Gaskell

If you’ve enjoyed any of the episodes of Season 1 of our tenkara video journalism project, you are guaranteed to love what is coming up in Season 2. If you’ve not seen it – where have you been hiding? Don’t worry you can catch up here: We’ve upped our game from Season 1 investing in more and more production kit and sinking a lot of money into a 1500mile driving and filming tour of Japan to capture the most detailed and fascinating stories to share with you…and the new season will air for free starting this Fall. As you’d expect, not everything in a project like this ran smoothly, and we had plenty of adventures along the way. Between ballooning blister insect bites, sudden flash floods during river crossings, mic


malfunctions (OK I forgot to turn it on that ONE time…) and massive snow-melt in historic Akiyamago; we’ve had our fill of speed bumps along the road. But of course, that’s where some of the best stories have come from too and it will let us publish some truly memorable experiences and lessons with life-long tenkara addicts. The trip deepened our own understanding, appreciation and skillset in tenkara through exposure to incredible personalities, culture, stories – as well as straight-up on-stream coaching. It is now our responsibility to share all those things with you so that everyone in the global tenkara community can benefit and grow together. Just like Season 1, there is a huge, and ever-growing, list of people whose

generosity, skill and passion who have made this possible. We simply cannot express enough thanks to these people and they must number over 100 by now when all of the networks and gatherings are added up. A special mention must be made of Go Ishii, though, who is just phenomenal at building and maintaining relationships across many different tenkara “congregations” in Japan. Thank you Go and everyone!

So what can you expect in Season 2? Here are just some of the things we captured on this trip… As well as the magical time spent learning about the Shokuryoshi (professional mountain tenkara anglers) and Matagi (bear hunting clans) and foraging skills of Yamada-san in Akiyamago, we had a wonderful adventure with Tenkara Angler regular contributor Isaac Tait.

Top: The youngest descendant in a line of "Shokuryoshi" in Akiyamago Yamada-san (left) demonstrates his horsehair line making with Go Ishii (right) Bottom: Isaac in front of the waterfall that suddenly turned orange with mud as we were crossing the river back to safety!


We also filmed a bunch of unique interviews with people who we need to hear a LOT more from in the West – including Ajari (the man who magazine editors and famous tenkara anglers alike call up when they NEED to catch fish for the camera), Fujiwara-san (the rockabilly tenkara master), Kura-san and his beautiful hand-made fly-tying cabinet, fly boxes and kebari, Jun Yossy (long-time tenkara YouTube channel owner) and more!

Top: Fujiwara-san - plays a mean guitar and casts a mean tenkara line (as well as having one of the most venerated samurai clan names in history) Bottom: Of course we took time to interview Keiichi too (owner of Tenkara-ya)


As well as the quick-fire interviews, the full days spent exploring streams and learning the stories of people living their unique “tenkara lives” were incredibly valuable and often revealed philosophies that stretch far beyond the act of fishing itself. The day we spent in the company of Hide Yoshida (split-cane fly rod and classic reel aficionado) and Keiichi Okushi (experienced genryu explorer, forager and rough-camping expert who is equally happy to switch between fly rod and tenkara rod) was just priceless.


Top: Hirata-san showing the line-positioning and casting stroke he uses with horsehair line (demonstration with hi-viz fluorocarbon for the video camera) Bottom: Yamano-san tempering a culm over a charcoal brazier before performing the first straightening of a bamboo "wazao"

Of course, it wasn’t only the fascinating stories that we travelled to capture – it was also a whole series of on-stream masterclass demonstrations and coaching. Again these include (but are not limited to!) lessons from Hirata-san (another professional tenkara angler), the man himself Go Ishii, crazy “Honryu” (big river & big fish) tenkara angler Kobayashi-san, Ajari, under-the radar master Mushi-san

and more… Although I do need to say that one of the highlights of the trip was spending most of the final week in the company of Masayuki Yamano – master “wazao” bamboo rodmaker. His workshop, collection of seasoned bamboo culms, hand-made specialist tools and sheer skill were just staggering.


Top: Jun Yossy in front of the camera for a change (trying to work out how many views on his YouTube channel with help from Ubi!) Middle: Ajari (Kazumi Saigo) putting theory into practice and catching a ton of ďŹ sh in quick succession during one demo Bottom: Yamano-san explains the fascinating details of working with bamboo and "Urushi" lacquer from his workshop in Kawaguchi-shi (a modest yet nationally-signiďŹ cant traditional craftsman!)


I still can’t take in all of the details, experiences, new facts, friends and hospitality that we experienced yet again in this 2017 trip to Japan. It massively enriches my fishing at home in England and on foreign trips outside Japan too. In many ways, I carry all those friends and their generous knowledge with me whenever I go on stream. At the same time, I always miss Japan and its beautiful streams, people and mountains. That is the feeling that both me and JP want to try to “bottle” and share through Tenkara in Focus and everything else we do in Discover Tenkara.

I hope that you will join us on that trip – there is a ton of amazing stuff to share. That is why we are going to step up to weekly programs instead of monthly (look out for some “Kebari in Focus” too!). It is quite amazing that I didn’t even get chance to cover trips to Italy in this article – or even the personal interview with legendary Yuzo Sebata… father of genryu fishing… But you’ll just have to subscribe to the Discover Tenkara Youtube channel to make sure you get updates on that!


Interview: Jim Vandagrift


Michael Agneta

Interviewer's Note: This past July I had the pleasure of attending the Tenkara Bug Out, a tenkara-themed fishing get together in Oakridge, Oregon organized by Jim Vandagrift. The event was not only fun, but moderated by such an enthusiastic tenkara angler, I needed to learn more about Jim, his style of tenkara, and fishing in the Pacific Northwest. Jim, thanks for taking the time out of your busy schedule to agree to this interview for the readers of Tenkara Angler magazine. Before we dive into the recent Tenkara Bug Out, please tell us a little bit more about yourself. I know you as a tenkara enthusiast from Oregon. What’s your (fly) fishing background, and how did you get interested in tenkara? What kind of waters do you fish, and for what species? Growing up my dad took me out to explore the rivers, lakes and forests of Oregon. I


don’t recall exactly when a fly rod was first placed in my hands. What I do remember is fishing with my dad, me with a Fenwick rod in my right hand while my left hand held tight to my dad’s hand as I dangled in the swift current trying to find purchase on the mossy rocks below. In much the same manner, he encouraged me to follow him across downed trees that created natural bridges way above the fast moving water of the stream. For an eight year old it was an amazing childhood; there was always a challenge,

always a bit of danger and definitely adventure to be had. Through my teen years and into my early twenties I fished all over; full blown rivers, small spring creeks, the biggest deepest lakes in Oregon to the smallest ponds. It didn’t matter to me what ended up on the other end of my line, whether it be a twenty-five pound Salmon or a sun fish the size of my palm. From my early twenties and through my early thirties the opportunities for fishing were sporadic at best. I spent most my days working to pay the bills, changing diapers and wiping snotty noses. It wasn’t until about eight years ago, when my kids got a little older, that I found time to return to the water. During the first three years of this newfound freedom, I was hitting the river from dawn to dusk, about twenty times a year. This is the point in time when tenkara and I crossed paths. That year I found myself plagued with tennis elbow, carpal tunnel and trigger finger; all brought on by the daily repetitive motion that my job demanded of me. Not willing to hang up the fly rod, I kept fishing but the trips to the river got fewer and shorter as fishing became more painful. Then it happened; I was looking through a catalog of fishing book titles and the word “tenkara” jumped out at me. I had no idea what tenkara was so I turned to my trusty friend Google for help. It didn’t take too long for me to see how I could trade in my heavy rod and reel with its long line to manage and all the pain my body felt when

Jim fishing the Applegate River (June 1982)


fishing with it for a lightweight tenkara rod. No line to manage and no pain, at least, that’s what I was counting on. With renewed hope, I took a chance and ordered an inexpensive tenkara rod and hit the river. My first day out on the river I spent trying to figure out how to cast that crazy rod. On the following days and weeks out, I discovered the strengths of tenkara and how I could use those to my advantage on the smaller mountain streams that I enjoyed exploring and fishing. For the first time in a year I could fish all day without pain.


It’s been five years since that discovery, these days I spend most my time fishing fixed line rods on the streams and creeks targeting Redside and Cutthroat Trout. Occasionally I’ll throw a line in for some warm water bass action but in truth, I prefer the cold streams and rivers of the Cascades Mountains. People love to learn about other people’s gear preferences - what rods, lines, and flies do you fish? Do you have a favorite combination? I’ll fish about any fly that resembles an insect. I spent last winter tying up about 300 flies ranging from size 6 Yellow Stoneflies dry flies to size 22 Pheasant Tail nymphs. I like to fish my nymphs in a double nymph rig set up to dredge the big fish that won’t budge from the safety of the bottom of the river and who can resist




watching a trout swim from the bottom of a fifteen foot deep hole to devour a large top water bug. I currently have eight fixed line rods that I use for different types of waters. My go to rod for the last four years has been the 360 Iwana by TUSA but this year I wanted to try something different so I picked up a 375 Black Beauty by Tenkara Tanuki which I like for totally different reasons than I like the Iwana. When it comes to fishing small tree tunneled creeks, I am totally in love with my 270 Nissin Fine Mode Kosansui. When I want to nymph with a two beadhead nymph setup I find that the 410 Amago by TUSA puts the nymphs where I want them and handles the larger fish even in heavier current. I haven’t really experimented much with

lines; I started fishing with level line and really haven’t ventured to any of the tapered lines. I tend to use a #3 level line in different lengths depending on the rod, water, and fly type. Probably my most used combination is a 360 or 375 rod with 16 feet of #3 level line and about four feet of 5x tippet. I’ll use this line for top water flies as well as subsurface flies and find it’s perfect for where I fish. There’s a saying that tenkara has “10 Colors,” and can be interpreted or practiced in many different ways. Do you have a particular tenkara “style” - be it minimalism, more Western, one fly, many, etc…? Well, you can call it one of the 10 Colors of tenkara or one of the 1,000 Colors of tenkara but in my head I’m just doing my thing. I tend to adopt the aspects of fly fishing that bring me joy and give the fish the best chance of surviving the encounter, given the circumstances. So, depending on my mood I might choose a “style” that targets the biggest fish in the stream or I might be trying to find the tiniest fish in the smallest creek. Both are satisfying and both give me an excuse to get out of town and find a bit of down time. Where did the idea for the Tenkara Bug Out come from, and how long did it take for you to get everything planned & organized? I have to say I thought your website promoting the event was one of the best I’ve ever encountered for a get-together. I’ve always wondered how long it took to take something like this from concept to reality... The stream that the Tenkara Bug Out took place on is my go-to water and for the last



Jim moderating the 2017 Tenkara Bug Out

five years I would fish the stream and think to myself, “This would be a great place to hold a tenkara event; this stream holds lots of fish and is easily accessed along the majority of its length.” It wasn’t until a few local tenkara anglers mentioned to me that it would be great to get some tenkara anglers together and fish for a weekend that I decided to put some of my time and energy towards what was soon to become the Tenkara Bug Out. That was in mid-March of this year and by mid-July I had put over 200 hours of my time into it and had everything in place to make it happen. I focused on two guiding principles as I organized the event; what would I want from an event like this and how do I make this an enjoyable experience for all attendees.





It was extremely impressive with how smoothly things seemed to run (at least from an attendee’s point of view), are you planning to host another Tenkara Bug Out in the future? If so, I know it’s probably early, but are there any details you’d like to share? After this year’s event I was glad to put that project down for a few months and enjoy the rest of my summer. I haven’t really put a lot of thought into the details of the Tenkara Bug Out for next year but you can expect a good portion of the event to be dedicated to getting on the water and fishing like this year-to me, this is the heart of the event. I feel the attendees would benefit from a few changes next year but you’ll have to wait until this winter for those details! I plan on putting the new ideas out there for the tenkara community to give their input.


You read a lot online about Colorado being “Tenkara Perfect,” and while it may be true, tell me why somebody should consider Oregon for their next tenkara adventure? Oregon offers many types of waters to fish within a day’s drive. Every time I get a chance to fish I have to decide whether I want to head West to one of the coastal streams and catch Sea Run Cutthroat trout. Or I could head south and fish for Smallmouth Bass on the Lower Umpqua, or Brown Trout and Rainbow Trout on the North Umpqua. Then there is east, I could head that direction where I can venture into the Cascade Mountains and go tromping through cold, boulder strewn, micro current braided streams-the streams that are home to three species of trout including the elusive Bull Trout. That’s all obtainable in a there-and-back

day trip and all fishable with a level line rod. Now that’s just my little corner of Oregon, if you head over the Cascade Mountains and into the high desert of Eastern Oregon, a whole other world of possibilities opens up. Wherever you decide to go, at whatever skill level you are, there’s a stream ready for you. I have to ask - have you ever seen a Bigfoot? Those forests in and around those rivers we were fishing looked seriously “squatchy!” :) I have yet to lay eyes on the mythical creature. But, there have been those times when I am way up a mountain creek past all the roads, where to forest floor duff is two feet thick and the tree moss hangs near to the ground. In those places I often find myself pausing from fishing for just a moment, wondering what’s that smell and why the hair on the back of my neck raised. The Bigfoot folklore runs deep around here and considering the seclusion of some of the mountain creeks that I fish; it wouldn’t surprise me if I ran across Bigfoot catching his evening meal with a tenkara rod. Believe it or not, Oregon was one of my “bucket list” fishing destinations, as


personally living in Florida it seemed so far away. Is there anywhere special on your bucket list? With all the great places around the globe to fish I would have to say a trip to the Spanish Pyrenees. For me the combination of the natural beauty, great fishing, delicious food, welcoming culture and romanticized literature references puts it at the top of my list. What are your interests away from fishing? I find that many of the people I’ve encountered through tenkara have a pretty diverse set of passions. When I’m not fishing you’re likely to find me gliding over the water in a sailboat or on the dance floor finding amazing human connection through Argentine Tango. Jim, I really appreciate you doing this interview. If there’s anything else you’d like to add in closing, feel free, the floor is yours... Well, I know that it takes a lot of time and commitment to make a magazine come together and be successful. I would just like to thank you for making it happen. It knits our community together and strengthens the developing tenkara culture we have here in the US.


Tenkara in France

Photos: Benjamin Genty Costa



Friends of Tenkara Angler









104 is a simple community-driven resource to organize, keep track, and promote tenkara-based events, get-togethers, "takeovers," meet ups, and seminars. The upcoming events posted to the site are listed below, however please feel free to visit the website to submit and publicize your upcoming tenkara or conservation themed initiatives, or simply learn more.

Tenkara Jam 2017

Saturday, September 30th, 2017 Boone, North Carolina

Noco Fly Fishing Weekend Tenkara Clinic Sat, October 7th - Sun, October 8th, 2017 RMNP, Colorado

Wolf Creek Tenkara Clinic

Saturday, October 14th, 2017 Jamestown, Kentucky

Book Signing & Clinic

Wednesday, November 8th, 2017 Bears Den Fly Fishing, Taunton, Massachusetts

OĂ– FliegenďŹ schertag

Saturday, March 3rd, 2018 Linz, Austria 105

Contributors & Credits This issue of Tenkara Angler Magazine was made possible by the extremely generous contributions of the following members of the tenkara community. Danièle Beaulieu

Started fly fishing in 2000 and tenkara in 2014. She fishes rivers all across Canada & New England. and started a business selling Tenkara rods and accessories called Tenkara

Christopher Seep

Chris Stewart

(aka) the TenkaraBum, grew up in Colorado and is currently based in NYC. He is the owner, CEO, & shipping clerk of TenkaraBum LLC. He usually can't be found because he's wearing camo.

Adam Klagsbrun

Christopher Seep began fishing while still in diapers and hopes to finish that way. Since adopting Tenkara six or seven years ago, he has never looked back.

Adam Klagsbrun is an avid lightweight backpacker from NYC and fishes small streams in the Northeast USA. He authors a blog named "Of Rock & Riffle"

Anthony Naples

Paul Gaskell

Based in Western Pennsylvania, Anthony has been a voice in the tenkara community since 2009. He is the proprietor of Three Rivers Tenkara, US seller of Oni, Taunki, & Tenkara Times rods.

Paul (along with John Pearson) blog at Discover Tenkara and have a free email tutorial series that teaches tenkara step by step; Sign up at:

Jim Wright

Benjamin Genty Costa

Owner of, Jim Wright has pursued trout, studied stream entomology and tied trout flies since 1967 and retired his Western fly gear, taking up Tenkara in 2012.

Resides in Biarritz, France where he works in the action sports industry. After trying fly fishing unsuccessfully, he converted to tenkara and now fishes the streams 40 minutes from his home.

Karin Miller

Jim Vandagrift

is the owner of Zen Tenkara/Zen Fly Fishing Gear. Since its start in 2012, Zen has looked to push the traditional, established boundaries in an effort to define "American Tenkara."

A lifelong angler and the organizer of the Tenkara Bug Out, Jim found tenkara seeking a low-impact alternative to fly fishing and now explores the many streams of Oregon with his tenkara rod.

David West Beale

Bill Holleran

lives in England, UK, where he fishes for anything that swims with his fly rod. A recent tenkara convert, you can follow his adventures at:

John Vetterli

John Vetterli is one of the founders of Tenkara Guides LLC. My story? I like to fish with my friends Erik and Rob. Yea, that's about it.


has a background in engineering and loves fly fishing & the outdoors. One of the co-owners of Red Brook Tenkara, his motto is "no reel, no problems!"

Tristan Mills

An outdoorsman and family man, Tristan Mills also contributes to the Appalachian Tenkara Anglers Facebook page.

Paul Vertrees

is Vice President of Zen Tenkara, working with public relations and product design. He also works as a professional tenkara guide for Royal Gorge Anglers, in Canon City, Colorado, where he lives with his wife and three daughters, five minutes from the Arkansas River. He writes for his personal blog, Tenkara Tracks, as well as various print publications.

Jack Harford

is the editor of the Armchair Angler, a monthly newsletter of the Indianapolis Fly Casters. He began fly fishing as therapy and spiritual practice of engagement with nature. Jack has tied flies at the Sowbug Roundup and several other shows. He is enjoying the philosophy and lessons learned from Tenkara.

John-Paul Povilaitis

Resides in South Central Pennsylvania where he enjoys spending time with family and friends, & sharing beers and stories around a campfire. If he's not at a local spring creek, he's probably in the woods snagging trees.

Sam Larson

Sam Larson lives, fishes, and writes in Colorado’s Front Range. In addition to Tenkara Angler, he is a co-founder and contributing author at Blue Lines (

Diane Kelly-Riley

lives and tenkara fishes in the Palouse Region of Northern Idaho.



News & Notes From Around Social Media Dragontail Tenkara is now offering compact line cards, ideal for spacesavings in your ďŹ shing pack...

Tenkara Tanuki is teasing a special "Snow" model that will be available at the Tenkara Jam in Boone, NC... Patagonia recently premiered their ďŹ rst television commercial, focused on ďŹ ghting for our public lands...

A Kickstarter for the "Hoodoo" tenkara rod and hiking pole recently launched. Quite the Swiss Army knife... Tenkara USA re-released a version of the Hane at the Tenkara Summit intended for all around tenkara "fun"...

Discover Tenkara published a free, comprehensive guide to tenkara lines on their website...


Photo: Jim Vandagrift

Fall 2017

Profile for Tenkara Angler

Tenkara Angler - Fall 2017  

Tenkara Angler Magazine chronicles the tenkara lifestyle through entries about community, destination, tactics, gear, and creative essays. A...

Tenkara Angler - Fall 2017  

Tenkara Angler Magazine chronicles the tenkara lifestyle through entries about community, destination, tactics, gear, and creative essays. A...