Spring 2019 tenkaraangler.com
SPRING 2019 PEOPLE & OPINION 2 FROM THE EDITOR 4 PROFILE: BILL HOLLERAN 8 BEHIND THE SCENES WITH DISCOVER TENKARA 16 INTERVIEW: PAUL GASKELL DESTINATION 34 TICO TENKARA 46 PARADISE MEADOWS
HOW TO 50 INTRODUCTION TO ULTRALIGHT BACKPACKING GEAR & FLIES 64 2019 ATA WINTER FLY SWAP 66 ZEN TENKARA CROSSCURRENT CHEST PACK 74 A TREATISE ON STATIC TESTING AND THE CLASSIFICATION OF TENKARA, KEIRYU, & SEIRYU RODS FIXED-LINE FLY FISHING 82 YELLOW PERCH FROM THE SKIES ESSAY 88 I LIKE STOCKERS 94 FIVE UNFORTUNATE FISHING BEHAVIORS 98 FISHING, YOUR BOWEL, & YOU RIFFLES 104 FRIENDS OF TENKARA ANGLER 114 CONTRIBUTORS & CREDITS 118 TENKARA CALENDAR 120 #TENKARA
Front Cover: Adam Klagsbrun Back Cover: Rory E. Glennie Logo Design: Nick Cobler
Photo: Adam Klagsbrun
From The Editor OMG it's finally Spring...
Spring is finally here... heck, we've even turned the clocks forward for an extra hour of daylight. I love this time of year.
Actually, I love any time of year that involves fishing, and Spring with its "opening of trout season" if nothing else ceremonially gets fishing to the forefront of everybody's mind. I've even made a few fishing trips for trout already, with the promise of more to come in the weeks ahead. This issue of Tenkara Angler is a little bit different than most. There are far fewer contributors, but they've written much longer articles. Interestingly, most aren't what I'd call essays or lifestyle story-telling features, rather some destination pieces, a little bit of "how to," a few interviews with people "moving & shaking" in the tenkara community, and of course, gear. Because what's a fishing magazine without articles on gear? I should also note that if you're a Discover Tenkara or Tenkara in Focus fan, this is the issue for you. Adam Trahan took the time to do a lengthy interview with Paul Gaskell, and David West Beale was invited behind the scenes to show us how all that great Discover Tenkara content
comes together. Both articles compliment each other quite nicely and really give you a view of Paul (& John Pearson) that most don't get to see. In closing, it's also worth nothing, that this month (April) marks Tenkara USA's 10th anniversary. I'd like to personally thank Daniel Galhardo & Tenkara USA for introducing "us" to tenkara. Without the risk he took back in 2009 of putting the spotlight on a very unique form of fly fishing, none of us would be experiencing fishing quite the same way today, (or reading this magazine). Daniel & Tenkara USA have impacted so many people for the better. Thank you! I truly hope you enjoy this issue. It continues to be exciting to work with so many talented contributors both past and present. It's my pleasure to chronicle our collective journey here, and hope to do so well into the next decade of tenkara.
Michael Agneta Editor In Chief
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 www.tenkaraangler.com for more information AAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAA AAAAAAA
Photo: Karin Miller
Profiles in Tenkara:
Bill Holleran & Red Brook Tenkara by Michael Agneta
There are many easily recognizable names in our small niche of tenkara. Depending on how you entered the sport, Daniel Galhardo, Dr. Hisao Ishigaki, Chris “TenkaraBum” Stewart, Masami Sakakibara, the Tenkara Guides LLC, and even Yvon Chouinard may immediately come to mind. One that likely doesn’t is Bill Holleran, one of the co-founders of Red Brook Tenkara, a small but growing tenkara rod and accessory supplier based out of New England. In this profile, I’ll help you all get to know a little bit more about Bill and Red Brook Tenkara in a “quick hit” format. Bill, where did you grow up and where do you live today? I grew up in Somerville, MA, a very densely populated city next to Cambridge. I lived in a 3-family house, referred to locally as a triple decker. Today I live in a suburb south of Boston.
At what age did you get started fishing? How did that evolve over the years? I used to spend a lot of time in New Hampshire at my aunt and uncle’s cottage. That’s where I learned about pond fishing for bass and horn pout (catfish). As I got older, I used to strap
a spinning rod to my BMX and pedal to a pond in Arlington, MA and fish for bass and carp. I got more into sports and didn’t fish for a long time. I reconnected with my father as an adult and we started fishing together at the famous Walden pond. Then on a trip to Pittsburg, NH with my wife I discovered fly fishing. Soon I found tenkara online and the rest is history. What are some of your hobbies/ pursuits outside of fishing? I love classic British motorcycles like Triumphs, BSAs and Nortons. If I’m not fishing, I’m probably riding my café styled Bonneville. My wife and I also have three small dogs that we spend a lot of time with outdoors. Two of them are rescues from down south and they’re Italian greyhound/chihuahua mixes. The third one is an Italian Greyhound we got in Maine. When did you find out about tenkara? What about it is appealing to you? I think it was around 2011 while looking online for fly fishing information. I have a background in engineering and the simplicity of it all made perfect sense. Western fly fishing can be a little intimidating for someone starting out. Tenkara just makes sense. As Americans we tend to obsess over “stuff” and buy tons of gear. Of course, I did buy too many tenkara rods. I love tenkara because it’s fly fishing in its purest form. Have you developed a tenkara “style”?
I still prefer to use furled lines over level lines but I’m not afraid to switch it up. Lately I’ve been using a lot of euronymphs. I’m going to tie up a bunch of Lance Egan Rainbow Warrior nymphs for this season. What made you decide to start a tenkara business, and why? I bought my first tenkara rod and got a little frustrated when the local shops had very little tenkara gear and even less knowledge. This led to my obsession with learning as much as I could. I still consider myself a student trying to master a craft. After teaching some friends they convinced me to take the next step. Since then I’ve been trying to spread the word about tenkara, mostly around New England. Tell us something about your products, particularly the RBT One rod. What value/benefits do you think it provides your prospective customers? I believe the RBT One is a good do everything well rod. It’s a great value and we support our customers as much as we can because I remember how intimidating it was trying to learn how to fly fish on my own. In New England, we have a “yankee” reputation of being frugal and we’re trying to attract two types of customers. The first one already has a closet full of fly-fishing gear that they spent thousands of dollars on. The second has little to no fishing experience and we're trying to get them to try it.
Bill at The Fly Fishing Show during the NFL Playoffs!
Are people able to see your products anywhere in person? Our gear is currently available at the North Country Angler in North Conway, NH. Nate Hill of Hill Country Guides uses our gear as well. We try to make as many shows in the area as we can. Are there any future plans for your company that you’d like to share? We’ve been working on some ideas with a local craftsman in Vermont. I don’t want to say too much but I think the end result will be a custom rod that is a work of art. At some point we will offer a smaller rod for those really tight brooks and streams. I would like to do some local guiding as well. We’ve done demonstrations on the water and I really love teaching new anglers and
seeing them catch a fish on a tenkara rod for the first time. Do you have a favorite species to fish for and/or region of the country to fish in? Do you have a “dream” fishing destination? I love to fish for native brook trout and Salters (sea run brook trout). A Salter is a brook trout born in fresh water that travels to the salt water to forage and returns to the fresh to spawn. My favorite region to fish is the White Mountains of New Hampshire. I like to look at hiking trail maps and explore thin blue lines in the mountains looking for native brook trout. Brook trout are by far the most beautifully colored fish. Currently, tenkara isn’t allowed in New Hampshire’s Fly Fishing Only Areas. The rules state that
you must have a reel. After talking to tons of anglers of the last couple years I am hopeful that this will eventually change. All it’s going to take is education from all of us. Until then, New Hampshire still has some of the best locations in all New England to fish tenkara. There is also a place in Quebec that I just learned about where you need to take a float plane to get to and the trout are huge! Do you support any conservationbased initiatives? At the end of my tenkara presentations I always promote three groups, the Sea Run Brook Trout Coalition, Native Fish
Coalition, and of course Trout Unlimited. Our company name comes from Red Brook, which is a beautiful but delicate brook that is home to Salters. This brook is the way it is today because of hundreds of volunteers from TU and SRBTC who restored it. Studies done by these volunteers in association with Mass Wildlife are a model for other restorations across the country. Do you have any advice for the new tenkara angler? Yes, don’t take it too seriously. Don’t get hung up on rules, just find what works for you. You’re out there to have fun and get away from the daily grind.
Behind the Scenes with Discover Tenkara
by David West Beale
I'm visiting British Fly Fair International. I love these events such a great way to meet up with friends old and new and to enjoy first hand some of the best fly-tying talent from around the globe. Across the plethora of trade stands and exhibition spaces every flavour of fly fishing is represented, from trout, salmon and grayling through to carp, predator, saltwater, and beyond. Amongst the hubbub, in the thick of it in fact, I find John Pearson, Paul Gaskell, Vito Rubino and the Discover Tenkara stand.
It's great chatting with these guys, and while Paul is preparing a horsehair casting line to use in a live show-andtell in the lecture space, John and I hatch some plans for fishing rivers of the Derbyshire Peaks later in the year. John also tells me a little about the new instructional DVD from Discover Tenkara, 'Manipulations - the illusion of life in fly fishing'. The DVD takes the viewer through a series of practical demonstrations of fish-catching tenkara fly manipulations. The film is set in some stunning locations - in
Italy, in Japan and here in the British Isles. A trailer for the film is playing on the TV screen and it looks so good I just have to take a copy home. Having watched and enjoyed the DVD I'm keen to share, and you can read my recently published review at tenkaratales.blogspot.com. In writing the article I begin to wonder about the huge effort required to bring a production like this together - the equipment and techniques required, and the challenges faced by its creators John and Paul. I'm also intrigued by the thinking behind the film and its accompanying e-book, and my curiosity gives rise to further conversation with the Discover Tenkara team that I'd like to share with you here... Paul, what are you setting out to achieve with your DVD? PG: Along with the e-book dedicated to fly manipulations, the over-riding aim of the DVD content is to help fly fishers multiply the effectiveness of each fly in their box. Of course, that is the 10,000-ft view and there are other goals as well. High on that list of secondary goals is the “proof of the pudding” of how effective the welldeveloped systems created by Japanese tenkara anglers are when it comes to inducing fish to take their flies. Figuring ways to induce a take is one of the most exciting parts of tenkara for me, not least because it can prove
such a game changer on a difficult day... PG: Folks just don’t realize until they’ve seen it for themselves how it’s possible for an unresponsive fish to suddenly change into a catchable one – simply as a result of how you animate or anchor the self-same fly the fish just refused on a previous cast. Digging deeper again, that proof of effectiveness needs to have two components – firstly the methods and tactics need to be seen to be relevant and effective outside of only tenkara tackle. They must work for someone who has never held – and perhaps does not even own – a tenkara rod. It's also great how you relate the different methods back to their origins in traditional Japanese tenkara... PG: We feel it is important to clearly credit and spread understanding of the Japanese angling traditions that created and codified these methods. That is why Japanese names for tactics are included in the cases where those names are commonly used in Japan. That’s important in terms of crediting our sources, but it also turns out to be an important part of effectively picking up the techniques in your own fishing. Paul, I'm guessing an e-book alone would have been a lot easier to produce, what compelled you to go the film route with your manipulation tutorials? PG: We wanted to use the strengths of
the video format to display details of rhythm and other technical points that are probably impossible to convey in written or verbal format. Of course, video is also a potentially awesome format for showing the beautiful settings fly fishing can take you (both local and exotic) while showing captures of fish convinced by each tactic. Thinking about that, and the many skills required to put your film together, within your team, who does what? PG: John makes sure we capture high quality footage, audio and images (John mainly taking the “A” camera and aerial footage, and me shooting with the “B” camera). Because I have to deliver many pieces to camera, I’ll generally need to come up with the words and teaching points to present. We then work together in the edit suite to cut sequences together, I draw diagram elements and John animates them and cuts them into the edit. A lot of the time we know the information inside and out, so I’ll jam a voiceover description over the top of the sequence that we just created. Meanwhile John, having a soundengineering background, runs the recording desk. Then the real polishing work comes with John adding, creating and editing music, as well as performing all the post-production sound engineering work. John also colour-grades and makes the shot-selections and
transitions so that the correct pace of the film is created. It sounds like the catching of the fish is the easiest part of the whole endeavour! Tell us a little about the locations you fished in the film... PG: We wanted the fish we targeted to be wild, stream-spawned fish and we wanted to capture the important idea that you can have amazing fishing adventures in your own back-yard as well as in any other domestic or farflung destination where cold water flows and trout swim. It was also important to show how the techniques developed for Japanese rivers and fish were also incredibly effective anywhere in the world. Most of the locations featured in this Volume 1 DVD are mountain rivers and streams of the Italian Dolomites, freestone rivers in Yorkshire and the North East of England plus examples of one or two Japanese fish captures too (to pay appropriate respect to the founders of the techniques we share). So, a few road miles and air miles travelled there... what's it like being cooped up with your fellow team members? PG: Travelling with Vito Rubino and John Pearson means that practical jokes are always on the radar (beware falling asleep on flights for example). Also, Vito and I seem to have something of a Burt Kwouk vs. Peter Sellers random attack/combat training arrangement last seen in the 1970’s
“Pink Panther” films. Ha!... I can only imagine... what was your biggest challenge Paul? PG: I reckon the biggest challenge was fitting in the hours of product creation alongside trying to keep everything else running and paying the bills. We flew very close to the wire in 2018 due to multiple challenges to our business (including the loss of our staple footage at the beginning of the previous year). In fact, it is only due to
our most loyal customers and “Patreon” patrons that we were able to make it through – so we owe each one of them a huge debt of thanks. What doesn't kill you makes you stronger, right? I was very excited when Discover Tenkara was able to design and bring to market two new Japanese-made tenkara rods - the Karasu, back in early 2017. As you know, I was an early adopter, purchasing my 360 from the first production run. I love that rod, in fact
it's spoilt me for any other rod I've tried since, and it's caught me an awful lot of fish on very light casting lines. I'm so glad you've pushed through that rough patch. What's next for Discover Tenkara? PG: We’ve got multiple filming production projects in the pipeline as well as more writing projects and developing the ways that we can deliver more coaching in the things that we’ve discovered within our own fly fishing and tenkara experiences. We’re also in the process of setting up a means to support wild trout conservation using revenue from the sales of a range of media products...
Cool, thanks for those insights Paul, I'm looking forward to future releases, particularly Volume 2 of your Manipulations series. I’m keen too to learn a little about the gear John uses for filming - I'm guessing John that modern advances in camera technology are making location filming a bit less arduous? Tell us a about the gear you like to use... JP: This project spans around seven years so the gear has changed quite a bit in that time. Filming with DSLR cameras only actually became a viable option around 2009 with the release of Canon’s 5D MkII and that was really better suited to narrative film making where you have control
over the shots and depth of field (as manual follow focusing is very, VERY difficult). Fortunately, the release of the Canon 70D (which was a groundbreaking for film makers) coincided nicely with our first trip to Japan and enabled me to get great high definition video where before I’d have been carting around a massive pro-camcorder and accessories. High definition DSLR video cameras have enabled us to travel to some amazing locations with a great filming setup in a waterproof rucksack – without needing a full crew to carry all the gear. I’m even able to pack a drone and a couple of flat panel LED lights… If you went back to when I started making fishing DVDs in 2007, you’d have needed a budget into the hundreds of thousands to achieve the same results. We really are living in a golden age for filmmaking on a budget right now. That's massively encouraging to aspiring film makers. What’s a typical list of gear for your location shoots? JP: In terms of the kit I’m currently using I’ll give you a list of the main items: • A camera is a Panasonic GH5 camera body (with selection of lenses) • B camera is a Panasonic G80 • For monitoring focus, I use a SmallHD Focus 5 on camera LCD screen • Pair of Rodelink wireless lav mics • Various Rode on camera mics
• Various Manfrotto carbon fibre tripods (great for damping the vibration standing in rivers) • Various Manfrotto fluid damped video tripod heads • Selection of ND (neutral density) and polarizing filters for exposure control and filming water • Waterproof (submergible) rucksack and F-Stop camera bag insert • Laptop and several external drives for transferring footage and backing up In addition to all that kit, I’ll travel with my suitcase full of extra gear such as a few lights and stands for interviews and indoor shoots plus lots of batteries for all the various kit and chargers for all the batteries (quite often when travelling I’ve had to set my alarm to wake me in the middle of the night so I can swap round all the battery chargers and make sure we’re all set for the next day of shooting). Wow, compared to my iPhone that still sounds like quite a lot of kit to me! Any tips for would-be film makers? JP: Here’s a quick list off the top of my head. Don’t spend time thinking “If I just had camera X or random accessory Y, I’d be able to make the film I want to”. Modern smart phones are capable of footage that surpasses the image quality of kit I made my first DVD on… so start shooting stuff now with whatever you can lay your hands on.
You need to put in some long and hard hours learning the technical aspects of the kit you use and the editing side of things. The more you edit, the more you realize what you should’ve shot when you were filming – so learn from that and remember to get those shots on your next project. Making good films is not something you just tack on to a day out fishing – you need to be focused on filming the whole time - setting up stable and meaningfully framed shots (not wobbly motion-sickness inducing GoPro footage). A good tripod is a must, even if filming with a phone. Spend as much time as you can
learning the “language” of film-making, B-roll, cut-aways, establishing shots etc. This is a “language” we all understand (without ever realizing it) after exposure to a lifetime of film and TV – when you don’t communicate with that “language” the results are often jarring/unpleasant and amateurish to watch. Oh, and get used to whoever is in front of the camera getting all the praise – if you’re doing it right, most of the time it’s not gonna be you!
My thanks to John Pearson and Paul Gaskell for allowing me behind the scenes at Discover Tenkara.
Two Discover Tenkara videos that are related to this article can be found below. The first, a trailer for the aforementioned "Manipulations, The Illusion of Life in Fly Fishing" DVD, as well as a second full of "outtakes" that is a little more lighthearted.
Interview with Paul Gaskell by Adam Trahan
I’ve been contemplating how I was going to start this, trying to figure out how to introduce Paul Gaskell. It came to me while I was eating sushi with Ohana at my favorite place, Iron Chef. All of us eating and drinking sake, I was preoccupied with how to get the Interview started and realized, the story here doesn’t need an introduction. The people I’m trying to reach already know who he is and those that don’t will eventually find their way to Discover Tenkara. Paul Gaskell really doesn’t need an introduction to the readers of Tenkara Angler.
“Paul, thanks for taking this interview.” Paul Gaskell: Thank you – I’m very interested to see where this goes. Adam: A Japanese friend taught me how to drink sake, thin rim glass, like a nice wine glass and after that, he taught me his taste in sake. Nothing wrong with drinking it out of the bottle or a ceramic guinomi. I love sake, rice wine, there are all kinds of flavors. I think tenkara is like that. “What do you think?”
Paul Gaskell: That’s a really tough question because it’s so open-ended. I think, overall, there are broad camps or tribes of tenkara angler within Japan and these are built up over many years of experience, concentrated effort/experimentation and thought. As in many areas of life, strong charismatic characters gather followers who have similar values and who identify with particular ideals. On top of that, when an angler grows up in Japan, they (obviously) develop an automatic understanding of local culture that we – as outsiders – lack. A very good example of that is how much greater the average understanding of landscape, foodproduction, weather and nature is among Japanese people who live in mountain areas. There is also a much stronger appreciation for how fragile human life is in the face of natural forces – whether that’s landslides, earthquakes or simply extreme weather. Death is much closer to the surface and more readily accepted (and so life is appreciated more). For me, those stark differences in knowledge, skills and culture of people in Japanese mountains represent the greatest opportunities for us to learn, improve and understand how to appreciate what we are passionate about in life. All those factors combine to produce branches of tenkara that have strong philosophical and practical foundations. Because each branch has been shaped within a similar range of
those cultural and physical conditions, they tend to be fundamentally similar to each other. That also makes them very different from what people tend to invent for themselves in the absence of those same foundations outside of Japan. The reason I’m (selfishly) most interested in the things that I don’t know is that is where the greatest opportunity for my own growth is. You can’t get to where you want to go by staying where you are. At the same time, things that are very well established and that stand up to “cross-examination” from other related disciplines (particularly biology) are likely to be worthwhile directions to pursue. I can understand that people may feel much more comfortable sticking with what they know, but I also think that it would be a waste if nobody took advantage of what has been developed already – but which is new to the west because of the language and cultural barriers. If you never stand on the shoulders of others who have worked on stuff before you, there is almost no scope for development over generations. You only get a single lifetime’s-worth of progress each time over. So that was a very long way of saying that there are different “flavors” of tenkara, but the ones that I find most valuable and effective are the ones with robust and long-established foundations.
Adam: For a long time, I was a skateboarder, a surfer and I eventually learned to hang glide and paraglide, to ascend into the sky using the energy in the atmosphere. I was flying around near the clouds on wings that I could put on the top of my car or on my back and drive or hike up to the top of the mountain, spread out and glide off into the sky. As I grew older, married, kids, I used my fly fishing to distract myself from flying because my family demanded my attention far more than the next foot launched flight. I already was a fisherman, a fly fisherman first but in the end, I quit flying to really learn to fly fish and quit that to learn tenkara. I can go back to any of it, anytime I want. The reality of it is I think fly fishing and tenkara go hand in hand and I think it is an advantage to have a working level of fly fishing before learning tenkara. You don’t have to learn to fly fish first, although that helps in all aspects of tenkara. I don’t see fly fishing as a foe of tenkara, nothing like that, if anything, it is a positive attribute to tenkara. “Paul before we go farther down that road, please tell us about your fly fishing and how that relates to your tenkara.” Paul Gaskell: I started “fishing” at age 6 and, being basically obsessed, I ended up working hard at as many disciplines as possible (from bait, freshwater, marine, fly and even finesse worms/plastics). That
obsession is what led me to a career in freshwater biology - first in research and more recently in trout habitat conservation work for the Wild Trout Trust (a similar organization to Trout Unlimited). So, my work and my passions have always been tangled up together. I first came across tenkara when I’d been practicing French leader/ competition nymphing tactics for around 7 or 8 years. That (along with a biology background) helped me understand some of the mechanics that made tenkara effective. However, I luckily soon accepted that there were important differences from nymphing. That let me realize there were a ton of things that I just did not know or understand about tenkara. Uncovering ignorance like that is always an amazing gift – even if your ego doesn’t like it at first. Again, moving towards that ignorance is the most reliable and rewarding path to improvement. Adam: We are so different, but we are similar in our friendship with our brothers in Japan. “You have been to the bansho, can you tell us about your experiences there.” Paul Gaskell: It’s very difficult to capture the atmosphere of that centuries-old building (rebuilt around 350 years ago after a fire destroyed the previous building), the shiny black carbon-coating on the rafters from the open fires – the dedication of Kozue Sanbe (caretaker) and Tomotada Sakamoto (owner) and just the weight
of history surrounding the place. Of course, and although it feels like name-dropping, there is an undeniable force about the presence of Yuzo Sebata and the way that he gathers people around him. Hearing stories and information from the heart of tenkara’s development from him, translated by Go Ishii, was very powerful. Having Sebata-san cook foraged “sansai” wild edibles as well as his signature noodles and broth from his days as the owner of “Mukago” restaurant for us (myself and John Pearson) was also remarkable. As well as some personal gifts, probably the most impactful thing I
took from it was Sebata san’s statement that he feels incredibly concerned and sad that tenkara tackle has been introduced to a wider audience outside Japan – but that the important attitudes to nature, the techniques of tenkara and especially the key features of Japanese mountain culture have been left behind and not introduced alongside the tackle. “What did you think of the top floor? I was simply amazed, and those crystals?” Paul Gaskell: The whole place is amazing and the mixture of the current practices of giant batches of homefermented miso paste sitting comfortably alongside the ancient
straw-woven snow-shoes and farmers winter clothing. Then there’s the silkworm farming space in the loft and more – it’s all a wonderful blend of preserved history and the practicalities of a living, inhabited building. Adam: I’ve researched tenkara quite a bit, when I found out about it, I wasn’t completely happy with the explanation I was getting, I wanted more, and I wanted it straight from the Japanese. I think the way Tenkara USA was promoting tenkara was good, the quiet gentle form of Japanese mountain stream fishing. The experts and their early lessons were excellent but I personally wanted more so I started to reach further back into the history purchasing old books on tenkara, specifically from a famous keiryu
author there. I’m assuming you did some book search as well. “Do you have any favorite old Japanese tenkara books?” Paul Gaskell: Although I’ve been learning to speak Japanese to help with my understanding (and to an extent making myself understood), I don’t read or write kanji, so I can’t claim to use those books directly as primary sources – just the elements and portions that I’m able to ask questions about. One book which I’d very much like to get translated is one that profiles several genuine “Shokuryoshi” (professional/survival tenkara anglers). Kazuyuki Yamada showed us his family entry – including his father Shigeo Yamada’s profile in that book over a couple of visits we
have made to him in Akiyamago and I’d really like to read that in translation. Adam: Satoshi Miwa translated two excellent books by Soseki Yamamoto for us here, Yamamoto-san is my favorite Japanese journalist. In my interview with Masami Sakakibara, Masami wrote something to the effect that he knew many authentic professional tenkara fishermen and tenkara journalists were not his favorite. I still have more to investigate, including more of your material on our subject. But regarding Japanese tenkara, I understand that is your focus. “Do you have knowledge of a good portion of the of the experts in modern Japanese tenkara?” Paul Gaskell: That’s difficult to answer, because there are likely to be incredibly expert practitioners who just don’t tell anyone what they’re up to! However, myself and JP have been very fortunate to be introduced (through Go Ishii and his networkbuilding efforts) to a very large number of extremely high-level anglers. So far, we’ve only been able to scratch the surface in conveying the breadth and depth of knowledge displayed across all those anglers. Adam: I’ve made it a point to research as many different schools of tenkara, all over Japan. I was lucky to have found Kazuya Shimoda’s videos online when searching out tenkara in 2009. It
was early on in my timeline and Shimoda-san suggested the use of a cut piece of fly line. “I have not read that much anywhere, anyone reporting on that, your thoughts?” Paul Gaskell: I think that early on in tenkara’s transition from survival method to sporting pastime, sporting anglers would have to make rods from the blanks of multiple separate fiberglass “mainstream” fishing rods (because no companies were making “tenkara” rods). That seems to be a natural carry-over from the “Shokuryoshi” tradition of using what was available to get the job done – and I’m sure applies to casting lines too. Along with that, there has been the introduction of catch and release ethics which really came into Japan from the USA via Touru Ishiyama (who brought back western fly fishing and bass spin fishing to Japan after visits to America). Following his introduction, western fly fishing has developed a certain prestige which it retains to this day in Japan. Throw into the mix that genryu fishers are usually much more interested in the quest to hike and camp in the most challenging and inaccessible fishing areas – more-so than the actual fishing aspect…This means the total time spent fishing during genryu expeditions can be a relatively small proportion of the whole activity and a major attraction is to find unpressured
fish. As a result, you’re just as likely to find ultralight spin fishing rigs, fly fishing, and hybrids between tenkara and “western” fly fishing approaches on those genryu expeditions. In contrast, the much more pressured honryu (and more easily accessed keiryu) river fishing venues often requires a WAY more technical tenkara skillset (and in modern times perhaps even a European nymphing) fishing focus. The difficulty of the fish in those settings demands that from the angler. So, taking all that into account (along with the need for Japanese fishing tackle companies to cater as much or more to beginner tenkara anglers than experts), there is a very complicated picture if someone looking in from the outside is searching for “benchmarks” of what tenkara is among all the outlying examples. While there’s no doubt that there’s a high level of skill that can be developed when using heavier casting lines (such as cut-down fly line), it is probably also true to say that a lot of those potential techniques are already well described within western fly fishing literature. Of course, some interesting combinations of the two approaches can be developed; but the weight of the casting line immediately takes away many of the characteristics/advantages that shape a large proportion of “tenkara” techniques. I suspect that one of the reasons that Shimoda san’s cut-down fly line
approaches have less coverage is a result of it being a niche, within a niche within a niche. Tenkara, although one of the only forms of angling to be growing in Japan, is practiced by only a very small proportion of the angling public. That means “niche-ing down” further automatically reduces the awareness of those more outlying examples – particularly when their boundaries to other types of fly fishing are a lot more blurred. Adam: I’m 58 and I don’t see myself quitting tenkara anytime soon. I see myself doing the same thing that I’m doing now, writing, chronicling my fishing, my adventures, just having fun fishing with a few friends and reporting on it at my web site. “You have a tenkara business, will you tell us about your own personal tenkara? Not the business end or is your fishing all business?” Paul Gaskell: It is kind of the other way around – the stuff that fascinates us in our personal fishing is exactly what we then want to share. In order to dedicate the necessary time and resources to that sharing process, we need to work out ways to create revenue. So, really the business side of things is found in developing our filmmaking, story-telling and digital marketing skillset. The fishing side of things - going to the source and using biology to interpret what works - is exactly what our personal fishing centers on.
The major difference is, contrary to common belief, instead of fishing films making you “look good”, the process of filming actually slows down your catch rate and effectiveness by around three to five-fold. So, if you want to show 10 good captures using a particular technique, you better be confident you could take 30 to 50 fish consecutively. That encounter rate makes up for the additional time you need to allow for the cameras to reposition (and if necessary, go back to capture more establishing shot details of the environment that the capture took place in). You also need to be willing to walk past great fishing spots if there is no “shot” available. In that sense, my personal/hobby fishing without cameras is generally restricted to half hour or hour-long sessions that often function as reconnaissance for future filming venues. However, the spirit, tactics and overall experience that we value is what we feature in our content. Sticking to that is deeply personal and you need to develop a thick skin when exposing those vulnerable/personal feelings to the public. At the same time, staying true to that process is probably the best way to end up with great respect and common ground with our customers – since it’s our authentic fishing, authentic passions and authentic selves that goes out there. I get the feeling that many business owners who end up resenting or disliking their customers (and who
become dissatisfied with their business) probably concentrated on finding anything they could sell – rather than drilling down to what about themselves would create value for like-minded people if they put it out there. Adam: My friends in Japan have taken me all over Tokyo and in many areas, eating, drinking, fishing, hiking and everything else. I don’t know how many restaurants and onsen that I’ve patronized in Tokyo and out in the country. Quite a few in the time I’ve spent there. I love sushi and have had the fantastic opportunity to have visited some of the finest sushi places as well as the local bars, friends of friends cutting fish and presenting it to us. I learned about saba no heshiko or fermented mackerel sushi, a very pungent form that has a cheesy smelly taste. I have met only a couple of people in America that have heard of it. Saba sushi is sort of a mark of a person that really likes sushi. “Do you have any favorite dish that is out of the ordinary?” Paul Gaskell: Erm, it took me a few tries to get into “natto” (fermented soy beans). I was always OK with the taste, but that “spider’s web” stringy slime that develops around the beans was pretty challenging the first three or four times I tried it. However, like most acquired tastes, I eventually began to really crave it and now enjoy it
whenever I get the chance. I also really like the “umeboshi” sour plums… In fact, Japanese breakfasts in rural accommodation settings are one of the things that are something I really cherish about my experiences in Japan. It’s always the little details that best capture the essence of an experience. “Paul, I have started to do this in my once piece interviews? Any question(s) for me?” Paul: Ah, that put me on the spot – I guess I wonder what contribution you’d most like to be remembered for (particularly in the tenkara community)?
Adam: I'm not trying to be remembered. I'm just having fun writing about tenkara and sharing what I find. It's really none of my business what people think of me and the last thing I want to do is to put my own spin on tenkara. It is what it is, and I am a part of it. “Can you tell us a little about your domestic life? Your family, your work, what do you do for fun besides tenkara?” Paul Gaskell: So, my partner Josephine is an academic currently carrying out research in the area of science education and together we have two sons (age 4 and 8 as I’m writing this). My eldest son is on the autistic
spectrum and really enjoys the sensations and experience of being in the outdoors (in fact that’s something that the whole family enjoys). As I mentioned earlier I currently work 3 days a week for the Wild Trout Trust as their “Trout in the Town” urban rivers project manager (and I’ve recently been joined in that role by Theo Pike when I reduced by days from full time). I spend almost all my remaining time working on Discover Tenkara projects. I typically work an average of around 60 hours per week all-told, but because I work from home I’m also able do the school run and spend time with the kids. Over the years I’ve done many kinds of sport (from tennis to several kinds of martial arts including Judo, Aikido, BJJ and a little boxing) and I particularly like the bouldering aspect of rock climbing. I enjoyed trips to the bouldering meccas of Hueco Tanks in Texas and also Fontainebleau in France back in the day. After about a 15-year break my kids are now giving me a good excuse to join them at the bouldering wall. I enjoy cooking when I get the chance and there’s also a LOT of books in our house between copies collected by both Jo and I. The first time I went to Japan was before I got into tenkara and was as a member of the British Universities team for the World Shodokan Aikido championships in Kyoto. On that trip I also got to train at the Kodokan (the headquarters of Judo, founded by Jigaro Kano, the father of Judo). I guess I believe that if
something is worth doing, it’s worth over-doing – a philosophy that JP also shares. Adam: I am a cardiovascular technician by trade. I do not see my work as my identity. Many people I know do, I think that is normal, I simply prefer to leave my work and when I am at home, I am not at work. Work enables my home life etc. “Does your work integrate into your tenkara?” Paul Gaskell: Yes, in one way or another it is really all the same thing to me, which makes it “challenging” to set boundaries. Adam: I must admit, I do not remember reading if you were full time professional angler or producing Discover Tenkara is an additional line of your work. It is my understanding that you have a doctorate degree and are classically educated. I did not graduate from a university although I do respect education and have assisted in the startup of a college within a university. I know it is not necessary for everyone to have a degree, especially in today’s world. In your case, your skill in writing and organization, quality of your projects shows, and I appreciate that. “What do you have planned in the future for Discover Tenkara?” Paul Gaskell: We’re working on continuing to rebuild and expand our media resources/publications as well
as keeping pace with the ways that we can deliver that material to people who get the most value out of it. I guess “watch this space” Adam: With all due respect, I think you have outgrown your name. Let me explain. The level that we learned about tenkara was quite elementary. It took a long time for tenkara to grow out of its cane pole description, we still are there in a sense, anyway. From my perspective, there is very little in the way of advanced instruction available to the masses. The Tenkara Guides in Utah are bringing the Oni School to the Southwest which is very cool but not readily available to the masses. I look to the Japanese for advanced instruction but I’m running out. At about ten years now, the advanced instruction from the Japanese is more of just sharing what we do. The sawanobori groups are practicing a difficult hybrid form of steep and fluted valley stream / waterfall climbing with some fishing. From the Japanese, there is little in the way of advanced casting, the only thing that I have seen is purely utilitarian. I could be very wrong about that, but I have not seen it. I’m not a person that goes for the shadow cast or fancy line twirling. I can do it but it’s not fishing. Controlling the loop, tucking the fly under, casting left and right, forehand, backhand, high and low backcasting
and casting for accuracy are just about it for me. There are experts in Japan that do far less than that and are recognized as the best in tenkara. I guess what constitutes your own tenkara skills is what determines “advanced techniques.” But I crack open your book and I look at your videos and what I see are advanced skills for learning. Maybe you haven’t outgrown your name after all… (insert friendly wink) More than anything, I guess this section is rhetorical. Paul Gaskell: Perhaps I’ll risk indulging in one of my pet quotes “It is impossible for a man to learn what he thinks he already knows”. In my experience, I feel there are just so many layers of subtlety and excellence possessed by the very best of the Japanese anglers. I feel it is probably like high level horse-riding; the less you can see outwardly what the rider is doing (the more they can reduce their physical “aids”) the more it APPEARS as if they’re not doing anything – then the higher their level of skill. Yet, at the same time, the more difficult it is to see and understand exactly what they are doing. I think I need a specific example of this to make it useful… The one I would choose is the observation that high
level tenkara anglers can recognize surface patterns on the water that tell them what vertical (as well as lateral) angle/plane the fish will be holding station at. Working backwards from that, they know exactly where they need to stand to allow them to present the fly so that it enters the fish’s field of vision in the best way to induce a strike (while at the same time knowing they will not spook a fish that may be riding that sub-surface current). At the same time, waiting for the correct current feature to “bloom” so that you can exploit it with your fly is a matter of timing as well as positional sense. All that also bleeds over into an overall innate sense of the specific sequence of perfect positions that you’ll need to take to make each cast perfectly with the highest percentage chance of success (best fly movement, lowest spooking potential). Taking that in at a glance is a high level, but invisible skill. The problem with watching the outward details of a great angler making a cast and hooking a fish is that you’ve likely already missed the 90% of the battle which takes place before they even started their backcast. That is also the problem with just reporting and reproducing completely faithfully the visible (and often selfreported) isolated facts or mechanics displayed by a great angler. They very often don’t realize that you (as an observer) don’t already know all the skills that they are automatically integrating into their approach. Without another filter (such as
competition angling and behavioral biology background), you can’t ask the questions that expose the unconscious expertise that great anglers have. I’m just lucky that my personal obsessions landed that specific background in my lap through my accidental lifetime experiences and career. Without those filters, though, it’s all too easy to forget that in Japan there are beginner, intermediate and top-flight tenkara anglers (and companies catering to each demographic), just like anywhere else. That’s why most folks miss the point and gloss over the critical details if they see a tenkara technique covered somewhere that they already know the name of. They assume because they recognize that last 10% of the bare mechanics that there’s no more detail to learn. But just like in BJJ, there’s no new locks or chokes (there’s only so many ways a human arm can twist) – the mastery is in perfectly drilling the systems around setting up those moves that are the visible final few percent at the completion point. That process is also why someone can seize on a particular out-lying example that supports their case for almost any agenda “See, even Japanese rod companies do X, Y or Z” (which may be something aimed at lowering a barrier to entry – and so not appropriate to view as a valid endpoint where skill development stops).
Pigeon-holing and seeking to reduce activities to exactly what is already within our comfort zone is the path to stagnation and lack of growth. Over time, that leads to boredom and abandonment in favor of the next new shiny thing. Adam: For quite a while I was alone here in Arizona. Yes, we have fly fishing clubs and we used to have a dozen fly shops, but we have none now, or what I would consider a fly shop… I started writing web sites on small stream fly fishing in the mid 90’s to reach out to people that have similar interests in their fishing so that I could be with like minds. Social media had not developed at that time. This will be a little difficult to explain, I hope you get it. I’m not so sure that social media is a good reflection of tenkara. There seems to be a collective consciousness in reference to social media that tries to interject itself on to the definition of tenkara. I use my tenkara equipment and techniques for trout and warm water species in the desert in winter. I personally call it tenkara knowing it isn’t mountain stream fishing for trout. So, I just use #untenkara when describing this type of fishing and that seems to help. Getting back to my point, social media
has helped tenkara grow by leaps and bounds but I think we are now in a period of seeing what this online arguing about the definition of tenkara has done. I generally don’t care what people what people argue about online, I’m still going to do what I do because I enjoy doing whatever it is I do, the best I can. “What do you think of using tenkara equipment and techniques outside of the mountain valley streams?” Paul Gaskell: I think it’s useful to make the distinction “tenkara rodding” for using a tenkara rod to fish newer, improvised or adapted techniques. In the same way you can say “fly rodding for carp” and folks get a decent mental picture of what you’re up to. Other times it is easier to say “French nymphing with a tenkara rod”. A good label for the actual techniques (over and above the specific rod-type) is the most useful thing to aim for. That way it makes it much easier to apply tenkara techniques to other branches of your fly fishing – while retaining a good understanding of the disciplines that you are blending. In the same way that Inuit have hundreds of words for different types of snow, to accurately communicate ideas that help us grow as anglers it helps to have specific terms to capture those ideas. I’m not sure at what point we, as a society, became afraid of that and treat it as a personal attack/ implied inferiority.
I don’t have a problem with anyone using any kind of tackle however they want – what I do find worrying is the “Don’t tread on me!” tendency when trying to discuss the features and benefits of relevant cultural details or incredibly effective/well developed techniques from the dudes who actually invented a particular style of fishing. That’s true whether I’m talking about our experiences studying Czech nymphing in the Czech Republic – or tenkara in Japan. The other thing that I think is negative overall is the willful denial that Japanese tenkara is valid and worth respecting alongside whatever folks do with their own time on stream. I think it’s a sad symptom of our times
in the era of binary identity politics. The idea that there is no room for nuance and “if you’re not with us then you’re against us” is a wider social disease – and it will be hard to tackle within fishing. Finally – I think that most folks outside Japan don’t realize that Japanese tenkara anglers typically drive an average of 5 to 7 hours to their weekend fishing destinations. Kurasan frequently has 10 to 14-hour drives because he avoids the expensive toll roads/highways. Takasan drives many hours to fish for a day before driving for a few more hours to meet up with his tenkara crew at night… just so that he can make his famous hand-made soba noodles for
his friends before driving home at around 2am to be back for his family for the rest of the weekend. That’s an interesting contrast to note alongside the idea in the West that “I don’t have trout streams near me”. I’m guessing that most folks have a trout stream within 5 to 12 hours’ drive and that’s the level of dedication it takes for those Japanese glossy fishing magazines to feature photos of amazing wild iwana, yamame and amago. Adam: Paul, for many years, I did not study or read much of the work that Discover Tenkara produced. This is no reflection on you, it is more about me and how I wanted to study. I wanted a good history and lesson from the Japanese first and foremost. I hope that you understand that. It seems that you do because a big part of your focus is on Japan. But now that I have a good understanding of what Japanese tenkara is and all the other types of Japanese fishing and culture is, I have started to read your book, watch your videos and enjoy the content you are producing. You guys do a great job. I appreciate the quality goods that you guys are producing, your book augments the library of books that I have, most are old Japanese books that my friends in Japan have given to me, some after writing them or I have purchased to study. Your book is nested right next to those
old Japanese books, that’s about the highest compliment that I can give you. I’ve used one of your rods to catch fish in my home streams. “Can you tell us about the development of the Karasu rods?” Paul Gaskell: Really there is relatively little to tell. It is a rare story of something that worked much quicker than we expected. Basically, we benefited hugely from the expertise of the manufacturers and also from a pool of top Japanese anglers who tested them and provided feedback. Having described what we were aiming for and tweaking one or two details on the balance of the two rods from their first prototypes, they then came out with pre-production models that were almost exactly as we’d hoped and asked. That is a real testament to Japanese manufacturing excellence (and also the longestablished knowledge of tenkara and rod-building that exists within those manufacturers). Adam: I remember on my last trip to Tadami with Keiichi Okushi and many others, we did a day trip and an overnight (tenba) trip on Akakazuresawa. We hiked up and set camp and hiked up some more. On the way, we had navigated some small and minor waterfalls, one needed an assist rope. The consequence of falling would have been scrapes and maybe a broken arm or leg or worse if we weren’t paying attention, we were.
But that night in the tenba, it rained hard now and then but it rained nearly all night. At home in our own streams, every year, people are killed by flash flooding. We were camped close to the water’s edge and in a steep valley. I was a guest of experts but that did not help me from worrying just a little. I remained calm and, in the morning, yes, the stream had risen and I knew we would have some difficulty with wading the trail back. I remember watching Go Ishii struggle a little on a steep wall of mud, precariously hanging on to a hand line, one slip and he would have fallen 30 or so feet onto rocks and swept downstream. When it was my turn to climb the same section, I almost had to stop and gather my thoughts, but I had Keiji Ito by my side. He basically told
me through his glance that I could do this, and I did. I am grateful to Ito-san. I needed a little help and with his kind smile in a sticky spot, he assisted me in a way that helped me be a part of the team rather than making a problem wanting more protection. “Do you have any recall of a particular moment when you may have been over your head while fishing in Japan?” Paul Gaskell: I’ve certainly found myself having to fight pretty hard to keep my feet when wading in what I’ve considered powerful flows (though folks like Kobayashi-san or Sebata-san in his prime would probably not think twice about). Remembering to not turn my back and have my legs swept out
from under me, keeping braced with a narrow profile and just inching patiently along until reaching softer flow is pretty testing on nerves and patience. Crossing a rapidly rising/coloring river with Isaac Tait in Gunma prefecture (which went from thigh deep to chest deep in the time it took us to cross) was a bit of a “buttock clenching” moment. I did set off up a rock face to climb out of that valley but decided to back off and follow the less glamorous but much more effective scramble up the soil/rock bank that Isaac and John had found to be the easiest line of weakness. I’ve generally felt OK when holding on to ropes for steep traverses or scrambling around under collapsed/ rockfall damaged bridges, but strangely some of the times when I’ve got more spooked is on footpaths that get very narrow and are soft/crumbly soil high above the valley floor. I often find myself leaning a bit too far away
from the edge, which ironically makes me more likely to slip (instead of pressing my weight straight down on the slope). Adam: As I have said, I appreciate what you do. Thank you for your contribution to tenkara, I really appreciate your (and John Pearson) efforts. “Please use this opportunity to close the interview. Thanks again and looking forward to more of your content.” Paul Gaskell: Thank you. It was certainly an interesting experience given that we’ve “locked horns” in the past Adam. I hope that our upcoming content is of interest and use to you and many more folks in the tenkara community. If there’s one killer closing idea, I’d choose “Try to welcome progressive ignorance and walk towards stuff that you don’t know with a smile”.
Tico Tenkara by Karin Miller
Tico is the affectionate term that native Costa Ricans call those who were born in their country, a country so beautiful, diverse and varied, yet so completely approachable and navigable. When people talk about fishing in Costa Rica, their minds immediately conjure up images of jumping tarpon and sailfish busting through the ocean surface. Without a doubt, this is there for the taking. But many Ticos spend their time fishing for other species that are fresh water inhabitants. In fact, the country is home to an abundancy of cold-water streams and warm rivers that are exquisitely beautiful and home to a multitude of fish species that pair perfectly with the tenkara fly fishing method. While tarpon and sailfish are Costa Rican mainstays, trout, machaca and other species are untapped fly fishing jackpots for this exotic tropical country.
After more than a year of conversation with Tom Enderlin, owner of Release Fly Travel, a guide, outfitting and travel service in Costa Rica, we both decided we wanted to talk more about collaborating and exploring the unspoiled and untapped fly fishing opportunities in his country. What Tom described in his emails sounded like tenkara heaven and while he and his associates did have experience fishing tenkara, they focused on the very small, traditional aspects of the method. The idea of a machaca on tenkara intrigued us both and so, an 8day trip was planned. We would scout water, experiment with tenkara rods and explore the different waters of the
country. An itinerary was set, and this past February I finally got to meet Tom and his crew. Since this relatively small country consists of such varied climatic regions, he proposed a scouting adventure to experience a broad taste of Costa Rica’s fresh water fisheries, an opportunity to revel in the country’s bio-diversity and time to explore what he and I suspected, to be perfect tenkara waters. Although weather and climate are consistently mild, with only a small flux in temperatures, there was a notable difference in each region we visited and fished. Warm, arid, rolling hills, chilly, high-mountain cloud forests and hot, humid beaches, Costa Rica has it all. Preparing for the trip I made sure to bring all my different Zen rods since I wasn’t exactly sure what I was in for. Plus, Tom scheduled time for a little saltwater action on the last fishing day, so I packed lines of varying weight and lengths. Considering all I had, everything fit well into my Fishpond Grand Teton bag. This was my first time traveling to Costa Rica and I didn’t want any issues with TSA security and my carry-on. I decided to pack and check it all. We arrived in San José mid-evening. Tom had arranged for us to be greeted and transported to our hotel in San José. It was in the heart of downtown and was wonderfully comfortable. We woke leisurely, ventured out for some Gallo Pinto (a traditional Costa Rican
breakfast dish of rice and black beans served with natilla, which is similar to sour cream, and eggs), then spent the rest of the day exploring coffee plantations and a lush wildlife refuge, complete with rescued jaguars and invigorating, breathtaking waterfalls. All of this was arranged by Tom and I felt indulged since most of my fishing trips consist only of fishing. It was a relaxing day to acclimate, explore the city and take in some of the sights that are often bypassed when partaking in serious destination fly fishing trips. While Release Fly Travel has a dynamic tarpon conservation fishing program, a billfish school, and some other exciting programs around Latin America, this trip was about freshwater streams and rivers. Many species in Costa Rica are overlooked and don’t get much fanfare, but are fantastically appealing for fly fishing anglers, and particularly, tenkara anglers.
The next day we headed north to the Guanacaste Region, a few hours south of the Nicaragua border. In just a relatively short drive from San José, the lush greens hills just outside of the city, where coffee plants and strawberries thrive, gave way to tall, sparsely leafed trees, open fields and rice farms. The air was dry, warm and you could feel the heat of the sun. Howler monkeys bellowed loudly and made you think 200lb apes were hiding in the trees. On the river where we would fish, crocodiles lazily sunned on the shores and occasionally surfaced like a slow but stealthy submarine in the mist of often
otherwise quiet water. The river flow was a moderate current that had sweet bubble lines and areas of small rapids, but the crocodiles never seemed to occupy these places - if they did, they went unseen. In this water, besides the crocodiles, several species of fish could be found, but we were here for the machaca. These cousins to piranha and pacu fight and behave in a manner that similar to tarpon and bass. They average a few pounds but can grow as big as 10lbs. Even more exciting are their teeth which are almost humanlike, designed for crushing nuts and seeds that fall into the water from trees that line the river banks. Machaca also eat a variety of fruit and flowers. Depending on the season you either throw delicate “flower patterns” as you would throw a dry fly, or “poppers” to imitate the falling nuts as they hit the water with a loud “Plook,” which is exactly what we did. Green poppers the size of half a wine cork tied to represent the fruit of the wild cashew were slapped onto the water’s surface. We were instructed to count to 5, then pick it up and do it again - and again, and again, until our green cork morsel suddenly got ambushed by either a solo feeder who bolted in and out with incredible speed, or “wolf packs” of 4 to 6 machaca attracted by the loud “Plook,” and all savagely vying for the same cashew look-alike popper. “Plook!” We typically used a size 1/0 hook and needed a relatively short cast, never more than 18ft total. Tom and his crew,
Kevin Jackson, Chuta and Esteban Reyes all experimented with the rods and different line combinations. In certain areas there were overhanging branches and obstacles. A few tips were broken that morning learning how to deal with snags while on a rapidly moving float but by midmorning we had it all figured out. When possible just retract the rod sections quickly until you can grab the line, then, yank hard. If you can’t get to the line fast enough, yell “Line!” to alert the other angler or rower on board to grab it. I’m a pro at collapsing quickly but it’s not a natural response for most anglers. The method works well, but in a worst-case scenario if you can’t collapse, it’s easier to let go of the rod. While this seems
unorthodox, in most cases float boat rowers can usually maneuver the raft to the edge of the river and slowly work their way back to the spot. Tenkara rods float, so if the rod gets snagged in a tree, it isn’t going anywhere. Crazy, but the rod was always retrieved unbroken and ready for more fishing. I will admit to one rod retrieval that I don’t think in good conscience I could recommend, but it did demonstrate the dedication of my Costa Rican, Release Fly Travel guides had, and their desire to keep an incredible day of fishing, incredible. On one particularly occasion, just at the top of some rapids, Tom snagged his fly good. This was before the lesson in rapid
collapsing. The snag was in an overhanging tree branch and as we moved down stream, I urged him to let it go. The rod was simply suspended half in the water and half in the tree. Chuta, our rower and river guide quickly maneuvered the raft to the side of the river. Then by grabbing branches we worked our way upstream a little closer to the rod. Finally, Chuta jumped onto the bank, climbed the tree and slowly lowered himself down the branch to the snag releasing both Chuta and the rod into the water. WEARING his life jacket, he floated down to the raft and back to the bank, rod in hand, unbroken, fly intact. He is a Class 5 expert rafter and paddler. He accessed the situation and felt confident it was safe. I donâ€™t think I
would have done that, but I was grateful he did. (Do not try this method at home kids). By dayâ€™s end we had mastered the rapid collapse, eliminated all snagging and came to a unanimous preference for the Zen Suimenka and Zen Zako for their shorter lengths and overall 5wt/ 6wt FRAE Rating (Fly Rod Approximate Equivalency) that paired well with the machaca. We used 8-10ft of overweighted regular level fly line and approximately 6-8ft of 20lb and 30lb tippet. We wanted a heavier line to load the rod and turn the tip over solid, in order to produce a good solid slap with the popper. This was by no means a delicate presentation. But it was fun and different. The river's width
changed here and there from about 20ft â€“ 50ft across at its widest. Our rowers were experts at knowing where the machaca were and understood our fixed line limitation. They quickly homed in on the needed distance with precision, a skill essential on any tenkara float trip. While the wild cashew trees had not yet flowered, there seemed to be an anticipation of its delicacies beneath them and machaca hit the poppers ravenously, coming from seemingly nowhere.
Once the hook was set it was all a matter of holding onto to them while navigating the river and occasional obstacles. Since lines were kept short, getting them to the float raft was relatively easy and in most cases the line was grabbed by the angler and self-landed. While this sounds simple enough, there was plenty of excitement. Machaca are strong fish and use their muscle to pull and dive. I got into a near record fish right at the beginning of the float that set the precedent and kept my heart pounding for a good 30 minutes after landing it. They are thick and rather primitive looking with all those teeth. Teeth that can easily rip through tippet during a fight, allowing them to get away. This is something to avoid by always keeping the line taught and staying in control of the fishâ€™s head. Besides, leaving metal in fish mouths is never a good practice. The second day in this northern region we did another float, but on a different river that had a series of Class 3 rapids. Just enough to get a little wet
and add some extra fun and excitement to the float trip. We were targeting machaca again, but also hoping for guapote, otherwise known as rainbow bass. These beautiful fish are brilliant in color and fun to cast to since they hang out at the base of waterfalls flowing into the river. We rigged some rod setups with poppers for the machaca and others with buggers and streamers that were preferred by the guapote. There was also a possibility of snook. Crocodiles were less abundant since the river was much narrower here. Instead we traded them in for a different reptile, huge iguanas that scurried alongside the riverâ€™s steep edge and made rustling noises as they hid under bushes and brush, some as big as the smaller crocodiles. Vines hung down with random flowers that attracted birds of every color. Truly a magnificent day. At the end of the day, back in our bungalow, I decided to cool off in the large swimming pool set in the middle of a green yard. As I swam and floated around listening to monkeys talk, monkey-talk, I was compelled to check the water for movement or a stray crocodile that decided swimming pool water was more refreshing. Like the music from JAWS that replayed in my head for years after watching that movie as a kid, I was now on hyperalert for crocs - even though I know I was being silly. On day 3 we packed our rods and headed to higher, cooler grounds in the cloud forest of the Talamanca
mountain range. The roads were steep and winding, and the air was moist and cool. Driving along the two-lane Interamerican Highway we stopped at fresh fruit stands and got lunch. I dug out my pullover and puff jacket and slipped them on over my t-shirt. It felt cold. While 50 degrees is still mild, particularly if you live in Colorado, at a 10,000-12,000ft elevation, surrounded by clouds and moisture, the temperature felt quite chilly and I was relieved by the additional layers. As we climbed higher the vegetation and trees changed again becoming more green, lush and shrouded by thick green vines. Bromeliads and other epiphytes were everywhere, and the surroundings looked dewy and
moist. Cars moved along purposefully, and trucks strained to keep climbing. At the top, we turned off the main road and began heading down a short switchback into an even more lush area where we would eventually find our lodgings for the night and an excellent hot, home-cooked Costa Rican meal. We spent that evening sighting and watching birds, some rather rare, such as the resplendent quetzal, which some avid birders spend their lives trying to spot and get a glimpse of. We were lucky enough to not only see a quetzal, but we were indulged by having both a male and a female make a showing. That night as the temperature dropped, we each hunkered down in our own private tiny rustic cabin, high and deep in the
cloud forested mountains and quickly fell asleep. Awakened early by the morning songs of a plethora of birds, we hiked up the road back to the restaurant for a steamy breakfast, then collected our gear to explore the pristine river that lay ahead. Upon approaching it I paused and looked around, taking it all in. Beautiful tall trees (that would rarely cause a casting issue), a rough trail with easy access to the river’s edge, excellent water flow, boulders and rocks, plunge pools, bubble lines galore… this was tenkara nirvana. Just looking at it I could see this really was perfect tenkara water. I stepped closer and peered into the water. Fish, wild rainbow trout, alert, feeding, in
abundance. I landed 4 with the first 7 casts. Tom knew what he was talking about. The day continued like this for the entire fishing party - all of us. Four anglers throwing different dry and nymph patterns, all day long, landing fish. While these were not large trout, what they lacked in size, they made up in beauty- the most vivid, robust colors. On average they were 6”-12” long and with colors so vibrant and intense, I had to exercise self-control in order not to hang onto them longer than I should, just admiring their beauty, but release them quickly back to their home. We all fished the Zen Suzume as it was, hands down, the perfect rod for this water with its three
lengths (7.7’, 9.3’ and 10.8’). Paired with a 7ft Zen Floating Line and about 3 -4ft of 6x tippet, life and fishing was sweet. Tico trout, like most smaller trout are impressive fighters. They jump and dive and run with a fury, making the day spectacular in every way. In two days of exhilarating, fun fishing with a cloud forest as a backdrop, I was surprised we only passed a few birders from foreign countries looking for quetzals and other species I knew nothing about. Tom and Kevin on the other hand, could spot birds in tree tops and rattle off both their Latin and common name, while throwing in a few facts about each too. Half the time, even though he pointed and gave me precise location descriptions, I struggled to even notice them, let alone be able to identify them. They even identified birds by their songs. By the end of the trip I did get better at spotting birds, but couldn’t come close to noticing the minute, distinguishing details used for identifying the different species.
On the sixth day of our Costa Rican adventure, we drove back down to sea level from the mountains, ears popping, and found our way to the beach on the Pacific side. We settled into a lovely hotel and headed to the ocean to watch surfers and scrunch our toes in the hot sand. Kevin, who had been fishing with us all previous days and would eventually be heading up Release Fly Travel’s Tenkara Program, would be our saltwater, surfcasting guide tomorrow. We found
a nice beach front watering hole and discussed the next day’s plan over Flor de Cana 12-year rum and fresh ceviche. A different heaven, but again, heaven. And on the seventh day, the last day of fishing in Costa Rica, we did not rest. Instead, we slathered ourselves with sunscreen, pulled on our Simms Saltwater Sneakers and loaded the Zen Kyojin II and Zen Taka Rods, along with our Winston Boron III Plus 8wt (just in case), saltwater fly boxes, and our spools of 20lb, 30lb, 40lb and 50lb Hatch Tippet and got in the car. Kevin had a sweet place in mind where he had lots of success surfcasting and would be reasonably accessible with the low tide. We parked a short distance from the beach and started walking along the surf to an outcropping of large (and in some cases, sharp) rocks that jutted to a point further out into the sea. We cinched down our backpacks and started to climb the rocks, carefully, disturbing crabs and occasionally getting sprayed with saltwater. The wind was there but wasn’t blowing excessively. There was a higher cliff behind us so back casting, depending on where you were standing, could potentially be an issue and we were high, about 20ft off the water surface that rolled and changed when waves came crashing in. Considering the softer tip on the Zen Taka, I decided to rig up the Kyojin II instead. The clousers we’d be throwing were huge and when wet, would add substantial weight. On
Kevin’s recommendation, I planned on using a 12ft Skagit tip attached to a 10wt floating fly line. Getting down quickly was important, before a wave swept your line and fly in a different direction. The question was how long of a line. I had to calculate for the height we were casting from then add the distance I needed to get out to. In the end, I settled on a line approximately 25ft long. This length plus the Skagit head and about 7ft of 40lb tippet got me out there but was still manageable and short enough, that I could set the hook if the strike occurred in close.
I missed a few hook sets initially because those saltwater babies come up so fast from the depths, out of nowhere, sometimes you’re not even sure what happened. Other times they would follow fast, then stop suddenly and disappear, the infamous highspeed refusal. But all-in-all the set-up was working fine and by using a twohanded spey and roll cast technique, I was able to get my line exactly where it needed to go and was able to work the fly just fine. The most exciting part of this scenario was the vantage point. From up high on a cliff, you could watch your fly move through the water and although everything in saltwater seems to happen at hyper-speed, you could see the fish – big fish, suddenly appear and chase in frenzies, then either take or refuse the hook. That alone was a blast. The trickiest part was standing on those sharp uneven rocks in wading boots. It took me a while to get my footing,
feel at ease and be comfortable on my small ledge. I moved to a different location a few times but had to remember to stand back and wait for a wave to break first, in order to assess whether it was safe, or if I’d be knocked off my feet and swept into the water. We landed a few ladyfish, leatherjacks and jack crevalle, and then a big strike. I connected with what I initially thought was a permit but ended up being a big jack with a body the size of a turkey platter. It felt like I had hooked into a bullet train and I watched as the fish laid over on its side, at a 45-degree angle and flew through the water almost across the surface. I screamed… like a primordial, down-through-your-toes, straight from your gut, king-of-the-jungle, sort of scream. Actually, it was probably more of a bellow. At that moment, I think I channeled the Howler monkeys, and I held fast. Everything was fine. I took a millisecond to check my rod. The curve was on, deep and was a bend of perfection. The long handle provided me with the leverage I needed to steer and bring him around, this baby was getting landed. I surveyed the ground to get into my landing position, another millisecond and I found my path. Then, as suddenly and ferociously as it hit, the jack was gone. Off. A second primordial bellow came out, but this time from the heart. The jack threw the hook and I was left there, on the cliff, heart pounding, adrenaline surging with a loose line being tossed around by the waves. Double hook set, double hook set, double hook set! That
was a hard lesson learned well. I am still mourning that fish. It was beautiful. Those moments, that direct connection with the tenkara rod, the power and might, will play over, and over, and over again in my head and each time I’ll relive it and mourn once more.
The tide was rising and our way off the rocks was quickly disappearing. We broke down rods and started heading back to shore. I looked around one last time. We headed back to San José in the morning. What a country. What variety. I’m already missing Costa Rica. Release Fly Travel had shown me a spectacular week. We covered different regions and they each offered up a smorgasbord of incredible fisheries – different environments, different species and different experiences. All this
excitement and there were still tarpon and sailfish available to me. For the angler and fly fisherman, this country offers something uniquely special. For the tenkara angler it is pure heaven on earth. For outdoor enthusiasts that want to taste everything, this is surely the place and Release Fly Travel is surely your outfitter. Costa Rica and Tom, thank you. I will forever hold this place dear – crocodiles, monkeys, iguanas, machaca, snook, guapote, Tico trout and that jack. All have touched my soul and opened up a new world of fishing for me. That is Costa Rica and thank you to Release Fly Travel, for an unbelievably fantastic experience and for their enthusiasm and passion for their county, for fishing and for tenkara.
Paradise Meadows by Rory E. Glennie
Cutthroat Trout Pool
Paradise Meadows... the name alone conjures up images of what an intriguing place this may be. For the inveterate hiker and tenkara angler this place could truly be a little bit of paradise. The "meadows" are located in the southwest alpine region on the flanks of Mount Washington on Vancouver Island, British Columbia. Being that Mount Washington rises only to a height of 5,210 feet above sea-level and grows trees all the way to the top, in this case, the term alpine does not refer to land above the tree line. This is a zone with patches of conifers and native wildflowers, wildgrowing sweet blueberries, marshmallow-soft boggy places, plus a few small lakes and ponds with interconnecting streams and rivulets.
Located at the top of the mountain is a ski resort, with Paradise Meadows bordering the downhill boundary of the resort property. That makes for convenient access to this wonderful backcountry region as the meadows themselves lay within the boundaries of Strathcona Provincial Park. The park was established in 1911 and is the largest such park on Vancouver Island. One can drive up to the resort, then hike the trails into the meadows from the parking area near the Nordic Lodge. As an aside, during the winter months Paradise Meadows becomes a well used recreational area for crosscountry skiers when most still-waters are frozen over and ten feet of powder
Paradise Meadows on Google Earth
Cutthroat Trout Whiskey Jack sharing trail mix
snow blankets the terrain. Take a virtual tour of the area utilizing Google Earth™ by flying to these GPS coordinates; 49º 44’20”N by 125º 19’06”W. After the snowmelt, usually sometime in June, the waters once again become available to tenkara devotees. As with most high elevation fisheries, the feeding/growing season is relatively short, So, trout here are very active, opportunistic feeders. If the fly presented looks remotely like a bit of food, it will likely get smashed. Key areas to concentrate fishing effort on are the streams and the inlets and outlets of the ponds and lakes; these zones offer a moving delivery system for food to hungry fish. Being a rocky substrate, the footing is mostly quite stable for wading out into the lake. As an example; the stream joining Divers Lake with Rossiter Lake offers a near day-long tenkara experience. Either starting at Divers outlet and fishing downstream to Rossiter or going the other way around, upstream,
the choice is yours. Fishing downstream makes sense if you are trekking out to get back to the vehicle. Going upstream is a good way to access more remote waters and overnight camping spots. As such, this area is a great place for day-trippers or overnighters. Whether staying over or coming back for a future tenkara trip, there are plenty of other streams and ponds to search out. As might be expected in the backcountry, jet-black ravens can be heard calling out and seen spying on you from the tree tops. Bushy-tailed little ground squirrels will be scouring the treed environs for ripe seed cones and succulent mushrooms to stash away for next winter while scolding you for being in their territory. And, one will likely have a constant companion with a gregarious "whiskey jack" or two flitting about and quite willing to indulge themselves in a handful of your trail mix. With all this nature being played out, one might well rename this place "Tenkaradise Meadows."
An Introduction to Ultralight Backpacking for Tenkara Anglers by Tristan Higbee
Ultralight backpacking can broadly be defined as multi-day camping and hiking with a backpack full of gear (your “base weight”) of 10 lbs. (4.5 kg) or less. Base weight doesn’t include food, water, or other consumables just “gear.” Your shelter, backpack, sleeping bag, sleeping pad, clothing, and various miscellaneous items constitute your base weight. Yes, it’s absolutely possible for all of that to weigh 10 lbs. or less. And yes, it feels amazing to hike with such little weight on your back.
Tenkara is the perfect complement to ultralight backpacking. They go together like fish and slime. The two pursuits share a common ethos: pare away the non-essential and focus on enjoying the outdoors unencumbered. It’s actually through ultralight backpacking that I first discovered tenkara. I can’t perfectly remember the first reference to tenkara I came across, but I’m fairly confident that it came on the Backpacking Light forums that have been a staple of the ultralight backpacking community for
years. I know I’m far from the only tenkara convert to have followed this path. Apart from the rather subjective goal of “enjoying the outdoors unencumbered,” ultralight backpacking simply makes for more enjoyable hiking. It’s undeniably easier to hike with 10 pounds of gear on your back than 40 (18 kg). You can cover more miles in a day (if you so choose), cover your mileage goal more quickly (leaving more time for fishing or relaxing), or simply enjoy the feeling of walking through the natural world with a lessened level of suffering. If you’ve found that traditional backpacking is too difficult on your feet or joints, ultralight backpacking could be your ticket to opening up the gates of the backcountry (or the woods behind your house) for the first time. The goal of this article isn’t necessarily to fully convert you to the cult of ultralight. This rabbit hole is long and deep. Several books and innumerable forum threads cover this pursuit and every iota of gear from every conceivable angle. All of that is beyond the scope of this primer. Instead, my goal is to give you some practical, actionable ways that you can shed weight from your camping setup while also giving you a peek at what else you can do once you’re beyond the basics. The Ground Rules I’m going to assume that a significant
chunk of the people reading this are familiar with camping on some level and even have some camping gear already. So instead of first assembling your mountain of existing camping gear and then deciding what to leave out when you’re packing for a trip, start with nothing and then mindfully choose a single item at a time. Ask “Do I absolutely need this?” and “Will I definitely use this?” for every item. Only take items that elicit a “yes” response to both questions. (Make an exception for a small first aid kit. Hopefully you won’t “definitely” need it, but it’s still something you should have with you just in case.) You’ll realize that a hatchet, saw, lantern, and even a stove and cooking gear are all things that you don’t absolutely need. You only absolutely need shelter, a sleep system to make sure you don’t freeze at night, clothing, food, water, and a backpack to carry it all. Literally everything else is ancillary and unnecessary. If you take away only one thing from this article, let it be that. While there are plenty of other items that might be nice to have, I can attest to the fact that the ultimate luxury is to not be bent double by the excessive weight of a heavy backpack. That isn’t to say that you can’t add some comfort items or desired accessories (like tenkara gear) later on - you’re the one who will be hoofing out the miles, after all, and you have final say on what stays and goes - but it’s best to consciously and deliberately add them instead of mindlessly add them out of habit or
conventional wisdom. Put another way, taking fewer and lighter-weight camping items means you can throw additional items in if you so choose and not be overwhelmed by the literal weight of it all. If you are brand new to the world of backpacking and don’t already have a closet full of camping gear, that’s great! You won’t have to deal with the hassle of selling your old gear. Having an ultralight mentality from the start will be kinder on both your back and wallet in the long run. Consider purchasing a small postage or kitchen scale if you don’t already have one. These are available online for less than $20. While a bathroom scale is helpful when weighing your fully-packed backpack, knowing the weight of the individual items that make up your gear list will give you a greater awareness of just how much each item will cost you in terms of weight and, by extension, on-trail comfort. Weigh every single item you plan on taking. If you can’t leave it behind, can you remove part of it? All of the tiny little weight savings here and there add up. Shelter So now let’s take a look at those items that are absolutely essential, focusing on the “big three:” shelter, sleep system, and backpack. These are the items that make up the majority of your base weight. By focusing on reducing the weight of these items, you will dramatically lower the weight
of your full backpack. Let’s start with shelter. The most common type of camp shelter is the tent. Traditional camping tents have a tent body made from mesh with other lightweight materials and a waterproof rain fly that attaches over the outside of the tent body. These standard tents often tip the scales at 5 lbs. (2.3 kg) and just go up from there. As a result, few ultralight backpackers use this kind of tent. Instead, many opt for a single-walled tent. In place of the two “walls” of a traditional tent (mesh inner tent plus waterproof rain fly), a single-walled tent has just a single layer of waterproof, non-breathable material like silicone-coated nylon or Dyneema Composite Fabric (DCF; formerly called Cuben Fiber). A single-person, single-walled tent made out of silnylon will weigh in at around 2 lbs. (.9 kg), and one made from the much more expensive DCF will weigh around a pound (.45 kg). Trekking poles (which many backpackers already have with them) are often used to prop up the tent in lieu of dedicated tent poles. If you already have a traditional double-walled tent and aren’t interested in spending money on a new tent, consider leaving parts of it behind. Do you really need to put a footprint underneath the tent to help protect the floor? Probably not. Do you really need the rain fly? If the forecast is clear, no. Can you leave the tent itself behind and just use the fly, poles, and footprint to set up a shelter? Some
A bug bivy, ground sheet, and small tarp provide an ultralight shelter system AAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAA AAAAAAA
tents have this capability. Tents are not the only option for shelter. Many ultralight backpackers use a tarp. When strung between trees or propped up with trekking poles, a tarp can be an effective, lightweight, and comparably inexpensive method of protecting yourself from wind, rain, and other inclement weather. When pitched correctly and in the appropriate spot, it’s possible to stay as dry as you’d be in a tent. Many will pair a tarp with a bivy sack of some kind. These are essentially cocoons of fabric that fit more tightly around you and your sleeping bag. Some are partially or completely waterproof (useful for keeping your sleeping bag completely dry from water that could
make its way under the tarp or splatter its way under the edges of the tarp), while others are made completely out of mesh netting (for keeping mosquitoes and other critters at bay). Indeed, depending on conditions, it is possible and very effective to use a bivy sack without a tarp. This is my favorite way to camp. I have a “bug bivy” that I made entirely out of mesh. It weighs just over 5 oz. (140 g). When used with an ultra-thin and ultralight plastic ground sheet, I have a complete fair-weather shelter system that weighs less than 7 oz. (200 g). Now that is ultralight. Hammocking is another possible way to lighten your shelter load. When the
"Cowboy camping" at an alpine lake in the Sierra Nevada
weather is warm and clear, a lightweight camping hammock is a comfortable, light, and relatively inexpensive shelter. When you add in a tarp for rainy conditions and necessary hammock-specific insulation for cooler conditions, the weight savings can be negligible compared to other forms of shelter, but that doesn’t mean it’s not an excellent shelter if you prefer it. I personally have little experience with hammock camping. I often camp in the desert or above treeline, neither of which is conducive to stringing up a hammock. But those who are into hammock camping are really into it. Hammock campers are a very passionate community that exists strongly on its own both within and beyond the
ultralight backpacking world. Of course, the very lightest shelter is no shelter at all. Some hardcore backpackers practice “cowboy camping” in fair weather. It’s simply sleeping under the stars in your sleeping bag or quilt with nothing but a sleeping pad and ground sheet under you and the great expanse of the sky above you. If rain and mosquitoes aren’t a concern, it’s a magical and liberating way to camp. Sleep System The phrase “sleep system” refers to sleeping bag or quilt (more on quilts in a moment), sleeping pad/mattress, and, if necessary, ground sheet of
some sort. Many sleeping bags made for traditional camping tip the scales at 3 to 4 lbs. (1.4 to 1.8 kg). An ultralight sleeping bag or quilt, using lighter materials for both the insulation and shell fabric, will weigh around a pound (.45 kg). Are you starting to see now how shaving off a couple of pounds here and there add up to significant weight savings? Is that 10-lb. mark seeming slightly more attainable and desirable now? Sleeping bags and quilts can have two different types of insulation: down and synthetic. Both can be excellent for the ultralight backpacker depending on what traits you value. Down is lighter and more compressible. It is also more expensive and loses much of its ability to insulate if wet. Synthetic insulation is slightly heavier and not as compressible, but it is cheaper and will continue to keep you warm if it gets wet. Backpacking quilts are basically trimmed sleeping bags. They lack the hood that sleeping bags have (the notion being that you instead will use the warm hat you likely already have with you). They also lack insulation on the bottom side of the quilt. Instead, the edges of the quilt wrap around your sleeping pad, and it’s the sleeping pad itself that provides insulation and warmth. The idea behind quilts is the realization that your body is just compacting the insulation underneath you in a sleeping bag anyway (rendering it far less effective because insulation needs pockets of air to be effective). If
that insulation is less effective, why even include it? Many quilts include straps that keep the quilt in place around the sleeping pad. As their name suggests, some (but not all) quilts can unzip/unclip/unbutton completely to form a warm, flat, quiltstyle covering. Not every ultralight sleeping bag or quilt is wholly a sleeping bag or wholly a quilt. There is a spectrum. Some sleeping bags geared toward ultralight enthusiasts have 360-degree insulation like a traditional sleeping bag but lack a hood. Some quilts can actually join together to give you a more or less fully insulated tube to sleep in, not unlike a sleeping bag. The sleeping bag versus quilt debate is one largely of personal preference. Broadly speaking, quilts are lighter than sleeping bags, but sleeping bags have more features. One might also fit your sleeping style better than the other. Regardless of the type of insulation you choose and whether you go with a sleeping bag or quilt, temperature rating is something you’ll have to consider. I’ve found that a 20-degree (−7-degree Celsius) rating is sufficient for most of the 3-season camping I do. If temperatures will be lower, I’ll sleep in long underwear. If they’ll be higher, I’ll leave the sleeping bag’s zipper unzipped and cover only my torso. Unfortunately, there’s not much you can do to your existing sleeping bag to make it lighter if you don’t want to shell out the considerable amount of
money for a new one. A quality sleeping bag or quilt is an expensive piece of gear, but a good one will last years and years and is worth the investment. The other major piece of the sleep system puzzle is the sleeping pad. These range from ultra-thin slices of foam no wider than a skinny teenager’s shoulders to thick, luxurious mattresses that would have indulged the most persnickety of ancient emperors. Comfort comes at a cost, however, in terms of both weight and expense. Thin foam mattresses are lightweight and inexpensive but not terribly comfortable. Thick inflatable mattresses with additional insulation inside are comfy and warm but heavy and expensive. Some air mattresses are thick enough to be comfortable and light enough to tempt even the ultralight zealot, but they’ll set you back a couple hundred dollars. As with most backpacking items, you can have a low price, a quality piece of gear, and a low weight, but you can’t have all three. A standard foam sleeping pad designed for camping is a relatively cheap (sub-$30) piece of gear that will be much lighter than any self-inflating sleeping pad and most non-selfinflating air mattresses, if much bulkier. It is a good way to lighten your load without breaking the bank. The final part of the sleep system is the ground sheet or cloth. This is not usually necessary if you use a tent (ground sheets made to fit specific
tents are called footprints) but is if you sleep with a tarp and can be nice to have or essential if you use a bivy sack. It’s basically a thin sheet of fabric or plastic that goes under your sleeping pad to protect it (and you) from damp ground and sharp objects. A common one of these used by ultralight backpackers is a very thin sheet of plastic cut to size. Googling “ultralight plastic ground cloth” will yield a handful of helpful results. A two-pack of these will run you the low, low price of around $10. They weigh less than 2 oz. (60 g) each. Tyvek, the material traditionally used to provide a vapor barrier on the outside of plywood walls of houses under construction, is another popular and inexpensive ground sheet material. It’s not as light as the thinner plastic material but is more durable. If you are dead set on wanting a footprint of some kind under your tent to protect the tent’s fabric floor (unnecessary in most conditions if you choose a site without sharp rocks or twigs), a thin plastic or Tyvek version will be cheaper and lighter than the pre-made fabric ones. Backpack The final of the “big three” is the backpack itself. Gone are the days when a 6-lb. (2.7-kg) backpack was the norm. Newer materials and a focus on only the essential features mean that a backpack sufficient for multiday hiking today can weigh between 8 oz. and 2 lbs. (.2 kg and .9 kg). Those
on the lighter end of the spectrum will essentially just be basic tubes of material with shoulder straps and a couple of buckles. The heavier ones will include a frame, a larger capacity, more pockets, more straps, and additional features. The lighter and more basic the rest of your gear is, the lighter and more basic your backpack can be. For this reason, it’s best to buy a new backpack last, after you’ve already bought everything else. If your shelter and sleep system are relatively
heavy, you’ll need a relatively heavy backpack with more padding and a more substantial frame to make carrying that load less of a chore. Food and water also weigh a lot, so if you’re going to be out hiking for days at a time, a more substantial backpack capable of carrying the heavier food load will be worth its weight. Clothing You need far less clothing than you
Going ultralight on your core camping gear makes it easier to justify taking along tenkara gear... or a small solar panel for charging electronics.
think. On my 13-day hike of California’s 211-mile-long (340kilometer-long) John Muir Trail, I wore the same clothes every single day. They were my only set. In addition to the pants, t-shirt, underwear, and socks I wore, I had just two extra pairs of socks. Yes, I wore the same underwear for 13 days. Yes, I smelled bad. But you know what? Everyone else out there did too. And taking a dip into an alpine lake every couple of days kept me from getting too crusty and took the edge off of the body funk. Of course, you’ll want to make sure your clothing selection can handle various weather conditions. On my John Muir Trail hike, I also took a longsleeved shirt, a down vest, and a waterproof shell jacket. I used my spare socks as gloves when needed and wore a thin beanie when sleeping. Simple and lightweight. What more do you need? Well, you don’t need anything else, but it sure is nice to have clean, dry shorts and a t-shirt to change into at the end of a long day. These are luxury items that I often take. But that’s really the essence of ultralight backpacking. You get rid of everything you don’t absolutely need and then willingly add a few things back in if you choose to do so. Let’s touch briefly on hiking footwear. Unless you have weak ankles, you don’t need boots. I and most other ultralight backpackers and longdistance hikers wear trail-running shoes. These are basically lightweight running shoes with more aggressive tread on the sole. They come in
waterproof (e.g., Gore-Tex) and nonwaterproof versions. I prefer and currently wear non-waterproof ones. This is because when my shoes do get wet, they mostly dry out within an hour or so just from my continued hiking, and I like that any water that gets in my shoes can drain out easily. When I used to wear waterproof hiking shoes, I found that when water got in through the top of the shoe, it would to stay there. It didn’t drain out nearly as fast as a non-waterproof shoe. But this is a personal preference, and your hiking conditions or preference may be different. Food What if I told you that you don’t actually need to cook on a backpacking trip? I’ve hiked thousands of miles all around the western US and can count the number of times I’ve lugged a stove along on one hand. Again, this is largely a matter of personal preference. I don’t care what I eat when I’m hiking. I just need fuel in me so I can continue hiking (or fishing, etc.). I’m more than happy to choke down nuts, seeds, bagels, peanut butter sandwiches, tortillas, protein bars, chips, crackers, cookies, olives, candy, chocolate, dried fruit, jerky, hard cheeses, and summer sausages. One step up from this is to rehydrate dehydrated beans, soups, and other dinners using cold or airtemperature water in an emptied and cleaned peanut butter jar or similar container. This gives some semblance
of eating like a civilized human while negating the need for a stove, fuel, and cookware. But I challenge you to camp without a stove. I find it to be freeing. Your mileage may vary. If you simply can’t go without your hot evening meal or morning coffee, the lightest option is to go with a DIY stove that runs on denatured alcohol. There are countless tutorials online about how to make these stoves out of cat food cans or soda cans. These stoves are lightweight, fuel efficient, and inexpensive. Pair them with an ultralight windscreen and small titanium pot and you’ve got an ultralight cooking kit. With food comes the need for water. When I used to go camping with my family as a kid, I remember my dad having a large, pump-action water filter. Those are still around and still useful for certain situations, but they’re also still heavy and bulky. You don’t need ‘em. Instead, go with either the new breed of ultralight water filter that screws onto the end of your water bottle (1-liter “disposable” plastic water bottles are cheap and the lightest option for carrying water) or use chemical water treatment. I prefer using chemical water treatment tablets or drops over any other method because they are the lightest and fastest way to get water. When I come to a stream, I fill up my bottles, drop the chemicals in, and continue hiking. The water is purified and safe to drink within 30 minutes. No need to constantly pump or squeeze to get water, and that leaves more time for
hiking, eating, resting, or, indeed, fishing. Some chemical treatments leave the water with more of a “chemically” taste than others. In my experience, the liquid drops are preferable in this regard. Everything Else You’ll need a headlamp, small first aid kit, basic toiletries, and the like. Just try to make everything else as small and light as possible. Replace the big headlamp that requires 4 AA batteries with one that requires just one. Pare down that first aid kit to items you are most likely to use and, more importantly, know how to use. Bring that mostly-empty travel-sized tube of toothpaste instead of a brand new larger one. Cut the handle off of your toothbrush. Be ruthless about cutting things down to size and leaving items behind. Weigh everything. MYOG: Make Your Own Gear If you are money-poor but time-rich and are able to watch a few YouTube videos about how to sew, consider making your own ultralight backpacking gear. I’ve made my own backpacks, sleeping bags, tarps, bivy sacks, gloves, shorts, and various other small items. If you start with something small and easy (e.g., a stuff sack) before moving onto the more complicated projects (e.g., a backpack), it’s not too bad. There are plenty of instructional articles, YouTube videos, and online forums out there dedicated to making your own ultralight backpacking gear. You can
A variety of no-cook food options
Typical gear for an overnight ultralight backpacking trip with a tarp and bivy sack
Filtering tannincolored water along the Lone Star Hiking Trail, the longest trail in Texas
even buy kits of materials that come with instructions. It’s certainly not for everyone or even most people, but I’d be remiss if I didn’t at least mention this option. Final Thoughts I have no vested interest in what you carry on your back when you go out into the woods. It doesn’t affect me at all. Use what is best for you. You’ll have a memorable time regardless of what gear you have. But I found that I enjoyed my backpacking adventures so much more - and was able to do more of them - when I went ultralight. That’s why I’m passionate about spreading the ultralight gospel. It has made a big difference in my enjoyment of the outdoors, and it can do the same for you. Ultralight backpacking is a more accessible form of backpacking. You don’t need to be a Navy Seal to heft an ultralight backpacking kit. Kids and out-of-shape adults can do it. I believe that everyone who enjoys hiking and camping can benefit from some ultralight backpacking fundamentals, even if they don’t fully commit to the dogma. One of the best things about ultralight backpacking is how it opens up the door to other multi-day outdoor pursuits. Once you’ve gotten your gear down to a small, lightweight bundle, you can use that same bundle for packrafting, kayak camping, bikepacking, bicycle touring, motorcycle touring, and even car
camping. Just grab your gear and head out the door. So where do you go from here? You’ll notice that I have refrained from recommending specific brands. If you have a passing familiarity with the world of camping gear, you’re likely familiar with big brands like Kelty, Marmot, Osprey, Patagonia, and REI. For each of these bigger brands, most of which make good gear that can fit the ultralighter’s purposes, there is a smaller, independent company that makes up the ultralight backpacking cottage industry. A handful of these companies to set you on your Googling way are ZPacks, Tarptent, Mountain Laurel Designs, Hyperlite Mountain Gear, Gossamer Gear, and Enlightened Equipment. Be prepared for sticker shock. Some of this stuff, especially the items made from the lightest and most space-age materials, is wickedly expensive. You don’t have to do everything I’ve talked about here all at once. If you already have camping gear, try to take as little of it as possible out on an easy overnight backpacking trip. When you come home, make note of what things you did and didn’t use. What can you leave behind next time? Make a game out of getting away with as little as possible. Don’t be stupid and leave behind life-supporting items, but deprive yourself of one or two little things you thought were essential. You’ll be surprised to find out just how little actually is. If you’re of the nerdy persuasion,
create a spreadsheet with all of your gear and each item’s weight. Make another with ultralight gear you’re considering buying or making and see just how much weight you can save by replacing one, two, or all of your current camping items. Once you’ve gotten your camping gear down to the ultralight essentials, you can start adding back in some items that will add more meaning to your adventures. For many ultralighters, that takes the form of photography equipment, a cushy pillow, or a camp chair. For all of us reading this magazine, it will include tenkara gear. A rod, a couple of
lines, a spool of tippet, a small fly box, nippers, hemostats, and a quart-sized Ziploc bag to carry everything all weigh in at roughly 6 or 7 oz. (170 or 200 g). Tenkara is to western fly fishing what ultralight backpacking is to traditional backpacking, and the two are an ideal pairing. Remember, the lighter your pack is, the easier it will be to get to that distant thin blue line that you won’t have to share with a soul. If that’s not sufficient motivation for the tenkara angler to go ultralight, I don’t know what is. A meadow stream in the Yosemite National Park high country
2019 Appalachian Tenkara Anglers Winter Fly Swap Jim Carey Owner #3 Hook, Teal Yarn, Emu Feather
Kevin P. Etherson "MADAM X" #12 2XL Hook, Yellow 140D UTC Thread, Deer Hair, Yellow Craft Foam, Yellow/Gold Crazy Legs
Michael Schram "Killer Squirrel" TMC 2457 #12 Hook, Black Tungsten 2.88mm Bead, Pink 6/0 Thread, Shetland Spindrift Oyster Yarn, Copper Wire, Hot Pink UV Ice Dub
Dayne Trout "MOC Peridon Nymph" #12 Hook, Tungsten Bead, Fine Copper Wire, Hot Pink Thread Underbody, E130 Metallic DMC Floss, Hot Pink Fur Tail/Spine, Mono Thread, Mylar Hot Spot, UV Resin
Tristan Mills "Hunting Creek Special" Tenkara Fly Shop #12 Hook, Yellow Thread, Yellow Stiff Hackle, Peacock Herl
Will Groves "Black Magic Soft Hackle" Daiichi 1530 #12 Hook
Luis Alberto Gomez "Sangre de Toro" Red Silk Thread, Brown Coq de Leon Feather
Jason Sparks #6 Yellowstone Hook, Dusk/Mist Spindrift Yarn, Natural Hen Hackle
Dan Pierce TMC 113BLH #10 Hook, Wild Maine Turkey Feather, Uni 6/0 Thread, Black Shetland Spindrift Yarn
Paul Vertrees "Killer Kebari" Daiichi 1190 #14 Hook, 6/0 Uni Thread, Shetland Spindrift Yarn, Uni SM Copper Wire, Hen Pheasant Hackle
Michael Agneta "Whiz Wit" Firehole 320 #12 Hook, Yellow 8/0 Ultra Thread, Whiting #12 White Hackle, Peacock Herl
Jason Sparks #6 Yellowstone Hook, Red/Eesit Spindrift Yarn, Black & White Hen Hackle
Zen Tenkara Crosscurrent Chest Pack by Chris Hendriks
I am always very interested to see what kind of gear other fishermen and guides have with them and how they organize it. Everything during fishing is about a certain comfort and ease, the more comfort and ease you have, the more you can focus on your fishing. That is why I write these articles, to provide additional information and help others find their own preferred equipment. And hopefully I get some information back in return.
Just to be clear, I bought these products with my own money, received no discount and I have absolutely no affiliation with the named brands whatsoever. This article is about my Crosscurrent Chest Pack from Zen Tenkara. Six months before the 2017 Tenkara Summit I was looking for a new chest pack. One that was bigger than the one I had but was functional, with inside pockets to easily organize stuff.
My previous one was the Simms Headwaters chest pack. I really loved this pack for personal use, but for guiding it lacked space and organization of all my stuff. I looked at military chest packs, fishing and hunting chest packs, but nothing really fit the bill. The military and hunting chest packs were more built for the quick-draw of a pistol or a firearm of some sort. I knew that Zen Tenkara had one, but as most of the packs of that size it was quite expensive. Not for what you get or in comparison to other chest packs, absolutely not. But still, $130 is a lot of money, for me anyhow. But I made the jump and bought it anyway and got it while I was visiting the United States.
Why did I buy it and not one from Patagonia or Simms? I thought it had better dividing compartments and features then those from Patagonia or Simms. Besides that, it was developed by fishermen and guides, and one of their guides, Paul Vertrees who helped develop it has a long experience in both military, hunting, camping, and fishing. The YouTube video they provided looked good as well, which in the end won me over. Now me reiterate; I was looking for a chest pack that I could use for guiding, not for personal use. So, storage for a lot of fly boxes, tippet, line-spools, camera, level-lines, a mobile phone, and extra things like drying powder etc… had to be available.
easy. I can always reach my fishing gear and carry a backpack at the same time. This is not the case with a fishing vest. I can carry the rest of my gear needed for guided trips in my backpack. So, the chest pack from Zen Tenkara is called the “Crosscurrent Chest Pack, Gen 2.” I had this chest pack for a full season and tested really everything with it. Extra pockets, a different carry system, different attachment points, you name it. First, I will show you guys what I carry with me and how, afterwards I will explain in more depth why I chose the Crosscurrent Chest Pack Gen 2 over other chest packs. There are several pockets in this pack; two main pockets and on the back of the chest pack you have a second flat pocket for other items which you can close with Velcro. This is also where you’ll find the pocket warmer.
Simms Headwaters Pack
The reason I chose a chest pack is
This is my gear that I carry in the back pocket:
Ready to go line spools with different lengths, colours and sizes, back-up lines for tenkara and nymphing, and 4 small thin boxes filled with nymphs. Each box has its own weighted flies in it: 2.5mm tungsten, 3mm tungsten, 3.5mm tungsten and 4mm tungsten. In addition, I carry some other items
such as a phone, camera, normal strike detectors, and grease sight detectors that you can put on your line without completely re-rigging. Completely filled, but organized and ready for anything. The only thing that I would change in my pack set-up is getting a couple of extra-thin line spools and putting back-up line on them to save some room instead of carrying the full line spools.
Now my front pocket is the more practical pocket. Everything needs to be easy to find and after using, easy to put away. I use two fly boxes; a thin one for the dry flies and a thin one for wet flies. The wet fly box is actually thinner then the dry fly box, so I do not crush the hackles of the dry flies. They fit perfectly in there and are easy to take out and to put back in.
Both boxes are from the brand Fulling Mill which are easier to get here in
Europe and a bit cheaper than the American brands that I have seen. The other items are all adjusted with some Velcro. This keeps them in place and easy for the taking. From left to right; Otter Butter, coloured grease for the wings on the dry flies, drying powder, floating gel, a small scale, super glue, and a measuring tape. Everything is organized, ready for the taking, and very easy to put back after use.
Then, on the outside I have on the Dring of the harness my tippetorganizer, a tool for storing excess tippet material, pliers, and my fish counter. I know, I know, it sounds arrogant to have a fish counter, but when fishing I move a lot and I like to keep track of how many fish I catch. In the first spot you catch five, in the second spot, four. In the third place, five and on the fourth fishing spot, another six or was it 5? After a while this gets annoying. So, I use a counter to keep track. I got this tip from a fellow fisherman.
I know what you might think, "wow, that much stuff in a pack?â€? Yes, but you will be surprised what can happen on a guided trip and it always happens that you leave an item at home that a guest needs the most. I am not taking any chances. With this chest pack, I have everything I need and well organized! Here are some of my observations after using this chest pack for a full season and trying really everything with it. There are several things that make the Crosscurrent Chest Pack stand out from the other chest packs and that is also the reason why I bought it: 1) Underneath the Crosscurrent Chest Pack, are two straps which allow you to store a water bottle, or a spare jacket or even a military poncho which you can use to make a temporary shelter during heavy rains. I tried to carry a spare rod in a rod tube, but it is just in the way, mainly because of your elbow movements when fishing, landing fish, or climbing over boulders. 2) There is webbing on the front panel for extra pockets, if needed. But I must warn you. I tried this with both small and big mole attachable pockets. The small ones are wobbly, and the big ones tend to turn your chest pack into a huge pack that you carry on your torso instead of on your back. It works but you tend to carry more things with you than necessary. A small backpack in combination with this chest pack is
really the way to go. But it is perfect for attaching tippet-holders, pliers, etcâ€Ś AAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAA AAAAAAA
3) There are internal pockets and a Velcro panel on the inside of the front pocket. If you combine the ultra-thin fly boxes made for dry flies and nymphs with these pockets then you can have really a lot of flies with you. And I mean a lot of flies!! The Velcro panel on the inside of the front pocket is pure genius. All those small items that always tend to end up in the bottom of your pack without any organization is quite annoying! Now with some do-it-yourself work, they get a proper home!
I glued some hard Velcro patches on my drying powder, floating gel, measuring tape, weight scale etcâ€Ś and then I can stick all this to the soft Velcro inside the pack. Organized, ready for the taking. 4) On the back behind the handwarmer, there is another pocket where you can slip other items into. Although this pocket is closed with Velcro, I like the security of putting my knife and my selfie-stick in there, in a bag or on a paracord, and then into this pocket. What is it that I do not like? Well, not much, basically 3 things: 1) It is not waterproof. But on the other hand, a lot of other chest packs including Simms are not waterproof. What does happen during heavy rains is that it gets moist inside. This is not a
problem for me because the water is not seeping through and when home you get your stuff out, open the fly boxes and dry your pack for the next day. Just make sure that your phone and camera are waterproof. 2) It takes some time getting used to the way you get in and out of this chest pack. I tried different options but since the Crosscurrent Chest Pack is so big and can carry so much it is best to carry it over your shoulders as-is. If you try to carry it on your neck it gets a little heavy. You basically put the chest pack on as you would a sweater, first the arms and then the head. But when you have a wading jacket with a hood on it is a little cumbersome. So, I just made one small adjustment to it,
which for me, makes it easier to get in and out of. On the right-hand side, I attached a buckle to it. Just this small adjustment makes all the difference in the world when putting the chest pack on or taking it off. 3) While not necessary, I would personally like to see two rows of webbing on the front. This allows for a small mole attachable pocket to hang sturdier. The one row of webbing is not giving enough support for that. This for car-keys, phone, or camera. All in all, there is enough room to place these things inside the Zen Crosscurrent Chest Pack, but you lose some organizing in your pack. But again, this is a very personal thing.
Now if I look at these three points, they are not major disadvantages. And making the chest pack waterproof would probably mean that it will go up in cost as well. For $130 you get, in my opinion, the best chest pack for guiding. It is exactly what I was looking for and more. My conclusion of this pack is that I absolutely love it! I hope this article helped you in your search in how to organize things and what kind of chest pack you should be looking for. I for one can strongly recommend this Crosscurrent Chest Pack Gen 2 from Zen Tenkara.
Photo: Adam Klagsbrun
A Treatise on Static Testing and the Classification of Tenkara, Keiryu, and Remember, the numbers do not Seiryu Rods represent the actual number of by Tom Davis, Teton Tenkara
Ever since tenkara was widely introduced to the US fly fishing community by Daniel Galhardo, founder of Tenkara USA, there have been questions regarding the action or feel of tenkara rods. Questions began arising, such as, “how fast is that rod”, or “how slow is that rod”, or “does the rod have backbone”, or “will the rod protect my tippet”, etc. Since tenkara was essentially an unknown entity, breaking into a fly fishing tradition of relatively short, stiff western rods, it became apparent that some sort of classification was needed in which to better give the user an estimate of a rod’s overall action or feel. To aid users in selecting a rod to fit their needs Galhardo instituted the Rod Action Index. This index follows the tradition of some Japanese rod makers where the rod is arbitrarily divided into ten sections and a ratio of sections above and below the flex point is numerically represented. In this ratio, the stiffer sections nearer the butt of the rod are to the left of the colon, while the flexible sections nearer the tip are to the right. For instance, a mid flex rod would have an Action Index of 5:5, meaning the flex point is halfway up the rod. A tip flex rod would be classified as a 7:3, meaning that the flex point is more near the top of the rod.
sections in the ratio. They add up to ten, an arbitrary number chosen to keep the system simple.
Courtesy of Tenkara USA. Used by permission. It soon became apparent that although this basic action index may be adequate for some, it was not too helpful for a majority of individuals who wanted to begin exploring this newly introduced form of mountain stream fly fishing. Rather than embracing the simplicity of eastern thought, that is having fewer choices and working with and mastering what you have, many western fly fishers wanted more — more rod choices and
more information regarding those rods. Western fly fishers come from a hyper-marketing paradigm where choice is king. Unfortunately, along with a myriad of choices comes confusion and questions. Which rod is right for me? Do I want a “fast” rod or a “slow” rod? What length is best? And on and on. These questions are not unique to tenkara fishers. Western fly fisherman have been bombarded with fly rod action terms for years. Some of these include very fast, fast, moderately fast, moderate, slow, full flex, mid flex, tip flex, progressive taper, aggressive taper, stiffness, nodal point, matrix, etc. To complicate things, many of these terms have been used in advertising, so much so that sometimes a fly fisher will buy a rod just for the fact that it is advertised having a certain action. Also, with the rise of internet rod outlets and the decline in brick and mortar retail stores, a potential buyer rarely actually lays hands on a rod before buying it. This lack of “hands on data acquisition” makes many potential buyers wary of purchasing a rod in which they don’t know how it feels. It goes without saying that the best way to evaluate a rod, to see if you like it or not, is to lift it, cast it, and fish it. This of course is not often done for the aforementioned reason, as well as others. Because of that, many users rely on rod reviews by those that have lifted, casted and fished the rod. Unfortunately, nomenclature is not uniform among reviewers, and by their
very nature rod reviews are subjective. How one reviewer casts a rod is different from another. Our hand holds may be different, our body stance and balance point are different, our body height and mass are different, let alone what line is used, what fly is used, what was the speed of the water current, was the wind blowing, etc? All of these parameters, and many others, make a rod feel differently to different users. Therefore, rod reviews are subjective and should be read and interpreted with caution. In an attempt to help clarify tenkara rod action by making the nomenclature more uniform among users, certain static rod tests have been proposed. I say static, because these tests do not try to communicate how a rod actually feels to a person when fished, but rather, they try to numerically quantitate how a rod might feel as compared to other rods. The tests must be simple in design, preferably not requiring specialized tools, requiring no complex math formulas, be reproducible and somewhat accurate. They must not be designed to answer the physics of rod action, and must not require an advanced degree to utilize! There are four static rod tests that have been proposed and meet these criteria. These tests include: 10 penny Bend Profile, Common Cents System of rod stiffness, Rod Flex Index, and the rod Rotational Moment (or torque). Let’s look at these tests and see how they might help classify a tenkara rod.
10 Penny Bend Profile This test is first described and used by tenkara early adopter Chris Stewart, aka, TenkaraBum. Stewart realized early on that the standard Rod Action Index of 5:5, 6:4, etc was not uniform among tenkara rod manufacturers. Basically, what was one company’s 7:3 was not another company’s 7:3! Therefore he devised a radically simple way of actually seeing the rod’s bend profile. Stewart took ten US pennies and
placed them in a small plastic bag. This bag was in turn attached to the lilian of the rod to be tested. The rod was then angled at a standardized but arbitrary degree of elevation (he put the rod butt in a plastic file box). The bend profile could then be seen very clearly. It was a simple test design, easy to perform, and reproducible. The other neat thing was that multiple rods (each having the same Rod Action Index) could be tested side by side. This showed that rods of the same Index did not always have the same bend profile.
Courtesy TenkaraBum. Used by permission
Common Cents System of Rod Stiffness This test was initially developed by Dr. William Hanneman and published in RodMaker Magazine in 2005 to test western fly rods. He developed the system to answer the exact same question that tenkara fishers ask about their rods, namely, what makes a 5-weight a 5-weight and why do different 5-weight rods feel different? Of course, in tenkara it would be worded, what makes a 7:3 a 7:3 and why do different 7:3 tenkara rods feel different? Chris Stewart recognized that a systematic method of measuring stiffness would be valuable, and when researching methods found that the Common Cents System (CCS) could be adapted to measure tenkara rods. This would allow a database of rods to be generated. Here’s how Stewart describes the test:
“Each rod is clamped in a horizontal position and weight in the form of pennies in a light plastic bag is attached to the rod tip. Pennies (specifically, pennies minted after 1996) are added to the bag until the tip bends down from the horizontal by a distance equal to one third of the rod's length. For those of you outside of the US who don't have pennies or a sense for how much they weigh, ten pennies weigh 25 grams.” http://www.tenkarabum.com/tenkararods.html
Once again, the CCS test passes our test requirements, being simple to perform, utilizing no specialized tools, reproducible and somewhat accurate. I say somewhat accurate because there will be slight differences in the weight of the plastic bag, and it is very difficult to get the rod exactly horizontal. Still, the test passes muster and has been verified and adopted by many western rod makers as a reliable static test for measuring, and therefore classifying, rod stiffness. Stewart has used the CCS to generate a database of rods which is extremely useful when researching a rod’s overall stiffness and comparing it to other rods. It may be viewed at: http://www.tenkarabum.com/ common-cents-database.html Rod Flex Index Although the CCS does give information regarding a rod’s stiffness, and therefore potential action, it does have one major flaw. That flaw is that just like not all 7:3 rods feel the same, not all 15 penny rods feel the same. For instance, a 450 cm rod that has a CCS of 15 pennies will feel and fish much differently than a 240 cm rod of 15 pennies. Yes, they are both 15 penny CCS rods, but the rod length factors into their casting actions. To better classify rods utilizing Stewart’s CCS database, I decided to neutralize rod length by taking the rod’s penny rating and divide it by the rod’s length, in meters. This takes rod length out of
the question and gives us the Rod Flex Index (RFI). When utilizing the RFI, the lower the index number the slower the action, the more full-flex the rod. Conversely, the higher the number the more fast and tip-flex the rod. Using this index will let a tenkara fisher immediately have some idea of how the rod may feel when casting and what other rods he or she may have experience with would compare. Slow or full-flex rods have an RFI of 3-4.5. Moderate or midflex rods have an RFI of 4.6-6.5. Fast or tip-flex rods 6.6-8.5, and very fast or minimal-flex 8.6+. Here is an example of how the RFI may be of benefit to someone wanting to buy a short fixed-line rod to fish small, tightly overgrown creeks (something that most tenkara rods are not designed to do). Let’s say that this person already owns a Tenkara USA (TUSA) Ito, and really likes its dynamic casting action. That person now goes to Chris Stewart’s CCS database and sees that TUSA Ito at 4.5 meters is a 15 penny rod. They then see that the Shimotsuke Kiyotaki 24, a short keiryu rod, is also a 15 penny rod. They say to themselves, “I really like my Ito’s slow, rich casting action, therefore I’ll buy a Kiyotaki 24 since it, being a 15 penny like the Ito, will have that same slow, rich action”. They couldn’t be more wrong! Using the above RFI formula (15 divided by 4.5), the Ito at 4.5 meters has an RFI of 3.3 (slower end of full-flex rods), while the Kiyotaki 24 (a 2.4 meter rod) has an RFI of 6.3 (15 divided by 2.4; faster end of mid-flex
rods). The Kiyotaki 24 is a much faster, tip-flex rod while the Ito at 4.5 meters is a very slow, full-flex rod, yet they are both 15 penny rods on the CCS. Trust me, I have fished both the Ito and the Kiyotaki 24 and although they are both 15 penny rods they don’t feel or cast similarly! To summarize, the RFI helps a tenkara fisher compare rod actions to a rod that they may already own or have used. An up to date version of the Rod Flex Index pictured on next page may be seen at the Teton Tenkara blog:
http://tetontenkara.blogspot.com/p/ rod-flex-index-chart.html. Rotational Moment The final test is the rotational moment, or torque of a rod. Many tenkara fishers have experienced that as a rod gets longer the more tip heavy it feels. This is a fact of physics. There are a number of complicated formulas to numerically quantitate the tip heaviness and swingweight of a rod, but the easiest way to estimate it is to measure its rotational moment, also called moment of force or torque. This is done by measuring its weight in kilograms and multiplying that by its center of gravity distance in centimeters from the butt of the rod, when the rod is fully extended. Torque = mass times radius. This measurement has been substantiated commercially and is used by Gamakatsu, a high quality
Teton Tenkara Rod Flex Index Chart
Japanese rod maker. They list it for their tenkara, keiryu and seiryu rods. The larger the number, the more tip heavy the rod.
Image from Gamakatsu Multiflex 40 carton
How rotational moment for a rod is measured and calculated Moment can be measured for all fixed line rods, but it mainly comes into play on the longer ones. Rarely is the rotation moment of a 360 cm rod important, but it often times is for a 390 cm one. I personally only measure moment of force or torque on rods 380 cm or longer. Some rods have very low rotational moment, and thus so feel very lightweight
(regardless of their actual weight). Design, materials, taper, etc all play a part in keeping the rotational moment low. The Gamakatsu Ryokei 390, a seiryu rod, has a rotational moment of only 4! That is amazing for a 390 cm rod! For comparison, here are data of a few other rods I have used (rod lengths vary): Oni type I - 5.2, Nissin Air Stage Honryu 380 - 5.3, Shimotsuke Ten - 5.4, Allfishingbuy HirameML-3909 - 6.8, Nissin Royal Stage 400 7:3 - 7, Daiwa LT39SF - 7.1, TUSA Ito 7.8 at 390 cm, TUSA Ayu II - 8.5, and the TUSA Amago - 10. Any number over 6 and the rod feels tip heavy; the larger the number, the more tip heavy. Likewise, the larger the number also means more stress on your forearm and more chance of micro-tears being induced in the extensor tendon with repeated use (aka, tennis elbow). Conclusion Not to belabor the point, but it does bear repeating: the best way to tell if you are going to like a certain rod is to cast it and fish it. Without doing this you can’t tell what the rod’s characteristics, performance and
dynamic action will be like — that is, whether you’ll like it or not. Rod reviews may help somewhat, but let’s face it, casting and fishing a rod gives you much more information than a rod review. That said, in light of the fact that it’s pretty difficult to cast every rod we are interested in, we often rely on reviews from those who have used the rod. Unfortunately, rod reviews are inherently subjective and words like “smooth”, “light”, “fast”, “sweet” do not communicate the overall experience of casting any given rod. What is “smooth” to some may not be to others. To combat this, static tests such as the 10 penny Bend Profile, Common Cents System, Rod Flex Index and Rotational Moment provide useful information to aid a person in directing a rod purchase. These tests are not perfect, but when used properly, and their strengths and weaknesses kept in perspective, their results can help quickly narrow the field of potential rods for which you to spend your precious money on! Happy hunting and caveat emptor!
This article originally appeared in the TenkaraFisher forum, and has since been re-published to the Tenkara-Fisher blog. Tom has been testing all makes and models of Tenkara rods on his personal blog, Teton Tenkara for several years. Odds are if you are in the market for a rod and are looking for a straight-forward review, you'll find it at Teton Tenkara.
Yellow Perch From The Skies
by Jim Wright
The Yellow Perch is a freshwater fish native to much of North America. It is closely related to the European perch; and is sometimes considered a subspecies of it. Other common names for yellow perch include ringed perch, American perch, striped perch, lake perch, raccoon perch, coontail, and ring-tail perch. When I was growing up from 1957 to 1970 on a 13,000-acre Midwestern lake, none of the local anglers used artificial flies for Yellow Perch. It was a game of live bait-fish, or spinners and spoons. Of course, I was the only fly
fisherman in my village so that was no surprise. However, since I didn't have a boat, I used the public (and sometimes private) docks or waded for my sport. Consequently, I rarely caught a Yellow Perch as they liked the cooler, deeper water at my normal haunts. During the winter I would catch and eat them out on the ice with my father. We roasted them over an apple wood fire and added a dash of salt. On smaller lakes I had no trouble catching them, but I too used live bait-fish or hardware, adding fish eggs in the spring. Eventually I got around to
using flies for them and subsequently learned more about their environmental and dietary preferences. Yellow perch normally like cool water and will school deep wherever surface temperatures are warm, although they will move into shallow water to feed. Weed-beds in shallow lakes are a great place to search for them, with flies capable of presenting on or close to the bottom. Yellow perch are easy to catch on a variety of baits and lures, such as live worms and minnows, small plugs, jigs, spoons, and spinners being among the best attractors. Small flies and jigs with hair, marabou or curl-tail grub bodies are especially good.
To fly-fish for Yellow perch most of the time you will want to get your lure deep. Light trout-size tenkara rods with lengthy fluorocarbon line and/or some "MojoMud" applied are perfect and can still get the kebari fairly deep. Lightly weighted wet flies and small streamers are good choices, fished at moderate depths around the edges of weed beds. Smaller perch will sometimes be found in schools swimming just below the water's surface. It's a good situation for young fly fisher's to work on their skills. Dry flies or Dr. Ishigaki wets presented just below the surface is a great way to fish these schools. My first choice would be small wire weighted Killer Buggers in black, olive, tan, white, purple, or yellow with flash. Bead heads are also highly effective,
Utah Killer Bug
and on a jig hook are close to weedless. If I could only bring 3 flies, they would be a black Killer Bugger, a green wool body sakasa kebari on a bead-head jig hook and a lightly weighted Utah (pink, orange or yellow) Killer Bug. Depending on the depth and the bottom structure wait until your fly is close to the bottom. Then inch it along in slow short tugs. A strike often comes close to the bottom.
Traditional patterns to try would include the Wooly Bugger and Hare's Ear or Pheasant Tail nymphs. Deceivers are also good in white and black. Larger perch will take larger flies. The white Killer Bugger with some flash is great for perch. Generally, with buggers, the longer shank hook you use, the shorter the marabou tail should be to get the best action. Buck-tails patterns tied sparse like a white or orange with Peacock herl back, or the all-time favorite Mickey Finn are great choices. A couple of the top flies I know that folks use are the Clouser and any simple, sparse bucktail streamers, especially in red on a size 6, 8 or 10 hooks, under-wrapped with lead or copper wire. Jig Flies will get down better. Flies that fish “point up” like a red or gold Tarcher Copperbari, are also handy to lessen the risk of snagging.
Yellow Perch feed on small bait fish, aquatic insects and crayfish. One method of targeting perch, is suspending a chironomid, dragon fly and damsel fly nymph pattern under a dry fly (a big 10-12 Royal Wulff, Takayama, Adams or pan-fish patterns like the gurgler), or with a strike indicator. But a small weighted bugger on the bottom (slow retrieve like a crawdad) and higher in the water like a minnow also works well. Generally, my absolute favorite colors for perch would be white and yellow, often with a hint of red in the mix, plus a few strands of flash material.
Perch are not as quick or as willing to move several feet to grab a fly as pike, so the key is often in getting the fly close to the fish. Try a twitchy and “busy” but not overly fast action, unless the fish are obviously scattering fry near the surface. More often it’s a case of keeping your perch fly moving, but not stripping so fast that your artificial lifts up in the water, out of the strike zone. If it’s really cold or challenging though, another useful trick with the jig flies is to twitch or “hop” them across the bottom. A great trick in lakes is jigging up and down. Bait-fish tend to head straight up when chased by predators. If you had never thought of perch in terms of tenkara, you might want to give them a try. They are an interesting fish that are not only excellent eating, but hold a place in the food chain which is halfway between the largest predators and the smallest bait-fish. They give a respectable fight on light tackle for their size and are worthy of your consideration. More Details on Yellow Perch: In many populations, yellow perch often live 9 to 10 years, with adults generally ranging from 4 to 10 in (10 to 25 cm) in length. The world record yellow perch (18 in (46 cm); 4 lb 3 oz (1.9 kg)) was caught in 1865 in New Jersey, and is the longest-standing record for freshwater fish in North America. The yellow perch has a yellow and brass-colored body and distinct pattern, consisting of five to nine olive-green, vertical bars,
triangular in shape, on each side. Its fins are lighter in coloration, with an orange hue on the margins. The body is laterally compressed. As with all percid fishes, yellow perch have two dorsal fins. The anterior is convex in shape and consists of 11–15 spines. The posterior dorsal fin has a straight margin, consisting of one or two spines and 12–16 rays. The nape, breast, and belly of yellow perch are all fully scaled. A complete lateral line (50–70 scales) is present. The anal fin consists of two spines and six to nine rays. A single spine and five rays make up the pelvic fins, and the pectoral fins consist of 13–15 rays. The caudal fin of the yellow perch is forked. Yellow perch are only found in North America; they are native to the Arctic and Atlantic Oceans, and the Great Lakes-St. Lawrence River and Mississippi River basins. In Canada, its native range extends throughout Nova
Scotia and Quebec north to the Mackenzie River. It also is common in the northwest to Great Slave Lake and west into Alberta. In the United States, the native range extends south into Ohio and Illinois, and throughout most of the northeastern United States. It is also considered native to the Atlantic Slope basin, extending south to the Savannah River. Yellow perch typically reach sexual maturity in 2–3 years for males and 3– 4 years for females. They spawn annually in the spring when water temperatures are between 2.0 and 18.6 °C (35.6 and 65.5 °F). Spawning is communal and typically occurs at night. Yellow perch are oviparous, as eggs are fertilized externally. Eggs are laid in a gelatinous strand (commonly 10,000–40,000), a characteristic unique among North American freshwater fishes. Egg strands are commonly draped over weeds, the branches of submerged trees or
shrubs, or some other structure. Eggs hatch in 11â€“27 days, depending on temperature and other abiotic factors.
They are commonly found in the littoral zones of both large and small lakes, but they also inhabit slowmoving rivers and streams, brackish waters, and ponds. Yellow perch commonly reside in shallow water but are occasionally found deeper than 15
m (49 ft) or on the bottom. In the northern waters, perch tend to live longer and grow at a slower rate. Females in general are larger, grow faster, live longer, and mature in 3-4 years compared to males, which mature in 2-3 years at a smaller size. Most research has showed the maximum age to be about 9â€“10 years, with a few living past 11 years. The
preferred temperature range for the yellow perch is 17 to 25 °C (63 to 77 °F), with an optimum range of 21 to 24 °C (70 to 75 °F) and a lethal limit in upwards of 33 °C (91 °F) and a stress limit over 26 °C (79 °F). They do not build a redd or nest. Spawning typically takes place at night or in the early morning. Females have the potential to spawn up to eight times in their lifetimes.
Their micro habitat is usually along the shore among reeds and aquatic weeds, docks, and other structures, temperature permitting. They are most dense within aquatic vegetation, since they naturally school, but also prefer small, weed-filled water bodies with muck, gravel, or sand bottoms. They are less abundant in deep and clear open water or unproductive lakes. Within rivers, they only frequent pools, slack water, and moderately vegetated habitat. They frequent inshore surface waters during the summer. Almost every cool- to warm-water predatory fish species, such as northern pike, muskellunge, bass, sunfish, crappie, walleye, trout, and even other yellow perch, are predators of the yellow perch. They are the primary prey for walleye, and they consume 58% of the age zero and 47% of the age one yellow perch in northern lakes. However, in shallow natural lakes, largemouth bass may be most influential in structuring the quality of yellow perch populations. In Nebraska's Sand-hill lakes, the mean weight and quality of yellow perch is not related to invertebrate abundance
but is related to the abundance of large-mouth bass. The three primary factors influencing quality pan-fish populations are predators, prey, and the environment. Perch are commonly active during the day and inactive at night except during spawning. Perch are most often found in schools. Their vision is necessary for schooling and the schools break up at dusk and reform at dawn. The schools typically contain 50 to 200 fish and are arranged by age and size in a spindle shape. Younger perch tend to school more than older and larger fish, which occasionally travel alone, and males and females often form separate schools. Some perch are migratory, but only in a short and local form. They also have been observed leading a semi anadromous life. Yellow perch do not accelerate quickly and are relatively poor swimmers. The fastest recorded speed for a school was 54 cm/s (12.08 mph), with individual fish swimming at less than half that speed. Yellow perch inhabit an equally broad array of aquatic environments, from brackish coastal waters, to large lakes and ponds and the slow-moving waters of rivers and streams. Their primary requirement seems to be for a sustaining amount of rooted vegetation. That said, they are often encountered in open water away from any vegetation. They tend to live relatively close to the water's surface and to a maximum depth of only about 30 feet.
I Like Stockers by Bob Long, Jr.
“I like Stockers. Yes, I do.” There, I said it. Sometimes one wishes to ‘fess up, to testify. Actually, I’ve always liked Stockers (here those are Rainbow trout stocked in rivers and ponds by the Illinois Dept. of Natural Resources). Even when I was in my 20s and early 30s and possessed of an attitude that I was too hip, too snobbish and too cool for that sort of fish, I liked them. I wouldn’t admit it in certain circles, but secretly, they were fun to catch,
Photo: John Miao
period. (They appealed to the child in me, I guess; the kid that simply liked catching fish, any kind of fish, with any kind of gear.) They were good to eat too - Dad fried them up with potatoes and onions. In the 16 to 20-inch range they put up a good fight in cold water, especially on my 0-and 1-weight Sage rods (told ya’ - snobbish, hip, cool). Admittedly, at times, the crowds fishing for stockers could be a pain in the ass, but the fish were so much fun. And close to my home in Chicago, too. No driving 225-miles to get to the "real trout water" up in the southwest corner of Wisconsin, called the "Driftless Area." I could have sneaked
in short trips to Black Earth Creek, just west of Madison, Wisconsin, 180 miles from home, but in those ancient years it hadn't been rehabbed as yet and the fish were teeny, tiny and not healthy enough to make it worth it. So, when I wasn’t chasing big, ol’ steelhead and salmon in the Lake Michigan tributaries of Wisconsin and Michigan, I fished and enjoyed (secretly) the Stockers in Illinois. I would cast hand-tied, soft-hackle and wet flies inspired by Sylvester Nemes, small "Spring’s Wigglers," tiny, size 12 Muddler Minnows, and my faves, size 12 Woolly Buggers (elegantly dubbed bodies only, right?). "You are wasting those pretty flies on those fish?", some of my "serious trout" friends would snort with derision, only half (at best) joking. I almost expected them to suggest a 12-step program for that kind thing. In those days I was standing on the edges of fly fishing elitism; what I called the “warm-water is the Devil’s Water, look but don’t touch, touch but don’t taste, taste but don’t enjoy, enjoy but not too much,” bunch. On the surface I allowed myself to be swayed by those “accept no joy except in these limited ways” attitudes. I’d like to “Blame It on My Youth” (Heyman & Levant), but it was really just a form of “I wanna’ be with the In Crowd” cowardice. So, for the most part, I went along. Except for my secret, guilty pleasure; Stockers.
Today, of course, I joyfully and unashamedly fish the Rainbow trout stocked by the Illinois Dept. of Natural Resources. Only now I pursue them – proudly, loudly and openly (I have stepped completely out of the closet) with my 12-14-foot tenkara rods. It’s even more fun than before. And, thankfully, I’ve lost the cool, the hip and the snobbish as I’ve aged/ matured, although I admit that a slight air of vanity sometimes whiffs around me as I kick butt with my tenkara rod, amidst the Sages, Scotts, G.Loomis’, St. Croixs’, etc., as well as the occasional custom-crafted Bamboo. A few of those traditional “long rod” guys look as if they are having fun, but most seem to be slumming - wearing big, floppy hats, sunglasses and fake beards - fishing for these fish until the real things come along. Or when they catch a few, they downplay it saying, “Too easy. They ain’t selective. Whaddya’ expect? Stockers.” So then, I wonder, why are they checking me out? Is it my ultra-long, weird looking tenkara rod – with the associated downstream casts, and rod tip and fly jiggling techniques – that’s drawing glances and looks from the “western-styled,” traditional fly fishers. (“Dead drifts? Dead drifts? I don’t need no stinking dead drifts!”) Is it the fish I’m catching? The glances are often of the furtive, sideways kind, or ones out the corner of the eye, or quick peeks stolen from under the brim of those big, floppy
Bob Long with a New Mexico stocked pond trout
Stocker rainbow on Rock Creek
18" stocked fish from Kankakee River
John Miao fishing the upstream section of Rock Creek, Illinois
hats or the bill of baseball caps. Outright staring is, it seems, unseemly, so they don’t do that. And, they seldom say or ask anything. I don’t know why. They just give me looks – ranging from mildly curious to openly annoyed. (“It looks like a fly rod, but way longer than a nymph rod, and it’s got no line or reel. Is that legal? What the… Wait, another fish? He must be in a good hole (as they inch closer and closer with each cast). Can’t be the guy, Must be the fly. ‘Hey buddy, wha’cha usin’?’”) “Ugh, I can’t stand the mob, the herd mentality,” I’ve heard. Well here in Illinois, during the 10-days to two weeks of catch-and-release fly fishing only, prior to the full open season, the crowds aren’t all that bad. It certainly isn’t the combat fly fishing I’ve seen on YouTube, or that will come at the start of the full catch-and-keep season. We fly guys usually give each other some room (enough at least so that the frustrated mutterings of “why ain’t these stupid fish biting?” remains basically private). Midwestern fly-guy manners? HECK, I’ve seen worse combat fly fishing on many of the blue-ribbon waters out west (including cussing, throwing things, fist fights and malicious damage to cars). We don’t take Stockers quite that seriously here. Then again, we aren’t using hardearned vacation time to fish, and no one is paying big time for a guide and lodging.
But, make no mistake about it, while they may be Stockers, after a couple of weeks of being left undisturbed by the public (the IDNR closes all fishing for them for two plus weeks right after they are planted, to allow them time to acclimate to their new environments – at least a bit, before opening it to fly fishing only), you still have to know “something” about fish behavior and how to present and manipulate a fly so the fish will take it. They may have been raised in the hatchery eating “trout-chow”, but once in the water long enough they reject more offerings than they take. Many a fly fisher still ends up with only a fish or two to show for their four-to-six-hour efforts.
Pretty fish; a 16"+ stocker, the handle of the rod is 12" AAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAA AAAAAAA
Mr. Dry Fly Guy humbled by a Stocker? “Oh Joe, say it ain’t so….” There are a lot of myths surrounding trout; the innate, high intelligence of wild fish vs the perceived Gomer Pyle, Village Idiocy of stocked ones, being one of them to me. It’s nature and nurture in my mind – a complex interplay and mix of time, place and circumstances that govern behavior – not a simple versus that I see as affecting and explaining fish behavior over the long run (granted, your experience and interpretation may be quite different than mine. I salute you). Heck, after a few weeks in the river, I’ve seen Stockers clumsily chasing caddis flies flittering along the
surface, like eight-year-olds trying to chase down and catch fly balls in the outfield. I know they never saw those in the hatchery. I’m not sure what they think they are, and they didn’t manage to catch many, but they were trying. Be all of that as it may, my statement remains. “I like Stockers – yes, I do.” They are close to home, available come spring and fall, good to eat and fun to pursue and catch, especially with my tenkara rods and my, still, ever-so-trusty, Woolly Buggers (elegantly dubbed bodies, of course) and Wigglers. Stockers. It must be the child in me.
Five Unfortunate Fishing Behaviors (And How to Fix Them)
by Adam Rieger
I have been an angler much of my life, but I started on still water with bait and spin gear. I have now been fishing with a fixed line fly set up for 5+ years. I have been passionate about pursuing this style of fishing on streams for trout and char species in the greater New York City area. In that time, I have observed a lot of issues regarding conservation, healthy streams and fish populations that are angler driven. We are to a large part our own worst enemies... our wants and actions do more harm than we think. I would like
to tackle five things that may or may not be obvious to all as to how they create harm (in my opinion) even though they are not intentionally harmful, and I hope it makes each of us think a little more before we act. The five things are fish size, catch quantities, fish stocking, hooks and “wants vs. needs.” Fish Size By fish size I am referring to the hunt for the “big one” and the ridicule of the small ones. I see signs of this in
anglers online and in person. Online it is typically through comments about how small the fish is in a negative way. When I talk to anglers that see me climbing up off main rivers to fish tributaries they often say, “only small fish up there!” When anglers see me fishing with a tenkara rod the comment is usually something like, “you can only catch small fish with that right?!” Of course, we know that is wrong, but also so what if that were true?
This “big fish only matter” seed nestled in the minds of most anglers drives more than interpersonal interactions. It drives a lot of policy choices for conservation and the stocking programs around the country. Many small streams are allowed to suffer or be damaged by industry because they only hold small fish and the vast majority of anglers do not care about these places. That means the efforts, the money, etc… are put into what is often downstream because it can hold larger fish. I love to fish mountain streams full of cold flowing water and wild trout. What size those trout are does not matter to me in the slightest. Sure, catching a big fish can be exciting in its own way and I have no problem with them or people that catch a big fish... I just don’t understand why they dismiss a beautiful fish because it is small. We should celebrate all these beautiful fish regardless of their size and we should celebrate and protect MORE the small water that holds these tiny treasures. Protecting the small
water upstream will only make the bigger water downstream better too. Remember and cherish the small. Catch Quantities How many fish are too many? Now if we take out lying (we know people inflate their catch numbers) I still hear people talk of 50 fish or even 100 fish days. I think the most for me has been the 30 zone, and I basically called it quits at that point even though there was plenty of time to continue. Why? Because at some point it is enough, I although like to fish wild trout streams and am a responsible catch and release angler, there is always an impact. No matter how you slice it, catching a fish (even if you release it) is not the best thing for the fish. I understand the place in nature I occupy with this hobby, I hurt fish for fun (all anglers do!) and that the most responsible conservationist would not do this at all. But, given that I enjoy fishing and I find these fish gorgeous, I still choose to impact nature in a potentially negative way. As such, I put a selfimposed limit on that. Just because I could catch a 100 does not mean I should. What if we all did that every day? There is no perfect catch and release practice, so the more you do it in one stream the more likely the odds that you will harm it. The next time you are having a blockbuster day, consider slowing down, fishing the harder spots, purposely putting on a different fly, or fishing a different technique that is
“harder” to catch fish with. Challenge yourself! Or just sit on the bank and have a beer and enjoy the moment. Stocked Fish I once went to a New York State meeting by the department in charge of stocking fish for them to speak to anglers about the coming year’s stocking programs. The officials in charge of the department basically told us how a survey of anglers conducted a few years ago voiced that the vast majority want more fish and bigger fish. The survey had also voiced anglers wanting higher creel limit regulations enacted, something that is under consideration at present.
Most of the people who attended the meeting though wanted less stocking of the streams and stronger regulations for catch and release only enacted. The news about the survey results really made me think about how anglers drive policy and how wanting to catch more fish (Issue #2) and how wanting to catch bigger fish (Issue #1) lead to New York State to spend a lot of time and money raising trout in hatcheries as fast and as big as they can to put in rivers. In so many cases this stocking causes all kind of harm that ripple into the river system (many too complex to discuss here). The most obvious one that does not require a science degree, or a longwinded explanation is the stocking of brown or rainbow trout in native wild brook trout water. In New York State, and I know of many others with similar issues, the “More and Bigger” minded
angler wishes, lead to stocking of nonnative species in waters with good and healthy populations of natives. I think we should all agree that this is bad. As of 2019, there is a ton of water that from years and years of stocking browns or rainbows the brook trout has been for the most part extirpated. There is though water that has seen mostly brown trout stocked from time to time, but the brook trout has held on, yet the states keep adding browns in there. When these issues are brought to the attention of the stocking authorities they understand and don’t disagree with the objections but cite that most anglers support it so the decisions to stock continue. As a democracy – this is how it works – it is up to us to change angler thinking to change these actions. I think we all need to take a step back and think about how “Big and More” thinking needs to change and how that will help change stocking strategies. When those strategies change, we not only will save lots of money in taxes and government spending, but many scientists believe nature will make up for it in spades and we could all win if we are patient. Wanting less may actually over time lead to more. Hooks Barbless hooks, treble hooks, multiple hooks. Every now and then I see a debate online quoting studies that show how barbed hooks are not any worse than barbless and how treble
hooks with or without barbs are better for fish. There is no real way for science to unequivocally prove any of this, so depending on what you want to do Iâ€™m sure you can find a study that corroborates your point of view. Any way you slice it, you are sticking a fish with a hook and that is not good for the fish. Do you want to stick the fish with several hooks? Do you want to stick the fish with a hook that gets fatter and cuts on the way out also? Perhaps it statistically makes no difference to mortality rates given the ways and reasons fish die, but if I were to take a hook in my mouth, I would prefer barbless.
If you are upset that you lose too many fish on barbless hooks, I ask you to reevaluate why you fish. Try to embrace the challenge! I too want to net that fish, but I also do not want it to be easy. If you are in the backwoods or camping and fishing for food, then I understand, but if you are fishing as a past-time then I truly believe multiple hooks and barbed hooks have no place. The social pressure, the Instagram and Facebook world of fish photos, the desire to show that you are a good angler is such that I think many of us are self-justifying using barbs, treble hooks and multiple hooks. I hate to say it but no one cares if you are good or not. Truly being good, as both good at fishing and good to fish, involves using single barbless hooks only. Wants vs. Needs So much of the four topics previously
discussed, as well as many other issues with angler behavior relate to what we want as opposed to what we need. These two ideas create a lot of problems for us and for the things we impact. We all need quiet time, time outside to immerse ourselves in the natural world, to focus our mind and challenge our brain. We all need fun and we all need to be active. Being an angler provides all these needs. This needs to remain our focus on why we do what we do, and it needs to drive our decisions and actions. Wants such as catching fish, landing fish, catching lots of fish, catching big fish, eating fish, and showing off our successes meet none of those needs. Having those wants is not the problem, it is what we do and say because of them that is the issue. In some of those do and say moments we do not realize the impact, nor do we mean harm, but they do in the end cause harm. We all, including myself (very often in fact) should be reminded of this and get back to what we need. We as anglers drive so much in terms of impact to our community and our fisheries. Can we be more aware of this? Are your wants a problem or can you curb them or turn them into other challenges that are better for all? If you made it this far in the article, I think you make a good candidate to re-think your approach and do better for all. If you are with me, letâ€™s catch a few small fish on our terms and enjoy some stream side beers, food and relaxation. Then we are getting what we want and need.
Fishing, Your Bowel, and You By Nick Pavlovski
Disclaimer 1: The author is not a medical practitioner. Please always consult with fully qualified, fully licensed medical practitioners such as GPs, Gastroenterologists and Dietitians. Disclaimer 2: The author receives no benefits for anything mentioned below.
No, this is not an anthology of poo jokes. This is an article for those of you who may have Irritable Bowel Syndrome, Inflammatory Bowel Disease, a malabsorption of one or more particular foodstuffs, Crohnsâ€™ disease, or similar stomach and/or bowel problems. Diarrhea or constipation (or both, for those of you unlucky enough) arising from one of the medical conditions
above can really affect your fishing. It may stop you from going fishing altogether; it may scare you into not eating the day before or during the morning, so that you donâ€™t "have to go" during the trip; it may stop you from fishing with a mate or with a group to save yourself the embarrassment at having to get off the water suddenly or repeatedly; it may cause you to only choose fishing spots that you know have a good working public toilet within a very short walk; it can lead to your number one item in your pockets
or pouches or pack being toilet paper and not spare tippet or a water bottle; and lastly it can really mess with your head, leaving you feeling nervous and uncertain, thus resulting in a lessthan-enjoyable fishing session, even if all turns out to be OK and nothing happens. With your fishing affected in such ways, you can find yourself limiting other activities and becoming more miserable as your world contracts in on you. I’m not a doctor. I do have two of the above conditions, plus a sometimes less-than-positive outlook on life. The below are observations and recommendations based off my own experiences dealing with these conditions and trying to keep myself going fishing and enjoying it as much as possible. I hope they help you if you have (or suspect you might have) the same or a similar problem. I love my fishing – always have. Even when I’m not fishing fixed line (I do occasionally go beach fishing and rock fishing), I still love it. But my increasing medical conditions used to really hamper my efforts, and some days when I felt off or was having trouble, I would just forgo fishing completely. Why risk having an accident and suffering embarrassment? Why go fishing, if I had to drop everything to run to the nearest public toilet a couple of times during a three hour session? Easier to just stay home where the toilet is ten seconds away, isn’t it? The problem with that kind of thinking
is that it can become self-fulfilling and lead to a lower quality of life. By thinking that you’ll have an accident or need to go repeatedly, you can be more likely to actually cause it to happen, as the brain-bowel connection is very strong: you’ll psych yourself into having an sudden bowel motion, even if you actually were going to be in (relatively) fine health that day. Brain-bowel is a more focused version of the "mind-body" link some of you may have heard in the popular press. You can decide to just stay home or go fishing only where it’s very safe, thus missing out on challenging yourself or reaching less-fished (and more exciting) water, thus just always having the same dull experience. This is not good - by constantly denying yourself something you love, you’ll become more depressed – and how depression affects your quality of life and your physical health is already well documented. Fishing is beneficial to your life (as are other hobbies and interests), and that is why you can do quite a bit for yourself to try to control your conditions and symptoms and thus be able to get out and fish more, and with more confidence. The following are what I feel are worth exploring and experimenting with. Periodic gastroscopies and colonoscopies (I have mine performed at the same time) allow the specialists to see if there are any new (or more increased) "mechanical" or functional causes that may be causing your conditions. The biopsies will let you know if any polyps are benign or not, if allergies are now detected, and can
detect any related cancer more easily than other tests. Enabling your specialists to be able to see new spots of inflammation or increased spots of inflammation can be help them make quicker, more accurate and more useful diagnoses and thus more useful treatment plans. Seeing dietitians recommended by the gastroenterologists enables you to hear what past and current research has been undertaken in digestion and food chemistry. Some foodstuffs I was told to avoid when I was first diagnosed two decades ago have since been re-examined and, to my relief, are now safe to eat (in moderation). Dietitians can also let you know about new products that may be helpful... Six months ago I was told about Nestle’s Pronourish Natural Balance Fibre. Without being too dramatic, it has dramatically improved my health and flattened out many of my symptoms into something far more manageable and livable – sometimes I’m able to pretend I’m completely fine for a week or even longer! If I hadn’t have gone to the dietitian after the gastroscopy/colonoscopy double act, I wouldn’t have found about it, let alone trusted it enough to try it. Most likely you will already know what foods you should or shouldn't have, and will probably suspect some others that trigger your symptoms. If you know or suspect certain types of spicy or fatty food cause you trouble, then avoid them – even if you are with your mates and you’re tempted. Fatty foods and spicy foods are well documented
as being problematic. A bland diet for a couple of days is easily tolerated, if you are able to go fishing accidentfree! You can always bring along more of the safe junk/treat foods as compensation for missing out on a "dangerous favorite." How about caffeine and nicotine? (I can’t talk about other substances) Nicotine affects your metabolism, accelerating it, and correspondingly your digestive functions and bowel activity. Caffeine does the same. Caffeine sneaks in to so many things that, for some sufferers, reducing or eliminating cups of coffee may not be enough! Many soft drinks have caffeine snuck into them; chocolate and snack bars can have it; energy drinks give you energy because of the high levels of caffeine in them; tea has caffeine in it, even green tea – but tea has less than coffee... you can read about what has what here. I won’t suggest eliminating them completely, but you might want to reexamine when you consume them, especially in relation to when you are going to go fishing. For example, one season I was getting up even earlier in the morning than usual (4am, rather than 5am) to go for my weekly fishing trip. As the drive there was ninety minutes, I decided to start having a small cup of black tea during the journey. Well! That resulted in an extra hurried toilet stop, which was annoying as I thought I’d emptied myself when I voided my bowel after waking up. I then noticed it happened on the following weekly trips –
therefore I stopped having the tea during the drive there – and that problem ceased. Maybe keep the stimulants for once you are packing the car and getting ready to head home again. If you do need do empty your bowel and you can quickly reach dry land, then it is best to dig as deep a hole as you possibly can. I carry an ex-army entrenching tool (folding small shovel) in my car, and it has done its duty in digging hasty latrines, as well as being a handy tent-peg mallet and even a temporary cricket bat. Camping and hiking shops sell even smaller, rigid plastic trowels for hikers who need to dig a hole when hiking – those of you overnight expedition types and
tenkara minimalists might choose to add one to your collection, if you haven’t got one already. Hardware shops have gardening trowels. Recyclers might be able to re-purpose plastic gutter cleaning scoops. There are plenty of possibilities. Keeping yourself clean: A mate with some digestive issues and I were comparing notes on a club fishing trip as we got our gear ready and climbed into our waders. I saw him tuck a handy pack of wet wipes into a breast pocket. I asked why, thinking that some sheets of normal, dry toilet paper alone would be enough, but my mate pointed out that if he had an accident, he could wipe his bum, then sanitize his hands - and also his clothes to
some degree if his gut was really angry with him. If you have the room when you go fishing, doing the same might be reassuring and also help to set your mind more at ease. However, wet wipes have a much greater negative impact on the environment, so do what you believe is right. What you believe is right must agree with the local regulations, though. Observe the laws for the area you are in. I’m aware that some parks and areas in the United States are completely "carry out" – you cannot dig holes for feces; you cannot urinate onto the ground or trees... all your waste has to be carried out, nothing can be left behind. I’ve read up on various hiking and cross-country skiing forums about making safe containers for bodily waste by using plumbing PVC pipes with screwing end caps. It was reading those forums that I learned of "Toilet in a Bag." Brilliant! I ordered a kit straight away. It’s always in the boot of my car, and I feel a lot more at ease knowing that I don’t have to clench myself into knots holding everything in whilst I use my entrenching tool to dig the appropriate-depth hole. You can also win "brownie points" with annoyed locals for having such a kit.
In mid-February this year I was in a rural hamlet discussing water quality with a very angry local after fishing in the creek at the bottom of his garden. He was angry that overnight campers regularly betray his and other
residents' kindness when camping on their land and then leaving their feces and used toilet paper along the creek banks. I reached into my car boot and handed him my Toilet in a Bag kit and told him he didn’t have to worry about me! He took it, read it, and his demeanor changed as he read. When he handed it back to me, it was clear I’d just won a great deal of trust and respect in his eyes. I was serious about cleaning up after myself and carrying it away – I had respect for the land and waterways I was in. To return to the brain-bowel connection I mentioned much earlier, and the bigger mind-body connection as a whole - you may find help and relief through meditation; through positive self-talk; through Cognitive Behavioral Therapy; through stillness; through mindfulness and other selfreflective and calming techniques. Some of you may balk at the very idea of meditation, but if it helps your diarrhea or constipation, there is nothing much to be lost from trying it. With headphones in your ears, no-one will know if you are rocking out to music, or following a guided meditation for inner health. Private and practical. I’ll finish here. Always double-check the suitability of a suggested treatment or product with a qualified and licensed medical practitioner if you want to try something new. I can’t say what will work for you... but I hope I may have given some of you another idea or option to try that may help. Now, go forth and fish boldly!
Friends of Tenkara Angler
Contributors & Credits This issue of Tenkara Angler Magazine was made possible by the extremely generous contributions of the following members of the tenkara community. Adam Trahan
Created Tenkara-Fisher in 2010, the 2nd oldest resource outside of Japan dedicated to tenkara. His extensive catalog of interviews with tenkara personalities can be found both online and in print.
Paul (along with John Pearson) blog at Discover Tenkara and have a free email tutorial service that teaches tenkara stepby-step. He is also one of the hosts of the video series, Tenkara in Focus.
Bob is in charge of Chicago’s Fish’N Kids Program which takes kids ages 8-12, teens, adults, seniors and people with disabilities of all types fishing. He also teaches many tenkara and fly tying.
Owner of TenkaraFlyShop.com, 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.
David West Beale
Lives in England, UK, where he fishes for anything that swims with his fly & tenkara rods. You can follow his adventures at tenkaratales.blogspot.com.
has a background in engineering and loves fly fishing & the outdoors. One of the coowners of Red Brook Tenkara, his motto is "no reel, no problems!"
Adam is an avid lightweight backpacker and a champion of preserving tenkara as it is known and practiced in Japan. Adam authors the blog, “Of Rock & Riffle.”
Is the owner of Zen Tenkara. Since its start in 2012, Zen has looked to push the traditional, established boundaries in an effort to “define American Tenkara.”
A Tenkara USA & EFFA certified guide, Chris has been an advocate for tenkara in Europe for several years, founding the European Tenkara Convention in 2012. tenkara-norway.com
started tenkara fishing in February 2017. He has uploaded videos of some of his trips over at his YouTube channel. He apologizes that he hasn’t uploaded anything new for a while and will do so shortly.
Rory E. Glennie
Is an avid tenkara angler located in Idaho. He prefers to fish small creeks with moderate to high gradient flows for native cutthroat trout. He shares his experiences and perspectives on this most efficient for of fly fishing through his blog Teton Tenkara.
A resident of Vancouver Island, British Columbia who has been fly fishing the mountain streams for wild, native-born trout since 1970. The only Canadian member of Tenkara USA Guide Network. Staff writer for Island Fisherman Magazine since 2009.
Tristan Higbee is a tenkara addict living in Ogden, Utah. He makes weekly tenkara videos as Tenkara Addict on YouTube and posts photos of his fishing adventures to Instagram (@TenkaraAddict). He also makes and sells car camping accessories (with tenkara accessories coming soon) at KamchatkaGear.com.
Works for a wine/sake importer and distributor in NY/NJ. If you are fishing in the NYC area and see a guy in business casual dress with a Bluetooth headset on eating a sandwich and fishingâ€Ś please say hello.
Fly Swap Contributors:
James Carey, Daniel Pierce, Kevin P. Etherson, Paul Vertrees, Luis Alberto Gomez "El Cepo", Michael Schram, Jason Sparks, Dayne Trout, Will Groves, Tristan Mills, & Michael Agneta
Photo: Tristan Higbee
TenkaraCalendar.com is a simple community-driven resource to organize, keep track, and promote tenkara-based events, get-togethers, "takeovers," meet ups, and seminars. The current events through July 2019 are listed below, however please feel free to visit the website to submit and publicize your upcoming tenkara or conservation-themed initiatives, or simply to learn more. Texas: Intro to Tenkara Fly Fishing Thursday May 16th, 2019 Austin-Gateway REI, Austin, TX Wisconsin: Great Driftless Tenkara Campout Friday May 17th - Sunday May 19th, 2019 Esofea Park, Park Road, Westby WI
Maine: Fox Carlton 7th Annual Fly Casting Clinic Saturday June 8th, 2019 35 Fox Carlton Pond Road, Phillips, ME Oregon: Tenkara Bug Out 2019 Friday July 12th - Sunday July 14, 2019 Oakridge, OR
Colorado: 2019 Tenkara Summit - 10th Anniversary Saturday July 27th, 2019 Millennium Harvest House Hotel, Boulder, CO Austria: Tenkara Treffen 2019 Friday September 13th - Sunday September 15th, 2019 Hotel Mozart, Bad Gastein, Austria
119 Photo: Adam Klagsbrun
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Photo: Karin Miller
Tenkara Angler Magazine chronicles the tenkara lifestyle through entries about community, destination, tactics, gear, and creative essays. A...
Published on Apr 12, 2019
Tenkara Angler Magazine chronicles the tenkara lifestyle through entries about community, destination, tactics, gear, and creative essays. A...