Tenkara Angler - Winter 2015-16

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Winter 2015-16









FLIES, KEBARI, & TYING 54 58 64 66 68 70









110 CONTRIBUTORS & CREDITS 112 TENKARA CALENDAR Front Cover Photo: Christopher Zimmer Back Cover Photo: Brian L. Schiele

Big Thompson Brown Trout Photo: Christopher Zimmer


From The Editor

Thank you for taking the time to page through this issue of Tenkara Angler. If you were around for the Fall 2015 incarnation, you might notice some small tweaks and tricks in this latest edition. Beginning with multiple guest authors in the form of instructional articles, photography, & essays, the sheer size of Tenkara Angler has tripled! (Moving forward, we'll be taking open submissions for future magazines; more details on page 111.) You're also probably reading this via Issuu's free e-reader software. The primary source of distribution was moved away from a "pay for download" format simply to get wider circulation. More copies into more hands, be it via computer screen, smartphone, or tablet. If you're still interested in a PDF or physical print copy, (they look good on a coee or end table), both will continue to be made available for sale via the Tenkara Angler Blurb storefront.

The markups on each version will remain extremely minimal, as from the beginning, this "fanzine" is more centered around fun, and curation of tenkara-themed content, not to generate a proďŹ t. I hope you enjoy the Winter 2015-16 issue of Tenkara Angler. I've been overwhelmed by the quality of the submissions, and much like the last magazine, it sure was a lot of fun to put together!

Michael Agneta

Editor In Chief Tenkara Angler | Troutrageous.com



Tips For Better [Fish] Photographs Three Simple Tips To Capture Text & Photos By Jason Sparks

There has never been an easier time in history than now for learning to capture better images of the things in life you want to remember. The photographs almost take themselves these days with auto-focus, auto-shutter, auto-aperture and other “auto-fantastical” settings. So why is it that we still see people disappointed by their photographs? Here are a few pointers that should lead you in the right direction for better images of that fish you worked so hard to catch... then release. We don't deal with film, chemicals or processing times anymore. We no longer need camera bodies and multiple lens weighing in at eleven pounds and costing a few thousand dollars. We have instant capture, instant review and instant satisfaction capabilities at our finger tips these days. High definition digital cameras with highly capable lens can go from taking amazing macro shots to offering some serious telephoto zoom on distances. The modern digital cameras ranging from $100 up to $300 are more than capable for most peoples everyday photography and use on social media. Let's not forget about the digital devices welded to our palms either. These mini computers are much more than a replacement for old school telephones, they carry entire music collections, a lifelong Rolodex of contacts and our daily planners. These “phones” have also become the primary camera for many people. It has been several years since I carried my camera bag around with me when I head


out to the Blue Ridge Parkway, a family vacation or even a birthday party. Since I am not making fine art prints for sale anymore, I use my hand-sized smart phone for 99% of my photography. The last two generations of phones on the market have seen significant technology increases in the lens they have installed. The 1.3 megapixel lens that we had for nearly a decade has been blown out of the water with amazing replacements like 12MP and 16MP lens of current models. The trick for me was to get good enough with my “phone” that I felt comfortable that I was not giving up quality versus the DSLR rig now sitting in a closet. Where did I start and what did I learn? I spent the last thirty years working on and developing the techniques that Mr. Baldwin preached in my Photo 101 class. I have tried and tested every technique that has ever interested me and have focused on the final few that have become “my style.” This is going to be an attempt to nutshell all of that into a few nuggets that you can digest. You need to be most aware of lighting, composition and focal point because the camera's “auto-fantastic” features will hold your hand though much of the rest of it. Truth be told, if you don't handle your three basic parts then you will find yourself in salvage mode trying to get something from nothing. No problem here, I'm sure that we can make a difference by concentrating of these areas.


Be very aware of your camera's ability to take photos in harsh and low light situations. Many times when we are out fishing the sun is wicked bright creating significant contrast with the shadows. That is hard for the sensor to compute and you will end up with “washed out” areas that are too bright and hold very little detail. Conversely, low light situations in the shadows or at dusk can create grainy images that loose all the detail and color at the other end of the spectrum.


Be aware of where your body/arm shadow is when you are holding the fish. Choose to position the fish either completely in the sun or in the shade. Don't straddle the line.



We've all seen pics where the camera is too far away from the angler showing us what is effectively a landscape instead of the catch. Haven't we also seen those trophy shots where the fish is held at arms length with the head thrust into the lens. It makes for pictures of the smallest anglers ever. Also, be cognizant of what is happening in the background. Is it something you want to include for some nice value added depth or do you want to exclude it? How about adding some creativity and art to your fish. Do something different.


Change up the angle in which you take the photograph. Consider taking a few shots of portions of the fish like only the head, tail or dorsal area. Include the felled tree in the background that you pulled him from under.


Focal Point:

All of us are using our digital cameras on auto-focus because it is just so easy Do you know how to override where it is focusing? By default, the settings has it focusing in the center of the frame. Once you start becoming aware of the lighting and framing your shots the focus area may not be right in the middle any more. Most photographs of fish have pinpoint focus on the eyeball of the fish. So how do you achieve this? You could work on changing the camera settings, but the easiest way on a “point & shoot” camera is to aim the camera at exactly where you want the focal point to be. Now press half way down on the shutter release to set the focus. Then while holding the button half depressed, re-frame the image to how you want the composition to be. Then finish depressing the shutter release. Now you can have the focus in the upper left corner or the lower middle of the frame by doing this procedure.


On your smart phone, use a free fingertip to touch the screen where you want the focal point to be. The camera will reset the focus to that point. Wait for the small subject/focus box to turn green, now shoot your photograph.



Look into using some photo enhancing Apps like BeFunky, Photoshop Express or Instagram. These are typically free or low cost and offer a wide range of advanced features that can help you show off your stuff. The combination of filters, twists and tweaks that you can impart onto the image can really make it stand out when you are showing off your catch with friends via email or social media.

There is no need for humdrum images from you anymore. Take control of your device and step up your game. You will surprised at how quickly you can start producing images at a whole new level. Take a lot of pictures. Be aware of the areas we just went over. Practice these things until they become second nature. I'm sure with a little practice you too will develop and perfect your style.




Who says tenkara is only for coldwater streams & trout?

Rob Gonzalez is part of a growing tenkara movement in Texas. Through the Facebook Group "Tenkara Texas," Hill Country anglers share stories, photos, and events relevant to the local tenkara community. 10

Additional Information can be found at: www.facebook.com/groups/TenkaraTexas


Rob ďŹ ghting a nice rainbow on the Guadalupe River Photo: Chris Johnson






The Holga is an inexpensive ďŹ lm camera that was originally created for the Chinese masses. In the hands of skilled photographers, the Holga's perceived shortcomings in image quality can create an eect that is almost dreamlike in appearance. The camera's uniqueness has stimulated a small, yet passionate counter-culture following, in some ways similar to that of tenkara among anglers. 17


2015 Oni Tenkara School USA, Utah


Tenkara Transformation

Adapting Tenkara for Smallmouth Bass Text & Photos By Mike Lutes & Matt Sment

By now, the majority of fixed line anglers are familiar with Tenkara’s origin story. It is a well-known fact that it was developed on high gradient drainages to catch cold water species. These conditions translated easily to some areas of the US, but many regions simply don't host mountain streams. Luckily, it turns out that Tenkara is exceptionally well suited for other terrains and species too! In warm water sport fishing, Smallmouth Bass just may be the ultimate match for Tenkara. It's a fish that is native to North America, and while it requires warmer water, it thrives in structure and current conditions similar to those favored by trout.


It is an opportunistic and aggressive feeder. Smallmouth are known to hunt on the move, but often launch explosive strikes from ambush positions near structure. Once hooked, they are ferocious fighters! Ounce for ounce, there is simply no better fight out there. On a Tenkara rod, every 12 inch fish is a thrill ride, and anything 15 inches and up feels like a clash between titans! We've spent a lot of time fishing for Smallmouth with Tenkara systems over the past few years, both on smaller “trout stream” sized creeks and larger rivers. In this article, we’ll discuss our observations on gear and tactics that are producing results for us on smallmouth creeks here in Wisconsin’s Driftless region. You'll see that

we've adapted what is already a simple system into something species and terrain specific – which ends up even simpler!


We think that the average 11-13 foot, 6:4 or 7:3 action rod offered by most American companies is just about perfect for 10-15 inch smallies on a typical creek. Softer tipped Japanese rods with highly refined actions are great for level lines and light fly patterns, but they are poorly suited for throwing the larger payloads we've come to prefer. Additionally, a rod with some “backbone” to it comes in handy when you need to dig in your heels against a big run. It's true that flexibility protects the rod, but without some stiffness to rely on, it’s going to be really difficult to turn that crazy bronzeback when it goes ballistic downstream. While we have spent time fishing smallmouth streams with “big fish” rods, we found them to be an overmatch for the size of the fish we were catching. One might consider making the leap into “bigger fish” rods if they are regularly targeting 16+ inch Bass or fishing in heavier current and larger/ deeper water, but for creeks and streams, we recommend you stick with “regular” rods to maximize the excitement!

Line and Tippet:

There are two major factors that drive our preferences for line and tippet. First, Smallmouth Bass are not very leader shy. We aren’t saying that they are “easy”… but they are nowhere near as spooky as trout. Second, we are typically casting larger and heavier fly patterns on our Tenkara rods than we do when we fish for trout. These two factors combined mean that we are less concerned about line signature, and need some extra line mass to help cast larger flies. We both prefer light-weight floating lines for Smallmouth Bass fishing. In our opinion, the requirement for throwing larger flies makes level line a poor choice. Furled line would be better suited for the task, but its need for floatant to keep it from sinking is something we are not fond of. Light-weight floating line offers the mass we need to throw bigger patterns, and lacks the complications that come with furled lines. Our usual rigging is about 12-16 of line, depending on the size of the water we are fishing. Fishing a line length that is longer than the rod does increase the difficulty in keeping line off the water, but as we’ve discussed, that is not a big issue in bass fishing.


As far as tippet goes…we save it for the trout! This where it pays to know the water and species you are fishing. Smallmouth simply are not spooky enough to warrant its use, and in small and medium streams, the 10-15 inch bass you are targeting with the average Tenkara rod aren’t putting the rod in threat, so the “safety” concept is largely unnecessary. Instead, we use 4-6lb test monofilament line. Our favorite choice is “the cheapest that is currently on sale”. Normally, we rig up with 6-8 feet of mono, tied directly to the end of the floating line. On average, we are fishing 30-36 foot systems and making casts in the 25-35 foot range. We tend to use systems on the shorter side when fishing solo, because that makes landing the fish a bit easier. When you’ve got a buddy nearby that can assist with the landing, don’t be afraid to stretch out to longer lengths if you want to experiment!

Fly choice and Tactics:

Nymphs will work sometimes. So will dries. And poppers. But for consistent action, we recommend you pick a streamer of some sort. Why’s that? Because we’ve both found that we can make streamers produce under the widest variety of circumstances. We believe that this is because general purpose streamer patterns feature a decent amount of movement and a bold profile. Mike caught nearly all of his smallmouth this year on a size 6 or 8 white cone headed streamer with a strip of rabbit fur.This remarkably effective fly can be twitched and retrieved at varying speeds or simply dead drifted. You can allow it to sink before the retrieve to get it deep, or strip it fast across the surface to elicit top-water strikes. The rabbit fur has a killer fluttering action that the bass just love!


Mike tends to use the weighted fly to work the horizontal axis, targeting deeper holes with thorough drifts. He’ll move through each level of the water column with a combination of dead drifts, twitching retrieves, and erratic “altitude change” retrieves where the fly will climb and dive rapidly. He prefers to fish upstream or up and across, and work the drift back towards him. Matt spent most of the year fishing for bass with an unweighted Pass Lake in size 6. Many of the strikes took place within seconds of the fly landing, so there wasn’t much time for technique! The standard pattern calls for white wings, but we also tested some with chartreuse wings. Both proved equally irresistible. Being unweighted, you have use current and time to sink it, but the vast majority of the strikes it drew this year were nearly instantupon-arrival topwater hits, or occurred in the top 12 inches of the water column as the fly was being stripped, swung, or otherwise actioned through current. Matt likes to work wider vertical areas (down and across swing on a long riffle), or short deliberate drifts near structure (up and to the left of that rock, with a 2-3 foot drift past as it sinks). He’ll often do 2-3 passes over a target area and then move on.

Pass Lake

"Chunky 21 inch bass caught on the Classic rod!"


Smallmouth with Pass Lake

The first pass will be a dead drift, the second some kind of twitchy motion, and the third will be an aggressive strip. If a certain technique besides the dead drift seems to be producing more often than others, he’ll start off with that instead.

Your presence in the water will not hinder your chances of catching fish at this range, and you’ll most likely have the ability to cast to both sides of the stream from a central position. You can move from bank to bank as needed.

One big difference between trout and smallmouth, is that bass are not put off by a splashy presentation. On the contrary, they can be quite attracted to noisy landings! Tenkara rods make it easy to add some “spice” to your presentation, simply by tapping your index finger against the cork grip as you land the fly, and adding a small thrashing action by means of quick tip shake. After all, how many times have you had a small bluegill on the hook and watched bass come rocketing up out of the depths to come investigate? You can even incorporate the “tapping” component into your retrieves and drifts. I’ve had days where the fish wouldn’t move an inch, but add some tapping and they’d hit the exact same fly and presentation they’d ignored a moment before!

Smallmouth bass run and fight hard! Here are a few tips that have worked to help us bring them to hand:

We both agree that you are best off getting in the water to fish. Assuming that there is no safety risk in wading, get your feet wet and use the lower profile to your advantage.


Be aware of your position in the stream, nearby current, depth, etc. Do what you can to steer them away from entanglements and bunkers early in the fight. Move your feet. If can move safely, a few steps forward or to the side can make a huge difference in that moment when you and the fish are balanced on a fine edge and struggling for control of the rod. Stay mobile! Another trick to change the dynamic when the fish is running straight away from you, is to take a quick, small step forward and then turn your whole body to the side. Turning your whole body can put the bend back into the rod and get you back into control of the fish quickly. This can be done in place if you are in a position where you cannot safely move.

Final Thoughts:

We were discussing this article over beers (Mike, a Belgian Abbey ale, Matt a Sprecher’s root beer) and having a difficult time articulating just what it is we enjoy about bass fishing so much. During the discussion, Mike brought up that when he fishes after a night shift, he usually chooses to fish for smallmouth bass as he generally finds it so relaxing. Matt related that he had been out fishing for Smallmouth this summer with a friend that they were having so much fun they were laughing like kids. And that is when it crystallized for us… As much as we enjoy trout fishing, there is always a certain pressure that goes along with it. Yes, it can be very relaxing, but if you are not careful, you can also be tense

while trout fishing. While we really enjoy the constant analysis and engagement that is part of a day on a trout stream, that level of mental activity can be fatiguing. Trout fishing is appealing in part for its endless complexity. Stream fishing for bass is enjoyable because of its relative simplicity. Lastly, I don’t think we can underestimate the “fishing like you did when you were 10 years old factor”. I suspect many of us fish because it reminds us of carefree childhood days spent on the water. We have found stream fishing for smallmouth gets us closer to that ideal. A fierce native species. uncomplicated to catch and fights like a demon, paired with a simple system of tools that is uncomplicated to fish and is easily adapted to local conditions. It’s a perfect match!

Typical Driftless Creek Bass


Low And Slow

A Winter Fishing Primer

Text & Photos By Chris Stewart The general consensus among fly fishermen seems to be that if you want to catch trout in winter you’d better fish midges. The theory is based on the fact that midges hatch throughout the year. However, the second thing tenkara anglers learn is that you don’t need to match the hatch to catch fish. (I surely don’t have to tell you the first thing they learn you don’t need.)

I’ve never been a midge fisherman, though. My preferred method for winter


fishing is “Low and Slow.” Find deeper pools and runs and fish them slowly. Of course, to do that you need a plunge pool to take your fly down or you need to add weight. Depending on where you fish, plunge pools may be rarer than tiger trout. Adding weight allows you to fish deep - even if the nearest plunge pool is three counties over. The stream shown below is one of the few New York streams open all year. The fish are there. The plunge pools aren’t.

The Fly

Fly choice for "Low and Slow" fishing isn’t about matching the hatch but it is about matching the water depth and current.

Killer Bug

Depending on the depth and current, you don’t always have to add a lot of weight. Sometimes just a wire body like the Sakasa Copperbari is sufficient. The slim profile and sparse soft hackle create little resistance, allowing the fly to sink pretty rapidly. If there’s a bit more current and you have to get the fly down a bit more quickly, an underlayer of lead or lead free wire will take a fly down even if it does have a fatter body. Of course, if you have an underlayer of wire, it will have a fatter body!

Sakasa Copperbari

Tungsten Beadhead

A standard Killer Bug or Utah Killer Bug has a copper wire underbody. If you substitute a layer of lead or lead free wire (offset with fewer layers of yarn to keep the fly in proportion) it will get deeper and still draw strikes. If you really have to get down, though, nothing beats a tungsten bead head AND a bit of lead or lead free wire. Your fly will be fatter, but not all caddis larvae are Twiggy. Like midges, they’re available to the trout all year and there’s a lot more protein and calories than in a dozen midges.


BB Split Shot Located on Tippet

Of course, you could always just use split shot to get your fly down. The great Joe Humphreys uses a pair of split shot, attached to the tippet a few inches apart so they are more likely to roll along the bottom than to drop down between rocks and get snagged. Keiryu anglers in Japan generally use only one shot, but with the much longer rod, their line is more nearly vertical so the shot is kept above the bottom to minimize snags. When fishing with a tenkara rod (longer than Joe Humphries’ rod but shorter than a keiryu rod) using two smaller shot may work better than one larger shot.


The Line

In the flat light of winter, even hi-vis lines can be hard to see. There is a fluorescent chartreuse line in the first photo, but you can’t see it. Even in real life it is hard to see. Nylon takes dye better than fluorocarbon and the brighter colors that are possible make the lines much easier to see on an overcast winter day. I find the Fujino Soft Tenkara line to be about the easiest to see in the winter. The only downside is that when it is cold it is harder to stretch out the residual memory. On the other hand, if you are fishing with a weighted fly, a bit of coil in the line is not going to affect your cast very much. Plus, that slight coil in the line is the most sensitive strike indicator there is. When the coils straighten – fish on!

Fujino Soft Tenkara Line


The Rod

The average tenkara rod is not particularly well suited to fishing weighted flies (the midsection is too soft). For that reason, many tenkara anglers in the US have gone to keiryu rods like the Daiwa Kiyose 33SF for fishing heavy nymphs. The Kiyose is a relatively stiff rod that allows you to keep in contact with your flies and pretty effectively transmits the subtle takes that are often all you get in the winter. The biggest downside to fishing with a keiryu rod in the winter is that the graphite grip gets cold.


For Low and Slow fishing this winter, I’ll use the TenkaraBum 36, which is a newly developed tenkara rod designed in conjunction with the Japanese rod company Suntech. It is an all around rod that is designed to fish weighted flies much better than the average tenkara rod. It isn’t nearly as stiff as the Daiwa Kiyose, though, and the hard EVA foam grip doesn’t get cold. Best of all, it can cast a much lighter line than the Kiyose (or most 7:3 tenkara rods for that matter) for the rest of the year, when the grass is green, the birds are chirping and the fish are looking up.

Suntech TenkaraBum 36

Whatever flies, line and rod you use, get out this winter. The fish still have to eat (and after the holidays you could probably use the exercise). Besides, the best cure for the wintertime blues is a little fish slime, applied directly to the palm. 31

Czech Nymphing: A World-Beating Method By Paul Gaskell

The following is an excerpt of an emailbased tenkara instructional series distributed by Discover Tenkara. Paul Gaskell has graciously allowed me to re-print the first of the three lessons on Czech-Nymphing as an introduction to the online tutorials for the readers of Tenkara Angler. To sign up for all of Paul's free tutorials, visit: http://www.discovertenkara.co.uk/emailtutorials-sign-up-2/

Picture the Scene

It is 1990 on the banks of the Welsh River Dee. The competitors for the FIPS Mouche World River Fly-fishing Championships are waiting for the starter’s whistle. The British nations are on familiar water and extremely confident that they are about to show “Johnny Foreigner” exactly how to fish their home rivers. After all, many British competitors have grown up fishing the Dee – or rivers just like it. It is going to be a walkover… Only, it didn’t quite pan out that way. You see, the anglers from Eastern Europe smashed the rest of the field with a set of very similar techniques. These techniques had never been seen before in Britain and, quite honestly, if the Poles and the Czechs had shown the rigs, flies and presentation techniques that they planned to use ahead of the competition – the response would have been “That will never work on our rivers!” By the end of this [article] I will have passed


on little-known details that, when combined with the following two lessons, will let you in on the secret of those competitors' success. But, back to the story... I expect that the sting for the home nations would have been made even sharper when they found out that many of the original Czech and Polish anglers who had developed these tactics were unable to afford “proper” fly fishing gear. Modern fly lines were particularly scarce and the methods of fishing nymphs on a short line, in many cases, were developed by anglers using thick sea-fishing monofilament in place of a fly line (sometimes even knotted to the tip ring of the rod if they did not own a reel).

Rude Awakening

It was a rude awakening, and also a terrifically valuable lesson. Following the dominant number of World Championship medals won by the Czech team, the methods have earned the title “Czech Nymphing”. This is perhaps a little unfair to the Polish competitors who pushed the development of “short-line nymphing” in a fierce arms race with their opposite numbers in what is now the Czech Republic during the 1980’s. In fact, many people prefer to use the label Polish nymphing when describing what is now a family of similar techniques. Each school will have subtle regional and personal variations, but many core principles are shared. Since that spectacular bursting onto the international scene a LOT has been written

about Czech Nymphing. Much of it is very good information (especially that written by key participants from its place of origin!). BUT, there is also some extremely misleading garbage out there – so beware. I will tackle some of those misconceptions for you very soon, but first I need to set out a few significant features that will help you get good at catching fish with these methods. First of all, these methods were developed by anglers with a deep understanding of how fish behave in streams and rivers. In particular their knowledge of how natural food drifts in currents, how those currents are structured and how/where/when fish preferred to intercept that food with the greatest efficiency. They found that a larger proportion of fish would feed on food below the water’s surface for the majority of the time. To take advantage of this, the Eastern European anglers became masters at producing perfectly natural drifts with their slim and simple sub-surface flies. Using as short a line as possible gave them the ultimate control over these drifts.

In many cases, the anglers would have been fishing to feed their families – and the fish in these rivers were scarce. The fish that remained were also the most difficult to catch. On top of that, one of the only realistic ways that young people could hope to travel outside their home country was by getting into the international river fishing teams! It is no surprise that these conditions caused those anglers to hone their fishcatching skills to perfection. The next two lessons will break down the mechanics of how to perform good Czech nymphing tactics – but right now I want to tackle some of those myths. Mistakes are important - they will almost always hold you back more than your strengths will be able to compensate. Number One on the list of misconceptions is the idea that you need to “feel” for when a fish takes your fly (bear with me if this is completely obvious to you already…). If you rely on feeling a tug on your line you will probably miss at least 9 out of every 10 chances that you have of catching a fish.


There are lots of words in the US that describe the moment that a fish grabs your fly. For simplicity, I will tend to use the word “hit” during this series of lessons (but feel free to mentally replace it with the word that you and your fishing buddies use!) As we will see in lesson 3, visual hit detection is vitally important. In that lesson, I will break down the essential elements that you absolutely need to put in place in order to allow you to detect takes visually. This is one of those “small hinges that swing big doors” in terms of changing a 4 or 5 fish day into a 50 or 60 fish day… The next myth on the list is probably more common – but will not affect your fish capture ability to quite the same extent as Number 1 (above). This is the idea that all Czech nymphs are all super-heavy leaded “bugs”. The original flies (and most of the “standard issue” ones used by top Czech anglers today) are as slim as they can possibly be. Just look at World Gold-medal winning Czech Jan Siman's own box of Czech nymphs below:


Some Trade Secrets

When coupled with relatively fine diameter tippet (around 7x to 6x), the slim, smooth profile of a good Czech nymph means you only need fine lead wire in the underbody to get your flies to “cut” through the water column. Perhaps a little-known “hack” that the Czech anglers sometimes use is to only wrap the lead wire underbody at the bend-end of the hook. This is designed to encourage the fly to enter the water “ass first” (!) and so cut more easily through the surface film and also sink with less resistance. Nowadays, large proportions of Czech anglers boxes will often contain tungsten bead-head flies (tied on both regular hooks and also “jig” hooks). Again, these will be dressed slim and not heavier than necessary for the conditions at hand. THE USE OF FINE TIPPET, SLIM/SMOOTHSURFACED FLIES AND STRATEGIC POSITIONING OF LEAD WIRE ARE GREAT NINJA SECRETS OF THE TOP PRACTITIONERS.

It allows the lighter nymphs to get down towards the eye-level of the fish quite quickly in your average pace and depth of water. At the same time – it means that the flies drift much more like natural food than the absolute lead bombs used by many people. Again, the following email lessons will show how poor management of the rod tip and line during the drift causes the flies to ride too high in the water (which in turn tempts anglers with poor skills to use heavier and heavier flies in order to “get down deep”). When you have mastered good drift management techniques, are using slim flies and fine/strong tippet material; you will find that there are times when heavy nymphs are useful. However, to get the best out of them, you need to master the basics with lighter flies. This is a very important matter.


The flies are simple and fall firmly in the camp of “generalist/suggestive” patterns (just like many of the all-time greats like the Pheasant Tail Nymph, the F-Fly or the Woolly Bugger!)


The first time these methods were seen (and even for quite a while after that!) the common reaction was that “Well, that wouldn’t work on my river”


Understanding the relationship between current-structure, natural food and fish-feeding behavior is critical to getting good at catching fish


Perfect control of the drift by using movements of the rod tip is a great strength when river fishing

Fastest Route to Improvement

If you want to develop your skills and understanding as much as possible, it is important to always look beyond the label (or the fashion) for a technique.

The photograph of Jan Siman's fly box shows a great range of slim/smooth classic Czech nymph designs. This should give you a clue on the proportions for real Czech nymphs.

Instead, look to identify core principles and see how they are applied across all successful methods. Soon, just by thinking of yourself as a switched-on, thinking angler, you will become exactly that.

The flies in the photo were among the more heavily-leaded examples that he carries (to go heavier still, tungsten beads become the weapon of choice).

Right – that is enough to absorb for this introduction. For those of you that tie your own flies, here are a couple of suggestions for great stand-by patterns that you might want to add to your collection.

So, the take-home message is you should aim to keep your own Czech nymphs no fatter than the ones pictured and, if anything, go slimmer where possible. So, as a recap to this introduction to Czech nymphing, I want to draw out a small number of core factors that I will keep referring back to as we go through the series:

These are tried and tested so that you can “follow along” with the fishing tuition in the upcoming lessons with complete confidence. For all these lessons, I recommend you get out on stream and put principles into practice as soon and as regularly as possible. Practice makes perfect!


Advanced Casting

Fixed Line Fly Fishing in Four Dimensions A Three Part Series By Robert Worthing

Photos By ERiK Ostrander & John Vetterli


Tenkara is an elegant system of fly fishing. Freed from the need to wrangle a more complex setup, tenkara allows us to focus on crucial lessons in fish behavior, reading water, and presentation. This makes fixed line techniques like tenkara a perfect tool for the beginner fly fisherperson. But the utility of rod, line, and fly extends far beyond the beginner. For those who wish to dig deeper, a bottomless well of fixed line fly skills awaits. This series is intended for those anglers who want to explore advanced fixed line fly casting. The goal of the series is not to learn specific casts, but instead learn a systematic approach to building casting skills. It’s an approach that creates adaptive anglers, ready to creatively combine casting skills to meet the demands of a variety of conditions. Why? Because each day of fly fishing poses a unique set of challenges. The master angler is the one that produces each day. In Tenkara Angler Magazine, we break up advanced casting into a three part series of articles. Part One is this article, where we lay the foundation for a lifetime of building advanced casting skills by introducing the concept of Four Dimensional Casting. Four dimensional casting teaches you to dissect complex casting strokes into four basic elements, or dimensions. In Part Two, we learn the concept of The Casting Progression Table. The progression table teaches you to combine different casting dimensions to create casting strokes. It organizes the basic dimensions of casting into skill levels that build on each other – as you master one, you prepare yourself to advance to the next. Finally, in Part Three, we will begin to learn how to apply advanced casting skills on the water. 36

Four Dimensional Casting

Four dimensional casting is the concept of breaking down a casting stroke into four basic elements, or dimensions – turning a complex dance into a series of simple movements that can be practiced. Dissecting a particular cast into its basic dimensions can help you learn new casting skills, or polish ones you already possess. More importantly, building your skill set in each of the four dimensions will free you to adapt your cast to any situation on the water. The four dimensions of casting are the vertical, the horizontal, the rotational, and time

Vertical (Sagittal) Rotational (Coronal)

Horizontal (Transverse)


1. The Vertical

The vertical dimension involves movement of the rod and line in a back and forth motion over the angler’s head. This is the same dimension that an archer holds a bow and arrow. In anatomy, this is called the sagittal plane (named after the archer, Sagittarius). The simplest example of a cast that involves the vertical dimension is the basic overhand cast.



2. The Horizontal

The horizontal dimension also involves movement of the rod and line in a back and forth motion, but at the side of the body, parallel to the ground. In anatomy, this is called the transverse plane. It is the same plane that you slice a loaf of bread. The simplest example of a cast that involves the horizontal dimension is the sidearm cast.



3. The Rotational

The rotational dimension is key in advancing fixed line casting skills. It involves actively rotating the rod hand to a palm up position (called supination), or a palm down position (called pronation). In anatomy, this is called the coronal plane (like looking at a crown on a king). This dimension allows you to seamlessly move between the vertical and the horizontal dimensions, providing absolute control over the line and fly. Despite it’s importance, it is overlooked by many, and might very well be the defining characteristic of advanced fly presentation.



4. Time

Most with a background in rod and reel fly fishing will know about the importance of timing your back cast and forward cast. Timing is just as important in fixed line fly fishing. But timing of a fixed line system is different than a rod and reel system. Unlike reeled fly fishing, where the weight of fly line is used to add energy to the system, casting a fixed line depends almost completely on the dynamic flex of the rod. Timing is what allows the angler to take full advantage of the potential power contained in a long, flexible fixed line rod to cast a lightweight line and fly. The advanced caster must learn to load and unload the rod at just the right time. When the timing is right, casting a light line into a heavy wind becomes effortless.


Now, go fishing. Or at least throw a few casts in your lawn. See if you can break down your casting into the four dimensions outlined above. How many dimensions do you use? Any dimensions you haven’t thought about before? In the next edition of Tenkara Angler Magazine, we will see how the four dimensions come together to create different casting strokes, and learn to use the four dimensions to advance our casting skills.

Interested in hands-on training in advanced casting? Check out Zen Tenkara’s Winter Series, where Rob Worthing will share the full advanced casting program in person.


Too Tight For Tenkara Text & Photos By Jason Sparks

“You can't fish with a rod that long in these mountain streams!” I've heard that more times than I can shake a long rod at. The idea of heading out to the waterline with a twelve foot fly rod sounds crazy to many people. There was a time when I thought the same thing. Knowing the places I fish and how “tight” that creek line is, extra long rods seemed counter-intuitive. When I first ventured into the world of tenkara fly fishing, I kept my distance from the trees and stayed in wide open spaces. Very quickly I began to get control of these longs rods and witness first hand the wide range of benefits they are touted for. The


level of confidence I was gaining with this angling tool took me from the open shoreline right to the trailhead. Along with my fellow tenkara anglers here in the Appalachian Range, we have been dissecting these waters with twelve foot rods for some years now. This includes the cold waters coming off Mount Mitchell and the swift flow on Catoctin Mountain. It is true, we all have some hide-away blue lines that get silly tight and become almost too hard to fish at all. I’ll acknowledge that and follow it with that is the exception, not the rule. Stop and take a look around at the area around you next time you are “out in the woods” fishing the high country water. Do you see what I see?

First, I would like you to notice how high the canopy is. On most streams in the mountains the trees push their branches high toward the sky. The hardwood varieties limit lower branches and use the high level limbs to compete for sunlight. The typically offers an amazing amount of space for casting in general and affords ample room for my long tenkara rod and fixed length of line. Once you add horizontal casting to your usually vertical casting lanes, and every angle variation in between, you’ll have a great ability to perform. For my second point, take a look at the water’s edge. Where is the root line for all these trees? This typically is many feet from the actual water. The high water line, or wash zone, prevents foliage from growing long term right at the water. It is the “flash flood” conditions that exist of the face of mountains that create this vegetation gap by washing out the young growth year round with heavy rains. Since the bigger trees are growing farther

back, you have gained more additional space for casting a long rod. I concede that rhododendron and laurel will grow right to the edge and hang out over the sweetest holes sometimes. Treat that as a challenge on how to penetrate that spot. For the most part, you’ll see wide open spaces along your favorite waterways. The condition found in mountain streams are often more favorable than the ones you will see in the Piedmont waterways and back, you have gained more additional space for casting a slow flow waterways of the flatlands. Warm water streams and rivers can have heavy vegetation growth right up banks. This puts scrub brush and weeds in our way. Haven’t we all tried to make casts through the years in a small pocket cutout on the shoreline? The one place must be a perfect casting spot because the earth is well trodden there because so many other anglers have used the same idea. Then you realize that it is beat down because we are all making the same mistake, it isn’t a good spot to fish


from. That isn’t something you find very often high up in the hills. Tenkara rods range from about nine feet up to about fourteen feet. That starting point is right at the same mark that many fly fishers are holding now in their nine foot nymphing rods. Fixed line fly fishing is a departure from the conventional training most fly fishermen have received and read about. There are few limitations to this ancient Japanese style, but not when it comes to tight areas. I routinely carry a nine foot and twelve foot rods with me everywhere I go.


They are telescopic and collapse to near twenty inches. They each weight about 2.5 ounces. I can successfully angle fish from four inches to twenty inches with casting lengths from at my feet to thirty plus feet away. Whether I’m in downtown Charlotte or at home high on Grandfather Mountain, I take every advantage with my long rods. I rarely find myself in “tight” areas where I can’t make the casts that I want to. We don’t let the tight areas scare us away from tackling that water. Tenkara Gets Around!


Streamer Fishing With Tenkara Text & Photos By Brent Auger & Brandon Moon


We've found that fishing streamers is a very effective and fun technique on our Tenkara rods. We usually fish size 4 streamers as we tend to fish larger water more often than not. The flies vary from the ever popular Woolly Bugger to Sculpin Patterns. The preferred length for bigger water is a line from 15' to 20'. This is combined with a rod no shorter than 13' (390cm). The long rod and line help give us reach to cover water quickly and effectively, while the rod helps maintain better line control and hold the line of the water more effectively.

The Line We Like

We've found that the Oudachi (by Moonlit Fly Fishing) is the best line for fishing streamers. This line has a WF taper which helps the line load more effectively, and be as light as possible in the belly to give you less line sag for a better dead drift. It consists of a body with two sections made of two colors of polyester thread and a core of fluorocarbon. This helps you to sight your line and also act as an indicator. Having the two sections also allows you to better focus on the section you want to. The tip of this line is straight fluorocarbon which gives this line a lot of power, and aid in

sinking your flies faster to get into fish's feeding zone. The design also helps you keep a tighter line from fly to rod, which helps with better strike detection and hook sets.

The Rods We Use

We've fished several rods, but as mentioned we've found longer rods 13' plus to be more effective on our larger waters. The long rod make casting longer lines with weighted streamers much easier. They also tend to handle larger fish we tend to run into tossing streamers, with better leverage, making them easier to land. Our favorite rods to fish these types of flies with are the DRAGONtail Hellbender 390, NISSAN ZX 450 2way, NISSAN Royal Stage 7:3 400, and the Tanuki 425. There are more rods that are able to handle streamers, but these are what we have found to be the ones we prefer. They are longer with good backbone, which is what is needed for throwing streamers. You don't want to use a rod that is to soft, as this will make casting the added weight more difficult. It will also give you less control over the larger fish once you hook into one. The stiffness in the lower sections and


Changing Your Cast

To protect you and your rod you will have to adjust your cast to make sure your fly does not hit you or your rod. When a weighted fly hits your rod it can result in a weak spot which will fail at some point. You can do this by bring your backcast back at a 45 degree angle then your forward cast at a higher angle, thus swinging your fly out of the path of your rod tip.

Moonlit Fly Fishing Oudachi Tenkara Line added length of these rods allow you to use the length of your rod to aid in turning and controlling the fish, as a softer rod bends half way down the rod causing you to losing half of your leverage length in fighting the fish. For us the Royal Stage 7:3 400 is the softest rod we will use for this.

Safety First

The first thing you need to do when approaching the water is come up with a game plan on how and where to land the fish. You want to be safe when wading in big water where there can be some consequences if you do something stupid while trying to move around to keep the fish on.

With longer lines and weighted flies, you will also want to pause on your backcast longer than normal as well to let it properly load.

Our Streamer Tactic

We found it effective to cast at a 45 degree angle up stream toward the bank edge. After casting, let it drift down the bank edge until it is about 25 degrees downstream from you and then start pulsing the fly about a foot or 2 at a time with a pause in between each pulse. Once the streamer get straight downstream from you, let it hold in one spot for about 30 seconds before recasting. We get most of our strikes as the streamer is drifting down the bank side. A few strikes as we pulse the fly across the current, and quite a few strikes as the streamer holds straight below you.

DRAGONtail HELLbender 390/340 Zoom Tenkara Rod



Flyosophy 101

Simplicity, Durability, Versatility, & Effectiveness Text & Photos By Chris Kuhlow

I had always wanted to take the plunge into fly fishing since I was a kid but it all seemed kind of intimidating. First, there were the different rod weights and the selection of fly lines that could be used for every situation under the sun. The knots needed to set up your rod and line would be enough to cause any angler to seek psychiatric help. Then there are the accessories and the difficult choices that accompany them. Do I send my children to college or do I fill every pocket on that fishing vest with some potentially usable item? And casting? Not even Yoda could help me with that. Fly fishing remained firmly in the world of “maybe someday…..” There it would remain until I stumbled across tenkara.

The complexity and cost of traditional western fly fishing had kept me at bay so I stuck to what I knew best, fishing with a spin rod. Back in 2010 I was looking for a way to combine fishing with another favorite activity of mine…hiking. However, even with a 5 foot ultralight spin rod and a minimal fishing bag it was still a bit cumbersome to hike through the woods and carry my gear. I started searching for any kind of fishing equipment to easily carry with me on trips to the woods. That’s when I came across an obscure reference to something called “tenkara”. After a little research I became fascinated by it. Tenkara….a rod, a line and a fly. Could it be any simpler than that? Here was something that was everything I was looking for. It was portable, inexpensive and simplified that mysterious sport of fly fishing to me. I decided to immerse myself in everything “tenkara” and purchased my first rod and required accessories. After the rod arrived I


began practicing in the backyard and thought to myself, “there is nothing really complicated about this at all.” That is until I asked myself the age old question….”What fly should I use?” There was so much literature, differing schools of thought, opinions and advice out there. What were the essential flies to always have in your fly box when out on the water? The sheer number of variables to consider, such as what’s hatching, the water conditions, time of day, etc. could make one wonder if it was even possible to catch a fish with an artificial fly. Before I knew what hit me I found myself dizzy and weak into the knees trying to figure out which flies to carry on me. I did some extensive searching and came up with a few dozen patterns that

seemed to be the most popular and effective and began tying them all. My first fly boxes were filled with some seriously ugly flies. Although I had fun tenkara fishing that first year and caught some fish here and there, I found that having to search through fly after fly looking for what worked could become a little frustrating. I wanted to learn but I also wanted to catch fish and not waste time tying on fly after fly with my sausage–like fingers. Although “matching the hatch” worked for many anglers and appealed to the biologist in me I wanted something simpler. That is when the simplicity of tenkara stepped in again. A couple of years after the introduction of tenkara to anglers in the US and the west we were introduced to the concept of “One Fly is all you need” (later modified to “One Fly/Any fly”). Skeptical may be a bit of an understatement to how it was received. Who was this Daniel Galhardo guy to suggest that the choice of fly doesn’t matter? This flew in the face of decades of the traditional approach of match the hatch. Some on line forums got a “little heated” over the subject. Fortunately there were more than a few anglers out there with an open mind who decided to try it. Much to their delight it worked. Imagine how simple life could be for any fly fisherman who wished to fish anywhere and not worry about water conditions or hatching insects.

As long as you concentrated on your presentation and used any fly that somewhat resembled an insect you were good to go. At last, the last bit confusion and complexity was eliminated. At this point you may be wondering, why is this guy rehashing much of what the rest of the tenkara world already knows about it? To understand where one is going, sometimes you need to understand where they came from. I have arrived at my own personal Flyosophy through a number of years of incorporating bits of advice from fellow anglers, reading historical literature, on line searches, forum discussions, and good old fashioned experience. Before I discus my personal flyosophy I want to state up front that what follows is my own personal set of guidelines for the fly selection I use. In no way do I want to impress upon anyone that my way is the best or only way to select flies to use on the water. Match the hatch may work for you and be very rewarding. You may be a nymph’s only kind of angler. You may only fish dry flies when Saturn is in the house of Aries…or something like that. If you catch fish on the fly and you have fun doing it…then do what makes you happy. Who am I or is anyone else to tell you different? I offer what wisdom I have for the newbie or someone looking to try something new or different.


I am neither a match the hatch nor a one fly/any fly guy. However, I do lean very heavily towards the latter option. When I am out on the water, whether it be a local pond for bass and bluegill or a Catskill mountain stream looking for brookies and brown trout my fly box will be compact with at most 3 to 5 patterns in the box. My experience has been that if I can’t catch a fish with the patterns I have brought then it’s highly unlikely that I would catch anything if I had brought a 6th pattern. Some days you will get skunked and there is nothing you can do about it. On the other hand, I have tried fishing “one fly” on more than one occasion and found that when I gave up and used a second pattern I caught fish. A little flexibility can improve your day without you having to waste time tying fly after fly onto your line searching for the winner. The previous statements explain the number of flies I carry but not the specific flies.

Since I limit the number of flies I’m willing to carry on me at any one point when fishing I want to maximize how effective and versatile they will be. The fly patterns in my fly box must possess the following qualities. Each fly must be simple to tie and only consist of generally 3 materials or less (not including the hook). This serves to increase the speed at which I can tie replacement flies and reduce the cost of materials. For instance, a Usual (created by Fran Betters), consists of nothing more that thread, hook and fur from the underside of a snowshoe hare’s foot. As long as you have hooks it will only cost you about $6-7 for thread and a snowshoe hare foot and you will be able to tie dozens of flies. The next quality a fly of mine will possess is durability. The fly must stand up to the abuse it will receive. When fish are practically throwing themselves at you no one wants to stop to change a fly because


it’s falling apart after catching one or two toothy trout. I often use a pattern of mine called a Kiwi’s Killer that I have caught literally caught tens of dozens of bass, bluegills and some brook trout on multiple fishing trips without having to change it. If I tie a new one on it’s usually due to losing it to a snag. The third quality a fly of mine will need to possess before I take it with me is versatility. The pattern should not be restricted to only one type of water or a limited to only few kinds of fish. In addition, the fly should look like just about everything a fish may encounter but nothing very specific. A simple thread and hackle sakasa kebari, a Killer Kebari or Killer Bug could fit the bill on this requirement. The Killer Bug’s middle name should be “versatility.” There is no single fly I have ever fished that has produced as well as a Killer Bug has for me. I have caught fish anywhere I have fished it. Bass, bluegill, sunfish, various trout, yellow perch & bluefish-snappers (saltwater) have been brought to hand. I have even caught alewives during their spring migrations from saltwater into freshwater on Long Island on Killer Bugs. The last and most important property for any pattern is how effective is it. This is somewhat of a no brainer. If a fly catches very few or no fish at all why would you use it? I have tied some beautiful (to look at) patterns that fish have never given a first look, let alone a second look at. Those flies were relegated to the odd fly box where failed experiments go to collect dust. If you are looking for ideas what makes an effective fly simply look at the literature. If a pattern has been around for decades or longer there is probably a good reason for it….it works! North Country spiders and soft hackled patterns are personal favorites of mine for their simple beauty and

associated history. Many North Country patterns have been around for a couple of hundred years. Maybe the original tiers were on to something?

me I have increased my confidence that their versatility and effectiveness will help me in any situation I may find myself in and have a successful outing.

In addition to these qualities, I have honed my flyosophy even further by using the philosophy of simplifying from tenkara. I have even simplified my hook selection by reducing it to only a handful of hook styles and sizes. Ninety to 95 % of the flies I tie for myself or for commercial purposes are tied on Mustad C49S size 12 scud hooks. I chose the brand for no particular reason and I like the shape of them. I find straight hooks to be a bit unnatural looking. Most insects I find floating or moving in a stream tend to be moving or curled and not straight and stiff as a board. However I did chose size 12 specifically. The fish I generally catch range in size from 5” brook trout to 20+” largemouth bass. I have found that size 12 will be readily taken by fish along the whole continuum. Therefore I reduced yet another variable I would have to worry about and focus on my presentation and enjoy what I’m doing instead. So what patterns do I carry that fit all these criteria? My Fly box will usually consist of Killer Bugs, Killer Kebari, Royal Sakasa Kebari and maybe Killer Buggers and Usuals for dry fly fishing. Sometimes I will change a pattern out just to change it up but that is essentially it.

If you are wondering what additional patterns might satisfy my requirements I would suggest you get your hands on a copy of Morgan Lyle's Simple Flies. Morgan has done a superb job of putting together a collection of flies that are exactly the kinds of patterns I am talking about. There are a number of patterns in his book that you will find in my fly box at any given time and many more. I hope my little words of wisdom may help you to develop your own flyosophy that will enable you to answer that age old question….”What fly should I use?”

There you have it, my personal flyosophy. Is it the best way? Is it the only way? Has it settled once and for all which fly to tie on the end of your line? Perhaps not! However, I have found it’s what works for me. Using this approach to fly selection I feel I have reduced the cost of materials and flies that I need. I spend less time at the vice and have reduced the number of choices that cause me to lose time to changing flies and increase my time that my fly is actually in the water. With the patterns I do carry with


Q&A With Morgan Lyle Author of Simple Flies By Anthony Naples

I’ve known Morgan Lyle for a while now (virtually), we became acquainted through the online tenkara circles, and so when I saw that he had a book I knew that I wanted to get some to sell in the Three Rivers Tenkara shop. As somebody that cobbles together sentences from time to time (at my blog Casting Around) I’m always interested in what writers have to say and it’s exciting to get to ask questions of one of those writers. So I put a few questions to Morgan about writing and fishing and his new book and this is how it went…

First of all—great book. It’s a fly tying book that one can sit down and read. You give us the “how” but also the “why” behind it all. And you back that “why” up with sound references and explanations. But at the same time a guy or gal that picks it up and just flips to the patterns will be well served too.

devised by a very accomplished tier [Frank Sawyer, who also developed the pheasant Tail nymph] who was fully capable of making flies with tails, hackles, etc., and in this case chose not to. Including recipes and tying instructions seemed logical, since these are pretty basic flies, made of easily obtained materials.

How did the idea of the book develop? Did it start out as the fully conceived concept that it is? Or did you set out to make a fly tying recipe book and along the way your research and reading became more a part of it?

I’m not as well read I wish I were, when it comes to the fly fishing how-to books. But two of my personal favorites are Randall Kaufmann’s Tying Dry Flies and The Fly Tyer’s Nymph Manual. They were my first fly tying books, and so a bit sentimental to me, but I still feel like those two books would do a good job of arming a trout fishing fly tyer with just about everything that he needs (but I’d reckon you might say way more than he needs).

Thanks Anthony. I’m glad you enjoy it. The book started out as an exploration of how and why very simple flies work so well. The fly that inspired the whole project was the Killer Bug — nothing but yarn on a hook, with a couple turns of copper wire. No tail, wing case, hackle, not even tying thread, and yet I was catching trout on it left and right. And it was


What book or books were there for you in your formative years? Looking back do they hold up? What are some newer or lesser known books that you’d really like to point

people to? Apart from own experience with the Killer Bug and other simple flies, such as the tenkara patterns, a major inspiration for Simple Flies was a book called What Trout Want: The Educated Trout and Other Myths by Bob Wyatt. It was published in 2013 and it’s just a great read. I recommend it highly. It was from Bob’s book that I learned about the Deer Hair Emerger, which is now my go-to fly whenever trout are rising. Dave Hughes’s Wet Flies was a huge influence on me. Pop Fleyes by Bob Popovics and Ed Jaworowski is one of my all-time favorites. Hatches II by Al Caucci and Bob Nastasi is a classic that taught me much of what I know. Ray Bergman’s Trout and H.G. Tapply’s Tap’s Tips were the books that really made me a fly-fisherman. Some might argue in this internet age that books, especially how-to books like a fly tying book, may be obsolete. There is just so much information online. Everyone has everything at his or her fingertips. But although there is a lot out there, it’s all really disconnected. It may be that the internet is really good at storing information but really sucks at presenting it in a useful way – maybe that’s the advantage that physical fly tying books, and especially ones that have a cohesive theme or thesis, have over Google and the Internet. On the Internet you can find bits and pieces but you’ll never find a complete story. Did ideas like this cross your mind when you were working on the book and help shape it?

The concept of using simpler patterns and carrying a simpler selection of flies was a big subject in social media and elsewhere online, and a book was the perfect format to bring it together in a cohesive way, as you say. This is a challenging time in some ways for the publishing industry, but I bet more books are being written, bought and read now than ever before. Whether many people are able to make a living writing books is another subject. I’ve never been a very complicated fly tyer. In the beginning that was mostly due to material cost (and lack of skill). When I started tying I was a poor college student, then I was a poor grad student. I couldn’t afford to buy all the materials listed in the magazine articles, so I got used to using simple materials. But I can remember a turning point about 6 years back when I got really disgusted with the fly tying industry

There’s just something nice about a book. The fact that so much information and so many ideas are available online is a tremendous benefit for anyone who’s into fly-fishing or fly-tying or any other interest. But yes, I (and Stackpole Books) thought a long-form look at the subject of Simple Flies was something that hadn’t been done before.


and magazines. It wasn’t that I couldn’t afford the materials anymore, but it seemed like every time I looked at a recipe for a fly in a magazine it required some new material that I didn’t have, that I’d never even heard of, and that invariably I couldn’t even buy locally. It began to seem to me that somewhere in a smoky back room decisions were being made that every fly pattern had to include some new material. I’m not saying that’s true of course. Incidentally that’s just around the time that tenkara happened to enter my life. So, an urge to simplify born of disgust and a bit of angsty rebellion was focused by my new interest in tenkara and I found a new enjoyment in simple flies and a sort of vindication of them and support from the others in the tenkara community. Were you always interested in the more simple flies or is there a turning point that spurred you on in your interest in simple flies? Did thoughts about the younger, less moneyladen angler, or perhaps more frugal angler figure at all in the patterns and materials in the book? We all know you don’t tie flies to save money. Most of us will die with Tupperware boxes full of feathers and fur in our homes and never-fished flies in our fly boxes. It’s also true that fly-tying is a business, and if no new patterns had been developed in the past, let’s say, 50 years, an awful lot of books and articles would never have been written and a lot of materials would never have been sold. I suppose if you went out and bought all the stuff you need to tie all 52 flies in the book, it would set you back a few bucks. But I like to think you can pick and choose the patterns that will suit your fishing and acquire the stuff to make those without breaking the bank. What I’ve enjoyed most about learning about simple flies is identifying that one important characteristic that triggers a bite.


It might be a segmented body, a wiggly hackle or the fly’s overall shape and action in the water. I think every fly that works consistently has a salient characteristic. It may have other characteristics too, but I’m convinced many of those are more interesting to the tier than to the fish. There’s a cool quote from the late Jack Gartside in my book, where he says he devised the Soft-Hackle Streamer to “reduce to a minimum the details and essentials of baitfish imitation, creating the illusion of life and completeness of form through subtraction rather than addition of materials.” I admire the restraint, even austerity, demonstrated by guys like Jack over the years. It’s a fun exercise in deciding what’s really important in a fly. So the big question – how much does fly pattern matter vs. presentation? There are extremists on both sides of course and I’m sort of on the technique side but moderate about it. The “right” fly with bad presentation and technique is almost never a winning combo. But I also say that fly pattern doesn’t matter until it does. Some in tenkara circles seem to think that fly doesn’t ever matter much – within reason of course. Like for instance a size 12 Black Ishigaki Kebari is all that you’ll ever need. I’ve seen a change of fly seemingly work too many times to simply write off the idea that some flies work better than others at some times, but I’m always willing to admit that my biases may blind me a bit. I’ve successfully fished a red, size 12 takayama sakasa kebari during a decent hatch of tiny blue wing olives. But then had no luck at all with that fly or other similar flies during heavy sulphur hatches – numerous times. Switched to a sulphur emerger and then had success. That’s just one example – but it seems like fish do get

selective at times. It doesn’t seem to be the message of Simple Flies that fly never matters, but that even when it does matter, that more general and impressionistic flies may be the answer. Penny for your thoughts on the fly vs. technique discussion and also the idea of impressionistic flies vs. realistic. I’m with you. Sometimes you need the right fly. I remember once catching several trout during a sulphur hatch on the West Branch of the Delaware with Killer Bugs, which look nothing like sulphur duns or nymphs — but that was very much an exception on that river. I think that once a fish has eaten a few dozen of the same exact bug day after day for several weeks, that bug starts to become that fish’s definition of “food.” If you have fish that enjoy prolific hatches, I think you have to at least make the effort to select a fly that’s the right size and shape. But this varies from stream to stream, hatch to hatch and fish to fish. I saw an interesting article recently about whether some individual fish are more likely to bite than others. But presentation is definitely more important than pattern. As they say, the wrong pattern fished well will catch more fish than the right pattern fished poorly. Put another way, fish want to eat. They want to say “yes.” The trick is not to make that impossible for them, by scaring them with your shadow or a splashy cast, by letting a fly drag that’s supposed to dead drift, or, sometimes, by not offering them a fly so much bigger than the naturals that it might as well be a pinecone. You really can catch fish all season with an Adams or a CDC Elk or a Pheasant Tail nymph in different sizes, as long as you fish carefully and intently. So I see a few of my favorites in the book, the Walt’s Worm, the Takayama Sakasa


Kebari, Al’s rat. If I had to pick one fly for my small stream trout fishing I’d be tempted to go with the red Takayama Sakasa Kebari on a heavy hook. I think it works well when no hatch is on, dead drifted, and also pulsed and on the swing, and I’ve had luck with it as an emerger during some hatches. I use it on mountain streams a lot and I’ve blind fished it on rich spring creeks with great success too. I like Walt’s Worm too—but if I was forced to go with one I have to admit I just don’t enjoy tying it as much as a Takayama style kebari. And with tenkara I really hate getting snags on the bottom so I usually fish a more active style to keep a fly off the bottom, which I like the Takayama for. If you were forced to go with one of the flies in the book for your trout fishing which would it be? The Takayama’s a beautiful fly and the very definition of an attractor, kind of an Asian cousin to the Royal Coachman. I’m too

wimpy to choose one fly, but I can give you a pretty narrow range: For rising fish, either a Usual or a Deer Hair Emerger; for nymphing, a Killer Bug, Pheasant Tail, Peacock Herl Nymph or my current favorite, the Improved Montana Stone. But ants are good too. And sometimes at dusk you need a Rusty Spinner. And then there’s wet flies, which are all great. And Woolly Buggers. And worms — I didn’t even include the San Juan in the book, but it’s brilliant. And if I’m fishing on the beach, it’s either a Jiggy or a Bucktail Deceiver or maybe a Seaducer but my new favorite is Chico’s Marabou Madness… Part of the fun of fly-fishing is trying different flies. I think the one-fly approach steals some of the pleasure and fascination. You can go overboard, as some of the experts I quote in the book are quick to point out, wasting time frantically changing flies. But I do like tying different flies and trying them out on the fish.

Morgan Lyle's Simple Flies carries a retail of $20 and can be conveniently purchased in many retail outlets, including the shop at Three Rivers Tenkara.


"Hiking up a small stream in the Italian Alps. Yes, there is enough water to ďŹ sh!" Pictured: Paolo Cerrina Photo: Adam Klagsbrun





Appalachian Tenkara Anglers Blue Lines & Brookies Kebari Swap


The Appalachian Tenkara Anglers Facebook group hosted a "Blue Lines & Brookies" fly swap in October that yielded a nice mix of patterns ranging from reverse hackle kebari, traditional wet flies, dry flies, and even foam bugs...enjoy! Swapmeister: Joe Deppe 1 - Yellow Sally Kebari: Susan Johnson 2 - Peacock Caddis: Anthony Naples 3 - Utah Killer Bug & Starling: Rob Worthington-Kirsch 4 - Purple Kebari: Jason Konopinski 5 - Pass Lake Wet Fly: Anthony Naples 6 - Starling Nymph: Bob Olsen 7 - Beadhead Road Kone Kebari: Michael Agneta













8 - Killer Kebari: Jeremiah Brown 9 - Green Weenie & Starling: Rob Worthington-Kirsch 10 - Tellico Kebari: Michael Agneta 11 - Gold Bracken Clock: Robb Chunco 12 - Black Stoney Nymph: Micah Brown 13 - Shotaro Kebari: Jason Sparks 14 - Guinea Hen Kebari: Peter Brath 15 - Square Foam Ant: 65 Jason Sparks

Tying The Zenmai Kebari Text & Photo By Robb Chunco

Hook: Gamakatsu R18-B, size 12 Thread: 6/0 Unithread, brown

Hackle: Hen Pheasant Wing, from the upper covert Thorax: 2 Strands of Peacock Herl

Body: Zenmai Dubbing from tenkaraya.com, Great Feathers Fly Shop 721 (medium) North Country Spider Wax (greatfeathers.com), Wapsi/Zap-A-Gap Fly Tyer's Z-Ment Mount the hook securely in your vise and start the thread 3 eye widths back. Make turns rearward and stop at about the midpoint of the lower portion of the hook bend. Advance the thread toward the start point and then back to the middle of your wraps. Apply the warmed wax to 4 or 5 inches of thread. Just hold a small pea sized piece in your hand for a few minutes to warm the wax. Loosen and tease out very small bits of Zenmai and create a thin dubbing noodle over the waxed portion of the thread. As with any dubbing, use sparingly for best results. Start to wrap the bare thread rearward so that the dubbed portion starts right at the end of your initial wraps. Wind the dubbing in close touching turns to create the body, doubling back for a few turns as you reach the front. This will help to create a nice taper. Make sure to leave yourself room for the peacock herl, hackle,


and a head. Tie in the peacock herl at the point where you stopped the dubbing body. Wrap the Herl around the thread to make a rope and then wrap the whole assembly for about 3 turns to form the thorax, and tie off with a few tight wraps. Prepare your hen pheasant hackle as you would for almost any fly, by stripping the lower fuzzy feathers away and sweeping the fibers back toward the stem making sure to leave a strong enough section to tie in at the tip. Hold the prepared feather at the hook with the convex side up and stem facing rearward and tie in with a few tight wraps. Wind the hackle around while gently persuading the fibers toward the rear of the fly. 2 or 3 turns should look about right. Tie off and clip the stem and begin to form a small head. Apply a small amount of Z-Ment to the thread over a 1 inch section and then make one or two more wraps before you complete a whip finish. This results in a nicely finished head. The wax really helps to alleviate some of the difficulties some people have experienced while using Zenmai dubbing. It allows you to use less dubbing and create a more slender dubbing noodle. The Zenmai attains a really nice "buggy" translucency when wet. This can be fished on the swing or with the "Downstream Disco" presentation.

Zenmai Kebari


Crafting For Guys

Three Simple Tips To Making Durable Flies Text & Photos By Michael McFarland

While tying flies is not a strictly Tenkara activity, there are still some basic concepts that can be beneficial to those out there that really want to elevate the patterns that they are creating at their bench. The tips that I want to share relate more to durability and basic design. I believe that this is an important detail that gets missed by many tenkara tiers as it is not considered a necessity to catch fish.

While this is true, tying flies is just as much about the art of the hobby as it is about fishing. I for one, enjoy my time at the bench and while I may be tying a simple kebari, it is still important to me that the fly be something that I am proud to tie on my line. No ugly flies for my trout, I say! Getting to Know Your Thread: As most of you already understand, there are many types of thread at our disposal. We all use a combination of silk, 6/0, 8/0, 70 denier, etc... The list goes on. We also have adopted our favorites and are often adamant as to which we consider the “best” to use for tying. In reality, they all work! What’s important here is to understand the characteristics of the thread that you are using and its strength and weakness. For example, using a flat thread can provide a smoother body to the pattern while a twisted thread does a better job binding material to a hook. This along with the idea that all thread should be wrapped around the hook just shy of its braking strength, will aid in the overall durability of your flies.The easy solution here is to inspect the thread that you are using and take advantage of its



To Wrap or Not to Wrap, That is the Question:

When tying any small pattern, building up bulk is always a concern. We can always use a smaller diameter thread to minimize this problem, but it may too difficult to use that same thread to securely attach other materials. This is where self-control becomes a big factor. The most common problem that I see new tiers make is that they feel that more thread equals better durability. This could not be further from the truth. Bottom-line, each thread wrap should serve a purpose. It should be used to secure a feather, build a body, or traverse to a different area of the hook. If you cannot justify the wrap, the wrap shouldn’t happen. This, in injunction with my above point, can do wonders in designing a better, more durable fly. Whip It Real Good: This is always a subject of deliberation when I bring it up to colleagues. I’ll start by prefacing my opinion with the fact that this isn’t debate as to which finishing method is best, half hitch, hand whip finish or using a whip finishing tool. My personal experience is just this, I feel that completing two final knots using a whip finishing tool provides the best durability for your fly. I start my first knot using three or four wraps, tighten pulling toward the hook bend, and then once more using the same number of wraps before cutting my thread. This provides a solid knot often removing any need for head cement.

Kebari Stone

Killer Caddis

Eyeless Hooker


Flies of the Mountain Village The following photos by Chris Zimmer are kebari hand-tied by Yoshikazu Fujioka; replicas of those that originated in the Eastern portion of Japan.

Okushinano Akiyamago Area (Top & Bottom)


Mutsu Morioka Area (Top & Bottom)


Nikko Area (Top & Bottom)


Okushinano Zakogawa Area73

The Theology of Tenkara, Trout, & Japan By Isaac Tait

"The angler forgets most of the fish he catches, but he does not forget the streams and lakes in which they were caught.” - Charles K. Fox


In the years that I have pursued Tenkara I’ve caught several thousand fish. While I certainly don’t remember them all, I will never forget the places that I went with my Tenkara rod. Sometimes a special fish or a unique landscape comes along though and leaves a mark upon my soul. The others become an amalgamation and collage of feelings, sensations, emotions, and observations organized into one part of my brain - set aside for moments of quiet introspection.


My first Brook and Rainbow Trout were caught in a small mountain stream near Thurmont, Maryland - within the boundaries of Catoctin Mountain Park; my first Brown Trout was caught not too far away from there in Beaver Creek; and then there was my first Golden Trout, which was caught in a tributary of the Middle Fork Kings River near Le Conte Canyon, California. These were special fish; accomplishments that required hours, sometimes even several days of quiet patience to attain. However, the thing that has really left an indelible imprint on me has been Japan.

Japan I will never forget the first native trout I caught in Japan. I was kneeling in a shallow pool, frigid water running across my legs sending a constant chill down my spine. Above me mountains capped with snow scraped the sky, while all around me the alpine jungle emitted an incessant cacophony of a million birds in song, the wind rustling the leaves, and the roar of water cascading over rock. All of this was pushed to the back of my mind though as I concentrated on the pool four meters in front of me. A tree had fallen into the river over the winter, creating a perfect habitat for my quarry – the Japanese trout known as Iwana. My kebari splashed lightly into the water and began to tumble and twirl in the current. Suddenly I felt the slightest of tugs – was it a leaf, maybe a branch? I lifted the rod and the eruption of the tranquil water confirmed that it was not floating detritus but my first Iwana! A minute or so later I was cradling her in my hands, careful to keep her submerged while my friends dug for their cameras. Once her likeness had been saved as a series of ones and zeroes I released her back into the wild - a little more tired and little wiser than she was a few minutes ago. Japan is an empire of such intense beauty that sometimes I wonder if I am on another planet, and it has affected me more deeply than I could have ever imagined. The people, the food, the landscape, the history, the culture, and of course its fish; everything just defies all that I have come to know and think as an American. The Japanese way of life is one of peaceful, meek, and tenacious introspection, and is difficult for my ‘Western’ brain to

understand sometimes. In immersing myself in the cultural differences I have come to a greater understanding of not just myself, but the God who I believe created all of the landscapes, experiences, and wildlife that I have come to cherish. Over the last season I have traveled all over Japan - Tenkara fishing, hiking, backpacking, and mountain biking. I was struck by how many foreigners never ventured too far from the shrines, geisha girls, onsens, ryokans, and groomed ski slopes. While those things are inherently Japanese, the wild side of Japan is something to behold, and yet it falls by the wayside. In a way, it is as if the untamed beauty of Japan has succumbed to the bright lights, chaos, and short skirts of Tokyo. During the last year I traveled to Chiba, Yamanashi, Tokyo, Kanagawa, Nagano, Niigata, Gunma, Shizuoka, Kyoto, Tochigi, and Fukushima Prefectures. I could count on one hand how many foreigners I came across in some of the more remote, yet unfathomably beautiful locations I visited there. Once I got off the beaten path in Japan the majority of people I came across were Japanese. And I think that is a great travesty.


76 Photo: Cameron Kline

Consumption Charles Fox said that, “The roots of flyfishing encompass a poetic heritage and that there is a power and sacredness in all living things…" I could not agree more and as a fly angler I believe we all understand that in a way most others do not. Fish are the only animals that humans hunt and then release." Catch and release, while certainly not an exclusively practice of fly anglers, we certainly do make up a majority of the practitioners of this methodology. But why? I think the answer lies in not just the type of people who are attracted to catching fish on the fly but their unique desire to preserve, yet still enjoy, a landscape. Deep inside we grasp the power, fragility, and sacredness of not only the landscapes we find ourselves in but the animals that call it home. However, in the last several decades we have come to realize that not all of mankind has the same ideals. Organizations like Trout Unlimited, Orvis, and the multitude of non-profits have been created to protect specific rivers, watersheds, and even fish species that are vital to communities and our nation. If we just stepped aside and let the greed machine run unimpeded there would soon be nothing left. One of the biggest weapons in the conservation arsenal is the money that tourism and the outdoor industry bring not only to communities but our nation. But it is much more than just the money that makes nature important, it is the quality of life that nature brings. And this quality of life is what keeps everything going – even the greed machines. The industries of logging, mining, and

energy resource extraction are necessary; I won’t try and argue that they are not. However, when these necessary “evils” destroy our quality of life, it is just plain wrong and short sighted. Once the resource is gone what are we left with? A huge hole in the ground or an erosion plagued hillside devoid of what once was. Before there were streams, springs, trees, and wildlife. Now there is an ugly scar that will poison our water and air for centuries to come, and for what? This shiny MacBook Air I write on? The sofa I’m sitting on while writing this? The scotch I’m sipping on to lubricate my creative side? All of this is necessary, or at least that is what I’ve convinced myself of, but there should be a balance and an understanding of the true cost of what we consume in the pursuit of happiness.

Conservation In Maryland the need for conservation sprang primarily from the damage done by farms, pollution, and too much pavement. The first caused erosion due to deforestation to create farm land and then was exacerbated by runoff of fertilizer and pesticides into the ecosystem. The second was a byproduct of unchecked greed, plain and simple. The last caused unprecedented flooding because the ground that had once been able to absorb water was now paved over. This caused more water than the ecosystem could handle too flow into the rivers, which then increased flooding and erosion. Many of the streams I fished in Maryland that were purported to have once been rocky now had sandy bottoms. Because of these, and many other reason I won’t go into now, these streams were no longer suitable for the native flora and fauna to flourish.


Photo: Cameron Kline Photo: Cameron Kline



Photo: Cameron Kline

However, these issues have begun to be addressed through the education of the public, the introduction of riparian buffers that helped mitigate runoff, warming water, and pollution, and by a new method of paving that allows water to be absorbed yet still provide a durable surface. No matter where you go, there is a threat to nature and Japan is no different. For example, rivers that once flowed unimpeded into the ocean are now dammed; illegal dumping and pollution is a big problem; both freshwater and ocean overfishing is becoming (or is already) an issue; and new roads, tunnels, weirs, dams, and bridges are being built at a very high rate – often times causing irreversible damage to natural habitats. The biggest threat, in my opinion, for the numerous keiryu (mountain streams) and genryū (headwaters) that I have explored and fished are first and foremost the dams followed closely by the cultural fishing ethics. “There are currently 2,800 dams in Japan. Structures over 15 meters tall are considered dams in Japan. If we include smaller structures, it is said there are close to 100,000 dams.” For a country smaller than California (which has 1400 named dams), that is a lot of dams. These dams, or weirs, have partially solved the flooding issues in Japan and because of that are necessary - but not to the extent at which they have been built. You don’t need a weir, let alone a dozen, on a stream that is in an unpopulated area – yet there they are. There are many problems caused by these dams and weirs. First, they isolate the population of fish. With no way to swim upstream they are cutoff, they can go down but they can never


come back up. They also increase silt, gravel and rock build ups, which is their purpose because these man-made flood plains slow down flood water thus mitigating their damaging effects. However, the valley widens as it fills up with debris behind the manmade blockade. Once fast-moving streams that used to be shaded by trees, now slowly meander through a wasteland of sand and rock where no substantial foliage can protect them from warming under the direct sunlight. These structures also reduce a river’s suitable habitat for fish to live and hide from predators in. Consequently, fish seek out smaller portions of a stream to inhabit. This then makes them more susceptible to disease, provides less access to food, and the warming water just exacerbates these issues. Furthermore, the only way to replenish these streams with fish is to carry them in. This is mostly done by fishing co-ops which then require that you pay for a license to fish. The main difference though is that while in America when you pay for a license you know that the money is not just going to stocking but offsetting the tax burden and conservation efforts by state biologists, this is not the case in Japan. Typically, the money is earmarked for profit first and then stocking second. And since these rivers are routinely stocked the sense of personal responsibility is lessened and the perceived right to consume is heightened. With that change in perspective the fishing ethic by and large has become a belief that, “All fish should be kept no matter how small they are.” And I don’t need to explain how this mentality can do some serious damage.

Solutions Having observed all of this, I have been searching for ways that I could affect a real change in Japan. As a foreigner though my options are limited. However, the answer I keep coming back to over and over again is tourism. If more foreign visitors ventured into the backcountry, the out-of-the-way areas, and the back roads of Japan - the influx of tourism interest and dollars spent would surely get noticed. Suddenly flooding a valley that had been enjoyed for centuries would not just inconvenience the local residents (not to mention the wildlife) but the people who came from Europe, Australia, and America to fish, backpack, camp, and explore it too – then of course there is the fact that the influx of foreigner expenditures in these communities would cease.

My hope is that the influence of “outsiders” would help to highlight the necessity of the wild places and wild animals of Japan. Japan is a country of such immense beauty, yet most of those who travel here to visit only see a tiny sliver of what Japan has to offer. “The essential human experience requires a deep connection to our lands and waters. Anything less and we risk the sort of social psychosis characterized by video game addiction and the destruction of our planetary life support systems. In other words, if we lose our link to nature, we risk losing everything else.” This idea for solving the issues in Japan through “adventure tourism” though isn’t without one glaring problem - there is a significant shortage of English speaking guides here. In nearly every form of outdoor adventure, English-speaking guides are almost non-existent. Those that one can find often advertise their services on


websites that look like they were created in the early 90’s using Japanese/English translations that are hard to interpret, maps that are nearly impossible to decipher, and URLs that do not facilitate quick and easy Google searches. In other words, traveling to Japan and ‘getting off the grid’ is going to be an adventure - it may even be a bit scary, but the reward is absolutely worth it. Trust me. Right now is a perfect time to travel to Japan. The experience will be rife with opportunity to regain one’s lost sense of adventure, self-reliance, and self-awareness. It is something that our ancestors had in spades when they settled the world, sailed across the oceans without maps or charts, and climbed mountains that no one had


ever summited before - but we have lost touch with this in our present culture. The golden age of human exploration and sense of adventure has been replaced by television, ‘smart’ devices, hashtags, inflated opinions, and laziness. We’ve become so intently focused on pursuing comfort above all things that we have isolated ourselves but yet still claim true balance, perspective, and open mindedness, which we somehow acquire from social media, entertainment, and the “news.” It is when we are stretched, tested, and tried (three things that are very prevalent when seeking to live in a culture different from our own) that we truly develop character and a sense of self not rooted in ourselves.

History My introduction to the heritage of “Western” fly fishing (author’s note: Western fly fishing I define as fly fishing with a reel), came from the book “Simple Fly Fishing” by Yvon Chouinard, Craig Mathews, and Mauro Mazzo. The book begins by explaining how Western fly fishing as we have come to know it,was an elitist activity engaged in by a privileged class of land holders. On the opposite end of this spectrum of privilege and class is the Japanese Tenkara anglers of old who for centuries did not have the luxury to pursue fishing as a pastime or a sport. It was most certainly not an elitist activity practiced by the privileged, but rather was engaged in by peasants, farmers, and artisans as a matter of survival. Time spent fiddling with equipment or tying on a new fly every few minutes could result in their untimely demise. Up until the late 1960s and early 70s, parts of Japan were cut off from the rest of the country during the winter. So much snow fell in the mountains that the roads were unsafe to pass for as much as five to six months out of the year! Because of the harsh Japanese winters, entire communities had to rely on their ingenuity, foraging, farming, preserving, and of course their fishing skills to survive. It was in this environment of bare bones necessity, yet still maintaining a level of dignity and meekness not commonly found in those circumstances, that Tenkara was born. For much of my life I had been told that a new iPhone, a new car or clothes, maybe a new pair of seamless waders, or that sleek new graphite fly rod would make me happy. Basically consuming would fulfill me, or at least cloud the sense of purposelessness in

Photo: Cameron Kline

it all. Gradually over the years, when the happiness didn’t come, I began to search deeper within myself for answers. The catalyst that brought about true discovery and understanding was the stupendous and beauteous landscape of Japan. Tenkara translated literally means “from heaven,” but maybe it is not just the image of a fly falling from the heavens into the water to attract a meal that sparked the name - but the fact that it is so counter to our culture that it awakens a side of ourselves that we have subdued for too long. In that discovery we find a whole new way of seeing and thinking about the world that had been closed off to us before.


"Tenkara on the Gunpowder" Linocut Print Anthony Naples


Boulder Creek


Boulder Creek Brown Trout Top & Bottom Photos: Christopher Zimmer

Home By Tuesday

A Memoir Of Solo Packing With Tenkara Text & Photos By ERiK Ostrander

I don’t know the date, but I do know that it’s Sunday. I know it’s Sunday because I have to be home on Tuesday smelling like a rose with clean teeth and a pair of nice pants for a job interview. It’s a job I already have, but they insist on doing it all formal. It’ll be nice to teach for another year. It gives me time to forget what the date is for three months out of the year. Except when I pick up the odd job here and there. I just finished a week teaching a Mythbusters science class to a horde of 11 to 14 year old, self-indulgent, self-centered, and overly hyper kids. My class is fun though. We light things on fire, break stuff, get dirty. You know, all the stuff that your parents never let you do. As soon as the class ended, after five days of high octane


“fun,” I packed up the truck and left with the dogs for the mountains. I know that getting away from humanity is not an original idea, but all I can think about is not seeing any more early-pubescent children. Unfortunately, the parking lot at the trailhead is packed. Truck after truck and cars with window shades are in nice rows along the side of the lot with the hill. The tree side is lined with parallel parkers. I find a spot furthest from the trailhead, back up into a row against the hill, and put my window shade up. As I begin hiking into wherever my first night stay will be (I haven’t decided yet), my hopes that all those trucks and windowshaded cars were solo packers like myself change to doom and fear as the echoes and screeches of Boy Scouts radiate out from


their camps. I try to pass by unnoticed as if their seeing me would validate that I was not alone in the vast area known as the high Uintas Wilderness. Wilderness being the noun that drew me here. I have a certain amount of trepidation toward this trip, and it doesn’t come just from the Boy Scouts. I guess it’s my own fault. I am packing light with much of the gear coming out for its virgin trip and relying on the bulk of my food to come from fish that I will need to catch. I’ve never been to this particular area and am not sure what I may be getting into. It is also my first time out like this since I’d gotten sick a few years ago. Guinness, my Australian Kelpie, can handle himself, but I’m not completely sure about Wabbit, my new eight-month-old blue heeler puppy. Because of all these reasons I chose an area labeled on the map as an “area of concentrated use”. It also has a ton of lakes and associated myths that the next state-record grayling could be had in one of the nearby lakes that are less travelled to. Eventually, I gravitate more towards the idea of a lake less travelled to. The remote lakes are, of course, less travelled to because they have no trail and, maybe, the hike is a deathly hike over granite boulders that grab and bite at the skin of your shins. The number of scratches and amount of blood that can ensue from a hike that boasts of having large fish is of such great amount as to scare off anyone who regularly shows their legs. I show my legs, but as a badge of honor and bravery. One guidebook describes the hike to these pristine lakes as, “tricky boulder hopping,” and suggests you should, “not attempt this hike with full packs on. It is treacherous without packs - and downright foolish with them.” Oh, and “full of huge spiders.” I, of course, decide to go to these lakes with full commitment, and for me full commitment


means a pack. No day hikes for me, because what if the fishing was so good that I wanted to stay the night? I pack a custom Zimmerbuilt pack as lightly as I can. One change of clothes in case I get soaked by rain or an absent-minded fall into an icy, glacier fed stream. A silnylon tarp covers my bed and the dogs if they so choose. My trusty down sleeping bag of two decades gets smushed down to fill every single extra bit of room in the pack. It’s like my magic Tetris piece that always gets me a thousand extra points and advances me to the next level. The pack is a joy to carry, even though carrying 25 to 30 pounds isn’t really all that fun. Regardless, the craftsmanship of the pack is what bolsters my confidence to hike over miles of trail-less wilderness filled with skinshredding boulders and angry spiders. I carry on, away from the echoing hollers of troops of Boy Scouts. I also carry very little food, so I need to catch fish. Oatmeal, Clif bars, rice (or quinoa), and a little fruit leather are the only calories I bring with me . . .well, at least the only calories I can put in my mouth. I sustain myself on the trout that can sometimes be abundant, but are always beautiful in these alpine lakes. A 4.0 meter tenkara rod is my hunting tool of choice. John Vetterli, business partner and friend, makes some fantastic fluorocarbon furled lines, and a 6.0 meter line helps me get the extra distance I need to drop a little kebari within a couple of feet of that last dimple I saw that just might produce my next appetizer. Presentation is key, and a small foam box of kebari, dry flies, nymphs, and small streamers will almost always guarantee a trout or grayling to bite and make the line sing a beautiful tone. The hike is arduous. My legs ache from the effort and my lungs burn as they try to soak

up the small amount of oxygen that is available at 12,000 feet (3600 m). The sweat falls as my body struggles to stay cool and I help it by splashing water on myself at every stream crossing. The dogs pant under their backpacks, but must be in better shape than I because every bird or squirrel gets chased away. I guess all those afternoons of sprinting after a bright green tennis ball will get you in shape (maybe I should do more than just stand there and give praise when the tennis ball is brought back to my feet). This hike is tough and I’m drawn back to the reality of the challenge with a fresh cut on my shin that drips blood slowly to my sock. I let one of the dogs lick my wound dry and continue on to the lake that boasts, or rather goads me on towards, dreams of big trout. In the city I love eating sushi and the raw fish that are often associated with it.

However, I like my trout cooked. Trout cooked over an open fire are my favorite, but getting an open fire reliably while backpacking can be quite the challenge. During the late summer, thunderstorms roll in often dumping cold water that saturates anything that could be flammable. Throughout the day I collect fines and stuff them into my pockets to keep them dry or to heat up and evaporate the wet with my body heat. Fire steel and the sharp spine of a knife can throw a hot spark that, if you’re lucky and practiced, will dance on your dry fines long enough to generate combustion. I always try primitive fire starting methods for at least 45 minutes to an hour before giving up. A small splash of denatured alcohol for my cat-food stove helps the next spark to light my fire. Finally arriving at the lake, I am greeted by a small spattering of yellow lily pad flowers. Beyond the yellow and green floating mass I


see little dimples radiating out all over the lake. The water by the edge is shallow and I can see clearly through the glacial water to see pairs of grayling cruising the water. My pack drops off my shoulders, I unload the dogs, and I stuff my pockets with a linespool, tippet, and a fly box. My tenkara rod is in my hands as I beeline towards the closest collection of risers. Lillian slides out. Line loops over and cinches tight. Rod telescopes out as the line-spool unwinds line. I already have a small kebari tied on and in under a minute I let my fly go, casting a false cast and shooting my tiny, hackled imposter gently near a radiating ripple. I can barely glimpse a silver, shining torpedo of a fish turn towards my offering and gently take the bug into its mouth. Set! The calm explodes with a staccato tail dance on the water. The colors are like the silky shimmering dress


that scantily clads a skinny supermodel. It is sexy. It is stunning. I turn my little grayling’s head and pull it towards me. The beauty of alpine lakes and their brookies, cutts, and grayling are best described through metaphor. When I fish a lake that rarely gets fished it’s as if I am the only man at the hippest nightclub. It is ladies’ night and all the women are dressed to get the most attention. I am in awe at how they flirt with me, and as I catch fish after fish, I have to decide which one will come home with me. This is every man’s dream. For now I am happy. I am smelly, standing in frigid water, socks and shoes wet. I still don’t know what the date is. I have a faint idea it may be Monday, and if I think real hard I might remember to get home by Tuesday.


One Last Cast Text & Photo By Jason Sparks

I live about two and a half hours away from the Cherokee Reservation entrance to the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. That drive is one I had been looking forward to for some time as the group camping trip date was coming up. What a cool thing to have loosely organized by individuals simply saying “yeah, I want to go, the registration was simply “show up and enjoy”. The invitees were among the members of the Appalachian Tenkara Anglers (ATA) facebook group. Online tenkara friends meeting in “real life”, some for the first time, imagine that. We need more of these. I'm referring to the first gathering for the “Tenkara Campout” series. The Smokies seemed like a good place to hole up for a few overnights with hundreds of miles of fabled water all around. We cycled through thirteen tenkara anglers over a three day period. Several campsites held us together


and functioned as a meeting point in the mornings and debriefing zone in the evenings. The campfire was perfect and the conversation even better. There are two already brewing for next year starting in April. Join in the ATA group look for announcements in the Spring. Linville Gorge, Wilson Creek, Grayson Highlands are some ideas being kicked around. What I really want to get into here is something that I experienced on the Oconaluftee River at the edge of the GSM National Park. Late one of the afternoons I found myself out along trying to put in another hour on a different section of water. I hit the trail head of a well worm path and took off toward the water. When I got to the riverbank I popped out at hostile water. I mean, there was little room to cast right here because I was hung in the

treeline. The river narrowed considerably too, which made a crossing here a poor decision. In stead of bushwacking through the dense stand of rhododendron I just turned and headed downstream. I like to fish downstream a good bit of the time anyway, so not a problem. I worked the water pretty good for about forty minutes. Riffles were not offering up anything. The eddies held nothing interest in biting. The slow deep drifts into the bottom didn't stir any action either. Pocket water nestled in the shallow rocks were zilch also. Nothing was happening. Even then I was smiling because as I looked around, I was reminded that I was not in the office on this Monday. I was in a tucked away hidden corner of Utopia.

The sun had fallen behind the hills of Clingman's Dome. The temperature had dropped eight degrees in minutes and the fantastic fifty five degree afternoon was losing the battle with the twenty eight degree night that was coming. It was time to get off the water.

I made my last few casts into the swift flow of the 'Luftee and once again saw nothing stirring. The gig was up. Time to pack it in. Time to go. My one last cast was complete.

With my line flowing downstream from me, I began collapsing my rod. The twelve foot Iwana was shrinking in my hands has it had done a thousand times before, nothing new here. Then I fixed my fingers to begin the wrap for the furled line to grip my cork handle. With everything in place I started my spiral turns of kevlar like I have done a thousand times before, nothing new here. This is where it changes up a bit. The line snags something and some tension forms. I gave it a light tug and the line came forward, but with slack it carried away again. What was going on? I got back into making my line turns on the cork assuming that I had picked up a stick and that was what was causing some resistance. Then at about six feet away I saw a splash. The jerky action of my wrist movements had caused the perfect dance for that beadhead to draw out a fish. I continued to “reel” in the fish one turn at a time until I got it to hand. Now here I am holding a fish on my last cast of the day. A sweet Smoky Mountain brown trout. That was a great way to end the day.



"Heading in to ďŹ sh a small stream in Maryland together, after the Tenkara Jam." Pictured (left to right): John-Paul Povilaitis, Katie Black, Rob Lepczyk, Unknown, & Chris Stewart Photo: Adam Klagsbrun


Wading Small Streams Making A Case For Wet Wading By Adam Klagsbrun

Fishing small streams with a tenkara rod takes specific form for some, as the “long rod and short line” approach allows for the less-glamorous casting methods needed to present flies to small targets and in tight quarters when there’s no room to back-cast at all. But beyond presenting a fly, there is an issue at hand that many anglers don’t seem to consider quite as readily… that there’s a better way to present themselves on these streams, one that promotes a more comfortable and versatile approach to crawling around the banks and walking through the water. There are two main reasons to consider a


wet wading setup. The first relates to the reality that you are not going to be stepping in water much higher than your knees in a small stream, because you don’t need to. Second, instead of using your expensive waterproof waders that will get torn, poked with thorns, scuffed on rocks, and generally abused while sweating profusely as you get a real work out navigating the stream; rejoice in the knowledge that you now have shin and knee protection, thorn protection, and will generally just experience less discomfort. Enter the Japanese-inspired idea of wearing a neoprene gaiter on top of a high neoprene sock. This system has a few

advantages over wearing waders, and is something you’ll encounter if you fish in Japan. First off, your body regulates the temperature automatically. It works like a wetsuit. Water soaks through and you get wet however your body heats up the water between your skin and the neoprene, and puts you in the comfort zone. Additionally, you don’t have to be sweaty in your waders. On a hot day, the cool water keeps you much more comfortable than your waders ever could. On a cold day, your body temperature kicks in and keeps you warm. Sure, there will be moments when you step into some fast water and the warm water gets displaced. Fear not! Your body will remedy the situation quickly. This system works even when temps are down into the 40s. It becomes more important for you to bring extra layers when its colder out, such as a jacket and insulating layer like a fleece in case the cold water begins to sap heat from your core.

Adam's Wet Wading System Recommendations: Daiwa Neo NG-400 Gaiters "A black, knee-high gaiter with a padded knee and Velcro closure. This gaiter is designed to be used alone, or with a neoprene wading sock (preferable). It is not wide enough to fit around most waders." Little Presents Wader Gaiters "These are thicker neoprene, wider circumference and have longer Velcro straps so they are well suited to being used on top of waders - but can also be used alone. If you have extremely skinny legs, these might not be the best option for you, but they work." Tiemco Foxfire Airista Gaiters & High Socks "These are the ones I’ve been using. They are similar to the Daiwa Neo Gaiters but are a different color and a slightly different cut. They are also not designed to fit over waders, they can be used alone, or with the airista thigh-high wet wading sock. I highly recommend this combination."

The rest of the outfit consists of quickdrying outdoor pants or ¾ length pants. Roll the legs up to your knee, and in the summer you might want to wear shorts. When it gets cold, use a cooler weather soft shell hiking pant that has a little more thickness and some wind resistance. I can’t say enough great things about the versatility of the setup. Wet wading socks can be purchased online or at most fly fishing stores around the country. Use your existing wading boots, or size down if you go for the thinner summer wet wading socks.

Tiemco Foxfire Airista Gaiters


New Product Spotlight Tenkara Tanuki

The development of a new trio of premium Tanuki tenkara rods have been teasing anglers on Facebook for a few months. That makes sense since in Japanese folklore the "Tanuki" is a jolly, but extremely mischievous raccoon.

Designed in California by Luong Tam and tested thoroughly on the water since March, these three new rods promise a combination of power and finesse through advanced rod physics and will be available for sale (along with the Tanuki Quiver) to eager fishermen in early December at www.tenkaratanuki.com.


Rod Specifications: Tanuki 425 (2 models)

"White Bone Demon" & "Dark Cloud" Full Length: 425 cm / 13'11" Collapsed: Approx. 59 cm / 23 inches Weight : 95 grams / 3.35 oz (without cap) Grip : High density EVA and Wood MSRP: $315.00

Tanuki 375

"Black Beauty" Full length: 375 cm / 12'4" Collapsed: Approx. 58 cm / 23 inches Weight: 77 grams / 2.72 oz (without cap) Grip: High density EVA MSRP: $240.00


Clean Up Your Act

Tenkara Rod Maintenance By John Cianchetti

Have you every laid your tenkara rod next to you on the stream’s edge after landing your prize?

into the carbon fibers (graphite). This can result in the dreaded ‘stuck section’ and even weaken that section.

Of course you have, we all have. Even those of us that pamper our equipment occasionally get caught up in the moment and focus on landing the fish and safely releasing it in lieu of where our rod is placed.

Here are a few simple tips to keep your telescoping rod…well, telescoping.

In both wet and dry environments, fishing rods attract fine particles of sand, soil and clay. These particles are abrasive. When you collapse and extend your rod, these particles get trapped between the individual sections. This might lightly scratch your rod’s finish or worse, cut deep


On The Stream Tapping your rod in your hand a few times while extended can knock off 90% of the dry particles. Better yet, carry a small cloth (microfiber works well) and wipe the entire rod from handle to tip. Avoid wiping from the tip section towards the handle as this can wedge particles into the joints.

Off The Stream Put aside ten minutes to clean your rod thoroughly. First, lay two clean cloth towels next to your sink. Next, remove the butt cap from the back of the handle and pull out the individual rod sections, one at a time. Keep these ‘dirty’ sections on one cloth; the other cloth will be reserved for the ‘cleaned’ sections. Spray each section inside and out with a mild cleaner, like Windex. Turn the faucet on and rinse one rod section at a time inside and out, like running water through a straw. To dry, shake most of the water out and wipe the outside of each section with a clean cloth. Set aside on the ‘cleaned’ cloth to dry. If you have hard water, you will want to thoroughly dry the inside of the sections to avoid mineral buildup. Use canned compressed air like that used for cleaning electronics. Use caution if using a shop air compressor as too much air pressure can split the thin walls of some tenkara rod sections. Also, some shop air compressors have inline oil misting systems that lubricate air tools… you do not want oil in your sections…oil attracts dirt. Better yet, don’t use a high pressure shop air compressor.

Tip Section Most tenkara rods have very thin, solid tip sections similar to a pencil lead. This solid section typically cannot be removed through the second section from the tip because of the lillian and in some cases, the swivel tip. DO NOT try to force the solid tip section with the lillian through the second section as the lillian was attached at the factory AFTER being inserted through the second from the tip section. Some tenkara rods may have three tip sections that

cannot be separated. To clean tip sections, simply run the tip sections under the faucet and slowly extend and collapse the sections. Your goal is to draw water up into and out of the hollow sections like a syringe.

One Step Further For the most thorough cleaning, swab the inside of the individual rod sections similar to cleaning a rifle bore. Use cotton balls, swab sticks or pieces of paper towel to make a ‘cleaning patch’. Use a smaller diameter section than the one you are cleaning for the ‘push rod’. Push the cleaning patch through the section. Do not force a large, wadded patch through as you only need a slight to medium resistance. Once through, if you notice dirt on the cleaning patch, discard and push a second, clean patch through. Repeat until you are satisfied.

Nose Grease After your sections are clean and dry, wipe a little ‘nose grease’ on your finger and rub it onto the ferrule end (wide end) of each section. If your nose is on the dry side, you can use chapstick. (I am a fan of Burt’s Bees) Remember, grease and oil attract dirt so just a very thin coat like waxing a car. Reassemble your rod and extend it. Smooth, isn’t it!









Photo: Christopher Zimmer


Contributors & Credits

This issue of Tenkara Angler Magazine was made possible by the extremely generous contributions of the following members of the tenkara community. John Cianchetti

Christopher Zimmer

resides in Western New York where he pursues anything with fins. He is in his element sight fishing spring-run steelhead in the Lake Ontario tributaries & has a soft spot for brook trout in the Smoky Mountains. He is the Owner of Tenkara Customs, a tenkara rod building supply company.

Christopher Zimmer is the owner/operator of ZimmerBuilt, when he's not building packs he is either working a tenkara rod or camera. www.zimmerbuilt.com

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

Chris Kuhlow lives on Long Island with his wife and two beautiful girls where he practices tenkara in traditional and not so traditional ways. thenorthriver.blogspot.com

Adam Klagsbrun

Jason Sparks

is the founder of “Appalachian Tenkara Anglers”, a leading online tenkara community. His drive to grow this movement in the US brought together the one multi-vendor tenkara gathering known as “Tenkara Jam.” A Navy Veteran, he has fished the world in waters from the Azores to the Appalachians.

Chris Stewart

(AKA the Tenkara Bum) grew up in Colorado and learned to fly fish on the small mountain streams that are ideal tenkara water. Now living in NYC, he is the owner, CEO & shipping clerk of TenkaraBum LLC. He usually can’t be found because he’s wearing camo.

ERiK Ostrander

loves to fish, and if he wasn’t married he’d fish seven days a week. He began using Western fly fishing techniques for trout, but fell in love with the simplicity and effectiveness of Tenkara. Passion for fishing, guiding,and teaching Tenkara defines ERiK. tenkaraguides.com


Chris "Kiwi" Kuhlow

Matt Sment

can't stay still for very long. His love of adventure and the outdoors is always driving him to explore new places and try new things. A discussion about ultralight outdoors equipment prompted him to give Tenkara a try, and he's been "hooked" ever since. badgertenkara.com

Mike Lutes

is a lifelong outdoorsman. This early interest was fostered by the Boy Scouts, and for that he is eternally grateful. He doesn't always fish Tenkara, but when he does, he catches fish. Usually. He is also a healthcare professional and a devoted husband and father. badgertenkara.com

Michael McFarland

has been an avid fly fisherman for 9 years. It’s a passion that started shortly after a day trip to Rocky Mountain National Park that quickly turned this historically saltwater angler into someone that has made high altitude fly fishing part of his daily life. Michael has showcased his kebari patterns at several Trout Unlimited tying clinics and at the Denver Fly Fishing Show.

Isaac Tait

Curator for Fallfish Tenkara - Isaac Tait is a Tenkara fanatic currently residing near Tokyo. He recently completed his self appointed task of catching the three trout species of Japan. When he’s not fishing (or writing) he can be found skiing or cooking (his breakfast tacos are now literally world famous).

Anthony Naples

Brian L. Schiele

Brian L. Schiele enjoys long walks on the beach at sunset. He is also a ' Holga Master' and you can check out his photography at www.mtbbrian.com. He is also an avid angler. He is also an original member of the Troutrageous Pro Staff.

Robb Chunco

Based in Western Pennsylvania, Anthony has been a voice in the tenkara community since 2009. His blog, Casting Around, features tenkara themed stories, poetry, and original art. He is the proprietor of Three Rivers Tenkara, US seller of Oni & Tenkara Times rods

Robb Chunco is a husband, a father and a dude that likes to make little bug puppets and try to catch fish with them. If you’d like to see his work you can check it out on Etsy or Instagram.

Robert Worthing

Brandon Moon

has had a fishing rod in hand for over 20 years. An avid angler, world traveler, backpacker, and wilderness medical professional, he enjoys going off the beaten path to find the best fly fishing possible. tenkaraguides.com

Paul Gaskell

An angler for over 35 years, biologist, author, guide and conservationist; Paul is passionate about developing understanding and enjoyment of tenkara at the highest possible level. Co-founder alongside John Pearson and Dean Hodson of “Discover Tenkara” (www.discovertenkara.co.uk)

Brent Auger

Brent Auger of Idaho, the man behind DRAGONtail Tenkara. The guy who never passes up water to fish just because it is not Tenkara friendly.

I'm owner of Moonlit Fly Fishing, and a line design junkie! I've been fly fishing for 15 years and fishing Tenkara for the last four years. Fly fishing is a passion I love to share with anyone, but especially with my kids.

John Vetterli

grew up in the high mountains of Park City, Utah and has been fly fishing the mountain streams of Utah since early childhood. He believes you can fly fish in almost any city in North America a few minutes travel from where you live or work and Tenkara is the perfect tool. tenkaraguides.com

Rob Gonzalez

Rob Gonzalez is an avid fly tyer and Tenkara angler from the central Texas Hill Country. For the past few years, he's has been at the forefront of promoting Tenkara statewide. Join him at www.facebook.com/groups/ TenkaraTexas/

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! Contact mike@troutrageous.com for more information


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 February 2016 are listed below, however please feel free to visit the site to submit and publicize your upcoming tenkara or conservation themed initiatives, or simply learn more. Introduction to Tenkara Fly Fishing Wednesday December 2nd, 6:30pm - 8:30pm REI, Austin, TX Tenkara Presentation - Denver Angling Society Tuesday December 3rd, 12:00pm - 1:30pm Denver, CO Western North Carolina Fly Fishing Expo Friday December 4th - Saturday December 5th WNC Agricultural Center, Fletcher, NC 2nd Annual Kebari Material Gift Exchange Sunday December 6th Appalachian Tenkara Anglers Facebook Group Tenkara Tribe Shogatsu Friday January 1st 2016, 10:30am - 1:00pm Gunpowder River, Masemore Road Parking Area, Parkton, MD The Fly Fishing Show: Winston-Salem Friday February 5th - Saturday February 6th 2016 Benton Convention Center, Winston-Salem, NC


TENKARA ANGLER Winter 2015-16

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