Stay hydrated (and healthy) without carrying much

On November 14, 2013 • Comments (23)

Water Filtration and tenkara fishing

A few years ago I went fishing with a friend. After a few hours my water bottle was empty. Yet, in a twist of irony 350 cubic feet of water passed by me every second. He smiled, pulled out his bottle and gave me a sip of his precious water. I noticed the bottle was full, and it also had something inside. “It’s a water filter. Never run out of water!”, he said. GENIUS!

For someone who spent so much time in the water, it baffled me that I hadn’t come to that solution sooner by myself. For years I’d either run out of water and tough it out for a bit ; or I’d simply drink water directly from the stream I was fishing. If I was fishing high elevation water I never thought twice before taking a sip from the stream. Not the smartest idea in the world, I know. I know it because after years of drinking from streams, yet never having any symptoms, I finally asked my doctor to get tested for Giardia. I told him I often drank directly from streams which could have giardia and never used hand sanitizers. He gave me a dirty look but prescribed the tests. Sure enough, I had giardia. Never a symptom, I was just a carrier.

To a minimalist who doesn’t like carrying a backpack, but who is usually out long enough to require more than a “mere” 8 cups of water,  the small water filter was like discovering fire for the first time. Immediately after fishing I went and bought myself a water bottle with a nifty filter built in. More often than not I am also surrounded by water, so it isn’t a matter of supply. It is a matter of clean supply.

I wasn’t crazy about the bottle solution. It was bulky and difficult to carry. Luckily the filter didn’t last me very long, so I did some more research and came across the minimalist’s water filtration dream. Straw-type water filters that I could put in my pocket when not hiking far, or couple to a water bottle if I was going to be away from the water for any period of time. The straw filters allow me to drink directly from the stream whenever I needed, and are very compact.

So, in case you’re looking for a solution not to run out of water again, carry a small water filter with you.

My preferred filter at the moment is the Aquamira Frontier Pro. They run only about $20, are only as thick as the handle of your tenkara rod, but 7 inches long. If  will be hiking for any period of time I couple it with a flat bladder. My preferred one at the moment is the Platypus Softbottle, 0.5L for most of the time, 1L for slightly longer hikes. Often I just leave the bladder folded in case I need it, but drink directly from the stream otherwise.

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Wade up or not?

On November 9, 2013 • Comments (13)

We like to say that all you need to fly fish is a rod, line and fly. And, to a large extent that is very true. That really is all you need.
But what about the other stuff that will make things more comfortable, more accessible, or more effective? Like waders, for example?
Wading into a stream for tenkara
Should you wear waders?

We can tell you that you do not need to wear waders to fish. In fact, leaving the waders behind and going in with whatever one is wearing, or trying to stay out of the water a bit more, can be great way to reduce the load. Like the reduction in gear brought about by tenkara, leaving the waders behind can feel liberating. However,  waders can open up water that is difficult to fish without waders. On a long day out they can provide a lot of comfort, and depending on the weather and terrain they may be a necessary thing to avoid coming close to hypothermia.
If you’re just getting into the world of fly-fishing and contemplating whether you should invest the money for a pair of waders (as low as $50 for cheap hip waders, or $600 for a good pair of waders and wading boots), here are a few considerations I usually keep in mind.

Tenkara in Italy with no waders

The first thing that comes to my mind when deciding whether to wear waders or not is my intent for the day. Am I going mushroom hunting or backpacking and fishing on the side if I find a good pocket? Or, is fishing the primary reason I’m going out? If my primary intent is to fish, I’ll wear waders. Even if I have a side of me that really likes to rough it, I also like to be comfortable when I can. If I’ll be spending a lot of time in the water, and I want to focus on fishing waders will make me comfortable and will open up a lot of new water. Plus, I admit I’m not crazy about getting my undies wet if I have to cross a deep pool, even if it is hot out there.

But, if  the focus is on other activities and tenkara is the secondary goal, then I often leave the waders behind. Nothing says “simple fly-fishing” and “I’m just that cool”, like posing with a pair of torn-up jeans and sneakers.


Seasons and Weather
Winter is fast approaching. Those of you who are going fishing right now are noticing the water and air temperatures dropping. If you plan on fishing during the winter, then waders are a must. I have fished in the winter time wearing my skiing clothes when my primary intent was backcountry skiing. But, when you spend enough time near the water, you’re bound to get wet. And, getting wet when it is freezing out there not only feels “uncomfortable”, but can be outright dangerous with hypothermia a real possibility. So, wear waders and warm socks, and another pair of warm socks, and warm underwear…
Tenkara waders
If it is summer and it is warm out, not wearing waders is a good way to go. If the weather is hot and you are not going to be in the water for most of the time, then no matter how breathable your waders are they will feel very hot. In that case, think about intent and terrain. You can go either way in the summer. Some opt to wear wading boots with some neoprene socks and “wet-wade” when the main intent is fishing. This past summer I worn some fast-drying shoes fairly often when going hiking and fishing on the side. Your choice.
Wet wading with tenkara
And, of course, if it is really really hot out, swimming-wear may be the way to go (bonus: without a reel you can fish at the same time you swim!).
Swimming with tenkara.

Terrain also comes into play on making the decision. In most streams you can fish from the shore, or fish well by hopping rocks. In lakes you can certainly fish from the shore.

Tenkara in California on rocky terrain

But, some streams seem to call for waders. In particular, I like to wear waders in three types of places:

Streams that have a lot of trees and brush on the shores but a relatively open canopy in the middle. In these waters, which I admit may be a lot of waters, wearing waders allows you to fish in the middle of the stream and casting mostly upstream. By being in the water you can more easily avoid getting caught on trees behind you.

John Geer wading a stream in Virginia with tenkaraLarger rivers that have fewer features (e.g. boulders). Wearing waders will allow you get a little closer to the parts of the river you think the fish will be. Of course, you can fish from the shore very effectively in many parts of these rivers. But, once in a while you’ll come across a bend on the river where the riverbed is very shallow close to you, but there is a great looking whirlpool or something on the other side. Wading closer may mean getting your pants and underwear wet, waders will keep that from happening.

Tenkara on the Colorado River
Canyons. If I’m fishing a relatively steep canyon I may end up being in the water a lot. And, sometimes I’ll be forced to cross the stream many times as large obstacles keep me from staying the course. So, waders will be a good thing to wear.

Though, of course, if the canyons are steep enough I may just opt for a full wetsuit.

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How to Cast with Tenkara

On November 6, 2013 • Comments (12)

This new video will show you the foundations of how to cast with tenkara. This tenkara casting video is long overdue but I hope it will help you as you work on perfecting your tenkara casting.

This is the first of a new series of videos on tenkara techniques I’m currently working on. There have been many suggestions on things folks would like to learn (such as how to fish in tighter streams). We’ll be working on those. If there are things you’d like to learn, please let me know here. – Daniel

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Pulsing Tenkara Flies

On October 31, 2013 • Comments (14)

by John Geer

Pulsing flies has become one of my favorite techniques to use with a tenkara rod, but the idea of imparting motion to flies was very strange to me after having the importance of a dead drift pounded into me for so long. Luckily, I was able to watch Daniel and Dr. Ishigaki catch many fish using this technique and made it a point to add it to my own bag of tricks. Here are some points I’ve learned that I hope will help you:

Distance – This concerns the distance of your hands and rod tip from your body. Try not to over reach or you’ll have no cushion when a fish takes the fly which can cause break offs. This is true anytime you’re fishing tenkara, but becomes more important with the aggressive takes that pulsing sometimes brings on. Don’t work the fly too close to you or you’ll find it hard to set the hook and control the fly. Find the sweet spot for the line and rod you’re fishing.

Rhythm – Trout almost always feed in a rhythm, just watch them rise sometime. Flies pulsed in a rhythmic fashion may not entice more strikes, but will lead to more solid hook ups. Slow usually works best for me, but on any given day the rhythm can change.

Angle – I usually like to cast down and slightly across when I pulse flies. Some very good anglers like to work more downstream. Casting flies upstream and pulsing them back to you can make hook sets difficult. Find your own sweet spot on angle, but remember that sometimes you’ll just have to work with what the situation offers.

Grip – A lot of the time, you’ll want to lay a small amount of your casting line on the water during the rest between pulses. You may not need to do this if you’re fishing a large and/or heavy fly, but it will help you keep from over working the standard size sakasa flies many of us fish. You’ll learn to adjust the grip you use with the rhythm and angle you’re fishing, along with the current speed.

Taking the first letter of all of these spells out DRAG, which helped me remember this while doing the video. I hope it helps you solve some problems on your next fishing trip, and I hope that trip comes soon.

[Daniel’s notes: the concept of pulsing or manipulating tenkara flies is very simple, yet the tips above will help you improve hook-up rates. The main “mistakes” I see when teaching folks how to pulse their tenkara flies are that they just erratically move their tenkara rod with no rhythm, and as a result miss a lot of fish. Also, fishing too close or too far from their bodies, which translates into lack of control. John did a terrific job at summarizing them in the video and points above].

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My new “One Knot”: Double-loop slip knot Tippet to fly = tippet to level line

On April 8, 2013 • Comments (29)

After 2 decades of using an improved clinch to tie my fly to tippet, I decided to give a new knot a real try. This knot was taught to me by Dr. Ishigaki a couple of years ago, but being so used to tying the improved clinch it was difficult to change. Then, while doing some instructional filming for an upcoming DVD and trying to find ways to simplify tenkara instructions , I was inspired to use this knot. It seems to be a slight variation of the Scaffold Knot, with two loops rather than 3, I will call it a “double-loop slip knot”. It is the exact same knot as tippet to level line, and very similar to the level line to rod tip knot. It is very quick to tie, and as I have found out it is a super strong knot. I have not yet lost a single fly to poor knots (that includes fishing with one fly and not replacing tippet at all for 2 1/2 days of fishing on a backpacking trip where I caught over 40 fish on it, and a subsequent trip with multiple 18-22″ fish).

If you’re looking into a new knot, or are new to fly-fishing and want a simpler set of knots, give this one a try. It has become my “one tenkara knot”.


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Reducing twisting on a line holder

On March 20, 2013 • Comments (9)

Over the last several days we have held a company retreat here in Boulder. We decided to get our team together in person to discuss future strategy and product development. One of the goals of his time here was to create better line management solutions. We spent quite a bit of time analyzing options and how things worked and what things we wanted to solve. As we observed very closely how line holders are used, we came across some interesting insights. One of these insights was how one user was getting horrible line twisting, yet I (Daniel) never experienced line twisting problems at all when using the tenkara line holder. We asked ourselves why and started observing what was happening at every level of detail we could. Then it hit me that while the other user held the line between two fingers, I had been using my entire hand while winding the line. That was the only difference we could notice. And, it seemed that switching to using a whole hand actually helped with the line twisting problems some people may have.
I would like to hear your experiences with line holders and other line management systems. And, especially, I would really like to hear if you had problems with line twisting and were able to get rid of that by using the whole hand as I show in the video below.

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Ice Shelf – Winter Fishing with Tenkara

On January 22, 2013 • Comments (4)


Fish seek two things in particular: food and shelter. Both of these elements change in the winter, food becomes more scarce, and in many parts of the country so do their options for shelter. As temperatures drop, the stream will freeze; places for fish to hide change and so do the places with greatest food-generating potential. Undercuts by slower moving may get blocked by ice.  But, as global warming takes effect and we experience a 65 degree weather in January when it warms up, the ice opens up and reveals a new kind of structure that anglers can target: ice shelves.

Some time ago I was reading an article by Ralph and Lisa Cutter in California Fly Fisher. In the article, Ralph describes putting on his winter clothes and dry-suit and diving into a semi-frozen Sierra Nevada lake to observe fish and bugs underwater.  He describes diving underneath the large ice-shelf to explore the unexplored parts of a frozen lake. I clearly remember the image of cave diving coming into my mind, but I physically felt very cold while reading his words. While I do not have the article to quote from, he describes finding a big concentration of bugs – midges I believe – right at the edge of the ice shelf. Food? Check.

Further, most streams and lakes will not freeze to the bottom. The ice that forms in the majority of parts will be a shelf, meaning there will be plenty of places to hide underneath. A predator coming from above would have to piece through the ice to get to the fish. Shelter? Check!

Areas where water is flowing into may stay open and are also likely to have a better amount of food coming in. For example,  take a look at the foam line in the first picture below, on the opposite side of the stream, the amount of ice there is smaller despite the shadow. And, as they say “foam is home”, as it often indicates places of stronger turbulence that may have taken bugs down as the water plunged into the pool, or water with slightly faster velocity that carries with it some food.


I have also noticed fish cruising under ice in places with slower water. In multiple occasions I would see their shadows gliding below the ice. They would come out and often “sip” right by the edge of the ice shelves as in the picture below, reinforcing Ralph’s observation that there are bugs at the edge of the ice.

Ice shelf fishing

Can you spot the fish in the picture below? This was one fish I did not catch, on purpose. He was very close to the shore, a greenback cutthroat. I spotted him coming from below the ice and eating every time he stepped out of his protected ice cave. He seemed to sip down a bug every minute precisely. I just watched him, in awe, and somehow was able to resist the temptation to cast my fly to him. “Too easy” I thought. Plus, he was having it hard enough with little water that would soon freeze again. It is one of the few fish I have not cast a fly to but remember clearly. I still get as much joy from that memory as from any fish I have ever caught.

But, I couldn’t resist his neighbor…

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Winter Tip: Leave your Boots Outside = no Didymo

On December 19, 2012 • Comments (5)

Frozen Boots Didymo

We finally got some snow here in the new Tenkara USA home of Boulder, CO. And, with it, some very cold weather. The low tonight is expected to be a chilling 5°F! Salt Lake City, where I was tenkara fishing yesterday, is expecting a low of 18°F. Pittsburgh, PA, will see 32°F, as will Harrisonburg, VA.

This cold front has come right when I started reading about the International Didymo Conference. And, since I was travelling and fishing, I was also thinking about the spread of this nasty and invasive species. Didymo, if you’re not yet familiar with it, is a type of algae, also known as “rock snot”, which can spread very quickly and cover rocks on streams and have significant impact on the ecological balance of our favorite waters. It looks like “wet toilet paper” (though not usually white, unless it is getting dry). Its spread is most commonly blamed on our fishing equipment with the most common culprit being wading boots as there are many nooks where the algae can penetrate and then spread (though other equipment such as waders can also help spread it). Felt sole boots, in particular, are seen as the big scapegoat for the spread of didymo since they can remain moist for a long time and the pores can host the microscopic algae. But make no mistake, rubber-soled boots can also carry the stuff.

Part of the reason for the Conference, which will happen in March, is to figure out how to best stop the spread of the stuff. There are lots of advisories out there but not yet a silver bullet. The consensus for how we can all help is to clear our equipment thoroughly before going from one stream to another. But, ask 10 anglers the best way to clean the equipment and you may well get 10 different answers. I know this because I have asked at least 10 anglers how they clean their gear. Here is a good list of options.

The advise I paid particular attention to came from Ralph and Lisa Cutter, well-renowned anglers and creators of the highly acclaimed Bugs of the Underworld. The Cutters possess what I consider some of the most insightful knowledge of aquatic life, and when they gave me their answer I listened: “freeze it”, they told me.

As with anything, if it is not convenient to do, many of us will slack off and not do our part. It turns out, freezing is not only a highly-effective method of cleaning your gear off didymo but it is also a very convenient way of taking care of this mandatory chore.

In the warmer months I carry a large plastic trash bag with my fishing gear; at the end of a day of fishing I throw my boots in the plastic bag and as soon as I get home the bag goes straight into my freezer. Pretty easy as I do not have to deal with cleaning solutions and the risk of missing some of the didymo (though it helps if you have a mostly empty, or large freezer). Since hearing this advise I have religiously incorporated this chore into my coming home ritual: jacket on the floor, waders in the first empty space I see in the garage, rod on the couch, and wading boots straight into the freezer.

Now that I’m living in “cold country”, and the temperatures are in the freezing territory I decided I’d just throw boots right outside for the night and let nature take care of it for me. If you haven’t done this and were recently fishing, do us all a favor: put your boots out for the night, or if you’re not lucky to be in freezing territory right now (sarcasm here!), just throw it in the freezer for the night. That should be easy enough.

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Sharing Tenkara with a 7-year-old

On November 14, 2012 • Comments (3)

Written by Daniel

I have been sharing some good stuff on our Facebook page and thought I should also share them with you, our loyal blog reader. This post started out as a quick “here’s what happened” description of the picture below, and before I knew it, it was was one of my longest recent posts. Hope you enjoy it as much as I did.

Sharing tenkara with a 7-year old

This weekend I took a friend and her family tenkara fishing near Shaver Lake, CA. This was her Mayli’s first time EVER. I setup the rod for her, giving her just a quick overview of what I was doing, and told her 3 things:

1) First I pointed to the fly and asked her what it looked like. She responded it looked like a bug. So, I told her that fish like to eat bugs that are in the water, so that was how we were going to catch a fish.

2) Next I explained to her that fish will be in the water that looked deeper. And, that she was going to cast that fly to the water in front of her.

3) And, finally I told her one thing about casting as I demonstrated it: “you’ll move your arm like this, back and forth, and the fly will go to the spot – now, here, try it.”

I gave her the rod and let her try to figure it out on her own. In my experience teaching tenkara to kids, you tell them the objective and they will figure it out. It’s always the same, you give them a target, and at first the line starts out by falling right under the rod, but with every cast the fly starts going farther. As seems to be the norm, within 2 minutes she was casting the fly pretty close to where she wanted – with no further instructions from me.

At this point I held her hand and showed her how to make the cast better: “keep your arm close to your body so you don’t get tired; stop the rod tip straight above you when you move it back (she was going a bit farther back); and stop the rod tip a bit high when you go forward”. I cast with her some 5 times, to assist in her getting the muscle memory. From then on the fly was landing right where she wanted it.

We moved to the next fishy pool to start fresh and have a chance to catch a fish. Her casts in this pool were BEAUTIFUL! This was only about 5-6 minutes of fishing time, and she was getting the fly right where I pointed. Then I told her to keep the fly in the water a bit longer with every cast to give the fish a chance to eat the fly if they wanted. What came next was a big surprise to me. She started casting and leaving the fly in the water, and after a few casts she started making the fly dance in the water; she was pulsating it! I am not sure if she had seen me doing it, or just started playing it on her own. Regardless, that she did this on her own was remarkable.


A cold front had come in a few days before and brought heavy snow to the area. My expectations for the day were super low to begin with, and I was not really expecting a fish. But, they had to be there, and what are we fishermen if not the most hopeful of people?
Finding no fish on this pool I suggested we find another spot. We walked a minute upstream and found the best pool yet. There was a round loose sheet of ice covering about 1/4 of that pool, but it was deep so it was promising. She cast into the open water a couple of times. And, she spotted a fish coming toward us from below the ice, perhaps attracted to the fly she was casting. I told her to cast once and let the fly sink (since it was pretty cold and the stream small in my experience fish will be a bit more lethargic and will be more likely to take a fly that is just sinking slowly). She let it sink, and then I saw the white in its mouth. It had taken the fly .
“Hook it! Set the hook” I told her, rather calmly, a couple of times. But either she didn’t understand what I meant or she was too entranced by the sight of the fish in front of her to react. I held her hand and slowly lifted the rod with her. The hook was set and she felt the weight and feistiness of that fish. Her first one!
We were high on top of a boulder, about 5 feet above the water. I was just about to tell her to hold on and that I was going to go down to the water, but before I could say anything her intuition took over and she lifted the rod bringing the fish up toward us. That’s how you land a fish with no reel, I thought – no instruction, no questions, no tips – just pull in the opposite direction of the fish.
With the fish by us now we walked to the water that was running behind us, put the fish in the net and the net in the water. I asked if she wanted to hold it, she nodded with a smile that seemed to cover more than 1/4 of her face. She reached into the net and lifted the fish for the camera. Her first fish. Ever. A beautiful 9 inch rainbow trout.
Tenkara fishing with a kid
I had expected there was a good chance she would be miserable: cold, with cold hands, and certainly with wet and freezing feet after a short time out. Luckily my expectations were wrong. The weather turned out to be beautiful, and she was loving every minute of it, and it was clear she wanted to stay there for quite a while longer.
At one point we both saw a fish getting spooked and darting off in a pool. I told her the only way to catch that one fish would be to let the fly stay in the water and sit very still while we waited. Jokingly I told her we’d have to wait there for two hours for the fish to come back. I dont’ know how long she would have stayed there, but she did take it very seriously! She stayed on top of the rock, staring into the pool in front of her for several minutes. She was focused, and I didn’t say anything.
Tenkara fishing from top of a rock
A minute later I went to check in on her and saw another sign that she’s a super clever girl. Expecting to have to stay there, still, for another two hours, she put the tenkara rod down next to her and proceeded to cover it in snow. Nevermind what may happen when the fish takes the fly; the fact was that she shouldn’t have to hold a rod for two full hours! Plus, where’s that hot cocoa? Brilliant.
Tenkara rod on snow
Yep. Looks like we got ourselves another tenkara angler. She got COMPLETELY hooked. As she sensed we were going to have to leave soon she kept asking if we could fish some more. As they say, “Get’em hooked while they are young”.

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Tenkara Line Lengths and Stealth

On November 2, 2012 • Comments (8)

The other day I came across this great chart put together by Vlad Odnoshivkin, from the blog Tenkara in Siberia. It was too good not to share it more widely. It is very nicely done, beautiful to look at, and most importantly it quickly illustrates tenkara: how it can be used effectively to reach fish without being seen, how different line lengths can reach fish in different ways, and more. The “three people” on the left are images of Dr. Ishigaki in different fishing stances; the person on the far right is Mr. Sakakibara Masami. Enough said, I’ll let you draw your own conclusions from it.

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Anatomy of a tenkara rod Tenkara USA Warranty

On October 16, 2012 • Comments (2)

One of our main goals is to make rods that are unbreakable. We have made improvements and with time are getting better rods. But, the reality is that rods do break and always will. So, we’ll strive to get your rod back in the water as quickly as possible. It is just good business: delight our customers by getting their rods fixed quickly and cheaply, and if they are able to go fishing the weekend after their rod breaks, there are more chances they will show our rods to someone else. So, yes, we want to get your rod fixed as quickly, efficiently, and cheaply as possible.

With that in mind, we’re starting an unprecedented way of getting your broken rods repaired. We’ll just send you the part that you need. We have made replacement parts (plugs and replacement tip sets) available for all our models for quite sometime. And, now we will extend it to the other segments too. This means we must stock over 49 SKUs in spare parts (7 rod models X 7 parts). This is a big effort, but I believe making getting your rod fixed a breeze will pay off.

We actually started testing this procedure a few ago. But, the communication with customers, and even between us, has been challenging. The best email exchanges usually went like this:

Customer: “I broke the 5th segment from the tip”

Us: “Is that including the tip? So, tip, 2, 3, 4, 5?”

Customer: “No, it’s tip, 1, 2, 3, 4, 5″

Not to mention that sometimes we thought we knew exactly what piece to send and would send the wrong one. So, from now on we must speak the same language when we need to say which segment needs to be replaced. Below is a chart on how we will describe the parts of a tenkara rod from now on. Start with the handle (which would be number one) and count up, thus: handle, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, tip-set. We had some debates on whether to count from the handle or from the tip. On the one hand we start extending the rod from the tip. However, if one is to break and lose one of the top parts, there wouldn’t be a way of counting. Moreover, if starting from the tip, we would still suffer from the communication issue above (“segment X below the tip”). So, we settled on counting from the handle.


Anatomy of a tenkara rod - tenkara rod segments

To get your broken Tenkara USA rod fixed:

1) Please contact us first (email or phone) so we know what the issue was and what part has broken. This will allow us to learn more about what caused the breakage and use that to improve our rods; and to see if there is a quicker fix for you.

2) Shipping and handling charges are $17. To pay, just add this item to your cart and proceed through checkout; or call us at 888.483.6527. (Replacement tip sets and plugs are available here for $8.50).

3) We will send you what you need. When you get it, you can easily fix it yourself. Here are the PDF instructions on replacing the broken segments of your tenkara rod. Here’s a video.

* In rare situations we will need to get your rod back; or you may choose to have us repair your rod for you. We’ll ask that you send your rod along with this form to the address on the form. Shipping and handling is $17.

We’ll strive to make your rods unbreakable and hope you do not ever break your rod, but until then we’ll make it as painless as possible to get your rod fixed. And, we’ll support all of our rod models.

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Trout Hangouts: Waterfall Pools

On August 10, 2012 • Comments (2)

Written by Jason

“Trout Hangouts” is an ongoing series in which I highlight one specific element or structure of a river, stream, creek, or lake where trout like to hold and talk about how to approach it. Many fly fishers might know how to fish, but not necessarily where to fish. By dissecting the complicated infrastructures of different types of waters into more focused, manageable pieces, any angler can learn how to read the water and figure out exactly where to cast and apply their skills.

Tenkara Fishing Waterfalls

There’s probably nothing more alluring to a fly angler than a deep pool lying below a picturesque waterfall.  They’re relatively easy to fish, are usually big enough to hold a significant number of trout, and often hold bigger fish that are wise enough to know it’s good to hold in deeper water.  Deeper water might seem like a challenge to a tenkara angler fishing in the traditional manner with an unweighted fly, but luckily, waterfall pools offer a unique way to easily get your kebari down to fish holding closer to the bottom.

In a recent Trout Hangouts post, I talked about fishing the edges of white water.  Basically, the same rule applies beneath waterfalls which often spill into a pool and generate whitewater.  That type of presentation would apply to areas 1 and 2 in the photo above.  But it’s area 3 (right in the heart of the white water) that presents a unique opportunity to get an unweighted fly to fish holding deep that I’d like to focus on.

A couple of years ago, Daniel wrote a post about how tenkara anglers use rushing water to sink flies.  It’s a simple technique and waterfall pools are the perfect place to do it.  Basically, all you do is cast into the waterfall, lower your rod to create slack line that will allow the plunging water to drag your fly into the depths.  You should see the line getting pulled under and once you see it start to drift downstream, you raise the rod tip and make your presentation.  I like to move my fly so for me, this means pulsing it with the rod tip raised.  But if you want to make a dead drift presentation, simply keep the rod tip up, line tight, and move the rod to follow the speed of the line being taken by the current.

Every time I approach a waterfall pool, my imagination runs wild with what might be lurking in it’s depths.  Waterfalls are magical places that are iconic of our sport.  And even if I only dredge up a few 10-inchers from the depths, it’s at least still fun to indulge in the fantasy.

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Trout Hangouts: Rock Walls

On August 4, 2012 • Comments (5)

written by Jason

“Trout Hangouts” is an ongoing series in which I highlight one specific element or structure of a river, stream, creek, or lake where trout like to hold and talk about how to approach it. Many fly fishers might know how to fish, but not necessarily where to fish. By dissecting the complicated infrastructures of different types of waters into more focused, manageable pieces, any angler can learn how to read the water and figure out exactly where to cast and apply their skills.

How to find trout

Some streams have large boulders with flat sides or “rock walls” that line the banks.  These geographical features can take many shapes but often create good holding areas for trout since they provide shelter from the current, sun, and predators.

Look at the picture above.  The green arrows show where I would focus my casts.  Let’s look at each area a little more closely.

1.  Because of the angle of this particular rock, this is area is an ideal holding spot.  It offers slower current, protection from predators, and shade, while still offering a good vantage point for picking up drifting food.  We might not often think about fish seeking protection from sun (and it’s not really the sun they are trying to hide from), but sunlight makes the trout visible to predators.  Shade helps them hide.  Of course, shaded areas will change throughout the day as the Sun moves through they sky.  If I were a trout, this would be my preferred hangout (unless a bigger trout bullied me out of it).

2.  Still pretending I’m a trout, this would be my second choice.  It’s not as good as #1 because it doesn’t offer the shade (right now) and camouflage of #1, but it’s still a pretty good lie.  If I couldn’t get #1, I’d take this as the next best thing.

3.   Trout will also hang out here, especially if there are multiple fish in the same run and the prime spots are already taken.  Fish holding here will often try to flee to #1 if spooked (even if it’s already occupied).  But in my experience, the wiser (and sometimes larger fish) will take over area #1, leaving area #3 for the smaller, less educated fish.  But it’s still worthy of a few casts.

So, how should you prioritize your casts?  I would probably hit #1 first (or #2 if that happens to be the shaded area at that particular time of day).  Of course, you run the risk of putting down fish by casting across #3, but as I said, #1 and #2 will probably hold the bigger fish so I’m willing to run that risk.  Also, with a long tenkara rod, it’s probably easy to keep the line off the water and not put down any fish in #3.

So the next time you’re out, keep your eyes out for rock walls.  And remember that the best holding spots change throughout the day so they might be worth hitting a couple of times a day.

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Trout Hangouts: Edges of Whitewater

On July 19, 2012 • Comments (0)

Written by Jason

“Trout Hangouts” is an ongoing series in which I highlight one specific element or structure of a river, stream, creek, or lake where trout like to hold and talk about how to approach it. Many fly fishers might know how to fish, but not necessarily where to fish. By dissecting the complicated infrastructures of different types of waters into more focused, manageable pieces, any angler can learn how to read the water and figure out exactly where to cast and apply their skills.

How to fish whitewater runs

How to fish whitewater runs

In a recent post, I talked about how fish seek out slower water when rivers are high and muddy.  The same rule applies under normal conditions in faster, whitewater runs.  While it might be tempting to throw your fly right in the middle of a fast run (because that’s probably the deepest part) it’s not a good holding spot for trout.

First of all, it’s too fast.  Trout seek out places where they don’t have to spend a lot of energy to stay in one place.  But, they also want to leverage the current to carry insects and other food to them.  Essentially, they want to find a lie with a good balance between energy spent vs. energy received.  Holding in whitewater just takes too much energy.

Secondly, whitewater is, well, white.  With the water churning so violently, it becomes opaque, making it difficult for the fish to see potential food.  So even if they did want a workout, they wouldn’t be able to see a nymph if it were right in front of them.  Or, by the time they did, it would be long gone because of the speed of the current.

Take a look at the picture above.  The green arrows represent where I would focus my presentations.  Notice I’m targeting the slower water around the edges of the whitewater.  These are the best holding spots for trout in a run like this.  Notice too that I’m not only fishing the edges, but the very tail of the run.  Fish will hold here too even if it is a only short distance because they get the benefit of the whitewater above them stirring up insects from the bottom, without having to struggle to hold in the faster water.  Essentially, you want to carve out the whitewater with your presentations.

Leave whitewater for the kayakers.  For the fly angler, the slower moving edges are the more exciting part!

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Trout Hangouts: Bridges

On July 15, 2012 • Comments (1)

Written by Jason

“Trout Hangouts” is an ongoing series in which I highlight one specific element or structure of a river, stream, creek, or lake where trout like to hold and talk about how to approach it. Many fly fishers might know how to fish, but not necessarily where to fish. By dissecting the complicated infrastructures of different types of waters into more focused, manageable pieces, any angler can learn how to read the water and figure out exactly where to cast and apply their skills.

Tenkara fishing under bridges

Bridges are curious things. For trout, they can either be safe havens or danger zones and a lot really depends on something pretty far removed from a piscatorial perspective.

If you’ve fly fished for any length of time, you’ve probably waded up to a bridge at some point and the water beneath it probably looked pretty fishy. Indeed, bridges can provide great holding water. After all, they offer impenetrable protection from predators, shade when it’s hot, and usually slow down the current enough to provide a comfortable lie. In theory, that all adds up to a perfect place for trout to hang out. But what I’ve discovered is that the design and type of bridge makes a big difference.

The bridge in the picture above is a good example of one that trout might find appealing. It’s very robust because it’s made of stone. Even if cars drive over it, there is probably minimal vibration that transmits into the water that might scare fish (or, they’re just used to it). Also, it has solid stone side walls that prevent shadows or flashes from shiny parts on cars to go into the water. So, that would be a good bridge to fish under (I happen to know because I have). But the people who built this manmade structure probably weren’t thinking about creating a trout hangout when they put this bridge up. It was just coincidence.

Now imagine a bridge made for foot traffic along a busy jogging trail or tourist hotspot. It might have been constructed out of slatted wooden boards with gaps that let light, shadows, and vibration project into the water below every time a pedestrian passes by. That’s not a great place for trout to hunker down in. Actually, with all the activity, it’s kind of scary. So even though the flow under that bridge might be prime, the constant threat of perceived “predators” from above, will make it a troutless stretch of stream and not worth fishing.

The first thing you need to determine when approaching a bridge is if it’s viable or not. If you determine it’s good structure, then you need to figure out your approach.

Unless the bridge you’re encountering is really, really big, then most likely, you’re going to be faced with the possibility of only two presentations: upstream or downstream. When fishing a traditional tenkara presentation, I usually favor a downstream presentation. It really depends on the height of the bridge. Whether it’s a short or tall bridge and you’re fishing downstream, you can probably make a normal cast, let it drift down a little, then start pulsing the fly once it’s under the bridge.

But if you’re fishing upstream, that’s a different story. Since you can’t use the flow to get your fly into position, the casting will be tighter. You can’t really do an overhand cast when you’re trying to fish in a tight tunnel so something more like a side-arm cast or slingshot cast might be the way to go (watch this video at 5:43 to see how to make the slingshot cast).

So, the next time you encounter a bridge, think about if it’s really worth fishing or not. It could be a great opportunity, or a waste of your time.

How do you approach bridges?

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