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.
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?
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.
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…
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.
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!).
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.
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.
Larger 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.
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.
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
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].
Look Both Ways Before You Cross The
by TJ Ferreira
Remember that old saying that your mother would tell you,”make sure you look both ways before you cross the road”? I have been hearing Ebisu lately from high in the heavens telling me the same thing when I enter a river to go play with trout. He has also told me I have much to learn.
Reading trout waters is something every tenkara angler must learn, and it is something I continue to work on. Learning to read the waters to spot where trout are likely to hold may be the difference between being skunked and catching fish.
I was fortunate to be able to fish with Daniel Galhardo and John Geer of Tenkara USA in Virginia during the Tenkara Summit 2013. I kept an eagle eye on them most the time trying to soak up fishing knowledge as we traversed the river. In the last almost 4 years I have learned a great deal on how to go tenkara fishing but I consider myself still an amateur at best. I know enough now to cast well enough, present a fly well enough, and to stumble on the rivers just well enough to, well…. catch trout. One thing I do know is that I have a long way to go before I can say I really know how to read a river well and that I am a seasoned fisherman.
Don’t get me wrong, I have come a very long way since starting tenkara back in 2010, but it is
refreshing humbling to watch those that have fly fished for many years wade into almost any river and immediately start catching trout. When I go out on my solo trips, catching trout is always a bonus and in the last couple of years I have learned enough and fished often enough where I catch at least one trout every trip. It is a wonderful feeling knowing a kebari I tied and a cast that I made is catching many surprised trout where my tenkara rod takes me. But, there is always plenty of room for improvement and that means being humble enough to know one never really becomes a master of something, although some seem to get darned close. Maybe when I get to my 90s I will be decent enough.
For 2013, one of my goals is to keep up with my casting and try to continue to improve. I do well enough but with every 10 really good casts, I always have some bloopers on every fishing adventure. As the day progresses, I am either in a zone and kicking butt or there are days I get too tired and lazy and my casts go to pot. They may be good enough to catch fish but I am striving to do better anyway. My main goal now though is better reading of trout waters. I have a number of books on just this subject and they have been very helpful. Books like Reading Trout Waters by Dave Hughes and The Orvis Guide To Reading Trout Streams by Tom Rosenbauer are “must haves” for any tenkara fisher-person. But… the best place to learn how to read the trout waters is out on the water with friends that have more experience than you where you can watch them with an eagle eye and see what they are seeing.
I was able to use my eagle eye during the Tenkara Summit 2013 and was amazed at how well Daniel and John read the river. Daniel wanted to get some video of me catching and landing a trout and him and John said fish here. I proceeded to connect my line to my rod, telescoped the rod, and started making my way into the river. Half the way into the river I hear the Family Feud Buzzer going off in my head telling me, “hey dummy, why did you not make a few casts to the water you just walked through”? Looking back the odds were slim trout would have been where I had just walked to since the water was real fast, high, and the spot did not look fishy, but… it does not hurt making a couple casts anyway just in case.
I then proceeded to cast downstream into plunge pools and pockets I felt trout would be. I actually officially caught my first trout of the trip in that spot but the water was so fast I had the trout on for maybe 3 seconds before he popped off. I had my taste buds going though after that!
Daniel took a nice picture of me casting into an area trout would be and I have annotated the image to show some great spots where I cast to right away. Looking back at this image though there was a nice “slow water” area above the plunge pools I should have cast first. I was greedy though and went right for the picturesque pockets I felt my best chance of snagging my first brook trout. On this image I have marked it as “Try First” because I never did that day. I just waddled like a bull onto the water and started casting to the prime spots.
The image I marked up does not mark all spots I feel trout are but you get the idea. The issue I wanted to point out is look first, both ways, and even up and down, before heading into the river. At a minimum, make a few casts to where you plan on walking out to just in case a sneaky trout is there waiting for some good bugs. After those first casts, look across from where you are standing and see if there are any other spots that may hold trout before really working that pristine spot. Of course do this quietly and effectively not to spook off the trout from that pristine spot that first caught your eye.
This blog is not a manual on how to read the water but to signal to you to look both ways before you proceed into the river. Read, analyze, enter, catch trout. Having watched Daniel heading toward some spots he felt trout were he kept casting as he approached that spot. During this time he is talking to John and I watching him as he looked back at us. Next thing we know he has a brookie on board (surprised him too), one of those sneaky ones that wanted to ride the good ship Tenkara Ito. Just went to show that keeping the kebari in the water and making casts to spots that may or may not hold trout, can make you head home that night not skunked. I don’t mind those accidental trout one bit.
If you take anything away from this blog post, keep this in mind. Cast to places you are about to tread on if you think they have any chance of holding a trout, and if you don’t think they do, cast there once or twice anyway. Next, look both ways, and even up and down, to see if there are any spots you can quickly and quietly make a cast to that may hold a sneaky little trout. These spots may reward you with a nice new friend. Most folks probably go right to the pretty water right away yet some of that uglier water may have some of the prettiest trout of the day.
Glad I listed to my mom when I was a kid and will remember to look both ways from now on.
Headed out for a phenomenal afternoon of tenkara fishing. Carried a prototype tenkara rod I’m working on, tenkara line and two tenkara flies I tied before heading out. Shot entirely with an iPhone. There are a couple of tips in this short movie too. This video is 5 minutes long, with a song by Takenobu. Make sure to watch it in HD (click on the gear icon, and then 720 or 1080). Hope you enjoy it.
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”.
A writeup about In Search of Tenkara Part 3 is below. In case you missed parts 1 and 2:
In Search of Tenkara, Part 2:
In Search of Tenkara, Part 1:
About “In Search of Tenkara, Part 3″:
Let me get this out of the way first: I used non-tenkara flies, split shot and even a bobber! Let me explain (and I cover this in the video too).
Over the last couple of days my “one fly” (technique over gear) approach was really challenged. For over 2.5 years I have chosen to stick with one fly pattern and focus on refining techniques, as my teachers in Japan have taught me, to see how far I could go with using one fly pattern.
I once said to a class that “the one fly approach works…until it doesn’t”. In streams, spring creeks and rivers thorough the US, in different seasons, the approach has so far always worked. However, I have been waiting for a moment to be shown that it does not; and when the moment came I would not be above changing flies. I thought this finally would be the time where “one fly” would be proven to not work everywhere.
With the end of the Fly Fishing Show season I finally feel that I can enjoy my new home and the new homewaters that surround it. There are two beautiful streams within a 10 minute drive from home, but I have barely fished them at all since arriving here. Between moving in, visiting family in Brazil and being gone every weekend for the shows, with barely time to catch up with other stuff in between, I was really missing the water. I have to get my priorities straight again.
Yesterday evening Margaret and I went to check out Eldorado Canyon, an area we hadn’t yet visited since moving here and through which South Boulder Creek runs. We had our dog along, and not much sunlight left. So I really wasn’t focused on fishing. But, I also had brought a tenkara rod and my kit along just in case. We hiked through some snow down to the stream, which had a pretty good amount of water, and I setup my rod. It is winter, the fish tend to hold deeper and be less active, and since Margaret wasn’t fishing I told her I was just going to try “a few casts”. I wasn’t expecting much.
Feeling the hope that all anglers feel when they cast to a pool, I proceeded to cast my fly, an Oki kebari, to the first pool. I apprehensively awaited for a strike, but nothing on the first dead drift. I cast three or four more times, and moved to the next pool. This pool looked “fishier”. I did one dead drift, but nothing; and so I decided to pulsate my fly a little. Nothing still. Continue reading
If you know fish will take your dry fly, even if it is wet and under, or…
If you know you can false-cast your fly to fish near the surface, you don’t need… floatant
If you know how to use currents to sink your fly, you don’t need… split-shot
If you know how to keep your line tight, and watch it as it goes by, you don’t need… strike indicators
If you know how to tie three of simple knots, you don’t need… tippet rings or dacron for the level line
If you know you can cut your line using your teeth, you don’t need… nippers (though we highly recommend this, because…you should know you can ruin your teeth that way!)
If you know 4X and 6X looks virtually the same underwater, you don’t need… multiple spools of tippet
If you know most fish will be caught between 15 and 40ft away from you, you don’t need… a bunch of line
If you know tenkara allows you to keep it off the water, you don’t need… to mend your drift
If you know how to tie flies by holding the hook, you don’t need… a vise
If you know fish checkout most things that could be food, you don’t need… a hundred fly patterns
If you know most artificial flies resemble many different things under water, you don’t need… 30 fly patterns
If you know how to present one fly in a variety of different ways, you don’t need… a dozen fly patterns
If you know the points above, you don’t need… a vest full of pockets
If you know you can fish with a pole that has the line tied to its tip…
If you know you can fish with a fixed-length of line…
AND, If you know you can land a fish without a reel, you don’t need…well… a reel.
My grandfather used to say, “knowledge is the only thing no one can take away from you”, and generally it is difficult to lose or forget it at home. The nicest thing about knowing, is that once you know you can leave a lot of things behind. And, as they say, “knowledge is weightless”.
What else do you know that would allow us to minimize what we carry and what we think we need?
by TJ Ferreira
False casting has a certain romantic magic about it when it is done out on a river. Enough romance with false casting that it can be considered that money shot in a film or money shot while demonstrating how to cast a fly rod.
At this year’s International Sportsman Expo (ISE for short), Tenkara USA had a booth right near the main casting pool. It was a great spot where we could easily escort folks fascinated with tenkara over to the pool, lean over the curtain, and start casting away at the targets in the pool, even as other people zipped their lines right past our ears. We didn’t need much space.
It has always struck me as a bit funny to have mini rods made for the purpose of practicing casting (although I recognize it strikes a lot of people as funny to use no reels). Thing is, you can’t fish with practice casting rods, they are a toy. But I also recognize that most of us fly anglers also enjoy casting, and that we can always use a little practice to get more precise with our casting.
When I was creating Tenkara USA I lived in a tiny studio apartment. As I was working a full-time job and working on TUSA on the side, often times I didn’t have time to go to the casting ponds near home during the day. I’d receive samples from our line maker and couldn’t wait to try them out. So, I’d get my tenkara rods, extend only a couple of segments out and get a feel for how they cast. The good ones I’d take out during my precious weekend fishing time. In fact, I didn’t realize it till this weekend, but there I had a perfect practice casting rod.
This weekend Lance Gurney was helping out at our booth and at one point we talked about the practice rods our dealers were selling. He suggested making a mini practice tenkara rod. Winters can be pretty cold out in parts of the country and this could give the bored angler a diversion when he’s stuck inside. The line testing I did in my tiny apartment came to mind the moment he mentioned this.
I proceeded to tell him that we didn’t need a toy for practicing casting. We had the perfect practice casting rod right there, just collapse a couple/few segments down, and voilà. To make it perfect, just fill the gap with a piece of folded paper/foam/etc. It is probably best to use the traditional tenkara line for this purpose as it is slightly heavier and more supple.
So, whenever you get bored at home next time, or if you want to play this casting game, just pull out your tenkara rod, rig it up, extend 4 segments and have some fun. If it warms up the next day, you can take the same rod and line out and actually catch fish with it.
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.
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…
Written by TJ,
It seems there are many conversations about tenkara these days about line length. I guess when you have simple form of fly fishing where just a rod, line, and fly are needed, it may seem that there is not much more to talk about. In reality though, there are many other things to be worked on, practiced, discussed, and that would be casting techniques.
Something I am seeing in myself, and I am sure others are also doing, is that we try to graduate to long lines too fast instead of focusing on something I feel is more important: that you try to master as many different casting techniques using shorter lines before you try to go to long lines.