Tenkara Diaries, May 30th and June 1st 2013
Music by Takenobu
Tenkara was a gift from heaven, it perfectly matched the type of water I love most: mountain streams. But, there is plenty of good waters very close to home that are not mountain streams, ponds full of bass and bluegill and slow moving water full of carp. So, I decided to indulge and fish several types of water this week, all with tenkara of course!
It has just been discovered that some fish use a kind of sign language to help others hunt. So, I decided to investigate the footage I have been capturing over the last couple of weeks for the Tenkara Diaries videos to see if trout displayed any tendencies to use sign language – after all, one of the fish they discovered uses sign language is the coral trout. I’ll keep my eyes open in the future to see how they tell each other, “Hey, look at that tenkara fly; it looks yummy!”
Today I started fishing near Aspen, Colorado, after giving a presentation in the area yesterday. In the morning I headed out with a group and caught some beautiful rainbows, mostly in the 18-20″ range. Then, in the early afternoon I hooked into browns (still in the same river), at least one at about 20″.
On the 3.5 hour drive home I stopped in a small stream off the highway to take a break and fish. A few minutes into fishing and I hooked a couple of cutthroats (western slope cutthroats I think). As I walked upstream I came across a beaver dam, cast above it and caught a brookie. As I walked away to farther spot I thought to myself…”wait a minute, I just caught a Colorado Grand Slam! YEAH!”. A quick note, I caught them all on one fly… not just the “one fly”, but the actual same fly (a variation of the amano kebari). I’m putting a new “Tenkara Diary” video together, hopefully you’ll see it tomorrow, but here are the photos:
This is the photo of a Japanese char, the Iwana, which I took on one of my trips to Japan. Iwana translates roughly as “rock fish”. Aptly I caught this guy on the Tenkara USA Iwana rod. It is said they can “walk” on rocks to get back to the water, and legend has it that they can use that ability to cross paths and get on different waters if their stream is drying up. I can vouch that they can use their fins to stand, though I haven’t yet seen one walk from one stream to another.
If you’re looking for some fun reading over the next few days, Anthony Naples created The Wintertime Blues, “a one-time only project dedicated to collecting creative writing, photos, and art related to tenkara and fly fishing and publishing a one-off collaborative, pot luck dinner, mix-tape and fanzine for tenkara and fly fishing.” TJ and Daniel have a story each in the “fanzine”. Good reading for sure, and a big thanks to Anthony for putting this together. Click below to download the pdf file.
It snowed almost 10 inches here overnight and the snow continues to fall. As I shoveled the driveway, my next-door neighbor asked me “how do you like Colorado [now]?”
I love it.
Yesterday morning I headed out with my friend Malcolm Daly (founder of the Trango climbing equipment company, the Access Fund, Paradox Sports and others…wow…) to an area I wasn’t familiar with just outside of Boulder, Colorado. The drive took less than 30 minutes and the scenery was gorgeous. The snow will replenish the low water levels I saw yesterday, and it gives me a good reason to stay in and work on stuff I have postponed for months, like accounting. What is there not to love?
Since I’m looking for ways to continue postponing the accounting work, I want to share a few images. And, of course, just in case you’re also stuck in the snow and looking forward to the next day of fishing.
Two years ago I spent 2 months in the small mountain village of Maze, Japan. I was seeking to learn all I could about tenkara in what could be considered the cradle of this method of fishing. Stories of my visit to Japan (and anything Japan related) can be found here. But, I was often disheartened by the unsustainable approach to sport fishing in most streams and rivers in Japan.
Streams and rivers in Japan are treated as put-and-take fisheries, where the cost of the fishing license for a particular stream is often compared to the cost of fish in the market and seen as a cost to be recouped by keeping as many fish as will pay for the license. This is obviously not sustainable, as it was made clear when we had to load buckets of fish onto a section of the Maze river (Mazegawa) in preparation for a fishing class.
I have taken it on as a side project to inspire change in the way Japan thinks about its rivers in a modern society. I feel indebted to the Maze village and the Mazegawa, where I was hosted with open arms for 2 months. That is where I’m starting. I can can see there is a very long road ahead, and this will be a lifelong project, but I was encouraged when I was asked to write for the local newspaper what my thoughts for the Mazegawa were. It was published a few weeks ago and I just received my copy with “Part 1″ of a series of articles I plan . I’ll share the article I wrote below.
John Pearson and Paul Gaskell just shared the beautiful short video below with us, which they say gives us a “flavour of the UK’s first dedicated tenkara fly fishing syndicate water”.
John and Paul are the first Tenkara Guides certified by Tenkara USA in the UK and have been dedicated to introducing tenkara in the UK for sometime. They created the website Discover Tenkara and for sometime have been writing a comprehensive series of articles for the website Eat, Fish, Sleep about tenkara’s history and techniques.
Every morning since moving to Colorado I have been taking morning hikes with my dog, Yuki. We go to a trail near home, and I’m thrilled that this area provides great inspiration, in the form of natural bonsai.
Pine tree seeds fall in the cracks of boulders throughout the trail and on those cracks they establish a niche. Against all odds they survive, and unintimidated by their larger neighbors they carry on, not minding the convention of what a tree should be like.
The thwarted trees are as inspiring to me as they have been to people in Japan for hundreds of years. Like tenkara, I believe what we now know as bonsai was not so much invented as it was discovered. Small trees on rocks, trout rising to insects. Over time the techniques for both tenkara and bonsai cultivation have been refined, but nature was most certainly the original inspiration.
The world did not end today, so hopefully its natural wonders may inspire you in one way or another today.
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.
It is my first time in North Carolina, and I’m loving it.
I had been meaning to take this trip for quite sometime to familiarize myself more with Eastern waters and spend time with our dealers in the area. Tomorrow morning (Thursday, Oct 18) I will be speaking and doing a demo at Headwaters Outfitters, in Rosman, NC. On Saturday I will be speaking and holding a clinic at Mossy Creek, in Harrisonburg, VA. If you are near these areas, I’d love to see you.
Before I share today’s pictures I have to share the highlight of the day. Pete, one of the guides for Headwaters, took me to some beautiful water today on the North Fork of the French Broad. Soon after we started fishing, I noticed a very large osprey flying to the tree near us, and perching almost over our heads, maybe some 40ft off the ground. I pointed it out to Pete. We watched the osprey for a minute, and then it started flying – DOWN!
I had been eyeing the pool in front of me, and intended to fish it…but so did the osprey. For the first 10ft of flight it kept its wings open and flew slowly, like a parachute really. And, then it turned into a torpedo, tucking its wings and pointing its legs towards the water. It struck the water like lightning. We watched it mesmerized; the osprey dove not 15ft away from us! A moment later it came out of the water with a 10 inch trout, likely a rainbow, in its grasp. The moment wasn’t yet over. As it took off, about 4ft in the air, the osprey lost its grip to the wiggling fish. As an angler, I could relate to the osprey. I felt bad for it.
Needless to say, I passed on the pool in front of me and also skipped the one above, the commotion and splash surely scared fish for quite a distance. The osprey also knew that and flew far downstream in search of another pool – a reminder not to spend too much time in one place. Unfortunately no pictures or video…I would have had the perfect angle, just perfect.
The fishing for the rest of the day was absolutely gorgeous, and the fishing superb. I have been told the Fall colors are at their peak, the air has been crisp, and cool. The streams here remind me a lot of many streams in Japan, more open than I expected and super clear too. I used the Ito in the beginning of the day and that worked very well. Later I switched to the 11ft Iwana and really missed the longer length several times. The fish were rainbows, healthy, and very feisty. Most in the 12-14 inch range. The first thing I did was to show Pete the techniques of tenkara. The first fish came when I was showing him the idea of stopping the fly and drifting it, stopping and drifting. That was the most successful technique for me today.
I am looking forward to a few more days out this way.
Toward the end of the day I got snagged on a tree behind me, I tried freeing it by using my rod, and it came free. What was most interesting was what came with it, not a leaf as had happened throughout the day, but rather a fly and tippet:
I fished alone in the afternoon, and soaked in the fall colors. I tried to pay nature back by picking up some trash on my way back to the car and learned of one more use for the angled tenkara nets. I had a long walk back, but was able to leave the net tucked in my wading belt with the cans inside:
But that was not quite enough for a karma-neutralizer. I suppose I caught too many fish and still needed to get another scrape to balance it all out. I walked to the water next to my car for one last fish. As I came down the bank I tripped over and fell forward. Falling is not that uncommon, but this time it could have been real bad, as I fell with my neck right over a broken and very sharp branch! I thought it may have punctured myself badly, but there was not a whole lot of blood coming out. I took this picture to see how bad it really was. Wow, that was close. It could have been real bad.
Just have to share an experience I had moments ago, because, well, if not with you, then with whom?
It was magical, but you probably had to be there. There were small reminders, but you just have to take away what you can. And, there could even be a sign of sorts in there. But, to be honest, I really just intend to share with you a moment I had.
(Note: This is not much of a tenkara story, though if tenkara really means “from heaven” it may just be. It’s more about simple living and a good moment I had ).
I have been thinking, for over three years our message has been “tenkara is simple; it allows you to carry less stuff with you. Just a rod, line, spool of tippet, forceps and nippers and then a box of flies. Less stuff”.
I truly love being unencumbered by gear. I love not having to take something (or forget it on an outing) that other anglers may perceive as vital. I love not having to deal with a bunch of gear. But then, I have been thinking: what can we do with that under-utilized capacity that we have of carrying more stuff with us?
So, I’d like to ask you to join me on a mission to carry more stuff on your next outing.
When you go fishing next time, bring with you an empty (or nearly empty) backpack. Line it with a trash bag if you wish. And, as you walk to your favorite fishing spot, along that fishing trail that fills your spirit with goodness, pick stuff along the way and stuff it in your backpack. Heck, just use your vest, all those pockets left empty by the absence of your spare fly boxes, floatant, packs of leaders, box with splitshot can come in very handy.
As you walk, instead of looking at the water – you will reach it in a second – look at the ground a bit, look for faded beer cans that were discarded a long time ago (if you pay attention you will find these EVERYWHERE), look for the crushed plastic bottles, look for pieces of fishing line, and reflective Cheetos bags. When you’re on the stream, look at the branches hanging over the water, there will be some lost tippet in there, maybe even a lure at the end of that. Pick these up, and stuff them in your backpack. When you walk back to your car, take satisfaction in that heavy load you’re carrying in your pack. Rejoice in the feeling of carrying a lot of stuff with you.
Tenkara has opened the doors to remind people how little they can carry with then. But now, I think we can start making better use of carrying less fishing gear with us by actively and purposefully carrying more trash out.
P.s. I probably don’t have to write this, but if you are wondering when the “Carry More Stuff Day” is going to be, it should be noted it is everyday!