Article by Nick Pavlovski
We had a long, second COVID-19 lockdown here in suburban Melbourne. 112 days of staying at home (you could leave your house for one hour daily to exercise, but not travel more than 5 kilometres to do it). For all fisherfolk, we did it even tougher than many. We watched our colleagues in the countryside and in other states going out, netting great fish, showing off new techniques. All we could do was tie more and more flies; grass cast during our hour’s daily exercise; and buy fishing gear online in preparation for the eventual end of lockdown, which always seemed just a bit further out of reach.
I bought a second-hand Vision Cult nymphing rod and a competition nymphing line off someone having a virtual garage sale/yard sale/spring clean. I was itching to use it for months, endlessly thinking of where best to first go and try it…which nymphs I’d tie on first… and if I would nymph better with it than when I fixed-line nymph. Daydreams to try to cheer oneself up. Goals to set, to keep one abiding with the lockdown rules, so we could all get lockdown over sooner so we could get back to normal sooner – and our favourite fishing spots.
Why did I buy this rod and work myself up over it? Well, after our first, shorter lockdown from March to May, I went fishing with a friend who competes as a fly-fisher nationally. We both went to a river we like, filled with small but strong Rainbow Trout, and nymphed the chilly, late autumn water. He nymphed with his rod, reel and line; I fixed-line nymphed with my Daiwa Keiryu-X 11 foot rod (as personally recommended by Dr. Tom Davis of Teton Tenkara). He out-fished me two to one. I took it well, allowing myself a significant handicap as I am not an elite fisher like my friend is, and I was fishing in a method that was more restrictive and lacking in bite detection than his.
After the session, whilst we prepared hot drinks and readied for the drive home, he talked about sensitivity, and how much better I would feel the takes and touches if I had direct finger contact with the line itself. I listened, and wondered if what he was saying could be right…he never fishes fixed-line, so I felt that until he’d done a proper comparison and also nymphed fixed-line, he might be missing something (or maybe even actually wrong!).
With travel for fishing permitted again for us city and suburban folk only last month (November), my first trip was to a popular river that I rarely fish. It’s a good river and every trout fisher knows it, so everyone fishes it – except for me, usually. I knew the recent rains would not make it unwadeable, unlike some of my other preferences – and that the intensive bankside brush on the other rivers and creeks I like was not present on this river, so I could really try out the Vision rod without distraction.
I could feel them. I could feel the tentative nips and takes down the line and to my two fingers I had wrapped over it. I was able to act more quickly and set the hook faster and more confidently. I was not staring so hard at every last tiny movement of the line where it entered the water. I really could sense things better. I come off the water after four hours, having netted a personal best in numbers for that river, as well as having a good number of fish throw the hook, and also detect and briefly hook a number of other fish. Everything my friend told me seemed true.
I took the rod out again, just five days before I wrote this. On a brushier, narrower river where one is mostly fishing short runs or pockets in between logjams. I’d fished the same beat back in May, on the day prior to when I fished with my friend. I’d fished it with the Keiryu-X and had a challenging but good session. I was full of trepidation about what would happen when I instead used the Vision Cult rod.
Again, it happened. I could feel every bump against a stone; every bump against a submerged twig; every hesitant peck by a small fish; and every take by more confident fish. I landed many fish and missed a good few more. It was another excellent session. I felt elated about what was happening, but also began to feel sorry for my poor Keiryu-X. When would I give it a turn again…would I ever give it a turn again? Would I ever use it for freshwater again, or relegate it to saltwater only? Was I betraying the fixed-line camp – people like you, reader?
Maybe I may not fixed-line nymph ever again? Maybe not fixed-line fly fish ever again?
Is this the end, beautiful (fixed-line) friend?
Editor’s Note: After accepting this submission, I was like “WTF Nick, you expect me to print this on a tenkara website?” So I decided to ask him if was really the end. To which he replied, “I’ll probably just use my tenkara gear for creeks and very brushy, overgrown little rivers (we don’t have ‘streams’ here). I also find the trout here only really respond to dries and just under the meniscus from December to March… our Summer and the first month of Autumn .”
So, it seems Nick has not fully abandoned tenkara, rather moved on to preferred tools when it comes to nymphing. Which to me is more than reasonable, as I’ve always subscribed to the concept that there’s a ideal tool for every job, and let’s be honest, a fixed-line rod isn’t always such a tool.
Nick Pavlovski started tenkara and fixed line fly fishing in February 2017. He is now trying to become an all-rounder trout fisher, and is increasingly now fishing lakes.
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