Article by Steve Allen
Last summer while wading a shallow creek I fell landing on my lateral left thigh. Fortunately the water as very shallow and I didn’t break any bones, or my DRAGONtail FoxFIRE!
That experience, and the advice given by the presenters at the 2022 TenkaraCamp in Great Smoky Mountains National Park about river wading safety, prompted me to start using a wading staff.
Commercial staffs are available but being a D.I.Y. person I decided to fabricate my own. An hour or two of digging online provided enough background info. A common design used a rake handle with a rubber foot for sound deadening. Grips were everything from paracord wrapped at the top, to T-grips, to even a door knob. Another common design used ski poles with various modifications. Having Nordic skied for many years that was my chosen starting point.
I wanted to use bamboo for its traditional association with tenkara, but no longer had any bamboo ski poles. After determining fifty inches to be about the right length, I found a pair on ebay. I could have just as easily cut down a longer length after removing the grip.
First step was to disassemble the pole. The grip and tip were held in place with staples so it was easy to remove them. I decided to cut the metal spike off the bottom leaving only a stub. Will it make noise and scare the fish? Time will tell, but walking on the rocks also makes noise… so who knows. With a hacksaw I cut off the top section of the plastic basket/tip assembly, the area where the basket is retained. I then glued it back in place with epoxy adhesive.
For the grip I decided on a simple T-grip. My logic being, it would be more natural to push down on the T-grip with the palm of my hand for stability vs. the vertical grip found on ski poles. Searching around my shop I found a 7/8 inch diameter wooden dowel. I measured the width of my palm; 3.5 inches, and cut the dowel to length. Using a drill press (to assure the hole was perpendicular to the dowel) I drilled a hole 2/3 of the way through the dowel. I used a drill bit that was a bit smaller than the diameter of the bamboo pole and then sanded the top diameter of the pole to fit. Finally, I taped over the sanded area when I painted the staff and then at final assembly glued it with epoxy adhesive as well.
I wanted the pole to have some tip weight to overcome the natural buoyancy of the hollow bamboo shaft. So I inserted a six inch threaded bolt that I cut the head off of and glued it in place with epoxy adhesive.
I painted the staff camo green as I already had a spray can and assumed that color would be somewhat neutral underwater. I sprayed a few coats of marine spar varnish over the green for durability. Instead of painting the T-grip I treated it with a number of coats of teak oil.
To tether the staff I found what was described on Amazon as a “coiled lanyard with aluminum snap ring”. It is transparent with a small diameter cable coiled within the cord. I attached the split ring end to a small eye screw I installed six inches below the T grip, with the other end attached to myself. The coiled cord extends 31 inches which is more than my usual reach when wading with the staff.
When not in use I can hang the staff over my shoulder so it’s behind me and out of the way. The T-grip aids in retrieving flies caught in overhead branches or underwater. Total weight is 9 ounces making it a welcome addition to my tenkara kit.
Steve Allen is retired in Northeast Tennessee after a career in supply chain and retail outing goods management. In addition to fishing and fly tying he is an avid amateur radio operator, participates in shooting sports, and with his wife enjoys canoeing and kayaking, hiking, and gardening.
This article originally appeared in the 2022-23 issue of Tenkara Angler magazine.
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