So if there’s one thing I learned when it came to reviewing the results of the Tenkara Angler reader survey, it was that a large majority of you want to see more “warm water” content – for bass, panfish, carp, etc… So with that noted, I’m happy to present:
Figured this would be a good time to publish this warm water fixed-line companion piece. Over 80 pages in all.
As always, Tenkara Angler is best viewed through the Issuu e-reader or app. However, physical print copies or PDF downloads can be purchased in our Blurb store.
Some background: I was already planning on putting together some “Best Of” re-issues of the magazine, essentially combining similarly themed articles from prior releases into one consolidated issue. These allow newer readers to catch up on some previously published content without going through each and every back-issue, as well as let older readers re-discover some articles that may have new meaning.
If you find these “Best Of” issues interesting, I’ll happily put together other curated issues of Tenkara Angler over time, as topics such as DIY/fly tying, techniques, essays, and Japan all feel like natural extensions of this theme.
One minor disclaimer, this issue consists of articles literally “ripped” from prior issues of Tenkara Angler, so it’s a bit less refined than a normal issue of the magazine. (Examples being the absence of a “From the Editor” section, the page numbers at the bottom of each page make absolutely no sense at all, inconsistent fonts, and there’s even an ad for a 2017 tenkara event).
Also, in the interest of reducing cost some, should you want to purchase physical copy of a “Best Of” issue, they will be printed on Standard stock, not the typical Premium stock. Still a great option, just not quite a thick a page or glossy photo.
I hope you enjoy the warm water fixed-line mashup issue of Tenkara Angler!
In a related aside, I thought I’d share some early results from our first reader survey, (the form is HERE if you haven’t participated yet… or even thought up something new to add). I asked a few short questions, most open-ended, and got some interesting early feedback… the highlights of which are below:
What topics/subjects would you like explored in future issues of Tenkara Angler magazine?
The responses were very wide in scope. The most commonly repeated were to publish more information on warm water (and even salt water) species such as bass and panfish. Streamer & nymph techniques, more examples of “big fish” tenkara such as salmon were also very popular asks. There were multiple requests for conservation, human interest, destination fishing, gear reviews, and DIY features as well.
There were only a few asks for more trout features or coverage of what anglers are doing in Japan, but they were noted as well.
What brands (tenkara or general fly fishing) would you like to see advertised in Tenkara Angler magazine?
Not many people seemed to care about the advertisements (which I probably shouldn’t disclose should I try to sell some in the future!!!). Brands that were requested multiple times were Tenkara USA, Discover Tenkara, and Yonah Packs. General, but non-specific asks included more Japanese tenkara rod and gear brands. I happened to like the suggestion to advertise local breweries… perhaps something to ponder in tandem with destination articles.
Would you be interested in listening to a Tenkara Angler podcast featuring the various contributors? (Answers limited to Yes, No, or N/A – I don’t listen to podcasts).
Well, it seems like those that listen to podcasts would want one from Tenkara Angler, one person commenting that the other tenkara-themed podcasts haven’t published any new episodes in a long time. That said, almost 30% of respondents don’t listen to podcasts.
Do you have any general feedback on Tenkara Angler magazine?
As one might expect, the answers were extremely varied, but I wanted to thank all the people who complimented the magazine as currently constructed. A lot of goodwill was passed along, and I’m not going to lie, it really made my day.
Other than that, I think I noticed two themes. The first, is no more exploration on “what is or is not tenkara.” I believe somebody referred to the debate as “tired and dumb.” The second was to have more features (perhaps one per issue) of “how to” for beginners. I think both are more than valid points.
In closing, I’ll reprint one comment almost word for word, I assume from a prior contributor, “I think it’s time for some of the “old timers” like myself to not hog the stage. I like seeing new perspectives and ideas… It’s time to go find new voices.”
I’ll certainly try my best to recruit “new voices,” but tenkara community, I’ll also need your help. If you know any creative or expressive-types that are into tenkara, perhaps a fishing buddy, please share the magazine and website and send them my way; I’d really love to bring more people into the Tenkara Angler family.
“There is divinity in the clouds.”
-Lailah Gifty Akita, Pearls of Wisdom: Great Mind.
With the Arkansas River totally blown out for the second year in a row, Shawn and I had to find another place to fish on our last day of annual Colorado fishing trip. Our friend, Josh Houchin planned to join us and we met up at Barry’s Den in Texas Creek to discuss our options over breakfast. Their green chili smothered omelets always put a hum in my tum.
During breakfast, we talked about tenkara and all of the negativity it gets from other fly fishers. Brother Shawn has often teased me about tenkara by using that meme with the oriental dude in class that yells out, “HA! GAY!!!”
“I have no opinion on tenkara whatsoever. I just like to give you a hard time,” Josh replied.
I boldy responded, “I really don’t care what others say about tenkara. It’s fun and it works. I let the fish be the judge. ”
When we finally decided to fish Can’t Tell Ya Creek in the Sangre De Cristos Mountains, Josh proclaimed, “That won’t hurt my feelings one bit. That is my favorite place in the whole world.”
Josh, a career army man from Kansas, was stationed at Fort Carson in Colorado Springs at the time, and had just received word that he was being transferred back east. So he knew his time at this special place was limited. Brother Shawn had introduced Josh to this creek years earlier as he was teaching Josh to fly fish. Both the lesson and the creek obviously stuck.
The Sangre De Cristos, which means “the blood of Christ,” are towering red-tinted mountains with numerous peaks over 14,000 feet. To get to the prime waters on Can’t Tell Ya Creek, you have to hike up quite a ways. The fishing is good all along the way, but especially above treeline.
Shawn and I had fished this creek together two times before, including the previous year. However, on that day, I was worried that the creek was too tight for tenkara and borrowed a fiberglass rod and reel from Shawn. We had a great day and caught a lot of beautiful fish.
This year, I was determined to fish nothing but tenkara come hell or high water. I opted to use my Tenkara USA Rhodo rod as it is adjustable to different lengths, which would come in handy on some of the tighter spots. Having fly fished now for over twenty years, I can attest that tenkara is every bit as effective as traditional fly fishing on small mountain creeks, maybe even more so.
As we drove to our destination, we climbed up quickly in elevation from the valley floor onto a forest road that ended in a patch of quaking aspens. After we parked, we took to the trail and hiked as quickly as we could up into the pines. Along the trail, we saw numerous Columbines, the Colorado state flower, which are some of the prettiest wild flowers I’ve ever seen.
After about a half mile, we crossed the icy-cold creek, and then started to fish a few of the holes. At one point, Josh showed us where he caught “Bob,” a chunky resident brook trout. He let me try for him, but we did not find him. Josh mentioned, “The runoff blew out the log jam that was here and Bob must have moved on.”
We fished many of the creek’s holes on the way up. Renegades and Double Renegades were the perfect fly for this high mountain creek and, after he came up fishless, I gave Josh a Red-butted Double Renegade so he could get the skunk off. I showed Josh and Shawn, a technique that I call “Skittering,” which is when you cast the fly and then drag it either upstream or cross current to trigger a strike. Tenkara is perfect for this technique because with the longer rod, you can get most of your line and leader off the water so that only the hackles of the fly disturb the water’s surface. The cutthroat of this creek went nuts over this technique and I giggled, hooted, and hollered with each fish. I love all cutthroat, but the fish of this creek are the most beautiful cutthroat I have ever seen.
The higher we went, the better the fishing. We mostly fished together and cheered each other on. Once we hiked above the treeline, the stream’s gradient leveled out some and the runs were longer and held more fish. The casting was easy and the fishing was excellent. We all took turns at one beautiful run and caught twenty to thirty fish on Renegades. The camaraderie with Josh and Shawn made for as pleasant a day as I have ever had on the stream.
I talked Josh into trying tenkara at this open spot overlooking a waterfall with a deep hole below. I showed Josh the skittering technique in the hole below us and told him to go for it. Josh cast a few times, skittered the fly back upstream and quickly caught an eager cutthroat. They can’t resist the skitter! After he lined the fish to hand, he placed the cork grip of the rod in his teeth so he could hold the line in one hand and release the fish with the other. He then grabbed the rod and yelled out, “Good Stuff, man!” I can’t say that Josh will become a tenkara fisherman, but he certainly gained a respect for it and learned firsthand that it is fun.
Once we made it back to the trail above treeline, the clouds in the otherwise blue sky looked so close at such altitude, I almost felt I could reach out and touch them. I can see why Josh and Shawn love this creek so much. I hated to leave.
On the way home, we stopped at a nearby Mexican restaurant (can you expect anything different from a Wayment Brothers?). As we enjoyed our food, Josh said, “I had a total blast fishing with you guys today. Andy, I have never fished with anyone who exhibits as much genuine childlike enthusiasm and excitement as you. It was a true pleasure to fish with you.”
For me, I could think of no better compliment. “Right back at you buddy. I’d spend a day on the water with you any time.” I replied.
Isn’t that why we go fishing? To feel that wide-eyed wonder of a child again? Tenkara in the clouds is the perfect way to reconnect with the inner child.
I’m happy to announce that the Winter 2018-19 issue of Tenkara Angler magazine is (finally) live!
It took way too much time for me to cobble together between the holidays, work, and assorted seasonal illnesses, but it’s done and I think it came out damn good.
The contributions were fantastic with some really stellar opinion pieces from Jay Johnson, Dennis Vander Houwen, an interview with Jason Sparks from Adam Trahan, essays from Mike Hepner, Adam Klagsbrun, Melissa Alcorn, Paul Vertrees, and Michael Richardson, fly tying info from Robb Chunco and Mark White, conservation pieces from Brad Trumbo and Craig Springer, art from Anthony Naples and Jim Tignor, photo entries from Paul Pigeon, Jason Hammond, and Shigeki Miura, and “Brookies & Beer” from John-Paul Povilaitis!
That’s a lot of free content, and I think you’ll really like what you find inside.
As usual, the Winter issue will be available as an e-magazine over at Issuu, HERE.
And also available for sale as a physical magazine and PDF download in the Blurb bookstore, HERE.
Respecting Our Roots: Making A Case For Modern Japanese Tenkara in the USA By Adam Klagsbrun
Fixed line fly-fishing may be centuries old, but as it is practiced today, tenkara is new. Tenkara is modern. Tenkara is not from the USA – tenkara is from Japan.
There’s been a lot of discussion over the years about what tenkara actually is, and what the definition of tenkara should be. There has also been discussion about what tenkara is not, and that seems to have created some really interesting, and in some cases intense, dialogue. What perplexes me the most is why some people immediately get defensive and upset about being told that fishing for bass or crappie in local warm water ponds and slow-moving rivers isn’t “Tenkara.” My goal in this article is to lay a foundation of understanding, to make a case for why it is important to keep tenkara from being re-defined, and to explain why we shouldn’t be the ones to re-define it here and now.
At this point most of us know the story about how Daniel Galhardo started Tenkara USA around 2009. What many do not know, or have not paid attention to, is how he honored tenkara’s roots in Japan and did not try to sell it to us as something that it was not. Sure, he added a more minimalist pitch in his marketing, but it made sense, given that from what I recall, the earliest adopters of this sport here appeared to be, in fact, ultralight backpackers who were largely exposed to Tenkara USA via Ryan Jordan at backpackinglight.com.
Since that point, Tenkara has grown to encompass a larger group of fishermen and a broader range of styles. As soon as there was a market established, other companies jumped in. Many of them became known as “me too” companies – some survived by producing great quality products at reasonable prices and attained a permanent seat at the “table” of tenkara rod-makers. Others did not. A lot of anglers here “grew up” on these rods when it comes to their personal journeys into discovering tenkara. But there has been a bit of an elephant in the room… Most of these rod companies never looked to the Japanese for anything in creating companies that were selling a Japanese-designed product for a Japanese sport. Does this make any sense?
While some people may have taken advantage of Oni school, most of the owners of these other companies didn’t appear to seek out relationships with the creators of tenkara the sport, they didn’t travel to Japan, but, most importantly, they didn’t learn about what a tenkara rod taper was all about, and they didn’t license any tenkara mandrels from Japan. They still haven’t. The result? The result is that the consumers got the short end of the stick. Many of us never learned what tenkara was, where it really came from, or why any of that matters. Many of them still have never cast a rod that flexes like many of the most popular Japanese tenkara rods do.
As one example, Patagonia made an early impact of this type, offering not only a completely incorrect taper and action in a “Tenkara rod” but then going one step further to apparently take credit for tenkara here in the USA. Chouinard painted a picture of fixed line fishing for his fishing kit that was loosely inspired by Pesca Mosca Valsesiana and tenkara, without truly representing either style in their kit. He calls it “simple fly fishing.” It is not tenkara.
This was particularly disappointing, as Patagonia, usually working hard to truly engage locally with their marketing and environmental/business impact campaigns and to understand what they were getting involved in, didn’t do any of the necessary legwork at all. This helped to create a complete misunderstanding within the market, and helped to foster an idea that somehow, anything could be tenkara. I believe this is just one element of what created a lot of the early anti-tenkara “hate” from other fishing communities online, and is something I’d like to delve into deeper at another time in the future.
It is clear there was no mal-intent in any of this, but the results were less than stellar on many levels, and some may argue that “damage” has been done. I’m glad to see other companies beginning to put effort into all of this, and I think it will go a long way to undoing some of the damage that may have been done early on. There’s more work to do.
But I digress, this article isn’t really a history lesson on the tenkara industry, it is meant to make people think. Furthermore, I truly love Patagonia as a company for many other reasons… I don’t bring this up to judge any company or person, or to be negative. I bring it up to paint a picture of how tenkara began to lose its way here in the USA, and how tenkara went from a style of fishing to a becoming a marketing term.
I believe that bringing this reality to attention is important, because it has the potential to be dangerous for the knowledge and the future of the sport. If we allow tenkara to simply become a marketing term to sell rods and gear, not only will we dilute the meaning of tenkara, but we will all be personally responsible for undoing decades of work that the masters such as Ishigaki-San, Sakakibara-San and countless others have worked so hard to create. Do we, the USA, want to be known for effectively destroying a well-defined niche sport with established teachers & sponsors, established methods and styles, and be happy about that? I certainly do not think so, and I believe most tenkara anglers here do not want to do that either. Do we?
What is it about? Honor. Honor is important in Japan. Honor is important everywhere. It would surely be dishonorable to have taken this wonderful sport from Japan and to then turn it into something completely different, simply because we don’t want to create new words for what we are doing now, do we? I don’t see how these shortcuts would benefit us, or the sport of tenkara here.
We have all advanced to the point where we understand why tenkara is not cane pole fishing, and how it is not simply dapping. I believe at this point, now, we have finally gotten to a point where we have learned enough to know that tenkara also is not fishing for bass or warm water species in slow and still water. There are enough Japanese anglers, facts and history to support this claim. Ishigaki-San and many others have defined tenkara – so yes, tenkara has a definition already.
As Ishigaki-San and many of the others have confirmed, tenkara means fishing for trout in bubbling brooks and raging rivers with some elevation change, using a fly, utilizing a long rod and a very light line. Tenkara is as much about casting as it is about drifting, something I used to incorrectly speak about by saying pretty much the opposite. I am just as guilty in doing damage to the definition and image of tenkara as any company or blogger or early adopter who decided to use western fly lines, floating lines or dry flies.
I didn’t mean to dilute tenkara by pitching bead heads, ultra-short lines and nymphing techniques… but I did – heck, they worked! But I now know more about how to cast correctly, how to fish a slightly longer line effectively, how to manipulate flies more effectively, as well as more about what tenkara actually is – and with this knowledge comes new understanding. What follows that for me is just a lot more good old fun while fishing, a lot more success catching the “hard to catch” fish, a more “zen” attitude on the stream, and a mission to spread this all to others.
Tenkara was defined by the most active, important anglers within the sport at that time, many of whom we know of today. They are the “masters.” The word tenkara was chosen by this group of existing, established Japanese tenkara anglers, some of those masters and their teachers, in order to help distinguish between the new western style of Kebari Tsuri (fly fishing,) and the traditional old style with a fixed line… then also called Kebari Tsuri.
Tenkara is not a broadly defined style. It is a niche that was created in order to describe something very specific – something that was evolving both alongside, and separately from, other methods of fly-fishing. So in effect, tenkara has evolved as a niche within a niche. It followed a path to that point that helped to define the techniques and the tools of the sport, and we have barely even begun to scratch the surface of all of this over here in the USA. We are lucky to be exposed to decades, if not centuries, of this knowledge from Japan; lucky to have friends in Japan to teach us the right ways, and lucky to have all found this wonderful sport.
So my question is, given these realities, do we, as a community, really want to go backwards in time and re-define tenkara as something broader that encompasses all kinds of fly-fishing? Do we really want to promote a train of thought that undoes the very ideas of why tenkara was defined in the first place? What good would it serve to be the ones who undermine the very people we are trying to learn from right now? Does this help us, and does this have a positive impact on the sport of tenkara?
Tenkara, as it is defined from Japan, is well established for these reasons – and there is a lot we have left to learn before we are ready to go off and take it to the next level ourselves. For if we cannot first fully learn and understand the myriad of techniques and knowledge that has already been accumulated, all we will be doing is throwing that out the window, by letting tenkara become a marketing term.
In Japan, they define the fishing style by the kind of fishing you do, not the rod you have. Because of that, each style of fishing has developed its own gear… carp fishing for Herabuna carp is called Herabuna fishing. There are “Hera rods” for that. Chub fishing for Hae in mountain streams is called Hae fishing. Did you know there’s a whole category of rods that are sold for this too? The Daiwa Rinfu is one of them. Ayu fishing utilizes insanely expensive and much longer rods, and you use a half of a fish as the bait. Most of us have heard of Keiryu fishing too, as Chris Stewart has largely been responsible for making people aware of this style and marketing it as its own unique thing – as well as selling the rods to us here in the US.
So I believe that it is time for us to begin to communicate more accurately about modern Japanese tenkara, to accept its definition more clearly, to think about using Japanese carp rods for carp, salmon rods for salmon, and calling each method of fishing by its own name as has already been defined. Maybe it is even time for us to be creative and to make our own names as well. There is no reason that anyone cannot use their tenkara rod to fish however they’d like and for whatever species of fish they’d like to fish for. But I do believe it is as good a time as any to begin to re-define that stuff for what it is, instead of pretending that it is all actually called tenkara.
Japanese tenkara anglers I have met and watched interviews about have always seemed to say that we in the USA will have a profound impact on tenkara, and suggested that many of the next great innovations within the sport would come from us here, not from within Japan. I am sure these innovations didn’t involve re-defining the entire sport for the sake of marketing. Do we not want to make the best impact on tenkara that we can? Can’t we still do that while also, at the same time, creating new names for the fishing we like to do with fixed line rods that doesn’t fit the definition of tenkara? I believe that we can.
I’m very much looking forward to the evolution of our fixed line fishing industry here, of Tenkara, Keiryu, and of the people involved in it. I’m looking forward to continuing this journey of knowledge among all of you, no matter what kind of fish you want to catch or what kind of line you like to use. But most importantly, I’m looking forward to doing a better job honoring those from which we took and learned this wonderful Japanese sport here in the USA.
It is a great post. One of the things that struck me was the simplicity of the fly and the “ugliness” of the fly. My tenkara mentor, Adam Klagsbrun, instilled in me the idea that trout like ugly and buggy flies… many of his favorites are Fran Better’s ties like the Ausable bomber or the Usual… both hairy buggy flies… and another of his favorites is the Ausable Ugly tied by Rich Garfield – guide extraordinaire in the Adirondacks.
So having said that my leaning, especially as a new tier and new to the sport, was for ugly and simple flies…so off to work to try and figure out how to tie the Ugly Tenkara fly!
In my search, I noticed a post by the Discover Tenkara guys Paul and John about Shotaro and the fly and voila they had already done the research and had made a very good replica so I got in contact with John Pearson to learn his thoughts on the method…
Here is what I understood him saying to do 🙂
Hook: Eyeless or you can use your favorite wet fly/nymph standard hook
Eye: Red silk – I used beading silk
Thread: Black sewing thread – Coats and Clark black
Hackle: Grizzly rooster hackle
The fly on first casting or when blot dried will fish in the surface film like a low riding dry or Griffith Gnat… and then quickly sink as the thread absorbs water.
I oversize the hackle and keep it sparse… I also do not use top grade hackle which I think helps the fly as the feather is less “stiff” and has more action in the water.
Could be its mystical powers but my first cast with this fly yielded a very aggressive strike from a small stream brown!
This article was inspired by previous correspondence with new customers. I help a lot of new tenkara anglers, as well as those new to fly fishing in general. The single most numerous question is, “What kebari should I choose?”
“K” writes …
“Hi, I posted this question in a forum and I haven’t gotten an answer (and I suspect why now that I am reading your website)…but I’ll ask anyway.
As a new Tenkara fisherman (and a somewhat new fly fisherman), I’ve always been told to match the hatch. Apparently that’s not necessarily the same in Tenkara, and I guess that you don’t necessarily advocate that. I’m looking for a “starter kit” of Tenkara flies but I thought I’d need to get them more regionally in order to keep them similar to the local hatches. Is not matching the hatch a hard and fast rule?”
Thanks in advance, K”
Hi K. Thanks for your query. That is a very interesting question and I hope that I have some interesting ideas in response. I do not consider myself any kind of expert, but a student of trout. A laying on your belly in the mud kind of student. With that in mind, here goes.
A lot of folks find choosing flies a subjective topic with hundreds of different opinions, but I do not. Once you spend time studying fish behavior including stream trout, as well as “on stream sampling” and examining of aquatic creatures and understanding their role in the aqua-scape, we can clearly see the reason for the approach that I am going to suggest. While it’s true that tenkara equipment and techniques offer a big advantage for close-in (as opposed to distant) fly fishing on streams or ponds and lakes, it’s a well established fact that a few well-chosen patterns will up your game considerably. Fish see a lot of the same food items day after day, which vary among watersheds. Offering a kebari or Western pattern of a similar size and coloration of these local “commodity flies,” will prove the worth of a bit of stream-side sampling.
1. Generally speaking, when fish are feeding upon a specific size and coloration of insect, they may not find interest in anything else for the duration of what is called a hatch. A hatch is the culmination of the life-cycle of many aquatic insects, of breeding and depositing eggs for the continuation of the species. This is what you would call a “Match the Hatch” situation. I say may not find interest, because I have successfully tempted trout with flies other than the ones that are on the menu during a hatch.
Something to remember: There are no hard and fast rules when it comes to choosing lures for fishing. There are numerous reasons why a fish might choose to take one of our patterns, and some of them are only understood by the fish. But understanding your quarry is the key to successful angling.
2. However, unless you have a very productive stream, most of the time when you go out, you will not be fishing over an insect hatch. Unless you are lucky or have kept close track of the hatch cycles on your specific stream, it might seem that you are looking at unproductive water. “Where are the fish?” In a decent stream, they will be there somewhere, you just need to know where to look.
3. So here we have another variable. Where are you fishing. In the mountains? Lowlands, ponds, giant lakes? And, when do you hit the stream? Early morning? Middle of the day or at dusk? Once we know the answer to a few questions like this, we can really zero in on your fly kit needs. Initially however, you don’t need to worry much about that. Over time, anglers have found that a few basic coloration’s and sizes which present at several depths and/or speed of current will suffice quite nicely for many occasions. Your deeper involvement in angling will likely spur your interest in a deeper examination of your quarry. Then you can begin to discover the finer details which will lead to opening the door to mastery of your favorite stream.
The short story… 3 or 4 patterns in a couple of sizes will get you by quite well.
4. So again, generally you will do fine with 4 types of flies:
First, a floating one (actually I prefer one that fishes sitting down in the surface film, as opposed to right on the top of the water).
Second, something that fishes on the bottom sometimes hitting the rocks or silt.
Third, a fly that imitates an insect that is either swimming up to the surface or diving to the bottom during hatching and egg laying behavior. Or more often, just being carried along with the current.
And finally, a larger fly that imitates a bait-fish, worm, sculpin or large insect.
Now if you wish to simplify even further, in my humble opinion you can easily get along just fine with one type of fly. One that does most of the work in 3, above. And that fly type is a traditional Japanese style sakasa kebari (subsurface soft hackle pattern).
Because most larger fish will be found most of the time near bottom, actively pursuing dinner or hiding under obstacles, I prefer a heavy quick sinking kebari most of the time. On a heavy, size #12 Klinkhammer hook, I would give it a wool body. This combination provides a better to sink rate when soaking wet. A hackle, preferably from the body or neck feathers of a game bird like a partridge or pheasant. Or, a grizzly domestic hen chicken. And finally, for the pièce de résistance, a Peacock herl collar right behind the hackle. And please… use barb-less hooks!
With this fly in 4 colors; let’s say a Black, Medium Brown, Olive and a Yellow or Cream and making it even more versatile by adding a second size, a number 16, I could fish these flies very effectively by varying my technique of presentation. In the surface film by applying a floatant, as a hatching insect or an insect being washed down stream, or as a tiny minnow trying to escape the jaws of death. I could fish it upstream, down, in fast water, or I could even fish it as a nymph in deeper water.
Why can we get along with just a few patterns? The fact is that most fish are largely opportunists and don’t routinely limit themselves to just one food source. Unless that food source is so abundant that they loose interest in almost anything else (except of course by a big ‘ol killer bugger fished at the right depth… as they say, killer!).
Also understand that fish that live in still water, or low and clear water require a whole different approach (and skill) than those in faster water. The later have little time to examine their breakfast than does the slow pool dweller. The slow water trout have plenty of time to shut the door in your face, while the fast water swimmer only has seconds while braving the full, energy robbing force of the main current lane.
Now you can go either specific with your fly colors and sizes, or more general. However, if you are new to this, I would go with a mixed selection of my cheap-but-good imported flies, since you are going to loose them while you learn, by throwing them into trees and brush piles, but you are also going to catch fish in those environments. If you find that you like the multipurpose rooster hackle style flies, like the Dr. Ishigaki types, or instead prefer the soft hackles, you can then be more selective in your choices.
The final, most important piece of information that I can give you, is to plan on fishing for Bass or Sunfish in a pond or lake in advance of your trip. Then when you head for the mountain trout, you will have some tactical experience under your belt.
I hope that this information helps you. Feel free to write back with any more questions. All the best to you, Jim