Tenkara In The Last Frontier

Tenkara In The Last Frontier
By Paul Vertrees

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I recently traveled to Alaska with tenkara.  It was epic.  In a way, I really don’t know how to begin to tell this story, because the whole experience was so big, so successful, and so perfect!  It was a trip to a place that has left an indelible mark on my soul, because Alaska has a way of getting under your skin.  I suppose I should start at the beginning, as most good stories must.

I have dreamed of visiting the north since I was a boy, spending many nights sitting up in bed with a flashlight propped against my right shoulder, reading about the north country in Jack London’s White Fang and Call of the Wild, which took place in the Yukon, but could have happened in Alaska just as well.  The fact that I’ve always been drawn to wild, lonely places filled with wild fish only pulled me closer to making a trip to Alaska, but it took until the summer of my 53rd year to put everything together and head out.

Many things converged to make this a special trip, but it couldn’t have happened the way it did without two things…a good traveling partner and some folks on the ground in Alaska, who served as my hosts.  I was blessed with both, and that made all the difference.

My good friend, Shawn, and I are nearly twins.  If viewed from behind, you probably couldn’t tell one of us from the other.  The two of us, on a full stomach, soaking wet and fully clothed, wouldn’t tip the scales to 300 pounds.  We both eat like maniacs, live life to the fullest, and we hit the trail and the water the same way.   We’re both slightly over 50 Colorado natives with a love for backpacking, hunting, and most importantly, backcountry fishing.  Shawn and I have hunted and fished wilderness together in the Colorado Rockies off and on, and he was the one person I knew who would jump at the chance to go to Alaska.  I took a well-deserved week-long break from guiding tenkara trips for Royal Gorge Anglers here in my little town in south-central Colorado, and Shawn was wrapping up a six-week sabbatical from his work in financial and retirement planning.   He had just returned from a fly fishing trip to Iceland, and I had wrapped up a very busy week on the water of the Arkansas River in Bighorn Sheep Canyon, and on tiny creeks in narrow canyons.  It was time, and we had some of it.  Alaska would wait no longer.

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My man on the ground in Interior Alaska, Mike, is a fellow backcountry hunter.  We share the same love of foot- and paddle-powered hunting of game, both big and small.  We also belong to the same hunting and fishing conservation organization, Backcountry Hunters and Anglers (BHA).  Mike is doing work as the interim state chairman for Alaska, and I serve as the Pike National Forest representative here in Colorado.   After a year or so of corresponding, we finally met in person at the national BHA Rendezvous in Boise, Idaho, back in 2013.  In the years since Mike and I had talked many times about my hypothetical future first visit to the Last Frontier.  Mike has extensive knowledge of Interior Alaska in and around the central and eastern Alaska Range, which contains some trophy grayling fishing.  Based on seven years of solid tenkara experience here in Colorado and elsewhere, I felt that tenkara would be challenging, but very effective.  What I didn’t realize until we arrived in Alaska was how absolutely perfect tenkara is for arctic grayling, how completely suited for the streams and upper reaches of rivers in the Alaskan interior it is.   Mike was a godsend, and I can’t thank him enough.

Any extended fishing trip over great distances is much more affordable and fun with a traveling partner.  Shawn and I split the cost of shared expenses like ground transportation and lodging.  Since we would be camping for most of this trip, we only required lodging for the first and last nights (the only days we would have a hot shower too!).  Our surprisingly uneventful flights from Denver to Seattle, and from Seattle to Fairbanks landed us in Fairbanks at around 1 AM.  After picking up our rental Jeep, we were on the road east, following the Tanana River in near-dark along the Richardson Highway.  Bleary-eyed, we reached Delta Junction and our room at Fort Greely (I was eligible due to my retired military status) at around 3:30 AM.  We couldn’t really see anything in the way of scenery on the drive from Fairbanks to Delta Junction, because it was the middle of the semi-dark night, but we did manage to see a cow moose and her calf along the highway near North Pole, and a porcupine waddling along the shoulder at Birch Lake.  After checking into our room, we caught up on sleep for a few hours and were ready to travel south later that morning.

My friend, Mike, is the sort of guy who goes out of his way to make you feel at home.  After checking out of our room at Fort Greely, we drove a few miles to Mike’s house on the north side of Delta Junction, which is the terminus of the Alaska Highway, and the crossroads for interior Alaska.  Delta Junction is a “big town” by rural Alaskan standards, with a population of around 1,000.  Mike’s wonderful wife, Christy, had prepared a huge pot of caribou chili, and we sat around the table talking about our trip and wolfing down the chili and pilot bread.  Christy also loaned Shawn and I a copy of Milepost (THE Alaska travel guide), some maps, several field guides for Alaskan plants and animals, and a blueberry picker.   The blueberry picker was an ingenious hand-held contraption used to skim the berries off the tiny branches and twigs of the blueberry bushes.  We would learn later that Christy’s comments about the proliferation of blueberries on the tundra were an understatement!  Mike would accompany us south to the Alaska Range, and we would camp there together along with Mike’s hunting partner, Gary.  Mike and Gary were hunting caribou and moose on subsistence tags so our basecamp would support both our fishing and their hunts

As we drove south from Delta Junction, we began to get an idea of the enormity of Alaska.  I had heard it for years, and I always thought it sounded cliché, that “everything in Alaska is bigger”, but as we pointed our Jeep southward up and over the pass on the east side of Donnelly Dome, we began to understand.  The Delta River valley stretched far and wide for many miles, and none of it contained a house, an antenna, a powerline…nothing but wilderness, except for the Trans-Alaska Pipeline zigzagging across the landscape near the road.  Somewhere far below a bend in the Richardson Highway, several miles to the west, a herd of bison grazed along the edge of the alders, aspens, and black spruce on the other side of the Delta River.  The landscape of Alaska at once isolates you and draws you in.  We were hooked.

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Mike had reserved us a campsite at the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) campground at Tangle Lakes, which is also the spot on the Denali Highway where the pavement ends.  The remaining hundred-plus miles to the intersection with the Parks Highway at Cantwell, is gravel, with a maximum speed limit of 30 miles-per-hour.  The miles between the Richardson Highway and Tangle Lakes are covered with wide-open interior Alaskan tundra, that country above about 2,700’ elevation that stretches up toward the nearby foothills of the Alaska Range.  It’s very different, in distance from the sun than the treeline in my home state of Colorado, which averages around 11,700 feet!  The wild tundra west of Paxson also contains the Tangle Lakes Archeological District, a 226,000-acre area that holds the densest grouping (over 600 documented sites) of early prehistoric archaeology in Alaska.  Near the Tangle Lakes Campground, alongside the Denali Highway, sits the Tangle River Inn, an off-grid roadhouse that offers travelers showers, gas, cabins, canoes, good food, billiards, and beer.

It’s time to get down to the fishing!  I had planned for this trip to be a focus on tenkara.  I personally knew of only one person who had taken tenkara to Alaska, my good friend, Richard Wheeler, from Evergreen, Colorado.  I’m sure others have, but after scouring the Internet, printed articles, and such, Richard was my only boots-in-the-water source of information.  Richard had actually used tenkara earlier the same summer on one of the streams we would visit while in Alaska.  One day in July, while I was working behind the counter at Royal Gorge Anglers, Richard called me.  He was standing on the edge of the Delta Clearwater River, catching grayling!  Richard knew I planned to arrive in Alaska about a month after he did, so getting his call only added to my excitement of the upcoming trip!

Prior to the trip, I had done a lot of research about the fishing in interior Alaska that would be suitable for tenkara.  I had a whole atlas full of topographic maps for the entire state, and I had spent months poring over them.  I had also discovered, and read (over and over), Cecilia “Pudge” Kleinkauf’s excellent book (one I would highly recommend to anyone fishing for grayling in Alaska), “Fly-Fishing for Alaska’s Arctic Grayling-Sailfish of the North”.  After reading Pudge’s book, and talking to Mike about the local water, I knew that Arctic grayling would be what we’d be looking for, especially trophy grayling.  It seems, even to the Alaskans, that respectable grayling start at 16” and anything over 18” is considered trophy-class.  What Shawn and I discovered is that there are a lot of grayling around 16”, but very few at the 18”-plus length.

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The first location we fished was, of course, on the Tangle River.  Our camp at the Tangle Lakes Campground was no more than a hundred yards from the river so we could hike down to everything we would fish there.  The Tangle Lakes is a 16-mile chain of lakes connected by streams.  We fished the stretch between Round Tangle Lake and the next lake upstream, south of the Denali Highway, which crosses the Tangle River.

It didn’t take long for us to get into grayling!  The first day Shawn and I estimated that we each caught around 50 fish, but neither of us are “fish counters”, so that was just a guess.  What we did know is that we caught a LOT of grayling!  We soon discovered that the largest grayling occupied the best feeding lies in the river, pushing the smaller fish out.  We caught many fish over 16” and a few that would go close to 18”.  Both Shawn and I had brought several tenkara rods, but we ended up fishing 12-foot or 360 cm rods all of the time.  We threw dry flies and we nymphed, with nearly equal good results.  Floating lines were used for the dry fly fishing, allowing us to more effectively cast and drift the #16 CDC and Elk, #16 Extended Body PMD, and Larry Kingrey’s #16 Lil’ Hottie patterns, along with the venerable Parachute Adams.  Our nymph rigs were identical to the ones we use at home in the Colorado canyons, with #20 RS2s trailing behind #18 bead head Pheasant Tails with a little weight in front of both of them.  Our tenkara nymphing technique is very similar to the tactical nymphing done by western fly anglers…no indicator, tight-line nymphing.  Tenkara rods are extremely effective at this.  Over the previous few months I had been designing, constructing, and testing a new line for nymphing, and this trip would prove to be an excellent laboratory.

Mike had given us his warnings about grizzlies, and even though we were in a relatively grizzly-free area, we both strapped bear spray canisters to our belts.  Those would be standard equipment for the entire week, and once we moved south into the grizzly’s backyard, we felt much safer than without the bear spray.  We never saw a bear during our week in Alaska, but one evening, while we were picking blueberries along the Denali Highway, Shawn nearly stepped into a huge, warm, purple pile of grizzly scat.  One day, while fishing the Tangle River, I found myself on what looked like a bear trail in the thick of the alders along the water.  Five-foot visibility, and with the rush of the river, I couldn’t hear a twig snap if it was right next to my ear.  Grizzly country…they were here first, we were visitors, so kept our “bear radar” on the whole trip!

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We had hauled a canoe down from Delta Junction to our camp at Tangle Lakes, and after a couple of successful days fishing for big grayling on the Tangle River, Shawn and I decided to carry it several hundred yards down to the lake to see if we could catch any lake trout at the inlet, where the river comes into the lake.  We took turns manning the canoe and fishing, as the wind and the current of the river at the inlet required constant paddling.  What we found was that there no lakers at all at the inlet, and that the grayling were stacked up there, rising and splashing at what we decided must be the smallest midges we had ever encountered.  We had nothing with which to match the hatch.  Traditional kebari were all but useless, as the grayling were very keyed-in to those midges.  We wrote the still water of Round Tangle Lake off the list.

Mid-week Shawn and I decided to travel southeast to the upper reaches of the Gulkana River to look for more trophy grayling.  It was within a half-hour drive, so after a leisurely breakfast at Tangle River Inn, we headed to unknown water.  A quick stop at the small Alaska Department of Fish and Game hatchery just upstream of Paxson proved to be invaluable.  The hatchery worker gave us some good beta, let us know that salmon fishing on the Gulkana was now closed (any salmon caught must be immediately released), and wished us good luck.  We headed down the Richardson Highway, and by exploring a few two-tracks, found a spot along the Gulkana that put us on water small enough to use tenkara.

Where the Tangle River was wide, shallow, and full of pocket water, the upper Gulkana was narrow, deep, and packed with very strong current for its size.  We put boots in the water to find that not only were there big grayling there, the spawning sockeye (red) salmon had moved up into the same water.  Looking down into the crystal-clear water we could see many 24-36” salmon stacked up in the current.  Tangle River, and its surround tundra had a campground within a stone’s throw.  The densely-vegetated Gulkana was totally different, with a feeling of total isolation.  Tangle was relatively bear-free, while the Gulkana was littered with half-eaten salmon, bear scat, and pawprints, and several bald eagles watched us fish from their perches at the tops of the tallest spruce trees along the river.  Wading on the Tangle was routine, on the Gulkana it was suicidal.  We were in no position to call the shots on this water!

Once we arrived on the Gulkana, Shawn and I rigged up and started fishing.  I had gotten some help from my boss, Royal Gorge Anglers owner, Taylor Edrington, on what fly patterns I would need to target grayling and rainbow trout that were following the spawning salmon.  Taylor has extensive knowledge of fly fishing in Alaska, and I valued his opinion.  Although we never even got close to water that held rainbows, Taylor’s recommendations held true for the grayling.  I rigged up a bead type egg pattern, sized and colored appropriate for the task, with a BB split shot about 9 inches above the egg.  Since we were fishing for grayling, I used a smaller hook than the ones Taylor had given me for the trip.  I deployed a fluorocarbon tenkara level line and started drifting the egg pattern.

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We began to catch very nice grayling almost immediately, again with the largest 16-20” fish holding in the deepest and heaviest current, which was very similar to our experience on the Tangle River.  We fished right on the brushy edge of the river, simply because the river was too deep and fast to wade into, and the willows and alders were too thick to step back into for better positioning.  All the while, I kept my bear radar on, mostly because of the lack of visibility along the river’s edge, and the fact that I was almost always within arm’s length of a half-eaten salmon or bear track.

After catching a half-dozen big grayling, I decided to move down below Shawn twenty-five yards or so to fish down by an abandoned salmon cage, left there by the hatchery workers.  I ran my egg down through a deep, fast strip of current as a few yard-long sockeye salmon bumped into my legs in the water.  After a few drifts, I hit what felt like a Greyhound bus!  There was way too much current and very few obstacles in the water, and I know in an instant that I had hooked into one of those salmon!  The fight was on!  I yelled to Shawn to come down and run the net for me.  He ran down, started shooting video, and stayed very close.  That salmon called all of the shots, moving when he wanted to, into and out of the current.  Few thoughts ran through my head, but I remember two distinctly…I’m either going to break my rod, or I’m going to break off this fish!  I continued to dance with the salmon for what seemed like an eternity, keeping him in the power bend of my tenkara rod, and he took me for a walk downstream, into and out of the heavy current.  I finally got him out of the main current and into shallower water near the salmon cage.  Shawn reached out several times with his net, and it took several tries to finally get it done.  Only half of that big fish fit into what we thought was a big net.

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I was shaking as Shawn helped me get a grip on my salmon and remove the hook.  We both marveled at the fact that he had actually eaten the egg, as anadromous fish seldom, if ever, eat once they start their trip upstream to the spawning grounds.  He was heavily colored, had a huge kype and hump, but was still strong even after swimming upriver some 350 miles from the ocean.  After a couple of quick photos, I lowered him into the current, letting go of his tail after he gave me the signal he was strong enough to swim away.  That feeling as he slipped out of my right hand, was one of the most wonderful moments of my trip to Alaska.  I was saying goodbye to that fish, but right then and there I made myself a promise that I would return to do this again.

Shawn and I hit the road the next day, traveling north, for a return to the Delta Junction area.  We were headed to where Richard had made that awesome phone call from the edge of the Delta Clearwater River earlier in the summer, to see if we could match his success with trophy class grayling.  We accessed this gin-clear, frigid, spring-fed river just a few miles northeast of Delta Junction.  There’s a short section of public water there, so we set up for some dry fly fishing, both of us using floating tenkara lines.  We spent all day catching eager grayling, many of them pushing the 18” mark.  Despite the fact that every couple of hours a jet boat would scream upriver in front of us, the grayling didn’t seem to care.  Five minutes after each boat passed, we were back in the fish.  Adult caddis, PMDs, and Adams were the flies of the day.  I simply cannot remember a day when I’ve caught more fish on a dry fly!  The highlight of my day wasn’t so much all of the big grayling I had caught, but watching Shawn fight a 20” monster for at least ten minutes, finally landing him on the far side of the river.  It was a fitting way to end the fishing for the week, and with sore arms, we walked back to the Jeep and stowed our waders and rods for the last time.

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I cannot say when I will return to Alaska with a tenkara rod, but I know it will be soon.  Shawn and I had no sooner unpacked after arriving home than we were planning the next trip north.  As I’ve said, Alaska has a way of getting under your skin, and after fishing there, just about everything you do is compared to it.  We stepped into an unknown…fishing in Alaska for trophy grayling, and the possibility of catching salmon, with tenkara.  It felt so very good to have traveled so far, seen so much country and found success with tenkara.  What’s next?  Trophy Dolly Varden on a wilderness float north of the Arctic Circle?  Coastal mountain rainbows?  Yard-long sheefish along the Brooks Range foothills a hundred miles from the nearest settlement?  Perhaps the answer may be “yes” to all of those, and more.  I’m certain of one thing…this hasn’t been my last trip with tenkara in the Last Frontier!

This article was originally published in the Fall 2016 issue of Tenkara Angler magazine.

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Conversing in Japanese

Conversing in Japanese
by Isaac Tait

Perhaps you are planning a trip to Japan, or maybe you are just interested in the Japanese language to help you harvest information from the complex Japanese worldwide web. Whatever the reason Japanese is a fascinating, yet distinctly different from the English language to learn. With well over 2,000 characters in three different alphabets called Hiragana, Katakana, and Kanji it is no small task to undertake.

While I am hardly an expert, I have put together a little of what I have learned here in Tenkara Angler. My goal for writing this article is two-fold. First, I would like to spark an interest in those, who prior to reading this, may have had little to no interest in the language and perhaps even the country of Japan. Secondly, my overall goal is to assist those with an already developed affinity for Japan and its language get off on the right foot.

I believe that every Tenkara angler should make a pilgrimage to Japan not just for the fishing but to immerse themselves in another culture. Too many of the problems currently facing the “west” today, I believe could be easily resolved with a little perspective, grace, and respect. Something that Japan, its people, and its culture can offer in spades.

So without further ado, let’s dive right in!

Asking Questions in Japanese:

In the English language if you come across a “WH” word it typically indicates that the sentence is a question (e.g. Why, Where, When, What, etc.).

In the Japanese language if a question is being asked the character “か” pronounced ka will be appended to the end of a sentence.

For example –

  • Daijobu desuka? (Are you okay?)
  • Anatano namae wa nandesuka? (What is your name?)

Please Note: desu often precedes the ka, but not always. When it is, the pronunciation is “des-ka” The U is silent.

 Toire wa doko desuka? “トイレはどこですか“. While this is the correct English way of asking the question “Where is the toilet” it is infrequently (almost never?) used in Japan. Instead, they will just say toire “トイレ”  pronounced “Toy-re” with a  question inflection.

Whole and complete sentences are not the norm in Japan, something that took my English speaking brain a while to wrap itself around. In that regard, it is a very efficient language.

Intro to Correct Pronunciation of Japanese words:

A common English mistake is to pronounce the Japanese with English consonants and vowel sounds as it is written.

For example –

Onigiri “おにぎり”. The well-loved rice ball food is very often mispronounced as – “O-ni-gear-ee”

The correct pronunciation is – “O-knee-gee-ree” (make sure to make the ree sound with a hard almost D sound too)

The city where I live 横須賀 (Yokosuka) is often mispronounced “yo-ko-sue-ka”. This is incorrect, it is pronounced “yo-kos-ka” Again the U is silent. The city Asakusa in Tokyo is pronounced “A-sock-sa” Noticing a pattern yet? 9 times out of 10 the U will be silent (especially when it comes at the end of a word) but not always.

I tend to pronounce the U silent first and if I get a blank stare I try adding in a subtle U sound.

Counting in Japanese:

In English, there are very few counters – one, first, single. While in the Japanese language there are hundreds of counters for everything from beer(s), people, paper, and even farts! Knowing all the counters is probably impossible, as some are fairly obscure and hardly used. If you use the wrong counter (something I do frequently) no one will understand what you’re asking. The most important counter to know is the tsu counter as it works pretty well for anything you might need to communicate an amount for.

Here are just a few of the counters that I use regularly.

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There is a counter for swimming fish, captured fish, deboned fish, fish cut into chunks, fish wrapped for sale in a supermarket, and fish cut into bite-sized pieces – to name just a few (and I won’t list them here, because it’s confusing I think).

Beware of useful phrases that many “helpful” sources will try and teach you. Japanese is not a romance language (meaning it is not based on Latin). Therefore, the language’s grammar and sentence structure is totally different from English. This makes the translation process often times very messy.

Keep your questions/remarks short, simple, and sweet – and you will be fine. Most of the time what you are asking or talking about is readily apparent in the context of the situation.

Scenario:

You are standing next to a river with your Tenkara rod and you ask another fisherman “つりチケットどこですか“ Tsu ri chiketto doko desu ka which when translated literally means “Fishing ticket where is?” However, it is understood to mean “Where can I buy a fishing ticket?” If you tried to ask the question in perfect English but translated into Japanese, you could say something like this:

Doko de tsuri no chiketto o kōnyū suru koto ga dekimasu But, after all that work they would almost certainly look at you with a blank stare, uncertain what the heck you were trying to ask.

The following list is a few helpful words that I use almost every day. These words make most daily interactions go pretty smoothly. Whether it be at the train station, the convenience store, or on the trail if you know these few words you’ll be able to get through many interactions with as little awkwardness as possible.

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Notes for use                                                     

  • If you accidentally bump into someone Sumimasen (excuse me) will often suffice. If they are in obvious pain, you bumped them pretty hard, or they are much older than you a Gomen’nasai (I am sorry) will go a long way. This is pretty common interaction, especially during the morning rush hour.
  • There is no need to preface Wakarimasen (I don’t understand) with a Gomen’nasai (I am sorry). While it sounds right in English it is a tad too formal for day to day Japanese. Prefacing the (Wakarimasen) (I don’t understand) with a Sumimasen (excuse me) is best.
  • Onegaishimasu (Please) is very formal/polite. I tend to use it when requesting the check after dining – O kai kei onegaishimasu (check please)

Kudasai (please) is more common for day to day interactions e.g. when they offer to bag your food at a convenience store.

The Intricacies of the Japanese Language

One of the more confusing Japanese words that I hear all the time is So-so. My research has turned up that a lot of Japanese people when they say this word, believe that they are actually speaking in English. For example:

“How was work today?”

“So-so”

“How are you today?”

“So-so”

From this, you could deduce that the word So-so would mean more or less okay, undecided, or eh (with a shrug of indifference). Basically what it means in English (which is, incidentally, some Japanese speakers intent).

However, I have also heard the word So-so used in such a manner that it would imply that its meaning is It is! or That is correct.

For example:

“So, this is where we are going to camp tonight?”

“So-so”

“Is that an Iwana?”

“So-so”

Things get even more confusing as the Japanese for So-so would seem to be まあまあ. Obviously, this does not match the pronunciation (if pronounced as it is spelled it would be Maa Maa). To further add to my confusion when I search for the definition of まあまあ it takes me down a whole other path of meaning.

I have been living in Japan for 18 months and I’m still not sure what the word means, because depending on who I ask I get a different answer… So I don’t really say it very much.

During a pleasant day of skiing with one of my female Japanese co-workers, I came to discover another Japanese word: Ne. This word is used as an exclamation of agreement. However, it is a distinctly female word. I was told that if I used it too much when conversing in Japanese, that Japanese men would assume that I learned my Japanese from women (not that this is a negative thing but my friend seemed to imply that it was). I guess it is the valley girls equivalent of ‘like’…

When I first moved to Japan I intended to speak, read, and write very good Japanese by the end of my second year of living here. With that anniversary rapidly approaching it is with a little regret that I feel I am a long way off from this goal. Languages have never been my strong suit, and the Japanese language can be very confusing at times. Still, I have not lost my original infatuation with the language. I love to listen to native speakers and imagine what they are saying based on the context of the situation; their intonation and facial expressions is a lot of fun to absorb.

Slowly but surely with tenacity and grace, I hope to one day hold my own in day to day conversational Japanese. Until that day I will just bask in the cordiality and understanding of the Japanese people while I fumble for my iPhone.

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Authors Note: I have compiled a lot of helpful information, that didn’t fit here, on my site http://www.fallfishtenkara.com/information/learning-japanese/

Alternately, you can navigate to “Fallfish Tenkara” and click “Info” then scroll down to “Learning Japanese”.

I would be remiss if I did not give a hearty thank you to David Walker for his extensive assistance in compiling helpful resources at Tenkara Fisher, which I have utilized in creating this article. His extensive compilation of some very helpful information is a great resource for anglers, of any discipline, planning a trip to Japan or just for the further study of interested individuals. You can find a sampling of his useful information at the aforementioned link above.

This article was originally published in the Fall 2016 issue of Tenkara Angler magazine.

How Can Being A Tenkara Geek Change Your Life?

How Can Being a Tenkara Geek Change Your Life?
Words: Paul Gaskell
Pictures: John Pearson & Paul Gaskell

Something struck me today. Isn’t it amazing just where in the world being a geek can take you? In my case, I somehow found myself with fellow fishing nut John Pearson in the mountains of Japan eating a fish (whole) and fumbling my rookie Japanese phrases – all while being filmed by a local TV crew. Which is pretty far-fetched by most peoples’ standards (and yes, they subtitled both my English AND Japanese speech in the broadcast)…

You might already have seen the following quote by Simon Pegg (thanks to Anthony Naples for reminding me by posting it on Facebook recently!). In case you don’t have it memorized it goes like this:

Being a geek is all about being honest about what you enjoy and not being afraid to demonstrate that affection. It means never having to play it cool about how much you like something. It’s basically a license to proudly emote on a somewhat childish level rather than behave like a supposed adult. Being a geek is extremely liberating

When it comes to tenkara, I know exactly what he means.

Of course, there is a huge role of plain ol’ blind good luck in all this too. But being passionate about tenkara beyond all rational limits – and not being able to help it – does seem to toss amazing things your way. Our route to Japan for the first time is one example…

It started when British angling journalist Jon Beer (who is a VP of the trout conservation charity I work for) phoned me with a curious request. Jon had been contacted by someone (Steven Wheeler, a really great guy) that he had previously chatted to about a net that featured in one of Jon’s articles – but that is not so important.

The real point is that Steven spends some of his working life in Japan and he’d had a fishing lesson from a Japanese teacher.  The teacher in question was interested in visiting England for his first time to fish tenkara and had contacted Steven to see if he could help him out. So Steven asked Jon Beer for help because Jon had written an article about tenkara in Trout & Salmon Magazine (I hope you are following this… the payoff is coming, I promise).

Now Jon cheerfully admitted to not really knowing too many fine details about tenkara (his article featured fascinating letters and tackle he had been sent by another Japanese angler and also an account of Jon’s enjoyment when fishing with his tenkara rod). But he certainly did know how much I’d been yammering on about how awesome tenkara is whenever we’d done any work together through the Wild Trout Trust.

Which is how I came to be chatting with Steven.

Who casually got round to mentioning the name of the very nice chap who had given him a fishing lesson, some flies, and a rather nice hand-carved spool.

And that is how we came to host Dr. Ishigaki for 10 days in England in 2013.

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All that happened through a combination of blind chance and being “Really, Really Into Something”. A geek. During his stay with us, Dr. Ishigaki invited us on a return visit to Japan that he would organize, oh and he’d set it up so we could spend time with Masami Sakakibara and a whole gang of what turns out to be some of the best tenkara anglers on the planet. Amazing. I still can’t believe it even now.

Now, before I get to describing the fishing and try (and fail) to give you a small taste of the unique vibe of fishing a Japanese tenkara stream, I want to tell you why I had no business going to Japan.

It really should never have happened.

You see, my first response in my head to the invite was “Amazing – but what a bitter pill to swallow because I can’t go”. I did not have the disposable cash, my young son had a hard start in life with his epilepsy and we were just getting into what turned out to be a year-long struggle to move house (while my partner was pregnant with our second son).

But here’s the thing. Because of the amazing support from my partner (huge thanks doesn’t really do it justice) and because I decided to keep my old car on the road and put off the (sensible) update and because we could make do with holidaying at home with our young family – I began to think, maybe it is possible? What would happen if we could offset some of the costs by publishing the stories of our trip? How about documenting our discoveries on video? Nah, that would never work.

The thing is, that requires a pretty big blind leap of faith. You need to suspend disbelief. You have to trust that it will “probably work out OK”. And that is even before the huge amount of support that you need to help you navigate the language barrier, geography, fishing permits and accommodation bookings in the strange and wonderful country of Japan. So, there is a massive debt of gratitude owed on top of the crazy good luck to even meet the series of people who had given us that opportunity.

This is the reason that www.discovertenkara.co.uk can even exist to share the stories and techniques of tenkara in Japan. Just geeks, kindness and good fortune…

I hope it is obvious, then, how overwhelming that feeling of good fortune becomes when you experience Japan’s tenkara rivers, the beautiful fish and the amazing camaraderie of the band of “tenkara nuts”.  These are the folks who drive anywhere between 4 and 14 hours across the country to gather for a few days, maybe over a weekend, to fish, eat and drink together.

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I get why they do it though. The cool, clear-blue waters flowing in and around the rocks and big, smooth boulders are just impossibly perfect. Go Ishii tells me that Japan has more than 20,000 streams like this that you can tackle with tenkara gear. That means you could fish a different one every single day for 54 years with no repeats. I love the atmosphere and the character of these rivers and streams and the word “privilege” is really the only way to describe how it feels to fish them.

Even the way the streamside vegetation smells when the sun warms it in late spring and through summer makes me happy – which is extremely weird. The scent? In all honesty, the closest thing would be skunk (!) – and I don’t think I will ever get over the novelty of river banks that are covered in dense bamboo thicket… The Oriental reed warblers that flit and “chu-chuuk-churra” between the stems complete that scene and define the setting for me.

Then there are the fish – the different kinds of iwana (some rare native strains survive in spite of widespread stocking of the “nikko” variety of iwana), the yamame and amago. I love the slightly arched back and chrome, reptilian head of the more mature males of these last two species. They just look so exotic and prehistorically wild.

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It is also completely addictive to work out the characters of each fish in different streams. Yes, iwana from different streams tend to behave more like each other than they do compared to either amago or yamame…But the iwana in some streams seem much more “lazy” than others. OK, lazy is not the right word, they sometimes seem to need the fly to travel downstream reeeaaallly slowly though and that gives them a kind of “don’t work too hard” character in my mind’s eye.

Did I say that it is very common to need to present the fly slower than the true dead drift? The steep gradient of the streams means that, without weight, your fly would often be swept downstream too quickly to make an easy meal for the fish. This is one of the reasons that so many named presentation techniques have evolved in Japanese tenkara.

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You see? My inner fishing geek wouldn’t know something like that (not “bones-deep” anyway) unless I’d had the stupid good fortune to see it and talk about it with the amazing tenkara addicts (kei-kyo-jin; “mountain crazy people”). What is really cool is that these tactics work so brilliantly on my home rivers – and of those in different countries outside Japan that John and myself have fished too. It turns out that knowing many of these things completely changes the way that you view rivers, their character, features and ever-morphing current-structures. Did you know that Masami often waits until a favorable swirl of current “blooms” in the right way before dropping his fly into it? More stuff that means nothing to the fishing “nonaddict”.

Perhaps there is something that anyone with an ounce of soul (angler or not) could appreciate and has a similar quality of satisfaction? Maybe the feeling of fine drizzle at dusk on your face, sitting in a volcanic hot-spring “onsen” pool looking out across a darkening, forested valley with the dull, reassuring thud of your heartbeat in your chest? That you can sit there, scalding water up to your chin, after already showering to remove the day’s grime won during a tiring day of wet wading and catching perfect fish from perfect water… Well, that might just be the finest feeling on earth.

And without the realization that “yeah, I’m a geek for this stuff”, you could never have experienced the good fortune and kindness of strangers that put you there. That’s worth celebrating in my book.

This article was originally published in the Fall 2016 issue of Tenkara Angler magazine.

Tenkara Tribe Poe Paddy Round-Up 2016: Day 2

Tenkara Tribe Poe Paddy Round-Up 2016: Day 2
By Rob Lepczyk

In the last episode, Day One of Poe Paddy Round-Up 2016, we arrived Friday morning, drank beer, got lost on dirt roads, fished, drank more beer, set up camp at Poe Paddy State Park on Penns Creek in Pennsylvania, then fished more, then we settled in and partied by the fire for hours.

The rain started at 4 am Saturday morning. It woke me up when it pitter-pattered on my camo, hammock tarp. When we all arose, it was still raining. Some of us woke up before others. Coffee was brewed, and plans were made. While avoiding the rain and nursing our hangovers, Charlie hatched the bright idea to go into town for breakfast. At first, we resisted but broke quickly.

We, Charlie, Navigator, JP and myself, drove out on the dirt roads around 9:30 am, in search of potatoes and eggs. It was still raining. We just sorta’ ended up in Millheim. But, success! We found good coffee and homemade English Muffins. Charlie got an extra treat, a favorite guitar player of his wandered in with the rest of the band to get breakfast. Charlie admitted he knew they lived there and was hoping he would see them.

This is also where the idea of the Ratskin Canoe was hatched. What was initially a caffeine-induced idea to clean up the cites of America of its rat problems, and we figured hipsters would buy the Ratskin Canoes due to the weirdness.

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Wandering down the street, we found what became a favorite of TeamRatskinCanoe, Penns Valley Meat Market. This was like stepping back in time, and we loved every minute of it. We bought them out of peppered jerky and smokey beef tips and headed back to camp.

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We got sidetracked on the way back. Little Poe Creek got in our way. We spent hours wandering the stream, I won’t try to describe it, I’ll let the photos tell the rest of the story.

We got back to camp much later than anticipated, the party then began: Brookies and Beer for life!

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This article was originally published in the Fall 2016 issue of Tenkara Angler magazine.

 

What Do You Contribute to The Tenkara Community?

What Do You Contribute to The Tenkara Community?
By John Vetterli, Tenkara Guides LLC

Now that is a loaded question, isn’t it?

Back in 2009, Tenkara USA was launched and the beginning of a small yet humble revolution within the fly fishing industry was afoot.

Back then, there were no resources of any kind in English and the resources in Japanese were beyond our understanding because we had no experience base to draw from and make any sense out of the information that was available.  It was a difficult period in tenkara outside Japan, yet it was full of optimism, hope, and exploration.

There was a single internet forum page on Tenkara USA’s website where all of us were hanging out sharing ideas, experiences, asking questions, it was really cool.  Everyone involved was shaping a new sport, industry, and culture.

Now, 7 years later, tenkara is firmly established worldwide.  There is an actual industry outside of Japan consisting of multiple rod companies, vendors, accessories and gear makers, destination travel resources, and professional guides.  From its humble beginnings of a few fly fishing misfits to a complete industry is quite staggering when you look at how young this sport is outside of Japan.

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How did this happen?

It evolved because of the passion and excitement of everyone involved in the sport.

The use of various social media platforms in the past few years has made it explode.

There is a double-edged sword to this massive expansion in such a compressed time frame.

As our collective experience has grown, we are on the edge of falling into the pit of despair that has plagued western fly fishing for several decades.  It is called Elitism.

There is absolutely nothing wrong with buying, using, and thoroughly enjoying a quality built tenkara rod that costs $95.00.  Anyone that jumps on Facebook and belittles another angler’s choice in a moderately priced tenkara rod truly represents the worst character our community has to offer.

We all develop personal preferences as our experience grows and deepens.  I’ll be the first to admit I have an affinity for really high-performance tenkara rods.  My personal favorites are the Oni family of rods.  There are a few reasons for this.  Masami Sakakibara is my teacher, mentor, and a true friend.  I have had the honor of fishing with him a lot over the past few years.  My casting style developed in a vacuum just like everyone else’s has outside of Japan.  The first time Masami and I met, I realized that my casting style was very similar to his.  Learning from him was easy.  In fact, it was second nature for me to quickly adapt to his teaching.

So, since I have a natural affinity to my teacher’s style and method, using the rods he developed to match his style and methods really feels good to me.  And I’ll admit, these rods have a real sentimental value to me.  It’s something that came along with buying them out of the back of his car in a parking lot next to the river in Japan.

I also really like Nissin rods.  For some reason, I just like them.  I can’t put a finger on the exact reason.  I just do.

I also like some more moderately priced rods from domestic vendors such as Dragontail, Tanuki, Badger Tenkara, and the Tenkara Bum Suikei 36.  There are really high-quality rods that are available.  You don’t have to own a top end Japanese rod to truly enjoy tenkara.

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So, knowing myself and my love for things that perform at the highest levels, I try to be cognizant of the audience I might address when it comes to certain questions.

Being one of the owners of the first professional tenkara guide company in the world carries with it another level of responsibility.  That is to nurture and grow new tenkara anglers into experienced tenkara anglers.  That comes along with the territory.  We get clients all the time that bring their shiny new entry-level rod for their guided trip and they are so excited to learn how to use it.  The worst thing I could do is tell them that the rod they purchased is a piece of crap.

Just because the rod they have is not something I personally might not use, it does not make their choice wrong or irrelevant. The first rule of being a professional tenkara fly fishing guide is “don’t be a dick.”

Being members of not only a community but a culture, we all share a similar obligation.

Elitism is the poison that has the potential to consume not only an individual tenkara angler but also the entire community.  There is the form of elitism regarding the gear you use, the types of waters you fish, or the places you travel to. And the elitism of “tenkara is so much more effective than western fly fishing.” Mix those things together and you have a really volatile cocktail of arrogance, ignorance, and division.

Through our business Tenkara Guides LLC, I spend a lot of my time interacting with the much wider audience of the fly fishing industry.  That includes both tenkara and western fly fishing.

Here is a revelation I want to share.

There has always been a rift between western fly fishing and tenkara.  In the early days of tenkara, there was a lot of criticism and hostility tenkara anglers faced from fly fishing anglers on the water and from local tackle shops.  You mentioned the word tenkara and you were pretty much openly ridiculed on the spot.

That made our little fledgling community pretty punchy and hostile.  There were a lot of social media posts put out there on both sides that drove that wedge deep and wide.

We were really good ambassadors within our own community and not necessarily the best outside our community.

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The western fly fishing world is now reeling from the tenkara community’s version of tenkara vs. western fly fishing elitism.  Believe me, this is real, it’s damaging, and it does nothing but hurt both groups.

This is the chasm that currently exists.  The western fly fishing world is on the verge of openly accepting tenkara.  The only thing holding it back right now is us.

It’s no secret that fly fishing has been on a steady decline for the past 15 or so years.  Tenkara is the shot in the arm this sport needs.  It’s relatively easy to learn the basics, the cost of entry is typically less, and it’s fun.

The same thing happened in the ski industry back in the early 1980s. I grew up in Park City Utah, one of the premier ski destination resort towns in the world.  I was a part of this ski revolution that occurred in the 80s.

Skiing had become a sport of the wealthy.  The gear was expensive, the nice clothing was really expensive, lift tickets are prohibitively expensive, and it’s difficult to learn.

The ski industry was “eliting” itself out of existence.

Then came the snowboarders.

We were a bunch of kids that were not constrained by the rules of civilized ski society.  We started out in the backcountry snowboarding big mountains, deep powder, and having a blast on a snowboard that cost $150.00 and a pair of Sorel winter boots with old ski boot liners in them.  Quite a contrast to the $900.00 skis, $300.00 bindings, $600.00 boots, $125.00 ski poles, $1,200.00 Bogner one-piece ski suits, and $75.00 lift tickets.

Snowboarding took about 10 years to be openly accepted as a part of the ski industry and sport.  In the early days, snowboarders had to have a “chairlift certification” card to buy a lift ticket.  A lot has changed in the past 30 years.  Snowboarding started as a fringe sport that ended up bringing skiing back from its inevitable decline.  It wasn’t an easy road but now people enjoy both disciplines.  The most difficult decision for many skiers is “Do I take the snowboard out today or the skis?”

Fast forward a couple of years and tenkara has proven it belongs in the spectrum of fly fishing.  It has carved its place and it is here to stay.

Now more than ever, we as a culture of tenkara anglers must be aware that now we have a place within this wider fly fishing culture, and we must learn how to better integrate ourselves and our sport with the longstanding traditions of western fly fishing. Many western fly anglers want to try tenkara but they are hesitant to jump in because they fear a backlash from the tenkara community because they came from the “other” discipline.

It all boils down to basic human decency and respect for all anglers that want to enjoy time on the water.  It doesn’t matter if you like fishing for bluegills, bass, trout, whatever.  It doesn’t matter if you use a spinning reel, a bait casting reel, a fly reel, or no reel.  What matters is that we as a tenkara community take a big bold step and be personable, friendly, and accepting of every fishing discipline we encounter.

Everyone deserves the right to enjoy their fishing.  It’s not up to you or me to dictate to them which method is superior or what gear is superior.

We are not all that different.  When you break it all down into its most basic components.  It’s just trying to catch a fish with a stick, a hook, and a string.

We need to be the best ambassadors of our sport to both those within the tenkara community and those in the greater fly fishing community.

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This article was originally published in the Fall 2016 issue of Tenkara Angler magazine.

A Niche Within a Niche, Within a Niche, Within a Niche

A Niche Within a Niche, Within a Niche, Within a Niche
By Chris Stewart

I almost entitled this article “The Next Big Thing is Little” but calling micro fishing the next big thing may be a bit of a stretch.  Micro fishing is still small. Fly fishing for micros – micro tenkara – is smaller yet.

Still, interest is increasing, as witnessed by the recently established Tenkara Micro Fishing Facebook page.

Fishing for little fish is not new. Dame Juliana  Berners wrote in 1486 that you should fish “for the Menowe with a lyne of one heare” [one horsehair].  I am sure it is older than that, though. People have been fishing for little fish ever since they realized that a little fish on a hook could catch a big fish.

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Tanago

Fishing for little fish solely for sport isn’t new either. Tanago fishing in Japan dates back at least as far as the Edo period (1603-1868). For that matter, even fly fishing for little fish (which really is the niche within a niche within a niche) is not new.  While the first written record of what is now called tenkara was in 1877, the first written record of Japanese fishing with artificial flies was two hundred years earlier! One could argue that it wasn’t tenkara because the fish were chubs and dace rather than trout and it wasn’t in a mountain stream.

I have no desire to argue about what is and what isn’t tenkara. My point is that fly fishing for micros is not new. A micro, by the way, according to the two guys who coined the term “micro fishing,” is a fish that fully grown does not reach a pound in weight; but I have no desire to argue about that, either. There’s a guy I know, although only online, who as near as I can tell fishes only for little sunfish.

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Bluegill sunfish

A Bluegill Sunfish can reach well over a pound, so according to the purists, it isn’t a micro. I’m not a purist and to me, a little fish is a little fish. Whether it is a micro or a baby macro, I don’t really care (and neither does he). However, I will freely admit that catching micros other than sunfish is more interesting – unless you catch very rare sunfish, like perhaps a mud sunfish or banded sunfish, which in New Jersey you can’t legally fish for and in New York if you happen to catch by accident you can’t legally photograph.

There is one term that I would define pretty narrowly, though. If you happen to catch a micro while fishing for trout or bass or other big fish, it’s not microfishing. Microfishing, to my way of thinking, is specifically trying to catch micros. Thus, Coach’s splendid common shiner in full breeding colors doesn’t qualify as microfishing. He was fishing for trout at the time.

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Common shiner

Although Coach’s common shiner was caught on a size 12 fly, and I have caught several micros on size 12 and 14 flies, if you want to catch micros I would strongly suggest a smaller fly. Although I have caught baby smallmouth bass with a size 32 Stewart Black Spider, I would guess I’ve had my best luck with a size 20 bead head Black Killer Bugger. It is about the right size to represent any small nymph and the bead helps to get it down to where the fish are. If you are sight fishing, which I often do with micros, the gold bead allows you to watch the fly, and to watch it disappear as a fish takes it.

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Size 26 blue Killer Bug

I have done quite well with size 26 Killer Bugs also (even if they are blue, as is the one shown in the photo, taken by a creek chub during my Blue Fly Challenge in 2013). Really, just about any really small fly will work for many micros, and will take much larger fish as well.

The chance for larger than expected fish can be a potential problem for micro fishers. On the one hand, you would want to use a rod that is soft enough and delicate enough to allow you to feel the fight of a 3” fish.  On the other hand, though, you would want to use a rod that will not break if you hook a fish that is larger than you expect. I truly thought my Shimotsuke Miyako tanago rod would break when I hooked a six-inch brookie.

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Miyako brookie

It didn’t break but I know of a guy who broke his twice, once when he hooked a potential state record warmouth and again when a 12” bullhead ate the micro he had hooked before he had a chance to get it in. I no longer carry the Miyako although I do still carry a Nissin Gokoro tanago rod.  Many new micro fishers choose a Nissin Sasuke or Shimotsuke Kiyotaki, either of which may be overkill for a 2 incher, but they should survive the unexpected 12 incher. I often suggest a Suntech Kurenai, which to me is the nicest rod that can be used for both micros and trout. That said, you can use your current tenkara rod, and I would much rather you start micro fishing with the rod you have than not start because you think you have to buy a new one.

One nice feature of the Kurenai is that it can cast a very light line. The lighter the line, the more likely the strike of a micro will register. I am pretty sure that hits that would cause a size 2.5 line to twitch wouldn’t even show with a heavy furled line. I would also go with a light tippet. The flies are small and the rod is delicate. You might hook a much larger than expected fish. When fishing for micros, my heaviest tippet is 7X and I often use 8X.

Micro tenkara has been on the fringes for some time now, but it is coming into the mainstream. It is fun, it is challenging and it is convenient. There are micros (or at least “little fish”) in just about every body of water that doesn’t dry up in the summer or freeze solid in the winter. You almost certainly have places to fish close enough that you don’t have to plan a weekend or even a full day just to wet a line. All you have to do is use your most sensitive rod, your lightest line, your smallest flies, and be satisfied catching your smallest fish.

Do it very much and you will almost certainly catch fish you’ve never caught before. You’ll almost certainly catch fish you’ve never heard of before! That’s part of the fun of it. I won’t say trout are boring, but catching something you’ve never caught before and then trying to figure out what you’ve just caught is intriguing and is a large part of the attraction of micro tenkara. As with tenkara in the early days, the guys who pooh-pooh it are the guys who haven’t tried it.

This article was originally published in the Fall 2016 issue of Tenkara Angler magazine.

Lunch Break Tenkara

Lunch Break Tenkara
By Adam Rieger

I started Tenkara fishing only two seasons ago and came to it with almost zero western fly fishing experience.  Needless to say, the addiction took hold very quickly!  It is now all-consuming… I am not sure if it requires a 12 step program or it is healthy.

One of the first signs of the ”addiction” was, during office hours, my constant studying of Google Maps in terrain mode to find small “blue lines” to hunt brook trout.  I would find potential places and desperately want to check them out, but family obligations (wife and two young children 6 and 3) gave me very few weekends free and well working for a living was ANOTHER big time suck away from fishing!

Then it struck me – an epiphany! – with Tenkara’s telescoping rods, a minimal set of tools and flies AND one hand free to eat a sandwich – I should just go fishing during lunch break.  After all, I had an hour break – so if I could find options within a 15-minute drive I could easily fish for 30 minutes!

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To maximize time, the fishing would not include any wading…all shore casting…and a strategic use of shoes that could both pass as “business casual” and good in the dirt.  Also carrying a stiff brush in your car and one of those shoe sponges helps clean you up super-fast!

So it was time to go back to Google!  I studied the maps and isolated first the “circumference” of the search area based on time to drive there.  I then looked online to see if there were any “stocking” reports in any of these zones to get an idea of what species if any were there.  I also checked various fishing chat groups to see what people were talking about.

I am somewhat fortunate that I live in the suburbs of NYC in what is called the Croton River watershed.  Almost the entire river network (which flows into the Hudson) has been dammed to form reservoirs for drinking water for NYC.   The State of NY stocks the tailwaters and the reservoirs extensively with fish.  On the “unfortunate” side the “prime spots” are not within the 15-minute drive circumference, but I was able to find a few – B or C level spots to fish for trout.

One happy discovery came when I least expected it…I was on a play date with some fellow friends with kids at this playground park that had a pond.  We decided to walk around the pond.  On that walk, I clearly saw tons of panfish and some largemouth bass.  I then bumped into a fisherman with his son who told me that the town stocks the pond every Spring with 12-inch Rainbow trout for a “Kids Fishing Derby” in early May.  The pond is off limits for fishing the few weeks prior to the derby but after it opens up.  To my amazement this May I caught several even larger rainbows in this pond so either they stock some larger or there are some holdovers.  Anyhow…the moral of this story is keep your eyes peeled!  Be open to it all…

Continuing with this theme of keeping your eyes peeled…recently TenkaraBum issued a “streamer” challenge where one winning spot was based on the most species caught on a streamer with a fixed line rod…and so I decided to combine that challenge with my lunch fishing outings.  After getting the easy species in my regular spots I came to realize if I was going to really compete I would have to go small…this opened the door to micro fishing…and a ton more water!

With micro fishing in the mix, I started to look at every little puddle and every tiny creek as potential water…and sure enough in many of these places, there were tiny fish.  Catching them was certainly not the “battle” of your life but they are indeed very challenging to hook.

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Adam’s Checklist for Lunch Break Tenkara

Car Gear:
In the center armrest compartment:  Zimmerbuilt Strap pack with tippet, nippers, forceps, a small tin of flies.  3 line spools.  15-foot floating line (my popper friend), level line (2 spools – short and long).

Tamo:
I only started to carry this for the Streamer challenge as I have to take a photo…otherwise, I would just release waterside.  Optional.

Rods:
I bring 2 – Tenkara USA Iwana 12 foot – good all round rod that I bought used when I first started – we are good friends.  The rod has enough backbone for warm water larger fish if I get lucky!

I also carry a Kyotaki 18 which is a very small short rod that I use for tighter spots and for those small fish in very small water “puddles”.

Of course, as an “addict” I have other more “cherished” rods that I don’t bring because I do not want to leave them in my car with the sun getting the car really hot in the parking lot…I am not sure if that is a risk or not – but I don’t want to find out so I mention it for those looking to try out some of my tactics.

 

This article was originally published in the Fall 2016 issue of Tenkara Angler magazine.