The Ugly Tenkara Fly

The Ugly Tenkara Fly
By Adam Rieger

I first heard of Ishimaru Shotaro through Daniel Galhardo’s Tenkara USA blog post…

http://www.tenkarausa.com/meeting-one-of-the-old-tenkara-masters-ishimaru-shotaro/

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 🙂

Recipe:

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

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Tie in a loop of red silk to form the eye. If you would like you can coat the loop with head cement, Hard as Nails or other adhesive to stiffen the loop.
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Use the tags of the silk to form a taper in the body and wrap your thread to the bend and then back to near the loop eye. Cut any excess red silk and cover with black thread.
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Select a grizzly rooster hackle and tie in the tip of the feather so it extends up and over the eye at a 45 degree angle. Bind down the hackle to the hook shank with open wraps to the bend.
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Twist the hackle around your thread and flair out the barbules. Wrap the feather and thread “rope” up the hook shank and tie off near the eye the feather and clip excess.
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Wind thread through hackle with zig-zagging motion (to not tie down barbules) if you want to build up the body more or further secure the feather. Alternatively you can skip that and just simply whip finish at that point or when you are satisfied with the body.

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!

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This article originally appeared in the Winter 2016-17 issue of Tenkara Angler magazine.

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Choosing Kebari for Newcomers

Choosing Kebari for Newcomers
By Jim Wright

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”

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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.

Check out this site for more information of reading water to determine where fish might hold: http://howtoflyfish.orvis.com/video-lessons/chapter-eight-reading-water

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 rĂ©sistance, 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

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This article originally appeared in the Winter 2016-17 issue of Tenkara Angler magazine.

Gila Trout Swim Mineral Creek

Gila Trout Swim Mineral Creek
Devastating fire cleared path for rare trout’s return
By Craig Springer, USFWS

Wear and tear on boot soles and a helicopter—that’s what it took to get 1,033 Gila trout safely placed in the remote headwaters of Mineral Creek, well inside the Gila National Forest of southwestern New Mexico.

On November 18, 2016, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (Service) working with its partner agencies, the New Mexico Department of Game and Fish and the U.S. Forest Service, released two age classes of Gila trout into Mineral Creek ranging up to a foot long. The rare yellow trout were spawned, hatched and raised in captivity in 2015 and 2016 at the Service’s Mora National Fish Hatchery. Hatchery fish are carefully paired and spawned to maximize genetic diversity of offspring which provides a safeguard for their survival in the wild. The captive fish also purposely face rigorous swimming conditions in the hatchery to further ensure their fitness when released.

These 1,033 trout traveled by truck eight hours to meet a helicopter at the Gila National Forest’s Glenwood Ranger Station. The aircraft made multiple flights carrying an aerated tank at the end of a long-line, each time full of Gila trout. Biologists from the three agencies had hiked in several miles in the rugged country to meet the trout and place them in the cool, shaded runs and pools of Mineral Creek.

Gila trout arrive at the treetops over Mineral Creek Gila Natl Forest in areate helitank photo Craig Springer USFWS resized
Gila trout arrive at the treetops over Mineral Creek Gila Natl Forest in areated helitank 

Mineral Creek is tributary to the San Francisco River near Alma, New Mexico. Streams in this watershed harbor one of five known relict genetic lineages of Gila trout. The species lives only in New Mexico and Arizona along the Mogollon Rim, an area of conservation emphasis for the Service. This release is a large step forward in conserving Gila trout, noted Andy Dean, lead Gila trout biologist with the Service’s New Mexico Fish and Wildlife Conservation Office, based in Albuquerque.

“This repatriation into Mineral Creek adds another stream to harbor Gila trout, as outlined as a necessity in the Gila Trout Recovery Plan,” said Dean. “Not only does this add a population within the San Francisco River drainage, it also helps establish Gila trout populations across a larger geographical area. More Gila trout over a larger area adds greater security to this rare fish.”

That desired security will be achieved when the Mineral Creek population is naturally reproducing, and multiple year classes swim its waters, perhaps in 2018.

Mineral Creek came to the attention of biologists as a candidate stream to receive Gila trout following the massive Whitewater-Baldy Fire of 2012. Destructive as it was, the forest fire made Mineral Creek suitable for Gila trout. The fire burned in the headlands of the stream and summer rains washed a slurry of ash and debris down its course, removing unwanted competing non-native fishes. Though the mountain slopes and stream-side vegetation are not fully stabilized post-fire, sufficient habitat exists to harbor Gila trout in Mineral Creek. With so few suitable streams available to repatriate Gila trout, biologists seized the opportunity.

Mineral Creek Canyon is steep to be sure. It’s certainly among the more remote and more difficult Gila trout habitats to reach, but it’s not the only stream to receive Gila trout from Mora National Fish Hatchery this autumn. Another 8,621 Gila trout have been placed in several other waters that advance the species’ recovery and should entice anglers to go after native trout in native habitats of southwest New Mexico.

Willow Creek received 3,039 Gila trout; Gilita Creek, 1,022; Sapillo Creek, 2,270; and West Fork Gila River, 2,290. These waters are readily accessible and won’t require shedding lots of boot tread to reach them as is the case with Mineral Creek. These trout—shards of sunshine—lie in dark water behind boulders and in the scour pools beneath log jams, waiting for bugs to come drifting by. They also wait for what anglers may throw their way. Anglers should visit the New Mexico Department of Game and Fish website to learn more about fishing regulations, which requires a free Gila trout permit.

The Gila trout is protected under the Endangered Species Act. The species was listed as endangered in 1973, and through conservation measures it was down-listed to threatened in 2006. A year later select Gila trout populations were opened to angling for the first time in 50 years.

To learn more visit www.fws.gov/southwest

Gila trout stocked in Mineral Creek Gila National Forest photo Craig Springer USFWS resized

This article originally appeared in the Winter 2016-17 issue of Tenkara Angler magazine.

The 2016 Tenkara Jam

The 2016 Tenkara Jam
By Stephen Myers

What do you get when you combine some of the most progressive individuals in fly fishing with hot food, cold beer, and the best wild trout streams in North Carolina?

Welcome to the 2016 Tenkara JAM!

The “Tenkara Jam” is an annual event hosted by the Appalachian Tenkara Anglers, a group of over 1400 tenkara fisherman that organize and mobilize via Facebook for one mass gathering every year, led by the group’s founder and spokesperson, Jason Sparks.

This year’s JAM, the 3rd annual, was held in Cherokee, North Carolina and surrounding waters. I’m proud to say that we had over 170 attendees, six rod builders, and 11 gear vendors attend this year’s show, drawing members from as far as Nova Scotia, California, Colorado, Wisconsin, Indiana, Florida, and more. The event featured a “jam” packed lecture series on topics like tenkara 101, focused fishing, minimizing frustrations on the stream, and even how to practice proper catch and release principles. Intertwined between speakers were a fly swap, rod demo’s, how to’s, gear showcases, mingling, and of course shopping from walls lined with the newest products from industry leaders.

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The event ran from 8:00am to 5:00pm on Saturday and 8:00am to 2:00pm on Sunday, serving lunch daily, and still leaving enough time to explore local waters such as the Oconaluftee River, Bradley Fork, Ravens Fork, and many other streams on the Cherokee Indian Reservation and in Great Smoky Mountain National Park.

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It seems like it’s said every year, but this year’s JAM will really be the benchmark of excellence to model future events from. Big camp fires, late nights, new friends, and early mornings on the water set the stage for a terrific weekend. I can’t imagine being part of something that brings me more joy than this group of folks. While on the ride home back to Florida, I can’t help but to have even higher hopes for next year’s JAM, all the while feeling like this weekend passed by in the blink of an eye. This year’s JAM was a truly unique experience that I won’t soon forget.

Members were asked to share a few thoughts on this year’s JAM. Here’s what they said:

“My favorite moment was meeting so many nice people and watching a tiny trout leap out of the water across the river.”
– Ben Giacchino

“I liked learning to tie flies and meeting all of the tenkara celebrities.”
– Hugh Hill

“I liked the lack of stuff. I have gone to so many fly fishing shows and been overwhelmed by the gear. I love the simplicity of tenkara.”
– Kenny Brower

“The seminars were very interesting. I always learn something.”
– Dani Long

“Hands down, my favorite thing was the community. Tenkara would not be what it is without the people.”
– Joe Deppe

“I really enjoyed meeting with folks. It was great to see old friends and meet new ones.”
– Anthony Naples, Three Rivers Tenkara

“My favorite moment was getting my first tenkara rod, then bringing some nice brown trout to hand 30 minutes later.”
– William Yowell

If you’re interested in learning more about tenkara, we would love to have you join us as future Appalachian Tenkara Angler events, and on Facebook at: https://www.facebook.com/groups/appalachiantenkaraanglers

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This article originally appeared in the Winter 2016-17 issue of Tenkara Angler magazine.

Landlocked Salmon on Tenkara Rods

Landlocked Salmon on Tenkara Rods
By Bart Lombardo

Landlocked salmon have always been one of my favorite fish to pursue with a fly rod, so it seemed natural to discover if they can be reliably taken on tenkara rods. Landlocked salmon are a freshwater version of the sea run Atlantic Salmon, living in large freshwater lakes instead of the Atlantic Ocean. In the United States, landlocked salmon were originally found in four lake systems in Maine, as well as the Lake Ontario and Lake Champlain drainage. The Lake Ontario population went extinct over a hundred years ago, but the original range of the landlocked salmon has since been extended to over 175 lakes and 44 rivers in Maine alone. Native populations can also be found in Canada, Scandinavia, and eastern Russia. They have also been introduced to far away places such as New Zealand and Argentina.

It is unclear why these fish choose to live in fresh water. While certain populations seemed to have been trapped by changes in geography over the millennia, others appear to taken to living in freshwater voluntarily as is the case in the four lake systems in Maine. At one time all of these watersheds had access to the ocean before being restricted by dams. Landlocked Salmon will live one to four years in rivers before migrating into freshwater lakes. They return to rivers and streams to spawn in the fall, and they will often follow smelt, their primary forage, into rivers and streams in the spring. It is during these times that I chase landlocked Salmon with a fly rod.

In Maine, where I usually target landlocked salmon, they average 16-18 inches and weigh between 1.5 and 2 pounds. Fish over 20 inches are not uncommon. Combine the size of the fish with their propensity for going airborne when hooked they can be a real challenge to land using tenkara rods.

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If you decide to fish tenkara for landlocked salmon you need to consider your equipment carefully. Rod choices will have to lean in the direction of those that can handle larger fish. Many of the streams that harbor these fish can be quite large so a longer rod is advantageous. I have two rods in my current arsenal that are up to the task.

The Ito and the Amago, both by Tenkara USA, had no problem handling these hard fighting fish. The Amago is a rod that is designed for larger fish. At thirteen feet six inches in length, it is ideally suited for larger streams and small rivers. The Amago has a little more backbone than most tenkara rods, making it an ideal choice for landlocked salmon. The Ito, though not necessarily designed for big fish, proved to be up to the task as well. The Ito is a zoom rod meaning it can be fished at two different lengths, in this case, thirteen feet and fourteen feet, seven inches, making it perfect for larger water.

Of course, these two tenkara rods are not your only options. There are other makers here in the US and Japan that are offering rods that are capable of landing fish more than sixteen inches.

One rod that has been on my wish list for a while is the Tenkara Tanuki 425. Everything I have read about this set up indicates it should work well for these larger fish; it has the length and backbone to get the job done. Another that comes to mind is the Owyhee model by Tenkara Rod Company. I have not had an opportunity to fish it, but it is being marketed as a “big fish” rod. I’m sure there are other tenkara rods out there, that I am unaware of, that would also be up to the task.

The type of line to use depends on conditions, personal preference and the fishing method you are using. Either level lines or furled lines will work well. My personal preferences lean towards level lines because I can easily create the line length I need. In most conditions, I start with a line one and a half times the length of the rod. Under some conditions such as presenting a dry fly, a line length twice the length of the rod can be advantageous.

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When fishing nymphs with a tenkara rod, I will shorten the length of my system considerably. I may use a line and leader combination no longer than the rod itself. One of the advantages of tenkara rods is the extra reach allows for nymphing beyond that of a standard fly rod. In some cases “just because you can, does not mean you should.” On more than one occasion I have hung my flies on the bottom and have not been able to wade far enough out to collapse the rod and grab hold of the line top break off the flies. You should never attempt to break off flies by applying pressure with the rod. Doing this may result in a broken rod. By fishing a shorter line, you can avoid this problem.

Since casting distance can be somewhat limited by the fixed length of the rod and line, a stealthy approach is warranted. By wading carefully and reducing your silhouette as much as possible, you can easily get within casting distance. Fortunately, landlocked salmon are not as spooky as their trout cousins, but that does not mean you can march right up on them. What this does mean is long distance casts are not needed if you can make a stealthy approach.

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Fighting a landlocked salmon will put your skills to the test. This fish loves taking to the air, sometimes tail walking across the surface of the water. I find that dropping your rod tip in these situations usually spells disaster. While the technique may work with western tackle, you never want to point a tenkara rod at a fish. The flex of the rod is your friend when fighting a fish. The soft tip of a tenkara rod will usually absorb the impact of a leaping fish. Lowering your rod tip may result in the fish running and leaving you pointing your rod directly at the fish. The best you can hope for with a powerful fish like a landlocked salmon is a broken tippet. The worst-case scenarios can result in rod sections being pulled apart or a lillian being yanked off the tip of your rod.

With even pressure kept on landlocked salmon, they tire pretty quickly and can be brought to hand and netted. I do my best to discourage the fish from getting into heavy current and running downstream. If this happens your only option is to chase it. You may be tempted to use heavier tippet when fishing for landlocked salmon, but I don’t recommend it. When a big fish gets into fast water, and I can’t follow it, I would rather lose the fish to a broken tippet than put undue strain on my rod.

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One of my favorite ways to fish for landlocked salmon is throwing streamers at them. Landlocks readily take streamer patterns, as their primary forage include smelt and other baitfish. Fishing a streamer on a tenkara rod is not an ideal situation. Fortunately, landlocked salmon show a preference for feather wing streamers and sparsely tied bucktails. Unlike many streamer patterns, feather wing and bucktail style flies are quite light and are easily presented on a larger tenkara rod. The only difficulty I encountered is setting the hook properly. Lighter tippets and very flexible rod tips can make this challenging. Fortunately landlocks slam streamers so hard they usually hang themselves. I have also started tying some of the most effective landlocked streamer patterns as wet flies and have enjoyed success with them. These smaller patterns are very easy to cast. In addition to streamers and wet flies, swinging soft hackles can be an effective method for taking landlocked salmon. Fished as a single fly or in tandem, soft hackles can be fished upstream or down and across very effectively with a tenkara rod.

Once landlocked salmon return to moving water they take on the feeding habits of their youth and they will readily feed on insect life as well. Traditional nymph, wet and dry flies all work well. When fishing for landlocked salmon in the spring, the fish are in the rivers following the rainbow smelt migration. However, they will also key in on the Hendrickson and Caddis hatches that occur during this time of year. Reversed hackle tenkara flies tied to imitate these two insects can be deadly. Last spring I tied a “Hendrickson Kebari” which worked quite well. Even though it only has one season under its belt I think it will be a keeper. I fished the kebari pattern as a dropper behind a traditional Hendrickson dry fly, and the kebari outperformed the dry fly two to one.

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Emerging Hendrickson Kebari Recipe:
Hook – TMC 101 size 14
Tail: Crinkled Zelon color to match natural in this case a caddis tan
Body:  Brown pheasant tail fibers
Hackle:  Brown hen

Are landlocked salmon another species to pursue with Tenkara? Absolutely! Just be sure to choose a tenkara rod suited for them. If you have a river or stream nearby that holds landlocked salmon give them a try.

This article originally appeared in the Winter 2016-17 issue of Tenkara Angler magazine.

3 Week Submission Warning: Tenkara Angler Winter 2018-19 Issue

Figured I’d drop a quick note to everybody to remind them that the deadline to contribute submissions to the Winter 2018-19 issue of Tenkara Angler is only 3 weeks away!

Typically, I’ll wait until 2 weeks to send out a message, but with the holiday season here, I know it’s a hectic (although enjoyable) one for everyone, so figured it was best to be a little proactive.

A reminder, the themes for the Winter issue are traditional tenkara and/or tenkara art. More details can be found here.

If any inspiration is needed, I’m going to begin to re-publish all of the great articles from the Winter 2016-17 issue of Tenkara Angler to the blog as standalone posts over the next 3 weeks. They should serve as both an idea generation tool, but are also a great opportunity to revisit some top notch and still very relevant content from two years ago.

And if you’re new to Tenkara Angler, make sure to subscribe by email (check the left-hand side of the page for the box to enter your address) to be notified of new posts and content.

The Winter 2016-17 Issue of Tenkara Angler Is Live!

I’m pleased to announce the Winter 2016-17 issue of Tenkara Angler magazine has hit the virtual newsstands!

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I’m not 100% sure, but I think this is the largest group of contributors to date. Twenty-four different submissions in all, with a great mix of new names, and usual suspects.

Being a winter issue, there’s a really nice mix of content to keep your fishing juices flowing, even if it’s frozen outside. Fly tying recipes, tips to stay warm on-stream in the winter months, tactics to chase salmon and smallmouth, destination travel, an interview, a discussion on honoring the definition of tenkara, a hat shopping adventure, as well as thoughtful essays and playful art. Oh, and at least one typo I found, but *exhale* that’s okay. 🙂

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The Winter 2016-17 issue of Tenkara Angler magazine can be found for free online consumption via Issuu HERE, or for those of you that prefer something in-hand, for physical purchase HERE.

Happy Holidays!