This past Sunday my father and I hit Yellow Creek in Bedford County Pennsylvania for some trout fishing. We considered a trip for Lake Erie steelhead but I was anxious to try out the new AMAGO tenkara rod from Tenkara USA. Also, wanted to give the new Tenkara USA 13-ft traditional line a workout, try out the new L.L. Bean Gray Ghost Studded, Rubber-Soled wading boots, and fish a new (to me) fly pattern. I had a full slate of tasks – oh and I wanted to relax and enjoy some fishing too.
Tenkara USA Amago: The Amago is a 13.5 ft rod. It’s the second longest rod offered by Tenkara USA, only the Ito is longer. The Amago is rated as a 6:4 action (a “medium” action rating on the Tenkara Action Index) – I don’t have enough experience with enough rods to comment on the relative action too much – but I’ll say that I found the Amago to have plenty of backbone. Unfortunately I didn’t hook into any huge fish, but it handled some 14-inchers with no problem at all, bringing them in quickly. I found that it cast both the new heavier, Tenkara USA Traditional furled line and a fluorocarbon level line with ease (more on lines later). The Amago is a beautiful rod. The unadulterated black matte finish is perfect – all rods should be matte black in my opinion. When I unpacked the rod at home for the first time and extended it to its 13.5-ft length I had to laugh – that’s a long rod. However, on the stream I was glad for the extra length. I have to agree with those that say to choose the longest rod that you can use on any particular stream. However, if the streams that you fish have a lot of over-hanging trees, then a 13.5-ft rod will likely be too long. Yellow Creek, in the area that I fished, is a medium sized stream, maybe 40 feet across on average, with mature trees lining the banks, with very few low-hanging branches over the stream. It’s a perfect tenkara stream and the 13.5-ft Amago matched the stream very nicely.
I do have one complaint about the Amago though – the grip design. The Amago is a long rod, and I found that the grip design did not work for me as well as I’d like. The Amago has a relatively small grip diameter, and except for the end, it is pretty much an un-contoured design. Maybe other anglers will have a different experience, but I found that the small diameter and flat profile did not fit my hand well and by the end of the day I was suffering from some hand fatigue. I couldn’t seem to find a hand position that allowed my index finger to rest along the grip (see pic to right), and the result was that I had to squeeze the grip more tightly. I believe that the Amago would benefit from a larger diameter, more contoured grip, like a reverse half-wells grip, similar to the Iwana II series.
In conclusion, the Amago makes a nice addition to my tenkara rod quiver. Because of it’s length, I would call the Amago a “specialist”, not as versatile as a 12-ft rod. Unless you fish larger, mostly wide-open streams I’m not sure I’d recommend the Amago as your sole tenkara rod. If you’re looking to expand your selection to a big-fish, big-stream rod then I would surely recommend the Amago. That said, I’m in the process of investigated ways to modify the grip to fit my hand better. I’m thinking of wrapping with leather or neoprene to create a larger diameter contoured grip.
Tenkara USA Traditonal Line (new version): Recently Tenkara USA changed up the design on their traditional tenkara lines. They are made of a new material (kevlar I believe – don’t quote me though). The new line is supple and very visible (which can be a good thing when tenkara fishing). On this day I fished the Amago with the 13-ft line (it comes in a 10.5-ft version too). So how does it perform? Well, this was only my second outing with the line – but I think my decision is in. First the good. The line is highly visible, and casts very easily with little effort. I had a little wind and it handled it well (I still haven’t fished it in very windy conditions though). As a major plus it does not get all hinky and uncoiled when snagged. If you’ve fished the older Tenkara USA lines or other furled leaders or lines you know what I mean. The new line doesn’t have any problems like that. Now the bad. The line is heavy. In tenkara fishing it is desirable to be able to keep the entire line off of the water at a distance. Light lines are easier to keep off the water at longer distances. But light lines are harder to cast, especially with wind. Achieving a perfect line design is a is a balancing between these two opposing goals. This line is tilted a little to far to the heavy end for me. I found it very difficult to fish at a distance. I would cast out, lift my arm high to keep the line off of the water and the line would tend to drag back toward me. I just couldn’t fish at a distance. Secondly, the line sinks pretty rapidly. In some circumstances, such as with overhanging trees, you may not be able to keep the rod high enough to keep the line off of the water. In these cases I find that I like a line that floats (like nylon level line or a floating furled line) or doesn’t sink too quickly (fluoro isn’t too bad). This new line sinks pretty rapidly. And that combined with it’s high visibilty makes for fish spooking in my opinion. So for my fishing preferences and fishing locales this line is just not ideal. And on this day my fishing success was much greater with a fluorocarbon level line. This line’s going into the pack to be reserved for windy days.
L.L.Bean Gray Ghost Wading Boots: The Gray Ghost wading boot by L.L.Bean is a rubber-soled boot. I have the studded version ($139), but you can get it without studs too($119). I don’t have too much to say except that I love these boots. I have no complaints. They are comfortable, light and most importantly I didn’t slip once even on mossy rocks and other slick substrates. The look well made – but only time will tell how they hold up.
Purple flies and my “One-fly”: That’s right purple. I’m not sure where I first heard tale of purple wet flies, probably it was with the Snipe and Purple traditional soft-hackle. Here’s a good video from Davie McPhail on tying this. With respect to tenkara flies the first time I heard it mentioned was probably by ERiK Ostrander of TenkaraGuides. ERiK ties a fly that he calls the Purple Haze Kebari (watch him tie it). This is where I got the inspiration for my purple kebari, which is essentially the same thing except that I used purple Pearsall’s Gossamer silk thread instead of sewing thread as ERiK does. So does it work? Well, all day long there was a sparse hatch of tiny (maybe size 26) BWO’s coming off and in one big pool (see the pic at the top of the post), there were some fish taking emergers (they were pretty much ignoring the floating duns). I took a few on tiny emerger patterns and then figured I’d give the purple kebari a try. In short order I brought two more sippers to hand on a size 16 purple kebari, even during BWO hatch activity – make of it what you will.
However, the real winner of the day, and I’d have to say, the year was the good old brown-hackle peacock wetfly. My version is basically a classic wetfly pattern – however most other dressings have a tag of red wool or red hackle tips – I use a brown hackle-tip tail in mine. I’ve been using this simple pattern as my go-to tenkara “one-fly” for the past two seasons and it has been very productive for me. I generally use them in size 12 through 16. Many tenkara fishers in Japan have a signature fly pattern that they fish almost exclusively – I am officially declaring my signature fly the brown-hackle peacock.
The pattern is simply:
- brown rooster hackle tail
- peacock body
- gold wire rib
- brown hen-hackle collar
- tied on a heavy wet-fly hook.
Disclosure: I bought the Tenkara USA Amago and Traditional lines at a slight discount from retail. I purchased the L.L. Bean wading boots at full retail.