A good day unravels…


From Merriam-Webster
verb un·rav·el \ˌən-ˈra-vəl\

  1. a : to disengage or separate the threads of : disentangle
    b : to cause to come apart by or as if by separating the threads of
  2. : to resolve the intricacy, complexity, or obscurity of : clear up (unravel a mystery)


A good day unravels. Somewhere along the way, as the thread on your fly begins to come apart― to separate into the smaller components, to unwind from itself, spilt into the thinner strands― you realize that today is shaping up into a good day. The inclinations of the fish, the mood of the skies, the state of your patience and will power, the schedule…these have all come together in just the right way. It is like a syzygy of fishing. The Earth, Sun and Moon have aligned. The gravity of the situation can be felt in your bones— there has been a tectonic shift and you have been transported from your sofa or desk chair to a beech, hickory and hazel lined stream valley. It can get complicated before it gets simple.


It’s not easy to become uncomplicated. It is not easy to become untangled. When you open up the junk drawer that is in the kitchen of your mind you find a tangled mess: kite string, rubber bands, corn holders, crescent wrench, threads of various colors, 9v batteries, tarantulas, scraps of paper with scribbled notes about things which need doing (written in code), lost friends, regrets, broken promises (to self and others), keys that belong to doors that you no longer own… It can be overwhelming to sort it all out.


But on an early fall day you pull that junk drawer open and find just the things that you need. You pull on a strand of twinkling coolness and a mountain stream unfurls. Its wings wet still after emerging from its chrysalis. Yes— streams emerge like butterflies. A fish hook, a spool of thread and a forgotten feather found below the bird feeder (the aftermath of the coopers hawk vs. dove) have managed to become as entangled as love and anger and forgiveness. They have formed flies.


You open an envelope with strange scrawling on it in smeared pencil. You peek inside and it contains just the beginning end of a valley with a wooden signpost and arrow pointing up into the folded misty depths. And so you hastily cram all this stuff into that custom-made fishing pack that you bought, but which doesn’t get near enough use, and scramble quickly to the car and head off in the direction that you are tugged.

Things begin to unravel.


Unwinding up the valley, around trees and brambles, under deadfalls, over streams… a dance of disentanglement. The fish eat the fly. You bring them up through that silvered surface and marvel at each one. With each fish the fly becomes just a little more unraveled. And so do you. The fish whisper secrets about entropy to you and promise to take some of yours if you let them go. And so you do. And things make a little more sense—become a little less obscured by disorder.


12 Comments on A good day unravels…

  1. Great post Anthony. I really need to unravel soon.

  2. Delightfully… Thanks.

  3. Wonderful! I really enjoyed this!

  4. Anthony, for those small Appalachian Brook trout streams, what length tenkara rod do you recommend and what length line and tippet? Thanks.

    • Hey TA – I have to admit that personally I’m all over the board on this. Sometimes I feel like using a short rod, sometimes a longer rod. Lately I’ve been using rods around 13-ft. I like the challenge of the longer rod in tight cover, it takes some patience and discipline, and you have to pick your spots but it’s not as impossible as it first seems. If I’m using a long rod like a 12 or 13 footer then I’ll usually go with a line that is 2 to 3 feet shorter than the rod, then 2 to 3 feet of tippet. I like to use a “bow-and-arrow” cast a lot with this combo. The thing is even on the smaller streams, especially later in the season there are some of those longer, shallow pools that I need to fish. A lot of the streams are not very high gradient in my area and the reach of the longer rod is nice for those more placid spots.
      A rod around 10′ can be a nice sweet spot though for folks on tight, brushy streams, especially if they are higher-gradient and I can get closer to the fishy spots without spooking fish. I usually start with line length about the same as the rod in that case with 2′ tippet and shorten the line if needed.

  5. Thanks for the advice. A 12′ Iwana is the only tenkara rod I own. On small creeks I’ve been shortening my line to 9′ and my tippet to about 3′. Using roll casts and steeple casts I seem to get by. Like you, I like the longer reach when I need it. Now I can save money and not buy that shorter rod.

  6. Eberhard Scheibe // February 23, 2016 at 1:49 PM // Reply

    Antony, this a really great post. Thak you very much.
    I like to fish Tenkara very often in overgrown stretches. Some of them are too tight to get a chance lifting the rod right to land a fish.
    In this case I like to take my 7 to 8 ft “Tenkara-wand” with a vey short line setup.
    Normaly I like to go with a long rod (12 to 13 ft) and oftentimes a shorter line to get a smoot drift.
    Best wishes from Jena Germany

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