Finally got out for the first time in 2017 and it’s going on my 8th full season of fishing tenkara. Hard to believe really. Along the way I’ve made lots of good friends ( and some frenemies ). I’ve been called an elitist tenkara purist and accused of bastardizing tenkara.
And along the way I’ve learned a thing or two. And then forgotten them … and then relearned them. It’s not a smooth curving path that’s heading always upward toward an asymptote of fishing perfection. My path is raggedy and hilly and messy.
Sometimes I read people’s remarks on FB or forums and everything seems so simple – so cut and dried – sure the advice is often quite sound – but platonically neat and perfect. I’ve made those comments myself (and made blog posts) – and when I re-read my own words I realize that they are often a much more polished and much more idealized version of things than actually exists in my real fishing world. Mostly I realize that I don’t always remember to follow my own advice (or the good advice of others).
The first stream was a small native brookie stream – it was a nice place to test out the new 3RT Confluence zoom rod. The zoom feature was definitely nice in the tight conditions and worked nicely paired with a #3.5 line. It was a new stream to me and I was taken there by my pal Dan. It yielded up some gorgeous native brookies with saturated colors for both of us – I’m pretty sure Dan out fished me soundly.
I have to admit I did not not come to spring training camp in game shape. I could stand to lose a few pounds and my legs were feeling it as the day went on. As it was the first trip of the year I did not have my stream legs and I would have to describe my wading style that day as “drunken water buffalo”.
Memo to self: Hit the gym in the off-season – you’re not as young as you used to be
We visited another small stream in the afternoon – and managed some more nice wild brookies. And they were willing to come up to hit dry flies – which is such a blast really. If you haven’t tried dry flies with your tenkara – give it a go. It’s really too much fun. My first dry fly caught trout of the year was a real hog.
The next day I’d planned to hit some more brookie streams but the weather had other plans for me and the all night rain made the local creeks pretty unfishable. So it was off to PA limestone country to find a reasonable flow.
As I had hoped the little limestone creek – being fed by springs and having no significant tributaries – was in great shape despite the rain. I decided to try out the Daiwa Seiryu X350. What a nice little rod – though not a tenkara rod it requires some more conscious hooksetting because of the tip flex (also I’d really recommend fine wire hooks to help with hook setting).
I tried some sakasa kebari and other wet flies for a while then switched over to small proven beadhead nymphs when I was having no immediate luck on the wet flies. The wild browns were hitting the beadheads pretty well – but I never landed any of the larger ones that I know are there.
The creek is just loaded with really nice runs like this – not a lot of pools really. But still lots of great holding water. And this leads to another personal reminder.
Memo to self: sometimes the water is much deeper than you think
Ask me how I know. Many of our PA spring creeks always have this milky look – not the gin clear look that you may think of for a spring creek. And as result they don’t have to get very deep before you can’t really see the bottom. Years ago I learned this lesson – but it’s one I may often have to relearn. On this day as I narrowly avoided several head first plunges after stepping into a particularly deep pocket – that lesson was driven home. This is of course of interest to the angler for several reasons – safety and rigging.
My small stream tenkara nymphing rig is pretty simple hi-viz fluorocarbon level line and tippet. I adjust tippet length based on depth as needed (and shorten line if needed for a particularly long tippet). Well that’s all based on the assumption that you have some idea of the depth – and I after fishing through some beautiful runs and going fishless – and then stepping into one to retrieve a snag… I realized I’d been fishing with a tippet that was much too short to get to the bottom consistently.
Near the end of the day I was getting very tired and sore and lazy (there’s that conditioning again) and frankly I just didn’t have the focus for the upstream, dead-drift nymphing. So I tied on a sakasa kebari again and started doing some more active fishing, moving the fly and drifting it downstream and swinging it and pulling it back upstream … and what do you know? It worked. And in fact it was more fun to fish that way (if it’s working) … and so though I know this and though I’d even recently gotten some great advice from Go Ishi (that I posted on the Three Rivers Tenkara Blog HERE) – I still failed to follow my own advice and that of others…
Memo to self: remember to follow your own advice and more specifically remember that tenkara has taught you that active fly manipulation is often key – and more importantly fun!