Monday, May 31, 2010

A Few Photos From This Morning

Early morning is without a doubt one of the most beautiful times to be out on the stream:

Surprisingly enough on a stream this size, I caught my largest tenkara trout yet in the above pool on a size 12 sakasa kebari; a grizzled, one-eyed brown of maybe 14-16 inches. I imagine he's been king of the pool for some time, feasting on brook trout parr.

This section of the stream has many springs and seeps coming forth from the ledge banks:

Saturday, May 29, 2010

Brookies, Browns, & the Sakasa Kebari

A friend and I met up to fish the Swift River this afternoon, we didn't end up staying there too long though. The river was high, and there was not a fish to be seen, so we let the threat of thunderstorms chase us off.

We made it back from the river around 5pm, and I decided to fish the stream down below my friend's house to try out some new flies and maybe perfect my technique with the sakasa kebari

To set the stage I have to describe the location: it's a beautiful brook flowing through a steep valley veiled in hemlocks and white pine, steep cliffs and rock outcroppings shape much of the brook's course. It is home to wild brown and brook trout which inhabit a few deep pools in surprising numbers. I've been fishing this stream for about a year on a regular basis, so I know a few of it's pools quite well; even on the worst day I can usually find a fish or two.

I negotiated the steep slopes down to the brook, got myself set up and approached the first pool I would fish that evening. I tied on a Miller's River bi-visible that a fellow fly-fisher had given me, now, this is supposed to be a great fly for brook trout, but I'd not had the occasion to fish it yet:

I quietly approached the tail of the pool and cast to a midstream boulder that usually holds a nice size brookie; and ... nada. By the time I'd worked my way to the head of the pool I'd not had so much as a strike. I scratched my head and moved on to the next pool. Again, I made a cautious approach, but only garnered a lone strike by a small parr who took the fly under for a brief moment. A few more casts with no interest and I felt it was time to switch gears [sorry Casey, I'm sure the fish meant no dis-respect to your tying skills ;)].

For the last few weeks I've been trying to fish the Sakasa Kebari flies more often in order to learn,  hopefully catch some fish, and get a better feel for traditional tenkara. It's been a mostly fish-less few weeks as I've gotten the hang of manipulating these wet-flies. When I tied on my new kebari I wasn't expecting to catch anything due to a) the low flows and b) my lack of experience with wet flies, especially these ones. Well, I tossed it out there, let the fly sink for a second, began gently pulsing the line and fly, and lo and behold a nice sized brown smacked the fly right as it reached the surface on an upward pulsing retrieve.

The pool that yielded the first brown trout of the evening

The next 30 minutes were probably some of the best trout fishing I've ever had. After that first brown I proceeded to the next pool and caught 3 more trout, had numerous hits, and had a fish or two wriggle off. I was in heaven, absolute wild trout nirvana. The sense of success with a new method and self-tied flies made it just that much sweeter.

This deep pool usually holds a good number of brook trout, and a good sized brown, or two.

The magic fly for the day...

Sunday, May 23, 2010

"About" Section Updated

I sort of felt like there was a bit missing from my single paragraph on the "About" page of this blog, so I went and wrote a bit more:

"Tenkara fishing is simple - it's fly fishing the way it used to be. Before things got complicated. Before you needed a truck to haul your gear and a second mortgage to pay for it. It's fishing with just a rod, a line and a fly. You don't use a reel, but then again, you don't need a reel when fishing small streams. And it is the ideal technique for fly fishing small streams."
-Chris Stewart,

I've begun this blog as a place to write about, and share, my experiences with tenkara fly fishing. I got started fishing tenkara during the summer of 2009 when I became interested in small stream fishing. This was shortly after Daniel Galhardo launched TenkaraUSA, the first American tackle company dedicated to tenkara. Somewhere along the line I came across a reference to tenkara; I was intrigued, and soon I'd read everything I could find on the subjecct. Since August '09, when I received my first tenkara rod as a gift, I've hardly touched my fly rods - but that doesn't mean I've given them up! I love tenkara because it is a simple, fun, and exciting way to fish small mountain streams, using only a rod, line, and fly. While the tackle may seem limiting, it is liberating in many other ways, providing more than enough utility in fishing the kinds of streams on which it was born.

Tenkara originated hundreds of years ago in the mountains of Japan as a means of catching trout for food. As such it bears resemblance to European fly-fishing methods practiced before the advent of running line and the reel (one of these methods, pesca a la Valsesiana, is still practiced in Italy). It seems that form follows function when it comes to catching trout in mountain streams; a long rod, with fixed line and simple wet flies will do the trick.

In this day and age the appeal of tenkara lies in it's simplicity, portability, and advantages in fishing small mountain streams. It's entirely possible to put together a complete fishing kit with tenkara that weights less than 5 ounces, making it appealing to lightweight backpackers, or anyone who wants a compact tackle set-up to stow in the trunk for those impromptu visits to the stream. Many see the simplicity of tenkara tackle as a relief from all the gear, gadgets, consumerism, and sensational marketing that characterize the industry of fly-fishing. In this sense tenkara imposes a focus on the simple act of fly fishing and it's basic elements; strategy, approach, and presentation.

When it comes to fishing, it is presentation where tenkara's small-stream advantages lie. The light line and supple rod allow for delicate and accurate casting, while greatly facilitating subtle, life-like manipulations of wet flies and nymphs. The ability to hold most of the line off the water with the long rod makes for great drag-free drifts with dry flies in pocket water. These characteristics of tenkara encourage a presentationist approach to fly fishing, where technique supersedes imitationism and fly selection.

Thursday, May 20, 2010

New Look

The other day troutrageous1 ( I check out's "Blogger in Draft" feature for more advanced design tools, such as the ability to use CSS code to edit your blog's template. So now Tenkara Adventurer has a new look! This will probably change as I learn more about using CSS; there are tweaks on the horizon. For now I'm using a stock template and background picture, hopefully what I come up with look just as good, or better.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Tying the Sakasa-Kebari

I began tying this fly this past winter. I consider myself a beginning fly-tyer, and this has been an easy, simple pattern to tie. Despite having tied a lot of these, I haven't fished them enough to really catch much. I'd become so used to a dead drift presentation with dries and nymphs that manipulating wet flies in the water was a strange new world. In short I lacked confidence with these flies for awhile. Lately I've been fishing them more frequently, and I'm starting to get the hang of it. The basic idea is to lightly twitch or pulsate the fly in the water, just under the surface. The soft, reverse hackle will open and shut enticingly, giving the impression of struggling or swimming prey.

Yoshikazu Fujioka's page on the fishing and tying traditional tenkara wet flies

And Chris Stewart's

For my sakasa kebari I use 6/0 tying thread (you can probably use any color you want), hackle from the hen pheasant, and if I feel like it I'll add a dubbed body, or maybe a collar of peacock herl. I've been using Mustad "Caddies, Curved - STD/1XS" and "Wet/Nymph Egg, Caddis - 2XH/3XS" hooks as they have a slight resemblance to the curve shanked hooks used on many traditional Japanese patterns. Currently I am tying these flies in sizes 8 & 12.

I start by wrapping a thread body, creating a small head behind the eye of the hook, behind which I'll tie in the hackle.

Traditionally hackle from the hen pheasant was used, so that is what I have been using as well, although any soft hackle will do. However, pheasant has the advantage of being very cheap. Feathers form the neck or breast work well, although many of these feathers have a very short useable length, so in order to get the right bushiness I will often tie in two :

Tie the hackle in by the tips and wrap backwards toward the hook bend:

Tie down the stems, I like to take them down the hook shank a little ways with thread wraps to give the fly a little more profile in the body. Then make some thread wraps over the last turn or two of hackle to neaten it all up and keep the hackle pushed forward. At this point, you can either make a body from thread wraps, dub the body, or herl the body. Here I'm going to use a traditional Japanese dubbing material, the cottony fiber which covers some species of fern when they sprout:

To finish the fly, tie off with half hitches, and add a little head cement to the knot:

That was my first attempt at using the fern fiber dubbing. It's an interesting material, I'll post more about it as I gain more experience with it. For now I've only used it once, but I will say that the stuff I gathered was more challenging to use than wool or synthetic dubbings.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Afternoon of May 17th 2010

I wound up not having to work on Monday afternoon, so after tying up some flies I took the chance to get out on a local brook. This brook was about a mile hike from the parking lot, along the course of another brook which flows through a beautiful gorge with several waterfalls:

This brook also has an incredible series of long, deep slow flowing spring pools. Unfortunately for the fishing the high waterfalls coupled with the boulder piles the stream occasionally flows under likely render these pools fairly inaccessible to fish. I also wonder about the water quality, especially regarding it's acidity. This is probably the most tanin stained brook I've ever seen, it's literally as dark as bog water. A lot of rotting vegetation collects in the pools, contributing to the acidity. I also found layers of hemlock needles decompoosing in anoxic conditions under layers of sand, producing methane gas, which is toxic to most fish.

In any case, I was having so much fun scrambling down the gorge and taking photos that I didn't make it to my destination with any time to fish!

When I did get there I found quite a contrast to the first brook, the water was clear, cold, and the rocks were covered in cased caddis larvae:

It looks promising! I'll return another day...

Here are my photos on Picasa

New England Tenkara Outing, May 15th 2010

I've finally gotten around to writing a blog post on the New England Tenkara Outing I organized with the help of some others on the TenkaraUSA forum!

Since last summer I've been having a great time with tenkara, so this winter I decided it would be fun to organize a fishing trip for people interested in tenkara in my neck of the woods. It would be an opportunity for a few people to become acquainted with this new (to the US) method of fly fishing, and get out on some beautiful mountain streams; the kind on which tenkara originated in Japan.

The trip was a long time in the making; planning began in February if memory serves me well, with an initial date of April 17th pencilled in. Well, the weather did not cooperate at all, and the outing was postponed due to the threat of snow and heavy rain that weekend. May 15th turned out to be the ideal postponement date in terms of weather; clear skies, temps in the 60's, and a breeze light enough to keep us cool without making casting too difficult.

We met up at the parking lot for the Dunbar Brook Trail at 9:30, and were out on the stream fishing by 10:30 after everyone was introduced and set up with tackle. There were five of us in attendance, which turned out to be a good number, I don't know if we all would have gotten in much quality fishing with a bigger group.

Michael from the Eclectic Angler got the first fish, in the first pool, probably on the third cast of the whole trip. It seemed like an auspicious start to the day. The stream was absolutely magnificent, with pool after pool, and plenty of small pocket water. We found many of the pools to be incredibly deep; easily over 8ft. Despite the profusion of great brook trout habitat, we only caught one more fish between the 5 of us on Dunbar brook.

After lunch we decided to try out the Deerfield River right down the hill from us on Dunbar Brook. This section of the Deefield above the Fife Brook Dam is much smaller, chock full of boulders, and experiences less severe releases from power stations upstream. All in all another beautiful place to fish. We pounded the Deerfield for a few hours, and just as we were about to leave Casey hooked this magnificent brown trout:

Despite not finding much in the way of fish, we all had a great time. I enjoyed getting out and fishing this beautiful spot a bit more extensively, and getting a chance to meet a few people I'd only known over the internet. Introducing Robert and Casey to tenkara was also a lot of fun. Both love fishing small streams, and I hope they'll get some enjoyment from tenkara's simplified approach.

As a final note, here is my Picasa web album for the day.

Thursday, May 13, 2010

The Old Favorite

I finished up early with work today, so of course I took the chance to get out on the stream. For some reason this year I haven't had much luck with trout on dry flies, or wets for that matter. Guess I've been in a funk. It was time to turn that around, so I headed over to one of my favorite brooks. This is the first brook where I met with small stream success; for whatever reason a lot of things just "clicked" on my first trip here. In hindsight, I'm not really sure why! The stream is tiny, bushy, and loaded with fallen trees. It's really a tricky place to fish in terms of casting, and really not all that well suited to tenkara. Furthermore, the mosquitoes down in this swampy little brook are downright deadly. On the other hand, it really is a beautiful place to fish:

I bushwhacked down to the stream and arrived to the heartening sound of rising trout. I tied on a parachute adams and got started. The fish didn't seem to enthused by the adams, but the bugs were just too fierce to bother stopping to change flies. I found that I needed an absolutely perfect presentation to get any interest. Along the way I noticed deer, raccoon, and heron tracks on the banks, and came across some absolutely huge crane-flies. All in all I managed two small trout before the mosquitoes got to be just too much; I'd passed on the bug spray, that was a mistake!

Saturday, May 8, 2010

Dunbar Brook

Last weekend I made it out to the Deerfield River with a few friends, we spent the morning fishing Dunbar Brook, and then the afternoon on the Deerfield. Surprisingly we only managed one fish between the three of us all day!

For your viewing pleasure here's my Picasa album for the day: