Tuesday, August 24, 2010

A Little Fishing in the North Cascades

Mount Shuksan, North Cascades National Park

Last Friday my dad, my grandparents, and I took a drive into the North Cascades to check out Mount Baker and Mount Shuksan from Artist's Ridge. On the way down the valley we stopped at Nooksack Falls, where the North Fork of the Nooksack River plunges 88 feet into a narrow slot. I found out later from the interns staffing the Nooksack Salmon Enhancement Association table at the ranger station that trout are present above the falls, although they didn't know much about the population since their organization is dedicated to restoring threatened salmon runs. That piece of information, coupled with the tenkara-perfect water I'd spotted above the falls was enough to tempt me back for a fishing trip.

Nooksack Falls

North Fork of the Nooksack River above the falls - fast, pocketed, and clear

Sunday morning my cousin Sam and I headed back up the Mount Baker Highway to see if we could find any fish in the Nooksack. This was Sam's first time out fishing in a long time, and his first experience fishing with flies (and tenkara too!), so I was pretty happy when we got into fish fairly quick. We found the little stream bread rainbows to be quite ready and willing to take a sakasa kebari once we got a little farther upstream from the crowds at the falls. As it worked out Sam got the first fish - incidentally his first on a fly, and his first with tenkara! 

We had a blast of an afternoon boulder hopping, fishing, and soaking in the scenery. The river was absolutely fantastic for tenkara, with an ideal mix of plunge pools, shallow bouldery runs, deep slots, and pocket water. As mountain streams go, this was probably one of the most beautiful that I've had the good fortune to fish. It was great to have the chance to teach Sam a little fishing, and having some plain old fun in the outdoors with my cousin.

Sam fishing the tail of a long pool

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Western Road Trip, 2010

Greetings from Wenatchee, WA! I've taken off on a cross-country road trip with my Dad to visit family out West before leaving for Ukraine. It's been a great drive, and I'm looking forward to the doing this trip again someday when I can really take my time and explore the sights. So far we've followed US 2 fairly closely across the Upper Peninsula of MI, MN, ND, MT, and ID with detours for Glacier National Park (Logan Pass is just surreal...), Grand Coulee Dam, and Dry Falls. Tomorrow we'll be going up to Highway 20 and heading west over the Cascades to Puget Sound.

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Tenkara & Smallmouth

This Sunday a friend and I headed out to a local smallmouth bass hot-spot, and this being the first time I've fished for smallies in years (and the first time ever with flies), I just had to give tenkara a shot with them. We arrived at the river around 8am to find it running low, and relatively cool:

Little bit different scenery than what I've gotten used to on the small streams...

Lot's of stoneflies had recently hatched

After going fishless in the first riffle I spotted a big boulder with a deep pool behind it. In the tail of the pool I landed probably the largest, hardest fighting fallfish I've yet to encounter. Then, on maybe my third cast to the right of the boulder something hit the fly hard, and immediately lept clear of the water. A few more leaps later and I landed my first tenkara smallmouth (incidentally the first on a fly as well). I'd forgotten how much fun these guys are!

The fishing slowed down over the rest of the morning. I did manage one more smallmouth, and maybe 5-6 more little fallfish, but unfortunately my freind was skunked.

Overall I have to say tenkara seemed to work great for the smallmouth - I'll be giving it another go. These hard fighting river-bred smallies are really a blast to catch with tenkara tackle and technique. Next time I may try a larger more colorful fly, and see if my catch rate improves, although the one I fished did seem to work ok:

The fly for the day - a sakasa kebari
Hook: Mustad C67S, size 12
Hackle: dyed black male pheasant
Body & collar: black 6/0 uni thread & peacock herl

Monday, August 2, 2010

"Typical Tenkara" & Okumino Itoshiro Kebari

I've taken a lot of inspiration from Yoshikazu Fujioka's tenkara site, especially his fly tying pages. These pages are invaluable for anyone interested in tenkara flies as they really demonstrate the diversity of regional patterns. For the fly tyer, Fujioka-san's site is a great source of information, and a good place for anyone looking to get started tying tenkara flies. His simple directions for the sakasa kebari (kebari = fly) and "typical tenkara" kebari provide a solid foundation upon which you can build your own variations.

In appreciation of Fujioka-san's work, here are a few of my recent efforts:

"Typical Tenkara"
Hook: Mustad S82-3906B, size 12
Body: yellow Lureflash Superbug Yarn & gold wire
Hackle: pheasant downy feather

This is my interpretation of what Fujioka-san calls a "typical tenkara" kebari. Traditionally one would use zenmai (aka "fern fuzz," and something I really should get around to devoting an entire post too!), but to conserve my supply I've used a synthetic yellow yarn which makes for a decent stand in. I've substituted a few other materials as well. From what I can tell the ones on Fujioka-san's site are lightly dubbed over gold tinsel, I used an over-wrap of gold wire instead. I also substituted a downy under feather for the "pheasant's alula" he calls for, only because I haven't been able to figure out exactly which feathers those are on the bird just yet. It still makes for a very nice nymph-like fly though.

Okumino Itoshiro Kebari
Hook: Mustad C49S, size 14
Body: peacock herl
Hackle: pheasant downy feather

This is another regional pattern, and uses a rare material - those annoying under feathers you're constantly throwing in the trash! The use of which inspired my take on Fujioka-san's "typical tenkara" kebari described above. This is a really interesting and unique fly, hence why I wanted to give it a shot. To tie it, I found that wrapping the under feather around the thread, then wrapping the two together around the hook works best. The stems of the under feathers are extremely fragile, and initially very frustrating to work with. Once you get the hang of them they aren't too bad though.

I'm excited to fish these flies, I'll let you know how they work! I'm curious how the hackle will behave in the water...