On the previous day we fished Spring Creek – a valley limestone stream. Today it is up to the hills. The fishing of course is quite different. When we got to the stream fish were rising in the pools. At first it seemed they were taking the drakes. But upon closer inspection they really seemed to be enjoying the tiny yellow stoneflies. However, these fish were not so persnickety and gladly attacked my peacock and pheasant sakasa kebari. I couldn’t help but to think of the song Summertime: “Summertime’s here and living is easy, fish are jumpin’…” It was that – easy. Casting was pretty open for a small mountain stream and the fish were willing to play along.
It was a day that makes you think “This is the way it used to be…” Maybe I’m simple minded, but walking along casting to likely lies and watching small brookies charge a fly…and then admiring the fish…well I can do that all day. Sometimes you’d see the v-wake on the surface as they came at the shallow drifting fly – cool.
So this is where the unweighted sakasa kebari fished with a gentle pulsing action seems to really shine. The water was fairly shallow, a heavy fly would sink too quickly and snag. The gentle pulsing serves several purposes:1) To activate the reverse hackle and attract fish, 2) to keep the fly drifting along and off of the stream bottom thus preventing snags, 3) to increase positive hook-ups.
The first point is often discussed but points 2 and 3 seem to be often overlooked in many discussions. Getting snagged on he bottom is of course not the end of the world and on small streams retrieving the fly is usually not too difficult – but every bottom snag that you have to retrieve is a spoiled fishing hole. As far as point 3 goes I’ll say that fish take in and spit out flies so fast sometimes you’ll never know you have a take. Gently pulsing the fly on the drift will often result in hook-ups that you may have otherwise missed I believe. Plus with a long tenkara rod and a low hanging canopy if you can avoid dramatic hook sets that send your rod-tip, line and fly into the trees then all the better.
I am geographically challenged when it comes to home water. There is a paucity of quality trout water in the immediate Pittsburgh area. I visit my home stream often, but by necessity, mostly in my head. When I close my eyes I can see it and hear it – it is Spring Creek in Pennsylvania. I have caught my share in its water, though I do not claim any expertise and there are many that know her moods better. Spring Creek is the first stream upon which I cast a fly – and so shall remain my home water.
I started catching fish consistently on Spring Creek when I discovered the magic of the cressbug and black ants (fished wet). Those two flies seemed change the course of my fishing there and became my standard Spring Creek flies – excepting of course sulphur time.
On Spring Creek the water can seem barren at times – and then a hatch brings fish from the depths, and the water is suddenly alive with fish. It can be very humbling to see all those fish materialize out of a pool that earlier had left you empty handed. It is generally not the kind of stream that you can walk along blind casting dries and expect too much (at least I never have done well that way). So I came to Spring Creek on this trip with my handful generic, non-imitative, unweighted wetflies, which I fish without added weight – with a bit of trepidation. Was it unfounded?
Well the first section that we fished was unproductive. It looked nice and we saw fish as we hiked in. There was a shady bank with nice runs up under overhanging trees – very fishy looking. Started fishing and then…kayaks and canoes started floating by every five minutes and that was a bit discouraging. I don’t know if fish get used to these and learn to ignore them – but I found it hard to fish with any kind of focus in the face of this floating onslaught. So we moved on. We traveled 3 hrs to get to the stream – and so were not getting a terribly early start. So I filed this stretch away for future exploration earlier in the day (or maybe late in the evening) to avoid the plastic hatch.
No Kayaks and canoes on this stretch – and I started catching fish right away. I landed 4 and had several others on in a short stretch of pocket water. And I learned that even on a rich limestone stream, in the middle of a sunny day, fish can be caught pretty handily on a fairly large, non-imitative sakasa kebari fished without weight. A few years ago I would have had my doubts but now I know…
this is the fly that caught most of the fish…Japanese size 8 Keiryu hook (about a size 10 western fly hook)..peacock body, hen pheasant reversed hackle, orange silk loop eye
However…just before dark we went up to another stretch of stream where I knew I’d see lots of fish eating small sulphurs (ephemerella dorothea). And it was a feeding frenzy. Just as it got dark the water was boiling with fish – fish were rising everywhere. And none of them wanted my sakasa kebari. This did not surprise me at all. Well – I figured maybe a couple would take the larger fly especially as it got dark – but no luck. During a super hatch fish get dialed in – this is not news.
If my fly had been smaller (it was at least 5 times the length of the tiny sulphurs) maybe I’d have coaxed a few, maybe some different technique could have done it – who knows…So in the midst of an instense hatch maybe large generic sakasa kebari are not the best choice (no real surprise). I’m pretty sure a size 18 or 20 sulphur emerger would have cleaned up though.
All in all a successful half day on the stream. Chalk another one up to tenkara one-fly. It works even on rich limestone streams…except when it doesn’t.
A while back I got a few lines from Moonlit Fly Fishing to test out – well this post has been way to long in the coming. I received 3 lines. One each of the three line types offered by Moonlit:
Ronin Tenkara Line: The lightest and most supple made with only polysester thread
Bushi Tenkara Line: Made with polyester thread and a core of nylon mono. The nylon core provides a bit more body to turn over larger flies – but remains light.
Shogun Tenkara Line: A slightly heavier line made with polyester thread and a core of fluorocarbon mono. This line is most suited to the largest and heaviest flies.
Each line can be customized for your preferences. You can choose the color combination, tippet connection (tippet ring/loop/micro-swivel), weight (2 weight choices) and length (9 to 13.5′ in 6″ increments). Cost is $14 for lines of 9 to 11.5′ and $16 for lines of 12 to 13.5′.
How do they fish?
Well I got all my lines in the light line weight and with tippet rings. I also chose to have them made in subdued colors (as you can see above).
My first remark has to do with my own mistake – I should have gotten brighter color lines. I thought that a more camouflaged color scheme would be better for stealth – and perhaps it is – but it is so stealthy that even the angler cannot see it. I would highly recommend getting these made in more hi-vis colors. I found the dark color Ronin line (far left in pic above) very difficult to see. The other lighter lines were a bit easier to see. This visibility is especially important if you’re fishing subsurface of course and you need to see the line to detect strikes. If you’re fishing dries then it is not as much of an issue. Again this is not a criticism of the lines – as you can choose a wide range of colors and avoid the problem that I had with visibility.
I started tenkara with furled lines then switched to level lines – but lately I have been reconsidering. And have actually come to a two-line system. I am using level lines for bigger streams and furled lines for the small streams and also furled lines on stillwater (panfish ponds). So my interest in furled lines tends to the lightest furled lines – and the heavy non-floating kevlar furled lines are not my thing. These Moonlit lines, even the Shogun, are fairly light and can be made to float by applying floatant – which is what I did. I used a paste floatant. An application of floatant makes these into nicely floating lines.
For my small stream fishing I want a delicate presentation and so I spent much more time fishing the Ronin and Bushi lines as they were lighter. On small streams with skinny water and placid pools – even when fishing subsurface I want a very delicate delivery and some turnover power. A light furled line can give you that. There is often not much casting room on these small waters and a furled line can be easier to cast when backcasts are limited. So what about floating – why is that important? In tenkara the line is held off of the water isn’t it? Ideally yes – but in reality on small heavily canopied streams I often don’t have enough headroom to get the rod high enough to keep the line off of the water. Fluorocarbon level lines and heavy furled lines can sink – and on small streams I’ve had the problem of lines sinking and getting snagged or when dry fly fishing pulling flies under.
The other huge advantage to light furled lines is when fishing dry flies. The furled lines turn over wind resistant flies much more easily than level lines and the floatability is crucial – especially when attempting to fish dry flies at a distance. Sometimes it is very nice to be able to lay the line out on the water – western fly fishing style – and get a nice delicate long distance presentation without the line sinking. Maybe not traditional tenkara but still….
Another advantage to floating lines is for stillwater dry fly fishing. I don’t have much opportunity for stillwater trout fishing here in Pennsylvania – but I do a bit of tenkara panfishing and these lines have worked nicely for that too.
So in short if you have been looking for a light, supple furled line – that can be made to float (if need be) – then these lines may serve you very nicely.
ps. Moonlit Fly Fishing’s running a coupon special on the website of 25% off now through July 4, 2013 using code “Independence”.
Disclaimer: I did receive these lines from Moonlit Fly fishing for testing purposes – but was in no other way compensated for this review.
Going back in time – I know it’s out of order…but I want to get it posted anyway. Some other postings from the one-fly season: Day 1 and 2, Day 3 and 4, Day 9. Days 6-8 not posted yet.
I could catch these fish all day. Each one is a gift. And not a gift from the stocking truck – the hatchery doesn’t grow ‘em like that.. Though not huge – they are stream appropriate fish. It is not a large stream – it doesn’t have many deep pools, and it is not that fertile. It even has some pH issues. So when I catch a nicely proportioned fish – regardless of overall size I am pretty darn happy.
Tenkara – and fly fishing in general – can be pretty darn easy sometimes. You cast a fly and you catch a fish. I’ve said it before, on these small mountain streams sometimes the whole thing is STEALTH. The fish are there, the fish will move to a fly, the structure is easy to read. It all comes down to stealth.
Stealth is not all about crouching and walking slowly – though it is about that. It is also about casting accuracy and delicacy. Most of the small mountain streams that I fish are not super high gradient streams with roiling plunge pools and lots of fast white water. My are usually pretty gentle with small sections of pocket water, small runs, occasional deep pools and long shallow pools with a small plunge at the head.
The small pools, pockets and runs with broken surface water are fairly easy to sneak up on. The long skinny pools present the greatest challenge. If you are experienced you will know that those brook trout like to hang at the tail of the pools, and actually all through these pools. The water is slow – but still moving and they can just hang and eat from the drifting buffet without much effort. This presents the challenge – any disturbance of that smooth water usually sends fish scattering. Cast with caution! Here is when the light tenkara line really shines. Sure a long leader on a western rig can do the trick – bit often the fishing may be too tight to make that practical. That is not a problem with the tenkara though – especially when using level lines or light furled lines. But it has to be a light furled line that can float – and that lands on the water like a feather. For my preferences some furled lines are way too heavy to do the trick.
So cast into the tail of the pool before getting too close. I used to always try and spot a fish and then cast above the fish and drift the fly down stream to it. However, this is often unsuccessful for me because the fish is spooked. What I’ve started doing lately is to cast behind the fish (if I see one) – or blind cast up into the tail of the pool. The trout will sometimes (not always) turn and come back to the fly when they sense the disturbance on the water. And since you keep all the line (and yourself) downstream of the fish you have a better chance of not spooking it. Of course it doesn’t always work – but it’s worth a try.
So I headed to another stream in the afternoon. It was similar – but something was different. I wasn’t catching much at first. I knew the fish were there – mostly wild brookies but some stocker browns and apparently some wild browns too. I was casting to the seams and soft water in the pools and pockets…nothing. I couldn’t figure it.
I had to listen to the stream – and to do that I had to mix it up. I was fishing lazy, casting to the easy to access spots – tails of pools, big pockets. soft water below plunges… I had to get serious. I started casting everywhere. And I found the fish. They were hanging tight to the big rocks, up under the rocks it seemed. Why? Who knows. Maybe somebody had been through earlier. All I know is that on the first stream that morning the fish were pretty much holding out in the open – and these fish were hiding – go figure. It often pays to mix it up when you’re not catching fish.
And how do you know when it’s time to call it a day? When you don’t feel like sorting this out.
Well I finally made a fishing video (complete with my own music). Since I made a video I’m not going to say too much about this day of tenkara. It was a good day. Didn’t catch any big ones on the Savage – but did catch a few on an unweighted peacock body, reverse hackle fly (sakasa kebari). The fly was tied on an eyeless Owner Mountain Stream hook using orange no 2. silk bead cord for the eye and hen pheasant for the hackle.
Had a great time on the small stream (same fly) – losing count of the fish. If you can’t see my line very well it’s because I’m using a hand furled leader that I make with nylon mono – it fishes great but it doesn’t video so well.
If you watch till the end you’ll see a little surprise – well a big surprise for me at the time.
Earlier this season I had a chance to try out the Nissin Pro-Spec 2-way 6:4 Tenkara rod. It’s a zoom rod that goes from 10’3″ to 11’9″. And to cut to the chase, I liked it so much I just had to buy it (at TenkaraBum)
Being a short zoom makes it a unique tenkara rod option here in the US. I’m not aware of a similar tenkara rod domestically available (I could be wrong and please feel free to correct me on this point.) Is it a big water rod? No it is not. But on those brushy streams, you know the kind, tunnels of rhododendron, low hanging branches, no room for back casts, this rod feels perfectly at home.
Its flex profile is a 6:4 but don’t let that mislead you. It is a very soft 6:4. If you look at the Common Cents Database on the TenkaraBum website, you’ll see the Pro-Spec is the softest tenkara rod listed. It will cast #3 tenkara lines very nicely and allow feather light casts. I used it only with unweighted flies – and though I’m sure it could handle small beadhead flies – there are better rods for you if you like to fish heavy flies. There’s no accounting for personal preferences, and some folks may use this rod with weighted flies, but In my book this is a pure tenkara rod best used with unweighted flies.
I have used this rod solely for small stream brook trout fishing. And I have not caught anything bigger than about 8″ with it yet. And though it could bring in bigger fish (especially in small streams), I wouldn’t want to use it if I were expecting to catch big fish. I’d say fish up to 12″ or so in small streams would be my ideal upper end. Maybe a bit larger if you’re careful. But I would not recommend this rod for larger fish on larger streams – you could do it – but I think you’d be pushing the limit of what the rod is designed for.
What about the zoom? Well – I have fished several other zoom rods and they are all similar in that they feel different at the two lengths. This rod is the same way. You will notice a different casting feel when going from the short length to the longer. I think that this is probably unavoidable in a zoom rod. At the shorter length the rod feels very crisp – in spite of its soft tip. At the longer length the rod feels a bit slower and you’ll need to adjust your casting stroke accordingly – but it’s pretty easy to get used to.
When I first tried this rod I didn’t realize how much I’d use the zoom feature. Even on the smallest brushiest streams there are occasional open areas where you can use a bit more length. So on the smallest streams I fish mostly at the short length and then zoom out for that occasional larger pool. On other streams I fish mostly the longer length and then shorten up here and there. It’s pretty cool actually.
Fit, finish, etc…The color is gloss black with blue highlights. I like the grip shape. Some tenkara rod grips don’t have enough of a contour for my tastes – this one does. The rod “clicks” into the shorter zoom length pleasingly – with a nice positive feel to the connection. Overall a nice looking rod. However I do have two complaints. Firstly the tip-plug is a soft rubber jobbie that is difficult to insert. Big deal? Not really but a little annoying. Secondly the cork itself is not great. It has a bit more filler than I’d like to see. Doesn’t it seem like it’s hard to find a really nice cork grip anymore?
The short of it is this. This is not an “all-around” tenkara rod to take from the tiny mountain stream to the large trout in that valley river – if I claimed that I would be fibbing. What it is is a superb small stream tenkara rod. It’s wonderful for small streams and small trout – that is what it is designed for. If most of your fishing is small streams – especially brushy small streams, then this rod could be a nice fit. Think Appalachian brookie streams, small mountain stream brown trout, or tumbling mountain cutthroat streams in Rocky Mountain National Park.
Details (taken from TenkaraBum)
Length Extended: 10’3″ or 11’9″
Length Collapsed: 22 1/8″
Weight (6:4 version): 2.7 oz (with tip plug) 2.6 oz (without)
Recommended Tippet: 3# – 5# test (Japanese line size .8-1.2号)
Pennies: 11.5 at 10’3″ and 11 at 11’9″
Made in Japan. Nissin Pro Spec 6:4 – $195 @ tenkarabum
Disclaimer: I was originally loaned this rod for review – but ended up purchasing it.
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