Sunday, 28 February 2010

My Tenkara

So five metres in to my first Tenkara trip and we're thankfully christened.
My Tenkara Iwana was delivered ten days ago and today was the day it would be unwrapped. Twelve feet of Tenkara is alleged to be perfect for small tree lined streams, so I decided to try a jungle like stretch of the Alyn I've never fished before.
I parked at the upstream end of the beat, and walked the stretch for approx half a mile, digesting the likely looking pools, access points and impassable deep holes. I finally decided on a place to start, so I sat down, poured a cup of coffee and surveyed the low level leafless canopy. Now the Tenkara information I have gathered so far is telling me I should have about ten and a half feet of furled leader, with a few feet of tippet. I would never get away with that length leader under all this foliage, so contrary to the general Tenkara 'rules' on went a seven foot dry fly leader courtesy of Simon at Custom-Furles, onto which went about five feet of mono tippet. NB. Not a fan of flourocarbon when jungle fishing as you tend to lose a fair amount of the stuff in these wooded environments.
The logic behind the small furled leader was really just to use it as a strike indicator. The tungstem beaded brassie on the point would supply the casting weight.
The fishing
First couple of lobs, casts, flicks(I tried them all) were useless. I was so scared of getting caught up in the canopy that each time I flicked upstream, the leader crunpled in a heap. I thererfore adapted the method of presenting my nymphs upstream, that Simon had shown me a couple of weeks earlier. This is a method that the soft actioned Tenkara's excel at.
Essentally drop your nymphs under your rod tip, let the current take them downstream and below you so they dangle out and rise, then load the rod against the current and flick upstream. The nymph team then shoot upstream in a very low trajectory, straighten the cast out before landing and beginning their drag fee drift back downstream. Then repeat the same and we have some rhythm.
I had only moved about five metres upstream, when the tip of the furled leader hesitated slightly, so I lifted. The Iwana had struck into something that wasn't bottom and a minute or so later 35cms of Alyn Grayling was in my hand. So five metres in to my first Tenkara trip and we're thankfully christened.

My first Tenkara Grayling has a last look at its captor

Two casts later and another of 30cms was trapped.

Alas, these were my only fish for the first hour or so. I worked my way upstream, losing several flies in the low slung canopy as I went. It was only when I decided on using a heavier tungsten peacock pink tagged concoction, nothing to lose here, that I connected with another fish first put in. Unfortunatley this decided to release itself. No worries, maybe its a pink day for ladies...

... and so it was...

...another four of these to the pink tag.

Monday, 15 February 2010

Concluding the Tenkara test

With the Tenkara experience over, was it for me?
For nymphing alone, a resounding yes. Certainly on the Alyn where most of my nymphing is with size 16 and 18 nymphs and as disclosed earlier handling the larger Czech types was done with ease.

What about dry fly?
Arguably light dry fly is what the Tenkara was designed for and I have no doubt it will perform, especially on Alyn type rivers and streams. The secret here I believe will be in the leader that is used. Incontrovertibly, furled leaders are the key. However a single all round length/weight of furled leader may not be achievable. The ten and half feet seem to be the generic size for the length of Tenkara available. These, I’d imagine, will handle most situations and the lighter the leader the easier it is to hold off the water without affecting drift. On windy days however, either a heavier or shorter leader may be required. I’d probably opt for a shorter leader with the same gauge as the standard ones; it’s just that each step down section could be shorter.

Wet fly?
What is exiting me is the prospect of wet fly with the Tenkara. The extra length I feel will give superb presentation. I can think of a few far bank glides where upstream or downstream spider fishing may be lethal. The notion of keeping the leader off the water and harmonising with a slight breeze...
the wind can be a presentation ally also.
Excuse the pun but another string to the bow of the Tenkara is in bow and arrow casting. The action of these rods produces such an accurate cast. Just grab the end of the furled leader, take aim, fire then watch leader tippet and fly un-furl into action.

I was in the market for a longer rod and was contemplating a ten foot Streamflex for nymphing in the main; however the Tenkara experience has changed my mind. I have therefore taken the plunge and ordered an Iwana. For the fishing time I get these days it covers a lot of bases and will fit in the suitcase for when I sit with my feet dangling over a Corfiot jetty trying to tempt some mullet in June.
I am grateful to be given the chance to ‘try before I buy’ and with two very friendly and amenable local Tenkara anglers in Simon and Sonia I’m positive the Tenkara experience will be shared and evolve into a good one. The added bonus is in Simon’s furled leader making capabilities. I’m sure he can readily adapt his leader board if he buys into a concept for a custom furle.

Saturday, 13 February 2010

Dry Tenkara

I climbed out of the river, enthused by the presentation I felt the Tenkara gave me when nymphing. A fish would have capped things off perfectly, and maybe I could have experimented more with different patterns and weights of bug, but this wasn't necessary. This first Tenkara experience had enlightened me to the exent that I'm not so sure I'd have he same confidence nymphing the Alyn with my conventional rods.
Simon and I wandered up river to find Sonia. Sonia asked the obvious opinion based question when we found her and my reply was suitably enthusiastic. I was sold on the Tenkara's nymphing abilities. Would dry fly have the same effect on me?
The bugs were removed, new length of tippet fitted, perhaps four feet long, on the end of which Simon tied a stimulator type pattern. There was no intention of bringing any fish up with this fly, it purpose was to be viewable during turnover(if I got any) and assessing fly position on the water.
So Tenkara in hand once again, same furled leader I attempted a cast upstream. There may have been a tiny fraction of a chance of a fish being in the vicinity however, not now. I seemed to be having a tendency to drop the rod too low at the forward stop position. Thus hitting the water in a relative hard pile of leader. Alyn instinct does tell you to often cast from the hip at a low angle, and this affected my first couple of dry fly casts. So, forgetting I was on the Alyn and in an un-Alyn like open area, I moved the casting plane to the vertical and stopped the forward cast earlier. Perfect, the furled leader duly obliged with lovely turnover, flicked the dry out in front and by a controlled lowering of the rod tip it all the necessary bits appeared to hit the water together.
I performed a couple more quick casts to make sure this was no fluke. Feeling happy with my casting technique now was the time to assess line control during a drift. A cast into the preferred forty-five degrees up and across area, I then lifted the Tenkara's tip as much as I dared to prevent disturbing the fly. I was able on this instance to only lift about fifty percent of the leader off the water immediately. Not what I wanted really, but this was probably due the ‘perfection’ of my casts. Think about it, a near straight presentation of leader and tippet, followed by the careful lowering of the rod tip, mean’t I was reaching the furthest extent of the Tenkara. Also I was in almost perfectly straight contact with the fly. The amount of leader I was lifting off the water was only compensating for the amount of immediate drift I had. The Tenkara’s perceived advantage is in its length and ability to keep much of the leader off the water, to prevent drag on varied flows. Your casting should stop early enough to enable tunover, but also I would argue it should enable at most fifty percent of the leader to land. Its not so much puddle casting or similar, but you just have to use the rod length for what its designed to do. I doubt when casting upstream that you would ever have your Tenkara below the forty-five. Using the twelve feet to your advantage when upstream, it should eliminate lining your quarry.
Generally happy with upstream, I moved my position to see how I should handle things straight across. So applying what I’d discovered so far I made the cast straight across, held as much of the leader off the water as seemed relevant and watched the path of the fly. Obviously, to maximise travel one is lowering the rod tip at this point. This means you are now putting leader/line back on the water. This wasn’t the best thing to do, on this part of the river as the flow rate was that little bit quicker beween myself and the percived feed lane. I needed to experiment here. Using my conventional equipement, usually a seven and a half foot rod on the Alyn, I would have put a little reach mend upstream whilst shooting a little line. The shot line is what is positioned upstream to give me that extra drag free distance. So upstream reach it was. The way I did this with the Tenkara is with more of an upstream flick at the appropriate moment. It worked to a degree, but the lightness of the furled leader didn’t give me the result I would have liked. In this situaltion, bizarrely with he longer rod, I would have waded that little bit closer to enable more line to be held off the water. The Jury is still out in this situation.
Now one method of dry fly that is often overlooked and should be in the armoury on the Grayling populated Freestone Rivers, is the downstream dry fly. This works a treat when you are wading, as quite often some fish will move below and in the wake of your position in the river. With rod and line the method is to pull the rod back and up when shooting a small amount of line, then lowering the tip immediately to the water surface. This causes an upstream loop in the line enabling the dry to drift down stream without drag. Good tactic if you need to rest the area across you have just been fishing. With the Tenkara this was a cinch. The light furled leader enables you to just drop the dry onto the surface and lower the rod in time with the drift. If you tried this with a shorter conventional rod, the weght of the flyline feathers the drift of the dry unnaturally. You may not get the distance that you would with rod and line but hey, every method and setup has compromises.
If you tire of nymphing at arms length all day, the light Tenkara is the solution.

Next time: Tenkara conclusions

Tuesday, 9 February 2010

Tenkara in the River

Sonia decided to go have a wander and fish some holes she had walked past earlier. Simon and I crossed Ithell’s Bridge and dropped into one of the pools on the bottom S bend. The river was about 10” up on normal levels, so Simon put on a couple of heavy-ish hare’s ear concoctions. So rod in hand (the softer Iwana), here we go. I dropped the bugs in, then using a sort of backhand lob, projected them upstream. I then lifted the rod up instinctively to stay in touch, however instinct was like I was using my little seven and half footer or nine footer. Therefore I didn’t lift the rod high enough initially, so it wasn’t until the nymphs were directly in front that I actually connected with them. Anyway, follow them down until on the dangle, small strike towards my bank then fling back upstream for the second pass. I’ve used the term ‘fling’ here for a reason. Remember, the Iwana is pretty soft so when you lift tungsten bugs the fine tip does give somewhat. As such a fling or a lob, rather than flick, is more the correct term for re-presenting the bugs upstream again. Too hard a flick causes the nymphs to bounce back again, thus losing the straight connection you need.
The upstream 'Lob'

On my second pass, I adjusted for the extra rod length and was in contact with the nymphs quicker. This was fantastic. The soft action and fine tip bounced beautifully with the nymphs along the river bed. I can’t remember having touch control like this before. On occasion when using heavy peeping caddis or similar on rod and reel, I have always had the tendency to go a bit too heavy and rythmatically impart bouncing along the river bed. The soft tip of the Tenkara seemed to harmonise with the nymphs rather than the other way round. This has probably highlighted the real flaw in my Czech style with conventional rod and line.
Keeping in touch

The softness of the Iwana also helps in the presentation and re-presentation when nymphing. You know when you bounce the rod tip to impart that little bit of movement when on the dangle; well the compliance of the Iwana feels like it does this beautifully. Another advantage of the soft tip was the switch cast to re-present from a dangle back up stream. With water pressure and heavy bugs this is quite easy with most setups, but the soft Iwana handled this beautifully with smaller nymphs. You can really assess the rod loading and thus time the re-presentation perfectly to, once again, prevent bounce back during the final delivery upstream.
Custom Furle in nymphing action

The set-up I was using included the green flouro furled leader mentioned earlier. I would imagine that you could use anything here if your nymphs were carrying some weight. No massive advantage to the furled leader other than quick change to dry fly (more later) So twelve foot rod, ten foot furled leader, four to five feet of mono, or whatever Simon tied on the end. Pretty self explanatory that the minimum total length needs to be the length of your Tenkara.
I fished the pool out, expectation was high and presentation felt perfect but alas, the only twitches on the leader were met with resistance from the bottom. A little warning here in that if you fasten tight on the bottom etc., it would be prudent to get hold of the leader to yank free. Those Tankara tips are very fine.
NB: This is an edited post. We didn't take any photographs on the Alyn, so I arranged to meet Simon at Llangollen the following week for a photo shootTomorrow: Tenkara Dry

Tenkara in hand

Simon and Sonia’s Tekaras are, predictably, supplied by Tenkara USA. Simon possesses the Iwana type and Sonia the Yamame, both twelve foot versions. We know these are telescopic, however their 8 sections pack into a 20” handle section. Sonia, had hers fastened to the Velcro strap often found above the breast pocket on your fishing vest. Right away I thought how convenient that would be when attempting to get into the parts of the river where high banks and thick balsam hinder ones progress. Both hands would be free.
My first touch was with the Iwana. Simon demonstrated how to assemble the rod, told me its weight (c2.5ozs) and handed it to me. It is super light and super slim although also relatively sloppy. The super fine tip bounces very easily, but did seem to settle pretty quickly; as long as you weren’t shivering as much as I was (discovered the left leg of my waders is seeping). I wafted the Tenkara around one handed, as a kid does when he gets his first toy light sabre, looking along the length. I’ve handled a few long fishing rods and poles in my time, but never something as soft as this. But hey, there must be a reason.
The bits and pieces I had read about Tenkara fishing advocates the use of a furled leader and as mentioned Simon produces his own (, hope you [Simon] can handle the traffic?) He showed me some of his custom leaders, along with the types supplied by Tenkara USA. Tenkara USA’s are typically mono furled and according to Simon work OK, but if your nymphing, almost invisible. Simon’s are made from 6/0 or 8/0 tying thread which makes them stretch free and can easily be produced in any available colour. The thread weight is chosen based on the traditional rod rating the leader is intended for. If I remember correctly all his Tenkara leaders are made with 8/0 thread. A flouro green 10’ leader was fitted to his Tenkara rod. Fitting is very quick and simply done by looping to the thick furled adaptor attached to the tip of the Tenkara rod. Check out the Tenkara USA site for more information on this. This particular leader has the end 20” or so banded with black marker for nymphing. You would do this yourselves.
The preferred grip shpuld be with the index finger ON TOP!

Now casting: With just the furled leader attached, I, unsuccessfully tried a cast. The fact that the rod feels so floppy makes you initially try to cast rather limply. So the result was a feeble pile of leader on the grass. Simon suggested I shouldn’t be afraid, and cast as you would with a normal rod and line. So, OK, lift, stop, forward tap-stop. Furled leader turns over beautifully. Tried it over both shoulders, into the wind, with the wind etc. Felt OK but really needed to get into the River. I then had a look feel and cast with Sonia’s rod the Yamame, loaded with another of Simon’s leaders in bright red and slightly shorter in length. This is stiffer, and more what you would expect I suppose. A quick cast, and because of its extra stiffness it initially felt the easier to work with.
Time to get in the River:

Sunday, 7 February 2010

Tenkaarrrraaaaaaa. My thinking

I know I am a relative newcomer to fly fishing, but having spent the majority of my previous fishing life coarse/match fishing I always felt I could adapt to new thinking. For a match fisher its adoption or fall for many a new concept, so trying something new in fly fishing doesn't cause a flicker of the proverbial eyelids where I'm concerned.

Anyway, the word Tenkara is appearing ever more frequently within the fly publications and online communities. Tenkara, arguably, at first glance can appear to be a form of pole fishing with a fly. Now when a new name appears in the world of fishing, inevitably some comparisons and analogies have to be made to give a concise explanation of the new term. Therefore pole/whip fishing is used, and to be fair it is probably the simplest of parallels to assume.
When I heard the term Tenkara and its analogies, I didn’t for one moment think, ‘OK this will be the vogue of tomorrows fly fisherman. I must have it…’ or even think it faddy. Rather, I thought, could it fit with my general style of fishing?

I spend 90% of my fishing time on my local Rivers Alyn and Dee, of which 60-70% is spent pure nymphing of some sort. When upstream nymphing, rarely do I need to cast more than about 5m and in winter when the nymphs get heavier, probably max. at 4m. I’m sure most will agree that fishing at that relative short distance enables maximum control when in flowing water, and minimises false casting. In fact when the heavy nymphs are on you wonder why you ever use a reel and/or fly line. You can probably gather where I am going here. Yes, Tenkara may be just that.
It may be applicable to return to the pole/whip fishing analogy. Most of my match fishing took place on local canals, and although classified as still waters, the majority of canals with boat traffic do have a general flow which a good canal angler uses to his advantage. In fact when a normally drifting canal stops dead, so do the bites. When fishing with punched bread, bloodworm or squats and targeting roach, a dead drift is typically used. Yes I know there is a float of some description suspending the bait and if using 10+ metres of roach pole the baited hook is just dropped in, but I often used another approach when punch or squat fishing. A 5m whip (no elastic), 5m of mono to a bottom end attached float and 0.5m or so to the baited hook below. Flick the float up and across, let it dead drift with the bait just touching or just off bottom, when the indicator dips, stops, lifts; strike and swing the hooked fish in quickly. Re bait and cast out. In most cases on canals, the flow in the middle was a lot faster than the flow against the far bank where you were fishing, so you would lift the tip of the whip to keep much of the line off the water to prevent dragging the baited hook offline. Spot the difference between upstream nymphing on rivers (baited hook apart)? Neither can I. Please at this point do not think I am saying Tenkara fishing is or will be just the same as whip fishing, however what I am saying is that dead drifting a nymph using a fly rod and reel are not dissimilar to whip fishing. Experience in one method in another code of fishing can help hone skills in another. Now, having an experience in other codes of fishing do help appreciate the philosophy behind the thinking of different solutions of presenting a fly. That is why Tenkara really grabbed my attention initially. With the extra rod length, surely I can achieve even greater control of my nymphs at the 5m range and possibly 6m.
French Nymphing is a possibility, but this seemed to be hampered by less than perfect wind conditions.

What grabbed my attention to Tenkara further was a forum post by an angler who first tested his newly acquired Tenkara rod for the first time on the Dee at Llangollen. The angler even landed a Salmon on it! Czech nymphing he was. I therefore, once again, did the obligatory ‘Google’ search and was thus presented with the excellent web site from Tenkara USA, complete with videos. I was getting tempted, but spending a hundred odd pounds on something that would only work in my head could not be justified. Then there were the furled leaders…
I am no stranger to furled leaders, and use a short one for all my fishing on the Alyn and nymphing only on the Dee (mine are yellow and make great indicators). Anyway, unless you are using weighted nymphs, it appeared you really need a furled leader. Makes sense, as how else do you deliver an un-weighted fly? My real problem with furled leaders, any tapered leader for that matter, is that in my experience you have to play around with the lengths a little to suit your fishing style, method and venue. This is relatively straightforward with mono or co polymer tapered leaders as they are easily obtained, and can be cut modified to suit. Furled leaders however, cannot be adapted readily, if at all. It took me a few types of furled leader and a few fishing trips until I found my optimum length for the Alyn: Four and a half feet, on which I attach about the same again of tippet for my dry fly fishing. Most of the Alyn has a canopy overhead, so the furled leader enables me to get my casting loop tight enough and deposit the fly in those unforgiving areas. If you read one of my previous posts you will see that I now no longer use tapered leaders when dry flying on the more open waters of the Dee: Parallel leaders to make sure the leader collapses, and give more of a drag free drift.
One day last week another forum post appeared from the partner of the angler who caught the Salmon on the Tenkara. Sonia received her Tenkara rod last week as an early birthday present, and succeeded in christening it with some fabulous Dee grayling. I had to react; I posted a reply on the forum briefly explaining my interest and a question about furled leader lengths. There was no immediate reply, but last night I noticed I had a forum PM from Sonia inviting me to try out either hers or her husband Simon’s Tenkara’s. Further more Simon and Sonia are regular Alyn fishers, and to cap it off Simon manufactures his own furled leaders! Often on behalf of Louis Noble ( Couldn’t resist, so I replied saying that I would be very grateful to take them up on the offer and incidentally I would be on the Alyn on Sunday afternoon.
So, Sunday afternoon waist deep in the Alyn and a voice from behind asked how I was getting on. I turned to reply then the enquirer asked if I was Peter? I confirmed who I was, as the enquirer introduced himself as Simon and also his wife Sonia who was now standing next to him. ‘We’ve got the Tenkara’s for you to try’
Out of the River I climbed