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 (http://www.custom-furles.com/). 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