July 26, 2016

Tenkara Tuesday - My Fab Five Tenkara Rods

Welcome to Tenkara Tuesday...

In last week's Tenkara Tuesday, I mentioned that I had a new Tanuki rod on pre-order, and had also sold off several tenkara rods that just didn't "fit" me well. I didn't say what the rods were, but in the comments section, bolder_in_boulder asked the following question:


Well, even after a recent purge, I've still got a lot of tenkara rods.
Probably too many than I could dream of fishing with any regularity.

So bolder_in_boulder, I'll lump them into 3 groups...

New To Me Rods I'm Still Evaluating


  • Suntech TenkaraBum 36 - I like a lot about this rod. The feel in hand, the sensitivity, the cosmetics, and believe it or not, I also found it casts a floating line surprisingly well. I just haven't fished it enough yet. It's definitely a premium rod. Even if it doesn't go into my regular rotation, I'll probably hold on to it. It's the first TenkaraBum branded rod, a Japanese rod designed by an American. That's a pretty cool thing.
  • Badger Tenkara WISCO - If you've never seen this rod in person, it's an absolute beast. The handle section is absolutely Paul Bunyan-esque. I bought this rod thinking it would become my "inshore" rod, to go chase sea trout, small redfish, or anything off the beach or jetties. I've been horrible actually getting off my butt and hitting the salt, so the jury is still out.

Rods I've Held On To, But Don't Fish Often


  • Tenkara USA Iwana 11" - This was my first tenkara rod purchased way back in 2009. It started it all for me. I fished this rod almost exclusively for 4 years - from Pennsylvania to North Carolina, from Virgnia to Utah. It's well worn and went with me everywhere. Sure, it's not the best casting rod, nor is it the best feeling rod, but it was my first rod. It's here to stay.
  • Tenkara USA Ito - Call me crazy, but I never took to the Ito. So many other people love it, it's their favorite rod, but for whatever the reason - size, weight, the squared off butt cap - I just don't care for this rod. I pick it up once or twice a year thinking that I'll give it another try, but just haven't had the warm and fuzzies...yet. Maybe next year. 
  • Tenkara USA Ayu II - I bought this rod because Tenkara USA was having a Black Friday sale one year and at the time it filled a gap in my rod assortment. There's really nothing wrong with it. It's just an odd rod out. It's a discontinued model, so I hang on to it sort of out of novelty.
  • Tenkara Customs - I made a tenkara rod once upon a time using a Tenkara Customs blank and a Winn Grip. The rod is rather spartan, found it to be a nice bass rod, but I really, really like the grip. I actually acquired the grip before the blank. I wish more manufacturers would try this cork-alternative rather than foam. However I'm not sure anyone would want this rod if I tried to sell it, I didn't try hard to make it "pretty" when I assembled it.
  • Sakura Kongo Betuatsurae - This was my first "splurge" on a tenkara rod. I was really drawn to how small this rod collapsed, not to mention the beautiful faux-bamboo finish. It's a beautifully crafted rod, casts a tapered line quite well. I'm not sure why I don't fish it more often. Maybe I just don't have the heart to use it on lowly bluegill & bass. I considered selling it a few times, but I know I'll regret it if I do. 
  • Tenkara Rod Co. Cascade - Not going to lie, I'm not a huge fan of this rod. I like the short length, but the rod is just too stiff for my taste. Doesn't cast bad with a floating or furled line, but I've got a better choice in short rod (see next section). This will probably be the one I move on from next, there are a lot of people that do like this rod, it's just not my cup of tea.

Rods In My Regular Rotation; The Fab Five


  • Tenkara USA Sato - This has become my everyday tenkara rod. The lengths of this 3-way zoom rod pretty much make it perfect for any scenario. Shrink it small to avoid the canopy, extend it to fish a little more open water - I've caught brookies to largemouth on this rod - fished level, furled, and floating lines - weighted and unweighted flies - the versatility is hard to match.
  • Tenkara USA Rhodo - This is the current "short rod" in my collection of tenkara rods. I don't have any of the smaller Japanese specialty rods, so when I know I'm going to go out and fish tight conditions or small water, the Rhodo and some 2.5 level line are my preferred combination.
  • Tenkara USA Ebisu - Can you tell I'm a Tenkara USA guy? I love the wooden-handled 5:5 Ebisu. Like the Ayu II it's a discontinued model, but it's so soft and responsive (which sounds like a contradiction) that it's an absolute blast to fish. It's a tad on the heavy side compared to my other favorites, but if you ever see one available on the secondary market, snap it up.
  • Tenkara Times TRY 360 - I think this is the most underrated tenkara rod on the market. I'll come clean, I didn't want to like this rod, the cosmetics are horrible, but it fishes so well that I love it. It's ridiculously light and casts level line like a dream. If it was re-branded as something different, with a sexier paint job, tenkara anglers would go crazy for it. I'd fish it more, but when I go out with Lilly, she always picks this rod.
  • Dragontail Hellbender - This has become my big fish rod of choice. It's a zoom rod, but I pretty much fish it at it's fully extended length at all times. It tosses streamers like beadhead woolly buggers and Clouser minnows extremely efficiently. When I know there's a chance to hook a nice sized bass, I bring this rod

So the observant tenkara fanboy will probably notice something odd, "hey where are all the Japanese rods? No Nissin, no Shimano, no Daiwa, no Oni?" 

I have nothing against Japanese rods (note the Suntech TenkaraBum & Sakura Kongo are on the list), I just never took the plunge in a big way. Call me crazy, I like to support the folks I know. People I've become friendly with online, people I've met in person...had conversations with...shared beers....stuff like that. Although I am damn tempted to try the "magic" of an Oni some time. Maybe if they #savethecamohandle. (Ha!)

In the end, there's really not a bad rod in the list above. These just happen to be my current preferences. You might have a differing opinion of my choices, and you know what, that's fine, we're all different. Nothing that I wrote above should be an indictment of your favorite rod(s), either as angler or manufacturer. Ten colors, you know? I'd love to hear about your personal favorites in the comments below.

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ATTENTION TENKARA FISHERFOLK
Are you a tenkara angler? Do you have a story, pictures, video, fly recipe, or simply a fishing report from one of your recent tenkara adventures? If so, I'd really enjoy hearing from you for an upcoming Tenkara Tuesday post! Feel free to send an email HERE, I'd love to publish your original contribution.

July 24, 2016

The Rest of the IFTD/ICAST Stuff...Hardy, Hodgman, & Korkers

Sorry, meant to post these last week, but just getting to it now. These are the last few IFTD-related product press release emails I received that grabbed my attention. Perhaps there's something below that will catch yours too...

Pure Fishing

Pure Fishing is the company that owns many fishing brands - Hardy, Hodgman, Fenwick, & Pflueger (to name a few), and they had sent me an email calling out a slew of new products, starting with this new Hardy reel, the Ultralite ASR large arbor:


Now I'm not going to lie, I'm more of a "classic" Hardy guy, but this reel's got a lot going for it...check out what they had to say in their press release:

Anglers can become more versatile with the new Hardy® Ultralite® ASR (Assisted Spool Release) large arbor fly reel debuting July in the IFTD New Product Showcase. Now it is faster and easier than ever to adapt to changing conditions. The Ultralight ASR's spring-loaded cassette ejection system enables the angler to change fly line in seconds. The lightweight polycarbonate cassettes allow multiple lines to be carried on the water to adjust when the hatch tapers off and going deep is the only option. 
The heavily ported, lightweight reels are ideal for the challenges of multiple-situation fly fishing. The Model 4000 is rated for 4- and 5-weight line, measures 3.75 inches in diameter and weighs just 6.2 ounces. The body is constructed with 6061 bar stock aluminium for lightweight durability and the spool built from a high impact composite. 
The 340-degree disc drag includes a multi-pad system with color-coded reference for easy tracking of the drag setting. The drag setting can be identified with a simple glance as the red dots on the drag knob clearly indicate a stronger drag and lighter drag settings are indicated by green. The drag can be configured from zero to maximum in just one turn of the knob. 
Five models are offered from the 4000 to the 9000 rated for 9- to 11-weight line. In addition to multiple cartridges, the reel is packaged with a soft travel case. MSRP for the Ultralite ASR fly reel starts at 299.00.

The Hodgman division also had a lot of new products. Hodgman's been on a bit of a tear the last few years re-inventing themselves. It's been fun to see the new high-performance items they've added at each show. While I don't know much about this particular batch, the item pictured to the far right definitely catches your eye. An interchangable-soled wading boot...hmmm...


There is actually quite a bit of information on Hodgman's website regarding their 3 new models of H-Lock series boots (as well as much better pictures), so if you're so inclined, check it out HERE.


Korkers

So how could I mention interchangeable soled wading boots without mentioning Korkers? Well, perhaps they heard that competition was coming, because they've clearly stepped up their game with the new HatchBack boots.


Exactly what it sounds like, the back of the HatchBack boot disengages for really fast entry or exit, and then cinches back up snug with a BOA closure. This innovation (perhaps borrowed from the ski industry) looks awesome and is a pleasant surprise. I'm certain anglers will love the convenience.

Here's the press release info from Korkers, with more info on the HatchBack, as well as an introduction to their other two new boot models, the DarkHorse & BuckSkin Mary.

Beginning with an industry first, Korkers’ new HatchBack™ ($239.99 MSRP) features a rear-entry BOA®assisted closure system that makes slipping into this boot incredibly smooth and easy. Korkers dynamic Flow Foam Fit System™ provides a positive fit that keeps your toes controlled but allows articulation and range of motion, while the 3 Ply Fit System adds security and support around the achilles tendon and ankle. The midsole incorporates Korkers’ hallmark Internal Drainage System™ for rapid drainage of excess water and weight, as well as a protective features such as TPU guards at the toe, calf, and shin. 
Understanding that female angler participation is on the rise, Korkers created a performance-packed boot made exclusively for women: the BuckSkin Mary™ ($139.99 MSRP). The new BuckSkin Mary™ boot is lightweight and athletic, yet rugged and durable. It comes in sizes 5-11 and is built on a slightly narrower last that better contours to the shape of a woman’s foot, providing better retention, fit, and supreme comfort. 
Last, but certainly not least, Korkers new DarkHorse™ ($179.99 MSRP) drafts off one of the brand’s most successful boots, the WhiteHorse, but offers several design enhancements aimed at durability, fit, and comfort. The DarkHorse™ is a lightweight, fast-mover, made for the angler who is looking for just the right balance between flexibility and durability. At 9 inches in height, the DarkHorse™ offers ample support. The combination of the BOA® M2 lacing system and Korkers proprietary 3 Ply Fit System™ lock the foot in place and provide supreme support around the ankle and heel. The DarkHorse™ offers an enhanced EVA Midsole & TPU toe cap for better durability, as well as Protected Stitching™ for better longevity.
If you want to look at Korkers' full 2017 product line, check out this cool e-catalog HERE.

That's about it for my IFTD/ICAST product plugs for this year. I received a few other emails, but nothing that really made me go "wow, that's super cool or unique." It was disappointing to not be able to make the show for the first time in 3 years. I'm hoping to actually get to Orlando again next year, even if I have to plan my PTO day way in advance. It's much more fun to bring you the real scoop from first hand experience and not have to rely on press releases. Either way, it's all good.

July 23, 2016

Fishing Forecast: Hot, Humid, & A Chance of Bass...

Got out for a little fishing the other night. It's been so hot and humid, I haven't been eager to sneak out to do much angling lately. It'd be one thing if I were in a trout stream, where when you reach down to handle your quarry, you're greeted by cool, refreshing, moving water. Instead, warm, stagnant ponds don't do much to re-energize after standing in the sun, ugh...

No worries though, with the proper amount of action, warmwater can be a lot of fun too...

This was the first bass of about a half dozen...

The bluegill bycatch was in effect too...
Guess the mini-hopper was just too tempting...

Nice bend in the Dragontail Hellbender tenkara rod...

Brought this one out to cast a shadowy silhouette in the setting sun...

Tried a little video, excuse the excessive grunting, not sure what's up with that...

With a still of the same fish.  Big head, skinny body...but who's judging?

Will probably do a little more fishing this weekend, we'll see. Have actually been trying to get in a little better shape recently, so I'm taking to riding my bike and playing pickup basketball again. See, when I lived up North, it wasn't uncommon to put on a few extra pounds of "winter weight" when it was too cold to want to do anything outside. Here in Florida, it's the opposite, and the jeans are starting to feel a little tight.

More time on the court means less time on the ponds, but willing to make that trade if it helps drop a few pounds.

July 20, 2016

Wednesday Nibbles - IFTD Fishing Accessories Edition

A continuation of my 2016 ICAST/IFTD product email solicitation notes...

Figured I'd gather some of the accessory items into one post. A sort of Wednesday Nibbles of fishing accessories that you might find of interest...some good stuff here, if you're so inclined...

BlackStrap


Because who doesn't like UV protection? This company is particularly appealing (to me) because they have a special series designed by Vaughn Cochran, who runs the Blackfly fly shop down here in Jacksonville. Check out their 2016 collection, including the Blackfly designs, HERE.


Rock Treads


Rock Treads sent quite a few emails challenging retailers & media to test out their slip-proof product vs. competing boot surfaces. As a person who uses screw in studs with my "sticky rubber" boots to combat those slippery rocks in the Smokies, these are definitely interesting. Check out a video with more information HERE.


Fincognito


Check out these fully sublimated hoodies! They also make them in boxers too. Seriously, these are pretty cool. The A.D. Maddox "Running Rainbow" and Hayden Hammond Redfish designs pictured above are new for 2016/17. Want to stand out in a crowd? The Fincognito website is HERE.


FishOn Energy


Talk about adding style to fly fishing apparel. Sure, this may skew toward a younger demographic, but what's wrong with that? I'd probably own most of it if I weren't so much of a tenkara angler. Something about having a reel in the logo really doesn't work for a tenkara guy...but it doesn't make it any less awesome. So much good stuff on their website, it's hard to choose a favorite.


Grayl


Why pack a water bottle to the stream when you can just filter all of the water that's around you? While filters like the Lifestraw & Sawyer Mini have become popular with minimalistic anglers in recent years, Grayl looks like another good (slightly larger) option for water purification.


July 19, 2016

Tenkara Tuesday - Tanuki 275 "Appalachian Brookie" Rod

Bought a new tenkara rod over the weekend. Well, I pre-ordered one anyway.


Yeah, it's yellow.

It's the special edition Tanuki 275 "Appalachian Brookie" tenkara rod.

The rod will be released in the Fall in a standard coloration, however, this yellow cosmetic will be unique to 15 rods sold through Pittsburgh-based Three Rivers Tenkara. Right, yellow & black like the Steelers, Penguins, and Pirates. As a Philly-boy, that stings more than a little bit, so it's probably fitting that the rod picked up a secondary nickname on Facebook, the "Killer Bee."


No, not those Killer Bees.

As I've acquired different tenkara rods over the years, I've in turn sold off the ones that didn't quite "fit." I recently said goodbye to two, and will be selling one more shortly. With a few empty slots in my rod rack, figured this would be a convenient way to try one of the Tanuki designs, so I took the plunge. Why not, you only live once. If nothing else, should make for some interesting on-stream photos.

I'd imagine since it's part of a limited run, should I not care for it, I could move it pretty easily at a later date. Hopefully, I don't need to find out. We'll see later this Fall...

July 18, 2016

Souplefly: Fly Fishing Simplified

For the first time in the past few, I didn't get over to Orlando to check out ICAST/IFTD this year.

I registered with all intentions of attending, but the schedule associated with the real "paying" job I hold down had some conflicts, especially considering the fact I took off the prior week for vacation.

But fear not, as registered "media" (ha!), I did receive quite a few new product notifications via email that now that the show has taken place, I have no reservations sharing here. So keep an eye out this week, I'll drop a few on you, starting with gear from...

Souplefly: "Fly Fishing Simplified"

The Bug Visor





The Bug Visor Lite





The Sculpin Lanyard




These are all pretty cool.

Could definitely see the Bug Visor Lite or Sculpin Lanyard fitting into my streamlined "grab & go" fly fishing gear, be it in tandem with my 4-weight, or my tenkara rods. I really like the horizontal orientation of the lanyard from wader strap to wader strap.

Check out Souplefly HERE.

July 13, 2016

Wednesday Nibbles - Summer Vacation Edition

The weeklong summer vacation is over. It's actually been over since Sunday afternoon, but you know, needed a few days of recovery before sharing something on the blog.

Our trip from Mt. Rushmore to Yellowstone to Grand Teton/Jackson to Salt Lake City was not a fishing trip, so if you read this blog purely for the fishing expertise (ha!), feel free to click off now. However here's a quick week in review, via captioned photos...


Day 1 & 2: Rapid City, SD / Crazy Horse / Mount Rushmore


Wheels down in Rapid City, and there was quite a storm on the horizon to greet us!


The hotel had a small lake out front, this was the only fishing I'd do on the trip.
Bass put up a good fight though.

The bus. Home away from home for a week

Didn't know what to expect from Crazy Horse.
They've evidently been blasting and carving since the late 1940s.
It's quite the sight, much, much bigger than Mt. Rushmore.
Maybe I can get back in a few decades to check the progress.

Down the road about 20 minutes from Crazy Horse, there's a spot on the highway where you can stop and see Washington's profile peer from the side of the mountain with no other presidents (or sign of the park) in sight. It's cool, but kind of eerie at the same time.

I was pleasantly surprised by Mt. Rushmore. Figured you just went and stared at the side of a mountain. Instead, there's a whole complex with walking trails, museums, etc...
Could have spent the whole day there if we had the time.

Day 3: Repositioning to Cody, WY

Day 3 was pretty much a waste, we were in the bus pretty much all day as we moved from Rapid City, SD to Cody, WY. Did catch this "wild" pic of the girls in the Wyoming visitor's center.

We drove by Devil's Tower...

Stopped for lunch in Sheridan, WY...

Drove through the Bighorn mountains...

Before ending up in Cody for the night - home of Buffalo Bill, and never-ending cowboy-kitsch

Day 4 & 5: Yellowstone


The first day was kind of rainy, but we did see a lot of wildlife.  Bison, bear, coyote, elk, & deer

And some really cool old park buses

Elk can walk on the travertine

But we stuck to the boardwalk to take selfies in front of it

The following day's weather was much better.
All of the thermal features were amazing

As were the falls in the canyon

The photo doesn't do this one justice!

Wouldn't want to swim in that hot tub

Gotta take a picture of Old Faithful, right?

More pools

Standing on top of the hill looking down at the river surrounded by geysers was breathtaking.
Two days were not even close to being enough to sample Yellowstone's wonders 

Day 6: Grand Teton / Jackson, WY

On Friday we headed South from Yellowstone down Rockefeller Parkway through Grand Teton National Park

We stopped several times along the way - there were so many scenic views

I mean come on, is this for real?

The highlight was a lakeside picnic lunch

I'm not a holy man, but the view out of this roadside church window was amazing

Once we reached Jackson, we took a ski lift up to the top of the mountain overlooking town

And then descended to take in the Cowboy meets Hippie vibe

Watched a street performance (don't worry, the good guys won)

And washed the day down right

Day 7: Repositioning to Salt Lake City

The last real day took us to Salt Lake City via Logan Canyon

Lilly approved of the scenery

I approved of lunch. If you're ever in Logan, UT, Angie's is amazing.

Our trip ended with a tour of Temple Square

With beautiful architecture

But no Tabernacle Choir, (they were on the road).

And after that, a night of sleep, then home to Florida the next morning.

Our vacation went so quickly, but it was certainly a memorable one. I feel like I shared so many pictures above, but I took TONS more. So many neat things to see and experience.

As for the bus tour aspect, I'm not certain I'd do a bus tour again, as I felt that while we saw a lot of incredible things, we really didn't get to spend enough time at any one particular place to really enjoy them. We kind of figured that was going to be the case heading in; it was sort of like when you go on a cruise ship and visit several ports of call, but spend a lot of time "at sea."

It was more a quick sampling of some magical Western sights, many of which I know we'll head back to in the not too distant future. K.C. is already scoping out a return to Jackson & the Tetons, and I just saw so much beautiful water out the bus window that was screaming to be fished!