May 26, 2015

Tenkara Tuesday - Floating Tenkara Lines For Warmwater

If you haven't tried a tenkara floating fly line for warmwater applications yet, do yourself a favor and pick one up...especially if you frequent lakes or ponds.

Some background...

Being a trout guy by nature, my tenkara kit in recent years had evolved into level lines and kebari; excellent tools for tricking opportunistic browns, brookies, and rainbows in swift moving, coldwater streams where the emphasis is on presentation and keeping the line off the water. The perfect tools for the job at hand.

With the warmwater opportunities that present themselves in Florida, and fish like bass and bluegill that are not quite as line or leader shy as trout, those same level lines and kebari can still work, but sometimes it's just more effective (& entertaining) to fish topwater. 

Kebari are not just for trout, you can see the reverse hackle sticking out from the upper jaw...

Foam grasshoppers, beetles, and poppers, work extremely well in warmwater settings like ponds, but I'm not going to lie and suggest that level line (or furled lines) are the best compliment to that menu of flies. Sure, you can add floatant to each to keep them somewhat buoyant, however over time, both types of lines will "want" to sink and bring your fly down with them. On the other hand, the ultralight floating fly lines designed for tenkara rods seem to be the perfect tool for THIS job, and in my opinion well worth including in your arsenal. 

A bass caught on a foam popper using a 12' floating tenkara line

Some Options...

While I'm not going to endorse a specific floating line, two great options that I've personally fished are the RIGS floating tenkara line and the Streamside Leaders Windcutter floating line.

Both lines cast and turn over easily, even with larger flies. They obviously both float. A few differences between the two is that the RIGS line has a short section of high-vis indicator at the very end of the PVC line. It utilizes a tippet ring for line-to-tippet connection. The Streamside lines can be purchased at several lengths from 8' to 30', and use a welded loop for line-to-tippet connection. I'd also say that the RIGS line seems slightly smaller in diameter than the Streamside line, although I can't provide specific dimensions.

RIGS Floating Line (Left); Streamside Windcutter Line (Right)
Both Pics Courtesy of Respective Manufacturers

(A related aside, I also have a Badger floating line on order to complement a new rod purchase from Badger Tenkara, but I haven't fished their option yet).

So what's the takeaway? 

While you probably won't see a ton of coverage online regarding floating tenkara lines (unless you're from the school of "Simple Fly Fishing") in my humble opinion, they are probably the easiest casting and most effective lines to use if you are going to fish dries or topwater in a warmwater pond for bass or panfish. If that sort of tenkara fishing is something you enjoy doing, even if only on occasion, you owe it to yourself to give a floating tenkara line a shot. I think you'll find it enhancing your fishing experience.


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.

May 18, 2015

Fishing Beneath The Glow Of Black Angus

So I had this dream over the weekend about fishing with my tenkara rod just outside of Orlando. For some reason, it happened to be in the middle of the night, so I really couldn't see much other than what the random car headlights and fluorescent illumination of a Chinese food sign allowed.

I don't think the fishing was that great in terms of size or species, but I caught about a dozen in that dream, I so I guess it wasn't a total nightmare.

This is what I remember... as with most dreams, the events were sort of foggy and out of focus...

What I can't figure out is if I was dreaming about being in Orlando, why didn't I dream about fishing on Walt Disney World property instead of outside The Olive Garden? Sure, unlimited soup, salad, and breadsticks are tempting, but I hear the Mouse has lunkers in his water. WTF!?!

Turns out this wasn't a dream, rather an delirious act of urban fishing following a day of far too much heat, fun, and Sith this past Saturday.

May 15, 2015

5 People That Instagram Tenkara Right

Over the past two years, I've really had fun tooling around Instagram looking at photos of the topics I enjoy. While my contributions to the social media platform have been less than stellar, digging into fly fishing, Star Wars, roller derby, and Florida lifestyle hashtags have opened my eyes to a ton of different people that I don't typically interact with via the blog, Facebook, or Twitter.

As I've immersed myself in the tenkara content via the Tenkaragram project, I've noticed there are a handful of folks that really cover the subject well. Here are five of my favorites; some may be familiar, others new, but either way I think they're worthy of your "follow."

In no particular order...

The official Instagram account of Tenkara Rod Co., these guys absolutely slay it on Instagram. I'm not sure if they do this themselves, or have an ad agency or what, but lots of great photos, a nice amount of videos mixed in, and a huge follower base...seems like their posts receive about 400-500 likes on average, a staggering number.

The user types descriptions in Japanese, but the pictures speak for themselves. Tons of beautiful fish and landscape can't go wrong with any of posts this account pushes out to the world.

This Instagram account posts wonderful photos with fishing, camping, and handmade goods
as the subject. Sort of a hipster aesthetic, but I still dig it a lot.
A Japanese user, but the posts are in English.

Yes, you probably know Jason Sparks as the tenkara evangelist and have encountered him first elsewhere - Facebook, the Appalachian Tenkara Jam, or perhaps one of the clinics he puts on locally in the North Carolina area.  And yes, these photos usually get cross-posted to you can view them there too...but I have to give credit where it's due. Jason has a great eye for photography, especially macro shots, and he's consistently one of the top creators of tenkara content on Instagram.

I've been a big fan of Dave Blackhurst's tenkarautah account for a while. All of the pictures of fish, scenery, or the random tenkara doo-dad are all bright, colorful, and full of life. If you've been following him for a while, you may have once known his account as 10karafish, this is the current destination.
Photos like his make me want to get out and fish Utah again.

Honorable Mentions that are also worth a follow:

Have a favorite Tenkara Instagram account? 
Feel free to share in the comments below...

May 11, 2015

Suwannee Livin' - A Cure For "A Case Of The Mondays"

I'm not very good at recording or editing video. That's why I don't do much of it here.

If I was, this is the kind of video I'd love to make. It portrays the loose southern coastal lifestyle that I've become really fond of since I moved to Florida. No aggressive soundtrack, no giant saltwater fish thrashing about. Just relaxing.

Pass the sweet tea...

May 8, 2015

Fishing The Driftless...It Wasn't Quite What I Expected...

I'm not exactly sure what I expected before I headed to Wisconsin. You read stories online of the Driftless, its magical spring-fed streams, and trout upon trout upon trout. While I don't doubt those tales to be true, I have to say, I was a bit befuddled when it came to fishing last weekend, at least with my tenkara rod.

Literally & Figuratively...

Hailing from Pennsylvania, the large majority of my tenkara fishing was done on somewhat high gradient creeks and small streams that had many features...riffles, pocket water, plunge pools, downed trees, etc...each that over time, you learned were fish holding environments, and idea places to toss your kebari/fly. In subsequent years, traveling to places such as Utah, Colorado, and the Smoky Mountains to fish only reinforced that concept of what tenkara trout fishing looked like. Then I went to Wisconsin.

Tiny winding streams, flowing thorough canopy-free cow pastures full of well...cow crap, featuring long runs of extremely shallow, clear, and glass smooth water...I honestly wasn't sure how to approach fishing it. Probably didn't help that the weather was absolutely beautiful, with hardly a cloud in the sky...casting shadows certainly wasn't difficult.

Now don't get me wrong, I caught fish in Wisconsin...but it certainly wasn't by using the "traditional" tenkara tactics that I was used to and were proven from previous experience. Actually, if it wasn't for my friend MacLoosh suggesting that I try tossing dry flies (Elk Hair Caddis), my fish numbers would have been far, far lower.

Actually, let's take a step planning for the Midwest Tenkara Fest, one of my blog buddies, Mark Mlekush, inquired about fishing together while I was visiting. He had just purchased his first tenkara rod, and was planning on attending the MWTF on Sunday as well. I'm not one to turn down fishing invitations, so we ended up fishing together on both Sunday after the Fest, and pretty much all day on Monday.

It was definitely welcomed company. In the little bit of solo time I spent on the water on Saturday morning on Timber Coulee and Coon Creek before heading to the Fest for the day, I had caught a grand total of 3 fish using a combination of unweighted kebari, beadhead kebari, and pink squirrels. Ok, but not great.

That changed on Sunday afternoon once Mark suggested we target risers with the EHC. I spent our first stop on Rullands Coulee Creek basically figuring out how to approach the fish without spooking them...primarily using a floating tenkara line and a longer than normal length of tippet, I played with some fish but didn't catch any. I think Mark brought one or two to hand.

Mark with a Rullands Coulee Creek Brown

We then moved over to Timber Coulee and by the end of the night (it was starting to get late) I got on the board with 3 fish of my own...all rising browns...all on the Elk Hair Caddis. It felt good to get rid of the afternoon skunk.

The next day we met up again at about 9AM and decided we were going to hit a few more streams. Our first stop was Bohemian Valley...which actually had some trees...and some shade! I managed a hookup on one fish that was just sitting beside a log, but when I lifted my rod to set the hook I got snagged in an overhead branch and it popped off. Guess I was spoiled by fishing with no trees up until that point. Mark ended up sneaking off and fishing an even smaller feeder stream and landed a few brookies. That sneaky bastard...

From there we headed back down to Timber Coulee slightly upstream from where we fished the night before. It was game on! After an hour or so of slow fishing, things really started to pick up and I got 6 browns on dries in a span of about a half hour...bringing 5 to hand.  It was an absolute blast! Two came out of the same hole in an undercut bank as the caddis drifted on by. Both fish absolutely crushed the fly, one was a solid 15 inch brown, the second a carbon copy, only slightly smaller.

When I finally caught up with Mark, he was fishing quite a bit downstream, trying to pick up a trout that had been teasing him for about 20 minutes. Content, and just soaking in the "pastoral beauty" I rested in the field looking on...there's something to be said for just chillin' in the grass.

MacLoosh throwing loops

He never did catch that last fish, but I know he caught quite a few that day. I think it was a solid outing for the both of us. Now 5PM, we had intended on hitting Spring Coulee on the drive back to town, but I think we had both had our fill of fishing for the afternoon. Days where you leave the stream satisfied are always good ones.

Fly fishing tenkara in Wisconsin was definitely not what I expected, but I sure was glad to have a good friend like Mark point me in the right direction. While I found the fishing to be challenging, the scenery was beautiful, and much like the prior days at the MWTF, it was an absolute pleasure to finally meet someone you've been friends online for quite some time. Thanks again MacLoosh...I had a blast!

Some people have interpreted this post as negative, or a slam on the Driftless. Quite the opposite. After fishing for trout in fast moving, high gradient streams all my life, the handful of slower, winding meadow streams I fished last weekend were definitely new (to me) and an interesting change and challenge. Not a condemnation of the area by any stretch, simply part of an enjoyable personal learning curve. I had a tremendous time fishing in Wisconsin and after only sampling a very small percentage of the waters the area has to offer, I look forward to going back someday.

May 7, 2015

The 2015 Midwest Tenkara Fest

The first Midwest Tenkara Fest (MWTF) was held in Wisconsin last weekend. Forever seeking a good excuse to fish "The Driftless," the combination of trout, tenkara, and new-to-me fishing waters, proved just too tempting to pass up.

After a long day of travel on Friday...Jacksonville to Charlotte...Charlotte to Chicago...and finally Chicago to La Crosse, Wisconsin, the doors of the Midwest Tenkara Fest opened shortly before 11AM on Saturday. Saturday also happened to be the Wisconsin Trout Opener, so fishing was on everyone's mind.

Bojangles in Charlotte, Cubbies in Chicago, and a "FOR SALE" Baggage Claim in La Crosse

The MWTF itself was held in a VFW Hall in Coon Valley, Wisconsin.  Coon Valley is a really small town, basically a main street with all of the necessities; a church, a market, a pizza place, and of course, the ubiquitous Kwik Trip.

Kwik Trip, not a Wawa

The VFW hall sits right next to Coon Valley Veterans Memorial Park, a beautifully maintained public use facility that just so happens to have a trout stream (Coon Creek) run right through it! So the MWTF was no more than 100 yards from the water, making for convenient on stream demos as well as providing constant temptation during the various indoor presentations.

Now this is where I failed you, the readers of this blog. I'll be totally honest, I didn't take a lot of pictures of the MWTF...which is a shame, because if you're a gear nut, this was the perfect place to ogle many different tenkara wares. So in lieu of pictures, here's a quick rundown of the vendors...with some links to what I thought were the notable goodies...

Badger Tenkara - MWTF Hosts, there was also a table with their full line, including prototypes of two new rods, the UNC & Wisco. (Having cast the Wisco, I can tell you it was sweet, I'm going to pick one up to fool around with Florida Largemouth). 
Tenkara USA - Manned by Mark Bolson, a nice spread of TUSA rods, accesssories, and literature was present. Mark also was tying flies...and boy is he a talented tyer. Being very familiar with the TUSA product line, I think I spent more time chatting up Mark than fondling the merchandise. 
DRAGONtail Tenkara / Moonlit Fly Fishing - Rick Munday was overseeing this offering of rods & lines. I have to say, the DRAGONtail rods might have some of the sharpest cosmetics out there if that matters to you. I was particularly interested in the new zoom rod, the Komodo. A very impressive offering. 
TenkaraBum - What's a tenkara event without Chris Stewart? There were far too many rods on his THREE tables of gear to even try and recap all of what Chris brought along. All of the goodies from all of the Japanese brands were present. The Nissin rods were especially nice to browse in person. I mean who doesn't want a Pocket Mini? It was all almost overwhelming...but impressive none the less! 
Craig's Keiryu Carnival - OK, Craig Thoreson wasn't selling anything, but he had all of his keiryu gear laid out on a table in the back, and he was eager to talk whomever asked through each piece of equipment. You've never seen a bait box like Craig's bait box. 
Streamside Leaders - Michael Moline (& wife Kathy) were also in attendance, with a rainbow of colored leaders, flies for sale, and of course two models of tenkara rod. The 9 foot Streamside rod is definitely a winner. Did you know Streamside has been making tenkara lines longer than tenkara rods have been sold in the United States? I didn't either, until last weekend. 
Zimmerbuilt - The bags and packs handmade by Chris Zimmer are ultralight, functional works of art. Having owned a "Guide Sling" for a few years, you really can't gain an appreciation for the quality construction and attention to detail without handling one (or many) in person. Chris was also selling MWTF patches, which I just had to scoop up. Plus he totally hooked me up...just try not to be jealous. 
Coulee Region Adventures - Ever think of fishing tenkara from a NuCanoe?  Anthony Larson did, and does, and as a guide and NuCanoe dealer, he was eager to tell you all about this awesome fishing platform.

The MWTF content spanned two days with Saturday and Sunday both filled with a lot of great presentations (and food). Matt Sment of Badger Tenkara sort of served as emcee walking the attendees through the basics of tenkara, both in the classroom and out on the lawn (& creek).

Other presentations were either in person, via Skype, or recorded video.

While all of the presenters (Mike Lutes, Anthony Larson, John Vetterli, Erik Ostrander, etc...) were great, a handful really stood out to me.
Craig Thoreson's keiryu gear & zero tension line overview - While I'm not giving up tenkara any time soon, it was really interesting to see all of the keiyru gear up close. The lines Craig makes were amazing. Imagine using spiderwebs for fishing line...yes, those zero tension lines are that fine. 
Rob Worthing (Tenkara Guides) Landing Big Fish - This was a recorded video / power point, but it was extremely thorough, informative, and Rob's delivery as narrator was very entertaining. Don't know the secrets to riding the power curve of your tenkara rod? Rob and the Tenkara Guides can fill you in on that, among many other big fish techniques.

Chris Stewart's Keiryu Tactics for Tenkara - Yeah, I know, more keiryu...but this presentation was more about applying some strategies from one form of fixed line fishing to another. Long rods, short lines, and yes... you can use split shot or weighted flies. It was simply a refreshing counterpoint to many of the tenkara taboos out there today. 
Anthony Naples' Small Stream Tenkara Movie - Yep, I called it a movie. At maybe 50 minutes long, it was a very, very, very comprehensive overview on how to fish small, tight water effectively. Plus a little birdy told me that bits and pieces may make it online, so keep an eye out, it's well worth it! 
(Oh, and Anthony, if you're reading this, Craig & I predicted successfully that at least some portion would be filmed in black & white...but we were both disappointed by no linocut animations). 
And I can't forget the fly tying!!!  - Dale Hewitt, Mark Bolson, and Matt Shipp each spent some time at the vise. I was most interested in Dale's presentation on local Wisconsin fly patterns such as the Pink Squirrel (and pink squirrel kebari variant), it was also really neat watching Matt tie kebari in-hand. As a guy who personally struggles with a vise, I admire his dexterity.

Dale Hewitt tying a Pink Squirrel

While the schedule was jam-packed with presentations, there was a lot of time provided to fish the Coon Creek as well as meet & chit-chat with other attendees, which quite honestly is my favorite part of these events. Whether it's simply first time introductions, or renewing friendships made at prior events, getting to better know people you've become acquainted through tenkara on social media is a great opportunity that I look forward to each year.

Sunday's MWTF Group Photo
(Unceremoniously lifted from Badger Tenkara)

Looking back on the experience, I thought the Midwest Tenkara Fest was a very informative and enjoyable event. It was extremely well run by the folks at Badger Tenkara (Matt, Mike, and Nicole) and I'd recommend considering attending next year's event to anyone that is ten-curious, lives in the midwest, or like me, simply needs an excuse to get out and fish the beautiful spring-fed streams of the Driftless.

And speaking of fishing...oh, I did some of that too. More on that, and this guy, tomorrow...

May 4, 2015

So What The Heck Is A Coulee Anyway?

Holy smokes. Wisconsin was not what I expected.  Like first off, unseasonably warm. Would you be surprised if I told you I came to Wisconsin and got sunburned?  And that's from a guy who lives in Florida.

I actually have one more day out here, so I'm not going to write a post about the trip yet, but I thought I'd share a few pictures of the Midwest Tenkara Fest and some of those Driftless streams...or Coulees...or whatever they're called...everything seems to be called _______ Coulee in this part of the world...