May 31, 2016

Exploring Florida - Ponce de Leon Inlet Lighthouse

Would it be strange if I told you that I didn't go fishing at all over the long Memorial Day weekend? Well, strange but true.

Instead, we kinda did family stuff near the house, with the exception of Monday, where it was time to escape for a mini road trip down I-95 to Ponce de Leon Inlet, and more specifically, its lighthouse.

Now this isn't the first time this particular lighthouse has appeared on the blog, rather a photo from afar during a fishing trip to New Smyrna Beach popped up two years ago, however this time we were going to visit the attraction, and perhaps learn a little bit about it in the process.

Here's a tour of the lighthouse grounds, in captioned photo form.

The ominous, shadowy lighthouse. Or just a really bad photo.
You'll notice there are some smaller houses on the grounds,
they were where the lighthouse keeper and assistants lived.
They've been converted into some really neat museums.

There were all sorts of interesting artifacts inside the houses.
Everything from local maritime, aviation, Native American, and of course, lighthouse history.
One house didn't have displays, rather was preserved to look like it did in the early 1900s.

There were also some interactive exhibits.
K.C. & Lilly reviewed a touch screen where you could pull up
 a "bio" on any active lighthouse in the world.

One of the things I learned was that I wouldn't have wanted to be a lighthouse keeper.
The lighthouse wasn't electric, rather lit with a kerosene lamp.
The keeper had to lug 40 gallons of kerosene up those stairs every day. Yikes!
Just looking up the middle of the spiral staircase from the ground floor is enough for vertigo to kick in.

But the view of the inlet from the top was awesome.
Looks like a place I want to explore a little bit more with a fishing rod.
If you squint (click to zoom), you'll note a fishing pier / jetty on the left,
and in the foreground, some nice calm water & sandbars to tool around in my kayak.

A slightly better picture of the lighthouse.
It happens to be the tallest in Florida at approximately 175 feet.
It was built in 1835 back when the area was called Mosquito Inlet.
Glad they changed the name, probably not good for tourism...

Besides scaling the lighthouse, the highlight of the trip was visiting the small museum they had set up that housed various types of lighthouse lamp lenses. These circular ribbed lenses are called Fresnel lenses. Invented by French physicist & engineer Augustin-Jean Fresnel, the prismatic rings focus the radiating light to a central point, making for very powerful beams. They quickly became the standard for all U.S. lighthouses.

Interestingly, if you're into a bit of lighthouse & fishing fiction, check out "A Salty Piece of Land" by Jimmy Buffett (yeah, that Jimmy Buffett). It's a pretty good read that focuses partly on bonefishing the tropics and partly on restoring a Fresnel lens lighthouse. I happened to read it 10 years ago before I knew much about either. I'd like to read it again.

May 25, 2016

Introduction To Tenkara Wandering

I used to run a bit here called Wednesday Nibbles, I still might bring it back out of mothballs in the future, but today is not the day.

Nibbles was/is very formulaic. It was split up into 4 sections; fishing news, pop culture, more fishing news, & "blog love." The latter being the highlighting of a blog from my blogroll.

So in lieu of the total Nibbles experience, today I'm going to jump straight into blog love, and refer you to a new blog I've become fond of, Tenkara Wandering.

Yeah, I know, another tenkara blog, but really, it's good. No Japanese motifs, no man-bun sporting hipsters, no debating "to one-fly or not to one-fly," it's basically a well-written fly fishing blog, but the author (Andy Wayment) happens to swing a tenkara rod. You'll dig it.

Two of my favorites posts are entitled Siren Creek and Tenkara Humble Pie.

Oh, and the photography is pretty spot on too.

I'll also note the fact that while Tenkara Wandering is a new blog without many posts, should you happen to enjoy Andy's writing, you can also check out his more-established blog, Upland Ways.

May 21, 2016

Wandering Back To The Driftless - Part Three

As with all trilogies, the final installment may very well be the weakest, but I tried to save the best for last...the fishing portion of the Wisconsin trip!  (For installments one & two, click HERE & HERE)


Very abbreviated fishing. As I mentioned in the first post, it was cold, windy, and wet, and I only fished for a half hour in Coon Creek, right down the road from where a group of us were meeting for dinner. 

Even with the short time and circumstances, the trout were cooperative. I managed two fish on my standard-issue "Road Kone" kebari. The dead drift wasn't working, however, a slightly upstream pulse of the fly seemed to get the fish moving. Even for all the pressure that Coon Creek receives, I thought these were some nice fish.


Saturday was a little bit of a mixed bag. It was still a little bit chilly, plus the Midwest Tenkara Fest was in full swing. There were a few gaps in the presentations that allowed time to sneak down to Coon Creek yet again throughout the day. Again, the same technique prevailed, a pulsed "Road Kone" seemed to get the fish to play. Here were two of the nicer fish, although you can tell the second one has clearly been in some battles.

I might have caught more on Coon Creek, but that pesky"Tenkara Gandalf" was out casting magical spells at fish all day.

After the Fest was over for the day, I drove up the road about 15 minutes to Bohemian Valley (it's well-known & posted, so I'm not spot burning) to take advantage of some of the final hours of sunlight. I had fished in the same spot last year, so I didn't want to waste too much time aimlessly searching for somewhere new to fish.

It's always odd to me fishing with cows looking on, but I didn't mind. I find it comforting to fish somewhere you're at least a little familiar with, and it definitely helped this time. I seem to recall struggling mightily with the long slick runs last go-round, however, this year I brought about a half dozen trout to hand, all pretty much carbon copies of the fish below.


Sunday was more Fest in the morning, however, for the most part the festivities broke up around 2 PM allowing everyone to go out and fish.

Using a tip from Len Harris, I journeyed a bit further away from the usual spots I had been fishing near Coon Valley to a pretty little semi-wooded stream about 45 minutes away that according to Len had "wild brookies & browns" in it. 

For whatever the reason I didn't find the brookies, but I did find the browns and they were a blast to catch in some of the close quarters. They'd just explode out of seemingly nowhere.

Also interestingly, this was the one stream that the "Road Kone" came up empty. Instead, I had much more luck with some files I purchased from Three Rivers Tenkara at the Fest. I'm not sure what they're called, but I started calling them "Naples Bugs" and they certainly worked well when drifted along the micro edges and small in-stream rocks. Definitely need more Naples Bugs in my fly box.


The final day, and the one dedicated exclusively to sleeping-in and fishing all afternoon & evening. It was also the best day weather-wise of the extended weekend. After being downright cold most of the days, Monday was Sunny and 70 degrees. T-shirt weather!

Again, I decided to venture far from the area I had fished the first few days. I'm not going to tell you where I fished, but I freakin' hit the jackpot. While the fish weren't big, they were certainly plentiful. Brookies and browns galore! I think I caught a fish on 8 of my first 10 casts. That never happens. I stopped counting around 30, and believe me, I can tell you that never happens either!

Much like most of the other fish over the course of the weekend, the "Road Kone" was again the fly of choice. I ended up going through quite a few, not because I was losing them on rocks or in trees, but because the fish were mauling them. Ridiculous fun.

I could go on with more fish pictures, but I just stopped taking them after a while. And I'll tell you, not worrying about being skunked really allows one time to step back and admire the beauty of the region...and man, it's sooooo different than Florida.

Finally, in a bit of an ironic twist, while I flew all the way across the country to catch trout, the last fish to hand wasn't. It may have also been the smallest of the entire weekend. But no shame with my "tanago trophy" here.

A Look Back...

Reflecting on the weekend of fishing, I can't help but believe that some of the lessons on technique learned at the Midwest Tenkara Fest helped increase my success rate on the water. 

Last year, which was my first trip to the Driftless, I felt totally lost in the meadow streams. They appeared so glassy, slow, and featureless. A far cry from the higher gradient streams I was accustomed to fishing. I caught a few fish, but to say I struggled wouldn't have been a lie.

However, this year, utilizing some lessons about short, meticulous, upstream drifts from Discover Tenkara, as well as the realization taken from Paul Vertrees' presentation that all of the features I'm accustomed to fishing are still in these streams, they just happen to be submerged underwater, something definitely "clicked."

I found that applying those tactics led to an increased catch rate, and are yet another example of why if you have an open mind, attending events like the Midwest Tenkara Fest can be extremely beneficial for your fishing. I know it was for me.

May 20, 2016

Wandering Back To The Driftless - Part Two

After yesterday's preamble, it's time to get into the meat & potatoes (or perhaps brats & cheese) of my trip to Wisconsin, the 2016 Midwest Tenkara Fest.

The second annual Fest was (in my opinion) quite the success. It's rare when you can hold a fishing event/seminar in a modern, indoor setting that's literally a stone's throw away from a well-managed trout stream. Pretty sweet set up.

The event was hosted by Matt & Mike from Badger Tenkara and spanned two days. Saturday was the more robust schedule, while Sunday was an abbreviated session that allowed folks time to get out and take all of their new tenkara knowledge (& gear) to the area streams.

In this post, I'll highlight the vendors and presentations, in a mostly captioned, pictorial form.

Badger Tenkara
Presentations: "Tenkara 101" & "All Tenkara Is Local"

The Fest kicked off with some opening words from Mike & Matt.
They gave a quick overview of tenkara for the people that are new to the method...
...and then took to the stream for a rigging and casting demonstration!
Heck, Matt even caught a fish during his demo...
...if that won't sell tenkara rods on the spot, I don't know what will!
Badger also had a table displaying all of their rods, lines, and accessories.

Streamside Leaders

Mike & Kathie had a wide assortment of furled & floating tenkara lines for sale.
I picked up a floating furled line called the "Nano-Dragon" that I'm looking forward to getting wet.

And when I said wide assortment, I wasn't kidding...tenkara lines for miles!!!


Speaking of wide assortment, nobody had more gear on display than "TenkaraBum" Chris Stewart.
His tables were buzzing with activity all weekend...I had my eye on the two red Tenryu rods.

More rods...

...and even more.  Notice the difference in size between
the pocket minis in the foreground and the larger rods in the back

Zen Fly Fishing Gear
Presentation: "Pools, Pockets, & Edges"

Paul Vertrees made the trip from Colorado to show off Zen Tenkara's wares.
He also made a fantastic presentation on how to read and fish the best spots in a trout stream. 
I applied many of his pointers with success in the following days.

The new Crosscurrent chest pack was a big hit with attendees, I saw a lot of folks walking away from the table with a new pack in hand. Also got to wiggle their new 3-way zoom rod, the Suzume, one that looks very promising for people that like to fish headwaters.

Three Rivers Tenkara
Presentation: "Building Your Tenkara Tool Box: Techniques & Tips"

Anthony's presentation on developing your own personal tenkara style was quite entertaining.
I was hoping it would involve a ukelele or some free verse poetry, but I was let down in that regard.

Meanwhile, his Three Rivers Tenkara table was chock full of goodies.
Tenkara Times, Oni, & (new) Tanuki rods, as well as linocut prints, flies, and accessories.
The flies I purchased from him scored me quite a few trout later in the day.
You may also notice a reel on the table, not sure how that got past the front door...


Chris Zimmer had his full line of ultralight tenkara packs on display.
The slings seemed to be everyone's favorite, however, I left the show with a
roomy Tailwater pack that I've been obsessed with for quite a while.

I Dream of Flies

This was a new one to me, but what a pleasant surprise!
The artwork of Ken Jacobs, primarily watercolor of popular fly patterns, was phenomenal.

It kills me that these photos don't truly represent the vibrancy of Ken's work.
Absoultely stunning!

Dragontail Tenkara

Rick was behind the Dragontail Tenkara table on behalf of Brent & Brandon.
They were displaying the 3 Dragontail branded rods, as well as Moonlit lines and hooks.
A compact, but complete assortment of products.

In the times I passed by the booth, I couldn't help but notice a lot of questions being asked about the Hellbender's capabilities in landing the local warmwater fish.

Trout Buddy

Not so much to photograph here, as it was just a table of business cards and fliers. Trout Buddy is the local Driftless guide outfit of Mike Warren, who not only guides fly fishing, but tenkara as well. Mike offers outings for both novice and experienced anglers...I wish I knew of his services the first time I fished the Driftless!

Tenkara USA
Presentation: "The One Fly Philosophy & The Wide Variety of Kebari"

Mark Bolson did a wonderful job representing Tenkara USA.
Friendly and helpful, he not only brought people through the Tenkara USA rod and accessory line, but was happy to show them how to tie some winning fly patterns.

He later went from the bench to the stage and did a presentation on Japanese kebari, explaining the different patterns & "one fly" philosophy. I liked that he neither advocated nor condemned it, simply presented information that allowed the audience to create their own point of view.

Farmers Insurance

I know what you're thinking...what does this have to do with tenkara?
Well did you know that Farmers sells boat & RV insurance?
Maybe...but I bet you didn't know that Laura behind the table is a tenkara angler.
Now you do.

There were also two special video presentations made especially for the Fest from overseas.

Isaac from Fallfish Tenkara took us all on a wonderfully visual tour of Japan. He's actually since made the video public, so you can watch it below.

Additionally, Paul & John from Discover Tenkara put together a wonderful video of some of the footage they filmed from Japan that concentrates on advanced tenkara technique featuring "Tenkara Masters" such as Masami Sakakibara. My photo of their video didn't turn out great, so I'll spare you the blurry shot.

Last but not least, representatives from Project Healing Waters were in attendance. The Badger guys committed that proceeds from the Fest would go to Project Healing Waters, and a silent auction and bucket raffle was held to help stimulate donations.

I had heard that over $1000 was raised for Project Healing Waters over the course of the weekend. Not sure if that figure is confirmed, but regardless, by the turnout you could tell it was going to be a nice figure.

The silent auction featured these wonderful Japanese kebari displays tied by "Tenkara Gandalf" Zoan Kulinski.

Oh, and then tons of bucket raffle items...

I won this one!!!!
Big score!

There was even a bit of local news coverage on Sunday; the short video below will give you a little more feel for the event. Check out the handsome guy talking to Paul Vertrees at about 0:15.

It's a shame the video is titled "Dozens" as it makes it sound like a weak turnout. There had to be at least 100 people there on Saturday. The hall was packed with a constant flow of interested anglers flowing in and out of the venue. I guess it's technically not inaccurate, though.

So that was pretty much the event part of the Midwest Tenkara Fest in a nutshell. It was a highly fun gathering, one I'd recommend attending to anyone who had never been to the Driftless, or perhaps lives in the Midwest and is tenkara-curious. A giant thanks go to the Badger Tenkara guys (& gals), as well as all of the vendors and presenters; it was extremely well organized and a pleasure to attend.

Don't worry, I did go fishing too... but more on that part of the trip tomorrow...