Earlier this season I had a chance to try out the Nissin Pro-Spec 2-way 6:4 Tenkara rod. It’s a zoom rod that goes from 10’3″ to 11’9″. And to cut to the chase, I liked it so much I just had to buy it (at TenkaraBum)
Being a short zoom makes it a unique tenkara rod option here in the US. I’m not aware of a similar tenkara rod domestically available (I could be wrong and please feel free to correct me on this point.) Is it a big water rod? No it is not. But on those brushy streams, you know the kind, tunnels of rhododendron, low hanging branches, no room for back casts, this rod feels perfectly at home.
Its flex profile is a 6:4 but don’t let that mislead you. It is a very soft 6:4. If you look at the Common Cents Database on the TenkaraBum website, you’ll see the Pro-Spec is the softest tenkara rod listed. It will cast #3 tenkara lines very nicely and allow feather light casts. I used it only with unweighted flies – and though I’m sure it could handle small beadhead flies – there are better rods for you if you like to fish heavy flies. There’s no accounting for personal preferences, and some folks may use this rod with weighted flies, but In my book this is a pure tenkara rod best used with unweighted flies.
I have used this rod solely for small stream brook trout fishing. And I have not caught anything bigger than about 8″ with it yet. And though it could bring in bigger fish (especially in small streams), I wouldn’t want to use it if I were expecting to catch big fish. I’d say fish up to 12″ or so in small streams would be my ideal upper end. Maybe a bit larger if you’re careful. But I would not recommend this rod for larger fish on larger streams – you could do it – but I think you’d be pushing the limit of what the rod is designed for.
What about the zoom? Well – I have fished several other zoom rods and they are all similar in that they feel different at the two lengths. This rod is the same way. You will notice a different casting feel when going from the short length to the longer. I think that this is probably unavoidable in a zoom rod. At the shorter length the rod feels very crisp – in spite of its soft tip. At the longer length the rod feels a bit slower and you’ll need to adjust your casting stroke accordingly – but it’s pretty easy to get used to.
When I first tried this rod I didn’t realize how much I’d use the zoom feature. Even on the smallest brushiest streams there are occasional open areas where you can use a bit more length. So on the smallest streams I fish mostly at the short length and then zoom out for that occasional larger pool. On other streams I fish mostly the longer length and then shorten up here and there. It’s pretty cool actually.
Fit, finish, etc…The color is gloss black with blue highlights. I like the grip shape. Some tenkara rod grips don’t have enough of a contour for my tastes – this one does. The rod “clicks” into the shorter zoom length pleasingly – with a nice positive feel to the connection. Overall a nice looking rod. However I do have two complaints. Firstly the tip-plug is a soft rubber jobbie that is difficult to insert. Big deal? Not really but a little annoying. Secondly the cork itself is not great. It has a bit more filler than I’d like to see. Doesn’t it seem like it’s hard to find a really nice cork grip anymore?
The short of it is this. This is not an “all-around” tenkara rod to take from the tiny mountain stream to the large trout in that valley river – if I claimed that I would be fibbing. What it is is a superb small stream tenkara rod. It’s wonderful for small streams and small trout – that is what it is designed for. If most of your fishing is small streams – especially brushy small streams, then this rod could be a nice fit. Think Appalachian brookie streams, small mountain stream brown trout, or tumbling mountain cutthroat streams in Rocky Mountain National Park.
Details (taken from TenkaraBum)
Length Extended: 10’3″ or 11’9″
Length Collapsed: 22 1/8″
Weight (6:4 version): 2.7 oz (with tip plug) 2.6 oz (without)
Recommended Tippet: 3# – 5# test (Japanese line size .8-1.2号)
Pennies: 11.5 at 10’3″ and 11 at 11’9″
Made in Japan. Nissin Pro Spec 6:4 – $195 @ tenkarabum
Disclaimer: I was originally loaned this rod for review – but ended up purchasing it.
My fishing was folded,
a complicated origami protein.
I found it in a pocket and unfolded it
until a stream (it still had creases)
was wriggling in my hand.
It was fragile and dog-eared, but was beyond all hope
I’ve been making hand-furled leaders since before I started tenkara fishing. When I started tenkara fishing I started making tenkara lines the same way. I’ve been thinking about making a video of the method but then I came across a video on youtube by Douglas Cameron Hall of the blog The Trout Fly. I figure why reinvent the wheel?
This method is very simple – and requires absolutely no special tools. Yet the possibilities for customizing and optimizing tenkara lines or fly leaders to fit your personal needs are endless; different weights, different tapers, hi-viz, etc..
“I cannot praise a fugitive and cloistered virtue, unexercised and unbreathed, that never sallies out and sees her adversary, but slinks out of the race where that immortal garland is to be run for…”
John Milton, Areopagitica
Day 3: April 9, 2013:
- For some explanation of my One-fly Season and results of Day 1 and 2 go HERE.
It was a beautiful spring day. Skunk cabbage was unfolding, peepers were peeping, but tree leaves were still hiding away. The temperature was perfect – practically non-existent. No real wind to speak of. It was the kind of weather that you don’t really feel at all. The stream was a little high – but not discouragingly so. Bugs were in evidence. Grannoms maybe? (size 14 or so caddis with black body), small black stones, some olives…Fish were not super active on top – I witnessed occasional rises. With ovipositing bugs bouncing around my fly with the peacock body and dark hackle was actually a pretty good match. I figured maybe a swing and even a drag with a little bounce on top… No such luck. Dead drift, Leisenring lift, slow swing, fast swing, dangle, dap… and all that jazz – nothing doing.
After a few uneventful hours I was beginning to doubt myself very seriously. Worse I was beginning to question this whole one-fly season experiment. It was nice to be out and all – but still a fish here or there would be okay too. I stuck with the peacock body wetfly. No weight. I tried all the different presentations I could think of. I just couldn’t shake a nagging suspicion that I had. This is where the Milton quote (see above) comes in. It is one thing to say to yourself that you’re going to do a one-fly tenkara season. The first two outings were pretty successful – but those were mountain stream brookies. Nothing against those fish – they are my favorite fish, and mountain streams are my favorite settings to fish, but…let’s face it they are often not very discriminating. They can be spooky – and stealth is essential, but they are not usually that picky about the fly. Now I was up against well fed fish in a rich limestone stream. In my experience these fish do not usually move very much to a fly. There are always exceptions of course but in general, in the absence of active surface feeding, I have never found these limestone fish to rise to blind cast dries regularly or move up from the depths to intercept shallow drifting wets. On small mountain streams sometimes, very often, fish will move quite a bit. I often see fish charge flies from who knows where. Cast a nymph, before it sinks, bam! – fish on. It is easy to stick to your virtue (your one-fly season) when it is not that severely tested. Now it was being tested.
So there it is…virtue and virtue (un) tested. I’ll admit the Milton quote wasn’t going through my head – but instead a line from a Billy Bragg song, Must I paint You a Picture, that paraphrases the idea. The line is “Virtue never tested is no virtue at all”. So here was the test.
Hours had passed with only one dink – and that dink wasn’t even landed. The fly box was nearly empty 2 flies left. I was going over the possibilities in my head trying to figure out what the problem was – and I kept coming up with one idea. And here comes the whole lesson of the day – as I see it. It is a re-learning of something I knew.
I had just gotten some new hooks that I wanted to try out. Many of the Japanese hooks that are used for tenkara flies are fine wire hooks, with slightly upturned and shockingly sharp points. The upturned point is to aid in positive hooking. I usually use a heavy wire, standard nymph hook for my brown hackle peacock fly (Mustad S80-3906 Nymph 3xH). However, I’ve been successfully using light wire Japanese hooks this year on my previous trips and I wanted to try this other hook (locally available). So I tied up a handful of flies on this new hook (Owner Mosquito No. 10) already imagining the fish they would catch.
The stream has been pounded all day by a bunch of anglers, hours have passed, the sun is starting to sink, no fish have come to hand, I am getting tempted to forgo the one-fly business (or at lest the no added weight business…) So I had burned through the 9 new flies that I had tied for the trip (well there were a bunch of other flies back in the car – but no brown hackle peacock flies). I was down to two flies in the fly box. One was a brown hackle peacock tied on a heavy wire hook and one was a grizzly hackled, quill body wetfly tied on a heavy nymph hook (how’d that get in there?). So I tied brown hackle peacock fly tied on the heavier hook – it was my ace in the hole. I had been avoiding it on purpose. But now was the time to put to test the notion of the heavy hook vs. the light hook. And….third or fourth cast in a run that I had just fished through with the other fly, fish on.
Of course I lost this fly in a few minutes – so who knows how it wold have performed over time. Now I was down to just one fly – the grizzly quill wetfly. This fly was tied on a heavy hook as mentioned – so I had good confidence in it. I moved to another run that I had already fished through – and which had been fished through all day long by others. And literally first cast with the new fly – another fish on.
I went to another run – and had another fish (long distance release). Then I lost this fly and was out of flies. There were more in the car – but it was time to call it a day, I had a long ride home.
So was the mystery unraveled? The problem with fishing is that you can never be absolutely sure – the fish don’t talk. The variables are constantly changing throughout the day – so even if you try to keep some things constant on your side of the equation – the other side is always different. In this case I really think that the heavier hooks made all the difference. All day I had the nagging suspicion that if I were getting the fly a little deeper it would make a difference. In the past I would have switched to a beadhead or weighted fly – but sticking to the one-fly idea I didn’t do that. At least until I had no choice. I still didn’t add weight – but instead just switched to flies tied on heavier hooks. And I started catching fish. It may have all been a coincidence but… I was reminded of why I started using that particular hook in the first place. A few years back when I took up tenkara and decided to avoid using split shot I figured I’d start using the heavier hooks. That was the whole reason to use that hook – and so it seems to be born out as a good idea – at least sometimes and on some streams.
So it seems that on this day, at least for me, weight mattered. I’m not saying that somebody more expert in tenkara technique could not have coaxed more fish on a light-wire hooked fly. Very likely the may have. But – and perhaps it is just a refuge for the inept – a heavier hook seemed to make all the difference for me on this day.
Day 4: April 17, 2013:
Mrs. CastingAround gets in a little crochet while while I hit the stream
Just a quick report for this day. My mother recently got a little cottage in the Laurel Highlands of PA. It sits along a little stream – as far as I know the section of the stream right past the place is hit pretty hard and is a put and take stocked stream. I believe that other more remote sections may have wild brookies, but I haven’t had a chance to explore yet (I will of course).
I took a quick trip to check the place out and got a bit of fishing in. I had a handful of flies (tied on heavy hooks). I fished till I lost them, which was about 1/2 hr. I didn’t have waders on so I couldn’t get the flies snagged across the stream (not to mention those that the trees grabbed).
I managed one stocker brookie and had a follow by another. I stink at fishing for stocked fish – I never have much luck with stockers… Not skunked anyway.
So it has been a while since I put this collaborative project into motion – but it is done. It is the Wintertime Blues. I won’t say too much about it you can read all about it in the thing itself…painting, poetry, essays, photography, comedy, drama and etc. and sundry….
There is a list of all 15 contributors at the end of the document…
Feel free to share, but only non-commercially of course. And all the rights belong to the artists and authors.
Closer to the Ground, by Dylan Tomine
2012, Patagonia Books
I’d like to preface this write-up by saying that there’s no accounting for taste. I always get a little nervous doing a book “review” because I feel this pressure to say whether it was “good” or “bad” or something else. Well – don’t expect that kind of review from me. Rather I like to present some of my thoughts on the book, and try to give the prospective reader an idea of the flavor of the book. And hopefully do that in a way that other reviewers have not. That way folks can make a decision whether it’s a book that they may like. That’s the goal anyway. Rather than just saying it’s “good” or “bad”. So there it is, and here it is. Oh and one more thing, this is not a fly fishing book. It is written by a guy with fly fishing cred, and I think it will appeal to many ff’ers out there but it is not a fly fishing book.
Closer to the Ground is a good name for this book. Dylan Tomine invites us to share in a year of living with him and his family, and notably with his two kids. And as you know children are closer to the ground. Of course this is literal as well as metaphorical. On one mushroom hunting trip detailed in the book we see Mr. Tomine’s son Weston find all the mushrooms because of this fact of his lower carriage. Weston is simply closer to the ground. So he finds the booty. But there is of course another layer – and that’s what I like. There are different kinds of people in this world – people that are in a hurry to grow up and join in the grown up business of the world, and that don’t have room for wonder and exploration and the joy of childhood anymore. And other folks that are struggling to maintain that – or maybe struggling to remember what that was like – to remember what it is like to be a child, to be closer to the ground. Yes of course we all grow up – but Tomine has written a book that reminds me of the boundless enthusiasm and un-managed expectations of childhood. And more importantly he reminds me not to squash that in my children. Allow my children to be children, and allow myself to be caught up in the wonder of the natural world with them, and teach them what I know about it.
We live on a planet that is tilted on its axis. And in a modern world it can be easy to forget this, at least for those of us in a house in the city or suburbs, that buy our food all wrapped up in plastic and cardboard at the local giant grocery store. In Closer to the Groundwe are reminded that we live in a tilted world. A world that changes. A world with seasons. The weather changes and the available food changes – or at least it used to. Dylan Tomine and his family live a little more closely linked to the changing seasons. They grow a garden, pick blackberries and mushrooms, fish for salmon, dig clams and cut firewood. Nothing Earth shattering. And Tomine makes it clear that his book is not any sort of radical back to nature, survivalist manual. The Tomine family does garden and fish and forage – but they also go to the grocery store and use computers. He tries to heat his home with wood – but he has a furnace too – just in case. He’s not attempting to give us the details of how we could change our lives. He is giving us a peek at his life through the seasons of a year – and how he and his family have made some little changes which have brought them in closer touch with the Earth and its cycles. It is up to us to imagine how we might do the same. He talks a lot about his children – and about how they can be wonderful and surprising if they are allowed to be. But again it is not any sort of parenting manual.
I come from a family that has some history with foraging and hunting and fishing. My father and his father and grandfather before him were foragers. They didn’t call it that of course. But they hunted mushrooms and picked berries and wild greens. They were gardeners too. And hunters and anglers. None of this was any sort of attempt to get closer to nature – it’s just the way it was for them. I have continued some of these things – I try not to miss raspberry season – and I like to fish. But I have gotten away from some of the others. Partly because the ever creeping suburban sprawl has wiped out any nearby foraging locations, except for a few berry patches. But also just because of neglect. After reading this book I am recharged to try and do a better job. This season, we’ll get the raspberries for sure, I’ll look for some of those wild greens, and maybe mushrooms. And the thing that I have never done with my kids – which I will definitely do this year is a big ole bluegill fry. If you have never caught a mess of sunfish, filleted them, breaded them with cornmeal breading, and fried them up – then you haven’t tasted heaven. In my book there isn’t much better than that. We used to do it when I was a kid – but I somehow let it slip away. This book reminded me that I owe it to my kids to let them go catch there own delicious meal. We fish but we always let them go. This summer we’re keeping some.
So to wrap it up, I enjoyed this book. I am a dad, and I have a history of fishing, hunting and foraging, so this book clicked with me. It may not click with everybody – after all there is no accounting for taste – but if you are a parent and you share some of that history then I think you’ll enjoy it.
If you have paid any attention to any tenkara discussions you have probably noticed the idea of “one-fly” coming up. Very simply put the idea of “one-fly” fishing is to use basically one fly pattern for all of your fishing – no hatch matching, no changing flies for that deep pool, etc. This method of fishing then is focused on presentation and not fly pattern. And though it is often posed by tenkara anglers these days, the idea of “one-fly” is certainly not unique to tenkara. I imagine there are plenty of old-timers that would scratch their head at this idea as being an “idea” at all. What I mean is prior to the explosion of match the hatch, and even now, there are plenty of folks that fish with a very simple fly selection – perhaps not limiting it to one fly – but three or four patterns anyway, it’s not any “idea” it’s just the way they fish. I can recall times (though not that often) when I watched some old-timer work his way along the stream with a wet-fly swing, regardless of anything else. He was just fishing his wet-fly. No fly switching – just one-fly. When I read Paul Arnold’s book The Wisdom of the Guides – one idea that the fly fishing guides mentioned over and over was the idea of good presentation being more important than fly selection. That is – keep your fly selection simple and focus on technique. This has become a sort of tenkara mantra – though tenkara doesn’t own it. And so I come to the idea of a using one-fly for all of my fishing through tenkara – but it is not something that need be limited to tenkara.
So why do a “one-fly” season? I’d like to say from the get go that this is not about proving anything, tenkara-related or otherwise. I am not really interested in saying that “one-fly” is better than hatch-matching – I think that that line of reasoning is misguided. It is all about fishing in a way that an individual finds enjoyable right? So if someone enjoys hatch-matching, and all that goes with it that is cool with me – I like that too. I have never been a person to compare tenkara and western fly fishing to each other with the goal of declaring a “winner”. They are both fun – they are similar in some ways – and they are different in others – there are pros and cons to each – and in the end it comes down to what floats your boat. I have fished tenkara almost exclusively for my trout fishing and done so with a very simple fly selection the last three seasons, not quite one-fly – but pretty simple usually, especially the past two years. And I have done at least as well as I have ever done. I make no claims at being an expert – or even “accomplished” – so any success is merely based on my own standards. I have not noticed any drop-off in fish catching, and though I haven’t really recorded it – I think I am doing better by keeping it simple. As I get older, and presumably wiser, I realize that I know less than I thought I knew. In fact the idea of knowing facts has become less important to me than understanding things intuitively. Facts and reasons have become somewhat slippery in a way – they don’t seem to contain as much information as I once thought. So the facts and reasons of why to do a one-fly season are elusive to me and maybe illusory. There have been studies done that seem to show that we may have less free-will than we think we do, that we decide to do something before we realize it. I think there’s something to that. I think that often we, or at least I, act first and then come up with the reasons later. So the shortest and best answer as to “why?” is “just because”.
Even though I make no great claims about why I am doing it – I am still interested in what I may learn by doing it. I think that there is potentially a lot to learn by limiting yourself. It is discipline. So maybe at the end of my one-fly season I will have realized some truth about myself and my fishing, or maybe I will have become a better more intuitive angler, or maybe it will be a complete frustration. However it pans out – I will know something new.
Let me add that I do most of my trout fishing in small to medium sized streams, and I have always preferred fishing pocket water and riffles as opposed to deep slow pools. So the small unweighted wet fly fits in with my fishing nicely, it is not a big stretch.
The rules. I guess I should set out a few rules. I am not going to limit myself to one exact fly recipe – but rather to a general pattern. The basic pattern will be based on the Brown Hackle Peacock fly shown above. But, just to keep things a little loose – I’ll mix it up a bit. I’ll change hackle type and hook type and size, throw some loop eye flies in to the mix, some reverse hackles. But none of these changes are meant to match conditions or bugs – just meant to keep it interesting. So basically the fly will be a soft-hackled, peacock body wet-fly. I will not use added weight or bead heads. That’s it.
The one fly season has begun. I’ve managed to get out twice this year as of this writing. So below I present reports from the two trips so far.
One-Fly Season Day 1: March 9, 2013
First trip of 2013. The weather was nice. Upper 40′s , snow on the ground, but melting. This particular stream is very small – no large holes and not a very high gradient, also quite brushy, with plenty of low hanging trees, fly-hungry trees. As you see in the picture – the flow was fairly low. This stream is not typified by large deep plunge pools. The low-gradient, small free-stone, structure creates occasional small plunges with shallow, long pools. In between there are shallow runs with small pockets. These types of small mountain streams can be pretty difficult. The fish aren’t particularly selective – but they are extremely spooky. And those long smooth and shallow pools can make presentation tricky. One flubbed cast to the tail of that pool and you’ll send fish scattering up though the rest of the pool spooking anything else in there. This is a case when long tenkara rod and a light tenkara level-line is very helpful. Very delicate casts can be made with very little line hitting the water, while remaining at a safe distance.
Being the first trip – I was a little clumsy at first. It took a while to get back in fishing form. I was like a clumsy bear, emerging from hibernation hungry. I was hungry to catch fish. And too anxious. I had to tell myself to slow it down. I had a hit right away – but then nothing for a while. Finally though I got my groove on and picked up a few fish. Not great numbers, but enough to keep me happy. Actually one fish would have been enough.
I got the first hit on a size 12 peacock fly with hen pheasant hackle, but then nothing for a while. In the past I surely would have tied on a different fly but I stuck with it until I lost it high in a tree. Next we went to a size 16 Brown Hackle Peacock like the one in the top picture. Several fish came to hand right away. Ahh! I thought it was size! The fish wanted a smaller fly. However, after 3 fish I lost the size 16 in a tree. So I switched to a large reverse hackle (sakasa) fly tied on a blue Japanese bait fishing hook and finished with a red loop-eye. Third cast – bam! A fish came up to the top and smacked the fly before it even had a chance to sink. Of course I lost this fly in a few casts.
What did I learn? It’s too early to draw too many conclusions, and these were wild brookies – not exactly discriminating fish usually. But in the past I probably would have called the size 16 the best fly for the day and stuck with a smaller fly – however on this day – I tied on the next fly in the box which happened to be a much bigger, and slightly different version, and got a fish right away. Not exactly a scientific study – but also maybe not what I expected.
One-Fly Season Day 2: March 15, 2013
Well day two was pretty similar to day one – small stream, snow on the ground, very cold water. The stream was a slightly different kind of stream though. In general a bigger stream, higher canopy (more open casting room), a higher gradient, bigger in-stream rocks and boulders making bigger deeper pools and more nice pockets. I must emphasize that the water was really cold – I didn’t take a temperature reading but it was the kind of cold that makes a dipped hand ache instantly. I wasn’t expecting too much action with the cold water.
I tied on a size 14 Brown Hackle Peacock (as shown in pic at the beginning of the post). I figure I’d try the pockets for a while, just for the heck of it. Nothing. The fish didn’t seem to be hanging in the pockets yet – so on to the bigger slower pools. And that was the ticket. This stream, even though it is small, forms some nice deep pools. I skipped the deepest of these and focused on pools that I could fish more easily with my unweighted fly. I don’t remember exactly, but I think 5 or 6 fish came to hand. All were small wild brookies.
Did I learn anything? I think so. In the past I would have very likely tied on a small bead head fly – or added some split-shot to get deeper into those big pools. But it turns out that it wasn’t necessary. Perhaps I could have caught more fish if I had done so – but I caught enough to keep me happy. And because I wasn’t fiddling with changing flies and adding weight and taking weight off – and because I was focused on a certain type of water, I moved more quickly and got to see more of this new-to-me stream than I would have otherwise. I am looking forward to getting back on this water when the water warms a bit and the fish are more active – it should be good fun.
On the way out I came across some bear tracks – which weren’t there on the way in. There was a big set and at least one small set – so a mama with a cub or two. Pretty cool and a nice way to end the day, following bear tracks back to the car. Apparently I am not the only one in these woods anxious for spring.
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