Saturday, October 8, 2011

Tenkara anyone?

So I spent three straight days on the North Umpqua after this weather change.  We didn't raise a fish! Had a great time, fished some great guys and we worked hard.  Didn't pay off with fish gobbling up skaters.  Frank Moore and I even got out for a bit one evening.  We didn't raise a fish either.  You know when you can't bring a steelhead to the fly with Frank, fishing is pretty darned slow. 

I got home late yesterday, pretty bummed about my three days on the North, but looking forward to todays trip on the mainstem Umpqua chasing coho with a fly with longtime friend/client Tom Hansch.  If your a friend of mine on Facebook you can see how we did.  I got my hand hands slimy on salmon. Coho Salmon.  Oregon native Coho salmon.  Even a few jack's were willing today...and ton's of smallmouth...still?  On October 8th?.  One weird year is all I can say. 

So after lunch Tom says "Dean, I'm gonna introduce you to some new, cutting edge fly stuff"..."that's hundreds of years old"???  Tom pulls out this cool looking little fly rod tube and takes out this little fly rod.  No cork grip?  It's made of pine? No reel seat either??? He begins pulling the tip section out like an old school telescoping rod.  This process continues until twelve feet of "fly rod" emerges from the butt section.  Attached to the tip is thirteen or fourteen feet of furled fly line and tippet.  He attaches a trout fly and hands it to me. 

Have you ever dreamed of a simpler life?  A life without cell phones?  A life without computers?  A life without utility bills, mortgages, car payments, X-boxes, lap-tops, car's you can't work on without a computer, boats that have a set of oars and no fuel-injected motor, get the idea.  Sometimes I whine to my wife that I'd just love to grab a few fly rods, some old blues tapes and CD's, a few spey rods, my fly tying gear, a few shotguns and rifles, an axe, a few hand tools, take what money we've got in savings and head for Mexico, or Alaska, or where ever and live a much simpler life.  Not gonna happen.  At least anytime soon. 

So my friend Tom hands me this new twig he's got and tells me "its called Tenkara, ever heard of it?"  I told him that I had, vaguely? I of course can't recall where I had heard of it, or read about it.  He explains that it's this old Japanese method of fly fishing.  Simplicity. No reel seat.  No reel.  Just a rod with a length of tapered line, leader and a fly.  OK, I'm in. 

At the end of our day chasing coho on the mainstem Umpqua, we go back to Tom's farm along the river and head to his pond full of bluegill, smallmouth bass, pumpkin seeds and other warm water fish and give this ancient Japanese gear a try. 

Grasshoppers were abundant along the shoreline and the sunfish eagerly gobbled up every hopper that jumped away from our footfalls and landed, SPLAT on the ponds surface.  Tom attached a small foam hopper pattern to the tippet of the Tankara rod and I began placing the pattern along the grassy shoreline.

Tom's little sunfish eagerly popped the little fly off the surface on almost every "cast".  While I can't say that the Tenkara outfit was as comfortable to fish as my little single-hander with a conventional fly reel, the rod and line did have its charms.  My biggest complaint about the outfit was the length of the rod and the length of the fly line.  Both made it cumbersome to handle the fish, bring them to hand for release etc.  It only took a few minutes though to work through this awkward stage.  Much like it did when I began trying to land steelhead on my own for the first time with a spey rod.  Once I got the hang of fighting the fish and bringing them to hand, I found the system very enjoyable to fish.  I think they would be a blast to fish on high mountain meadow streams where brookies in a small stream lined by grassy banks and few tree's prevail.  When I first learned to fly fish as a young boy, I first learned to "dap" the fly before I ever learned to cast.  These Tenkara rods are perfectly suited to "dapping".  I also think they will work great for smallmouth bass fishing on the mainstem umpqua next summer when we go back fishing rubber leg nymphs "on the drop".  

For more info go to and enjoy a "simpler life".