This blog is written by tenkara anglers to the tenkara anglers.
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I have fished more with tenkara than western-style this year, and much of it has been a hugely satisfying revelation. It has been an extreme range of rivers; after the winter grayling on the Eden, in Cumbria, I spent most of the spring and summer fishing the chalk streams of the Artois region of northern France. A brief foray to the Tatra mountains in Slovakia, and the magnificent San in south-east Poland, finally brought me back to the rivers of northern England and the autumn fishing for grayling, though the wild brown trout are currently super-active among the heavy hatches of pale wateries we always have at this time of year. The rivers have varied from tiny carriers and feeder streams, often not even two metres across, to the expanse of the San tail-water at over a hundred metres.
Target fish have been almost entirely wild brown trout and grayling. I have had no real giants on tenkara this year, but have managed almost fifty grayling from 38cm to 47cm and trout up to 50cm. I think that my average size of fish caught has been lower than the last couple of years, but not because of the use of tenkara and any change in targeting; more that the Eden, and I think the San, are at those stages in their population cycles, for both species, when there are large numbers of younger fish. This was echoed in Slovakia.
While the fishing in France has been remarkable, and has utterly consumed me, it is the time spent with tenkara on larger rivers that I want to report on here. I have long been of the opinion that we are often tempted to use this wonderful approach on waters where it is inappropriate, even irresponsible. I am still firmly of this opinion, although I have learned that the ‘boundary conditions’ for any river making tenkara a suitable method can be expanded considerably to the thinking angler. We all – should – be aware of the problems: the fine tippets we use are just not up to the job of dealing with large, fast-moving trout in open water. We simply cannot move fast enough to follow such fish and breaks are inevitable, and I think this is a great sin in our sport, even with the use of barbless hooks. Also, dealing with fish by hand-lining tippet, which is always necessary when fishing over rod length, is inelegant, at best, and fraught with hazard, often leading to a break, at worst.
Most western-influenced fly fishers will allude to another problem - that of tenkara’s reduced range compared with what is possible with fly line and rod guides. This, however, has been one of the best revelations, because in practise I feel that almost invariably there is no disadvantage in this sense at all. Western-style allows us to stand off from target fish, but no matter what the claims of some, this usually has dire implications on presentation, of both nymph and dry fly. For wild fish, this matters. A lot. For ideal presentation, we need to get down to tenkara ranges, completely negating the issue. It also teaches us to be much more considered in our approach and, where appropriate, wading technique. The clear waters of French chalk streams has taught me this more than anywhere else, but I have taken the lessons learned with me onto the big river.
Daunting though broad rivers can be to all anglers, the great trick is to be able to break them down into collections of smaller flows. This develops with experience until the time comes when one does this instinctively. One sees the separate flows, the carriers, the boulders and islands, the micro-habitats, the feed lanes, and manages to shut out the enormity of what truly surrounds us and focus on a very small part of it, until all the possibilities have apparently been exhausted, at which time we re-focus on fresh potential. It is a joy to fish like this, learning all the nuances and special circumstances of the ‘reduced’ river environments we discover, and it makes us better fly-fishers as a result. Without a doubt this approach allows vastly greater reward than any attempt to take on the entire river at our disposal, and tenkara is brilliant for this, because with a fixed line we are actually forced to compartmentalise in this way, and also because tenkara allows comparatively gentle, disturbance-free presentation, so crucial at short range. Let me give you an example.
San river, at the tail of the enormous glide at Baclawa: it is late morning and the pale wateries are trickling off. Trout and grayling are rising all over the glide. Three of my companions excitedly wade out onto the glide, while others head-off to the pockets and pools in the rougher water towards the confluence of the Hochewka river, a kilometre downstream. I am last into the water, and the only one fishing tenkara, a 3.9m Motive, 6:4, with a rod length fluorocarbon leader, two metre tippet of 0.12mm copolymer, and the inevitable size 19 plume tip. While my companions set off I watched the river immediately by the entry point where we had all stood and set up our kit. It lies immediately on the left hand bank at the base of the vast glide, formed by a broad, gravel rapid which angles off the main river, towards the bank, to form a glide of perhaps 50 metres in length and a maximum of ten metres in width. I have fished here many times. It is always a surprise, just how many fish, of both species, it holds; although this is the first time I have fished it with the fixed line.
I wade around in a wide arc so that I can approach from downstream and I see several rises on my way into position. I ease into the fast water at the tail so that I can cast the plume tip up onto the sill – the accelerating water of the tail – and keep all the tippet off the water so as to avoid drag; only really possible with a long tenkara rod and low mass leader. I pick off fish immediately – two fat 30cm grayling – that appeared from the fastest water no more and a few inches deep. Then a trout of similar size wolfs away the plume tip. Just a little beyond, upstream, in slightly slower water, I can now pick out the very subtle rises of grayling and the occasional splashy signature of trout, all among a steady trickle of pale watery emergers. Just a single step up and I find I can access several of these fish, all with the zero disturbance of the tenkara. Two small trout come to hand and then, from the tiniest, kissing rise, a lovely 40cm grayling. While I am playing this fish, keeping it upstream, away from the rapid, I notice at least two other rises between where I am standing and where I had hooked the big fish. I keep as still as possible and finally ease the grayling to hand, a little annoyed that I have to hand-over-hand with the tippet while the big grayling turns on its flank, until I can reach down and twist the hook free. I am relieved and excited to see the fish continue rising, apparently oblivious to my presence and the commotion of what has just happened. These fish are only a rod length from where I am standing!
I rise one, and prick it, and catch another, and notice that other risers within range have disappeared, while fish continue to show farther up the glide. Had I been fishing western-style, without a doubt I would now be increasing casting range while also wading farther upstream; but right now, I hesitate. I have a feeling that there is so much more potential in the water near at hand. I think it has been less than two minutes before I notice a tiny rise at four metres. I pause, anticipating the grayling’s rhythm, before setting the plume tip a metre upstream of the rise. A similarly, almost imperceptible rise, with the plume tip simply disappearing, and I’m into another big grayling, and this even as yet another fish shows again at very close range!
For the next two hours it continues like this and by the time my companions return for our mid-afternoon meeting, I have waded up less than half of the glide and have caught forty grayling and a dozen trout. I try to explain that I am utterly convinced that nothing like this result would have been possible with a western rig. There would have been too much disturbance, even if I had resisted the temptation to move too fast up the glide as rises temporarily dwindled close by. I know this is the case, and so do my companions, because I have fished western through here so many times before, in similar rise conditions. Two of my friends have also caught in similar numbers to me, though their balance has had an emphasis on trout and they admit to covering much more water than I have done with the tenkara.
After our break, I cross the river to where there is a thin island concealing a 100 metre side-stream. It is a favourite place of mine (among a wealth of favourite places on this river of dreams), consisting of a series of five pools, with racy little run-ins. I always manage to find several trout in these pools as I work up it, but again, I have formerly fished it only with western. The tenkara rig repeats the revelation by taking from each of the five pools, consecutively as I move upstream: five, three, four, three and five trout, in less than an hour, with three of the trout between 35 and 40cm (the others averaging 25cm).
I did not really go into too much detail with my friends that evening. It is not really to do with the numbers. It is accessibility and realising greater potential, made possible with the stealth approach and presentation possible only with tenkara, and seeing the big river as a compartmentalised series of connected streams. Of course, it doesn’t help with the hand-lining tippet issue, and neither with the problem of a big trout running in open water; but I never broke on a single fish that day on the San in spite of a few testy moments with biggish fish coming to hand downstream.
When issuing the TRY rods series last year, we focused on the casting properties. Considering that many tenkara anglers are new to tenkara and are coming from a western fly fishing background we created the TRY rods to be easy to cast for them. That is reason the TRY rod is slightly stiffer than what we consider to be characteristic for the classic tenkara rod. It is obvious today that tenkara is not a fad. The number of tenkara anglers in Europe has doubled this year. So now is the time to release a premium tenkara rod just for them, one that is targeted at experienced tenkara anglers - it is The Tenkara Times WaterShed Series. The most important difference is the rod’s action. The new Watershed Series blank is softer and the action is slower than the TRY Series. This gives very clear tactile feedback to the caster so it is very intuitive when the rod is loading and unloading. At the same time, the rod retains the high sensitivity of the TRY rods. The blank action is optimized to cast #3 size fluorocarbon level lines with the line length equal to the rod length.
The firstborn WaterShed 400 6:4 model is a 4-meter long rod - which makes it is little longer than the TRY390. This allows it to have good reach and so makes it useful on the larger rivers. Based on angler input we created a new softer blank and also added a larger diameter handle for the Watershed. And of course, the best possible cork is used for the grip. The butt cap is universal and fits all the TTT rods and following the TTT rods user’s feedback it is knurled. The finish is also improved and we did not trim the segments with purple more. The Watershed rods are supplied with our popular stretch rod socks and attractive, lightweight carbon fiber rod cases.
Special thanks to Anthony Naples for the advices and ideas helpful for this rod series issue.
We are grateful to our customers who appreciate the TRY360 tenkara rods. Unfortunately production was delayed with the latest batch of TRY360 rods and so for a while they were out of stock. Today however, we are pleased to announce that they are back in stock and they even have some improvements.
Firstly, the purple trim is gone. Secondly, the ends of the cork grip are reinforced by small segments of rubberized cork. And thirdly, the universal butt cap is now knurled for easier use.
However the rod’s excellent action, light weight and superb balance remain unchanged.
Very popular 1stStep 360 6:4 rods are again available at web store. This rods lot is produced with minor improvements:
- we’ve added some cork volume to the handle to make it more comfortable for the anglers with large palms;
- the grip ends are covered with rubberized cork to make it more reliable;
- screwed butt cap now is compatible with TRY rods.
Hope you’ll like this.
This year, June 2014, The European Tenkara Convention was organised by Oleg from The Tenkara Times and held in Czech Republic.
The whole purpose of The European Tenkara Convention is to introduce Tenkara and to bring different companies that are involved within Tenkara together so we can create a good network and cooperation instead of just looking at each other as competitors. Although it is not really looked at as a commercial event, the companies are allowed to sell and promote their products and services at the event. During the first European Tenkara Convention, which was an initiative of Chris Hendriks Fishing – Experiences and his site www.tenkara-norway.com , we met companies and people from England, Czech Republic, France, The Netherlands, Norway, Japan and the USA. We had a very good time and learned a lot from each other and introduced Tenkara to the Norwegian people!
This year, Oleg and his site www.tenkaratimes.com showed us Czech Republic and how he fish with his rods on his waters. It is a beautiful country with a lot of hidden spots to fish at. We were blessed with nice and warm weather and so was the day that the European Tenkara Convention was held on. Oleg opened the European Tenkara Convention and Misako Ishimura started with a presentation about the history of Tenkara. Misako is a great resource when it comes to the historical part of Tenkara and although I have seen here presentation before, each time I learn something new. After the presentation of Misako I offered a presentation that explained a little bit more the practical side of tenkara.
After and between the presentation we held a coffee-break and lunch-break where we could get more acquainted with each other. Besides the normal anglers we met a professional fly tyer, a fly fishing guide and an online fly fishing shop owner. All these different people created together some very interesting conversations! People from the Netherlands, Russia, Czech Republic Japan and Austria were present which gave a very international setting to the event.
Now we walked to the demonstration area where Oleg had several rods rigged with several lines so everyone could try different rods and set ups. During the demonstration almost all the visitors caught some fish and learned very quickly about the casting, that the fly should land first and why it is so important to keep all the line from the water.
We were blessed with a very good stretch of the river that was used as a training stretch during the Fly Fishing world championships. Normally it would be pressured very hard but as I already said, this was a trainingstretch so there was plenty of fish left for the demonstration.
All in all it was a great day with about 15 visitors. The European Tenkara Convention is still at a small stage but all the visitors where getting all the attention they needed and even more. Since the organiser, Oleg, and Misako and I where there we were able to give very detailed lessons to the visitors. And both Oleg and I are convinced that with cooperation of different people and companies the European Tenkara Convention will grow to a bigger event with a lot of different content that will be held each year at a different spot in Europe so a lot of people will be introduced to Tenkara!
So if you missed it this year, we will make sure that the 3rd European Tenkara Convention will be held in 2015!!!!
Dartmoor is an area of wild granite moorland rising to a height of 621 m (2037’) and covering an area of 954 square kilometers (368 square miles). It is located in the county of Devon in the far southwest of England. The Dutchy of Cornwall controls the fishing for brown trout, sea trout and salmon, on 25 km of the high moorland streams.
These waters are made for the Tenkara angler as they are well stocked with beautiful little wild brown trout, mainly in the 10 to 35cm length range. Furthermore, many areas of river are boulder strewn with complex currents that would render the use of western rods and line on the water hopeless when it comes to drag control (if I were to use a western rod I’d choose to ‘high stick’ with a 10 or 11’ two weight). In addition, many of the streams are so small that the only effective way to fish them is with a long rod so that the angler can stay well back from the fish whilst holding the line off the bankside vegetation and awkward currents.
During our three-day visit, In mid May 2014, Steve Donohue and I fished on virtually all the Dutchy’s waters. The rivers were back to normal levels after heavy flooding a week earlier and the weather was hot and sunny with virtually no wind. Despite only seeing a few Stoneflies, Sedges and Black Gnats we found the fish were generally willing to rise to a dry fly or Sakasa Kebari fished just subsurface. Each day we both landed good numbers of trout (mostly very small but with a sprinkling in the 23 to 28 cm range (9 to 11”). Steve’s best fish was 35 cm long and I lost one a little bigger after an epic fight.
I found the TRY 390 7:3, with a 350 cm number 3 level fluorocarbon line and 1 m of 6x tippet, to be ideal for most of the fishing, whilst the TRY 360 6:4, with a line plus tippet no longer than the rod, came into play on some of the more overgrown bits of river.
Both rods are a joy to use: being so light it was possible to fish all day without any fatigue, whilst their ability to put a fly exactly where one wanted was a real plus factor. As for flies, I mainly opted for a size 18 Black Gnat, but the fish were not too choosy. Steve and I also had plenty of takes on Black size 12 Sakasa Kebaris, size 16 Shuttlecocks and size 14 Elk Hair Caddis.
Useful kit includes, waist waders, wading boots with studded soles, a good wading staff, knee pads (preferably with shin guards, not only to keep a low profile by kneeling but also to protect waders from gorse bushes and thistles), plus the usual gear you’d take for a day’s walk over wild country.
Tickets to trout fish on the Dutchy of Cornwall’s waters cost £10 per day, £30 per week or £70 per year, available from a number of sources which are listed in the following very useful web site that give a lot of information on the other fishing in the area, including the West Country Passport system that opens up many extra waters to the visiting angler, www.westcountryangling.com. In addition an Environment Agency Trout and Coarse Fish License is needed, available from www.gov.uk/buy-a-uk-fishing-rod-licence (£3.75 per day, £10 for 8 days or £27 per year).
It is very quiet about Tenkara in Sweden. There was an article in a fishing magazine a couple of years ago, but since then it's been pretty quiet. Not completely silent. Occasionally, Tenkara is mentioned somewhere. So in Sweden, Tenkara is no big deal. The very few vendors of Tenkara rods that actually exists do so in quiet, and compete with foreign Internet shops for the customers. Why, one could ask oneself. Maybe the Swedes are accustomed to fish in other ways, and after other types of fish? But still, almost every fly fisherman I have encountered have actually tried Tenkara, or at least want to know a little more. Not everyone wants to try the rod, but they seem to show at least some polite interest. Another reason could be that fishing in smaller streams isn’t particularly widespread. Fly fisherman in Sweden fish for salmon or sea trout in the larger rivers and rainbow trout in put&take waters, especially in the southern parts of Sweden.
Southern Sweden here means everything south of the imaginary line just north of Stockholm, the capital of Sweden. It’s because that large areas of the Southern Sweden has been industrialized so that the wild trout hasn’t survived in many waters. The same can be said about the grayling, it exists, but only sparsely south of the Dala River (Dalälven). Now, I have far from been fishing throughout Sweden, so part of my saying might be coloured by prejudice. But at least in my area, they sell no fishing licenses for the streams. In the second closest area it is only sold fishing permits for streams that are, or have been, catch&release waters. I know it's a lot better in the northern parts, where one can actually target fishing for wild brown trout and grayling.
Do you want to go fishing in Sweden? Then you're in luck. Sweden is a very beautiful country with a lot of natural scenery. and we have the “Allemansrätten” which means that anyone is allowed to walk in our woods, and put up tents for a shorter stay, as long as you don’t ruin things, or interfere with anyone else’s stuff. In the 5 great lakes of Sweden, and along the coast line, it is free to fish. And in some cities, it is free to fish in the streams that traverse them. Often they set out rainbow trout or other salmonids there as well. Of course there are also a lot of other types of fish that can be caught in Swedish waters using Tenkara, including both Pike and Perch. And they can be found almost everywhere, in every water.
If you cannot find an area with free fishing, a fishing license must be purchased. You can apply to fish in both local streams and lakes. They are often sold at gas stations, camping sites and tourist bureaus near the water itself. In principle, all water that is of interest for a Tenkara fisherman requires a fishing license. Some waters are also private, which means that the landowner does not grant the water for fishing, or the water is hired by a local fishing club. One must also not go fishing in Nature Reserve areas, but they should be signposted. For some areas, you can buy a fishing license over the Internet, for instance on the site “ifiske” (https://www.ifiske.se/ ). The fishing license is then delivered as a SMS or an email.
If you go by this kind of sign (IMAGE) so it means it is sold fishing licenses nearby. If you are able to, and know in advance where to go, I recommend that you perform a search on the Internet and see if you can find information about what type of fish is in the water you intend to visit. As previously mentioned, many rivers have been dammed why the trout can no longer get through.
Skitfiske på er (sort of a “break a leg” statement for fishing)
July of 2013 saw me jaunting up the pass to fish the McCloud River. And by “’fishing” I meant “hauling around a pack-mule’s measure of filming swag, with a small amount of fishing actually happening.” Being the constant learner of new things that I am, the “documentary bug” hit me shortly after I learned a modicum of special effects and a few editing tricks.
So I start thinking, “Hey, maybe I can make short film about the Tenkara-centric, rhetorical hazing I suffered at the hands of my Western fly-rod buddy and submit it to the F3t film festival.” I of course, assumed that my film’s point-of-departure and Tenkara-in-derision premise would make me a shoe-in for the tour. I was wrong about that, but I learned a few things out there and had quite a time making it gel. Most of which involves me not doing it again the way I did it this time.
Tenkara—and for that matter fly fishing in general—bears all the hallmarks of what the intermittent luddite wants: Time away from the gadgets, forays into seclusion, self-marooning—for me, I’d rather come perilously close to anthropomorphizing a Wilson volleyball as my PSI/Felix Unger counterpart than hash out my fishing naughts on Facebook.
Yet, I find myself now, pressured to have a tripod, a camera, a homemade jib, a stabilizer, a slide, a steadicam, a cable roller, and ten GoPro batteries nearby “in case I decide to chronicle this moment.” Now, I practically feel guilty for leaving it all behind—sort of the way the anecdotal American does when the very omission of leaving one’s smart phone at home by mistake causes the Delirium tremens associated with endorphin dependency. I was half-ready to by a propeller-driven paraglide wing and DJI Phantom drone before my wife slipped a Mickey into my Red Bull.
So now, I’m now discovering that this film-making thing has its own odd black hole of self-afflicted peer pressures. Problem is, I’m the peer. That makes me the punk AND punkee. And I for one intend to shake it, and shake it NOW. Pictures on the water are nice. They are especially attainable when you’re out with a buddy. But I frequently am not. I have pictures of big fish I’ve landed. At some point, trout footage saturation for me became just that : overload. Secondarily, the odd, second-tier and “also-ran” ego boost that being “on set” has to bystanders IS momentarily gratifying. I also now know how it must feel to be Anson Williams:
(person) “See that guy by the jeep? He’s making a film out here.”
(addressing me) ”Sir who are you with?”
(them) “I think I’ve heard of that.”
(me) “entirely possible.” (I then saunter off making box-forms with my hands while they contemplate my hair color)
Plus adding the “I’m waiting for a callback from Hanks” line always adds enough intrigue to muddle things even further. I have sacrificed the potential for a delicate take on the river simply because I was afraid to move upriver from my stowed gear, and too incomprehensibly lazy to wade out, move it upbank, and then re-insinuate myself.
My guess is, Isaak Walton wouldn’t have been interested in posting mid-river selfies on Instagram. All he had was pen and paper—and I’ll furthermore extrapolate that to mean he waited until at LEAST bankside to whip out the inkwell and quill pen. Hashtags: #phat #horsehair #furled #leaders.
To my mind, creative journaling will outlast the cinematic pieces anyway. I’m not pamphleteering against film; I’m soapboxing against placing unrealistic and peace-robbing onuses on ourselves with inherently narcissistic need to document everything we do in visual form.
I’ve heard it stated that one week of outdoors camping devoid of electronic devices pushes a sort of “reset” button on our brains, allowing our paralyzed hippocampuses to start mending. Besides, if I have my way, I’d rather have my rash and foolhardy expeditions place me in the unified company of people that look like they’re in the waiting room in Beetlejuice—than the padded rooms in One Flew over the Cuckoo’s Nest.
So if you must, make that film. Get that shot. Then get back to what it was you meant to do in the first place: the THING ABOUT WHICH you were filming.
Those of you who perhaps might follow the Facebook tenkara posts, know we are at a particularly exciting place in our sport. Western-style for trout and grayling, at least on rivers, has tended towards a new finesse, with ever-lighter fly lines, and ultimately the leader-only approach, while the boundary condition of what we had recently regarded as a limit in tenkara is evaporating. Best of all, I think, the two approaches, once seen as so polar, are converging.
I fish rivers throughout the scale of possibilities; from minute upland trickles down to the lower reaches of broad rivers. So long as there are fish that will come to the fly, ideally trout and grayling, I find a contentment, borne of both an empathy with these beautiful places we visit and a sense of exploration and adventure. Whereas in the past I limited my tenkara exploits to those upper reaches where the quarry was mostly, if not entirely, small wild trout, where a big fish is 30cm, I find myself looking at ever larger sections of river, and much bigger fish, and still not dismissing the possibilities of the fixed line.
This last winter, right up to the end of the British grayling season on 15th March, I fished exclusively tenkara, mostly on the middle Eden in Cumbria. I fine tuned the set up, from the starting point of the outstanding Motive 390 (6:4), until I had what I consider to be the optimum leader construction for a double nymph rig. This consisted of a rod length section of #3.5 fluorocarbon, with a short section of either Sunline #2.5 or fluorescent copolymer 2.0mm as an indicator, with a tippet of a little over a metre of 5X or 6X Fulling Mill copolymer, the latter of which is probably the best material I have ever used for river tippets. For winter grayling I place the two nymphs very close together – about 30cm separation – and latterly these usually consist of either Euro-jig variants and/or PTNs.
The entire set-up has been a revelation, allowing me a level of control (including in terms of presentation) that the shorter western rods have lacked. Without a doubt, also, the grayling, in any size of river, is the ideal target species for the fixed leader approach. Even big grayling do not run anything like as fast as trout and are much easier to bring under control and ease to hand (or net if you are so inclined).
The long rod allows the ideal range of presentation from the wading angler such that correctly ballasted nymphs will quickly reach the river bed or close to it, where both of them need to be, and the angler can have almost straight line contact with them throughout the drift, even manipulating their motion a little from the dead-drift situation, while the indicator section is cutting almost vertically through the water's surface. Jigs are particularly useful for this method, because they fish point upwards and any fouling of the stones on the river bed is usually the bead becoming lodged, rather than the hook point, and these nearly always come away cleanly.
During the last mild winter, several specimen grayling have come to this rig, and no end of OOS trout, and I found myself in wonder at the level of control, once the fundamental of the leader and tippet had been optimised. Grayling of 44cm, 45cm and 47cm - between two and three pounds in weight - came off the Appleby waters of the Eden, all from fairly fast flow. While not running fast, big grayling like this are strong, dogged fighters and they present a large surface area to the current. That puts a lot of strain on hook-hold, tippet and rod. If they get downstream of the angler it is inevitable that one has to go with them, or if western-style fishing, then line must be yielded. With all three of these fish I found the flex in the rod absorbed the downstream lunges of the fish while I needed to take no more than a step or two to cushion any further shock. Had I been fishing western, I would more likely have yielded too much line, rather than taking numerous steps, which is always hazardous in the winter river, and the grayling would have been too far from me; a situation which frequently ends in the hook pulling free. The latter, in any case, is inelegant; quite unlike the beautiful, arched tenkara rod gently absorbing the grayling's weight against the flow. In each case the fish came sedately to hand after a couple of downstream excursions.
Now, after what has seemed a long wait through the foul winter just passed, we are into a new trout season and for the first year ever, I am oddly not thinking of any material change, from tenkara back to tried and tested western. The fish are changing, of course, already focused for long periods of each day on the surface, for midges and dark olives, but I do not feel the need to be able to present at particularly greater range than tenkara will allow on the big river.
I did have one fascinating experience a few days ago, however, which I want to convey. I was wading up a section of the middle Eden, fishing a kebari on a dropper with a small PTN on point, on the Motive 390; picking pockets in search mode. There was no hatch and consequently no fish showing, until about 30m upstream, at the tail of an island channel, I noticed a fish dimple the surface. As I approached I nipped off the flies and increased the tippet length for a dry fly (it takes only one fish showing to make me change to dry).
On went a 19 heron herl plume tip to what was now a combined line and tippet of about 7m. There was an upstream wind, so no problem with delivery on the target area from my downstream approach. I needed this sort of range, however, because of the shallow, clear water in which the trout was feeding. As I eased quietly into range the fish showed again, though I could not see any fly on the surface.
I rose the fish with perhaps my third cast, on a narrow foam lane, but striking felt nothing at all – a 'fresh air rise'. Several casts later it came again, with the same lack of contact. At least it was not spooked, but it is odd to have a fish miss the plume tip. I changed the fly for the yellow quill version, and smaller; a 21. Twice more the fish rose and again with fresh air rises! I was surprised, because it is extremely rare for a 21 plume tip to suffer what was effectively rejection. The signals were there however, in the form of a lack of an upwing hatch. I studied the drifting line of foam more closely and was probably quite fortunate to notice that one of the bubbles was actually not a bubble but a pair of mating midges. Then, I could pick out a few more of this minute species. I changed the plume tip for a much smaller version and within two casts rose the fish yet again, this time setting the hook.
It was a magnificent, leaping wild trout, for which the Eden is so famed, and even better it was followed by other similar fish farther up the drift line, all coming to the midge version of the plume tip on the long leader.
It was a wonderfully salutary experience; from failure and rejection, though analysis and a tactical adjustment, to final, even dramatic, success. I was, however, reminded quite starkly of one crucial aspect of the entire process, common to fishing the fixed line. Once that hook is set the acrobatics and fast moving nature of a sizeable wild brown trout almost immediately puts the angler at a severe disadvantage in terms of control and this is hugely exacerbated by an over-length leader and tippet. One of the trout I hooked that afternoon dashed into the overhanging branches on the far bank and I was utterly powerless to prevent this. Fortunately, everything held and the fish withdrew back out into the open water and I was able to bring it to hand; though this was more by luck than any aspect of control, and probably more thanks to the excellent tippet I use nowadays (Fulling Mill copolymer in 6X – 0.12mm).
And then there is that awful moment of having to grasp the tippet... I think this is one of the biggest 'issues' in tenkara fishing and we are some way off a solution. And yet we must strive for such, because, really guys, this is not cool. It looks exactly as it is: clumsy and out of control, fraught with hazard. It is frankly inelegant, and this, for the most delightfully delicate and elegant means of fly presentation ever, is plainly wrong. I know that several tenkara anglers are concerned with this, while others might be in denial, but I am utterly convinced that we need to find a solution to this one or western-style - particularly with leader-only – will always be seen as the prime option for trout on the larger river. The experience of a big Eden trout going ballistic, among the tangle in fast flow, left me both thrilled to the point of shaking, but also feeling slightly guilty in the sense that I know how I would have felt if the fish had broken away – one of the great sins in our sport.
A word about the upcoming 2nd European Tenkara Convention in early June: the event will be in southern Bohemia in Czech this year, where the rivers are simply perfect for tenkara. I am very sorry not to be able to attend because of my son having to sit important public exams at that time, and I have explained this to Oleg. I just want to wish all the attendees every success in this beautiful region and hope that the Convention consolidates the entire tenkara movement in Europe, and beyond.
I come from a fly fishing background but have been practicing tenkara now for two seasons. My first experience with Tenkara was on the Ucja river with a dry fly. I was amazed at how easy it was to present a fly without drag over long drifts. Since then, many things in the fishing itself have become easier. But my goal to catch a good sized, spooky marble trout on tenkara brought new challenges. In pursuit of this goal, I tested my gear to its limits. I caught and lost many good sized fish with a trial and error in approach. Stalking fish in these crystal clear rivers with a fairly short Tenkara setup offers a challenging combination of fishing and "hunting" that suited my style perfectly. I am not a Tenkara purist who only fishes kebari's. I’m more like a hybrid who gives each situation exactly what it asks for to get results.
My biggest marble trout caught on Tenkara gear. This one was close to the 70cm mark. I presented a white woolly bugger perfectly on the first cast. The fish just sucked it in like trout candy. Adrenaline moment!
My favorite rod is a 13 ft, 7:3 like the TryTenkara 390. This will cover most fishing situations and fish sizes. I tried different lines but I got stuck on the orange fluoro carbon, size #3, a foot shorter than the rod. I rarely use longer lines; I just try to get closer to the fish and I try to avoid hand-lining fish. I fish a 3 to 4 ft. fluoro carbon tippet, generally in 6X or 7X ,but I will use 5X for big dry flies and small streamers.
I use 3 boxes of flies to cover every situation, all season. One box contains small mayflies, klinkhamers, needle flies, ants, beetles, and midges to match the hatch for steadily rising fish. One whole box is dedicated to my favorite big dry fly, a size #12 elk-hair caddis. It is attractive and works perfectly to provoke a strike by looking like a good meal for every marble trout. My thrid box contains a couple of small weighted streamers for getting down to the bottoms of deeper pools.
I only use one kebari-like fly. This fly gets deep fast with a golden tungsten bead and thin black body. It is attractive with an upward partridge hackle and an orange hot spot. This killer is my most fished and most effective subsurface fly. It works all the time on just about any fish.
Sight fishing is the way to go. The waters are clear, so spotting the fish is the easy part. It can be more difficult when the fish are deep because they have such good camouflage they blend in with the background. Even then, spotting fish is the easy part. The flipside of such clear water is that the fish can see me just as easily. I look for opportunities where I can stalk specific marble trout and deliver one perfect cast, like a sniper, thus provoking unwary strikes. This is my favorite fishing style but is incredibly difficult. Getting close to a marble trout without spooking it is a serious challenge. In between dry fly opportunities, I fish the kebari to visible fish and likely looking spots and pools. I make around 10 casts with dead drift before I walk on to the next spot.
Most fish in the pools hold where the main current slows down and the gravel comes up.
What Guarantees Me More Succes:
I walk a lot in search for opportunities. I stay out of the water on higher ground to scan larger parts of the river looking for fish. Good sized marble tout claim the best spots in any secition of river so I pay extra attention and take more time to observe these interesting spots before I get too close.
This is a typical marble trout spot. They prefer dark places with overhang. I would approach this spot from the opposite bank with a low posture, using the rocks as cover.
I always walk upstream. Most fish face upstream, so approaching them straight from behind is the way to keep out of sight and increase your chances from just seeing a fish to actually catching a fish.
Marble tout can be found in unusual spots in the river. Keep an eye out for contrasting forms and colors close to the river banks, walls, and obstacles.
When I spot a good fish, I take the time to make a plan by observing its behaviour for a while. I find a way to get close enough. Sometimes I need to walk back downstream, cross the river, and try the appoach from another angle. As long as I stay directly behind the fish, I am safe from discovery. I choose the best fly for the job and check that the knots are secure. I also try to plan the drill and the choose the best landing place before I even start the approach. I don't hurry; my mindset shifts from "fishing" into "hunting".
During the approach, I concentrate and keep in mind that when the fish sees me my chance is lost, so I need to approach with stealth and stay invisible. I Keep a low posture and, if possible, try to use the natural surroundings to cover me so that the fish don't see me coming. I use things like bushes, rocks, and flowing water to block the fishes’ view, thus allowing me to get close enough to make the cast.
If there are no streamside features to hide me, I use the broken water surface of the currents to stay as unseen.
The first chance is the most productive chance so the first cast must be perfect. Marble trout don't give away second chances very often. When the fish is close to the surface or in shallow water, I use the big caddis. It does the job everytime so long as I remain unseen. I want to cast the fly close to the fish’s head so it can take with minimal effort. When the fish are holding deep, I dead-drift the attractor kebari in the strike zone. I focus and fish a very tight line to feel even the lightest takes.
When I got a hookup I prepare for a sprint. The fish will likely take off in the first moments after the hookset. I'm not only lifting my rod backwards but also switching to the left and the right to desorient the run direction by pulling the head of the fish in stream. This method will push the fish towards me keeping it close. Because fishing with barbless hooks is mandatory, keeping constant tension and pressure is very important to not lose the fish. Running after the fish is not uncommon so I keep going with this drilling style to tire the fish, eventually leading it to quiet water, and finally scooping it with the net.
Slovenia has a fairly easy licence system. No state licences are needed and they are easy to get at shops, hotels, apartments, and campsites. They can be purchased for only one day but you get discounts for 3 or 5 consecutive days. For a full list of licence providers, take a look at the fishing club website: http://www.flyfishing.si/povezave.php. Or visit the Soca fly fishing shop in the center of Kobarid.
The link above also shows a list of places to spend the night. Prices vary from 15 to 100 euro's per night and can include breakfast, lunch, and dinner. To keep things practical, I suggest choosing a place within the Kobarid, Tolmin, Most na Soci, or Idrija pri Baci range to stay central and have all the rivers close by. For precise inside information or good advice please don't hesitate to send me an email or visit the fishing shop in Kobarid.