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Tenkara Where; Tenkara Now

posted Mar 22, 2014, 11:04 PM by Jeremy Lucas   [ updated Mar 22, 2014, 11:26 PM by Oleg Stryapunin ]

Tenkara Where; Tenkara Now.

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.

winter tenkara, Eden river, UK
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.

Eden. Grayling by Jeremy Lucas
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).

Heron hearl dry flies: Jeremy Lucas

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.

WBT. Eden, UK: by Jeremy Lucas
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.

Fishing Marble Trout with Tenkara

posted Feb 22, 2014, 5:28 AM by Lesly Janssen

Fishing Marble Trout with Tenkara.

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.

Lesly with marble trout, tenkara catch

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 Setup.

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.

The Flies.

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.

The Tactics.

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.

Marble trout pond
 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. 

Tenkara & Kayak Fishing in Brazil.

posted Feb 8, 2014, 12:07 PM by Carlos Blatt

Tenkara & Kayak Fishing in Brazil.

Why a Kayak?
My favorite form of fishing is to wade using tenkara or fly tackle. However, living in a semi–arid region, wading boils down to the beach throughout the year and lakes in the dry season because there are very few rivers with sufficient water. There are also mangrove areas, but wading there is impossible because you can only access the channels by boat.

Fishing from the beach is somewhat unfriendly and not particularly productive due to strong winds and high waves. In lakes and rivers, the few wading points suffer constant fishing pressure and if one wants consistent catches he must rely on chance or move away in search of remote locations.

So, expanding my fishing options was the main reason I opted for a kayak in my area.

Trolling Motor vs. Paddle.

I usually do not paddle my kayak. Due to the high winds here, paddling and fishing do not go well together. The solution I came across was to outfit the kayak with an electric trolling motor that has 44 lbs thrust.

When using tenkara gear, one of my hands is free to operate the trolling while the other can cast and work the fly. When I hook a big fish, the ability to go in reverse with the trolling motor gives allows me to quickly pull away from the snags in lakes, or roots and oyster banks when fishing the mangroves. A 65 Amp/h battery guarantees me a whole day of fishing.

Speaking of mangroves, without the kayak it would be impossible to go after snook and other species that inhabit this water. The kayak approach is beyond silent and allows me to precisely cast between the roots, which is crucial in snook fishing.

Those fish are very strong but are also very lazy. If your fly lands one foot out of his ambush zone, he won't come to it.


My target fish are almost invariably peacock bass in lakes and snook in the mangroves.

Other species such as oscar, traíra, snapper, and even tarpon may appear inadvertently but are not my main fishing focus. One good thing about these two fish species is that, although they occupy different environments, they like many of the same flies, making the guesswork easier.


I have tested several models of tenkara rods from 2.40 m up to 4.20 m. My personal favorites are rods between 3.00 and 3.60 meters. The longer sticks allow me to wade in more open areas and the smaller models work well in

canopied areas. I like fast rods (7:3 or 6:4) because they work better in the wind. But the 5:5s have their place, as they fight smaller fish much better and help protect delicate tippet. Usually I take at least two rods with different actions and use them according to what the situation requires.


I also did many experiments with various types of line (furled, flurorcarbon level, dakron, etc) and currently my preference is for the floating lines made from fly fishing running lines. In situations of extreme wind, or if I need to use a fly down deep, I will opt for the titanium line.

I like to use short lines and either match or underline the rod. I prefer a 4X or 5X tippet (0:18 or 0:15 mm) that is 60 to 90 cm long and, in the case of snook fishing, I add 20 cm of 14 lb fluorocarbon shock tippet. Snook abrade and break tippet very easily.


As I mentioned in the paragraph about targeted fish, Snook and peacock bass have very similar preferences when it comes to flies. Their favorites are the top water ones like gurglers, divers, and poppers, but in certain situations streamers and even some nymphs can make all the difference.

The flies I use range from # 8 or # 10 for streamers and surface flies, and # 12 or smaller for nymphs and killer bugs, etc.

It is worth mentioning that I only use nymphs in lakes or river environments. In mangrove areas they have no effect .

1stStep 360 rod released for Y14 season

posted Jan 26, 2014, 2:27 AM by Oleg Stryapunin   [ updated Apr 6, 2014, 10:34 PM ]

1stStep 360 rod released for Y14 season.

popular 1stStep 360 tenkara rod

I want customers to love tenkara from the very first tenkara fishing day. That is the reason why I consider the entry-level rod to be the most important in our model’s line. To achieve this I’ve based production of the 1stStep rod on customer feedback rather than expert reviews. Experts can fish tenkara style with broomsticks; beginners need a rod with forgiving casting and presentation features. Experts prefer several specific rods to match various fishing conditions; beginners own one rod for all fishing conditions. Experts break rods on rare occasions: beginners do so often, and need durable and reliable rod. Also, the market niche demands that our prices be competitive.

We reissued 1stStep 360 tenkara rod for the Y14 season and I consider it the best entry level rod on the market now. We combined the best features from the Y12 and Y13 1stStep and NEXT rods to create the new 1stStep 360 Y14 model. This new rod is lighter than the old 1stStep, better balanced and stronger than the NEXT 360. Now it is 366 cm long and the center of gravity is 0.7 m from the butt. It has 8 segments, a medium 6:4 action, a real AAA grade quality 28 cm long cork handle, a rubberized wooden plug and knurled metal butt cap with rubber cushion, and weighs just 79 grams. 

I’m grateful to all the customers and experts for the feedback, specifically Robert Worthing from www.tenkaraguides.com for his criticism when he tested earlier rod versions.

Hope, you’ll like new 1stStep rod as I like it.


Oleg Stryapunin

Teplá Vltava – the Perfect Tenkara Stream.

posted Jan 19, 2014, 6:13 AM by Jeremy Lucas

Teplá Vltava – the Perfect Tenkara Stream.

On any river I always find myself thinking of its suitability for tenkara versus western-style. Most, but not all, that are best for the fixed-line tend to be small. Most, too, contain grayling, which, I have discovered, are the perfect tenkara quarry, more so than fast moving trout - particularly big trout. In any case, the wonderful Teplá Vltava, in Sumava national park of south west Bohemia, is just one of these streams, and in my estimation, it is not only perfect for tenkara, but is perfect in every sense, especially for its wonderful grayling.
From the standpoint of the fixed-line, the scale of this feeder river to the magnificent Vltava tailwater, is visibly all what one would possibly desire. With a 12' or 13' tenkara, and leader/tippet set at a little over rod length, say 15' overall, the wading angler (Teplá must be fished from a wading stance almost everywhere) can cover the entire river, though wading must be careful.

Jeremy Licas at Tepla Vltava
Pace, as always, is the crucial aspect (assuming quiet wading) that determines the successful angler's progress. One needs perhaps half a kilometre of water to oneself, over a day. You might fish this up in the morning, learning how to fish the river, and then will drop back down to particular areas located in the morning session, and fish them through with the benefit of a hatch. Surely, in summer, these will be mixed caddis, medium olives and pale wateries, and the grayling will focus on the up-wings, undoubtedly, and perhaps all the larger specimens will come to dry fly in the form of CDC plume tips.

This fly is the perfect tenkara dry fly, in either the F-fly style, if caddis really are prevalent as a foodform, or the utterly unbeatable up-wing or shuttlecock style in a 19 (TMC 103BL). And on Teplá Vltava, this fly, for me, resulted in two of my most outstanding days of 2013.

Oleg tells me that Teplá Vltava might be the water where the tenkara convention delegates of 2014 can fish. Very exciting this; and here is a possibility for you: just by a railway level crossing is a 100 metre length of river which my friend Tom Speak refers to as the 'glory water'; because it was here that Jan Siman took me in September of 2013, and where I caught five 40cm plus grayling, on plume tips in my second run up, during the beginnings of a PWD hatch. This length of river is astonishing. In the morning it lay, calm and apparently lifeless; not a rise to trouble its surface. But in the early afternoon, at the beginnings of the hatch, it was unbelievable. Immediately upstream of this section is a long broken series of rapids; fascinating water, but populated more by smallish trout than grayling. Downstream, however, is the water of which dreams are made – utterly perfect grayling water in the form of short pools and glides, much of which is overgrown and lends itself to a short tenkara rig and a small kebari (though I would choose the plume tip every time if there was any surface activity whatsoever).

In fact, downstream of the point described above are many kilometres of highly varied river, ranging in width from a mere six metres up to about 15 metres, though averaging about eight. With the gravel and limestone substrate, this produces a never ending scatter of different water types, from desperately slow, deeper (up to a little over a metre) sections which are fairly silted - which most of the local anglers will nymph in the classic Czech-style - to riffling rapids, laced with milfoil and water crowfoot. There are numerous bends as the river carves its way through the forest and you will notice that the foam lanes are often very close to the bank, channelled there by the currents. These are the best indicators of grayling positions that exist, short of an actual rise, because foam lanes are also feed lanes, and this is invariable. A well defined foam lane is certain to be where grayling will collect. It is very common on Teplá to catch within mere centimetres of the bank. Jan Siman demonstrated this to me. I watched him bounce his fly off the foliage on the far bank so that he would be close enough. The grayling really do hold very close indeed, even if the water depth appears to be insufficient to cover them. In the slightly peat stained (remember the forest) flow, the fish are completely invisible.

A rise to a hatch will shift their position somewhat, particularly in the beginnings of a hatch as the emergers will be over the silt and the gravels, depending on species, and before they collect in the drift lanes. During such a hatch this river is simply incredible. I can scarcely believe the numbers of grayling in such apparently small pools. I recall one of these, which Jan had fished before me, and caught four from, which I decided to stay in and see how many I

could extract while the hatch, of pale wateries, persisted. The pool was perhaps 12 metres in length, with a broad run-in, over gravel, and a narrowing, well-defined tail. I started at the head and took six grayling in ten minutes. Missing out the central section I then dropped to the tail and decided to work my way up during what was now the peak of the hatch. In a little under an hour I rose upwards of thirty grayling, bringing two thirds of them to hand. They ranged from 20 to 40cm. It was all close-quarters fishing, all sub-10 metres, and this is typical of grayling in an up-wing hatch, and typical, I think, of Teplá Vltava.

The very nature of this Sumava river is simply ideal for the fixed-line; its scale, its cover, the wading, and, perhaps intriguingly, I claim, the main target species – the grayling. To have all this among numerous Vltava tributaries above massive Lake Lipno, over many kilometres of the forested border country with Bavaria is enchanting. If the fixed-line approach had not been developed in Japan (and Italy in the form of Pesca alla Valsesiana), it could have been developed on Teplá Vltava. The idea of fishing kebaris in the riffle water on this river, in the absence of a hatch, appeals immensely; though I am certainly looking forward to returning to find the up-wings coming off and targeting some of the huge grayling which are then at their most vulnerable, to the well placed plume tip.

Tepla Vltala, Sumava National Park, CZ

Tenkara fishing in Tolmin area, Slovenia. Part 2.

posted Jan 5, 2014, 12:14 AM by Lesly Janssen

Tenkara fishing in Tolmin area, Slovenia. Part 2.

The surroundings themselves in this part of Slovenia ensure a nice experience. The 9 different species of fish that live here top it off nicely, creating something really special and unique. Fly fishing is the only method of fishing allowed. Only a single fly tied on a single barbless hook may be used to keep it sportive and fair.

The fish populations here are large and healthy. Each species has it's own place in the river and the best thing is the high concentration of wild fish. Fishing for the wild trout here can be a frustrating challenge, one that can be seen be different and difficult. The hunt for spooky wild specimens will definitely make you a better fishermen. On the other hand, the fishing club stock rainbow trout and grayling in the more accessible stretches of river make the fishing in Slovenia more interesting for beginners or those who just want to catch whatever they can get without much effort.

I will discuss: 1. the native Marble trout, 2. the introduced Brown trout, 3. the Hybrid trout (Marble crossed with Brown), 4. the introduced Rainbow trout, 5. the native Adriatic grayling, 6. the introduced Danubian grayling, 7. Hybrid grayling (Adriatic crossed with Danubian), 8. Barbel, and finally 9. Chub.

I will explain, in depth, some inside knowledge about the habits of my favorite species. This information will make your time in Slovenia, while hunting for these species, more successful. The Marble trout and Grayling are my preferred targets because they offer me the highest challenge and bring me to the most beautiful and pristine places in this region.

tenkara fishing in Slovenia
Pic.2.1 My personal favorite challenge, sight fishing marble trout in remote places. This dark marble trout on the right took my dry fly with no hesitation.

There is much to tell about The Marble trout. For me, this beautiful fish is the most rewarding to catch. A decent sized marble trout is not stupid; the are smart and very shy. Catching one takes effort. These fish need to be earned, and will surely not be handed over on a platter.

It is Slovenia's national fish and was once the only trout species in the Soca river and tributaries. The population came under pressure with the stocking of brown trout in the 20th century. They crossbreed and the offspring are fertile. Hybridisation is one of the main reasons the population went downhill in the Balkans and Northern Italy. Due the hard work of the fishing club of Tolmin the marble trout is back again. The 8 pure marble trout populations they found in the remotest upper tributaries are used in a well organised breeding program that helped rebound the population. Now this is the last remaining place on earth where you can catch them frequently and on a daily basis if you have some skill and know where to look.

Pic.2.2 Perfect , pure marble trout. Very beautiful, but you will need to earn the catch. 

Although it is the most wide spread trout in these waters, catching a good sized marble trout can be seen as a big compliment to your fishing skill. They are more common in remote places with abundant cover. Marble trout are masters of camouflage with their silver, yellow, dark (sometimes almost black) colors and pronounced marble pattern with zebra-like stripes. It is called "the ghost of the river". Many fishermen only see them when they start swimming towards safety after they overlooked and spooked them. There is a reason for this. It is a far cousin of the brown trout but has a different and almost strange trout behaviour when they reach the 25cm mark. One of the remarkable things is their constant need to swim and that flowing water is not particularly important for them. They often lay in places where you would not expect to find trout, hugging the bottom in shallow water that may be far away from the river’s main current. They are always in the vicinity of a hiding place; it is what they need most. Dark places in deep pools or with some kind of overhang are their preference. Those dark places are also where they retreat when hooked. The fish don't jump out of the water during the fight but dive deep and constantly swim towards darkness. They are good, fast, and smart fighters that will try to trick you with unexpected escape methods like rubbing their noses on rocks trying to break your tippet. They can give you the idea that they are beaten and then make another unexpected escape attempt so fast that something will break in your setup. Be aware of this and expect that they don't give up easily. Running after them once hooked is more rule than exeption. After a release they swim away with rocket speed to the dark place that they love so much. 

The younger, smaller ones are fairly easy to catch because of their aggressive nature. I like to fish for them with dry flies in smaller rivers with a lot of pocket water and have caught large numbers with this method. Mainly the water is so exceptionally clear that catching a decent sized marble trout leaves little room for errors when trying to get close enough. When the fish sees you, it is gone for the rest of the day. Going after these spooky fish will teach you a lot about tactical and strategic approaching and can be seen as the ultimate challenge. If this is not difficult enough, these rivers contain so much food that the fish have a lazy attitude and can be very picky. They often don't want to make much effort to go after food that is floating too far away from them. Rather, they just wait another 10 seconds for a new opportunity to eat. To fool them requires a precise first cast and a flawless drag-free presentation, otherwise they refuse to bite. Even the smallest mistake in approach and cast will ruin your effort, leaving you empty handed and looking for a new target. They can grow to exceptional sizes around the 125cm mark and weigh up to 25 kilo's. The fish over a meter, however, are very rare.

tenkara fishing in Slovenia

Pic. 2.3 Marble trout: the big one.

The Brown trout is also present but no longer common since it is illegal to keep, breed, or stock them in the Soca river basin. They are a big threat to the marble trout population in terms of the crossbreeding and as competitors for food and space. I catch them rarely during the hunt for Marble trout and grayling while fishing in the pools of the smaller rivers. They need more constantly flowing water but also like a hiding place close by. You will find them anywhere in this region but mostly in areas with pools with some current and the normal places where you expect a trout to be. Today it is more likely to catch a marble trout than a brown trout. They can grow to the 70cm mark.

tenkara fishing in Slovenia
Pic.2.4 The widely spread black and red dots with sharp edges and absence of a marble pattern on the head and back identifies this as a brown trout.

The Hybrid trout are my second most wanted trout species because they can be so beautiful in their color patterns. They can be very different in the way they look and most of the time it is impossible to tell quickly what species it really is. They can look very similar to a Brown trout or look very much like a Marble trout. The most beautiful ones have some of both. This combination can be stunning. They can have the habits of a Brown trout or the Marble trout, but who cares? They are wild, beautiful, and a good sport on Tenkara. They can grow to around the 1m mark.

tenkara fishing in Slovenia
Pic.2.5 This I consider as a Marble trout. The young ones have red splotches with soft edges as a pearl stain on the lateral line along with the nice marble pattern over the whole body.

tenkara fishing in Slovenia
Pic. 2.6 The many red dots with sharp edges and marble pattern on the head and back shows something of both species and considered to be a hybrid.

The Rainbow trout is introduced to make the fishing more interesting. They are aggressive and just easy to catch compared to the native species. It often saves the day when catching Marbles or Grayling didn't work. When hooked, they jump out of the water multiple times making them a good sport fish and a lot of fun to catch. At first they didn't reproduce in these rivers but they are now accustomed to these waters and it's now not uncommon to catch a wild specimen. The wild ones have perfect fins with white edges and are more light silver in color. They eat almost anything that is presented well. The average stocked size is "big" and can demand the most of your fishing equipment and skills. You will find them in the more easily reached parts of the river, in open pools. It is the most seen and caught species because of its aggressiveness and persistent hunger. Most of the time it is the first fish to reach your fly. Personally, I like to avoid areas that hold a lot of rainbow trout because they make the catch of Marble trout and Grayling almost impossible. They can grow to the 80cm mark in these rivers.

tenkara fishing in Slovenia
Pic. 2.7 The rainbow trout will save your day when the wild species leave you empty handed.

The Adriatic grayling is not named as a different species yet but has different behaviour than the Danubian grayling that was introduced earlier. Both species have also crossbreed. The hybrids are almost impossible to tell apart, especially when they have black dots on the front. The Adriatic grayling is the original species and the easiest to recognise. It has a light grey or golden yellow body with few, or no black dots in the front. The two graylings’ behaviours differ from elsewhere in Europe. They are not that shy but the hard part is catching them. Mostly they are lazy and very picky and this gets worse when they become aware of your presence. The fly must be presented in close proximity to their feeding lines. They are mostly found close to the bottom, so your fly needs to go deep. To catch a good sized grayling can require a lot of patience and many casts. Once you have spotted one, don't give up quickly but give it some extra casts. They live in the slow middle and lower parts of the rivers and prefer a gravel or sandy bottom. They mostly hold at the ends of the pools where the current slows down and the gravel bottom comes up. When you hook one they often jump out of the water like the Rainbow trout and use tactile strategies like hanging in the current with their backfin unfolded to give you the feeling that you have hooked a brick. They are good sport on Tenkara gear as they can reach the 60cm mark.

tenkara fishing in Slovenia
Pic.2.8 The endangered Adriatic grayling has a light color and few or no black dots.

tenkara fishing in Slovenia
Pic.2.9 Difficult to tell if this is a Danubian or hybrid grayling. Actually I don't care. A grayling is a grayling.

The Barbel and the Chub are species you will not likely meet while Tenkara fishing because they like the wide and slow water that we mostly pass when Tenkara fishing. They also are more common in the big rivers where you cannot get to them with Tenkara gear. They don't have a standing place but are more the river bums and in search of food most of the time while swimming around. The barbels live in schools and vacuum clean the bottom. Anything they eat that feels hard they spit out right away so registering a bite and setting the hook is difficult. The chubs also live in schools, are super shy and very picky in their diet. I consider these two species as a lucky bycatch but when that happens it is a lot of fun because of their strength and fighting energy. Targeting these two species will ruin your fishing trip as there is so much more to do in terms of fish that are more willing to bite and live in areas better suited for Tenkara.

tenkara fishing in Slovenia
Pic.2.10 A barbel is a species that lives in places that are not that interesting for Tenkara fishing.

To be continued with how I catch my fish here on a average day...

Slovenia. Tenkara fishing on the way to..

posted Dec 19, 2013, 9:52 PM by Oleg Stryapunin

Slovenia. Tenkara fishing on the way to…

The great advantage of tenkara is gear minimalism. I always have the rigged rod, the fly box and the spool of tippet material in my luggage. It lets me stop my car near any creek I like and go fishing. In summertime the water is warm and footwear can me also minimalist, like swimming shoes .

At the end of August we drove to the Adriatic coast of Croatia for a week’s vacation. As the road led through Slovenia near Kokra river, I asked Jeremy Lucas where I could buy a fishing permit. He answered: “I can strongly recommend the Kokra and suggest you go to the Hotel Bor in Preddvor where you can buy tickets for both the upper and lower sections of that lovely river.”

The fishing regulations in Slovenia are very friendly to foreigners and do not require you to have a state rod license. We left Prague at 5 and by 10 I had already bought a one-day permit in the hotel Bor in Hrib, near the village of Preddvor for 29 EUR. If you follow my lead, please be careful: the turn for the hotel is not well visible from the main road.

Tenkara fishing Kokra river
Our search for the right place to fish did not take long, as the road runs alongside the river. We stopped at a scenic area above the small village of Kokrica. Jeremy had described the fishing perfectly and my expectations were fully confirmed. The water level was low for the summertime. I fished upstream with kebaries and killers and got trout strikes in almost every deep pool. Most of fish were WBT–less than 10”. In the deepest pools the specimens went up to 15”, and we also caught some rainbows.

After 4 hours of enjoyable fishing, we left Kokra with regret in order to reach Croatia for the night.

North West Slovenia–the hidden pearl of Europe. Part 1.

posted Dec 8, 2013, 12:15 AM by Lesly Janssen

North West Slovenia–the Hidden Pearl of Europe. Part 1.

If I could only choose two words to describe this place they would be Perfect and Paradise!

Particularly for fishermen, this place has it all! The rivers are beautiful with cristal clear water in many tones of blue and green. These light colored river bottoms and picturesque gravel bars are surrounded by densely forested alpine mountains full of wildlife.  Many unique fish species live here in a fairy tale environment that is magical and more than worth every fisherman’s visit. Without a doubt, I know you will love this place like everyone else. This is a fisherman’s perfect playground: it makes you a better fishermen and has everything you could wish for.

I will explain the following about North West Slovania: 

·         The 10 amazing rivers to fish.

·         The 9 different species of fish and how to catch them.

·         Where to get fishing licenses.

·         Where to spend the night.

The rivers in this part of Slovenia find their way over 200 million year old limestone, making the water exeptionally clear. The last ice age left a mineral resin in these mountains that causes a vibrant and surreal blue and green tone in the water and pools.  Combine that with a white river bottom, gravel beaches and green alpine mountains and you get special nature with contrasting colors that are a real treat for the eye. The rivers themselves are in pristine shape, flowing naturally and almost untouched by human influence or other regulations. The 145km of river water  that may be fished is divided over 10 rivers. Because of this abundance of choice, it is impossible to choose only one favorite river. There is just to much to see and fish, more than enough for a fisherman’s lifetime.

Tolmin area map
The rivers of which I speak include the Soca, Idrijca, Baca, Trebuscica, Tolminka,  Nadiza, Ucja, Kneza, Koritnica and Bela, almost an entire river sytem very well managed by the fishing club of Tolmin.

The Soca river is large and ranks among the most beautiful rivers of Europe. This river is absolutely pristine and untouched. Around 40km can be fished, all so beautiful that you often forget to fish while there. The upper and lower part have stone and gravel beaches with gentle currents and rapids while the middle part flows through a deep and remote canyon with many big boulders and pocket water. It has many places that are good for Tenkara but require some walking to reach the next spot. All species of trout, grayling and whitefish live in this river and the average size is "BIG". Many of the fish are just too big for Tenkara; fishing here demands skill.

Soca tenkara waters
The Soca river with her emerald water color looks unreal. A must "do before you die"river.

The Idrijca river is also large and has a more mysterious karst character with attractive greenish pools.  The upper part is densly forested, remote and better for Tenkara. The lower part is more open with gravel beaches and longer, slower pools and rapids. 16km can be fished. All species of trout, grayling and whitefish live in this river.  

Idrijca tenkara waters
 The Idrijca has long pools and rapids. Prepare for big and strong fish

The rivers Baca, Trebuscica, Tolminka, Nadiza and Ucja are mid-sized and ideally suited for Tenkara throughout the entirety of the rivers.  Because these rivers are smaller than the Soca and Idrijca they have more variety and different surroundings. The total length of these rivers together is around 65km and the average width is 20m or less. The fish can be big too. It is not uncommon to find 60+ cm fish.

The Baca river is a tributary of the Idrijca and the longest of the middle sized rivers; around 21km can be fished. The bottom consists of white, grey and brown stones and and gravel. The pools have a nice bluish hue and the water is very clear. The lower part is C&R only, with a more open character and longer pools with surprisingly big fish. This river has high, densly forested banks in the middle part and more rapids in the upper part. Many sections of the river have impressive limestone plated walls and big rocks. This river one of my favorite rivers that guarrantees a lot of fishing fun. The whole river is good for Tenkara. The upper part holds only wild trout while in the lower part you can catch grayling and a occasional whitefish too.

Baca tenkara waters
The Baca is a varied river, perfect for Tenkara

The Trebuscica river is also a Tributary of the Idrijca. This pristine, untouched river with its white gravel bottom, yellow stones and light greenish toned pools is an intimate beauty where pools and rapids follow each other up quickly.  The water is exeptionally clear and the fish will offer you a nice challenge. The whole river is around 8km, perfect for Tenkara and C&R only. All species of trout can be caught. The lower part has more grayling and whitefish.

tenkara waters
Trebuscica river is a special experience for every fishermen.

The Tolminka river is a tributary of the Soca. It has around 10km of fishable water and is C&R only. The upper and middle parts flow through a narrow, remote and densely forested valley. To reach the water and walk from spot to spot requires some hiking and climbing skills. Almost no fishermen go to this place so you can expect to have the water to yourself. The river has some gorges with steep walls and many big white rocks scattered around. The water is cold, very clear and clean enough to drink with a nice blue tone in the pools. The bottom is light colored and the fish are all wild. The lower part, down the Unesco gorges, is easier to reach and has a more open character with more gravel beaches. All the trout in the upper section are wild. In the lower part  there are also grayling and occasional whitefish.

Tolminka tenkara waters
 The Tolminka is a magnificant river for those who love to explore remote places and a challenging fishery.

The Nadiza river offers around 13km to fish. The upper part is remote with some impressive limestone art and big rock and is also the best area for Tenkara. The middle and lower parts are more open, wider and easier to reach. The pools are far apart so expect to do some walking. The bottom is white gravel with nice black stones. The water is very clear, drinkable and has a blue tone to the pools.  

All trout and grayling species can be found. This river also has many chubs and barbels.

Nadiza tenkara waters
The Nadiza river is a good river during the early and late seasons with beautiful water color and surroundings.

The Ucja river has 6km of fishable water. This river offers adventerous and peaceful fishing.  It is very remote and the least fished river of all. It is very difficult to enter, almost inaccessable. The water is cold and fast. The pools are blue toned and the bottom is white. It has the most amazing big rocks, boulders, cliffs, ravines and gorges. To fish this river you need to be fit and have some climbing skills. I do not suggest fishing here alone. It has many dead ends with steep walls and deep pools that you cannot get around. It probably doesn't get any wilder than this. All the trout are wild and the lower section also has grayling.

Ucja tenkara waters
The Ucja river is an impressive and wild river.

The Kneza, Koritnica and Bela rivers are fairly small with a combined length around 18km. The Kneza and Koritnica river are tributaries of the Baca river. The Bela river is a tributary of Nadiza river. These rivers are perfect if you like Indian style Tenkara with a short rod and short line. The banks are densly forested with high a variety of pools and limestone art. The Kneza and Koritnica rivers have many impressive limestone plated walls, while the Bela river has a more open character. These rivers hold wild trout and some occasional grayling in the lower parts.

Kneza tenkara waters
Kneza river has many limestone plated walls, which makes it one of my favorite small rivers.

To be continued..

One day of tenkara fishing in Croatia.

posted Nov 23, 2013, 11:28 PM by Oleg Stryapunin

One day of tenkara fishing in Croatia.

My annual family beach holidays at the Istria coast with sunbathing, swimming and snorkling bored me after a couple of days this year. Fortunately I had the possibility to diversify my vacation with a day-trip, fishing the Croatian mountains. The Kupa River and its tributaries in the area of the Risnjak national park make for some good places to fish with the fly.

The town of Brod-na-Kupi is 140 km from the western coast of Istria and reachable by car in two hours. A state fishing license is not required to fish there. A one-day permit is available at the restaurant on the main crossroad before the border with Slovenia. Please note that you need cash to pay there. The nearest ATM is in Delvice town in 15 km. The permit cost is 150 kunas (22 EUR) for the Kupa River and 250 kunas (35 EUR) for the Kupa and tributaries Kupica and Curak.
The Kupa is easily accessible from the road. Catch and release is mandatory for grayling and I found a lot of them there. In the crystal-clear water of the slow stretches and mirror pools, small grayling are easily visible. These grayling are spooky and do not take flies, but at the nearest run I caught a dozen modest sized grayling in half an hour. 

At the end of August all the big grayling are in deeper pools. I saw teams of 15-20” specimens slowly moving in the emerald water and glistening in the sun. I managed to hook one with a nymph on a stream flowing into a pool, but all the others ignored my flies. The water was very warm and these large grayling were not feeding during the day. To find active fish I went to the tributaries.

The water in the tributaries–Kupica and Curak–is definitely colder than in the Kupa. Both rivers run through canyons where the current is stronger and the fish are much more active in the summertime heat, so I went there to fish. The tributaries are catch and release areas. The Kupica is accessible easily by car from the confluence of the Kupa up to the village of Mala Lesnica. The Curak is also accessible by car for 4 km upstream from the confluence to the Kupica near the village of Isevnica.

Both rivers look perfect for tenkara; I chose the Curak and was not disappointed. I stopped my car near the first run and caught a nice 15” bow on the first cast. I quickly regretted not wearing waders: the water was cold and wading was uncomfortable.

Moving alongside the river through the bushes, I fished some runs, sometimes hooking nice little WBTs and found a lovely pool with flowing stream and a visible flock of decent-sized fish near the bottom: grayling! I switched to a heavier kebari and got a take on the very first cast. Fortunately, at this moment my mate with the camera passed me on his way to the next fishing spot and got some nice shots, recording the fight, the catch and the release. All the other grayling spooked and I moved upstream, focusing on the deeper pools. I caught some nice grayling, brownies and bows in two hours of perfect tenkara fishing under the canopies of the beautiful Curak stream.

Lodging near Kupa is available. The hotel “Mance”, http://www.hotelmance.com/ is located in the center of Brod-na-Kupi. Driving through the Kuzelj village I saw the signes “SOBE” which means there are rooms for rent. Also you can contact the fly angler, Darko Gorjan, at https://www.facebook.com/croatia.flyfishing for inexpensive fisherman’s lodging in Zakraic Brodski near Curak, like I did.

Curak. The grayling.
 With Darko Gorjan: fly swap :).

Suitability of the Stream

posted Nov 13, 2013, 10:14 PM by Jeremy Lucas   [ updated Nov 13, 2013, 10:43 PM ]

Suitability of the Stream.

I have been asked so much recently whether I prefer western-style or tenkara. This is a very difficult question to answer, because I love them both. One is aware of all the conjecture, the arguments for and against, and I'm afraid that the simple truth is that we anglers usually do have a distinct preference for one approach or the other and tend to do our utmost to 'protect' and promote whichever that might be. This is typical of our nature, of course, though while it does the sport no good at all, it might not, finally, do any harm.

So what are the main points of concern, or argument, and are they valid? A lot is made of the minimalistic simplicity of tenkara, which is perhaps obvious, but probably over-stated in comparison with western-style, because apart from having a reel in the system, the latter can be just about as simple. On all the rivers I fish, Europe-wide, I carry very little, with either approach. Indeed, I have known tenkara fishers more burdened with tackle and flies than I am when fishing with fly line.

The delicacy of presentation of tenkara is also a strongly voiced virtue, and we have to agree with this, although again, fishing western-style, with the ultra-light line weights and furls available nowadays, or particularly the leader-only approach, there is very little in it, believe me. I should add that western-style actually has a huge advantage here, particularly again with leader-only in that one can obtain beautifully soft touch down, with control, at significantly greater range than is possible with the fixed line. On the small river this is inconsequential, but the value of this increases vastly in proportion to the size of the river. Having control over line/leader length, however, from cast to cast, is also of huge value, no matter what the size of river. I fear that tenkara aficionados who do not appreciate this point are either in ignorance of this factor of control, or in denial.

Tenkara waters - Ternoise France

The problem here is keeping hooked trout out of the overhanging alders on the right bank: middle Ternoise, at Blangy sur Ternoise, northern France.

Gayling on the plum and tenkara

The perfect quarry for tenkara, on any size stream: 
grayling on the plume tip.
Dealing with hooked fish is an area of concern, it must be said, when fishing tenkara, and this is related both to the size of the fish and the scale of the river. Committed western-stylers have suggested that this issue actually confines tenkara to small rivers and small fish (as from which the method emanated). Tenkara enthusiasts, however, point to evermore adventurous exploits with larger trout and rivers. Again, the truth is that beyond those small fish and pocket water streams, we are always running a risk, and to deny this is ridiculous. I have been in enough 'marginal' situations with big rainbows and browns, in open water, to know absolutely that to have the ability to yield line via the fly reel, and to gather line, often makes the entire difference between a fish successfully brought to hand, and the irresponsible ignominy of a break. There is no rational argument that to leave a hook, or worse, a hook and tippet/leader, in a fish is a deep sin within our sport, and to risk this is where the irresponsibility lies. Try as one might, the fixed line stylers will never win this argument, I feel, even though one does know of exceptionally large trout being successfully caught using tenkara on, for example, some American rivers. I confess to being surprised by this, because when I have hooked large trout on large European rivers, I have had to move very quickly through the water – which is not always easy – in order to have any chance at all.
Tenkara waters - upper Eden

Upper Eden feeder stream; ideal for tenkara
and plume tip.

Tenkara - grayling, Eden

Grayling, Eden, plume tip.
The process of bringing a fish to hand, or netting a fish, is also a concern. I have never felt comfortable with hand-lining tippet and leader in order to bring a fish into range of hand or net (this is not a comparison about netting and hand-landing, because that is quite a separate issue: I actually far prefer bringing fish to hand, rather than netting them, because in all cases other than particularly 'squirmy' grayling, I find the unhooking process much quicker if a net is not involved, though one admits to knowing a lot of anglers who find the opposite). The point here is that with a leader/tippet any longer than the rod length, hand-lining of the tippet is always necessary. At best this is clumsy and inelegant. At worst it is a process which runs an enhanced risk of tippet breakage. In tenkara (as in western style) we are often fishing tippets down to 0.08mm, and commonly 0.1mm, and once the wonderful cushioning of a soft tenkara rod is gone - as we hand-line - even a small trout, suddenly making a bid for freedom, can produce the break. Again, there can be no doubt that the ability to yield line at this point, in western-style, often saves the break.
Perfect tenkara waters - Ternoise, Northern France

Perfect tenkara water on la Ternoise, northern France.
Tenkara waters - Ternoise

Only the fixed line can work here: upper Ternoise in deep cover. In twenty metres of river I counted nine trout, all of which would not have been accessible with western-style.

I think that responsible river guides and fishing instructors should not concentrate on the tired old ground of casting technique and fly selection (which are comparatively trivial), and should certainly not push the angler towards one approach while condemning others. Rather, they should gear the approach absolutely to the water type and conditions that face them. Beyond that, they should teach wading technique and, above all, how to expediently and safely deal with a hooked fish, of any size. The latter issues, make all the difference out there, and are water-invariant. Many of us have learned how to extend the scope of tenkara towards bigger fish and more open water situations, in which big fish can run, and we can cope with hand-lining, such that we know how to hold the tippet and allow it to slip as it is shortened to the point when we can net or handle the fish; but above all, as we broadcast this beautiful fly fishing approach, we owe it to both the sport and our quarry to teach how to do it so as to minimise any damage we do.

We are now well into the autumn/winter fishing for grayling and I am fishing mostly with tenkara, and double nymph, using either the outstanding Motive 390 or the new Try 360, the latter being supremely gentle and I have to say superbly suited to fishing for big grayling on the Eden in Cumbria and the Category two streams in northern France (the Category ones now being closed for the winter).

Do take a look at the draft details of next year's courses and hosted trips (which include Eden in Cumbria, Slovenia, Czech, the San in Poland as well as the tenkara-suited waters of the Seven Valleys area of northern France) up on my website: www.presentationflyfishing.com.

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