Thursday, May 26, 2011

Tenkara fishing and the Magical Shrinking rod

When it rains it pours. And for once I'm not talking about the weather.  PA seems to be done with it's biblical flooding, at least for now. I'm talking about the kick to the ribs while your down that life gives us all every once in a while.

I will spare all from the boring details but I will mention the cherry on top; last night my wallet went MIA. My bank cards, my license, my permit to carry weapons, my Social Security card..... all the way of the dodo.

So I took off work and spent all day today canceling this card and getting another of that license and by then end my brain was swollen. And since I had an impromptu day off, I decided to spend the rest of it cursing at fish.

So after detouring around some construction and a burning factory, I finally arrive on the water. I decided to leave the tenkara rod in the back of the van, for once, and bring out my trusty CGR 5wt, that I have overlined with a 6wt DT Sylk line on an Allen XL reel. I've said it before but, sweeet combo.

It was around 90 degrees, so I wet waded across the stream and up the trail to my customary first hole. It's a pool that has thwarted me all winter, but today I felt was different. As I was coming through the brush I heard a loud rumbling and getting to the hole saw that I might have an audience.

I also noticed that the tree that is usually down and sends me into fits trying to cast around was blessedly missing. I tie on a nymph since the majority of the time these fish are feeding on the bottom and cast away.

After 5 minutes I notice that, while my nymph has been a lonely character, there has been a bit of top action at the tail of the pool. No rises, these are violent strikes at the surface. Not needing to be told twice, I switched to a Griffith's Gnat. (Actually I switched 4 times, since the first three I apparently tied to high up on the eye.)

I will say that at almost every cast, no more than every other cast, that poor gnat was hammered. No subtle takes, no sips; he was grabbed by the collar and thrown to the ground, kicked and then spit on for good measure. I would also like to say that I was up to my knees in fish, but that is a lie. I fact, I have never seen a fly hit so many times and not have a fish manage to get it in it's mouth in all my life. It wasn't that I was missing the hook set, you could visually see the fish missing the fly. No wonder their attacking it, the googly eyed buggers must be starving.....

Finally, despite their best attempts, I manage to get one to get the hook in his mouth and I brought him to hand. And just like that it was over. Cast after cast and no more action. I moved on.

I walked up the trail and found an open spot through the brush I wandered back it and found a section of stream that had a narrow fast run next to an undercut bank on my side of the stream. Looked plenty fishy to me. I switched back to a nymph for the fast water and started to cast.

After a few casts I ended up caught on some roots that were over the undercut bank. I figured that the roots looked strong enough to hold my weight, so I placed the rod, my back and for cautions sake my cell phone on the ground and maneuvered out on to the roots. I freed the fly and worked my way back the roots. My first step on to the back and my foot sank down into the soft loam. I slip down on to one knee but quickly scrabble back up the back.

I look down at where my knee when into the ground. As I pick up my rod I notice that, either through powers of mysticism or maybe as a side effect of the Rapture, my 7' CGR rod was now a 6' CGR rod. I just look at it and take it in for a minute. Well, I may have broke a $100 rod but at least I saved a $1.50 worth of materials.... Ticked off, but not very, I reel in the line.

Now it's time for a tip. When you have a grass green rod tip, and you are where there's lots of green grass, slide the rod tip off and stick it in you pocket before reeling in the line. If not, you will spend 10 minutes on you hands and knees trying to find that damn rod tip.

I had only been out about an hour and wasn't really in the mood to head home. So I made the short hike back to the van and swapped for the tenkara rod. About face, and back we go.

I went to another area the used to be a great pool due to a log jam but the logs vanished and so did the great pool. There are still some submerged branches and another stream joins this one, so theoretically this is still a good spot, but I haven't caught or seen a fish here since the pool vanished. But I decided to devote 10 minutes to the old college try.

With the tenkara rod I was hitting the leader with the fly at every other cast, and this happened even after I moved from this spot for at least an hour. But to be brief, what I learned is that I was a) rushing my cast and/or b) keeping the rod tip on the same plane during the cast while casting on the side.

Rushing the cast is an obvious no-no (I was still working on transitioning from the other rod while doing that) but not casting on the same plane took a little bit to fix. I'm not sure if it was because of the shorter, fixed length of line or what, but when side casting I had to cast in an oval shaped cast.

So if you're new to tenkara, you might want to keep that in mind if you have to side cast due to low overhead like I was.

Anyway, I let this spot with empty hands and, after crossing the stream again, went to a spot that holds some of the most educated trout we have around here. They are easy to see, easy to get to, so every Tom, Dick, and Harry that comes here hammers these poor guys with whatever they have. As a result, the fish are very selective. I spent the next hour casting to fish that obviously want nothing to do with me. A few fly changes and still no takers. I end up with a bead head partridge and orange on. I'm about ready to leave when I see a flash underneath the water and I bring to hand the first fishes baby brother. That first fish was about 4" and this guy might be half that size. Since my macro setting can only go so small, I decide against a photo and just release him and go on my way.

I move 100 yards upstream and as I get there, I see a jump. I still have the BH P&O and make some casts. More than enough casts later and I let the fly swing in the water while I think about my next move. A flash of silver and it's fish one! This one put up a nice little struggle and I thought a few times he was going to throw the hook, but finally I brought him to hand. He was the last and nicest fish of the day, going about 9 inches (which is a little above average for this water at this time of year, i.e. after the stockers get all hit up.)

I try another few spots but no more luck. I walk a little farther along the bank than I usually do and come across another stream joining the main one. I follow the connector and come across a series of narrow ponds, ranging from 5-10 feet wide but all told about 1/4 of a mile long. I walk along the ponds and see close to 2 dozen bass through-out, sized from 8" up to two that had to be pushing 2 feet!!!

I made a few casts but these guys were very skittish. The fly would land without a ripple but the would still scatter. Even the panfish, if you can believe it. I had a few fish come up and case the fly, one even tasted it, but no takers. But I know it's there, now, and am already working on a game plan.

On the way back I found a bunch of these guys swimming around the pond, and he was nice enough to pose for me.

On the way back to the van I thought about how much better I felt after being out. No, I didn't have a big fish day and yes I probably just shoot $100 down the tube (if I can't get it repaired or replaced I may just add a top guide at the snap. I do like the idea of a 6' glass rod......) but right now that doesn't matter. I got out and got into a groove where the heaviest thing on my mind was what fly to switch to (and maybe those teen girls walking the trail in swim suits. But that's neither here nor there.)


  1. Man, I know what you mean about a when it rains it pours kinda week. Glad you got a fishing day in...I'm going to have mine tomorrow! Hope things look up for ya soon!

  2. Thanks! Tight lines tomorrow.

  3. Nothing wrong with a 6' glass rod. Take your lemons and make lemonade, or something upbeat like that... Cool post, liked the pics.

  4. Thanks Mike. The more I think about the 6' rod, the more I like the idea. But I want to see if they'll fix it for free first.