Who knew that my 58th birthday would open the door to a new adventure? I’m not talking skydiving or swimming with the dolphins (I’m saving those for my 75th birthday). I’m talking Tenkara. I received the Iwana rod and headed up to a slim stretch of the South Platte with it. And to paraphrase Tenkara’s saying: it was me, a rod, a line, and a fly.
Some Tenkara basics: First, there's no reel. The line is a fixed length line (8’, 12’, 20’) secured to the tip of the rod with between 4 and 6’ feet of tippet added and a fly.
The Tenkara telescoping rod (depending on model, lengths range from 8’ to 14’) allows the angler to reach feeding lanes on the other side of faster water. My Iwana is 12’. I felt like the technique is basically high stick drifting, and the rod allowed me to reach places that may be more of a challenge with a more traditional rod.
But this isn't a blog about technique, set-up, or lines. You can read more about those aspects on the Tenkara site. This is about my experience.
The first fish I hooked up with snapped me off right away. He struck the fly at the very tail end of my drift and, since the line is a fixed length, as soon as he ran downstream my rod and line was straight and static. I felt the line go slack. Lesson learned: shorten the drift and work shorter sections of the river. And I was filled with hope. I had a fish on.
A little later in the day, I had another fish on and he bent the thinner, more flexible rod into a tight arc. He moved upstream. I moved with him. He turned and went downstream. I turned and walked the bank with him. I moved him toward the bank and he brought a wad of seaweed with him. When I reached down with the net, he had gone leaving with me that very same wad as a farewell gift. Lesson learned: seaweed happens.
I switched out flies a little later in the day and put on a Hopper Juan. Tenkara recommends the smaller dry flies, but, hey, this was mid-August and fish were hungry for a heftier meal. It didn't take long for a fish to rise to the Hopper Juan. Then another. I felt a sense of satisfaction landing a handful of fish with that Tenkara.
Some of the techniques of traditional dry fly fishing hold true with Tenkara.
Accurate fly selection is always important. I fished a variety of sizes – small dries to the larger hopper patterns.
Presentation matters. Putting the fly on the water and getting a natural drift seemed a bit of a challenge at first. I had to use some line management skills -- mending the line, for sure, and with a fixed line length, that was not a huge issue. I was also able to “dab” the fly – or what Tenkara calls “pulsing” – and move the fly on the water. The 8’ line allowed me to give the fly some action in different currents.
Probably the biggest surprise – what to do with my other hand. I’m a left-handed reeler, so with my right hand on the rod, I didn’t know what to do with my left hand. There’s nothing to reel, no line to strip, nothing. Sometimes both hands went to the rod handle – but that felt a little strange. Sometimes I held the rod with my left hand so I could use the net with my right. I'm even confusing myself as I type this. :-)
In 2016, I want to try it out on some small streams for small brook trout. In my mind’s eye, I see one stretch of a small stream that is a bit of a challenge – low hanging branches over the water where the stream bends around curve – and I want to try and reach that spot with this longer rod.
I want to hike in to a high mountain lake and try it out on some stillwater and the stream flowing out of it. I think the Tenkara, with its small and sturdy rod case and minimal accessories, will be a great fly rod to take on hiking trips or backpacking jaunts to reach more remote streams.
All in all, I liked the experience of fishing with the Ikawa rod. Swing by the shop and check out our line of Tenkara rods: the Rhodo, Sato, and Iwana. Expand your adventure.
Orvis 101 Introduction to Fly Fishing
Orvis 201 Streamside