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November 19 2013

The 80/20 rule in fly-fishing?

The 80-20 rule is a powerful and nearly universal, which states that, for a large variety of events, 80% of the results will come from 20% of  causes/inputs. It is also known as the Pareto-principle, after economist Vilfredo Pareto, who observed that 80% of the peas in his garden came from 20% of the pea pods.

Fly-fishing in a stream 80-20 rule or 80/20 rule?

The 80-20 rule has a wide range of applications. In business we can observe 80% of sales come from 20% of products (yes, nearly 80% of our rod sales come from the 12ft Iwana, one of five models we offered until a few days ago). In software, 80% of problems come from 20% of bugs, and so on. Now, what about fly-fishing? More specifically can tenkara show us that 80% of our results will come from 20% of our effort,  20% of the spots we fish, 20% our equipment, or 20% of our flies? What are your thoughts?

Can 20% of the spots you hit produce 80% of the fish you catch in a day? Sometimes it sure seems like it, like this weekend when I fished 20 or so pockets, catching most of my fish in 4 or 5 of those productive spots. But, in other streams it seems like every pocket holds a fish, so who knows whether this one applies or not. But, I’m fairly certain if you were to weight them, 80% of the weight of all your fish would be a result of 20% of them.

If 20% of the equipment you carry is necessary for 80% of the results while fishing, is it worth carrying or buying that extra 80% of equipment (think reel, multiple lines or leaders, strike indicators, split shot, etc), for a possible 20% of cases? I personally am content with 80% of results if I’m able to leave that 80% extra burden behind.

Tenkara flies by Mr. AmanoDo 20% of your flies catch 80% of your fish?  I carry 4 tenkara fly variations with me, but on any given day I keep one fly on for the biggest portion of the day, so I’m pretty sure I catch at least 80% of my fish on 1/4 of my flies (sure, 25% of them). Now, I know for a fact that if I only used 1 fly pattern, as Mr. Amano does, I would actually catch 100% of my fish on 1 fly and probably beat the Pareto-rule.

I wish I had the discipline to keep a journal and see if the 80-20 rule can be put to the test, but I don’t. However, I have a hunch the observations above are true. I would love to hear your experiences now that you have the 80-20 rule in mind.


November 14 2013

Stay hydrated (and healthy) without carrying much

Water Filtration and tenkara fishing

A few years ago I went fishing with a friend. After a few hours my water bottle was empty. Yet, in a twist of irony 350 cubic feet of water passed by me every second. He smiled, pulled out his bottle and gave me a sip of his precious water. I noticed the bottle was full, and it also had something inside. “It’s a water filter. Never run out of water!”, he said. GENIUS!

For someone who spent so much time in the water, it baffled me that I hadn’t come to that solution sooner by myself. For years I’d either run out of water and tough it out for a bit ; or I’d simply drink water directly from the stream I was fishing. If I was fishing high elevation water I never thought twice before taking a sip from the stream. Not the smartest idea in the world, I know. I know it because after years of drinking from streams, yet never having any symptoms, I finally asked my doctor to get tested for Giardia. I told him I often drank directly from streams which could have giardia and never used hand sanitizers. He gave me a dirty look but prescribed the tests. Sure enough, I had giardia. Never a symptom, I was just a carrier.

To a minimalist who doesn’t like carrying a backpack, but who is usually out long enough to require more than a “mere” 8 cups of water,  the small water filter was like discovering fire for the first time. Immediately after fishing I went and bought myself a water bottle with a nifty filter built in. More often than not I am also surrounded by water, so it isn’t a matter of supply. It is a matter of clean supply.

I wasn’t crazy about the bottle solution. It was bulky and difficult to carry. Luckily the filter didn’t last me very long, so I did some more research and came across the minimalist’s water filtration dream. Straw-type water filters that I could put in my pocket when not hiking far, or couple to a water bottle if I was going to be away from the water for any period of time. The straw filters allow me to drink directly from the stream whenever I needed, and are very compact.

So, in case you’re looking for a solution not to run out of water again, carry a small water filter with you.

My preferred filter at the moment is the Aquamira Frontier Pro. They run only about $20, are only as thick as the handle of your tenkara rod, but 7 inches long. If  will be hiking for any period of time I couple it with a flat bladder. My preferred one at the moment is the Platypus Softbottle, 0.5L for most of the time, 1L for slightly longer hikes. Often I just leave the bladder folded in case I need it, but drink directly from the stream otherwise.


October 14 2013

Where is Tenkara Perfect?

For the most part, most of my tenkara has been on the type of classic mountain stream the style of fishing evolved on. But, in my home state of Montana I also spend a lot of time on larger water than typically associated with tenkara as well as on stillwater. And I fish for both trout and warm water fish. In the last year, I’ve been truly surprised by the variety of fisheries that have impressed me as being tenkara-perfect outside of the trout world.

I suppose the biggest shock to me was finding out how much I enjoy fishing warm water ponds with my tenkara gear. Where I live, there is a nice community pond with a good population of smallmouth bass. It’s been a handy respite when local streams weren’t fishing well, or I didn’t want to drive to go fishing. I often carry my rod with me, even when just going for an evening walk around the lake. The compact size and weight of the the tackle makes it nearly unnoticeable until needed.

The highlight of this summers pond fishing was watching my girlfriend catch her first bass.

Mary’s first bass.

I also found some stream warm water fisheries that seemed perfect for tenkara. A visit home to see my parents in Missouri allowed me to revisit a stream I cut my fly fishing teeth on. This really wasn’t a fishing trip but a chance to spend some time with my folks. Again, the tenkara fishing kit was much easier to pack as an afterthought, but that made it no less effective once back in the Ozarks. I had hoped for some more smallmouth bass in a native setting for the species. A large group of spawning gar made that tough, but I did catch some nice sunfish. Someday I hope to go back when the smallmouth are biting, but I never mind catching pretty little sunnies.

Ozark Sunfish

Texas also showed me some very good warm water stream fishing. My New friend Russell Hustead showed me a stream in the middle of Arlington that, while far from being a wilderness experience, offered a welcome diversion from the city environment that makes a Montana trout bum a little uncomfortable. I was surprised to see how the same ability to hold line of the water that was such an asset in Montana mountain streams was also a huge benefit in a metro Texas sunfish stream; instead of beating conflicting currents it allowed me to hold the fly in pockets between the moss and weeds. The great line control also allowed me to use the pulse retrieve so effective on Gallatin trout on Texas bream and the light tackle matched the fish perfectly. Plus, the small warm water streamed just seemed “right” for tenkara.

Russell pulls in another.


I worked at the Fins & Feathers Fly Shop in Bozeman for several years. We were often asked what the best time to fish Montana was. Our standard answer was, “when you can”. Tenkara in mountain streams will always be my favorite, but I think the best place to fish tenkara is where you can. I’m looking forward to trying tenkara in more environments and not sure what will come next. I’d love to check out the Texas Hill Country, or spend some more time chasing Ozark warm water fish. I’d also enjoy spending some more time fishing farm ponds back in Illinois with some of my old fishing buddies. And maybe even figure out how to catch a flounder with my tenkara rod when I visit my folks in Mississippi….
The possibilities are endless, and tenkara-perfect can be wherever you find yourself.

At least I’m wearing the hat!


September 03 2013

Shower Climbing and Tenkara

I’m now working on a new tenkara diaries video showing yesterday’s shower climbing and tenkara trip. It was epic, gnarly, cold, but tons of fun!!! Shower climbing and tenkara make for some real epic and memorable adventures. After talking to my friends here yesterday I’m starting to consider more seriously bringing a group to Japan next year to learn from some of my teachers and also do a shower climbing/ tenkara trip (let me know if this would be of interest to you). Here are some of the pictures.

The canyon you see cutting the mountains in the middle of the picture is what we ventured through yesterday

Jun Kumazaki, a local canyoneering guide contemplating the options for the first pool of the day. “Can’t go around it, can’t go over it, gotta go through the cold water” came to mind. Yes, the water was super cold.
The first pool of the day, tenkara is there somewhere
First waterfalls
Tenkara and waterfalls
Tenkara deep in a canyon
Admiring the waterfall ahead, more tenkara above it
Admiring the waterfall ahead, more tenkara above it
Iwana caught on tenkara using the Tenkara USA Iwana rod

Tenkara: all you need is a rod, line, flies, carabiners, belay devices, ropes, ascenders, and an adventurous spirit.

Carrying a lot of gear for tenkara

Climbing a mossy wall to tenkara fishTenkara deep in a canyon with waterfalls

Tenkara Iwana


August 13 2013

Don’t worry about looks

Don’t worry about the look of your fly. Here is a tenkara fly tied by tenkara master Mr. Shotaro.


August 08 2013

Do this and that, and that…with tenkara

It should go without saying that tenkara fishing is one of my great passions in life. It is my main excuse to get out of the house and enjoy the woods, streams and lakes. But, it is not my only excuse.

Tenkara and mushroom huntingA couple of weeks ago Margaret and I went mushroom hunting, a new interest for both of us. The intent was not fishing, but since we’d be near water I brought a tenkara rod and my small tenkara kit along. Just in case. After collecting many mushrooms we hiked back and I spotted a great piece of water. With tenkara it is just so easy and quick to setup that there is no reason for not stopping and fishing. In roughly 1 minute I was fishing. I caught three brookies. Mushrooms were our main reason to get out that day, tenkara fishing just happened to fit in perfectly with it. We took a 15 minute break to fish and then resumed our hike out, finding a couple more mushrooms along the way and cooking a great meal at home.

Before I discovered tenkara, I had to carefully choose my activity of choice for the weekend. It was either fishing, OR climbing, OR skiing, OR mountain biking, OR mushroom hunting. It was difficult to combine activities.

Then, last week, with my tenkara rod in hand and one eye on the stream with the other trying to spot mushrooms along the shoreline, I had this nice realization that tenkara goes so well with anything that it no longer has to be a choice between one OR the other. I was now having my cake and eating it too.

There are so many things that can go well with tenkara as I’m discovering. Every experience outside can be enhanced simply by bringing a tenkara rod along.

Bicyle biking and bike riding with tenkara For example, I recently biked to a stream nearby. The tenkara rod fit perfectly on my bike frame, I just strapped it there with two pieces of velcro. It took me an hour to get there, and I enjoyed every minute of that bike ride as much as every minute of my fishing that day. Biking and tenkara go together like beer and a campfire!
Tenkara fishing along with a dog Walking your dog and going near some water? Bring a tenkara rod along. Sure, if you’re as “lucky” as I am, your dog may be a horrible fishing dog. I don’t really bring my dog along on dedicated fishing trips, but if I’m taking my dog out for some exercise and there happens to be a pond nearby, you bet I’ll bring a rod.
Rock climbing and tenkara For a period of time I was forced to choose between two activities I love when I went out on weekends: climbing or fishing? It was a tough choice. Climbing started getting neglected in favor of fishing, but I missed climbing. With tenkara the two activities are not mutually exclusive. Not many things are as fun as a biathlon of scaling local craigs and getting in the water to fish when it gets too hot.
Backpacking and fly-fishing are made for each other, right? So why did I always feel I had to pass good water when backpacking with a rod and reel? Generally because it took too long to setup.Backpacking and tenkara are absolutely made for each other. Not only because the tenkara gear is minimalist and super compact, but also because it is super quick to setup. Any pool along the way can be fished by quickly setting up the tenkara rod without taking a major part of the day to do so.

Don’t get me wrong, I still head out with the sole intention of fishing an entire day. One of my favorite things in the world is to find a tumbling stream, start casting into its waters and move from one pocket to another after every few casts, covering a mile of its waters in a day. But when you realize that any activity – whether it be walking your dog, foraging, climbing, biking… – does not have to exclude fishing, and that indeed, fishing can be a great complement to most other activities, you’ll feel less pressure to choose between hobbies because choosing between hobbies is like choosing which kid is your favorite.


July 26 2013

Weekend Reading: Magical Mountain Meadow Tenkara

by TJ Ferreira

I had one of those magical fishing events last weekend, at least for me that is.  I have been dreaming of fishing what I consider a mountain meadow stream or creek.  I have seen all these pictures of fly fisher-folk kneeling down about 10 feet away from a small wiggly strip of water in a big mountain meadow, and I wanted a piece of that action.

My dream came true this last weekend in the mountains of California.  I googled and read of waters to fish in the Northern California mountains and found some info about a small 10-campsite campground, one with few amenities but with fishing nearby.  The campsite was free, 1st come 1st served. It had no running water but at least it had a bathroom; as my wife was coming along having that was important <grin>.

We left around 10:30AM, drove up to the mountains to a place I had never been before.  I had read some notes on the websites I visited that the roads were not car-friendly, so I drove my trusty 2007 Toyota FJ.  This ended up being a good idea because the roads were very rugged logging roads, off the beaten path, with fairly large rocks and such that a low-rider car would not have faired well or at all.  The FJ cruised over them like butter though.

We got a little lost along the way as the websites were vague on how to get to this campground but in the end, about 5 to 10 miles off-track and figuring I better back-track, I found the site.  We arrive around 1PM, snagged a campsite to park in for the day (only 4 or 5 were taken), and set up shop.

Shop meant my wife had a cooler full of soda, a bag full of goodies, and a good book to read.  Shop for me meant a mountain meadow, tenkara gear, and plenty of brook trout.  At first I was not sure what this creek looked like or where it was exactly, but I followed my senses into a field where I saw some trees, and I figured H2O was present.  Wife and I walked out into the meadow and I said, “hold on, listen…. I hear water dribbling”.  Another 30 feet and I found my sliver of water in the middle of this mountain meadow.

I arrived first and quickly saw out the corner of my eye a few shadows of small trout swimming quickly to get away.  My wife snuck up behind me and I told her to watch the water, and soon enough more trout swam by.

Quickly I felt giggly and told my wife, I am gonna fish!  I practically hopped like a bunny and  went back to the campsite, she setup her shop, I setup mine, and for the next 1.5 hours, I fished like a fool.

Salt & Pepper Sakasa Kebari. Was like feeding candy to a little kid!

I decided to use the Iwana 11’ rod with a line just a little longer than the rod.  About 8.5’ of 3.5# Pink Hi Vis with 3’ of 4X Tippet with a size 14 Salt & Pepper Sakasa Kebari I tied earlier this year.  On my way to the creek I snuck like a thief in the night back to the creek and made my 1st casts.  This creek was super small.  We are talking about 2 feet wide in spots, and on bends little pools maybe 3 to 4 feet wide swelled up.  At times the creek was about 1’ wide with tall grasses poking up through the water to then form a creek again with just water and no grasses blocking my kebari.

Here is a quick video showing the small meadow creek I fished.

Within 2 to 3 casts I caught my 1st brook trout of the day. In fact, this was my first brook trout in California.  To date it has been mostly rainbow trout and a couple browns, but the higher mountain brookies I had not met yet.  Well this last weekend I met about a bakers dozen in 1.5 hours of the mountains finest small brookie family.

This Brookie put up a nice fight!

At one point I was casting into a small pool that had a large spider web spanning its opening where if I wanted to get into the pool, I had to cast the line across the spider web.  My thought was that once the level line or tippet hit the spider web, the web would break.  Amazingly, my tippet dropped right on top of the web and just rested there with the kebari dangling, confused, just inches from the water.  I moved my arm forward and the tenkara fly dropped into the creek.  I dangled it there for a spell to see if any brookies were home.  No brookies were home in that spot but I was able to pull the cast back and left the spider web intact.  How amazingly softly a tenkara rod can present a fly!  This was just so cool.

As I progressed down the creek, it widened a tad in spots and here is another short video of the mountain creek I fished.

It was so much fun casting into a sliver of a creek, catching brookie after brookie, ranging in size from 4” up to about 8”.  My shorts were covered by the end of the day with smudges of mud and my face was rosie pink with a smile from ear to ear.

A little pip squeak went for an Iwana 11′ ride.

Video link of a trout being released back into the mountain meadow creek.

My 1st Magical Mountain Meadow Tenkara Adventure was a treat for sure.  Amazed these little blue slivers of water are homes to schools of brookies and just makes me love California that much more.  The Sierra Mountains are like the Colorado Rockies, just Tenkara Perfect!

Just one last cast honey, really it is!  Glad I did as this trout landed in my net.

Just one last cast honey, really it is! Glad I did as this trout landed in my net.

To top off the day, the skies drew dark and we started to hear some good thunder claps.  We decided to get all wrapped up and head home.  On our way out of the campground the rain started coming down and then it started to hail.  Took a quick video of the hail storm as we departed.  The weather quickly went from upper 80s to mid 60s within seconds.  So cool!

Heading home my wife and I were in need of some nourishment so we stopped for a great New York Steak at the Willo, a popular bar and restaurant on historic highway 49 near Nevada City, CA.  The Willo Bear greeted us to a job well done catching so many mountain trout.

Enjoying a New York Steak at the Willo Bar & Restaurant near Nevada City on Gold Rush Highway 49.

Before the end of the season I will make it back to see my mountain meadow brook trout friends, they can bet on that.  My Salt & Pepper Sakasa Kebari seemed to hit the right spot for their appetities and the Iwana 11’ rod was like a fast Porsche to these little brookies.  They requested I come back soon so they can test drive tenkara one more time.  I will be happy to oblige.


June 02 2013

Tenkara Diaries: Trout, Carp, Bluegills and Bass

Tenkara Diaries, May 30th and June 1st 2013
length: 2:57
Music by Takenobu

Tenkara was a gift from heaven, it perfectly matched the type of water I love most: mountain streams. But, there is plenty of good waters very close to home that are not mountain streams, ponds full of bass and bluegill and slow moving water full of carp. So, I decided to indulge and fish several types of water this week, all with tenkara of course!


May 28 2013

Tenkara [Carp] Diaries, May 28th

Carp fishing with tenkara. It has been done before but I figured it was the time I went out and personally tested our rods with them. Yesterday I spotted a good number of carp right in town. I decided to take the tenkara rod with me today and test it out with those big fish. Fun, and much more manageable with tenkara than I had imagined. I used the Amago tenkara rod, about 15ft of tenkara level line and 4x tippet, plus a wooly bugger as well as a tenkara fly.


May 28 2013

Fly angler describes his first experience with tenkara

A few weeks ago I arrived back home from a fishing trip. I got home at night time. As I removed stuff from the back of the car I noticed someone crossing the street in my direction. It was dark and hard to see, but I noticed he was carrying a long item in his hand. It would either be a baseball bat and he was coming to beat me up, or it was a fishing rod case. Luckily when he got near enough for my heart to race I noticed it was a fishing rod case. And, not only that I could see it was a tenkara rod case. Cool.
This was my neighbor, Allen, who a couple of weeks prior had bought a tenkara rod. He then noticed my car with the TENKARA license plates and figured I probably liked tenkara too.
A couple of weeks went by and I finally was able to join him for some tenkara fishing. He drove to the spot before I did and gave tenkara a try on his own for a couple of hours. When I arrived I asked him how he’d done. He didn’t sound too happy about it and said he beginning to wish he’d brought his western setup. I figured I would just have to show him a couple of things and he’d be good. And, indeed that’s what happened.

To avoid any frustration I highly recommend watching these videos:
How to tie tenkara knots
How to cast with a tenkara rod

Another couple of tips:
- Stop the rod tip high to fish with most of the line off the water as you get started, as opposed to laying the line on the water and mend. Or maybe put about 10 inches of the main line in the water to serve as an anchor.
- Make sure your line is tight, if it starts getting too slack or close to you, recast. It is very common for people to want to get the longest drift they can, but if the current is not pulling your line to keep it tight, it will be slack and difficult to cast or set the hook. Work with shorter drifts on more likely spots
- Don’t be afraid to cast. Many people coming from a western fly-fishing background are afraid to backcast and want to do a roll-cast or some type of flick. CAST! Just make sure to stop the backcast at 12 o’clock and don’t wait very long to do the forward cast, the casting stroke is quick and short to avoid getting caught up in trees.


May 24 2013

Tenkara Diaries, May 23rd 2013

A quick, 1 minute video of today’s outing with my wife and our dog.
Watch in HD, click the gear icon and select 1080!


April 30 2013

Fish Sign Language – How trout communicate

It has just been discovered that some fish use a kind of sign language to help others hunt. So, I decided to investigate the footage I have been capturing over the last couple of weeks for the Tenkara Diaries videos to see if trout displayed any tendencies to use sign language – after all, one of the fish they discovered uses sign language is the coral trout. I’ll keep my eyes open in the future to see how they tell each other, “Hey, look at that tenkara fly; it looks yummy!”