The other day I talked about how empty my fly box was starting to look. I have been fly-tying for a long time, as a matter of fact fly-tying is what got me into fly-fishing. But these days I don’t tie as much as I used to. Part of it is time (or lack of time to be more exact). Part of it is the fact that I often get flies in bulk when we get them for our site; though these days we’re selling through our flies quickly and I don’t like taking them from our inventory. But, what would you know, a man’s gotta have flies.
TJ ties his favorite tenkara fly, the Salt and Pepper tenkara fly, in the sakasa kebari style. He will be tying the “gourmet” version, which is tied with two feathers for hackle, a black one and a white one (other options are grizzly or just black or white hackle).
This weekend we held the first Tenkara Tie-a-thon to help victims of the devastating Colorado flood. The recent floods have swept homes, displaced thousands of people and took a few lives right near the Tenkara USA headquarters (which, luckily, was mostly untouched). The Colorado community has been super welcoming to Tenkara USA. we are at home here, and we wanted to help in some way. We also wanted to engage the community for support. It’s one thing to send a check out, it’s another thing to send a check out and have hundreds of people sending their thoughts and moral support to those affected.
So, we proposed that for every fly the community tied and shared a picture of this weekend we would donate $1 to help flood victims. As we expected, the tenkara community showed their support en masse. According to our tally, 701 flies were tied and pictured this weekend (and 12 videos, for which we’re giving $5/ea., were made). That’s $761 going to flood victims this week on behalf of the tenkara community. The donation has been sent to United Way’s Foothills Flood Relief Fund. Thank you all who contributed for your show of support.
What? Daniel was seen using a non-tenkara fly today? A parachute adams?
Yes, I was seen using a parachute adams fly on my tenkara rod today…actually, I believe nobody actually saw me using it. Here’s what happened.
I went fishing with my friends Dan and Graham today. We heard there were possibly some grayling in the area and decided to find them. Upon arrival at our destination I setup my tenkara rod with a long tenkara line, and kept the tenkara fly from the last trip tied on. Almost immediately I had a beautiful brook trout on. Within an hour I had probably caught 20 brook trout on that one fly, until I lost the fly to a tree.
Reduce: Over the last three years I have greatly reduced the number of fly patterns I feel I need. In fact, it’s now essentially one pattern with 4 variations (the four tenkara flies that we offer on our site, well, one is out of stock). And, since tenkara has helped me stay away from trees more often than I used to, I feel that I have also reduced the number of flies I lose while fishing. And, of course, I reduced the amount of time changing flies, the amount of tippet bits I lose when changing them, and my consumption of materials used in tying flies.
But of course, I still lose the occasional fly. Today’s stream was relatively tight with lots of trees behind me and the inevitable happened when I got caught on a branch and the fly wouldn’t come free. I collapsed the rod, plugged it with my thumb and pulled the line to break the fly off. Then, off the corner of my eye I spotted a section of tippet material on a branch. (As I always do to prevent animals from getting caught) I decided to retrieve the tippet. And, then I noticed there there was a fly at the end of it. Often the flies I find hanging on trees are badly rusted, but this one wasn’t too bad. And, there were 3ft of slightly faded tippet along with it. Maybe all the flies hanging from the trees could allow me to reduce how many flies I take with me even more.
Reuse: Instinctively I went to put the tippet and fly on my pocket, but then I had this thought. Why not just use it? I mean, I just lost my fly and would have to replace it anyway. I’m not a “tenkara-fly-purist” (as some may think) – my philosophy is simply that the fly doesn’t really matter that much and just about any fly will work. While I typically I opt for the simple tenkara flies, which I find to be more versatile and quickest to tie, the time-proven parachute adams was certainly not below me. The tippet wasn’t too bad, a bit thinner than I like, and a bit faded, but there were no knots on it and it would save me from getting more tippet out.
I tied my “one knot” on the tippet and connected it to my tenkara level line. That’s when the title of this post came to mind: Reduce, Reuse and Recycle.
This was the first time in 3 years that I used a parachute adams. The fly was so easy to spot, with the bright white post, I almost felt that I was cheating a bit. But, it is not about rules, it’s about enjoying the fishing, learning and when possible conserving. On my second cast I connected with a rainbow trout, only rainbow of the day. And, then a brook trout and another one, and another one, and then a take that was stronger and perhaps faster than any I had experienced until then.
I had all but forgotten about the grayling by then. I watched the parachute adams drifting downstream into the calm pocket below me. The natural drift of the fly filled me with anticipation. This pocket of water was slightly calmer and bigger than most I had fished today; it had to hold a good fish.
The take, as I mentioned, was fast and strong, and the strong fight greatly reminded me of the grayling I caught in Alaska a few weeks ago. As I got the fish closer to the surface, it shone brighter than any of the brookies I had caught, and it was more slender than the rainbow. This had to be a grayling.
After the fight I was thrilled to hold another grayling in my hand and snap a quick photo of it to share with you. This marked a sort of Grand-slam today, which was pretty cool especially since it was a grand-slam on a fly and tippet that I found hanging from a tree. In total I caught 8 fish on that fly and section of tippet. The grayling was released to continue its life-cycle.
Recycle: I could have stopped at reuse but it wouldn’t sound as catchy, would it? So I’ll just point out that flies don’t have to be the disposable items we often think of. You can read this post on “Recycling fly tying hooks” to see what I’m talking about.
Have you found ways to reduce your fly load? Ever reused a fly found on the trees? Or, spent a bit of time recycling fly tying hooks?
Just started the celebration by tying a fly with an independent spirit, the Tenkara Independence Kebari.
Happy Independence Day everyone!
Near the end of the day I was able to sneak out to a nearby stream and test the fly. The water is still running high so I had to work hard to find the first fishable spot. Then, when I did, on the first cast I caught this little brown. I missed two more and landed one more before it got too dark to see.
Fly tying can be a wonderful hobby in itself. But since I have personally embraced a philosophy in which the fly pattern is not all that important, it has been a while since I have done any creative fly tying. Last week Anthony Naples provided some inspiration for a fly I thought I should tie using the cotton from the cottonwood trees as dubbing. Anthony himself was inspired by the Japanese tenkara angler’s use of the zenmai, or fuzzy material found on the stem of certain ferns to tie flies. But, while zenmai is available, it is difficult to find stateside. His post was very timely.
I have never lived anywhere with a lot of cottonwoods, but we have plenty in my new neighborhood.
At the time of Anthony’s post, the cotton from the cottonwoods was not yet falling. Then, this past Saturday I started noticing a few falling here and there. They fell sparingly and I collected a few I found on our lawn. I had no idea what to expect from the cottonwoods, but it is as they say, “when it rains it pours”. Yesterday, a very warm day with some breeze, the cotton was to be found everywhere, and at moments it felt like it was snowing. Whereas the day before I labored to find and collect a few, yesterday they collected by the handfuls on the streets.
Margaret, my wife, just told me that cotton is “wata” in Japanese, so I’ll call it the Wata kebari. Here is my first fly tied with the material. Like Anthony I found the cotton to be very easy to spin on thread. It did not require any wax or anything like that. I did remove the seeds, which come off very easily, lest they find themselves in a land where they don’t belong and become an invasive species. I also decided to do a quick test with the material in water. I was expecting it to absorb water, especially when spun tight, and thus help sink my fly. But, it seems to have a hydrophobic property that keeps it floating well even as I tried to push it down. I have no idea how they fly will stand the test of time, but I thought it would be a neat experiment. I’ll probably have to bring some of it to my friends in Japan when I come visit later this year, so I’ll collect it while I can.
This video was too funny not to share. The Tenkara Guides, based in Salt Lake City, UT, outdid themselves in this fly-tying video. I can see it going viral in short order. The commentary is quite hillarious, though I wish we could see their faces and figure out how they were not cracking up when narrating this good fly-tying video. It’s R-rated only if you’re an adult with a dirty mind, but you can have kids in the room, no problem.
If you’re like most fly anglers, you like flies. Small and large, dull and shiny, reversed or “normal”. As we have introduced tenkara outside of Japan, we have focused on telling the story of tenkara, on sharing the fascinating layers of a method that has been practiced in Japan for centuries. I have gone to Japan numerous times and have spent a lot of time with multiple tenkara masters to learn the method as a whole. I did that to learn things that I couldn’t have learned otherwise, and to share the story with anyone who is interested.
Through tenkara, we have learned that we can make nets out of one branch of a tree. We have learned about flies made from snake skin, and flies made with dubbing from a plant. And, we have learned that most Japanese tenkara anglers of nowadays, perhaps largely influenced by their commercial angler predecessors, use only one fly pattern and focus on learning and refining technique rather than second-guessing fly choice. We also learned that a tenkara rod is just a tool, and in the end ANY fly will work. These are things I have shared on this blog for no purpose other than tell the true story of a method of fishing that I find fascinating, and perhaps to inspire folks to realize how simple fly-fishing can be. It’s never to tell people to simplify their fishing, simply to say it is possible to simplify it.
This weekend Tenkara USA is attending the Winston-Salem Fly Fishing Show in North Carolina. Yesterday I had the pleasure of meeting Loften Deprez, someone who has been contributing to the forum and whose name I was slightly familiar with. What I did not know was that he is only 15 years old and a tenkara fly-tying talent to watch.
As it turned out, Loften had secured himself a spot as a fly tyer at the Fly Fishing Show and was demonstrating to folks how to tie tenkara flies. I came by to watch him and shot a short video of him tying a fly that had caught my eye. As he finished his fly someone asked him why he made the eyes of the flies like that. I watched with great pride as Loften started giving the person the long version of the answer. He described in great detail not just the question at hand, but what tenkara is. He pulled a rod and began, “well, let me tell you about tenkara…” Later that day the gentleman was seeing walking out of the show with a tenkara rod in hand. Loften did a great job at introducing a lot of people to tenkara, and for that we thank him. You may checkout Loften Deprez’s company at www.latackleflies.com
Today is my last day in Japan. Margaret and I returned to Tokyo yesterday to spend time with some friends before we leave to China tomorrow morning. I decided to stop by the Sansui store again and say hi to Mr. Sasaki before we left. As we entered the store it looked like he was tying tenkara flies on the counter. It turned out he was putting together some rigs for ayu fishing. The conversation obviously turned to tenkara flies, and with me asking if he would tie a tenkara fly for the camera. He was a bit shy about it at first, saying he considers himself a “beginner” fly-tyer, but he eventually agreed. I captured this film in one go as he was still working and customers were coming through the door as we worked on the video. It was also edited as quickly as I could as it was a full day and we depart to the aiport in about 5 hours.
One of the most interesting parts of the way he ties his tenkara flies is the way he finishes them. He uses what he calls a “tokkuri” knot, which I was not familiar with. Also, the video is a reminder that not all tenkara flies are in the “sakasa” style. Tenkara flies come in a variety of patterns, the sakasa (or reverse-hackle) being the most characteristic ones but certainly not the only ones.
I hope you will enjoy this video.
In 2011 I taught a kid in Maze, a village in Gifu, Japan, how to tie tenkara flies. Kyosuke was his name. He really enjoyed the craft and pretty soon started teaching it to his friend Taichi. They took to it pretty quickly and were soon tying tenkara flies just for the fun of it.
Earlier this year, my host Ikumi and Rocky sent me pictures of the kids of Maze tying tenkara flies at the Mazegawa Fishing Center (Mizube No Yakata). They seemed to be having a ball. I was super proud when I got those pictures.
They continue tying tenkara flies and spreading tenkara fishing to their friends. Most kids in the area had no idea what tenkara was when I visited in 2011, now it may be turning into part of their regular conversations. Tenkara introduced to Japan…from the US. Here’s a fun video I put together of some of their tenkara fly-tying experience:
Tenkara Flies on Wednesdays is back? On a Tuesday??? I’ll be less US-centric time-wise for this post. By the time the post is up on our site, it will be Wednesday here in Japan, so I’ll run with it.
One of the things I had promised you to do on this trip was to cover some fly-tying with our friends in Japan. Yesterday was our last day in the Maze area, and while there wasn’t as much time as I had hoped to cover tenkara fly-tying, I made a point to ask my friend Shintaro Kumazaki to demonstrate his go-to tenkara fly. Shintaro grew up fishing. His father did tenkara before him, and his parents have owned the tackle shop in town for the last 12 years. Also, he’s practically next-door neighbor with the famed Katsutoshi Amano (by the way, this post and video of Mr. Amano are a must-see if you are interested in tenkara and tenkara flies). Shintaro has taken a much stronger interest in tenkara when I was visiting last year. He certainly caught the tenkara bug when we embarked on an epic trip fishing and canyoneering in search of wild iwana.
On another note, Shintaro and I had a very enjoyable afternoon session of tenkara fly-tying last year when i was visiting. The small picture to the right, which says “SHARE”, is of Shintaro tying a tenkara fly for me last year >;>;>;>;>;>;>;>;>;>;>;>;
After we were done with sawanobori (shower-climbing) and fishing yesterday, we headed over to his parent’s tackle shop (/pottery store) in Hagiwara, where he had his fly-tying station ready to go. I hope the film I shot (hand-held, and edited in my last 3-hour train ride) will please you.
There is no way around it, it is very difficult to post about things as they happen when things are happening fast and the days are packed. It’s about 11:30PM right now and I finally was able to sit down. Among emails to respond to, the wish to review all the pictures and videos I have been capturing and the utmost desire to crash for the night, I’m left with three choices: writing quickly about several things that are happening (and hope to elaborate on them a bit more in a few days); try to write a more developed post about one topic (difficult to do when I’m tired); or not write at all. So, here goes a quick recap of the last couple of days.
Yesterday we got to spend a fair amount of time witnessing two unusual methods of catching the local Ayu. One is called takuri, which is diving for ayu and capturing them with grapple hooks. The other was done at night time, where the locals showed us an old method of catching large quantities of ayu in which they place large torches in different points of a large river pool; a net is stretched out in the middle of the river, and then the local fishermen will wave the torches, throw rocks in the water, etc, to scare the ayu toward the net. The method is no longer common practice, but done as a special event to maintain the tradition. Yesterday tour agents from throughout Japan showed up at the fishing center to observe it and hopefully add the attraction to their tours. They arrived in the middle of a huge downpour – though luckily the torches remained lit. Net fishing is certainly not a sport fishing activity, and not our cup of tea. Takuri fishing was VERY much a sport, and very unusual. Both were a fascinating demonstration of the inventiveness of humans when it comes to the activity of catching fish.
With the rains we have been experiencing here Margaret and I also spent sometime indoors yesterday. Luckily our “indoors” was the vast resource of the Mazegawa Fishing Center (Mizube no Yakata). As Margaret worked on emails, I browsed some books describing the variety of fishing methods in this country. Brain candy for sure! The illustration below is of a method called “tomozuri” for catching ayu, in which a live fish serves as a decoy to attract the wrath of another ayu, whose territoriality will prove to be its fate. The attacking fish is then hooked in the trailing hook and it will then become food.
Today we took a bit of a more adventurous path in our journey. I took Margaret on a “shower-climbing” and fishing trip. We rappelled down a 30ft waterfall to an otherwise inaccessible place. I had been to the top of these waterfalls numerous times when I was here last year but never down to the good-looking and hope-inspiring spot below. Today I got to fish it, though lack of access did not mean superb fishing. We swam around the river as well to find fish below the surface, but the water was a bit murky from the rain in the last couple of days.
This is a beautiful, although small amago from Mazegawa.
After our shower-climbing expedition we hit one more spot in hopes of being rewarded with plenty of amago or iwana. None took our flies, not a bite! But, I did capture some good video of my friend Shintaro Kumazaki and really enjoyed the company and watching his technique. I’ll try to post the videos I took of him pretty soon.
After fishing I asked Shintaro if he’d be willing to tie one of his tenkara flies for the camera, and he agreed. Shintaro’s parents own a tackle shop in Hagiwara. He has been tying tenkara flies for sometime now and actually sells them for ¥350 (about $4.5 per fly). We headed over to their store and Shintaro showed us how he ties his main fly. Video to come soon.
Of course, the day would not be complete without …a visit to the onsen (hot springs). No photos of that, but man, was that ever good after such a packed day!