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Fishing tales on Tenkara in Wales, United Kingdom

Re: Fishing tales on Tenkara in Wales, United Kingdom

Postby ConorUK » Sat Aug 22, 2009 11:47 am

21 Aug
The air was humid and there were storm clouds on the horizon as i headed to the river. This being 100% Tenkara i left my waistcoat behind, with only the Tenkara wets and dries, some 7X and 5X tippet, and my furled leader. Felt rather naked without all my usual paraphenalia, and especially without my trust stone clinger and bead body nymph patterns, not to mention the Klinkhammers! I wore a rain jacket and found a handy spot to attach my net to it. And i was off. I was intending to fish a series of shallow runs and pools on Tenkara wets and I had a short cut route planned to the river, but when I turned the corner, what used to be a path along a field was now an inpenetrable mass of nettles and maize and there was no way i was getting through it as you can see below.
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My only other option now, in the time i had available, was to head to a pool that is often full of fish rising and boiling but one that usually leaves me empty handed and despondent. And now I was on Tenkara flies only and no back-up! Arrived at the pool. Sure enough, there were several good fish rising, inbetween squalls of rain. I started on a Sakasa Gujo dry pattern in black on about 4 feet of 7X tippet. With such a tiny fly it took a while to get used to the cast into the wind, and with multiple branches in all angles, but soon i was getting it right and covering one fish, and then another, but nothing was interested. I perservered, moving upstream into the pool and into deeper and deeper water covering a few feet every 5 minutes, and still nothing. Now the fish were rising behind me and in front of me but nothing liked my presentation. Decided to switch to a Sakasa reverse hackle tan body pattern and fish it upstream in a dead drift across and back to me. I didnt bother to change tippet so on 7X 2lb breaking strain line and it was shooting forward a bit quick, but it was ok. There were two good fish rising in the flow and i tried to set the fly to cut across their paths. After about 10 casts there was nothing happening. But then, there seemed to be a tug in the line and i lifted the rod but there was nothing on. Then after a few mopre casts another slight dart in the line, but no connection. Fish or the current? I had no real way of knowing, but i felt it was fish, and i perservered. Then another dart, rod up, a fish was on. A trout rushed past me, a good one, i could see him clearly and i raised the rod higher only to hit branches and nearly lost him as quickly as i had hooked him. But no, i regained control and he was on, moving around like a fish demented at probably having never been caught before! With all the vegetation around me I was really struggling however, and crouching lower in the water and holding the rod a few in, and moved out into the pool, got clearance room, and then after a rather comical bout of the fish running almost betwen my legs, and me missing him with the net, i hand lined the fish to the net. A lovely bullet head shaped brownie of 30cm. Success! It felt great. And i vowed to perservere with Tenkara flies only in the weeks to come.

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Re: Fishing tales on Tenkara in Wales, United Kingdom

Postby ConorUK » Wed Aug 26, 2009 12:42 pm

25 August
I was in a fairly bad mood and felt that i needed a long walk by the river to cool down and to fish somewhere completely new. And so i found myself on a semi wooded stretch of fairly shallow runs and pools on the summer beat, an area that i hadnt fished in many months. I only fished one fly for the whole visit, the Sakasa reverse hackle fly in all black. I fished downstream and across where the river was very tight for casting, varying the depth and 'twitching' the fly in likely areas. This produced two momentary connections with fish.

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When the river widened i fished upstream, but i had no takes. Due to the long walk i didnt have long and my fishing was a little rushed and unsteady, but at least i wasnt wasting time worrying about changing flies and tippets, i was wholly concentrated on presenting that fly to likely looking spots. Still, I think i need an early morning visit to recharge the batteries!

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Re: Fishing tales on Tenkara in Wales, United Kingdom

Postby Daniel @ Tenkara USA » Wed Aug 26, 2009 1:13 pm

How did you like using the "one-fly" approach? Like you I like not wasting time changing flies or worrying about it, but it takes a lot of discipline, and I need to constantly erase the thoughts from my head that go something like this, "man, if I just had that one fly! I bet this fly, no, this fly, not that pretty one, would work well." Until I connect, that is!
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Re: Fishing tales on Tenkara in Wales, United Kingdom

Postby ConorUK » Thu Aug 27, 2009 2:11 pm

Hi Daniel,
I usually only fish with one fly, but i tend to change that one fly A LOT! I have that same little voice in my head urging me to change over. If its a big river, or for sea trout i may fish 2 flies and three flies on lakes but funnily enough i would hardly ever change those flies, maybe a single dropper or point fly once in a while but nowhere near as many times as on the single fly!

27 August
Got to the river at daybreak, the light just starting to move across a field of maize stubbles as walked downstream. Lovely to be out early for a change. There were lots of midges and as i reached the first pool there was a fish rising, so i started on the a Sakasa-Gujo dry fly - in amber colour. On the third cast the water erupted and a trout was on. After a few seconds a little brownie of 18cm came to hand.

I moved on but in the next pool I found that i could not get the fly to float again well so changed to another Sakasa-Gujo dry fly, this time in brown. After my first few casts there was a nice rise further upstream, just as the light was reaching into the river

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I moved slowly up and my first cast was terrible as the fly bashed the surface and the line heaped up nearby. As i straightened it out the fly zipped across the surface and a nice fish came at it and missed! I waited a little while and again there was a fish rising, i covered it and with a little boil a fish was on. This was a larger fish than before and he went straight downstream to the shallows where i was going to lose him, mindful of the fact i was on 2 lb breaking strain tippet. However, he came slowly to the net and then, ping, the line snapped and he was free, but as he swam away i lunged with the net and got him! A brownie of 25cm caught in the half light. The fly was nowhere to be found. And when i picked up my rod from where i had rested it, i found to my surprise that it was still attached to my tippet. This is the second time i have experienced this with recently purchased co-polymer tippet, too springy for my liking and i will go back to mono.

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I fished several more pools on the brown Sakasa-Gujo dry fly and after hooking and releasing several more brownies in the 15-18cm range it needed to be changed and i switched to my remaining dry fly, in black. In one pool on this fly i managed to hook two tiny grayling, one pictured with the fly in my hand.

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I fished the way back downstream with a Sakasa tan body wet but couldnt connect with two nice takes. Not yet got the hang of these on an unweighted fly. In one pool i fished the fly upstream and a nice brownie swooped up from the depths and down but as i raised the rod i hit some branches and it was gone in as many milliseconds.

Had some lovely views of dippers and kingfishers through the whole morning and as it came time for work the fishing satisfaction batteries were most definetly on full power!

However, at lunchtime i found myself back on the river, in a different part, and fishing the same Sakasa tan body wet which i had left attached on the spool. I ventured into a long canalised part of the river and as i turned the bend it was alive with rising fish. These looked to be a big shoal of fair sized grayling, but out of every few moderate rises there were almighty big swirls, which i hoped were record breaking grayling! I had no choice but to fish at them downstream and so let the fly drift down and then allow it to arc up as the line tightened. This was excellent practice for connecting and although i only managed to hook 4 small grayling of between 20-22 cm out of about 20 takes, i felt i had learned some things instinctively, hard to explain. Having watched some of the fish carefully in the clear water i could see that the big swirls were not bigger fish, they were rising on wasps! When i saw the first two like that i started scanning more intently, and there were a few wasps coming downstream curled up dead every minute or so. Now would have been the moment i would have been scrabbling in my fly box for a perfect opportunity for that wasp imitation. But having no fly boxes to hand, there was no pressure, and i stayed on my Tenkara fly, and continued to catch fish. I finished the pool, with the grayling shoal having parted and continued to rise on both sides.

I finished the day with a few casts on a green bodied Peacock head caddis in a deep pool further down with no takes, and with a missed take in a fast run further along. On the way out i passed what looked to be wild plum trees. I ate one and it tasted fine, and as of yet i havent keeled over, so they must be ok :lol:

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Re: Fishing tales on Tenkara in Wales, United Kingdom

Postby Adam Trahan » Fri Aug 28, 2009 12:39 pm

I am enjoying your adventures from afar.

Thanks for taking the time to add in.
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Re: Fishing tales on Tenkara in Wales, United Kingdom

Postby ConorUK » Thu Sep 03, 2009 10:52 pm

Hi Grassart,
Thanks for your comment and i am glad you enjoy the write ups and the Tenkara experience!

2 September
Brian, a club member on the summer beat was interested in trying out the Ayu rod - word spreads fast! So, we arranged to meet at 6.30am on the river. Me with my old rod, Brian with the Ayu and a few of the Tenkara wet patterns. I left Brian to try out the rod and went upstream. The water had a grey hue to it, after some intermittant showers the whole of the previous day. And from memory this meant for poor fishing conditions. However, fishing a bead bodied nymph downstream i had a take on the turn of a pool, which i missed. I couldnt really concentrate as i was really hoping that Brian was doing well, and after 20 minutes when back to find him. Brian had no luck either and as we chatted it turned out that Brian had already ordered an Ayu rod. He had also lived in Japan for a while and had seen people fly fishing western style, but had not come across Tenkara. We fished another few pools each with no luck and called it a day at 8am. I hope Brian really enjoys his Tenkara experience. Who knows, maybe one day in the future when Tenkara has replaced reel fishing as the first choice for small to medium sized river fly fishing, UK books on the history of Tenkara may refer to our largely unknown stream as the catalyst!
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Re: Fishing tales on Tenkara in Wales, United Kingdom

Postby ConorUK » Sun Sep 06, 2009 10:36 am

Gary,
I picked up a few more of the stone clinger patterns, and one is going in the post to you tommorow to your Nicho Bamboo Rod Co addres for you to look at, my mobile phone isnt up to the job of a close up!

4 September
Heavy rain in the last 2 days and i wasnt hopeful for the fishing conditions, but headed to the wood and conditions were ok, water dropping, a moderate flow and water a weak ale colour rather than muddy. In the past i have caught fish in these conditions. With visibility low this gave me the opportunity to cover some big grayling lies without them spotting me first. This involved leaning out from the tree lined bank and casting upstream, moving between trees by handing the rod outside the tree trunks as i moved along.

Photo of the terrain and river
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I had no takes fishing a green bodied Sakasa reverse hackle fly. Having kept all my 'other' flies from my last outing with Brian my resolve to stick with Tenkara only flies weakened and the stone clinger pattern was tied on instead!

On the first few casts there was nothing, but then, a little stop in the leader, but with no connection. Probably the bottom. Then again a few inches away. Then an obvious jerk upstream in the leader, i raised the rod and with a flick i was in! This was a good fish, and i felt his head thumping from side to side down the rod to my hand. With the low visibility i didnt know what was on but presumed a big grayling or an even bigger brownie. Slowly i urged the fish closer, and clambered down into the river, with one moment my feet giving way and almost going in head first! But still the fish was on and the fish revealed itself as a long heavy grayling, and just as i saw him, he saw me, and plunged back into the deep. I was on 3lb fluorocarbon, having foresaken the co-polymer tippet, and i was unsure how well my knot would cope. The fish got closer and with the net outstretched i raised the rod vertical and in he came and then i had the line in hand and at the last moment the grayling made a final run and snapped my tippet, but i was quick, and i gathered him in the net in that golden second of opportunity when a big fish breaks free but has not yet reacted and started to accelerate away. I thought the tippet had snapped on the fly, but it has snapped just below my knot onto the leader.

Blurred photo of the 35cm grayling - there was plenty of fight left in him!
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Photo on release - note the ale coloured water, normally crystal clear
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As the fight had taken me 30 feet upstream i decided to try the same area i had hooked the grayling, but fishing downstream rather than upstream, moving carefully and slowly back down and casting at right angles and across. On the third cast, BANG, a fish struck hard and was immediately wriggling like mad and jumping all over the place. I thought sea trout, but on once i had my wits about me i noted a grayling. Soon it came to hand and was smaller than the first at 30cm, but very welcome.

I tried to get a photo on the bank with my Ayu rod but the fish managed to flip up and landed back in the river before racing off. The photo below was a millisecond before that!
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Re: Fishing tales on Tenkara in Wales, United Kingdom

Postby ConorUK » Tue Sep 08, 2009 12:53 pm

7 September
Dawn found me at a pool on the summer beat of the river with a few fishing rising. I worked my way upstream fishing an all black Sakasa reverse hackle pattern. Ignoring some smaller fish rising i focused on one area that had a sporadic boil of a larger fish. The fly was working just sub-surface, with little induced take jerks (the rod tip allows much more subtle movement than by hand on a line off reel), and the water boiled as a fish flashed below the surface and no sooner had i connected the fish was down deep and i could see my line speeding along across me downstream, i followed as best i could with rod but then the rod bent double and still it was moving and if this was the 3lb+ monster i have sometimes seen in this pool, he was going to break me at this rate, and so with no concern for any follow-up fishing i stumbled quickly along creating a massive wake in the water surface as i gave the fish room to keep moving under tension downstream. This all happened in a few seconds, and i found myself in stalemate position, the rod still bent double, the fish deep and stationary. And then he ran again, this time upstream and as i held my breath he passed me, and it was not the monster i had imagined, but a fine fish nonetheless. And what a battle for his size of 32cm, I tried the lifting head out of water technique i had seen in one of the Tenkara videos, but this fish was having none of it, he kept plunging deep and so it took me a few minutes to get him close enough to land in the net, absolutely packed with energy he was, and after a photo on the bank he zoomed off again on release.

Trout with Sakasa fly hooked in scissors
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I spent a little more time fishing nearby, managing to hook a tiny grayling not even the width of my hand on a green bodied Sakasa caddis pattern. That was it for the morning, but by lunch i was back on another part of the summer beat in search of a big grayling with the stone clinger pattern fishing deep, but i had no takes. Switching to downstream fished green bodied caddis pattern i had two sub-surface takes that i missed in fast flowing water of 3-4 feet.
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Re: Fishing tales on Tenkara in Wales, United Kingdom

Postby ConorUK » Tue Sep 08, 2009 1:30 pm

8 September
It was a balmy afternoon and for the first time i can recall there were biting midges on the river, several of whom tucked into me. With the season soon closing on the summer beat i was after big grayling, and i returned to the pool of yesterday afternoon with a different approach in mind. Normally i would fish the pool from two directions, upstream for the first half, then making a wide berth away from the river to fish the other half from a downstream approach. But the downstream approach was unsatisfactory to me, with the heavy river cover meaning i was almost on top of the pool before I could fish it, and even though it was a deep fastly flowing and gurgling pool, the fish would invariably be wise to my presence.

And so, this time i would fish the whole upstream, and figure out the upper pool when i got there! And here i was, being eaten alive by midges, with vegetation in my face and branches above me. But the pool looked enticing from this angle, and slowly i moved the rod into a position to allow a bow and arrow cast up and out with the stone clinger into the pool. This had to be well timed, as i could snag to my side of bank, the other side or above if anything went wrong. And the game would be up for that visit. I prepared for the first cast, bad, bad, bad, the fly snagged in the shrubs a few feet away before it even got airborne, but luckily i was able to whip it out without moving.

Again i tried. A lovely arc and the fly was in and fishing, and to my utter joy the line whipped through the current upstream to a violent and decisive take, and i moved the rod to connect, but the rod wouldnt move, it was snagged in the branches above and my joy turned to despair as a massive grayling turned in the surface and threw the fly, showing off a wide silver flank. I got untangled but the game was up. Nonetheless i perservered with many more casts, out of sheer hope, and it was good practice for another day...
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Re: Fishing tales on Tenkara in Wales, United Kingdom

Postby Daniel @ Tenkara USA » Tue Sep 08, 2009 5:00 pm

Very, very cool, Conor. What a beautiful set of fish you're accumulating tenkara style. That trout looks gorgeous, very fat. Reading your description I feel like I was witnessing the fight this fish was giving you. Those grayling also look great.
Thanks for taking so much of your time to write, I love reading your diary, it's almost like a new magazine article every day.
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