October 25, 2016

Missouri Trout -- part I

I recently visited my daughter in Arkansas, and while I was there I had the chance to fish with fellow tenkara angler Alan Luecke. Alan and I had exchanged contact information at the 2016 Oni School in Utah with the intent to fish together the next time I got out to the midwest.

As I have mentioned in prior posts, I tend to fish alone. But I must admit, I had a blast fishing with Alan. He was very kind to drive over 3 hours to meet up with me and fish for wild McCloud strain rainbows in America's heartland.

But I must apologize to Alan. All the fishing I do alone probably makes me a less than ideal fishing companion. Yet we got along famously and fished together walking side by side up the stream. I'd catch one or two, then he'd catch one or two as we worked our way upstream enjoying the day discussing various gear, techniques, places and such.

A precious little gem

We first fished a section of the stream that I had fished before and he hadn't. We took numerous trout in shallow, clear water. We then had some lunch and afterwards fished a section he had prior but I hadn't. The water was a little bigger and deeper and the trout just as cooperative.

The day was unseasonably warm at 85°F and the winds were upwards of 25 mph, but down in the trees we were protected and didn't have any issues casting.

At the end of the day, Alan presented me with a gyotaku that he had made of a crappie he had caught. It is beautifully done and I will hang it on the wall of my fishing room. Thank you, Alan. I had a blast and look forward to being able to fish with you again in the future!

October 22, 2016

Tenkara Rod Hack -- Making a zoom rod.

For some time now I've wanted to see if I could make a multi-length tenkara rod out of a fixed length rod. I know that you can fish a fixed rod at a shorter length by collapsing the section next to the handle. But this is only partly effective since the section will slide outwards upon casting, as well as rattle when collapsed. So I wanted to try to fix it in place when it was collapsed and make a "proper" zoom rod.

I generally prefer fixed length rods, but I do have streams where the increased functionality of a multi-length rod comes in handy.

For this project I chose a rod that could be modified easily, and didn't cost too much. It is the Allfishingbuy Hirame-L-3608. This 360 cm rod is a Chinese copy of a Nissin tenkara rod, probably the Prosquare or Kawashi, and it is a great rod. It is readily available, affordable, robust and casts a #2.5 level line really well. I think it is much better than many of the Chinese-made entry level rods that are available and which I personally find too stiff for effective level line tenkara.

As with most fixed length rods, the Hirame's candidate zoom section is shorter than the handle section and therefore can't be readily grabbed for extension. Therefore, to make it "stick out" of the handle section a butt cap post must be made long enough to effect this change.

For most of my zoom rods, the butt cap post is short and has O-rings which hold the zoom section firmly. This is a good design but it would be more complicated for me to try to produce, therefore I elected to go with a design similar to what Gamakatsu has in its Multiflex Suimu rods. In these rods the zoom post is a tapered rubber cone. The zoom sections slip into the cone and hold snuggly by friction. I like this design because no O-rings have to be used and the post's tolerances don't have to be so exact. The taper of the cone makes it easy to fit the zoom section with the proper amount of friction.

Zoom post from the Gamakatsu Multiflex Suimu 40

For materials I chose wood. It is readily available, is easy to work with, and is forgiving. I don't have a lathe, but I do have a drill press (a most useful shop tool). I bought a simple lathe accessory for my drill press off Amazon which effectively turns my drill press into a vertical lathe. I bought some inexpensive lathe tools: mini lathe chisels, a lathe caliper, and precision digital caliper, all off Amazon for less than you'd think.

I took the butt cap and removed the rubber bumper. I measured the inside diameter and used this measurement for the base of my post. I then measured the inside diameter of both the opening of the handle butt and the zoom segment.

For wood, I chose a fir dowel, which I got at Home Depot. Fir is a soft wood and easy to modify. I chose a dowel just slightly larger than the base of the zoom segment. The dowel is already in a cylindrical shape so all I had to do was transfer the measurements I took with the digital caliper to the wood using the lathe.

I set up the drill press lathe attachment, centered the dowel and placed the tip of the dowel in the drill press's chuck. It fit perfectly. I turned on the drill press causing the dowel to spin nicely without wobbling. I adjusted the lathe tool rest and used a pencil to mark the locations on the dowel where I needed to remove wood.

I then used the lathe chisels to remove the needed wood. It didn't take but 2-3 minutes. I used the caliper to make sure the diameters were correct. The tip of the post was made slightly conical and tapered up to a size that would act as a stop for the butt of the zoom segment. I then lightly sanded the post while it turned on the drill press.

I took the post off the press and cut the ends at right angles. I then fit the post into the butt cap - perfect, and into the zoom segment -- perfect again! Just the right amount of friction. Wood (because of it's fibers and cellular structure) is grippy but not too grippy.

I then used Gorilla glue to attach the post to the inside of the butt cap, clamped it and let it dry. After it had dried I screwed the butt cap into the rod handle and tried the zoom segment out. Since the post was about 4 inches long, it made the tip of the zoom segment stick out of the tip of the handle section about 1.5 inches; easy to be able to grab and extend. The zoom mechanism was perfect with great seating of the segment into the post, yet easy extension too.

When the zoom section is collapsed, there is a small space between the tip of the handle segment and the zoom segment. This slight space (0.1 mm) was enough to cause a click when casting. On most zoom rods there is a friction tape or slight bulge of the segment at that location making a tight fit.

Since I didn't have the friction tape (or know where to get any) nor could I modify the zoom segment, I used thin build rod finishing epoxy to add a little layer to the zoom segment right where it sticks out of the handle section. But try as I might (very small amounts thinned with acetone and warmed), I could not get thin enough of a layer to work. So, after a few tries and fails, I once again removed the epoxy and used Sally Hansen Hard as Nails in a few thin coats to built up to the correct thickness. This worked really well. It is easy to work with, water proof and easy to apply in very thin layers.

The epoxy attempt

After allowing the Sally Hansen to dry completely, I assembled the rod. The butt post held the zoom section perfectly and the Sally Hansen finish made a snug connection at the tip of the handle section too. In it's short configuration the rod is 320 cm. When fully extended (zoomed out) the rod is at it's native 361 cm. It casts a #2.5 level line beautifully at both lengths.

Length at short configuration

Full extension length

Since the zoom post is used to make the zoom section exposed (so it can be grabbed and extended), it's obvious that the original tip plug is no longer useful. No worries. Buy a Fuji universal tip cap and use it. It works better anyway!

The original tip cap won't fit now...

...so use a Fuji cap.

So there you go. I achieved my goal of making my own "zoom" rod. It didn't cost much and it didn't take much skill to do it.

So, if you would like to use your rod as a zoom rod here is one method you could use. I'm sure there are others. Have fun! As for me, my next project is to try to make a double zoom rod for small, overgrown creeks! Wish me luck!

October 12, 2016

It's Quiet When it Rains

I love to fish in the rain. Rain freshens the air and puts down the dust. Rain drives the people out of the mountains. Rain muffles the sounds of the woods making it peaceful and quiet. Where there's rain there's water; where there's water there's fish.

I fished a mountain stream that I just love. I don't get to fish it very often but when I do it seldom disappoints. As I have said before, I am pretty much a creature of habit. I tend to fish the same reach over and over until I know where every fish lies and how to approach it. But this time I fished a different reach.

When the water is low, as it is often is in Wyoming in the mountains in autumn, I prefer to fish with dark colored flies, but a UKB is always a good bet as well. The flies I used this trip did not disappoint.

I took wild cutthroats in all the usual spots as the rain fell gently around me.

One fish, the largest I took, hit my fly twice. Cutthroats are not known for their intelligence, but they rarely hit the same fly after they have been hooked and get off. This one did, however. I cast into a gin clear pool that had a low hanging conifer branch protecting it. I saw the take, but the fish was only on for a couple of seconds before spitting the hook. I then watched him swim back to his lair. I sat there for a few more minutes to let him settle down, then I cast, letting the fly drift right into his nose. He couldn't resist it. I watched him open his mouth and take the fly. After a short, but satisfying fight I brought him to net, unhooked him and let him go. I sat and watched him recover in the cold clear water, then swim away to be caught another day.

After my usual hour and a half I drove back to the cabin, made a nice hot cup of tea and built a fire. It was a very satisfying outing in the rain.

October 9, 2016

A Little Combat Fishing

Yesterday I fished a creek that is one of the toughest in my circuit. Without a doubt it challenges my casting as well as my fish fighting. It's small, 3-4 feet across and pretty low this time of year. I generally only fish it in late autumn or early spring. In fact, October is still a little early for me.

The creek has browns in it. They are from 6-12 inches. The holes are usually under low handing tree branches and fighting the fish, let alone placing the fly, is a real challenge. There are a few more open areas but open is a relative term.

I crawled up the creek, working my way up through wild rose bushes and worked the obvious spots. I'm still not overly happy with rod choices, but I'm getting to a point where I'm not sure there is a perfect rod for these little creeks. In most spots 270 cm is just too long. Yet in the rare more open reaches it's nice to have a 310 cm rod. The rod can't be too stiff, or it doesn't load and cast properly with a 7 foot #3 line. But too soft doesn't allow you to fight the fish and keep it out of the snags. My modified Suzume is what I used, but I'm still looking for a better alternative.

Here are some pictures of a few of the trout I took.

I'm still trying to hone my skills in this most difficult of creeks. I really enjoy fishing it, even tough it challenges me to the core.