January 21, 2018

Discover Tenkara's New Book -- Is it worth getting? Absolutely yes!

I have a few books on tenkara in my library, just a few. I don't read Japanese, so I don't have any of the original tenkara monographs published in that country, but I do have three books from authoritative sources published in English.

The first is tenkara: Radically Simple, Ultralight Fly Fishing (Kelleher and Ishimura, 2011). This is an excellent introduction monograph to tenkara, and maybe all that a person needs when getting started in tenkara fishing. It's simple in design and uncomplicated in how it presents its information. I highly recommend it.

The second is tenkara - the book. A complete guide to the techniques, gear, history and philosophy of tenkara, the Japanese method of fly-fishing. A manifesto on fly-fishing simplicity (Galhardo, 2017).  This book is, of course, the must have book on tenkara. Elegantly written and illustrated, it is the reference for anyone trying to enhance and hone their tenkara skills. This book will become a classic for those pursuing the joy and simplicity of fishing that is tenkara. It goes without saying, I very highly recommend this book.

An finally, How to Fool Fish with Simple Flies: The secret science behind Japanese "kebari" and Euro-nymph patterns (Gaskell and Pearson, 2017).  This is the book I most recently acquired and would like to review in this post.

How to Fool Fish with Simple Flies: The secret science behind Japanese "kebari" and Euro-nymph patterns is a masterfully written and illustrated work on more than just tenkara. In fact, if your are just getting into tenkara, this book might not be the first one you should buy. You might want to get one or both of the previously mentioned books first and get some experience under your belt before buying How to Fool Fish with Simple Flies...

But buy it you must if you are at all truly interested in tenkara and the flies traditionally used in Japan. More importantly, if you want to get better at tenkara and learn all methods of fly design and manipulation, then this book needs to be in your library!

If you like the simplicity of tenkara, but don't fish mountain streams for salmonid species, then this book might be somewhat of a disappointment to you. This book doesn't talk about fishing for bluegill in ponds. It doesn't address tactics or techniques for smallmouth bass in rivers or tarpon in mangrove swamps. It doesn't illuminate on how to use a tenkara rod with bait or tiny spoons. That's because those styles of fishing with a tenkara rod are not tenkara. I know that may be painful to hear, but it's not. This book is only about tenkara, and the flies and techniques used to manipulate them. To state it as simply as I can -- this book is not about fishing with a tenkara rod, it's about tenkara. There's a difference (at least as defined by this book -- I'm not an elitist or the tenkara police; you can define tenkara how you like).

How to Fool Fish... is extremely comprehensive. It is quite technical and might be too intense for some, but for me it was an amazing read. I read the entire book on the day I received it, in one sitting. I couldn't put it down! This book is less like a monograph and more like a doctoral dissertation, it's that comprehensive.

Used by permission

Paul and John divided the book into different sections and they thoroughly explore all aspects of those sections. A few of the sections are: Part I: What kebari are - and how they are designed to work, Part III: A summary of kebari "physical fishability" characteristics, Part IV: Outline of key specific fishing methods, and Part V: Bringing it all together - using onstream conditions to choose kebari and tactics. Rich photos and numerous drawings help illuminate the reader and make the text come alive.

Used by permission

Both John and Paul draw from their extensive personal experience from their visits to Japan, and from their extensive interactions with numerous expert Japanese tenkara anglers. This experience is readily seen in the detail of their writing.

Used by permission

The nearly all of the last half of the book is dedicated to individual fly patterns and the recipes to tie them. If you are looking for a fly tying reference for classical kebari, you will love this section.

Used by permission

In conclusion, this is a must have book for anyone interested in true Japanese tenkara, or for those interested in upping their tenkara game by using traditional tenkara flies and techniques. I'm just starting my seventh year of tenkara, fishing on average 65 days a year with subsurface kebari, and I'm just scratching the surface of this fascinating and very enjoyable way to fish.  How to Fool Fish with Simple Flies... has already enlightened me and, I have no doubt, will make me a better tenkara angler.

How can you get a copy of How to Fool Fish with Simple Flies...? As of the publication of this post, there are two links to buy a copy of the book. One is in GBP (Pound Sterling) and the other in USD (US dollar).

January 18, 2018

Shimano Pack Tenkara rod -- review

Pack rods for tenkara have had a renaissance lately. Tenkara USA has a new pack rod (a reintroduced version of their Hane), Nissin has their Ramon series of rods, and, of course, Tenryu has the TF39TA rod. We also can't forget Nissin's Mini series, Teton Rod Company's Mini series and Shimotsuke's Kiyotaki (all of which are more keiryu rods, but still count as very packable rods). Well, now Shimano has a pack rod. It's called the Pack Tenkara, and I was able to borrow one and take it for a test drive.

The Shimano Pack Tenkara is a beautiful rod, as I'm sure we'd all expect, especially coming from Shimano. The coloration is dark green with subtle metallic flecks to enhance it's looks. Unlike many tenkara rods, the Pack Tenkara doesn't have any adornment like color bands or stripes. It's just a rich, dark Hunter or forest green. The rod comes with a rod sleeve and a remarkably heavy Cordura covered rod tube. I would think that the rod tube weight would be unappreciated by those carrying the rod in a pack up into the mountains. 

The rod is a "zoom" rod and can be fished between and advertised lengths of 310 cm and 340 cm. The zoom feature holds the zoom section snugly, but unlike most zoom rods the area to grab (the overlap) and extend the zoom segment is very short --  as in 7 mm! 

The zoom section overlap is very short.

The handle is both cork and black EVA foam. The shape is the classic gourd or camel shape, with the hump closest to the butt being smaller in diameter than the other hump. The handle length is 29 cm with the cork section being 4.5 cm. The winding check is perfectly executed and sits tightly against the cork section of the handle.

The tip plug is wood with a fluted rubber stem. The rod I borrowed had a tip plug WAY too big and it couldn't be pushed in all the way. That's sort of strange for Shimano. The butt cap is brushed nickel. It has a coin slot, air hole and rubber bumper. What it doesn't have is a post which receives the zoom section. The zoom section is held in place only by a short taper at the tipward end of the zoom section. It works perfectly, but it does look strange not to see that classic post with O-rings on the butt cap.

The tip plug on this particular rod specimen is way to big and won't fit properly.

The lilian is black (a nice departure from the ubiquitous red lilian) and is attached to the first section with a perfect glue joint -- no micro-swivel here! The first section can be passed through the second for complete rod cleaning and drying. 

Here are my measurements:

Fully nested: 42 cm
Fully extended: 301, 334 cm
Weight (without tip plug): 85 g
CCS: 16 pennies at both lengths
RFI: 5.3 at 301 cm, 4.8 @ 334 cm

The rod's action is true to Shimano's more recent tenkara line of rods. The rod is full flex with a smooth, rich arc and flex action. There is no end of cast oscillation. Linear and rotational dampening are both quick.  The Pack Tenkara tip section is stiffer than most rods I use. This might be due to a hollow tip section rather than the usual solid tip section that comes on most tenkara rods. The rod loads is further down the blank than many rods; the tip stays relatively rigid. The Shimano 44NP and 34-38ZL both have a hollow tip sections and I'm betting this rod follows their design. 

I cast the rod with a #3 line, but I felt that the rod was designed (and begging) for a lighter line. This is not a rod that tolerates a heavy line very well! It will do it, but it doesn't like it.

I fished the rod on a small mountain creek that had low, clear water levels consistent with winter conditions in Idaho. These conditions demanded delicate fly placement and absolute stealth, as the trout were taken in mere inches of water only a few feet from where I was standing. I fished an unweighted #10 UKB. The rod cast it anywhere I desired. The casting action is a little more full flex than what I personally prefer is a small stream rod, but I'm sure it would be greatly appreciated by the full flex crowd. It definitely is designed for an unweighted fly, and it did not appreciate the weighted kebari that I briefly tried.

I caught browns in the 10-12 inch range. It handled these fish just fine, but because of it's full flex action I had to move my casting arm more than I like to keep them out of the creekside snags. I didn't care for this, but that's just a personal preference. I prefer rods that have a quicker response to my arm movements when controlling a trout in small sized flowing water. Still, it was fun fishing with it.

Conclusion: I mostly like this rod. As I stated above, I tend to prefer rods with a mid flex action and quicker response time. I liked the RFI score, but this rod gets this penny rating from the whole rod bending, not from the tip bending. I personally prefer a little stiffer mid section and a more flexible tip in my small stream rods.

Shimano's recent rods are more full flex their older rods that I have used (Mainstream ZE and LLS36 NX) and have been designed for unweighted, low air resistance flies which are cast with light level lines (in other words, classic level line Japanese tenkara). Certainly the nested length makes this rod very packable, and it comes from a thoroughbred heritage, but it's not a rod for me, at least at this stage in my fishing evolution. But that said, I'm sure it would be greatly enjoyed by other small stream anglers looking for compact, full flex, true tenkara rod.  

Disclaimer: My opinion regarding this rod is just that, my opinion. Your opinion may differ.  Also, your rod may not have the same length, issues, or functionality as my rod. There are variations between rods, even in the same production run. No description can fully tell you how a rod feels or fishes. For this, you must personally hold, cast, and fish the rod then make up your own mind. 
I have no affiliation with Shimano. I borrowed the rod and it was returned after the review.

January 16, 2018

New Tenryu Rod to be Released -- Yikes! What a price!

Tenryu has announced that it will release a new, limited edition tenkara rod. Called the Tenryu Tenkara Furaibo TF 39 "Betchou", it looks like a beautiful rod.

I can't find very much about it, but this is what Tenryu says in its press release (Google translate): "Based on the tone of Fujiborobu TF 39, we gathered the carbon cloth woven with Nishijin weave from the tip of the head and put it in the whole body of the stick (#1 is a solid carbon material). Tenkara which is unique to Japan and Nishijin weave which is a traditional technique are merged with state-of-the-art technology. By tradition and technology that craftsmen have connected, we realized a Japanese taste that can only be produced domestically. In addition, because only the limited craftsmen create a process that far surpasses the usual process, we will sell it by quantity limitation."

It's extended length is 3.9 m.
Fully nested it is 58 cm.
Weight is 83 g.
The number of sections is 8.
Material ratio of carbon to glass: 93/7
It's price is.............................wait for it..............................................¥ 87,000!

Yes, that's $785.41 USD as of today's exchange rate! I'm going to apologize to all my readers right now, I will not be buying this rod to provide a review. Sorry, but I have to draw the line somewhere. Maybe in the future, if the price comes way down, I'll get my hands on one and test it out. But for now, nope.

At that price a Karasu 400 looks down right inexpensive! Maybe I'll have to get one of those instead!

January 14, 2018

Is it tenkara or Tenkara? - and other grammar crimes that drive me NUTS!

Image result for grammar crimes
A fun book. It can be procured here.

I'm not an English major, and I'm really not a grammar snob, but I do have a couple of grammatical pet peeves that I see frequently in our tenkara forums. We seem to live in a world of 140 characters, textspeak, and language shortcuts. Sure, they may have their place in certain restricting situations, but I for one (as one trying to use the education he payed for) have tried to stick with grammatical conventions and avoid so called "word crimes." I'm definitely not perfect, but, as they say, "I tries." Here are a few crimes that I see all the time:

One is the increasingly common use of than for then and visa versa. Uh, hello, they are not interchangeable! Each word has it's own specific use. Maybe autocorrect is to blame and makes the error more than people do, but it's still a crime.

Number two is misplaced commas (or no commas at all). This one is very common. Yet without properly used commas the grammatical world would be a dangerous and confusing place!

But for our purposes, as when communicating on tenkara forums, let's talk about capitalization of words. I see tenkara often (and I mean very often) written as Tenkara. What? Why is it capitalized? Who's Tenkara? Are we talking about Bob Tenkara or a relative of his? Remember your 5th grade grammar class. Capitalize words when they start a sentence, or are names of people, specific places, and things. Yes, tenkara is a thing, but it's not that kind of a thing (such as the Brooklyn Bridge). It doesn't make you a better tenkara angler if you capitalize tenkara, it only shows that you just might be qualified to be President of the United States (or at least have the same command of the English language as the current one). So, use the small T when spelling tenkara. It doesn't demean the sport!

Yeah, yeah, I know. What does this post have to do with tenkara? Well, nothing. I just had to air some frustration. So thanks for bearing with me. Oh, and one other thing you may have noticed, I do love a well-placed Oxford comma. Maybe it's because my DNA shows I'm 65% English!

"Weird Al" Yankovic - Word Crimes.mp4 from Christopher Reed on Vimeo.