June 3, 2019

Adois, Au revoir, Auf wiedersehen my Friends...

For the past 30 years I have practiced medicine, and through that profession have met many wonderful people and had many extraordinary experiences. With my patients I've experienced countless moments of great joy and happiness, but also ones of profound sadness and heartbreak. It has been a difficult journey but rewarding, and I wouldn't have changed anything for the world.

But now my wife (a registered nurse) and I begin a new adventure that, in all honesty, we enter with some anxiety, but also some great anticipation and excitement. We have been called on a mission, to serve in Guatemala for the next 18 months as medical advisers to some 1000+ young missionaries in Central America for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints. It is a voluntary assignment and is completely gratis; we'll receive no monetary compensation. But it is an opportunity to serve others and give back without expecting anything in return, and that, in part, is what we are looking forward to.

So, it's time to close down Teton Tenkara. I want to thank you all for following the blog and YouTube channel and for supporting them through these past years. I've really enjoyed sharing with you my tenkara adventures, and I hope my posts have provided some useful information, entertainment, or at least, contributed something positive to your lives. I've made some great friends here in the United States and from around the world who have enriched my life. They have been the best part of my tenkara journey.

I would like to give particular thanks to Daniel Galhardo of Tenkara USA, Chris Stewart of TenkaraBum, Adam Trahan of Tenkara-Fisher, Dr. Paul Gaskell and John Pearson of Discover Tenkara for their products, knowledge bank, and willingness to share that knowledge. I would also like to thank Tenkara Guides, LLC (John Vetterli, ERiK Ostrander and Dr. Rob Worthing) along with Masami Sakakibara for their passion in teaching tenkara and for providing the Oni Tenkara School. A special thank you goes out to Brent Auger of DRAGONTail Tenkara for tolerating me stopping by from time to time, and bugging him while he's trying to work.

Teton Tenkara and its affiliated YouTube channel will remain online as a reference. They may be added to when I return.

Once again my tenkara friends and family, thank you; you have made my life better, and I bid you all a fond farewell. See you on the mountain streams in a year and a half. Save some fish for me!

Teton Tenkara signing off.


May 30, 2019

DRAGONtail Mizuchi zx340 -- a collaboration to achieve a goal

As most of you know, I love fishing small creeks and streams. Often these diminutive waterways have small fish (4-6 inch range), but the creeks in my neck of the woods frequently have trout in the 10-14 inch range. Obviously, you don't know what's going to take your fly -  a 6 inch beauty or a 14 inch top predator. This uncertainty makes choosing your rod somewhat difficult, although one thing is a given, it has to be short.

Of interest (at least to me), I have found that many of these creeks are too overgrown for 270 cm rods. Not in all places, some open up nicely in spots (like beaver ponds or meadows), but in most of the creek you can't effectively cast or set the hook with a 270 cm rod. This is because the tree canopy is too restricting.

I've used some nice 240 cm rods in these little, heavily overgrown waterways. Some of them include: Diawa Soyokaze 24, Shimotsuke Kiyotaki 24, Shimotsuke Gen 24, Tanuki Golden Trout, Nissin Yuyuzan 2-way, and Zen Suzume. Some of them cast well, loading the rod with a short level line, but fail to handle a 12-14 inch trout in small water next to snags and log jams (where many of these larger fish hide). Some of them have excellent hook set speed and controlling strength, but are so stiff that casting (traditional overhead casting) is a real challenge with a 6' #3-3.5 level line.

Because I'm a restless (and unsatisfied) small stream angler, I've been looking for a rod that meets the following goals that would make me more efficient on my small creeks. It must:

1) be no shorter than 240 cm length. I have found that shorter rods don't cast well (at least for me). 240 cm is about as short as I can effectively cast using the traditional overhead or side arm cast.
2) be able to "zoom" to a longer (not just longer, but practical and usable) length for use when the canopy opens up and a longer reach is desired (beaver ponds, meadow sections, an opening in the trees, etc).
3) have excellent balance at all lengths, especially in the fully extended length (in other words, it shouldn't feel great in the short length and weirdly heavy at the longer length).
4) have a flex action appropriate for the intended use of the desired length. For example, at the short length it must have a fast hook set and fish fighting control over rod loading during casting (it must cast well but that's not the top priority in the short length; power to hook and control the fish is). But in the long length it must have excellent rod loading and line control, and still maintain fish fighting power. Hook set speed now takes a back seat as the canopy is more open allowing a larger hook set arc (and the hook set should not be too stiff so to launch small trout out into the trees).
5) be dull in finish and non flashy in color scheme. I fully believe that rod flash and bright colors make me more visible to the trout when I'm only 8-10 feet away (in the clear waters of my home).
6) have great sling shot casting abilities (other name is bow and arrow cast). I want to launch the fly into tight places without having to pull the fly past my ear. Sling casting is mainly needed in the 240 cm length and is not quite as critical at long rod lengths. Also, it must have excellent non-traditional casting capabilities like flip casting and air roll casting.
7) be robust so to handle the unique stresses of a small creek. But it should also have great customer service and be easily and economically repaired if breakage does happen.
8) be able to be completely disassembled for drying and cleaning.

So, with those goals in mind I contacted Brent Auger of DRAGONtail tenkara. We talked about these characteristics and goals, and he thought is could be doable. He contacted his manufacturing engineers and soon we had the first iteration of the rod in hand. Testing ensued, both my static measurements and on stream performance. Adjustments were made and soon other iterations of the rod were produced and tested (I made a video of fishing the third iteration). Further adjustments were made and finally Brent came up with a rod that met all of my goals.

So without further ado, I would like to introduce the forthcoming small stream/creek rod from DRAGONtail Tenkara, the Mizuchi zx340. The rod is in the final stages of production and will be available from DRAGONtail in the near future. Why am I introducing it before it's available? Because I'm going away for a while (announcement soon) and Brent has given me the honor of introducing the rod to you.

The Mizuchi (water dragon) zx340 is a multi-length rod that can be fished in the 240, 290, and 340 cm lengths. That's a length spread of 100 cm making it very practical and useful in a wide variety of small stream conditions. It comes with a DRAGONtail rod tube and sock. The overall coloration is graphite gray and the finish is flat/matte. The rod designation is yellow/orange and is glossy, but this is only a small part of the rod. (NOTE: the pictures I present here are of the final prototype iteration. Some of the details will be refined in the production model to improve fit and finish).

The handle is very good quality cork and is a gourd or camel shape. It is long enough, 26 cm, to have many hand hold positions, depending on need. There is a cork composite ring near the butt to hold your fly. The winding check is executed very well.

The rod comes with both a tip plug and a universal cap (may be a different shape or style than shown). You can choose which to use. Personally, I use the universal cap. The butt cap is black plastic nylon, is knurled, has a coin slot, but does not have a decompression hole.

The lilian is thin, red, and joins to the tip section with a non-swivel glue joint. The tip segment can be fully removed through the second section to allow complete disassembly of the rod for cleaning and drying.

My measurements:

Fully nested: 64 cm.
Extended lengths: 240 cm, 292 cm, 339.5 cm.
Weight (with out tip plug or cap): 79.2 g.
CCS/RFI: 16 pennies/6.6, 17 p/5.8, 18 p/5.3.

RFI comparison chart - click to enlarge.

Casting the rod shows that it is fast at 240 cm (as designed) and gets progressively slower as it is lengthened (again, as designed). I can cast a 6.5 foot #3 fluorocarbon level line at the 240 cm length with ease and accuracy. I chose that weight/length of line as it really tests a short rod and is what I often use on my small creeks. At the longer lengths the rod loads very nicely with the same line.

The casting stroke at 240 cm is quick with very little arm motion required. This is desirable for my creeks as I can't move my arm much without hitting or hooking a branch. Because the rod is so short and has an RFI of 6.6 you won't feel the rod load with a 6.5' #3 line. You don't need to. The tip section is a little stiffer than the second and third (from the tip - Japanese numbering for segments). This was designed so the rod will launch the line quickly without causing cast destroying line oscillations. Your fly shoots straight towards the target. Overhead casting at the 240 cm length takes practice, and practice is encouraged. Sling shot casting at 240 cm requires only a little deflection of that specially designed tip segment. The line shoots forward with vigor, therefore your execution of the sling shot cast needs to be adjusted so not to splash the fly down too hard. This gives the user a lot of options for this very useful cast.

Casting at the 290 and 340 lengths are smooth and well balanced. To me the rod feels well balanced at all three lengths. Casting accuracy is excellent at the longer lengths as well. This is critical on a small creek.

Rod tip recovery and dampening is great. I don't detect any linear or rotational oscillation or overshoot.

I fished the rod (all iterations) on a variety of small creeks. It casts extremely well, hooks quickly, controls trout in slow and fast water and is a joy to use. The rod is robust, like all of DRAGONtail rods, and held up to every abuse I could give it. Needless to say I was very pleased how things turned out. One scenario that I often come across is where a tree or log has fallen into the creek and causes a hydraulic cushion upstream. Trout ride this cushion, lying just under the log. To catch these trout I have to cast upstream and let the fly drift towards and then under the log. I almost always take a fish when doing this. Hooking and fighting a 12 inch brown under a log, when the fly is coming towards you can be a challenge. When hooked the fish immediately dives further under the log. The Mizuchi is one of the only short rods that I have used that has the strength to set the hook like lightning and pull the trout out into more open water.

Of note, Jason Klass of Tenkara Talk, the premier tenkara blog, saw the third iteration of the Mizuchi at the recent 2019 Fly Fishing Rendezvous in Denver. This is what he said, "I was also lucky enough to wiggle one of their new rod prototypes. All I can say is that it’s a triple-zoom (with a spread that actually makes a significant difference in length) and has a really different stealth finish. It’s super light in the hand and I think it’s going to be a hit when it goes to production." 

So if you are a small creek trout fisherman, you should consider getting the DRAGONtail Mizuchi zx340 and giving it a try on your waters. I've really enjoyed the process of helping to design and test this rod and I want to thank Brent (and Brandon of Moonlit Fly Fishing) for allowing me the opportunity to do so. And just so everyone out there is clear, I won't be receiving any money for my "consultation" on the rod or the use of the trademarked Teton Tenkara logo. I might get a "free" rod, but I'm not even sure of that. The process was my reward.

If you would like to get on the Mizuchi zx340 notification list CLICK HERE, or if you have any other questions about their tenkara products, contact Brent at DRAGONtail Tenkara.

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. Don't just take my word for it.
I have no affiliation with DRAGONTail Tenkara. 

May 10, 2019

Windy But Good

I went to a local mountain spring creek yesterday for a couple of hours. Unlike most spring creeks that I have fished, this creek is small and courses its way through a tight canyon.

There are browns in this creek, most in the 8-10 inch range. They are usually quite cooperative, but yesterday they were more elusive than I've seen them before. Maybe it was me and my lame presentations. Maybe it was the bright sun overhead. I don't know.

But it was the wind that was the biggest challenge. The valley down below had 50 mile per hour gusts, but in the trees up in the canyon it was just somewhat blustery. I shortened my line and tippet to make casting more precise and worked my way upstream.

I was able to pick up a few beautiful fish using a #10 soft hackle grey. The water in this creek is like most spring creeks, very stable in flow and temperature, and is very clear. But unlike most spring creeks, the flow is moderately high gradient making fishing this water more like fishing a freestone than a spring creek.

Yes, I was frustrated by the wind, but hey, it was fishing. And that changes frustrating conditions into a good day!

April 29, 2019

Nissin Tenkara Mini - review

The other day I decided to try to fish a stream that is usually not blown out during the spring run-off. Most all the other streams in my area are running very high and are chocolate brown, as the record snows we reviewed this last winter are now melting. This creek that I chose is spring fed and is relatively protected from such seasonal fluctuations in water levels.

It's up a trail a ways, however. So to get there you have to drive into the mountains and then hike into one of the canyons. Because of this, I thought it would be the perfect place to test out the Nissin Tenkara Mini tenkara rod.

The Nissin Tenkara Mini is a recently released packable rod designed to go anywhere with as little of footprint as possible. It is related to the Nissin Pocket Mini, but unlike the Pocket Mini (a keiryu rod) the Tenkara Mini has a cork handle and is designed to handle a heavier tippet. The Pocket Mini is rated for a 6.5X tippet, while the Tenkara Mini is rated for 5X to 3.5X tippet. The two rods are the same in nested length but the extended lengths are different. The Pocket Mini comes in 270, 300, 360, 390 and 450 cm lengths, but the Tenkara Mini comes in the 320 cm length only.

The Tenkara Mini comes in a standard, albeit very short, plastic carton with a rod sleeve. The rod is charcoal black in coloration and glossy in finish. There are a few simple silver accent painted rings on the lower sections, but other than that, there's not much adornment. There is a gold anodized metal ring near the tipward portion of the handle section. It has a white star on it.

The lower sections are thinned walled, like the Pocket Mini, and deform slightly under squeeze pressure. I don't think they deform as much as the Pocket Mini's segment do, however. I don't have a Pocket Mini anymore so I can't measure the deformation. I'm going by my memory and it seems that the Tenkara Mini has a little stiffer wall.

The handle is very good quality cork and is 18.7 cm in length. It does have a slight camel or gourd shape but the upper part of the handle is not nearly as prominent as the butt end. The handle is more pear shaped IMO than camel or double humped shaped. The winding check is gold anodized metal and has a white oval noting the front of the rod. On the back it has printed "Made In Japan".

The tip plug is black nylon plastic and fits snugly into the handle section. The top of the plug is thin enough in profile that it would be more challenging than usual to drill a hole for a lilian loop. The butt cap is also black plastic with a gold ring. On the ring are the words "Hyper Tool For Active Angler". The butt cap is slightly knurled and looks similar to the butt cap on the Zerosum and Oni Honryu line of rods, but it is a different size so they are not transferable. There is no decompression hole. BTW, this rod won't accept a universal (Fuji-style) rod cap, due to its design.

The lilian is red in color and thin. It is attached to the tip section with a perfectly executed glue joint. The entire rod can be disassembled for cleaning and drying. BTW, there are 18 sections in total.

Here are my measurements:

Fully extended: 330.5 cm
Nested (with tip plug): 24.5 cm
Weight (without tip plug): 52.4 g
Wall thickness of tipward end of segment 17 (the one next to the handle section): 0.28 mm. I don't have a Nissin Pocket Mini 360 available to me, but if you do, and if you have a micrometer, please measure the wall thickness of segment 17 (the end near the paint accent ring) and let me know. I'd like to know if the Tenkara Mini has a thicker wall.
CCS/RFI: 15 pennies/4.5

Casting this rod is fun. It is very lightweight in the hand and has excellent balance. The action is stiffer than most Nissin 7:3 rods that I have felt. Even though the RFI is in the low 6:4 range, the rod feels stiffer than what it measures at. I suspect that might be due to the large number of joints and it's aggressive taper. Still, it's a great casting rod. I used a #3 level fluorocarbon line under breezy conditions, and I had no trouble controlling the line and getting the fly to its intended target.

I don't perceive any rod tip overshoot or oscillation. Dampening is excellent as well.

I have fished the rod on the small creek I mentioned above. I caught native cutthroats in the 8-12 inch range. It easily handled these fish even when they shot into the current and ran downstream. Hook sets are quick and decisive. Fish control in tight quarters is excellent with only a little arm movement to direct the rod tip.

Fly: #10 Killer kebari

Conclusion: I really like this rod. I'm hoping it is more robust than the Pocket Mini, but time and fishing will tell. Even though it's rated for 5X-3.5X tippet, I'll be using mine only with 6.5-6X tippet. That should be more than ample for the size of trout I usually catch. I do look forward using the rod on some hiking excursions. It's so small that you'll barely notice it's there! It's even shorter (and lighter) than the Tenryu TA39TF, but the Tenryu gives you more length options (and is more robust in build). I like the action of the Tenkara Mini better than the Tenkara USA Hane and the Nissin Ramon 360 7:3, and the quality (and flex profile) is much, much better than the Tenkara Rod Company's Mini's.

Nissin Tenkara Mini and Tenryu TA39TF

So, I think it's a great rod. It's durability has yet to be proven but it's made in Japan by Uzaki Nissin and it has the potential to be an outstanding pack rod. The Pocket Mini has been received well, despite it being quite fragile. I think the Tenkara Mini will be an even better choice for those looking for an ultra compact tenkara rod that actually has a pleasing action.

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. Don't just take my word for it.
I have no affiliation with Uzaki Nissin. I purchased the rod at full retail price.