November 20, 2015

And we're off...Winter Begins!

I love the challenge of winter tenkara. Snow, cold, limited stream access requiring some imagination, ice lined banks and best of all, silence. I love the silence of the woods in winter. I don't ski or snow machine. I do snowshoe, but my winter sport is fishing.

The last few days has seen some beginning of snow. Not a lot, as I live in the high sagebrush desert, but just enough to begin to close down some of the national forest access roads. Today it was 32°F for a high, with a gusty breeze and scattered snow flurries.

Wanting to get out of the house, today I drove to one of my most challenging streams. I never fish it during summer, as the vegetation is too restricting. But winter allows some great casting practice. Sure, there are branches everywhere, and lots of frustration, but it's worth it.  It challenges me and my equipment. Most of all, it gets me outside.

I used the Nissin Yuyuzan 2-Way 290ZX. This has become my go to short game rod. It's not a rod that I immediately fell in love with, rather, it's an acquired taste. It's stiff through the butt and midsection and flexible in the tip section. This makes casting just a flick of the wrist, something that is good when you have no room for a more traditional cast. It allows you to set the hook with very little wrist movement and the stiff midsection fights trout without you having to make large movements with your arm. It performs the sling shot cast with great energy, placing the fly with unparalleled accuracy. But what I like most of all is that it is a 240 cm to 290 cm zoom rod. On a stream like I fished today, 270 cm is too long most of the time, and you can just get by with a 240 cm rod. But every once in a while there is an opening and the 290 cm is a blessing. Still, it's a rod you have to get used to; it's not made to flip light weight flies.

This stream also allows me to stalk my prey. With so little room, you have to set up your shot, or cast, like playing billiards. My line is short, only 6 feet plus 2 feet of tippet, so I'm right on top of the trout. One cast, that's all you get. If you miss the hook set then your fly is immediately in the branches. It's great fun, in a masochistic sort of way.

Today I hooked a dozen rainbows. Many got off, because I couldn't set the hook well due to low lying branches. A couple of the trout were 12 inches, big for this small stream. One was even larger, probably about 14 inches. I almost had him to the net when he spit the hook. I probably scared some woodland creatures when I yelled ARRRRRRRGGGGGHHH! Here's a few of the trout I bothered to photograph.

The water was 42°F with the edge of the stream holding icicles. I fished from 1150 to 1345. It was a beautiful day. I'm going to try to get back to this stream one more time before the snow blocks me out. If I can't, then I'll be back in spring.

November 17, 2015

Norre Tail Scale -- Kickstarter project

Here is a cool Kickstarter project. It is a new way to measure your fish without a ruler. Called the Norre Tail Scale, it would help keep the fish in the water and yet let you document the size of the fish.

This lightweight tool seems to be a ground breaking device. I decided to support it.  I don't target large fish, but I can sure see the potential for this neat tool!


So, if you are looking for quick and safe way to measure the size of your fish, consider supporting the Norre Tail Scale.  They're coming down to the wire.

November 13, 2015

Suntech Suikei TenkaraBum 36 -- review, part II

I took the TenkaraBum 36 to my winter stream. It's a moderate to high gradient freestone stream that has browns, cutthroats and mountain whitefish. I used bead head flies, traditional and jig hooks. For the jig hooks I used both lead and tungsten beads.

The TenkaraBum 36 handled this water really well. It cast these flies without issue. As with anytime I use bead heads I cast the rod using an open loop, so to avoid the fly hitting the rod.

The fish I took ranged from 8 to 14 inches. Some of the fish were taken in long, deep runs and others in pockets surrounded by fast water. Again, the rod handled the fish fine. I misjudged the run of many fish and they ended up getting off, but the rod didn't fail me.

Here is a video of some of the fish:

Conclusion: I really like this rod. The Suikei TenkaraBum 36 is a well balanced, dynamic rod. It casts a light line flawlessly and fishes weighed and unweighted flies without issue.  It easily handles trout up to 14 inches in fast water, therefore I suspect it would handle trout up to 18 inches in slower water. If you fish a variety of flies and not just unweighted kebari, and want a Japanese rod designed to handle those flies, then the Suntech Suikei TenkaraBum 36 just might be the rod you're looking for.

Disclosure: I don't have any vested financial interest in Tenkara Bum. They did purchase an advertising spot on the Teton Tenkara blog site, but that purchase came with no preferred treatment or stipulations that I would favorably review their products. I purchased this rod for review and personal use. My opinion regarding this rod may be different from yours, as we all use rods differently and on different waters and fish species.

November 9, 2015

Suntech Suikei TenkaraBum 36 -- review, part I

As most of you are aware, Chris Stewart of TenkaraBum recently released a new rod to the international market. It is a collaboration between Chris and Suntech, a Japanese rod company known for fixed-line rods of high quality. Suntech has mainly made and marketed rods for keiryu fishing, but they have some seiryu rods as well. Many of us have been using their keiryu rods for tenkara for some time now. A couple favorites of mine have been the GM Suikei Keiryu Special 39 and 44, and the Kurenai rods.

The new rod is called the Suikei TenkaraBum 36. Chris wrote to me in an email that "the goal for the TenkaraBum 36 was to make a rod that fits the way American tenkara anglers fish: dries, wets and tungsten bead head nymphs." It's made in Japan by a highly respected rod company and will be sold both by Chris, in the US, and Suntech, in Japan.

Here are my impressions:

The TenkaraBum 36 (TB36) comes in a standard plastic rod carton with a rod sock. The coloration is dark charcoal, which is finished with a glossy coating sprinkled with prismatic-silver metallic flecks. It looks similar to the finish on my GM Suikei Keiryu Special 39 -- although the Special 39's is more subtle with finer speckle size. The finish is perfectly done and the rod is aesthetically beautiful. There are subtle silver accents rings at the tip of each section, excepting the tip three section sections.

Dark charcoal with metallic flecks. Glossy finish.

The handle is EVA foam, black, and is an aggressive camel or gourd shape. It is 24 cm long and is  well proportioned allowing multiple different hand hold positions. The tip-ward part of the handle is 2.5 cm wide, the waist is 2 cm wide and the butt bulb is 3 cm wide. The winding check is nickel stainless and fits tightly to the handle.

The tip plug is black plastic and fits snugly into the handle section. The butt cap is nickel stainless metal. It is knurled for easy removal and there is a rubber bumper to quite the rattling of the collapsed segments. A small air hole is also present. However, there is not an o-ring to aid in prevention of the butt cap from working itself loose during fishing.

The lilian is red and is attached to the 1st section (tip section) with a micro-swivel. The glue joint is perfectly executed and the 1st section can be withdrawn completely through the second, allowing full disassemble of the rod for drying and cleaning.

Here are some specs:

Fully extended: 363 cm
Nested: 50.5 cm
Weight (without tip plug): 64.5 g
CCS: 18.5 pennies (my measurements match Chris')
RFI: 5.1

RFI comparison chart

As far as action, the rod is sweet. It is very similar to the Nissin Zerosum 360 7:3, if you have one of those. It has a little more flexibility through the mid sections than the GM Suikei Keiryu Special 39, when in the 360 cm length. The casting arc is smooth. There is no over shoot or tip oscillation; the rod dampens perfectly. The rod really sings with a #3.5 fluorocarbon level line. Chris uses a #2.5 or 3, but I prefer a #3.5. I didn't use a furled line with this rod, as I normally don't fish furled lines.

The handle is a little too aggressive in curves for my liking; I think the waist is too narrow. But as you would expect in a rod coming from Chris and Suntech, this rod is very comfortable to hold, easy to cast, and functionally perfect for a moderate-fast tenkara rod -- it is aesthetically beautiful as well! With a #3.5 line you can feel the rod load and unload without it griping and casting accuracy is very precise. It easily passes the tuna can test.

Coming take on the rod after fishing with it on a typical mountain stream.