April 16, 2014

Mountain Stream Tenkara April 2014 -- fishing before the flood

While I was evaluating the Gamakatsu MultiFlex Suimu 4.0 tenkara rod I fished a number of different types of streams. One of them was a typical Rocky Mountain stream that is a particular favorite of mine, but I wanted to do so before run-off started

We currently have over 120% of normal snow pack our local mountains and that means that if is warms up quickly all of that snow will come racing down the various watersheds. The other thing all that snow means is that you still can't get to the headwaters of the streams unless you walk (snowshoe or ski) a very long way, snow machine in, or fly in! But there is one other way...

I decided to get well into the mountains riding my Rokon Scout. I've written about this amazing all-terrain conveyance before, but this is the first time I've taken it into snow country and challenged snow machines.

My Rokon Scout on a previous trip.

I drove up into the mountains, over snow packed roads and then out across snow covered hillsides. Most of the snow has melted on the south facing slopes and I chose these areas to traverse the hills and finally to park. I then walked the rest of the way in.

I fished most of the early afternoon, picking up a number of cutthroats, rainbows and even a couple brook trout. There was nothing of any significant size, but the sky was bright blue, that water was low and gin clear, and I thoroughly enjoyed myself.

Here is the video of the trip: ride in, hiking, fishing, ride out.  Now the snow has started to melt and the water levels are rising quickly. I hit the stream just before run-off and got to see it in a totally different way and time of year.

April 13, 2014

Gamakatsu MultiFlex Suimu 4.0 tenkara rod -- review

I have fished a number of multi-zoom rods including the Suntech Field Master GM-39, Suntech Suikei GM-39 (soft version) and the Tenkara USA Sato. These rods have made the promise of multi-functionality, all-around versatility in an all inclusive package. Some delivered, some not as much.  I have since sold my Field Master and Sato, but I still have and fish my Suikei 39.

When Tenkara USA released their Sato, every one was very excited to see a rod that could be "multi-zoomed" and fished in three different lengths. Many thought that this was new to the world of tenkara, a so called "game changer", but not realizing that multi-zoom fixed-line rods have existed for a number of years in Japan. The Gamakatsu MultiFlex rods are one of these.

The Gamakatsu MultiFlex Suimu comes in three different versions: 4.0, 4.5, 5.0 meters. The 4.0 and 4.5 versions are bi-zoom, whereas the 5.0 is a uni-zoom. I have only used the 4.0 m version, so this is what I will be reviewing here. This rod can be fished in the 3 m, 3.5 m , and 4 m lengths.

The MultiFlex Suimu 4.0 comes in a plastic carton and has a rod sleeve included. There is not much exciting about this, what can I say.

Rod designation and Title

The rod has an overall beautiful appearance. Like most other Japanese tenkara rods that I have used, the Suimu 4.0 is perfect in aesthetics, design and execution. The overall coloration is black or a very dark charcoal with a glossy finish. There are terra cotta accents on all but the tip section. There is some emerald green wrapping near the winding check and on the lower segment as well. All of this makes a very handsome rod.

The lower sections of the rod are stamped with the number 47 on their friction-fit joint surface. Whether this applies just to my rod, the manufacturing lot, or something else, I don't rightly know.

The zoom sections

The lower section's friction-fit surface stamped with the number 47

The handle has excellent quality cork. It is 31.5 cm long and has a subtle reverse half-wells curvature. It's overall diameter fits the hand well and the handle is long enough to provide numerous hand hold positions. The winding check is silver and fits tightly to the handle.

Winding check and green wrapping

The lilian is red and does not come with a knot. It is attached to the 1st segment via a very well executed micro-swivel.  The connection is small enough to be fully retracted through the second segment to allow for complete rod disassembly and thorough cleaning/drying.

The perfect micro-swivel

The tip plug is rather unusual. It is not a plug at all, but rather, is a long rubber friction fit cap. It slides very snugly over the ends of the lower three segments securing them in place and protecting the tip.  The butt cap screws into the base of the handle easily. It is black plastic and has equally spaced grooves around its circumference to aid in its removal. The post is unusual as well. Instead of O-rings (which can wear out) to hold the zoom sections in place, the post is tapered. This achieves the same goal as the O-ring design and is very effective.  There is a small drainage hole that is too small for effective drying of the rod, but more likely acts as a pressure release hole to allow air movement when extending or collapsing the rod.

Tip cap in place

Tip cap
Tip cap

Butt cap with center post to hold the zoom sections

The handle butt insert and cap (note the drain/pressure release hole)

The physical specifications are as follows. Collapsed length is 61 cm. Weight (without the tip cap) is 85.8 gm. Extended lengths for the 3.0 m configuration is 304 cm, for the 3.5 m configuration is 352 cm, and for the full 4.0 m configuration is 398 cm. BTW, these are clearly marked on the plastic carton as such, therefore you know exactly what you are getting. There is no guessing if your rod meets design specs or will come up short.

At the 3.0 m length

At the 3.5 m length

At the 4.0 m length

The Suimu 4.0 has three different Common Cents (CCS) and Rod Flex Index (RFI) measurements, one for each of its three fishable lengths.  At 3 m the CCS is 21 pennies with an RFI of 6.9. At 3.5 m the CCS is 26 pennies with an RFI of 7.4. And finally, at 4 m the CCS is 28 pennies and RFI of 7. These measurements place this rod squarely in the 7:3 rod action range.

As far as Moment, the rod as low numbers for the 3 and 3.5 m configurations, and slightly high for the 4 m. At 3 m it is 3.7, and at 3.5 m it is 4.8.  This shows that in these two configurations there is no appreciable tip heaviness. In the 4 m configuration the Moment is 6.5, just as suggested on the plastic carton (since they publish the Moment value on the plastic carton you can see that Gamakatsu validates using the rod Moment as a numerical way to show tip heaviness). This number shows that there is some slight tip heaviness felt when fully extended. Still, it's much better than many 4 m rods and even better than many 3.8 m rods!

[Moment equals wt (in kg) times radius (distance in centimeters from the butt end to the center of mass or balance point). It is easier to calculate than Moment of Inertia (MOI). It may be an indication of how tip heavy a rod is and how fatiguing a rod is to fish over time. As noted, it is measured by Gamakatsu for their rods. A rod that has a moment equal to or less than 5.5 seems to feel lightweight and without tip heaviness.  Rod reference data: Iwana 12' moment is 6.14; Ito at 390cm is 7.84 and at 450cm is 10.93; Oni rod is 5.2].

Rod Flex Index comparison chart

Fishing this rod is fun. As with most zoom rods, I generally fished it in its two shorter configurations. I also fished it in the fully extended configuration, but not as much. I used the rod on small creeks and larger mountain streams. It really is a versatile rod.

I mainly used a #3.5 line and varied its length from 9 feet to 13 feet, depending on what water I was fishing. The rod casts this weight of line really well. It also casts a #4 line well, but that should not be a surprise since it is a 7:3 rod. I did not use a furled or PVC line, so I can not render an opinion of the rod using these lines. I used flies ranging from unweighted kebari to tungsten beadheads. I did not use dry flies.

The Suimu 4.0 is a tip flex rod, and as such it generates a fast line speed and tight loops. Casting accuracy is excellent. Still, when I used the beadhead I could easily open the casting loop and still place the fly where I wanted it to go. I have fished with one other Gamakatsu rod, a Ryokei 360 cm, that I feel was one of the best casting rods I have ever used.  This rod comes close to, but not exactly matches, the Ryokei. The Suimu 4.0 is heavier and more robust.

I have mostly caught 8-12 inch trout so far using the Suimu 4.0.  From it's characteristics I'm sure it would handle larger fish, say in the 14-18 inch range. But like all tenkara rods, the size of the fish is not the only thing that matters when judging the capability of a rod. The current speed and current dynamics play a huge role in how large a fish that the rod can handle. If this rod was used in still waters I'm pretty sure it could handle a 18+ inch trout. In slow to modest current, maybe up to 18 inches would be safe. But in moderately fast to fast currents, without any pockets or eddies to take pressure off the rod, I'd guess up to 16 inches is as much as I'd venture. I'm probably being conservative in these guesses, but for the price of this rod it's likely best not to try to risk breaking it. Remember, this is a Japanese rod; there is no warranty. I use 5X tippet with most of my rods, this one included.

Conclusion: I like this rod. If you are looking for a premium Japanese multi-zoom tenkara rod, then here is another option. It is a little heavier than the other multi-zoom tenkara rod available, but it has wonderful balance in both the shorter configurations, with only a hint of tip heaviness in its fully extended length. Also, unlike the other available multi-zoom tenkara rod, this rod is true to its advertised lengths -- you get what you are expecting to get. The materials, fit and finish, and design appear to be of the highest quality. Be aware, however, that this rod is a tip flex 7:3 rod and may not be for those of you who like soft, full flex rods.  Still, if you like a faster rod, want to throw wind resistance flies or beadheads, or are just looking for a truly all-around rod with a 4 m reach, then this rod might answer very well.

I'll post a video of one of my trips with this rod at a later blog entry.

Disclaimer: My opinion regarding this rod is just that, my opinion. Your opinion may differ.  Also, your rod may not have the same characteristics 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 purchased this rod and have no formal affiliation with Gamakatsu.

April 9, 2014

Smaller Stream Tenkara; April 4-5, 2014

In my last post I discussed some of the challenges I have of fishing small streams or creeks. I received some good feedback from you; some good talking points. One such talking point was do I ever fish shorter rods. My answer was yes, on occasion. In this post I'll show you a smaller creek with shorter rods used.

I have fished this creek before; I generally prefer to fish it when there are no leaves on the trees. I find it a little easier to fish when the branches are bare than when the riparian foliage is all leafed out. This creek averages about 3 feet across. It is of moderate to high gradient and has but a few sections where there are no branches obstructing your casting. Because of this, I use 240 cm rods whenever I fish this creek. I have used slightly longer rods and/or lines here before, but I find them more of a hindrance than a help, at least on this water.

Because this water is such a challenge to fish, I start downstream and walk upstream only pausing to fish likely lies where there is at least a little open sky. I often have to cast between overhanging branches, through gapes of only a few inches. I lose a lot of flies fishing this creek.

The fish are browns. The largest I've taken on this water was 14 inches; that's a monster for here. But today the largest was 12 inches. My dead reckoning of fish size is pretty accurate, but today I used my Measure Net so the fish could be quickly measured and you can see how the net works. The net has marks on it and you note the mark at the fish's head and tail, then add them together. It's that easy. It's fast and accurate.

Head 6, Tail 6 = total 12 inch brown.

Here is a video of fishing the creek. I fished a few hours over two days. The first day I used a Shimotsuke Kiyotaki 24 and the next day a Daiwa Soyokaze 24. I used a 7' #3 line both days. The line had an additional 24 inches of 5X tippet. The fly both days was a #10 Utah Killer Bug.

March 30, 2014

The Joy and Frustration of Small Streams; March 2014

I've written about my love for small streams before, but I need to refine my statement in that they are more of a "love-hate" relationship than a pure love one. Here is my tell of frustration and wo.

We all have are small streams. But I'm guessing that my small streams are different than yours or the next guys/gals. I suspect this is so, just as Idaho is different than Colorado, Iowa, Arkansas, North Carolina or New York, let alone Spain, France, the UK, or Germany! But what I'm really beginning the appreciate is that even in Idaho every small different.

Let me give you an example. Most of the small streams I have fished are true mountain streams. They are higher gradient and vary from 2-3 feet across to about 10-12 feet. Mostly all of them have a fair amount of riparian vegetation which makes casting, directing the float of the fly and fighting the fish challenging. I'm sure that this is like your streams too. But lately I've been fishing a creek that runs right through the middle of my small town. It is surrounded completely, its entire length, by private land and so before this spring I've never fished it. But recently I've gained access to it by one of the land owners and boy, am I being schooled! This stream or creek is killing me!

Sorry about the hat.

When I first fished it I wasn't sure what to expect. Did it have fish in it? If so, what size and type were they? Would they cooperate and be "fly friendly", or would I get skunked. What fly would they prefer? And on and on....  But what I learned on that first trip was Yes, 6-12 inches, Trout, Yes, and beadheads.

Trying to be optimistic, I took my camera along. I've shown you a little portion of the creek already in one of my previous posts. Well, I've been back twice now and those fish, and that creek has kicked my butt. I thought that I had been frustrated before on some small water, but this creek has really taken the cake, so to speak.

The main thing I've learned is that for me on this creek, a short line (like 7 feet) and a stiffer rod works best. What I mean is that there are a lot of snags both above and below the water line. Also, these fish only, and I mean only, hold under the overlying snags. Casting has to be very precise. You have to have a tight loop and good line speed. If not, you're not going to hit the target, you'll spoil the approach and lose your fly. Then, even if you do hit the target your fly only drifts a foot or two before you have to pick it up again or risk a snag.

Underwater branches cover the fish holding lie

For this stream I need a rod that has enough "immediate onset" backbone to be able to pull fish away from snags since as soon as they are hooked they dart in among them. What I mean by "immediate onset" is a rod that not only has some power to handle the fish, but has a stiffer lower section so that when I pull the fish comes with me, not the rod bending to the fish. I've used the Nissin Pro Spec 2-way 7:3 successfully on this water before, but it is just a little soft for this type of work. I used the Daiwa Soyokaze 31SR and it does have the power, but it doesn't load well with a 7 foot #3 line. The Suntech Suikei 39 and the Gamakatsu MultiFlex Suimu both seem to work the best; at least on this water. They load quickly at their 3.0-3.2 meter lengths and have plenty of backbone to steer the fish out of the snags.

 A particular problem I'm having is setting the hook. In many spots I can't cast normally, so I have to bow and arrow cast. That's perfect in tight places but when the fish takes the fly I can't set the hook, due to all the branches. If I raise the rod rapidly I hit branches. This makes me concerned about damaging the rod. Therefore, for many of these fish, I just slowly raise the rod and tighten the line. This hooks the fish but does not set the hook. With barbless hooks the fish is off after just a few jumps. I catch and release always, but I do find some pleasure in bringing the fish to hand.

I know that my situation is not unique, and that many of you face the same challenges on some of the small streams that you fish. Don't get me wrong, I'm not complaining. I'm just thinking out loud and talking out my frustrations. I'll be back on this water soon. I'll try something different until I find out what works -- you can bet on it!

Here is a video of two different days on the same water. As you will see, I hook but long line release quite a few fish -- a couple are pretty nice size for this water.

March 24, 2014

Shimano Folding Damo Keiryu 25 net

Over a year ago I purchased a lightly used folding net for tenkara. It is a Shimano Folding Damo Keiryu 25 and it has been a great little net. It serves a purpose for me that it really excels at -- getting through tight brush and snags without getting hung up.

I have another folding net, a Handy-Pak Insta-Net, but I wanted a small net for smaller fish. I still wanted it to be a folding net though.

This 25 cm diameter Shimano net comes in a formed Cordura case. Since the case is formed, it is easy to net the net into and back out of when it is needed. The case closes with hook and loop closure strips. Getting the net out is as easy as grabbing the handle and pulling up. The net immediately unfolds and is ready to go.

The case is well ventilated with large holes on the ends. There is a belt loop provided making it easy to attach to your wading or trouser's belt.

Net in case

Case shape and end ventilation holes

Belt loop

Belt loop
Net inside case. Hook and loop strips seen on lid.

The net has a 16 cm handle that is plastic and coated with a very effective non-slip rubber coating. The handle attaches to the rim firmly and there is no wiggle or play, even after a years worth of use. The rim of the net is stainless steel covered with a woven nylon braid. The stainless steel rim attaches to the handle with a Phillip's screw and the nylon braid is held in place with clear soft plastic friction tubing. All of this works very well and appears quite robust.


Stainless steel rim attachment with friction plastic

Nylon weave over stainless steel rim straps

There is no lanyard attachment point, but I created my own by drilling a small hole in the tip of the handle. I attached a lanyard at this point. I know, the lanyard sort of defeats the effect of keeping the net snag free, but I've lost too many nets to go without a lanyard. Besides, the lanyard is easily tucked into the case while walking through brush and hasn't seem to be a problem getting snagged.

My net with lanyard attachment (it does not come this way; I modified mine)

The netting is a soft woven mesh that folds easily and dries quickly. Personally, I prefer a stiffer net material, like nylon mesh offered by Tenkara USA as it's easier for me to extract the fish from the net, but this netting material is still quite good. Sometimes the fish's head is hard to extract from the netting making the fish squirm a little more, however.

Folding the net is very easy. Using one hand you hold the net by the handle while the other hand hold the net rim at its apex. Rotate the handle hand clockwise while rotating the rim hand counterclockwise. This causes the net rim to form a figure 8. Push your two hands together and the figure 8 collapses into three small loops that lay one on top of the other. Bunch up the netting material and stick it net back into the case. It's that easy and takes about one second. Here is a short video showing how to fold the net:

Conclusion: I like this small net. I works great for bushwhacking to those small headwater streams. It appears durable and very well constructed. I keep mine in my car so I always have a net with me.

If you'd like one, you can get one from Chris Stewart at Tenkara Bum.