March 22, 2019

Worm Season

Winter is trying to hang on (in fact, as I write this it's snowing again), but the northerly march of the sun is breaking winter's icy grip. It couldn't come too soon, IMO! With the sun shining down, I recently visited a creek that runs through the valley about one mile from my house. It works its way through a small ranch owned by some of my friends. They give me trespassing rights to fish the creek. I generally only fish it in the spring when water levels are good. My go to "fly" on this creek is the pink rubber worm. It works real well when the water is just a little off colored and slightly hazy.

It's a tough creek to fish. The waterway is so overgrown with brush and trees that casting is a real challenge. Also, if you hook a fish you've got only a few feet in which to fight it. Case in point: I slowly worked my way to this point in the creek (see picture below) and then used the sling shot cast to get the fly near the fallen snags. A second after hitting the water, a nice brown (I bet he'd come in at 14 inches) shot out from under the snags on the right and nailed the worm fly. I set the hook and he blasted towards the trees on the left. I was able to horse him away from eminent entanglement, only to pull the hook out of his mouth. Bummer! What a nice fish!

I did take a smaller trout a minute later so there was some consolation.

I took a few more fish as I worked my way upstream a few yards. The sly was blue, the air was warm (54 degrees F), the water was perfect (46 degrees F), and the breeze was light. What a beautiful day!

I fished for an hour then drove back home very content!

March 18, 2019

Testing a Larger Stream

After fishing the little creek in my last post, I decided to try a larger stream to see if the trout were any more active.

Snow melt has not yet started, but when it does I'll not be able to fish this stream for a few months. Right now it's flowing at 77 cfs. When the run-off going it will likely swell to 500 cfs! It remains so usually until July.

I entered the water and worked my way upstream. Even at 77 cfs it can be difficult to wade. I don't even try entering this stream if it's above 110 cfs. The water was slightly off colored and was still a cool 42°F, so I decided to use a #10 grey Mop Fly.  I'm not much of a streamer fisherman; the Mop Fly is about as close to a streamer that I get.

I fished for about an hour and picked up a few nice fish, all browns. The largest was about 13 or so inches and was a real fighter. He used the current expertly and for a moment I thought I'd lost him to an underwater snag. But I didn't so extricated him, I took his picture quickly, and let him go to fight another day.

I'll be watching the snow melt closely. Maybe I can get a few more outings on this stream before the chaos begins.

March 15, 2019

More Snow, and the Promise of Spring

I went fishing yesterday. We got about 8 inches of snow overnight and this added to the many feet we already have, made getting to the creek challenging. We had actually had some snow melt this past week but this new addition increased the depth quite a bit.

The water was low, which is usual for winter pre-melt conditions, and the trout were a little off. I started with a #12 black Ishigaki kebari and after taking a few browns changed to a #10 UKB.

As I walked up the creek I didn't scare as many trout as I usually do, making me wonder if most of the fish have moved into the deeper pools to over winter and haven't made their way back to their normal feeding lies.

The air temp was 33° F and the water was 44° F. I used the Tenkara Times 300Z (mine is the old version called the Watershed 330). I used a 7' #3.5 line, but I think that it is a little heavy for this rod. I'll go back to a #3. I fished for about an hour then moved to a larger stream to see how the water flows were there.

The forecast for this coming week is sun and daytime temps into the low 50's. Boy, am I looking forward to spring!

March 10, 2019

DRAGONtail SHADOWFire 365 - review

In 2014 I reviewed the Shadowfire 360 tenkara rod by DRAGONTail Tenkara. As many of you have found out since, it's a really great rod, especially for those just starting out in tenkara. Well, DRAGONtail has recently made a second iteration of this already very nice rod, and as you will see, I like it even better!

The SHADOWFire is 365 cm in extended length. It looks very similar to the original, but there a are few minor changes that I will point out below. The second generation rod comes with a rod tube and sock. It still has its non-glare finish on most of the sections, but not on the handle section, where it has a glossy finish.

The handle is cork and has a classic camel shape. The cork quality appears to be very good. There is one cork composite ring near the butt of the handle. The winding check is nice and tight and the overlying epoxy is well done. The handle is 27 cm in length.

The tip plug is standard wood with rubber post. It is slightly fluted and fits snugly. It has a loop of extra lilian running through it. Included with the SHADOWFire 365 is a universal rod cap as well as the tip plug. This allows you, the user, to choose whichever tip control system you'd like. That's a very nice option!

The butt cap is black nylon, is slightly knurled, and has a coin slot. No decompression hole is present on this version.

The lilian is red, and is not as long as what was provided with the first generation Shadowfire rod. The current lilian length is more appropriate. It is attached to the tip section with a well done micro-swivel. Much to my happiness, the glue joint on the micro-swivel has a lower profile than was on the first generation rod. The entire tip section can now be removed through the second section for complete rod disassembly for drying and cleaning. Way to go DRAGONtail!

Here are some of my measurements:

Fully extended: 368 cm
Fully nested (with tip plug): 59 cm
Weight (without tip plug): 84.3 g
CCS/RFI: 20 pennies/ 5.4

For comparison, here are the measurements for the original Shadowfire 360:

Fully extended: 361 cm
Fully nested (with tip plug): 52 cm
Weight (without tip plug): 84 g
CCS/RFI 19 pennies/ 5.2

Top to Bottom: Shadowfire 360, SHADOWFire 365

So when compared to the first generation Shadowfire 360, the SHADOWFire 365 is longer when extended, longer when nested, and 0.3 g heavier. But these increases are not necessarily a bad thing.

Also, the new version is very similar in CCS and RFI to the original rod, but this is just a little deceiving.  The first generation rod was quite stiff through the midsections and butt and had a very flexible tip. The flexible tip artificially lowered its penny rating. It had an RFI of 5.2 but it cast like an RFI of 6.2. This was OK if you used a furled line, but not so nice if you were casting a #3 fluorocarbon level line. If there's one thing I've learned from Dr. Ishigaki's collaboration with Shimano it's that an overly flexible tip is not necessarily good for casting a level line. A slightly stiffer tip, but with more flexible 2nd and 3rd sections from the tip, is more efficient in transferring the rod's energy to the line. I believe this is why the new SHADOWFire 365 casts a level line better than the old version.

Therefore, with the second generation rod having been adjusted so that the upper midsections are more flexible, and the tip section being a little stiffer, the SHADOWFire 365 measures at an RFI 5.4, and it feels like a 5.4. For me, it casts a level line much better and feels better overall than the first generation rod. BTW, it still casts a furled line well, so don't fret if you're a furled line user.

10 penny bend profile comparing the original Shadowfire 360 (sf360) to the new SHADOWFire 365 (SF365).

Casting the rod is very nice. It has a pleasing arc that requires little effort. It casts a #3 level line very well. There is no end oscillation or overshoot. Dampening, linear and rotational, is good as well.

Fishing the rod is fun! I fished with tungsten bead head nymphs (since its winter) and the rod cast these heavy flies without complaint. The trout I caught were easily handled by the rod, even when they ran into high gradient current. This rod is a utilitarian or work horse rod, not a pretty boy rod. I had no worries about fishing bead head nymphs with it, as the rod is rugged and durable. Also, as a practical matter, if the bead head did per chance hit one of the sections and nick it, causing it to break in the future, DRAGONtail's replacement parts are inexpensive! Some other company's rods replacement parts cost so much that it may cause the user not to fully utilize the rod due to fear of possibly breaking and having to shell out lots of money for replacement parts. Not so with DRAGONtail's rods. Use them! They are made to be fished!

Conclusion: The new SHADOWFire 365 is a great rod, and deserves a look for anyone looking for a modest priced, well made tenkara rod. Personally, I like it much better than the original Shadowfire 360, as I feel this new iteration casts a lot better. If you are looking for a new tenkara rod for 2019, then consider the SHADOWFire 365. It has a great action, is durable, and will not let you down. It's also backed by DRAGONtail's unbeatable customer service!

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 DRAGONtail. I borrowed the rod and it was returned after the review.