April 21, 2015

Being Schooled

Yesterday I fished a mountain spring creek where the water is always 54 degrees F and is gin clear. It is not a destination stream, mainly because the trout are small -- but there are some reasonably sized fish, if you can find them. I don't fish this creek often, mainly in late winter and spring. It never blows out with run off and it is a great place to practice one's technique.

The main reason I go to this stream is to be humbled. Even though the trout are small (6-8 inches mostly, with the occasional 10-12 incher sprinkled in) they are not dumb. They are very skittish and, in general, much harder to catch than the trout in most of the mountian streams I fish. With the clear water, and on days like today with bright sun and blue sky, they must be approached very stealthily. Any movement overhead and they are gone. There are no pockets to hide in and for most of the stream the surface is flat and very transparent.

I've used many different rods on this stream but the one that has increased my catch rate has been the Daiwa Sagiri 39MC.  It is a seiryu rod that is now out of production, although it can be found on eBay from time to time. It casts beautifully and can zoom between 340-390 cm. It is very lightweight and yet is robust.  I really like this rod!

The other thing that has helped my hook up rate is lengthening my tippet as well as using 6X fluorocarbon. I am a short line tenkara fisherman. I almost always use a line equal to or shorter than the rod length. I do this because I like the control it gives me. On freestone streams my tippet is always 5X and usually no longer than 2.5 feet. This allows me optimal control over the fly when casting. But on this stream 2.5 feet is not long enough, and 5X is too thick. So going with 6X at 3.5 feet has resulted in a better yield. I do lose some control over the fly, due to the longer tippet, but that hasn't seemed to hurt me, unless the splash down is too hard.

Finally, I have found that on bright days, a dark fly one size smaller than I usually fish out fishes a light colored fly. Also, a subsurface fly always out fishes a dry. Sure, I can take trout on light colored flies and dries, but using a dark fly seems to really produce. Here's the two that worked really well yesterday.

I didn't keep track of how many fish I hooked yesterday, but is was well over 30. I used to hook only 8-10, but now my practice is paying off. Soon I'll leave this creek until next spring, but what I've learned from it will help me throughout the year.

April 18, 2015

Handmade Line Spools (shikake-maki – 仕掛け巻き) from Three Rivers Tenkara

Although tenkara doesn't involve a reel, it does require some sort of process or item to control the line when it's not being used. I personally use spool cards, as they are very thin and weigh next to nothing. But many folks like to use spools on which to wrap their line.

I just received a spool that is both beautiful and functional. It is a shikake-maki (仕掛け巻き) from Three Rivers Tenkara.  仕掛け巻き is translated as a winding widget or contrivance, in other words, a spool. Here is what Three Rivers Tenkara says regarding this wonderfully functional line spool: "Woodwork by British craftsmen Steve James and Seth Leach and unique design features, which have been very carefully thought out with the help of John Pearson of Discover Tenkara (discovertenkara.co.uk) make these shikake-maki a delight to own and a pleasure to use.
These shikake-maki are individually hand-crafted from selected pieces of seasoned hardwood, chosen for colour and or figure displayed within the wood thus giving each unit its own totally individual and unique character.

The oiling process, whilst rendering the shikake-maki completely waterproof, enhances the colours and natural features in the wood and also gives the unit a beautifully smooth finish making it a pleasure to use. Each unit, being approximately 70mm in diameter and only 10mm thick, has been designed so that the hook and line is stored and located away from the 25mm centre hole allowing the shikake-maki to be securely lodged on the rod handle during transit without fear of it sliding off the closed rod.
The feature insert (hook keeper) is hollowed out, providing complete protection for the hook point and allowing only the bend of the hook to make contact with the wood. The design of the unit is such that line is always wound in the same, one only direction and the six line slots, located on the back of the shikake maki, have been cut at an angle to facilitate quick and easy location of the line in any chosen slot."

I find my spool just as described above.

My spool is easy to use, holds the line well and fits onto my Nissin Zerosum handle perfectly. I must say, it's about as nice as a line spool can get!

While I don't routinely use line spools, I really like this one! It's a piece of functional art! If you use spools to control your tenkara lines, you might want to consider one or more of these beauties. They are a bit expensive at $34.00 USD plus tax, but boy are they pretty!

April 14, 2015

Small Stream Tenkara Video Log -- April 6, 2015

On my last video log, I hinted that I had fished two streams that day. The wind drove me off the larger water, so I went to a smaller stream in the area. This stream, or creek, is tucked down under numerous trees, so it affords some protection from the wind.

The fish are usually rainbows, with a few browns thrown in. The fish size is small, typically in the 4-6 inch range. But this outing I caught the largest fish I've ever caught in this creek -- he came in at 14 inches.

I used the Nissin Pro Spec 320 7:3 with a short line and a UKB.

Here's the video:

April 10, 2015

Tenryu Tenkara FURAIBO TF39TA rod -- is it worth the money?

When comparing the cost of an average tenkara rod to the cost of a western rod, the tenkara rod will almost always be less expensive. This is one of the attractions of tenkara -- no guides, reel seat, wraps equals less expense. But when it comes to tenkara rods there is a wide range of retail prices.

I've used rods from the entry level affordable Dragontail Tenkara rods all the way up to the Gamakatsu Multiflex Suimu 40, a high end triple zoom tenkara wonder. But recently I got my hands on a rods that blows these away in price -- the Tenryu Tenkara FURAIBO TF 39TA.  Coming in at 57,000 Yen, it is the highest price tenkara rod I have used. But is it worth it?  Let's see.

The TF39TA comes without a rod tube or the ubiquitous Japanese plastic carton. It does come with a padded soft case and has a silky feeling stretch sleeve, however. The soft case is red with Japanese characters on it, while the sleeve is black. Both are really well made and very nice in aesthetics.

The overall coloration of the rod is red and the finish is glossy. There are subtle gold rings at the tip of each section excepting the 1st section (tip section).  This rod, like the Gamakatsu Multiflex is a triple zoom rod and while the three lower sections nest tightly together, the upper two can be extended when needed. The advertised lengths for this rod are 330-360-390 cm. It is unknown as to the carbon-to-glass composition, but its 390 cm non-zooming TF39 sibling is 83% carbon and 17% glass.

The handle is cylindrical in shape, without curves. It is fairly narrow in diameter (when compared to other tenkara rods), but not more narrow than many keiryu rods that I have used.   The handle is 25.5 cm in length. There is no winding check, rather, the colored epoxy of the handle section tapers into a flush joint with the cork. It is beautiful and nicely done. A leather overwrap is available for extra money.

Optional leather overwrap for the handle (I did not purchase this).

Notice how narrow the handle is.  Left to right: TF39TA, Daiwa LT36SF, Nissin Zerosum 360

The lilian is dark red, is plenty long to tie a knot in (if you want to) and attaches to the tip section with a gold colored micro swivel. The glue joint is fairly smooth, but I've seen better on lower priced rods. The tip section can be fully withdrawn through the 2nd section, allowing complete disassembly of the rod for cleaning and drying.

The tip plug is dark plastic and fits snugly into the collapsed rod. The butt cap is stainless silver colored metal, and has a thick post with two O-rings. These O-rings receive the two zooming sections. There is subtle knurling on the edge of the cap as well as a coin slot. There is no air hole. A rubber bumper is on the tip of the post, so to dampen the rattle of the collapsed segments. Another O-ring keeps the butt cap from spontaneously coming unscrewed.

Here are some specs:
Collapsed with tip plug-- 35.5 cm
Extended to 330 length -- 328.5 cm
Extended to 360 length -- 355.5 cm
Extended to 390 length -- 379 cm
Weight without tip plug -- 76.9 g
Common Cents System / Rod Flex Index / Rotational Moment:
     330 length -- 18 pennies / 5.45 / 4.8
     360 length -- 20 pennies / 5.55 / 5.7
     390 length -- 20 pennies / 5.3 / 6.8
For definitions of the Common Cents System, Rod Flex Index and Rotational Moment, please see my article on Tenkara-Fisher.com.

At 330 length.
At 360 length.

At 390 length.

Rod Flex Index comparison chart

As far as casting, this rod is very smooth in action and has a beautiful arc. There is no overshoot or oscillation. The rod rods and unloads with a satisfyingly rich feel. It balances in the hands well in the 330 and 360 lengths, but feel just a little tip heavy in the 390 length -- as would be predicted by the Rotational Moment calculations. The zoom functions well but I found on my rod that it was a little loose going from 330 to 360 lengths. From 360 to 390 it feels perfect.

I used a #3.5 level line. It cast this line wonderfully and with little effort. I used both unweighted kebari and beadhead nymphs. The beadhead felt a little too heavy to this rod, but with an open casting loop it did fine. I like this rod best at the 360 length and only extended it to the 390 length when I was in the more open stretches of the stream. Please see the April 6, 2015 video log for a video of me using this rod.

Conclusion: I mostly like this rod. I have to say, this is a pretty nice rod, but for the money I'm not sure it really is any better than other rods available. You can get a Tenkara USA Sato for less than half of what this rod costs. One thing the TF39TA has going for it however, is that it is really, really compact. If you wanted just one rod for backpacking, a rod that was very compact, had multiple fishing lengths and yet be oh so smooth in casting, then this just might be the rod for you. But it requires a chunk of change. Personally, I'd either go with either the TUSA Sato or the Suntech Suikei 39 (a keiryu rod and my favorite travel rod).

So there you have it. I got this rod to satisfy both my and your curiosity. Is it worth the price? I don't think so. Also, i'm a guy who wears camo when fishing. Using this rod makes me look even stupider -- a guy in camo using a bight red fishing rod -- that's impressive (eyes rolling).

If you want one you may want to contact Plat or Tenkara-Ya. TenkaraBum might be able to get you one too.

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.