August 20, 2014

Smith Creek Rig Keeper

In tenkara, simple is purported to be best. In fact, the quest for simple is a passion with some tenkara fishers and they measure their tenkara purity by how simple they can get. You know the saying, "a rod, line and fly" -- that's all you need. So some think that if you have two rods, some lines and a box of flies you are not worthy of being a tenkara fisher. If you can't fit everything you need into an Altoids tin then you too are not worthy.

I recently received a new fly fishing item from Wayne Smith of Smith Creek that may appeal to the minimalists out there. It is called the Rig Keeper. It is designed to be a holder for pre-tied dropper systems, and I dare say it works great for this. But it may also have a dual purpose for those that want to have the lightest, most minimalistic way to carry flies and lines.

The Rig Keeper is a foam attachment 10.5 cm X 5 cm (4.1 X 2 inches) that hangs from your pocket by a provided cable ring. It weighs 20.7 g (0.7 oz). There are three black plastic ribs that keep the foam from hitting your shirt helping to greatly reduce the chance that your flies get rubbed off. The foam is high quality. It is pre-cut to allow flies to be anchored securely and allow their attached tippet to wound around -- ready to go! Both sides of the Rig Keeper can be used.

Internet photo -- not my flies
Side view 
Slits for flies and line.

In minimalistic tenkara, you could use it for holding flies and lines. Put some flies on one part of the foam and then wind your line(s) around the other part. Flies can be put on both sides of the foam if you want more than one fly.

Another use could be for holding pre-tied keiryu rigs. Or, for you older, visually challenged fishers, flies tied to a certain length of tippet that has a terminal loop. Then when you can't see due to the dark, just unroll your tippet-fly and loop it onto your line with a loop-to-loop connection. Pretty slick.

I love Smith Creek products. They are innovative and very well made. I use the Net Holster and Trash Fish almost every outing.

So if you are looking for something simple to hold your flies and line think of the Rig Keeper by Smith Creek.

August 16, 2014


That's right, 100!  I have reached 100 tenkara fishing videos on the Teton Tenkara Youtube channel!

I know that my videos are not professionally directed and produced. I know they're not very entertaining. I know that they're not very educational. But they are video documentation of what tenkara can do in the hands of an average guy fishing in various places from challenging to not so challenging. They are video logs, not documentaries or entertaining theatrical features. They are what they are.

I have tried to share, through poorly executed video footage, what I learned from each and every trip. Sure, I don't always tell you where I'm fishing (what fly fisher tells the world where each and every fish they catch is to be had), but I show you what rod, line, and fly I used to catch those fish -- that's more than most videos tell you. On many, I show you where I placed the fly, the fly's drift, and where the fish took the fly. That should allow most anyone to learn where to place the fly on waters with similar characteristics.

I have enjoyed making these videos, and I've appreciated the kind comments that many of you have shared with me. It's been fun to have you along with me on my tenkara outings. How many more videos will I make in the future? I don't know. I've got a lot of footage on Youtube that's private. It's the way I combine my fishing log data with video data for future reference, but it's cumbersome to always wear a camera. So, I don't know if I'll keep going. But at least for now there are 100 videos -- or should I say 101.

Here's video 101, from just the other day:

August 13, 2014

Tenkara Rod Co. Cascade rod -- review

Recently I reviewed the Owhyee rod by Tenkara Rod Co. I must admit that I wasn't very nice. I wasn't trying to be mean, rather, I just outlined what I saw in the rod, its pros and cons. Today, I get a chance to redeem myself. Today, I review the Cascade tenkara rod by the Tenkara Rod Co.

The Cascade is described by the Tenkara Rod Co. as "... our smallest Tenkara Rod.  It's great for those tight spots where casting is difficult and makes catching even the smallest fish fun.  This would also be a great rod for your little guy/girl to learn on.  Our tenkara rods are ultra light weight and the swivel tips included on our tenkara rods also help keep your line from getting tangled.  This rod is finished with a custom colorful design that won't disappoint."

The Cascade comes with a glossy black rod tube and a black velvety rod sleeve. The rod itself is quite an eyeful in that it is bright sky or robin-egg blue. This is not your usual color for a tenkara rod, that's for sure! The finish is glossy. There are very subtly and tastefully done accents on the ends of the major section of the rod.

Accents,  nicely done!

The handle is foam with a cork veneer. It is pretty well done and every bit convincing that it is solid cork except that it is softer than solid cork and some of the "cork rings" don't exactly line up. My Nissin Pro Spec 2-Way has a foam-cork veneer handle and the Cascade's feels exactly the same. Besides, you can see the seam where the cork veneer comes together. I have no issues with this at all. More rods could have this as long as it is done well. The handle is a reverse half wells, like many western rods. I don't care for this shape but for this little rod it's not that bad. The length of the handle is 19.5 cm. There is a short section of cork composite at the butt of the handle.  This winding check is black anodized metal and fits tightly against the handle.

Cork veneer seam

The tip plug is the standard wood/rubber as with most tenkara rods. The butt cap is black anodized metal. It has a knurled edge, a rubber bumper and a small air hole. Unlike the Owhyee, this butt cap's weight is appropriately light.

The lilian is chartreuse green and is attached to the tip section with a micro swivel. This is done very well. The glue point is tight and smooth, however, it will not retract through the second section for complete disassembly.

Here are some specs: Collapsed, the rod is 45.5 cm. Fully extended, the rod is 238 cm. It weighs 54.2 g without the tip plug. On the Common Cents System it is a stiff 23 pennies. This gives this rod a very stiff Rod Flex Index of 9.6! That puts the rod well into the 8:2 action range along with some pretty stiff rods, like the TFO Softhackle.

Rod Flex Index comparison chart

The action of the rod is best described as very stiff. I have used some stiff rods, and this one is right up there with the stiffest of them. Since the rod is so short and so stiff, you can not feel it load or unload when you cast it -- if you use a level line like me. Even a #4 level line will not make the rod load. I freely admit, I did not fish a furled line, as I normally don't. The stiffness of the rod makes it difficult to cast --  not impossible -- just difficult. The casting stroke has to be very fast and short or the line will not lay out.

The balance of the rod is nice, but after all, it is a very short rod so it should have good balance.

I fished the rod on a small creek, with plenty of overhanging branches and snags. I usually fish this creek with a Shimotsuke Kiyotaki 24, so it's a good comparison creek for the Cascade. Because the rod is so short and when fishing tight creeks the line is short (I used a 7 foot plus 2.5 feet of 5X tippet) you have to get very close to your target. Stealth is an absolute must. But the Cascade is anything but stealthy. The bright blue coloration stands out against the riparian foliage like a beacon. I don't know what it looks like from the fish's point of view, but from mine it's really bright. For a short rod I think more subtle colors and duller finish would be better.

Bright blue in the shade

Really bright blue in the sun.

I caught fish from 6 inches to 13 inches. One nice thing about this rod is that it has plenty of backbone. When larger fish make a run for underwater snags after being hooked, the Cascade can easily and effortlessly turn them. That was very nice!

Conclusion: I wanted to like this rod, but I can't, not yet. Its design makes it too stiff to enjoy casting and too stiff to enjoy catching little fish. Also, the coloration is all wrong for a short rod that needs to be stealthy. If this rod is designed for children, then OK, keep the blazing blue color. But if is really designed for fishing small, tight streams then offer the rod in a non-glare dark color -- like graphite or charcoal. In fact, Tenkara Rod Co. should offer the rod is two color schemes, one for kids and the other for the serious stealthy tenkara fisher.

To make it funner/better to use, I'd recommend that the tip section be redesigned to be much softer and more flexible. When casting a short rod with a short line you don't have the luxury of line weight and casting stroke length to build up energy to throw the line. For short rods it is essentially the tip section that throws the line forwards and transfers the kinetic energy from the rod to the line. If the Cascade could be designed with a softer tip section it would be funner with smaller fish without compromising power for a larger fish's run.

So in summary, offer two colorations and soften the tip. Then I think I'd like this rod.

Here is a video of me using the rod:

Disclaimer: My opinions regarding this rod are just that, my opinions. Your opinion may differ.  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. Tenkara Rod Co. sent me this rod,  and after the review I mailed it back.

August 10, 2014

Baker Creek, OR -- July 28, 2014

I recently visited Oregon and while there tested some of the smaller streams that come out of the coastal range into the Willamette valley. Trout fishing in that part of Oregon in August is not an easy proposition. Most of the streams that I have fished over the years, late in summer, are really low. The fish are very skittish and you have to work for anything over 8 inches.  It seems that I'm never in Oregon in May through June when the water levels are better. I have to take what I can get.

Anyway, I had not fished Baker Creek previously so I thought I'd give it a go. When I was there the days were hot, reaching into the 90's. That makes for some sweaty fishing. The water temperature wasn't too bad, 62 degrees F. Any higher and I would have not fished due to fish stress. But 62 is still in the safe zone, for a stream -- less so for a lake.

Upper Baker Creek

I drove through the pretty countryside of Yamhill county and up into the hills of the coastal range. I decided to fish up high early on, then down lower later. The hillsides were still green and lush despite the lack of rainfall over the past month.

I had my Gamakatsu MultiFlex with me, but it was not the right rod for the stream. It has the right lengths and versatility, but it is too stiff to really enjoy small fish. A better match would have been my Oni type III, Sagiri 39MC, Try 330, or Nissin ProSpec 2-way, but I didn't have any of these rods with me. I should have brought some of these to Oregon but I had brought my big rods instead, as I had planned on doing some summer steelhead fishing and carp fishing. I never did get a chance to fish for those species however -- my wife had other plans.

I fished among the ferns and conifers of the Oregon hills, carefully casting my woolbodied kebari into the few pools that were in the stream. There were lots of fish, all native coastal cutthroats, but nothing larger than 8 inches. They would hit the kebari as soon as it hit the water or a few seconds after.

The "big" one of the day.

After a while I drove downstream, found an access point, and reentered the creek. Up high the stream was over a gravel bed, but lower down the stream was pocket water in among boulders. I bet this stream is fun in May. Access is challenging due to private land and blackberry brambles (I really need a machete to cut through those brambles, but I'd probably cut my leg off). Again I took coastal cutthroats and again they were all small. I fished for a few hours then went back home as it was really hot outside!

Baker Creek downstream

I'd like to try other small streams in Oregon when I get back there. If any of you Oregonians know of some nice trout streams in the Willamette or Northwest Zones, and would be willing to share with an out of state guy, send me an email. Better yet, if you'd like to go fishing together when I get back to Oregon send me your email address through the Contact Me tab above. I don't know when I'll get back there, but my daughter lives there now so it shouldn't be too long in the future.

Here is a short video of Baker Creek and some of the small cutthroats I took: