Author Archives: tim

Tenkara – The Book Review

I received my copy of Daniel Galhardo’s tenkara:the book last week and was surprised to open it up to find I got copy 18/200 from the Kickstarter campaign with a nice personalized inscription on the cover page.  I then set about reading it since, at the moment, I have been unable to get out fishing due to weather.   Finally, a book about tenkara the way tenkara was meant to be fished, not a book about fly fishing with a tenkara rod.

First, the book is absolutely beautiful.  High quality paper, great photography, and even better illustrations.  I love the illustrations in the Learning Tenkara section that combine line art with photographs, hats off to Jeremy Shellhorn who was the designer and illustrator for the book.   Secondly, I love the fact that you can read the first 7 pages (plus see a few photo pages) and really get the bulk of what you need to know to get out and fish tenkara.  These pages are basically a higher quality rendition of the materials that come with TenkaraUSA rods showing you the basics of fishing tenkara.   Third, I like the QR Codes scattered throughout the book that you can scan and go see material on the TenkaraUSA site that adds depth to the topic at hand.

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Tenkara+Camo?

IMG_0581A few weeks ago I bought my first set of camo in preparation for a spring turkey hunt and I started thinking that this could be a good addition to tenkara fishing.   I typically wear a sky blue SPF 50 sun shirt during warm weather season thinking that probably blends in well even though I’m not standing on a flats boat chasing bonefish against the tropical blue sky.   With tenkara, especially here in the PNW,  I’m often surrounded by trees as a backdrop and that sky blue shirt could indeed stick out like a big blue flag amongst the trees.    So this year I’m going to try something different and go with camo, we’ll see if it makes any difference.

I ended up going with First Lite camo since they use merino wool on most of their layers from base layer up to a heavy outer layer and with wool you stay warm when it gets cold and you stay amazingly cool when it gets warm.   I run a lot in wool tops and love them for their ability to regulate temperature and keep you warm even if it starts raining a cold nasty rain on me.    I decided to try their new Fusion pattern, it looks like it should do the trick with turkeys and deer and actually has quite a bit of science behind it.

At least today for my first trip out it was perfect since the long sleeve mid-weight merino wool top was plenty warm enough.   No fish today but the water was still high and cold but things are falling into shape, we just had a decent day and I had to get out and it sure felt good to be back on the water after months of really high water.  I  was wearing the same top a few weeks ago on the Yakima and caught trout almost at my feet so maybe it does indeed work.   We will see as the season progresses.

 

Tying with hunted materials this year

IMG_9945

Four dozen GRHE Sakara Kebari

 

Our fall season came to an abrupt halt in the PNW this year as our year long drought was quickly replaced by flooding and far too much water.  What is a fisherman to do?  I’ve done a bit of steelhead fishing on lower water days but they seem to last about one day before the next flood hits so mostly I’ve been tying for next season.

Lots of kebari materials here

Lots of kebari materials here

This year I’m again sticking to my GRHE Sakasa Kebari but with a twist – I’m only using feathers from birds I have personally shot.   Luckily in Western Washington Pheasant Release areas one is able to kill hen pheasants as well as roosters.  The hen is my material of choice for this kebari.  I managed  4 hens this season along with about  a 16 roosters from Eastern Washington hunts so I have plenty of tying material as well as dinners.   There will be more hunting over the mountains before that season ends.   Now I need to find some rabbits so I can cover the body of the fly too.

 

Tenkara season summary

I think that tenkara season is over for the most part at this point, I may get in a few more days but I’m betting this colder weather and the recent rains have shut down the Middle Fork by now.   Given the drought conditions we had all summer I’m amazed to look back at my statistics and see that I fished a LOT.  So far this season as a whole I’ve been out fly fishing 131 days and 80 of those were days spent with tenkara.    I fished one fly all season, my GRHE Sakasa Kebari, with one exception up at a high lake where the trout were on midges and I used a small #18 black Takayma Midge Kebari instead.   I think I only got skunked a few days early into the season but otherwise caught or at least played fish each outing.

Best tenkara fish – an 18-19″ rainbow out of Freestone Lake.  I also got a Tiger of about 17-18″ from that lake on the same day, the Amago came in handy that day.  Mostly I fished my Sato or Rhodo all season except on Freestone Lake and one day on the Yakima where I used the Amago.   Location wise, the Middle Fork was my river of choice this year given it usually had water, followed by the Tolt which ran the closest to normal of any river around, I spent very little time on the South and North Forks.   I also did some tenkara while backpacking this season which was great, it is what got me started in tenkara in the first place.   Here are my stats for the year:

Middle Fork         38 days
Tolt                21 days
South Fork           6 days
Rattlesnake Lake     5 days
Freestone Lake       3 days
Ohanapecosh          2 days
Other alpine streams 2 days
Alpine lakes         2 days
North Fork           1 day

 

Patagonia waders and boot review

IMG_8694I do the vast majority of my tenkara fishing in a pair of shorts and my Simms sandals but this year the rivers got high and cold before Labor Day and I was forced into waders.  My old Simms waders were leaking like a sieve so I bought a new pair and I wanted a more secure boot too since I am heading out to the Deschutes next week and with my numb feet I need all the help I can get wading.   I had seen the Patagonia boots at the Fly Fishing Show in February and had decided that was my next pair of boots so I bought them and a pair of their Skeena waders.  The last few days I’ve been using them in somewhat treacherous conditions on the local rivers and I must say, these boots rock or at least stick to rocks well.

IMG_8699The Foot Tractor Wading Boot as they call it is the most secure boot I’ve ever waded in and my old Simms boots were literally maxed out with studs.    The bottom aluminum bars seem to cut through any and all slime and make every single step feel rock solid.   The boots are amazingly light for as big as they appear and actually have pretty good feel to the fact you are walking on metal plates.  The only thing that didn’t feel as secure as my sandals was boulder hopping but with these boots I’m so secure in the water that I don’t need to boulder hop as much (though I enjoy boulder hopping a lot.)

Tho boots have good drainage panels in the side and a nice eyelet for hooking up gravel guards.     The tongue is very soft and padded and the laces are just the right length and feel secure.  I am really happy with these boots.

The Skeena Wader is their mid-range wader and seems adequate given I do over half my fishing without waders.   They are made with the Patagonia H2No fabric which I have on several Patagonia jackets and absolutely love.  The waders feel really light and water just sheds off them as soon as you get out of the river, they are almost dry by the time you do a short walk back to the car.  The built in gravel guards are nice as is the wading belt.  The suspender system is a bit different and took some getting used to adjusting it but once I got it adjusted it seems fine.   I like the waterproof inside pocket so I can stop putting my keys in a waterproof bag around my neck.

Next week I’ll see how all this handles the Deschutes which is one of the tougher to wade rivers around but given how secure I’ve felt in the Middle Fork and Tolt this week I think I’ll be just fine on the Deschutes.    I’d highly recommend these boots especially to anyone that has very slippery wading conditions and/or has compromised feeling in their feet.

Rivers still dropping

I reported last week when the rivers were low, now they are getting really low and warming up to boot.  I was out the last two days on different sections of the Middle Fork and the river was no longer cold, even at 8 a.m.   Here are the current flows:

Middle Fork         159    18% of normal
South Fork           97    30% of normal
North Fork           40    15% of normal
Tolt                124    50% of normal
Cedar               377    89% of normal

Still the Tolt and Cedar with reservoirs are doing the best of the local rivers and still feel cold.  Both are even up a bit from last weekend.  The South Fork amazingly is up from last week too by quite a bit, it went from 53 to 97 so this must be the last of the snow melt up the pass.  The Middle Fork and North Fork are down from last week.

I read this week that our warm trend is expected to last through September of 2016!  Yes, you read that right, 15 months from now.  We are also expected to be drier than normal for most of this time.   Going to be rough for the fish in the area for sure.

 

 

Finding the sweet spot

small_holeYesterday I fished the Tolt briefly in the morning before an appointment.  I hit a few favorite runs and caught some fish but not the numbers I had on my last outing, probably due to the bright sun that has been scorching our landscape here.   Finally,  I was coming down a short stretch where the river has a few channels that come together.  I was swinging through and hooked a fish on the first swing just before the second channel comes in.   This spot was magic, I must have landed or hooked two dozen trout in this little triangle.   All the fish in the first channel seemed to have just stacked up in this area and you can kind of see why.  This little spot has a lot of oxygenated water coming in from the second channel, it is shaded, and it is just a tough deeper than the surrounding areas.

As this record summer continues to drop our streams the fish are just going to concentrate more in little sweet spots like this where they can get all their needs met.   Speaking of dropping, here are the current levels compared to normal:

  • Tolt:                120 cfs, 33% of normal
  • Middle Fork: 196 cfs, 18% of normal
  • South Fork:   53 cfs,  20% of normal
  • North Fork:   43 cfs,  12% of normal
  • Cedar:           418 cfs, 86% of normal

Hmmm, the Cedar and Tolt have reservoirs and are the only ones in decent shape but how long will the water last in those lakes?   The Middle Fork is getting so low you can wade across almost anywhere.  I’ve stopped fishing the North Fork entirely at this point and the South Fork will fall off my list soon.  I haven’t even gone into the Raging this year in my yard since it is barely moving at 9.9 cfs and is too warm to stress the small fish in there.

Patagonia tenkara line review

IMG_7578When I was in Portland last winter I happened to be in the Patagonia store while my wife was buying a winter coat and was checking out their tenkara gear selection.  OK, calling it tenkara is a push in a way, the Patagonia gear to fit the “Simple Fly Fishing” title they give it.   The rods are 8, 10 and 11′ long and geared to being cast with a traditional western grip.  Their line as a thin level fly line, not a furled tenkara line or even a level flouro line like most tenkara anglers are using.   The even ship a regular 7.5′ tapered leader with the system instead of just using tippet material.   Anyway, I picked up the line & leader pack figuring I’d give it a try at some point this season.

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The forks are ON but the rivers are LOW

forks

Middle Fork, South Fork and North Fork cutthroat

Over the last four days I fished the three forks of the Snoqualmie and did well on each of them. Fished the Middle Fork on Thursday afternoon, it was running at 489cfs and definitely was in the best shape of the three water wise.  Since then it has been on a steady decline though down to 439cfs today.   Fished the South Fork on Friday briefly, just an hour, it was running at only about 63cfs that day and was low.  Unfortunately it has dropped down to 53cfs in just two days, that is not much water for May.   I fished the North Fork today, it is sort of in between water wise still running at 113cfs today but also on a  sharp decline flow wise.   On all forks I caught plenty of fish on a #12 GRHE Sakasa Kebari fishing either my Sato or Rhodo.

Just to put our low water into perspective, here are the average flows for today and the current flow on our local rivers.

                      Average   Today
Middle Fork           1800        439
South Fork             550         50
North Fork             700        110
Tolt                   600        192  

So you can see the South Fork is at less than 10% of its normal flow whereas the others aren’t quite that bad.  I don’t think I’ll be fishing the South Fork too much this year because of the low water, just too much stress on the fish.  Hopefully the Middle Fork and Tolt can remain at about 25-30% of normal and remain fishable but I have my doubts that will hold.

Oops, they did accept the proposal!

I made a mistake this morning, the DFW did indeed accept the proposal as is they just did not modify the rules.  Looking at the Proposal Page you can see the Final Rule Actions as:

Final Rule Actions

Staff Recommendation
Adopt as proposed.

Commission Action
Adopted as proposed.

Rule Modifications
No

So, we can indeed fish tenkara at Rocky Ford, Chopaka and a few of the other Fly Fishing Only waters.  I had only read the “What’s New” section in the new booklet and the definitions section where they hadn’t yet changed the wording of Fly Fishing Only.    Tenkara IS legal in Washington!