Fly Fishing Only still does not allow Tenkara

After the whole campaign last year to get Fly Fishing Only regulations changed in Washington State to allow tenkara it appears that the proposal got rejected at some level, the wording is still the same in the 2015 regulations:

Fly Fishing Only In “Fly Fishing Only” waters, an angler may use only the following tackle: up to 2 flies, each with a barbless single-point hook, not to exceed 1⁄2″ from point to shank, and a conventional fly line (other line may be used for backing or leader if attached to at least 25 feet of fly line). Anglers may not use fixed spool reels, bait, or weight attached to the leader or line. Only knotless nets may be used to land fish.

An angler with a disability, who has been issued a special use disability permit and has it in
their possession, may fish in “Fly Fishing Only” waters with spin casting gear, with a casting bubble, and may use an electric motor while fishing on “Fly Fishing Only” lakes where fishing from a boat is allowed. All other restrictions listed above still apply.

I never heard a word back from DFW about this decision, even from the biologist who assured me that this would probably go through with no problem.   It really doesn’t impact much water at the moment since Selective Fisheries waters are open to tenkara but still, it is the principle of the matter.

 

Lake tenkara

FullSizeRenderThe rivers are still a bit high and cold here in the PNW but the lakes have been HOT to say the least.  In the last few trips I’m averaging about 25-30 fish per hour on dry flies, it has been crazy. These are all baby steelhead that were stocked into the lakes last fall to clear out the hatcheries and these fish are aggressive and put up a pretty good fight, jumping repeatedly on the way in.   Today the sun came out, the weather was warm and I decided to head back to the lake but instead of packing my 4-weight I packed my Sato.

 

The big issue with lake tenkara is the length of your cast.  I’d been casting 30-40′ on average for these trout but I figured if I got out to a spot and sat still long enough that trout would begin rising around me or swimming around me and then I could cast to them.  I left my longer lines at home so only had a 13.5′ line with me which gave me about a 20-24′ range from my tube.  Patience paid off, I’d get to a spot I’d seen some fish, wait a bit and when the fish began to move again I’d cast.  I would just lightly twitch my kebari a few times and wham, fish on.   It was a blast and I got a few strange looks but was out fishing everyone close to me and I couldn’t even make a long cast.   I  got every fish either on top or just as the fly pulled under the surface so got to see every single strike.  Even got a few decent holdover fish that had some weight to them which was fun to deal with in a lake where they want to run deep but the Sato just bent over and protected the tippet.   What a blast.   Not only did a get a few dozen fish in an hour but technically I caught steelhead on tenkara today.

 

 

New line to try

IMG_5688I was in Portland the last few days and we stopped in to the Patagonia store to look at jackets on sale.  I also took a look at the fly fishing gear and their tenkara kiosk.  Granted, I’m not convinced what Yvon Chouinard is selling is really tenkara but I’m intrigued by the use of a thin level floating fly line as a line in tenkara.  I decided to pick one up and we’ll see how it works when the season opens up this year.  Has anyone tried this line?  Any comments?

My one fly for 2015

amano-step-7After last season’s successful One Fly experiment I’ve decided to simplify things even more in 2015.  I realized part way through the season that the fish were eating kebari that were totally munched and that the dubbed body and gold rib probably didn’t really matter as much to the fish as they did to me.  So this year I’m doing away with them.  Sticking to nothing  but a hook, thread and a soft hackle – my fly for 2015 is just going to be an Amano Sakasa Kebari.  One day soon  I need to get tying to fill a box with these for the season.

Did tenkara make me a better steelheader?

Snoqualmie winter hen

Snoqualmie winter hen

I’ve been steelhead fishing for most of the time I lived in the PNW but it took me a LONG time to catch that first steelhead on the fly and then I “cheated” by getting it on a nymph on the Deschutes.  In fact, I got 4 steelhead one afternoon from the same run nymphing which is crazy.  After I got that out of my system I went to only swinging flies on spey and switch rods and I’ve never gone back.   I used to get out a lot when our local rive still had a summer run and would get 2-3 summer fish per season there along with usually getting fish on the Deschutes whenever I went and often summer fish on the Methow or Wenatchee once these opened.

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My year of tenkara

IMG_4591What a year, while I was sick most of the year and could only get out briefly on any given day, once I was able to get out I did a lot of it and it helped a lot with my healing.   I spent 86 days fishing tenkara on the small streams and rivers within about 10 minutes of my house – the Snoqualmie Forks, the Tolt, the Raging and a few small tributaries of these.   I never once picked up Western fly rod to fish trout on these streams and I did all my fishing with one fly, my GRHE Sakasa Kebari.    The Tolt ended up being my most fished river with 24 days, followed by the Middle Fork with 22 and the South Fork with 21.   I learned a lot of the Tolt this year thanks to having friends who live along it and thus getting access to some of the water that would be a long wade otherwise.   I fished mostly two rods all year too, the Sato and the Rhodo, but did bring out the Amago once or twice during higher water.   I also hopefully helped get tenkara legal in Washington’s Fly Fishing Only Waters, we’ll see how the public comments went and what the regs look like next year.

So what’s up for 2015?   Hopefully by the time the season really opens up I’m over this infection and will be able to do some tenkara workshops and a bit of guiding.  I’m also thinking of sticking with one fly but even simplifying that to a plain old tan Amano Sakasa Kebari.  The trout don’t seem to care much for my dubbed body and tinsel rib as I found out fishing nearly destroyed kebari and still catching fish on them.   I’d also like to be able to make the Tenkara Summit in 2015, this year was just out of the cards due to my health.   I also want to get back up to the North Cascades to fish more, this year I never really left my home waters in the Snoqualmie Valley.

My One Fly season

A box full of my one fly.

A box full of my one fly.

This season I decided to go the One Fly route and see what I could  learn from it.   I decided to stick with me GRHE Sakasa Kebari as my only fly for the year and tied them in #12-#16 in both standard and beaded versions.    A month in was my last update and I was pretty happy with the decision at that time.    Now after 3 plus months with 78 river days I have to say I am very happy with my decision to stick with one pattern all year.   I don’t think the season is quite over but getting pretty close as the rivers are set to rise next week due to the rains that will hit here in the PNW.

 

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Oudachi line review

Oudachi line and beaded kebari

Oudachi line and beaded kebari

Today the Middle Fork was high and cold, still dropping from the rains last week. This have me the perfect conditions to try out another new line from Moonlit Fly Fishing – the Oudachi, a specialized tenkara nymphing line.    I knew I was going to throw a beaded GRHE Kebari today so decided to fish the Amago which I figured could better handle the heavy fly and the long nymphing line better than the Sato.    It took a few casts to get used to the line, though I got a trout on the first cast, but once I did it was easy to cast the length and get good, deep drifts with the line.

 

This is a specialized furled tenkara line made specifically for fishing nymphs deep.   It has a  butt section of gray that is very thin, a heavier and hi-vis “indicator” section to help turn over the weighted flies, a tapered tip section made of fluorocarbon to help sink the fly better and finally a tip ring or micro-swivel connector for the tippet.    On the 20′ line I used the tip section was a little over 4′ long and the indicator section was also a little over 4′ long, leaving about 11.5′ for the butt section.  I found I was fishing with the indicator portion partly into the water so really holding about 13′ of line off the water and letting the rest dredge deep where the trout were hanging out.    I know I was deep because I hung on the bottom a few times, that rarely happens to me when fishing tenkara.

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Katana line review

Katana Hi-Vis Orange Line

Katana Hi-Vis Orange Line

A few weeks ago I knew this day was coming.  Our weather was turning into more typical PNW fall with 3-4 days of rain forecast and a few breaks before the next rain would start.  The rivers had been in perfect shape but I knew that by the time it cleared up again they would be higher and, with any luck, clear up before the next rains hit.   Yesterday that finally happened.  The Middle Fork, which had been fishing at about 180 cfs rose to over 800 cfs just a few days ago and then began a quick drop.  It was at 430 yesterday morning which was higher than I would prefer but it gave me the chance to test a new line out – the Katana from Moonlit Fly Fishing.

I had been wanting to fish a longer line once the rivers rose and I personally do not like level lines.   I had used  20-24′ level lines on my Amago for sea run cutthroat fishing in the Snoqualmie before and also threw a long level line at the pond at the Freestone but I was never too happy with it.  I tried an 18′ furled line from Cutthroat Leaders a few weeks ago on the Amago, it cast well on that rod but I couldn’t cast it well on the Sato.   Just in time, Brandon Moon contacts me and asks if I’d like to try out some new lines.   Oh, it comes in 20′ lengths, perfect.  When the line arrived a few days ago the rivers were brown and still going up.   I just had to wait and hope they dropped and cleared before the rains began.

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Swing time

Swinging with the Sato

Swinging with the Sato

The days are growing shorter and the temperatures are starting to cool here in the Northwest.  About this time of year I’m usually spending my mornings fishing for steelhead but, alas, there are no more summer runs in the river that flows through town so that will have to wait until the Columbia tributaries open up and maybe, just maybe, I’ll be healthy enough for a few days of steelheading.

Until then, I’m spending my days fishing the swing for trout with my tenkara rod.  Earlier in the season I was swinging some and was having a rough time of it, I kept missing fish.  I realized the errors of my ways one day, I was fishing the swing like I would for steelhead.  Rod pointed straight at the line as it swung across.  Big difference, with my switch or spey rods I hold a loop of line in my right hand that I let slide when I feel a grab so the fish can turn and hook themselves, with tenkara there is no line to hold so the fish were pulling on an already tight setup thus reducing my hookups.

Something has to give so that the fish can turn so I started playing with rod angles.   By holding the tip up high and leading the fly ever so slightly on the swing the fish can grab the fly and pull on the rod tip to turn and get the hook set in their jaw perfectly.   Otherwise, I’m fishing pretty much like I would for steelhead.  I start at the top of a run, cast across stream, mend if needed and then slightly lead the fly across the current.   I only take 1 step down on most of the smaller trout runs and repeat.   I alternate between a dead swing and pulsing to try and figure out what the fish seem to want on any given day and in a great looking spot, like around a big rock, I’ll often do two or three swings and try a combination of straight swing and pulsing the fly a bit.  Sometimes a fish will ignore the one and grab the other.   If I get a follow I’ll back up a few inches and try again, often the fish will grab the next time through.

I’m hoping all my tenkara swinging will make me a better steelheader when I can get back out on the water with my switch rod.