Category Archives: Reviews

Gear reviews

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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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.

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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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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Sato Review

photoI finally got the big brother to the Rhodo that I love so much, the Tenkara USA Sato.   When the rod got delivered I took it out within an hour and caught a trout in the backyard.  Granted, it was a bit big for my little river but I had to give it a shot.  I went out a few days later on the South Fork with it and unfortunately the rod broke on the second or third fish when I set the hook, just snapped in half.   Luckily Tenkara USA has THE BEST customer support in the industry, it was a Sunday and a quick email had a new section in the mail the next day.

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Rhodo Review

IMG_4643In February at the Fly Fishing Show in Lynnwood I picked up the new Rhodo rod from the Tenkara USA booth.  I couldn’t wait to try this rod out but had to wait quite a while before the local rivers opened and then got low enough to fish.   Once I got out with it though the Rhodo quickly became my favorite tenkara rod and the one I have used the most this season so far.

The Rhodo is a Triple Zoom rod that was designed for small waters with tight casting situations. It would excel back in the rhododendron lined Smokey Mountain streams where it got its name from.   I live on a fairly small river in Western Washington, really a creek during the trout season and a real river when the rains and salmon show up in the fall.   The trout are small and there is a lot of brush to contend with so it was the perfect location for me to first fish the Rhodo.  It has since become the only rod I use on this stream and other small streams in the area.

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Simple Fly Fishing review

simpleflyfishingI was a bit skeptical of Yvon Chouinard’s new book, Simple Fly Fishing: Techniques for Tenkara and Rod & Reel,  when I saw a video trailer on YouTube showing Yvon casting a TFO tenkara rod just like a western fly rod.  I bought the book anyway as soon as it was on the iBookStore and got through it pretty quickly in a few days between unpacking boxes.

My take – this is a book on western fly fishing with a tenkara rod or a western rod & reel, not really a book about traditional tenkara.   Chouinard and company recommend short tenkara rods in the 8.5-11.5′ range, use floating level running line for lines, use 8-9′ leaders, and teach casting with a western grip.  Given the 100 or so fly patterns in the book they also do not adhere to the one-fly philosophy of tenkara.  In fact, not one fly pattern in the book is a traditional kebari, all are western fly patterns designed as attractors or hatch matchers.

The book could be good for a true novice wanting to learn about fly fishing and maybe get started with a tenkara rod but it is still too complicated for my tastes and really is about using a tenkara (or tenkara-like) rod for western fly fishing instead of embracing the true spirit of tenkara.    As for me, I’ll stick with my long tenkara rods and the two or three kebari that I use for the vast majority of my trout fishing.

Next up, the new Gierach book and I’m sure I won’t be disappointed there.


Big Fish Rods


Big fish rods – Yamame (top) and Amago (bottom)

When I first learned of tenkara I decided it would be great for hiking into small streams so my first rod was an 11′ Iwana.  After I started fishing tenkara on the South Fork and some other small creeks I wanted to fish the Cedar but didn’t want to use a western rod.   The problem with the Cedar is that there are some big trout in there, I’ve gotten them up to 20″ and figured that the little Iwana would not be able to handle it at all.   Thus, I started looking for a big fish tenkara rod.

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Simms StreamTread Sandal Review

simms-shoes-1Much of the year I like to wade wet.  Something about being in cold flowing water on a 75-90 degree day, it just makes me feel more part of the river than having my legs separated by several laminated sheets of GoreTex fabric.   This season my very old Orvis wading shoes finally bit the dust, they were literally falling apart and needed replacement.  Over the last few years I’ve waded in Keens, Vibram FiveFingers, even my Luna Leadvilles but found all of these to be a bit lacking in either traction or protection so I decided to look for something built for the job.  Since I’m pretty loyal to Simms for waders and wading boots I decided to give their StreamTread Sandals a shot.

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