One of the perks of being a Patagonia Ambassador are the smiles of my grandson.
A few years ago my very clever wife made this very special Christmas gift.
The two small horns are Lily’s puppy teeth.
It graces our home as a reminder of the magic that is Christmas.
The simple things really are the best!
Here’s hoping this finds you safe, happy and in the company of those you love.
Merry Christmas to you and yours!
Most people don’t think of tenkara when they think of fishing streamers. Dries, soft hackles, sakaska kebari? Yes. Streamers? Not so much. But tenkara can be an effective method for fishing streamers, especially in the winter months when the dries and terrestrials are taking a break.
What makes a tenkara rod an effective streamer tool is the ability to subtlety manipulate the streamer in the water. The soft action of the tenkara rod helps impart small strike-inducing twitches or jumps.
This is a downstream fishing technique for the most part, but you can use a dead drift, pause and twitch as well. Because of the versatility of the tenkara rod, you have a range of options.
I recommend fishing a stiffer action rod like the Patagonia 10 foot, six-inch Soft Hackle. You can use a longer line then when fishing dries because you will be dropping the line on the water as you fish downstream. My line of choice on my local spring creeks has been 15 to 18 feet of Patagonia’s floating line made of a small-diameter, hard mono core and a supple PVC coating.
Attach a seven-foot, six-inch 3x leader to a floating line with a perfection or double surgeon’s knot. I know this seems like a large knot and it would be for dry flies, but the goal is to keep tension on the line and the drag from the knot helps. The longer leader helps get the streamer down lower in the water column.
You can also switch to a shorter main line (12 feet) and longer leader (9 feet) if you are fishing deeper water or not getting the streamer down where you want it.
CASTING AND FISHING
Make a quartering (45-degree) downstream cast. Then, as soon as the flies are in the water, make a downstream mend. This mend gets the slack out and swings the streamer across the current. The key is to maintain direct control of the fly.
When the flies are downstream you can make subtle twitches by putting your thumb on top of the rod and squeezing the cork with your fingers. You don’t want to make big moves, just a small twitch to make the fly pulse. Time and again I have had fish hit at the end of the twitch, thanks to their predatory instinct.
Because you have heavy flies you need to use a cast that keeps tension in the system. I use a Belgian cast most of the times. Slide the line along the water starting with the rod tip low, then slowly raise the rod. When about half the line is behind you, smoothly accelerate forward, stopping at a point where the line can unroll in front of you just above the water. Keep the line in constant motion and under tension until you come to the stopping point for your forward cast.
The streamers in my box are typically bead or cone head wooly buggers, kreelex, retrievers and sculpin imitations. I have found that size 6 is about as big as I feel comfortable tossing with a tenkara rod. Most of the time I am swimming them, but the retriever can be dead drifted as well.
Recently I adapted the soft hackle technique I described in Two Fly Tenkara to my streamer fishing. I have added a soft hackle or nymph on a dropper. The easiest way to tie on the dropper is with a dropper loop and a separate piece of tippet attached to the leader above streamer.
Tie in a length of tippet for the streamer, say 3 feet. Now take six to nine inches of the same size tippet and tie a perfection loop or double surgeons loop on one end. Hitch the section of tippet to the leader by taking the tag end through the loop and tightening it above the knot to the last section of tippet. Tie your fly to the tag end and you are set to go.
A word of caution here; two fly rigs, if not cast well, can tangle quickly, so casting fundamentals are key. The most fundamental of fundamentals is keep slack out of the system.
If you are going to go down and dirty, don’t put your tenkara rig on the shelf. You can fish streamers effectively and if the dries start to pop, you can get in the game with a quick line change.
Author’s note: This article first appeared in Hatch Magazine.
Products mentioned and shown here are available at Mossy Creek Fly Fishing.
Most anglers have likely noticed the proliferation of tenkara rods which has given anglers a variety to choose from and has driven innovation and design in the marketplace. Not far behind is the variety and innovation in lines used when fishing a tenkara rod. All of this is good in my book, as one of the best things about fly-fishing, especially with new tools and styles like tenkara, is the opportunity to tweak, adapt, mess with and play with different ways to fish.
But what about the flies? Flies are another unique aspect of tenkara and discussing them, much like lines and rods, is likely to spark debate on size, shape and color.
A LITTLE HISTORY
Like most things tenkara, we look to Japan for much of the history. Traditional Japanese “kebari” (flies) patterns are likely at least 400 years old and may be considerably older. The kebari patterns are distinguished by hackle style and hook shape. Much like today, where you fished and what you fished for dictated the style of kebari used.
One distinct characteristic of the Japanese kebari is the reverse hackle. The hackle feather is tied to the hook in a way that has the tips pointing forward toward the eye of the hook rather than back toward the bend of the hook. In the U.S., this style has become synonymous with “tenkara flies.” While the reverse hackle kebari is distinctive, it is by no means the only style used by tenkara anglers in Japan.
KEBARI IN THE USA
For most of the time I have fished tenkara, I have fished the “regular” fly patterns that were common and available wherever I was fishing. If I wanted to use a reverse hackle kebari, I needed to look to Tenkara USA or local tiers for these rarely seen flies. More recently, however, tenkara flies have become considerably more widespread.
“It is something the industry needed,” said Schmidt. “We wanted to come up with some authentic, realistic patterns as well as some patterns that were going to cross over for people who may be interested in tenkara but not understand the flies themselves.”
Umpqua asked Craig Mathews of Blue Ribbon Flies in West Yellowstone, Montana to help create their tenkara fly selection.
“The challenge for us has become how to generate a limited number of flies, with either a new design or by modifying existing Umpqua patterns, that will become the foundation for Umpqua’s new tenkara selection. Within this initial assortment we cover multiple types of flies that are effective in a diverse range of geographical locations,” says Mathews.
“I felt that designing dry fly patterns that mimic the behavior and movement of natural insects was important for tenkara anglers; flies that skittered and could be fished much like a living insect — midges and caddis for instance. Because I can get closer to rising trout while fishing a tenkara rod, keep my line off the water to not spook rising fish, and presenting a pinpoint accurate cast, I found it even more effective to design flies that move and give the illusion of life.”
MOVEMENT IS LIFE
While this may sound like heresy to some, the fact is that dry flies imitate living insects. They move twitch, fidget, flutter and fly off. Fly tiers work hard to design flies that impart a subtle, lifelike action to their designs. Having the advantage of a reverse hackle on dry flies makes sense.
“Unlike traditional patterns the hackle on this emerger is designed to stand away from the body and pulse in the current where BWO’s emerge and trout feed heavily on them,” writes Mathews, referring to Umpqua’s Tenkara BWO Emerger.
A more lifelike fly combined with the exceptional line control inherent in tenkara style fly-fishing is a deadly combination.
THE SOFT HACKLE RENAISSANCE
Soft hackles have been around for years and while they fell out of favor in many fly shops for a short time they are returning to fly bins more and more. The tenkara style of fly-fishing lets you get the most out of soft hackles. The superior ability to subtly twitch the fly by gently moving the rod tip to pulse the hackle imparts an action to the fly that trout often find irresistible.
Patagonia’s approach to tenkara also fully embraces the use of soft hackle flies. They offer a box of a dozen soft hackles in four different patterns (with traditional, not reverse hackles). “A simpler approach is to focus on keeping a more suggestive pattern where the fish are likely to be feeding and imparting lifelike action to trigger a strike. The four soft-hackle patterns in this box of flies help you do just that, covering the range of hatches most commonly encountered on stream, and are meant to be fished just under the surface of the water to represent an emerging insect,” they write on their website.
The reverse hackle kebari and the reemergence of soft hackle flies provide both tenkara and rod and reel anglers with some innovative and effective new fly choices. You might want to add a few to your fly box.