Middle River Dispatches is a gumbo of posts about fly-fishing, conservation, politics and days afield.

Montana Fly Company Focus Group

Last month I was asked to participate in a focus group for Montana Fly Company. The focus group was organized by those clever Outside Media folks who ran it on Facebook. It was a very entertaining way for those of us in the group to look at pictures, answer questions and make comments. Our moderator, Sammi, did a great job of keeping us on task while offering some very amusing commentary.

The chance to look behind the curtain a bit at some future offerings from Montana Fly Company and have some fun with Sammi was a treat in and of itself, but the deal got a whole lot better when MFC sent us some really nice tools as a reward for our participation. The gift box that arrived at The Middle River Group world HQ included a set of gold end nippers and a zinger (already attached to my Fly Vines lanyard); a stonefly/nymph box and a large waterproof fly box.


Some great swag from Montana Fly Company

While I can’t tell you what we worked on, you just might want to keep an eye on MFC to see what the fruits of our labors produced.

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Disclosure: Neither MFC nor Outside Media asked me to write this post.


A review of Tenkara: Radically Simple, Ultralight Fly Fishing

Tenkara anglers or anyone wishing to learn more about tenkara fishing will be hard pressed to find a more enlightening book then Tenkara: Radically Simple, Ultralight Fly Fishing, (affiliate link) by Kevin C. Kelleher, MD with Misako Ishimura.

From the start Dr. Kelleher grabbed my attention. In his introduction he writes of his struggles with western-style fly-fishing. Tangled lines, over loaded vests, the time needed to rig up, all conspiring to make fishing less enjoyable.

He contemplates enforcing a self-imposed rule, “…that I will quit anything that gives me a headache or makes me cuss.” It was those frustrations that lead him to tenkara.

Boy, can I relate to that.
[Read more…]

Counting coup


It is not always the best time for fishing, at least in the mountain streams here in Virginia. The water levels can be iffy and more importantly the brook trout are going about their biological imperative. Don’t want to upset that apple cart!

So with time on my hands I like to go scout out some of my favorite streams or pick a new blue line to investigate.

When I am fishing I tend to get a little tunnel vision. I am looking through the water so hard that I sometimes forget to look around and enjoy the view. I probably know my location on many streams by what the bottom of the stream looks like rather than what the banks or surroundings look like.

For me fall is a great time for hiking and sight (site?) seeing. I still look at the water but I really have a chance to see what is surrounding all that water. A chance to see where I am fishing not just what I am fishing.

Of course I tote my tenkara rod and a few flies. And while I am not looking to fish, if the brookies happen to be rising then I just might decide to float a dry their way. But in the fall I like to just count coup on them.

How to count coup

During the year some of my flies will get the hooks broken at the bend. I keep the Adams’, BWOs or  Wulffs  and use them in the fall. I am not trying to catch the fish, just trying to get them to take the fly.

Counting coup.

Kind fun and let’s them get back to the more important business of reproduction.

Headed to IFTD

Dispatches is going mobile to Denver bright and early tomorrow.  First the AFFTA board meeting on Wednesday, then the IFTD Show Thurs thru Saturday.

If you want to stay up to date on the show, “like” the IFTD Facebook page and follow IFTD on Twitter.

I will also try and log in a few posts from the show as well.

Stay tuned!

Fly-golf Tenkara style

If you are a fly-fisher and golfer and interested in tenkara this post from the Adiopose Fin blog is a must read!!!

It is a tribute to adaptation and innovation and adds fly-golf to the fishing lexicon. I won’t spoil it for you, make the jump and enjoy.

A hat tip to The Trout Underground‘s twitter feed for for pointing it out: @tcunderground: Finally, a use for golf courses

Exploring the simplicity of tenkara fly-fishing

New and interesting places to fish are not really hard to find. New and interesting ways to fish, especially fly-fish, on the other hand are somewhat hard to find.

A while back I read an article in Fly Rod and Reel magazine about Patagonia founder and CEO Yvon Chouinard. Chouinard was named angler of the year by the magazine and talked about his efforts to simplify his sports and life.

He mentioned that he had been given a tenkara rod. His description of the rod and the style of fishing intrigued me. That description and the notion of simplifying fly-fishing stuck with me. I was on the lookout for a tenkara rod and the “how to” of tenkara fishing.

Tenkara, a traditional Japanese method of fly-fishing, reduces fly-fishing to three basic elements, a rod, a line and a fly. It has been used for centuries in Japan’s high mountain streams to fish for Yamame trout.

The idea that such a rod and style of fishing might be applied to our own native brook trout in the mountain streams here in the Valley fascinated me.

One of Chouinard’s close friends is my good friend Craig Mathews, owner of Blue Ribbon Flies in West Yellowstone, Mont. I called Craig and asked if he had seen Chouinard fish with the tenkara rod.

“Oh yeah, we have been fishing O’Dell crick with them, it’s a blast,” said Mathews.

Tenkara rods range from 11 to 13 feet, weigh as little as two and a half ounces and collapse down to 20 inches. The line is very light and supple, doesn’t hold water and designed to balance with tenkara rods. These light lines, resembling furled leaders, make for very delicate and precise presentations with incredible drag free drifts.

I bought a rod made by Tenkara USA from Mathews. It is their Iwana model in the 5:5 action. Action in fly-fishing parlance means how stiff or flexible the rod is and how fast or slow the rod returns to the unflexed position. In the case of the rod I purchased, the 5:5 mean it is very flexible and slow.

Tenkara rods have evolved from bamboo to modern day graphite composites. These new rods are light and strong like today’s conventional fly-rods. Tenkara USA’s rods are telescopic, with all pieces fitting inside the handle, making then easy to transport, set up and take down. The tenkara fly-line is attached to the tip of the rod with a girth hitch.

Many people upon seeing a tenkara rod think it is just a fancy cane pole and you are just “dapping” the fly. Not true at all. All the casts you would make with a conventional fly-rod are used with a tenkara rod.

I have yet to try it in the mountains but did have a chance to try it out on Mossy Creek with my wife recently. We adjusted our normal casting techniques to the slower action of the tenkara rod. Very quickly we were making precise overhead casts and getting far longer drifts with a dry fly than we would normally get.

What struck us both was how easy it would be for someone just starting out or wanting to learn fly-fishing. Tenkara makes teaching the basics very easy, getting you on the water and fishing sooner. It allows the teacher and student to focus more on fishing.

Tenkara USA’s Web site, has a wealth of information. There you can find information on the origins and history of tenkara, video’s and diagrams of casting techniques.

Perhaps the notion of a simpler life with a focus on skill rather than gear sounds good to you. Check out tenkara, you just may find you like the simple life.

You can read more of my columns at the News Virginian.com.