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

Casting a Tenkara Rod

TS-Demo-02062016

Jason Sparks photo

Casting demonstrations are a great way to introduce tenkara. For the last couple of years, I have had the good fortune to do tenkara casting demos at The Fly Fishing Shows in Winston-Salem, North Carolina, Lancaster, Pennsylvania and the Virginia Fly Fishing Festival.

Among the myriad benefits of fishing with a tenkara rod is how easy the rod is to cast. While the fundamental casting principles still apply, the simplicity of the outfit; just a rod and a line, make casting a very simple and intuitive process.

A fly rod and reel outfit uses a rod that is designed to cast a weighted line. As my friend Dusty Wissmath likes to say; it is a flexible lever designed to cast a flexible weight. Each rod is designed to cast a specific line weight. There needs to be a certain amount of that weighted line out beyond the rod tip to make the rod cast the line to the target. The weighted line is essential to the system. It is what allows the rod to load and make the cast.

The caster loads the rod using the force of physical energy to build potential energy (bend or “load” the rod) that when released (the rod straightens) becomes kinetic energy transferred to the line, delivering the fly to the target. The weighted line is essential to building the amount of potential energy or load in the rod.

A tenkara rod is a very flexible lever designed to cast a variety of very light lines. The line weight is not the essential element to loading the rod. Just moving your arm or flicking your wrist will load the rod. My rod of choice is a Patagonia 10′ 6″ tenkara rod.

Let’s look at the steps for casting a conventional fly rod.

  • Start with the rod tip on or near the surface of the water with two or three-rod lengths of line out in front of you.
  • Raise and accelerate the rod backward to an abrupt stop just past vertical.
  • Let the line extend straight out behind you.
  • Accelerate the rod forward to an abrupt stop with the rod tip at about head level.
  • Follow the line down to the water.

Now let’s look at the steps for casting a tenkara rod.

  • Start with the rod tip in front of you with about a rod length of line hanging from the tip of the rod.
  • Accelerate the rod backward to an abrupt stop just before or at vertical.
  • Let the line extend straight out behind you.
  • Accelerate the rod forward to an abrupt stop with the rod tip at about head level.
  • Don’t follow the line down to the water especially if you are fishing a dry fly or dry dropper.

The elements of timing, so important in the weighted line system, are not as critical with the tenkara cast because your physical energy controls the loading of the rod. The line plays a much smaller role in making the cast work. This is one of the reasons people enjoy using a tenkara rod. The casting execution is very very simple.

In addition to the above, there are other differences in casting a tenkara rod that contribute to making it easier.

  • You can use your wrist to make a cast; a big “no no” with conventional fly casting.
  • You don’t “shoot” line eliminating the need to master the “pat your head while rubbing your stomach” element of conventional fly casting.
  • You don’t need to mend the line as often or in most cases at all.
  • The cast requires less energy and is slower.
  • You tend to cast more “open” loops making casting two fly rigs less prone to tangling.

THE TAKEAWAY

Casting a tenkara rod is not a whole lot different from casting a conventional fly rod. Someone who has mastered casting a conventional rod will understand it in seconds. Most beginners will quickly get the hang of it and spend more time concentrating on fishing rather than casting, and isn’t that the whole point anyway?

Author’s note: A version of this article first appeared in Hatch Magazine.

Disclosure.

The Duty to Act

Below is a trailer to the film CO2LD WATERS.

You need to watch it.

As Thomas McGuane wrote in The Longest Silence, “if the trout are lost, smash the state.”

Fortunately, Todd Tanner of Conservation Hawks has started the process. In this new project he joins fly fishing notables Craig Mathews of Blue Ribbon Flies, Yvon Chouinard of Patagonia, Steve Hemkens of Orvis and Tim Romano of Angling Trade in pointing out the consequences of ignoring global climate change.

If you don’t think climate change is problem, then you are just not paying attention.

Not sure what you can do about it? Share this video, add your voice and stay informed.

 

 

Tenkara Subdivisions

Loadout edited-1The Tenkara Jam last month was loaded with good information and hands-on opportunities. One of the better presentations was by Rob Worthing of Tenkara Guides LLC. Rob’s presentation was a detailed exploration of handling big fish and is now a guest post on Casting Around. If you are interested learning a field tested way of handling big fish you will be hard pressed to find a better resource.

While Rob’s article is educational, helpful and very well illustrated (courtesy of Anthony Naples), what caught my attention was his insights into the Japanese tenkara world. He points out that there are three “subdivisions” of tenkara in Japan. Subdivisions is a good word as the distinctions are geographic:

we’ll refer to these subdivisions as headwater tenkaramountain stream tenkara, and mainstream tenkara. Rods intended for tight, small headwaters located deep in the mountains are relatively light and usually shorter. Rods intended for mountain stream tenkara are a bit sturdier. Rods intended for mainstream rivers, where casting tends to be more open, are frequently longer, and may be beefier still.”

This then becomes a great way to help tenkara anglers look at the spectrum of fixed line rods that are now available. For quick reference here in the Valley, I would equate these subdivisions to the following local waters; headwater = Rapidan or Skidmore Fork, mountain = Dry River or Mossy Creek and mainstream = South Fork of the Shenandoah.

Mossy Creek Fly Fishing. has rods that work in all these subdivisions and I plan to adopt Rob’s explanation as a way to help my clients and customers understand what rod to use where.

 

 

New Book from Kent Cowgill

Sunlit Riffles and Shadowed RunsKent Cowgill recently sent me a flyer about his new book Sunlit Riffles and Shadowed Runs.

From what I am reading it looks like it should be a good one.

Sunlit Riffles and Shadowed Runs

I am excited to read it and will post a review when I’m finished.

Stay tuned!

Five Great Virginia Streams for Tenkara (part 4)

When I started Five Great Virginia Streams for Tenkara on March 5th I had hoped to get all five covered in a couple of weeks. Now here we are on May 4th and I am just getting to number 4, the Rapidan River. Sorry about that, but life and new job keep me away from this chronicle.

a typical pool

The Rapidan is probably my favorite brook trout water. I have spent more time and logged more miles on the water then any place else on earth. It truly is my home water.

The Rapidan, located in the Shenandoah National Park, is a high gradient mountain stream with a variety of riffles, pools, runs, and falls. You can drive right to the water but you will be on a dirt road of varying quality much of the way. It doesn’t require a 4×4, but a sports car is not recommended.

To reach the Rapidan take state route 29 to Madison. Head west on route 231 toward Banco. Bear right onto route 670 toward Criglersville and Syria. Go about 2 miles and turn left onto 649/Quaker Run Rd. Follow Quarker Run Rd. until it becomes a dirt road. Stay on the dirt road and you go up on over the ridge, crossing a fire road and head down into the Shenandoah National Park. You will bottom out at the Rapidan with a 4-5 car parking area on your left.

You can start fishing up or down from here and there are miles of water either way. If there are more than two cars, I would continue on the road until you find a pull off that suits you and start fishing.

If you continue on the road you will cross the first of two wooden bridges. There are 4-5 car parking areas near each bridge. When you cross the first bridge you will be entering the state’s Wildlife Management Area. You can camp in this area if you want.

President and Mrs Hoover's Rapidan Camp

President and Mrs Hoover’s Rapidan Camp

Continue past the second bridge you will pass an in-holding (not open to the public) and further along you will come to a locked gate. If you hike up the trail you will reach Rapidan Camp, President Hoover’s summer getaway. This is where the Mill Prong and the Laurel Prong form the headwaters of the Rapidan. The U.S. Park Service maintains an interpretive operation at Rapidan Camp. It is an easy ½ hour hike and worth the trip if only for the historic value of seeing a rustic presidential retreat.

A typical run

pocket water

If you have read the other posts then you already know what flies work in these mountain brook trout streams; a dry or dry-dropper rig either Adams or BWO parachutes. For nymphs try a Pheasant Tail, Gold Ribbed Hare’s ear or Copper John. A few Quill Gordons, March Browns and Sulfurs for mayfly imitations; little black stoneflies, yellow sallies and some tan and olive caddis round out the assortment. Of course if you want to go the full tenkara route then try an Oki or Ishigaki. Check with Mossy Creek Fly Fishing to get the latest on what’s working.

Because the Rapidan has more gradient it offers more complexity to the water. You can spend a lifetime fishing the Rapidan and will always find interesting water to fish. I have fished it in every month of the year and covered most of the water and still look forward to fishing it again.

Give the Rapidan a try and let me know what you think.

Image

Photo courtesy of Marty Hayden

The Value of Public Land

Two articles, each very different in their approach, recently tackled the subject of public lands. They caught my attention not only for the subject matter, but because of the important messages they contained.

Public lands are good for the soul

Hal Herring wrote a terrific piece in Field & Stream, How Public Land Has Shaped and Defined My Entire Life. He paints a written landscape of his lifelong experience hunting, fishing and wandering this nation’s unique and varied public lands. Well worth the read and perhaps, if the opportunity presents itself, you can assist Herring in his challenge to those folks running for public office to join us on and fighting for our public lands.

“Join us, and see what free people do on the lands that visionaries set aside for us all, long ago, so that we would never lose the basic frontiersman’s edge that made this country different from all the others, so that our children would grow up strong under heaven’s blue eye and learn the ways of wildlife and wild places, and learn what it is that we fight for, when we have to fight.

Join us. We’ll show you something that you’ll want to fight for, too.”

Who cares about public lands

The second article offers a look at the strengths and weaknesses of public land supporters, defenders and exploiters. Check out Public Lands Cage Fight on Truchacabra.

This is a no-holds-barred critique that will boil the blood of some folks. Of course there will be a bunch of bitching and moaning and trying to defend one group or another. That will just prove the author’s point. The critiques are spot on and those of us who fit in to the categories are well-advised to learn from these observations.

When all is said and done, if you enjoy the outdoors then you damn well need to set a good example or as the author notes in response to a comment, “It seems ideology is more important than anything these days. Anything can spin off the right track, and there are vultures waiting whenever it happens.”

So next time you feel like the other guy doesn’t care as much as you do, think again, then share the bounty, trail or river. If not, the vultures will waste no time in taking it away from us.