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

Microfiber Pollution

As I find other interesting articles and videos on this subject I will put links at the bottom of this post.

As a part-time fishing guide, water is an essential element of my life. What happens to and in the water has a direct impact on the quality of the experience for my clients. As a board member of the American Fly Fishing Trade Association (AFFTA), I have a keen interest in how the industry looks at and addresses water issues, whether they are access or quality. As the deputy director of the Marine Fish Conservation Network where my focus is on marine issues, so I am tuned into the challenges we face with our oceans.

One subject that gets my attention in all three areas of my professional life is the issue of plastic pollution. The shop I guide for, Mossy Creek Fly Fishing, found an innovative solution to the use of disposable plastic containers for fishing flies. AFFTA quickly embraced this solution and now promotes it as an industry best practice. Packaging is the biggest part of the plastic pollution problem but not the only one. It was the small stuff that recently caught my attention.

One company that is at the forefront of environmental issues is Patagonia. They have been educating people about plastic pollution in our oceans for years. In June 2016, they turned their attention to microplastics in the waste stream. According to the post, What Do We Know About Tiny Plastic Fibers in the Ocean? in Patagonia’s Footprint Chronicles, the microfibers in synthetic clothes like fleece are shed during washing and are not captured by filter systems in treatment plants. The microfibers wind up in the ocean, on beaches, and in rivers and lakes. According to Patagonia:

“We know a single synthetic garment can shed thousands of synthetic microfibers in a single wash. We also know synthetic microfibers, as opposed to microplastic beads, have an irregular shape that can pose a threat to smaller organisms—and may enter the food chain and work their way up to humans. We also know we sell a lot of fleece; what we produce, combined with all the polyester and nylon products made and sold by other outdoor and apparel brands (and other industries), may constitute a significant problem.”

While knowing there is a problem is a key first step, the important question is what each of us can do about it. Somedays the challenges we face seem daunting especially when seen through the twin lens of policy and politics. Daunting they may be, but there are things we as individuals can do to make a difference.

Last month in a follow-up post, An Update on Microfiber Pollution, Patagonia
shared what they have learned and where they are headed. “Over the past two years, the shedding of microfibers from Patagonia’s synthetic garments has taken on heightened urgency in how we consider our priorities moving forward. We’ve been working on several fronts…”

Here are the steps Patagonia suggests individuals can take.

  • Keep Using It: Keeping our gear in use longer is something we can all do to reduce our personal impact on the planet. Buy only what you need, buy high quality and make it last. In Patagonia’s recent study with researchers at the University of California, Santa Barbara, a low-quality, generic-brand fleece shed significantly more over its life span than Patagonia’s high-quality products (brenmicroplastics.weebly.com).
  • Wash Less Often & Invest in a Front-load Washer: Microfibers shed in the wash—so wash your gear only when it’s absolutely necessary (you’ll conserve water in the process). Even your most-used outerwear should only need a full wash occasionally. If it’s caked with dirt (and we hope it will be), consider using a rag or sponge to spot clean rather than putting it through a machine cycle. And consider your washing machine: Studies show synthetic jackets laundered in top-load washing machines shed more than five times as many microfibers as the same jacket in front-load washers.
  • Fiber Filters Help: Putting your synthetic clothing into a filter bag before washing by hand or machine can significantly reduce the flow of microfibers into your drain. Starting in the coming weeks, you can buy (at cost) the easy-to-use Guppy Friend (guppyfriend.com) at Patagonia.com throughout the United States and Europe. Or install a permanent washing machine filter (requires some plumbing expertise), like Wexco’s Filtrol 160 (septicsafe.com/washing-machine-filter).

I admire the leadership Patagonia shows with their corporate ethic and willingness to recognize the impacts their products have, do the research on that impact and look for solutions not only in their manufacturing process but providing ways the end users can mitigate that impact. The least we can do as consumers is educate ourselves and act responsibly. The oceans and their inhabitants will thank us.

Author’s note: this post originally appeared in On the Waterfront the Marine Fish Conservation Network‘s blog.

Articles of interest:

CBS News: How microfibers in clothes are polluting our oceans

BBC: Video captures moment plastic enters food chain

We can clean the ocean: Rachael Miller at TEDxLowell

 

Buffalo Tenkara

I recalled what Yvon had said first thing that morning. “If we can just get them to catch a darned fish. Feel life on the end of that line.” He laughed like a kid himself. “Something they never imagined. Bang. Whole new world.”

Worth a read, the nexus of good in this story, Teach Something, Learn Something by Dan O’Brien is outstanding. O’Brien is a buffalo rancher, Chouinard is an entrepreneur, both are characters I greatly admire. Put them together with some kids from the Crow indian reservation and the tenkara magic happens.

Check it out.

Good Food: Patagonia Provisions has partnered with Wild Idea Buffalo for their Buffalo Jerky

Good People: You can help this watershed by supporting the Bighorn River Alliance.

Source: http://wildideabuffalo.com/blogs/blog/teach-something-learn-something

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.

Tenkara Demo

It is show season and I had the chance to do a couple of casting demos and seminars at The Fly Fishing Show in Winston Salem, North Carolina.

As part of the Mossy Creek Fly Fishing crew and a Patagonia Fly Fishing Ambassador it is great opportunity to share how easy and fun tenkara is as a fishing technique.

“The more you know the less you need.”

TS-Demo-02062016

Photo by Jason Sparks

Smiles

One of the perks of being a Patagonia Ambassador are the smiles of my grandson.

THR collage Patagonia

Tenkara Flies

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.

flies

Patagonia’s soft hackle selection.

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.

Last July, while cruising the booths at the fly fishing industry trade show, IFTD, a display of tenkara flies in the Umpqua booth caught my eye. Umpqua Feather Merchants Fly Manager Brian Schmidt explained their interest and reason for bringing their tenkara flies to market.

“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 TAKEAWAY

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.