Wednesday, June 3, 2015

Why haven't you started fishing with a tenkara rod yet?

So why aren't you huh? "Well it's just a fad," Actually interest has been on the rise since about 2009 and is still on the upturn  and since when did being cool affect your desire to fish? Waders, a vest and a bucket hat say otherwise. "Lefty Kreh said it was a fad," He also apologized and redacted his statement recently "I don't have any idea what you are talking about?" Oh my mistake, let us get acquainted.

Tenkara is the simple style of fly fishing that involves just a long supple rod, light line, tippet and a fly. That's right I said nothing of a reel. It uses a fixed amount of line attached to the end of your rod. I can go on explaining but, better writers and videographers have done this for me already. Tenkara USA does a good job of explaining it right on their homepage

So why I am I asking you why you haven't tried it yet? Well I think your missing out. A quick look around at tenkara, the blogs, the forums, videos I find a couple of things that may keep people away but, really this simple rod style is a fantastic way to fish.

First thing that may turn folks away is how the community of tenkara treat and speak of tenkara like it is some martial art just because of it's Japanese heritage. They get all misty eyed about it and think they have to adhere to some mystical code to be true to it's ninja heritage. This kind of talk can be a rather big turn off. Just take a look here  YAH no one fishes like that and most of us think it is pretty ridiculous. In all reailty tenkara rods are just that, fishing rods. They require no strict training or adherence to any other code beyond protecting the fish and the waters in which they live.

Second, some people think it isn't really fly fishing. To which I always respond what makes fly fishing, fly fishing. I think that is two fold, first being that you are using the weight of a line to cast a lure that has virtually no weight to it (streamers complicate this but, are often still to light for most spinning setups). This allows us to imitate insects and other forage that can't be imitated with weighted gear. Also the act of casting makes fly fishing and tenkara most certainly involves some precise casting, I promise it is so much more than dapping.

So I still think your missing out, why's that? Because just in the way that a spey rod is a great choice for big river steelhead or a 3 wt 7'6" rod is the right choice for small dry flys, a tenkara rod is perfect for it's time and place.

Small mountain streams are what tenkara was designed for.

I first became interested in tenkara rods when I saw how small they could pack. I had owned some pack spinning rods but, the collapsing nature of the tenkara rod means it can go in a backpack and carried all over the high country. My curiosity peaked further after learning the simple approach of less gear that accompanied the tenkara style of fly fishing. Lastly I was already addicted to small mountain streams and tenkara was really designed to fish just such waters.

Tenkara is so light and packs so well I take it everywhere. I was just hanging out with some friends and of course brought my rod and my stocked up lanyard with me. Had some time to kill while we hung out and had some beers so I got into some fish. Even taught some total novices how to fish.

I snagged my first tenkara rod on a killer sale and off I went. You know what I found? I caught more fish. But you say, "a rod, like a shoe does not MAKE you a better angler or athlete," and you would be correct. But in the way that wearing cleats when playing football gives you better traction to make better cuts, tenkara is the right tool for a mountain stream. These long rods allow you to completely lift your line off the water for a totally drag free drift. No mends, it is similar to tight line nymphing but, with an even longer rod. Tenkara rods also force you to think more about how you position yourself. The fixed amount of line means you have less line to make longer or shorter casts. Oddly this seems to improve my fishing because rather than just launching a cast across currents I have to move to them and pay attention to how my position effects how my fly moves with the current.

Sunfish are a blast on a tenkara rod. The light rod and these hard fighters go hand in hand.

Catching more fish what more could you want? Well I can still see a hint of skepticism in your eye and I think I have one more idea or way of looking at this that might sway you.
In the past when asked about tenkara I would often say "it is just another way to fish," and I think I want to change that statement. Because while there are some stark differences in the mechanics of a tenkara rod, length, line weight, no reel, etc. it still requires reading water, understanding trout/fish (it's so fun with sun fish) and insect behavior, as well as, all the other skills a fly fisherman needs to catch fish. So instead I think I will start to say "it's just another rod I use for the right situation" in the same way I may use a spey rod for steelhead, a 9wt for red fish, a 5wt for big nymph rigs or a 7 wt for slinging bass streamers. It is just another weapon in your ever growing arsenal of rods to solve a certain set of problems. It will excel at some, just get the job done for others and fall short for many more. It also lends itself to slimming down your gear, flies and approach but, is by no means a requirement.

So give it a try either in a local shop, a buddy or the many loan programs available. I am pretty sure you'll like it. Or if you don't no one has to know you tried something new.

Thursday, November 13, 2014

Take good fishing pictures, please?


Or rather should I say stop posting crappy pictures. We all do it, snap a quick picture to encapsulate the moment only to find its blurry, out of focus, too bright, too dark, etc. etc. etc.

I am going to make this post VERY long and share some tips for taking good pictures while out fishing OR fly tying. No I am no professional photographer but, I have sold a few prints in my time and have always had the eye for the aesthetically pleasing.

So we will start with the camera, if you dont have a DSLR you are NOT wasting your time. Seriously smart phones today have really stepped up their game in the camera department. You have the tools already to take great photos. Now that being said camera makers have had to step their game up in response to this. People don't buy point and shoot cameras like they used to because, "I have one in my pocket already!?" I recently bought A fuji XP70 , and what a great little camera. It takes clear crisp photos, is totally waterproof, has some great shooting modes, does well in low light. One of the features I at first thought was rather stupid is a wireless transfer to your phone. But, I have come to love this because as I am sitting in the parking lot of anywhere that has free wifi, I can quickly move a selection of pictures to my phone, run them through a filter and post them online. Saves me the time when I get home of transferring right away. I did it will I ate a blizzard at Dairy Queen.

Best reason to look at a waterproof point and shoot? Smart phones are expensive and easy to drop in the water. Hell I dropped mine in a toilet once.

So you've chosen your camera and want to share your pictures with everyone? Here's a list of tips to get the most out of it..

Most of the pictures I see on social media are hap hazard. Slow down a second and setup your shot. One place we seem to be extremely guilty of this is at the tying vice. I see a ton of really crappy pictures at the vice. You just spent 15 minutes tying that laundry list of materials into the fly, you can take one minute to setup your shot. (A section just on tying pictures will be at the end of this post). Of course our fish pictures often suffer from this same hasty picture taking problem. This is slightly more excusable because fish are slimy, squirmy and hard to handle. Take a second to make sure you are in decent lighting, have a good handle on the fish and can take a good picture. A very good reason for carrying a net with you, gives you a place to put the fish and hold it in the water while you get your act together. If you still decide to be one of those TAKE ALL THE PICTURES kinda guy by which I mean take 1000 photos and hope 5 turn out, please make sure you only post the five. I don't want to see your blurry, washed out pictures.

You know better than to drag that fish up on the rocks, beach, bank, weeds, etc but yet I see pictures all the time of fish lying helplessly on some sort of surface. Oh you don't know better? Well read this, now you do. Not only is it bad for the fish but, to be honest it makes for a pretty crappy picture too, they look more like a biology textbook photo. Also we now think your a jerk or at least ill informed. To my credit I have done this too and I feel bad about it now, knowing I likely killed that fish but didn't take it home and eat it. But!!! We can all learn from our mistakes.

 A net makes taking pictures a lot easier. You can at least use it to hold the fish in the river, allowing it to breath, while you fumble with your camera. If you have a good net that holds the fish nice and parallel just leave it in there while you take the photo. Or wet your hand and only take the fish out for a second, snap two quick pictures and let him go. Holding the fish just in the water makes for brillant pictures as well.

3. Filters CAN be a good and bad.
As much as instagram has a hipster quality to it they really can do a lot to bring out the best in your photos. That being said they can also modify the picture SO much that the fish look almost other worldly. Which might be your goal but, for the most part just says you don't really know what your doing. The goal of a filter is to bring out what you want to highlight in the photo. Maybe it's a certain color of the fish, the material you tied in or the fall colors. Maybe you want to highlight the contrast between the fish and background. But, don't use them ON EVERY SINGLE PHOTO just because. Be picky and only use them when you need to bring out the best. There are a lot of different filters and a app like instagram lets you quickly click through them and see what one works best. If you feel like doing a bit more with your photo than just some hipster filters there are many other great apps to give you some more tools. I really like one called SnapSeed great app for when you want to just change a few things or adjust your exposure. If your only using a computer for your photos find some editing software that will at least allow you to crop, adjust contrast, brightness and exposure. Photoshop is a brillant program with a very steep learning curvebut, easy to get for cheap or free if you know how to pirate. There are many many free programs out there as well. Often your camera will provide a few. Picasa is a great option if your a total Google Fan Boy like myself.

So here is a example of how I took a decent photo with my phone and Instragram along with cropping brought out its best.



I had to crop out a little junk but, the filter really brought out the warm colors of the hackle and the background. The filter also added some contrast so you can see the subtleties of the fly. This is only a size 16 but, through cropping I was able to bring it close and in focus to really see all it's parts.

4. Think about your backgrounds.
The stuff behind or to the side of your photo matters to the whole composition. The photo above is a good example. I chose to have my tying desk in the background on purpose. I also chose to take the picture close up in macro mode so that background would be out of focus. It gives the photo a presence, a air of a tying desk if you will but, it doesn't take to much focus away from the subject of the photo. I have seen some spectacularly tied flies shot against a solid background, most notably blue. I get that the photographer wants to highlight the fly only but, god that's a boring photo. Both could easily be achieved with a little patience and thought. The same can be said for fish pictures. Be mindful of where your shadow is in relation to the picture. Or pay attention to what the water looks like below your fish and what you want the picture to look like. A really cool effect if you have a steady hand is to slow your shutter speed down a bit and blur the water out while having the fish in focus. The reality is it is hard to take great fish pictures by your self but, thinking about these things before you catch and photograph one will help that quality photo rate go up.


Clear and visible

Blurred water

For gods sake please crop your photos. I don't want to see your messy floor, foot, hand, ham sandwich or whatever else you inadvertently capture in the picture. Sometimes that ham sandwich can be part of the mystique but, rarely on accident. Almost all photos need a bit of cropping. It's easy and it can allow you to really bring in the focus on what you want to highlight. Using the kilnkhammer fly pictured above as an example. The camera on my phone can't focus in on things very close, in the untouched photo that was about as close as I could get while still keeping good focus on the fly. So there is a LOT of space around the fly. It doesn't allow the fly to be the subject of the photo. Also there is  some very washed out white light on the side of the photo. Great thing about modern cameras is they have a lot of megapixels that allow you to crop out and some in quite a bit without loosing much quality, least not enough to bother the casual observer. 

6. Focus your photo.
Seriously it should be in focus. Tried your best and it's still out of focus? DON"T POST IT. It's a pretty simple rule. You have a digital camera that allows you to instantly see that it looks like crap. Take it again and slow down before you do it. Can't seem to get that fly in focus close up? Try and get the camera to focus on the vice or the table then slowly move your phone close to the fly to it is the proper distance away for the focus. As stated before in CROPPING you can always crop out bits you don't want in the photo but, had to include to get the focus right.

7. Take pictures of other stuff.
Fish are great, we all love some fishporn. But, we also just love beautiful places and photographs of those places. I have rarely fish where their wasn't a wealth of beautiful scenery around me. Take pictures of the canyon, river, mountains, wildlife, or even the bugs. Along with a few good fish pictures these photos will allow us to come along on your journey. It gives such a good sense of the whole experience. If you only fish to catch fish you are likely missing the point. Post these as a group of 5-10 photos on your page, in a group etc etc

8. Please don't post everything.
Be picky. Choose only the photos that are impressive. We get bored with things so quickly we will not click through 75 pictures, most of which are garbage. This is especially important in fishing groups online. 

9. Collages can help tell a story
They can show a progression or quickly sum up place, the fish, the gear. As I have said before, take your time and be picky. Choose pictures that fit the frames. And don't make them a random assortment but, have a theme or create a story. Also don't pick over the top or stupid backgrounds. Simple colors will do the best to frame your shots but, not detract from the photos.

I used this collage to show the fish I caught and the exact hole I caught it from. (if you notice this is the bad shadow picture much improved by cropping)

10. Selfies
They are ok. You should show you were actually there and didn't steal all your pictures. But, be cautious of what you are wearing and how you look. Hold that camera as far away as humanly possible. It will frame you better and help you not make as funny a face. Setting the camera on a rock or tripod and using the timer function will also help. The timer is really useful for selfies also. It will mean you can push the shutter button then have a few seconds to turn the camera around. It is very hard to hold the camera around and push the button and will often result in a blurred picture. Don't use the camera on the touch screen side of the phone. That is for skyping and not much else. They are very low quality. If all else fails and you don't take good pictures make them ridiculous and fun.

Hope this helps, if anything it will make me feel better not having to look at so many painfully bad pictures. 

Would love some comments, suggestions, and gripes.

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

I heard a rumor...

...that there are people in the San Francisco Casting Club that don't actually fish. They practice fly casting for accuracy and distance but, never actually fish. Huh...?Wha...? How...? I can't even imagine learning all this technique just to avoid the whole point of casting a fly rod.

Every single bridge I drive over and every thread of water in my sight gets a look. You might be surprised where you can find fish and often trout.

I have had an exceptional bit of luck lately and have gotten to fish a lot. Really it comes from the fact that I have been working for a family member. He lives near a series of ponds, canals, and creeks. I have driven by all these waters numerous times and it wasn't until only recently did I really see their potential.

Example #1. I have been driving by a pond on my way to do some work. In my area almost all ponds are on private property so I just assumed this was the case as well. At closer inspection I realized this pond was fed by a irrigation canal and was actually a retention pond for the water. This means it is actually county land. No trespassing signs are absent and no barbed wire fences. FISHING A GO!!! I instantly got the vibe that this pond rarely gets fished. I didn't see any left over line, lures, weights, etc. but, I did see a lot of bluegill and some HUGE bass. So far fishing has been good and looking to explore it more.

Example #2 Further down the road in a larger canal I found some very large brown trout. Wait what? Ya some very healthy browns in irrigation canal (btw these are in the California foothills, not scuzy lowland carp canals). Even better when I peered over the side I saw the browns feeding on the surface. So far they are all in the 12" range. At first I felt like this place was a little crappy and without the romantic nature of most creeks and while that is true it has many positives. First big browns, second this water is clear and clean, next the high sides of the canal are actually a lot like a meadow stream, also these fish are wild pretty sure DFG is not planting browns much less in irrigation canals and lastly this place is on my way home. It gives me a chance to practice casting to very skittish fish with drys.

Example #3 There is a pond near a business park that looked prime for bluegill so I thought I would check it out. While there was a lack of No Trespassing signs I still didn't feel comfortable fishing with a lot of people driving in and out of the gate. This pond empties out under a small road then forms a pool before becoming a very shallow very narrow creek. Right away I saw bluegills in the pool  and with a few casts with the Tenkara I had some to hand.

So as I am casting around a bit I see some more slender looking fish in the pool. Knowing this is more a warm water sort of scenario I just assume they are bass or pike minnows. NOPE, sure enough in this one exclusive pool on a tiny creek there are wild trout. I wish I could have snapped a picture but, I was so enamored that I had found trout in such an unlikely place I quickly placed him back in the pool since I formed a deep bond with this little survivor very quickly. Wild finds like that are rare and special so I don't plan on targeting the trout again any time soon.

So what the hell does any of this have to do with a DIY blog? WELL it goes to show how some actually poking around in the places you live may yield some rather incredible results. I truly had to do this one myself. I have spent a lot of time online looking any information on these bodies of water and the quick answer is I have found a lot of nothing. Looking at these waters on maps and Google earth doesn't even look promising. But, without a guide, book, internet forum, fishy whisper or any other info I found some great little spots to get my fish fix. 

So my point is never underestimate any body of water especially close to home. Trust your fishy instincts and pull over where it is legal and peer over the guardrail hopefully you will see some tails.


Thursday, May 23, 2013

DIY bobbin threader and tenkara fly threader

I will bet all of us have some copper wire or other fine strong wire in our box of materails. If not or if you don't tie after this write up you may want to keep a small spool in your fishing bag. With it you can make a lot of very small, strong tools to help you at the vise or on the stream.

To make a bobbin threader just put a small loop in a piece of small gauge wire. Make the loop tight but, not so tight you can't put thread threw it with ease. Don't let the wire twist up because you will want to spread it apart below the loop. This will create a spring effect with the wire that allows you to put it through to bobbin pipe but, has the bounce back to open up and easily put the thread through. I wrapped up the extra wire on the end to make a small handle. I imagine a Popsicle stick would work well also. This is also a good solution when you realize you left your threader at home on a long fishing trip.

If you are new to tying flies and are thinking this is a tool you can skip. YOUR WRONG!! unless you have a lot of patience of which I have none. It is really hard to thread a bobbin without one. I am sure some long time commercial tier my disagree but, it is so cheap and easy to make one. Good luck and tightlines!!

BTW you might wonder why I have the words Tenkara fly threader up top. The real reason is I am shameless! I recently made a post about Tenkara and in a week it had more views that any of my other posts. So with only currently 218 blog views I am going to be a little shameless with the word Tenakara. At least until I get a few more hits. BTW I do love Tenkara and hope my blog helps spread it's use as another tool in your fishing toolbox.


I think it is important in these blogs that we authors share a few details about ourselves now and again. I think it helps us connect to our readers. That doesn't mean I am telling you my address or phone number unless you show up with a cooler of beer, a full gas tank and a secret spot you want to share.

So a short bit, I haven't been posting much (not that any one reads this thing yet) because I have been finishing up the details of a research project I have been working on for about a year and a half now. I recently graduated with my BS in Geology from Sacramento State. I did some research in the Klamath (of which I am sure you can see the benefit  and finally put a poster together to present at this years Geologic Society of America's Cordilleran section meeting in Fresno CA. If anyone cares you can take a look at my poster and research HERE.

It was a great experience to sink my teeth into some real research and culminate it in a concise poster.

Now what?? Well I have been looking for work for some time now and no luck. This slow California economy can kiss my ass!! So if you know anyone looking for a top level graduate with a BS in geology you know know where to find him!!


BTW some good friends of mine are having a wedding in some prime fishing territory this weekend. I love them even more now!! They'll be lucky if I make it to the ceremony haha.

Monday, May 13, 2013

Chasing Blue Lines: Big Brookies in High Water

I really need to get out to the East Coast. Love these little brookies.

Chasing Blue Lines: Big Brookies in High Water: Yesterday I fished a stream that tends to handle rain well due to the recent storms we got Friday.  Central VA did not get much rain so I fi...

Friday, April 19, 2013


Orvis wants 2.25$ for a peice of craft for 3"x4.5" seriously?!?!?!?! Don't believe me? CHECK IT!!!

I am really amazed at the price gouging here. I recently pick up craft foam from Michael's for 0.89$ for a sheet 12"x18" that is 16 times the  square footage of foam for 2/5ths the price!!!! DAMN ORVIS as though the Helios 2 wasn't expensive enough.

Just goes to show that it takes a little looking around to find the right materials and save a few bucks.