Wednesday, 27 April 2016


Before I took the plunge, like all of the rest of us, I absorbed the 'hype', watched the YouTube videos and digested the magazine articles. I learned of the zen-like one fly approach, that tenkara brings a near spiritual dimension to fly fishing and a zillion and one other little things that the non-tenkara angling majority are missing out on.

Actually my primary motives for getting into tenkara were at first purely practical, as only an idiot could fail to see how tenkara might bring real fish catching advantages. I have certainly never been accused of being a purist when it comes to fishing, in fact I am quite happy to mash-up genres and styles if helps put fish on the bank, so to speak. So it wasn't with any delusions of elitism that a tenkara rod eventually came into my grasp. And I must admit that it wasn't without certain reservations over the perceived limitations of tenkara either. Cynical? Me? Well maybe a bit, but I prefer 'pragmatist'.
So to say that my first actual steps along the metaphorical tenkara stream bed have been a revelation is an understatement. True, it is very early days in my tenkara journey, but I have already satisfied myself of its effectiveness for finesse presentations of micro lures like my 'enterprising worm' patterns. In no way a traditional use of tenkara but effective just the same. And many, many others more gifted and blessed with trout streams nearby, demonstrate daily the efficacy of tenkara in its true spiritual home.

You see, it wasn't any of this that took me by surprise. What I didn't predict was how the simplicity of tenkara has changed my experience of the waterside. Gone are the all the concerns over fly lines and reels and how far I can cast. The burden of these responsibilities has been lifted from my shoulders leaving me feeling loose and supple and, well in a way - younger. By this I mean that this feels like fishing as it used to when I was a boy. Before a disposable income and market forces intruded on the fun. So now I am free to travel far and travel light in search of adventure, or .. to not travel at all. And this brings me to the second revelation. What I thought to be the single overriding limitation of tenkara - its fixed line, promises to be for me its greatest asset. 

Let me explain. A Scottish ghillie laughingly told me once how the anglers at the loch amused him so. Those on the shore wanted to cast to the horizon. Take the same anglers out on a boat and they wanted to cast to the shore. The grass is always greener I guess but how many opportunities do we fail to spot because we are spoilt for choice with how much water we can cover? The fixed line approach has reminded me to search out those opportunities and make the most of the water I can cover. I am learning to see properly again, to read the environment more keenly and experience my surroundings more deeply. I am noticing all those little incidentals in nature happening around me and becoming part of the story. Yes, this is more contemplative fishing, even meditative at times, where the moment of catching a fish has become one of many possible outcomes. 
I know this preaching to the converted but I just wanted to get it off my chest.




Saturday, 23 April 2016

canal tenkara / 2 - the worm has turned

Encouraged by kind words of interest from friends on social media, I am keen to take 'the enterprising worm' out for a test to find out whether it performs as well as it looks in the swim tank.. 

I'm fishing at the Grand Union Canal which runs a few hundred yards from my home - ideal for a few quick visits to try out the new pattern. In fact the canal has become something of a fly laboratory for testing new ideas. Right now the water clarity is poor - less than a  foot, so I am hoping that the movement of the worm will pulse out enough vibrations for fish to find it. I would certainly have little confidence with dries and nymphs in today's conditions.

I've tied up both earthworm and bloodworm colours and the canal bed is snaggy so I'm taking a box-full. Because of the poor water clarity I've opted to use the bloodworm to stand out better. I have often read that red disappears the quickest under water, but on the other hand, fish have their own colour receptivity and red is known to be an effective attack trigger for many fish, particularly perch..

My chosen spot is the neck of a narrow channel where the canal opens out into a large marina.  I'm using my little 8ft zoom with a level 3.5 weight leader of about 7ft plus a 3ft  5x fluoro' tippet. The water is around 4ft deep and the whole shooting match gives me a reach of around 15ft, so it's fishing up-close and personal.  The tungsten bead means the 'fly' is heavy enough to be flicked out with an under arm jump cast, but is still light enough for conventional tenkara casting too.  
Day one - half an hour snatched before work

I let the the worm settle on the canal bed, swim tank testing tells me it stands vertically on its head with the buoyant tail pointing straight up. My idea is that by keeping the line sunk I can keep in direct contact with the fly and small movements of the rod tip should make the tail wiggle enticingly. I soon get some sharp plucks and am impressed by how much feedback the little rod transmits, especially if I keep my index finger on the blank above the handle. My hope is that while micro fish will mostly bite just on the tail, larger fish will suck in the whole fly. The Veniard worm body material is so soft I think this will help delay mouthing fish rejecting the fly and blowing it out again. Eventually a couple of tiny gudgeon come to hand but many tail nips go without a hook up. Time to go, but no matter as I will be back tomorrow with slightly shortened worm tails to improve the hook up rate.  

Day two - an hour in early evening
I fish the same spot as yesterday and immediately get sharp plucks on the line that quickly turn into two nice fat little perch of around 1/2 lb, one clearly just about to spawn. Not huge but great fun on the tenkara rod, although I am impressed by the steel the little rod has in the lower third of the blank. I feel confident that it will handle the 3 to 4lb perch I hope to be catching again in the autumn, when I think the enterprising worm will really score.

Day two - an hour in early evening
A few more sharp plucks from small fish which fail to connect, but then I see some bream rolling on the top just along the canal. I cast into the fading rings and the next take is more subtle as the worm is taken mid water on the drop. I lift solidly into a nice silver bream that fights with spirit but is quickly netted, The barbless hook has already fallen loose into the net, so after a quick photo' my fish is swiftly returned without any handling at all - catch and release at its best! Actually its my first ever silver bream on the fly and what a beautiful fish. In the blue light of the setting sun she looks like she is made from mercury.   

Day three - an hour at mid morning 
Today is more about helping my kids fish which is such great fun and trouble-free with tenkara. However, our chances are dashed when a tandem of cargo barges pass through, muddying the already soupy water beyond what is productively fishable. We do manage one pristine little perch though and hey no matter - these guys are earning their living - we are just fishing..  


Friday, 22 April 2016

canal tenkara / 1

"Familiarity breeds contempt," or so they say. Quite who 'they' are I'm not so sure, but
until a couple of years ago I certainly took my local Grand Union Canal for granted. Although I live right by it, being a man-made waterway it held little interest for me, growing up as I did fishing the lowland rivers and streams of southern England. Or so I thought. But then a much wiser fisherman introduced me to the potential of the canal by generously sharing some of his expert knowledge of its trophy perch populations, their locations and habits. I caught some big perch on conventional fly tackle and became a canal convert.   

So now, happily I see the Grand Union through new eyes and wonder why it took me so long to wake up to its charms. The canal holds a diverse range of species from mighty carp to tiny gudgeon but can be very moody. Narrow, but a hundred miles long, it is in fact a massive body of water. Fish location is an art in itself and can involve a lot of walking and searching, perfect water I think to explore with tenkara. 

This fits in as a very welcome diversion while I wait for my local rivers to reopen on 16th June.

There is not much of a hatch coming off the water yet, and the water clarity is low so I don't have much confidence in nymphs or dries unless I can put them right on top of the fish. So I look to an adaptation of a San Juan Worm style pattern that will have plenty of action and perhaps lure some of the fish species that are often found in the lower water column - fish like perch, bream and that fabulous micro species the gudgeon.
It will have to work hard so I call my new pattern 'the enterprising worm' - its designed to be fished in a variety of ways - jigging, gliding or even statically, and its here that I think it might really score with tenkara. At rest it stands on its tungsten bead head with the buoyant tail pointing straight up. The merest twitch of the rod and the tail comes to life. I will post a step by step for this pattern if it turns out to be the fish catcher that I hope it will, but in the meantime swim tank testing (in the kitchen sink) goes well and I really can't wait now to test the worm out for real..    

Thursday, 21 April 2016

the hook is set

It was inevitable I guess, that the tenkara bug would eventually pay me a visit.
I have fished since the age of four, and believe me, by now that's more years than I care to count. For the past ten or so of these I have been locked in a love affair with fly fishing in all its forms. And like many of us afflicted by this wonderful madness that is fishing, it's an itch that needs frequent scratching.

Work and family life prevent too many trips away from home chasing fish so my expeditions are mostly local and brief. Sometimes this is just an hour before or after work or even at lunch time. The big advantage of this is that I get to fish frequently and at little or no cost. More importantly, I really do believe that numerous short sessions are far more productive than fewer longer visits, simply because there is more chance of dropping onto the water just when conditions are right. Oh, and yes I am sometimes a little late for work when the fish are really biting!

So tenkara with its stripped down minimalism seemed the perfect evolution for a pick-up-and-go approach to fly fishing and I was keen to give it a go. The waters near to me that I plan to fish are small streams and canals with lots of fish holding structure and sometimes limited casting room. I was very interested to discover that Esoteric Tackle on the Isle of Man have developed a specialist little zoom rod that fishes at either 2.45m (8ft) or 2.06m (6ft 9")  - perfect for the tasks I had in mind. I will write up a full review of this rod when I feel experienced enough to comment objectively, but for now let's just say that the rod feels extremely light and well balanced and surprisingly 'snappy' - perfect I think for flicking out stealthy, short presentations when it's all jungle-warfare. Taking this theme a bit further I love the stealthy colour scheme, matt blank finish and camo' eva handle which is comfortable in the hand and nicely tactile. My simple kit is complimented with a spool of Sunline Sniper in 3.5 line weight as level leader, some orvis tippet  from my cupboard and a really neat oni line spool from Raji Leica. So, all set - all I need now is to tie some flies..   

Tuesday, 19 April 2016

Welcome fellow traveller!

I should declare right now that this is not going to be a technical endeavor, I am no tenkara expert, at least not yet. Neither am I blessed to live near bright upland trout streams, although a day's drive will put me in reach. But I am blessed in other ways, with other types of water and other types of fish right on my doorstep. Not the kind of fishing that tenkara tradition is made of or made for, but fun I am thinking just the same. So this blog is a record of my own stumbling steps towards tenkara enlightenment, along a road less travelled, walk with me if you will and let's see where we get to.