Sunday, 11 June 2017

Somerset gold

A steaming mug of tea balanced on the arm of the chair, I'm back from my road trip and reflecting on the happy combination of fishing, friendship and spring rudd that I've been blessed with this week. 

True, the itinerary has been pretty uncompromising - up at 4.15 am, three and half hours of driving then straight into two full on days of fishing/hiking/fishing/hiking, but I'm a firm believer in the old adage that what you get out of life is commensurate with what you put in.

And it's good to meet up with my excellent friend and celebrated angling writer Dom Garnett, author of Crooked Lines. 

Dom has managed to wangle a couple of days off from his busy schedule of publishing deadlines, guiding and writing to help me in my search for tenkara rudd. So today we are scouring the Bridgewater and Taunton Canal for those elusive hoards of Somerset gold. 

For me this water is tenkara paradise. Crystal clear and abundant with natural life and only lightly fished, probably because of its rural location and the distance you have to cover on foot to find your quarry. Ideally suited to the traveling-light tenkara philosphy and in two full days of fishing, covering several miles of water, we see not one other angler.

We see plenty of fish though, the canal is like an aquarium - bream, tench, chub, perch, pike, roach.. and yes rudd.   There are some real lunkers in here, proper bars of precious metal that glint and flash as they turn in the water. With claret fins they glow in your hands like the gold of the Celts.  

I'm catching on my new Enshou, rigged with Fujino midi mono line and 6ft of 6X tippet. An ideal combination I'm finding, for the finicky biting rudd who can inhale and eject the fly without any signal transmitting up the line. I'm watching the water instead for the tell tale flash of a turning fish, or when the riffle calms, by actually seeing the take. Even then, many hook-ups are missed by simply pulling the fly from the rudd's mouth. It's something to do with their upturned shape I think as I seem to miss more takes with rudd than with any other fish.     

My fly of choice is a size 16 kebari with a gold bead head. I'm not fishing deep but I find this tiny bit of weight helps with control of the fly in the blustery conditions. It seems an attractive pattern to the rudd and on our second day's fishing, Dom tries out my kebari on his western fly rod and it does the business for him too.

I'm fishing into the wind and there is no option to switch banks so I have to adapt my presentation. When the breeze stiffens I can use it to sail my line, making the kebari swim with purpose in mid water. If I want to slow the drift down I can lay some of the line onto the water. The Fujino works well for this because its fairly buoyant and doesn't drag the fly down through the water column.     

The biggest rudd are proving elusive this trip but some nice fish come to hand. On our first day we are joined by another David, a super chap and a guiding client of Dom's, and we are all enjoying some action among the roach and rudd. 

David has to return home so on the second day Dom and I strike out further in search of bigger rudd. The wind is really getting up now though and fish spotting is difficult in the choppy water, but we manage to winkle out a few more nice roach and rudd. 

Good company and silver and gold - riches indeed!  


Friday, 9 June 2017


A punch up in a pub car park is not that dissimilar to  catching pike on a tenkara rod. It's violent, explosive, up close and personal. My friend says this isn't tenkara it's elevenkara.

And to avoid getting a bloody nose one must fight by Queensberry rules. 

These are: 

1) respect your opponent
despite their voracious and scary reputation, pike are beautifully adapted, fine-tuned predators and are delicate and vulnerable when removed from the water. Handle them with care and return them to the water quickly. Don't fish for them at all when the water is warm and dissolved oxygen levels are low and never overplay them. Get the fight over with fast. 

2) go properly tooled up
this means a rod strong enough to subdue your opponent quickly. This is no place for your classic trout tenkara rod. I use a Dragontail Hellbender. The Wisco 2 is also good. Use a wire trace and barbless hook for your pike streamers. I like offset worm hooks because even when the fly is engulfed the hookup is almost always in the scissors of the pike. 

Use a section of fluoro between the casting line and the wire trace with a breaking strain that will protect your rod from breakage. I use a 15lb mono casting line, an 8lb fluoro section and a 20lb wire trace.With the right gear you should be able to land your pike on a fixed line rod just as quickly as any other method.

3) pick your fights     
don't bite off more than you can chew. Not all pike are for you. Some are too big to take on so don't do it. It will end badly. To avoid running into the big girls who will mess you up bad, don't prospect water 'blind' - you don't know who is lurking about. Instead, choose clear water where you can select an opponent by sight. Start with the small guys to get a feel for what is and what is not a fair fight.

4) plan in advance
be clear in your head how you will land your fish. A large long handled net is useful.   

If a violent monster turns up unexpectedly, just walk away and don't make eye contact. 

One last thing - be sure to pack good pair of long handled pliers for unhooking. Oh, and a change of underwear.



Friday, 2 June 2017

new rod

I've heard it said 
that there is as much fun to be had inside a tackle shop as there is on the riverbank. But I've also heard it said that money can't buy happiness. There again, whoever said that obviously never bought a new fishing rod.

It isn't a snap decision. I've done my research. And there is a distinct gap in my rod cabinet, which by many standards is quite minimalist anyway. I love my existing rods, they are perfect tools for the jobs intended.  What I lack though, what I want, is a tenkara rod with a classic Japanese action from a Japanese company.  Something with the finesse to cast a fine level line, even dare I say it a mono line

So I've looked at Nissin, Oni, Shimano and others. The excellent tenkarabum website and Anthony Naples' fine blog Casting Around has been very helpful in steering me towards considering tenkara rods by Daiwa, and specifically the Enshou LL 36 S-F. I have learned though that this rod has been discontinued so I am very pleased to find a supplier with heavily discounted stock. And just a few days later I have this little beauty in my eager grasp.

What Chris and Anthony say about this rod is all true: aesthetically it's elegant and understated, it has the feel of quality and is very light in the hand. What really sets this rod apart is its 'feel' when casting and fishing. So much tactile feedback when loading the rod and manipulating the fly.

I'm trying it with a 3.5m Fujino midi tapered mono line which grades down from a size 10 to a size 3 line. Then 6ft of 5X and the bushiest kebari I'm likely to want to fish with this rod. I'm keen to see how well I do on the windy 'practice' lake nearby to my office.    

The rod is a full flex 5:5 action which I expect to give a slow casting action. At first I'm struggling as on my first testing I'm into a stiff breeze. I try different strokes and soon discover though that I can cast off the tip with a very short stroke. I'm impressed how well I can flick  a straight line out under the breeze in this way - much more effectively than I expected with this rod and line. When the breeze drops I  change to a slower stroke which lands the tippet and fly like thistledown. 

From what I've read I wasn't sure if I would like the Fujino midi line but it seems ideally suited to the Enshou. I really like the chartreuse colour too - it is hi-viz but at the same time not out of place with the weeds and reeds. 

Some huge carp are patrolling the margins under my feet and one pauses and tips up to inspect my fly. I flick the fly back out of his reach - I really don't want my first hook up to be with one of these guys (I must revisit with the Hellbender). 

Change of direction casts are a snip too with this rod. With zero room for a back cast I can load the rod with a sideways flick and easily lay the line out straight in front of me with an elliptical forward cast. 

It's hard to explain but I feel that the rod is encouraging me to try to become a better caster. After an hour I have fallen in love. There is a little bit of tenkara magic in this blank - it really is a wizard's wand and I will enjoy learning some of its spells*.   

And I'm looking forward to to our first proper fishing trip (did I just say 'our'?!) Perhaps then I will find out if Enshou is that most prized of angler's possessions - a lucky rod.

*Adam Trahan tells me that Yuzo Sebata is the wizard behind the rod design at Daiwa. Here is a nice link about Sebata-san