Enshousits in the corner giving me the silent treatment.
It's understandable, it's a while since we've been out. So I buckle to pressure and off we go. Nothing fancy. Just the two of us and some quality time on stream.
I've grabbed a box of simple kebari which I'm gradually distilling down to fewer and fewer patterns. Not sure if I'll ever get down to the 'one fly' but this is more because of a multi species approach to tenkara than anything else. I'm certainly very happy sticking with the loose suggestive approach of tenkara flies and these days I rarely reach for my western style ties at all.
So here we are, ducking and diving through tangled wood, trying to get to the heart of things. Up and over, over and under, I really should remember to collapse the rod down when I scramble through the timber. It takes me to a new place, further down stream than I've journeyed before and here I find a couple of surprises. Two of the biggest chub I have ever seen, closer to 30 inches than 20.
My hands shake and I'm holding my breath. It's the trickiest cast I've ever had to make. A Stealers Wheel song runs through my head, only the lyrics have changed a little.
Trees to the left of me, briars to the right, Here I am, stuck in the middle with you
Yes, I'm stuck in the middle with you, And I'm wondering what it is I should do It's so hard to keep this smile from my face, Losing control, and I'm all over the place
I should tell you now of the sublime cast that lands the kebari like thistle down on the upstream edge of the fishes window. I should tell you also of the heroic battle that eventually sees the fish safely in the folds of my net.
I should be telling you this, I really should, but this time the Universe decrees otherwise. The Universe decrees that my fly will indeed, against all odds, follow a perfect trajectory to its target. But to my disbelief, at the instant that I expect it to touch down, it seems to bounce back as if repelled by an invisible force field a couple of inches above the water, where it now hangs inexplicably in mid air, quite dry.
I take an involuntary step forward and the giant chub instantly spook as I discover an near invisible wire stretched from one bank to the other, just above the water. The cable I learn marks the end of this stretch and the start of a privately owned beat. I can see that my giant fish have regrouped, further down stream and now quite out of my reach.
I console myself with some easy drifts over the bright gravel upstream where a pod of smaller chub are nymphing in the shallows. Some beautiful silver and bronze double yearlings come to hand and I wonder how many more years it will take for a few of them to grow on to such epic proportions.
There is another aspect to the nature/nurture debate,
decided, and it relates to tenkara. In fact it relates to all fishing.
In fact it relates to the very experience of living itself. Which brings
me round in a circle. Much like the last fish I caught which swam round
and around my waders on the end of my line. Am I losing you? Sorry,
it's the mood I'm in. Let me explain.
This blog was never intended to be a technical endeavour, I'm more interested in writing about what it feels like
to fish tenkara, or at least my own way of tenkara. Others are far
better equipped than I for the other job. The writings here are mostly
my way of straightening out my thoughts and making some sense of the
fractal fragments of fishing time snatched on the water. It is very humbling to me that a few people follow, enjoy and learn a little from my blog, and very exciting when I learn that a new traveller has been inspired to journey the tenkara path.
does nature/nurture fit? Well, when I travel the short way downstream
to where my own tenkara journey began, I can read again my thoughts as
they came to me back then, starting out.
"the simplicity of tenkara has changed my
experience of the waterside. Gone are 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.."
And here is the problem. I'm starting to feel burdened again. Burdened by information. And it's my fault.
You see, when a passion takes hold it natural for us to want to learn all we can around our subject, read all we can, watch all we can, and there is some excellent tenkara resource out there. Pretty soon though our heads are buzzing with information and we are in danger of confusing ourselves on the water with the abundance of theoretical choices available to us.
T.S. Eliot has something to say about this: "Where is the wisdom we have lost in knowledge?"
When I was a young boy my father guided me to fish but allowed me the space to develop my own instincts on the water. After a break from angling of some years I came back as an adult only to be dismayed by the amount of prescriptive directives shouting at me to fish this fly! Buy this rod! Catch more fish! Catch bigger fish!
So when I discovered tenkara it was indeed as if a weight had been lifted. Here is a space I thought, where the child in me could rediscover some wonder and learn to learn againby personal observation and happy accident.
There are different ways to learn. By rote, by prescription, by micro managed direction from experts. But
for me this lesson is somewhat dry and tastes of little because the
thinking has been done for me and the journey is not mine. This dulls the instinct and denies intuition, which I believe to be among our most valuable gifts. You also can learn by play, by mistakes and corrections and by observations and conversations with yourself. This stimulatesinstinct, embraces intuition and sweetens the taste of success.
I am happy now. I have remembered my father's lesson. He taught me to be my own teacher. After all I'm a nature boy at heart.
angsting over what to pack for two days by the water, far from home. This isn't wilderness fishing you understand, but there is sure to be
many miles of walking between any contact with 'civilization'. So
staying happy and comfortable and not leaving anything vital out of the
day pack is pretty crucial to a successful trip. On the other hand I love
traveling light and have a hatred of carrying unnecessary gear.
remember reading Ted Simon's cult classic "Jupiter's Travels" where the
author deliberates over this very same issue. Now, unlike Ted, I'm not
preparing to ride a Triumph motorcylce around the globe but he does come
up with a system for packing that could be really helpful - organising
his luggage like the rooms of his house. It's a great way to make sure
the essentials come with and the less than useful stays back at home.
here's my travelling kit organised the Ted Simon way, all intended to
fit in my new Esoteric sling pack - your list will be different to mine I'm sure, but the general principal fits:
essential non-fishing gear kitchen energy bars x 4 nuts (in small ziplok bag) apple ziplok bag (for all the above) water bottle 100cl bathroom sunscreen mossi repellent plasters antiseptic wipes hand gel toilet paper ziplok bag x 2 (clear - one for the above, one for waste) office fishing licence fishing permit driving licence beat map (if one exists) bank cards (x 2 kept in different locations) cash (coins for parking + notes) studio camera sports cam & housing smart phone car charging leads wardrobe lucky hat polaroids lightweight waterproof jacket and the fishing cupboard rods Enshou ll 3.6 (for finesse) Hellbender plus spare tip (for bigger fish) Lines (for stealth & finesse) Fujino midi, Fujino soft,Nissin level in 2 weight (for windy conditions and big flies) Sunline sniper 4 weight, titanium line with indicator beads Tippets Fluoro 4X, 5X, 6X, 7X, wire traces for jack pike (yes pike!) Flies one box each of classic kebari patterns, traditional western flies, perch & pike streamers Hardware net,snips, haemostats (two sizes), tape measure, scales, a few split shot, hook hone Other tippet mud, floatant, lanyard(my net I wear on my belt)
...written down this list sounds like loads but the whole shooting match is light enough that I don't feel overly encumbered testing it all out. And even better, it all fits nicely into my sling pack. Time will tell whether it still feels this comfortable after two days of hiking & fishing..(I'll be posting up a warts and all review of the sling pack from Esoteric Tackle when I come out the other end).. Good to go!
The water is swirling and heavy and the current is fast. The energy of the river breaks the surface here into a myriad of fractal reflections. But once my eyes become accustomed to these ever shifting patterns I see the shapes of many fish, dark silhouettes against a golden gravel bed. It's a puzzle why so many fish are concentrated into this one small area.
But as I watch the current I realise that this little spot is the eye of the storm, the calm place at the center of a swirling vortex of water. And as I watch it seems the fish expend very little energy to hold place, ready to dart at any food item that the surrounding chaos of water brings into reach.
I had passed by this spot earlier, but my good fishing buddy GA sees the potential for a weighted nymph run through. But after many passes and many follows, nothing. The fish just lack that final little tail flick of commitment to close on the fly. Although weighted, the fly is too soon pulled from the fishes window by drag, and it's just too much effort, I think, to make that final lunge.
A change of tack perhaps and sometimes a little change makes all the difference. I'm keen to try out a little trick stored away in the memory bank. But I only have a few minutes or so before I must leave so when GA drifts down stream to pester some dace (he's very good at it) I'm in like Flynn.
No heavy-weighted fly, just a sparsely dressed sakasa kebari with a tiny brass coloured bead - more for a little bit of flash than for the miniscule weight it adds. Tippet is 5ft of 5X, the shine taken off with a little Rio Grande Mud. Casting line is a Fujino Midi. It's a lovely bright weed green colour which I'm figuring won't spook the fish. Which is handy because I'm planning to slam most of it down onto the water. Now this is not a finesse technique, but there again, finesse here would be like attempting origami in a hurricane.
So with the fish in the channel at my feet, a sharp near vertical back cast much like a western 'steeple' cast. Then an over powered forward cast with the rod following most of the way through. The result is a large slack noodle of casting line slammed onto the water so that it sinks into the calm at the eye of the vortex. Its enough to keep the fly in the still water zone long enough for a fish to take, and the resistance of the submerged casting line is just enough to self hook a turning fish. The proof of the pudding is in the eating, and this pudding is eaten on the first cast. And the second, with two fish coming to hand. With this technique there is no need for heavy flies, fish whatever you like. The background noise dampens the disturbance of the line delivery and the colour doesn't seem to upset these fish.
I love the way tenkara can unpick the potential in tiny pockets of water, the detail is so absorbing, but I'm keen to show GA this slack line technique and three times he has a fish on. But it's time to leave now and the dark shapes of the biggest fish in the pool must remain just shadows. For now.