Football Helmets and Fall Fishes

Football Helmets and Fall Fishes . . .

The Reach of Tenkara (photo taken 09 2014)

The Reach of Tenkara
(photo taken 09 2014)

The night game of summer has moved on to new rules played in the daylight. Rain may pass through, and the reopening of the sky brings good time to go outside and fish. When the dark does descend, quickly and almost cold, home calls as the nostalgia door opens to college year memories or past seasons, some of national championship caliber.

Part of my own continued education in life experience has been set amidst a geography where home waters caress manes of watercress. There trout abound. Other neighbors on the stream, offered perhaps a polite wave from a fly fishing undergraduate, have included names of Harvey, Humphreys, and Meck and a Gordon, too, among many others; my constant sense of the eastern provincial in America stays connected, centered on a Pennsylvania county as well as five boroughs of New York City.

Neighbors of the urban angle abound also and some distant shores have been or shall be explored alone and together with even more others. Before such diversions, the sharpened focus on a single bass, any bass, remains first in line.

Largemouth Bass (photo taken 09 16 2014)

Largemouth Bass
(photo taken 09 16 2014)

Bass season is again back in session.

Temperatures drop to fifties and sixties Fahrenheit. Sunlight remains bright, often unfiltered, but days of rippled gray skies do pass. Rain remains brief unless it’s a hurricane trailing through for four to five days. Ponds again begin to clear and darken. A frosting of bright duckweed foots cattails and pickerel weed. Slow presentation with a long horizontal reach, a natural fishing problem for tenkara to tackle and bring to quick resolve, can take a kebari to the bass level (a multifaceted pun too compelling not to intend).

The largemouth and smallmouth bass alike, after striking your pattern in a singular fashion near the water column’s bottom, bring fast reactions to the top. This athleticism has had a portion of its antecedence come from the fish’s own daily hunting. Black and blue damselflies, measured in inches, still pass time in the air. Nymphs that resemble such varieties in various stages of development swim and crawl throughout a still water. Bluegill fry swim in small schools, too. Bass can be lured when these larger naturals are mimicked by an equal kebari tied to a generous tippet matched with a Level Line or a Traditional Tapered.

A largemouth, hooked on such a kebari of size 8 or 10, may jump three times and roll on each leap skyward. Size varies by location. Any fish that is perhaps best sized to a September zucchini may be noteworthy to big fish fans.

Smaller fish – dill pickle bass and slab bluegill – still insist on being counted. Vigorous takes by a quarter pound fish inhales the pattern deep in the mouth, doubles the perceived strength of pull during breaking sprints, which brings added utility to the longer tippet with its greater capability for stretch.

Be mindful to bring clamps with a few inches of reach. To release a bluegill hooked so deeply, first fold the fish’s spiny dorsal fin down with the inside of your wet fingers, grip the fly with the teeth of the clamp, twist as far as necessary as a slight downward push on the pattern is made. This most often dislodges the hook with minimal penetration of the fish’s interior. Most small fish will thrust voluntarily from hands placed low over the water and depart with a resounding and reassuring splash.

A net facilitates the unhooking of an autumn bright bluegill. (photo taken 09 16 2014)

A net facilitates the unhooking of an autumn bright bluegill.
(photo taken 09 16 2014)

Orange Jewelweed and pale purple clusters of New York Ironweed border many New York stillwaters by late September. The green of leaves has acquired a more yellow cast. Some bluegills exhibit similar rusted or buttered bellies below strong barred sides. The bass remain silvered and green with a distinct black lateral band. Colored patterns all that would fit on a football helmet with ease.

The Football Helmet Bass (photo taken 09 2014)

The Football Helmet Bass
(photo taken 09 2014)

– rps 09 24 2014

Postscript: Read more about the damselfly and dragonfly at Backyard and Beyond here:

And here:

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Tenkara Any, Any

Tenkara Any, Any . . .

August in NYC 1:  Bluegill Male (photo taken 08 2014)

August in NYC 1:
Bluegill Male
(photo taken 08 2014)

My ultimate life raft kit shall henceforth include always a tenkara rod, kebari, and the tackle pictured in “On the Water, On Line” weeks earlier. Saltwater casts from an inflated raft will lure lifesaving sashimi sustenance. Extended alpine accident withdrawal may be sustained by mountain trout or swamp panfish. Universal tool is tenkara.

During the good times, the catch remains best when made a repeatable encounter.

August in NYC 2: Bluegill Female (photo taken 08 2014)

August in NYC 2:
Bluegill Female
(photo taken 08 2014)

Rain may fall. Good. Fishing better then is my usual state of play when best embraced by a wading jacket.

Padded Rain

Padded Rain

Tenkara Any . . . Time, Any . . . Where.

Yamame at Rest

Yamame at Rest

As for the necessary Kebari, that is one field, universal . . . in scale, in choice.

Any ideas?

– rPs 08 27 2014

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On the Water, On Line

On the Water, On Line . . .

On the Water August 2014

On the Water
August 2014

On the Water

On the Water, the magazine, is in print this August and the new issue is now available. “Fishing the Five Boroughs” suggests one group of NYC lakes to fish during a long weekend. My Tenkara USA Ebisu makes another cameo in one of the photos.

Saltwater Line Leader Ingredients (photo taken 08 11 2014)

Saltwater Line Leader Ingredients
(photo taken 08 11 2014)

On line
Saltwater panfishing on a tenkara rod flex of 7/3 requires a line leader formula more specific than general freshwater fishing. One I have found has fitted my form of casting and catching.

The Ingredients: 3.5 Level Line; 4 to 8 pound monofilament; one #10 swivel; optional split shot or egg sinker

The 3.5 Level Line I cut to length of the rod (I match my 12-foot Tenkara USA Yamame.) One end I use for the rod connection. I tie a slip knot to match the rod’s silk Lillian. The opposite tip is simple knotted to a #10 swivel. This midsection hardware tackle is my nod to the fascinating myriad of conventional bait rigs used for porgies, fluke, and other such inshore and estuary species. The tippet consists of a single straight length of monofilament between 4 and 8 pounds sized from one half to two-thirds the length of the Level Line.

One can go a little lighter or higher on the line’s strength. The choice depends on an individual’s hook setting and fish playing techniques and whether or not one can tolerate a three dollar Clouser Minnow lost on a piling.

The range of the leader tippet’s length provides a casting distance equal to line, rod, and outstretched arm. Twenty-five feet is a workable average and allows a captured fish to be raised over a fence or bannister without too much stress on fisher and fish.

Docks and piers over the water, a jetty projecting into the surf, or flats and estuary grass banks can all be fished with tenkara equipment. The main point is a line leader similar to this one can cast small saltwater kebari patterns, reach fish, and bring fish to net or hand.

– rPs 08 11 2014

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The Salt on the Level

The Salt on the Level . . .

Hudson River High Tide (photo taken 07 2014)

Hudson River High Tide
(photo taken 07 2014)

The Salt. I have been trying, toying in earnest, to infuse my tenkara with diversity through variety in waters flowing and still, freshwater and . . . salt.

The Salt; Saltwater: Some older classics of the printed literature hold titles such as “Dock Fish” in which a sense of history can be linked to the facet of the sport perhaps best named saltwater panfishing. During this second decade of the 21st Century, add the urban angle in Manhattan, USA, and that offers two fishes of note: black sea bass (Centropristris striata) and bluefish (Pomatomus saltatrix), in particular the yearlings known regionally as “snappers” (pronounced “snappas”).

The Black Sea Bass

Black Sea Bass (photo taken 07)

Black Sea Bass (photo taken 07)

The black sea bass (those I have lost and caught and released) on the tenkara rod have coerced me to believe this is a saltwater sporting equivalent to the green sunfish found in freshwater streams. Previously I extolled on the green sunfish. The black sea bass is just as worthy.

The black sea bass is by classification a grouper, a smaller one, hardier to cold temperatures, a member of the family more well-known by its southern relations that range in color, pattern, and in size up to a 70s fly Volkswagen beetle.

The black sea bass exhibits broad shoulders, a flank thickness like the green sunfish, dressed in pearled black scales that hold an iridescence that glows bright blue around and along the lateral line. Vermiculation of a similar color resembles that of the green sunfish. The size encountered off my Manhattan dock(s) range from six to twelve inches. Only the very few largest are potentially one in the hermaphroditic phase, an interesting fact of this fish, which sets in at around specimens of ten inches or longer, in weight reaching eight to ten pounds.

Fish take a fly firmly and quiver shake in resistance. Bright weighted streamers, a chartreuse variety of Cllouser, can be cast, sunk, twitched on a line twelve feet in length supplemented by a leader of similar length tipped by the fly. Such a pattern on a swing with slow pulses of the wrist will take fish during one or two parts of a tide, often on incoming, but not always. One certainty, speed up the presentation of the fly to be intercepted by another hard hitter.

The Bluefish

First Fish! (photo taken 07 2014)

First Fish!
(photo taken 07 2014)

Closer to the surface cruise little toy soldier pods of juvenile bluefish chasing fry and rainbait schools. The schools of bluefish cutting baitfish like class come in and go out on quick waves that rarely last longer than two caught fish. Several hours of fishing will provide one half dozen waves of two minute bites on most occasions.

There also are changing skies to contemplate and inquisitive tourists, in between, plus a smorgasbord of aviation and ship sightseeing.

Fly patterns remain consistent with those best for the black sea bass. Simple half-and-half Clouser patterns tied for skinny water. Cinderworm patterns are normally ignored, although any dartible streamer of white can do. Sizes 6 through 8 are small enough for the tight-lipped bite of both fishes.

Hooks require a line. Level Line, not traditional tapered, is advised to be used. The Salt. I attach twelve feet to a small swivel and add a straight leader of monofilament in 5 or 6 lb. test. I want the leader to be breakable in case I hook into a piling of wood; an admittedly occasional hazard.

Hudson River Low Tide (photo taken 07 2014)

Hudson River Low Tide
(photo taken 07 2014)

Close fishing to the docks works best when peak tides and solunar tables meet. Check predictions on the website Tides4Fishing and study saltwater access nearest you. Tenkara may work on croakers and bergalls and many other fishes of The Salt that can fit into a pan if you force them, by hook.

Panfish, or Handfish? (photo taken 07 2014)

Panfish, or Handfish?
(photo taken 07 2014)

– rPs 07 25 2014

Postscript: Tides4Fishing

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Happiness . . .

Green Sunfish along a New Jersey road. (photo taken 07 10 2014)

Green Sunfish along a New Jersey road. (photo taken 07 10 2014)

That little brook beside the road, a scene repeated across this globe creased by moving water. My most often wonder as a child until now is what may swim toward the artificial fly within this flow or that flow.

This one, near Passaic, New Jersey, poured forth in runs shin deep along the green edge of a Jazz Age duplex neighborhood bordered by a small park. This run of preserved water flowing through a garden city urban setting offered up on a sunny July afternoon a final treasure, finality found in a firm belief:

One Rod. One Line. One Fly.

One Fish!

Green Sunfish, Lepomis cyanellus, is my favorite freshwater tenkara tackling opponent that does not fall under the separate heading of Salmonid.

Lepomis cyanellus, the fins of this fish often exhibit a commonality with the east coast’s native char, Salvelinus fontinalus. Both fish possess rusty fins edged precisely in white.

The mouth of the green sunfish, like the rock bass and the redbreast sunfish, presents an elongated jaw like the largemouth and the smallmouth bass. Coloration, in addition to the fins, may exhibit barred or mottled jade. Sky blue vermiculation often decorates the cheeks and pronounced jawline.

I dedicated an entire chapter to the green sunfish in my most recent book, Small Fry: The Lure of the Little. One included claim of experience included the observation this species will take the wet fly when swung or pulsed beside submerged ledges of rock. Stretches of this little back alley run runs deeper along a smooth rounded ledge, casting shade at high sun and the rest of the day throughout. New Jersey bedrock: carved by water.

Additional shade here is often provided by Norway Maple trees. This introduced species, a popular planting during earlier generations, holds broad leaves that can cast a lush cover of shade over a city sidewalk and its parallel greenway brook. Numerous green sunfish dared forth from the ledges under tree shade cover and savaged passing offerings with the voracity of brookies swarming a floating beetle pattern just as it lands on a foothill creek flanked by hemlocks.

The length of the two fish runs in parallel fashion, ranging between three and eight inches in small streams. A plump green sunfish of six inches marks my personal best so far caught and released from this Passaic-area creek. This fatness counts in the strength department. The rounded green sunfish body holds more bulk against a tenkara rod’s tenderer, Lillian-tipped, rod tip.

Between dapping and pocket picking between banks set ten feet apart, successful narrow casts can be made. I practice my bow and arrow here, too. A careful bow flip can land beneath the branches where frequently a larger brooding fish often holds. Tenkara rods cover this variety of water well.

Outings spent in intense fishing, green sunfishing in a tight quarter, will leave most anglers exercised after a summer day’s length. Happiness comes from the experience, perhaps accompanied by ice cream with a fishing amigo, with which one enjoys also a cooling sunset. Fireflies began a cold, incandescent dance beneath the tree canopies as Sol submerged behind cumulus cloud and the tree line standing behind living city water.

A tenkara lesson learned with the green sunfish pointing the way.


– rPs 07 14 2014

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New Beginnings, New Starts

New Beginnings, New Starts . . .

Hudson River Casting Platform (photo taken 06 22 2014)

Hudson River Casting Platform (photo taken 06 22 2014)

Summer Begins: “Schooled at Meadow and Hudson”


Sounds like the subtitle infers something happened at the intersection of two streets. Sounds of people meeting and laughing interrupted by a sporadic clunk when and where some individual gets burned, yet learns street smarts.

The tenkara party continues to grow although, for me, the fishing fly life has become the quiet sport. The pupil piscator has been schooled at Meadow (Lake) and Hudson (River).

One spring June afternoon was made available and spent under sky around the brackish Meadow Lake in Flushing Meadows Corona Park, Queens. Stories from here, heretofore, had come conflicted between hearsay and a past issue of The New Yorker, dated August 22, 2005, which in part relayed one portrait of mi amigo, Edwin Valentin, in a quest with two other anglers for a caught, perhaps photographed, New York City snakehead on the deadline of a feature reporter.

My Snakehead Spring; I have lived through such times, too, experienced a parallel coincidence pair on a matter urban angling. I decided to inquire through my experience further. The 7 train left me a walk’s distance around the National Tennis Center and the grounds of the 1964 New York World’s Fair. The scene appeared clear, without the makeup of sunlight angle streams. The view appeared direct and in that bare way consistent under an unbroken nimbus cloud lid that did open near day’s end, eight hours later, when the sun set off in an electrum burst at the bottom of a darkening blue sky.

Nimbus Grip at Meadow Lake (photo taken 06 11 2014)

Nimbus Grip at Meadow Lake (photo taken 06 11 2014)

Windy this place remained, even after the last of the sun’s light. Barnacles encrusted a few pieces of old construction wood. These planks and a green great wall, a phragmite monopoly, walled in the water in all but a dozen tight places.

Snakehead? No, tenkara instead touched tilapia , , , one dead, a few living, seen grazing in the visible lake shallows along with carp of my favorite proportion; those the size of largemouth bass.

Yamame and Tilapia (photo taken 06 11 2014)

Yamame and Tilapia (photo taken 06 11 2014)

This is one salt lake that certainly merits more attention and shall receive more.


The commercial fly life remains brisk. That’s where the block party has been going down. Tippet material, especially 6X, sells daily. I feel the standard tenkara 5X may be scaled down by one or two with most good fish played to satisfaction. Time and fish are all the necessities required to test such lines.

Two bright Sunday morning hours on the second day of summer did present a sole challenge within the wide, swift, Hudson River near Lake George.

A recalcitrant trio of brook, rainbow, and brown, this being one of the few areas in New York that possesses the potential for all three species netted on a given outing, felt near. A few glimpses of shadows defying current snaked under my sight. Was that first hang-up of a Peacock Herl Prince, the snag concluded below the water, near the cobblestone, without an explanation, actually a quick head snap of 6X under a trout take? The loose point of tippet returned clean snipped.

I did find the wading worthy enough for a staff. Without one, I somewhat stumbled up through a loose boulder garden. Plenty of slots and seams presented more prime soft hackle water than the time I had allotted to me. My best gave a few opportunities to hold the stick, high behind a granite monolith’s teardrop holding trout station, long enough for a short series of photos.

Bright Grip on the Hudson (photo taken 06 22 2014)

Bright Grip on the Hudson (photo taken 06 22 2014)

July Starts. “Tenkara Cameo”

Tenkara queries attract like minds. My July has been peppered with conversation several times a week with new faces on topics tenkara. Kebari practice remains close to the vise. There is time enough for deer hair and thread and the occasional bird feather. Peacock Herl is my A decoration. The wraps of iridescence are a pleasure; I never tire from the repetition, close knitted on a wet nymph fly hook.

Beginnings, some months, like this month, bear good news in the form of good press. Mid Atlantic Fly Fishing Guide, found complimentary in fly shops I have visited, gave me good news in the form of a cover appearance and a new story – “Brooklyn on the Fly” – on the pages of the new August 2014 issue. My Tenkara USA Ebisu rod makes two photo cameo appearances.

Mid Atlantic Fly Fishing Guide (August 2014)

Mid Atlantic Fly Fishing Guide (August 2014)

– rPs 07 09 2014

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Yamame Yama-MAY

Yamame Yama-MAY: A Tenkara Rod Review . . .

Yamame and Bluegill (photo taken 05 21 2014)

Yamame and Bluegill (photo taken 05 21 2014)

Discourse on my equipment folds into most of my written accounts of tenkara fly fishing. One has seen new water, new species of fishes, and why not, now a new written form on an important subject: the tenkara rod: a review.

Tenkara USA
12 ft; 360 cm
7/3 flex
$139.00 US

The Yamame provided my fishing with three new doors to open and explore beyond:

One, the grip of cork
Two, the 7/3 flex
Three, the matte finish

The third of the three is my preferred place to begin. The amateur photographer I am has come to prefer prints on matte paper. Softer, impressionistic: depth is felt as well as perceived. The similar texture of this rod, along the grain of sanded wood or smooth limestone, breaks up the light, softens the reflection. Yamame appears much like a curved branch overhanging the water. I am convinced the glint from a gloss finish meeting direct sunlight creates an attention target for at least the alpha fish, focused forward on alert, often already because of insect hatches. This telescoping graphite fishing tool has the color of a dark olive; a limber summer stalk, one attached to a string.

The Lillian on the Yamame is dark brown, unlike the Ebisu, the red Lillian of which resembles a San Juan Worm. To it I use traditional tapered line in all but the most challenging situations, such as line shy trout on a low and clear freestone creek. The simple girth hitch, a knot that knots itself, connects this woven line to the Lillian. The color of the Tenkara USA brand I use casts the same color field as many trout lines by RIO or Royal Wulff. The additional few feet of 5x, 6x, or 7x tippet I use is slip knotted to a short butt of end knotted 12 lb. Trilene. This line and leader formula provides casting and connection capable of reaching and holding strong fish, an insight collected during some tests of the rod’s stiffer flex.

The 7/3 on this 12 ft. rod conveys feel comparable to a fast conventional nine-foot 4-weight of your choice. A noteworthy bluegill can give the PhD defense in landing a strong fish on this tackle. You can also feel a spirited pumpkinseed sunfish holding in its corner of the water. Two visits to my regional heavyweight sunfish lake revealed the extent of the Yamame’s action. I have come to call this time . . .


The lake, like most, really, does not give up bigger sunfish except during one period, the pugnacious before and after the spawning time when sunfish’s redds dot the still shallows like polka dots.

My kebari connected first in conjunction with the Yamame is one I call a silver tinsel and natural deer hair simple bucktail. Tied on a Mustad size 12 or 14 streamer hook, dressed sparingly; I use two batches of deer hair, one less than a classic Mickey Finn recipe; my initial role model.

The concept of mini (and micro) streamers includes the Mickey Finn, an idea documented previously at The Global FlyFisher for one example, which involves only a reduction in the standard fly recipe’s size of hook. Streamer meets nymph in scale and looks to match the tightly schooled fish fry that appear like tiny dark squiggles in the shallows.

The simple bucktail kebari knotted to the end of my Yamame rig riled one large female bluegill. The lady sprinted thirty feet three times in three directions like a permit scaled to a farm pond. My left arm high, left palm upturned, in this position began the arm wrestling. I did note the bend of the rod reached a shallower root, not because of the fish, which fought strongly; it’s just the final flex of the Yamame does fall along the third section rather than near the grip as on the 5/5 Ebisu.

Several sunfish added their opinion, many coaxed by a green caddis pupa featuring a sparse soft hackle paired with a bead. This one came courtesy of my colleague, Edwin Valentin: a tyer known more for his saltwater patterns, yet just as adept on the artificial fly for trout.

Mature males (brick red and moss green in hue with strong shoulders) and females (somewhat pale and barred with bellies full of eggs) reached my little Brodin net and lengths adjacent to a foot. Some were two–and-a-half inches (6.5 cm) broad. Pumpkinseed sunfish, smaller, still engaged well in the fray. The catches were released vigorous from my grasp.

Pumpkinseed Sunfish, Lepomis gibbosus. (Photo taken 05 29 2014)

Pumpkinseed Sunfish, Lepomis gibbosus. (Photo taken 05 29 2014)

The grip of the Yamame features sanded cork at the length consistent with the current standard. Cork is new to my tenkara experience. My own fishing in this style has centered on more of a one-off piece: the short, pine handle and 5/5 wisp of the Tenkara USA Ebisu used exclusively between April of 2012 and April of 2014.

Consistency. Simplicity. Each is the other.

Less pressure resistance from the cork in hand brought the matter of the grip up less than when I used the harder knocking pine of the Ebisu. There is as much, if not a little more, cork in play with the Yamame grip, shaped in a kind of extended yet slightly off-center manner, like a variation on the full wells familiar to conventional salmon and saltwater fly fishers. The shallow concave off-center sits in a sweet spot. Fishing in hand makes easy; I even forgot the difference in grip as an issue before my first outing with the hugegills was over.

Tenkara Impressionism, May

Tenkara Impressionism, May

– rPs 06 06 2014

Postscript. Read about min (and micro) streamers and the Mickey Finn at The Global FlyFisher by following one of these two links:

Mickey Finn

Mini (or Micro) Streamer

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