More Than Catching

More Than Catching . . .

The Mianus River in southwest Connecticut. (photo taken 06 24 2012)

A Tenkara Road Trip

After a busy month engrossed in a new day job (as an associate at a fly shop), I at last got away at the beginning of summer to fish just outside the limits of New York City. I stayed with a fishing buddy who lives in Stamford, Connecticut, and together we fished both the salt and a stream, for both striped bass and the trout. The latter allowed me to take tenkara equipment and technique into its most suited environment – a forested trout stream.

The Mianus River is, for most of its length, a freestone creek just twenty or so feet in width. The winding flow is somewhat shallow with a cobbled bottom and a scattering of smooth granite boulders that project out into the current, creating many inviting pools and pockets. The Mianus chapter of Trout Unlimited has done a lot of good work here, and because the river flows through three separate parks, there is plenty of tree shade to keep the water cool and plenty of public water to fish.

Tenkara technique is well-suited for upstream presentation in close quarters. (photo taken 06 24 2012)

The trout residing here proved to be very wary, sipping my fly patterns sparingly and so lightly as to leave barely a dimple on the surface film. The fish appeared educated, too. If a size 16 Blue Wing Olive invoked a rise once, it would not do so twice. Only a generic size 18 Tan Deer Hair Caddis lured more than one half-hearted look from a Salmo trutta.  Of the five rises I enjoyed during my morning outing, only one managed to connect with the hook long enough to be felt on my limber twelve-foot Ebisu.

I learned much about tenkara during this road trip. I found that hiking, stopping, fishing, and then moving on to do it all again, was much easier without a reel. The telescoping nature of the rod and the simple slipknot attachment of the level line to the braided lilian permitted quick set up and take down in the narrow spaces between the tangled branches along the stream bank. Casting the longer rod sideways, over the water, allowed me to present patterns upstream much more easily than with a conventional fly rod and reel. Many potential midstream snags and hookups with tree fish were averted as a result.

An Achilles’ Heel

Many, but not all, snags. I did learn that tenkara has an Achilles’ heel, and snag removal is it. When one gets caught under a rock or onto a green branch, a snag can often be released with conventional gear, first by winding in the line until the fly meets the rod tip, followed by a gentle tug or two. Tenkara does not allow for this option so, if a snag occurs, one must wade out to the offending stone, or climb the tree. If that proves to be physically impossible, fly and some tippet will be usually lost.

One specific weakness does not overwhelm the general strengths tenkara offers in the realms of mobility and ease of use in wilderness environments. And while I did not land a trout on this quick trip, I did glean another insight from the tenkara way; its inherent ability, through simplicity, to reveal that fishing is more than catching. The sport is also a window onto experiencing, and living, outdoor life in full, in the moment.

Tired, but happy, after a tenkara road trip full of trees. (photo taken by Walt Neary on 06 24 2012)

– rPs 06 25 2012

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