Posts Tagged Ebisu

5 Yrs.

Five Yrs. . . .

Ebisu Approved
(NYC 04 09 2017)

“Five Years” is the title to the opening track of David Bowie’s necessary masterpiece “The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from Mars”.

Five years now marks the amount of time I have spent rendering the topic of tenkara in images and words.  During that time, Bowie has passed, although his music continues to inspire those of us still here, some of us fishing.

Manhattan saw my first use of true telescoping fishing on the fly. Exploration of the island’s fresh and salt fisheries has centered tenkara at my angling core. Rod, Line, Fly = fishing, and fish, more often than not.

The sport has drawn me across the face of New York, as well as Connecticut, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Colorado, Washington and Hawaii, waters fresh and salt.

It has been stated countless times in conversation that it takes ten years (or maybe 10,000 hours as in the words of Malcolm Gladwell), that it takes such long time to end up a master of some thing.

“Five Years” begins a great Bowie album.

Perhaps five years ends the beginning of an aspiring tenkara master’s journey path.

Five years ago today I began to offer my own word on tenkara, fishing, fly tying, and adventure, which I then as continue to now find to be a more than fitting, in fact necessary, natural progression of an author whose book Small Fry: The Lure of the Little, published in 2009, coincided in some ways parallel with the bright and enterprising incorporation of Tenkara USA by Daniel Galhardo.

Imagine my happiness, then, to receive in coincidence a copy of Daniel’s new authoritative tenkara book, — “The Book” – on this same 5th anniversary weekend of Tenkara Takes Manhattan.

Ebisu now, as then, appears to approve.

– rPs, Palm Sunday, 04 12 2017

Postscript: Revisit the first TTM post here:  https://tenkaratakesmanhattan.com/2012/04/09/hello-world/

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Trout 3, Ebisu 1

Trout 3, Ebisu 1 . . .

 

Eastern PA Trout Stream (05 2015)

Eastern PA Trout Stream
(05 2015)

 

Streams that for whatever reason hold a sparse number of trout, perhaps two or three per mile, can make even a stocked trout fishery a challenge tenkara can handle.

Handle of pine: the Ebisu this time out. The 12-foot rod’s more limber 5/5 flex allowed tighter casts within side channels the width of city sidewalks. Runs walled by spring green, everything from tenacious native saplings to the shallow-rooted immigrant Japanese Knotweed.

 

Side Channel Drift (05 2015)

Side Channel Drift
(05 2015)

 

The traditional tapered line with six feet of 6X tippet landed soft hackles and nymphs with stealth along promising seams. The pine handle gives the Ebisu the feel of a baseball bat tapering to a 1-weight graphite tipped with a matching fly line.

 

Pointing In The Trout's Direction: Ebisu, Line Holder, Traditional Tapered Line (05 2015)

Pointing In The Trout’s Direction:
Ebisu, Line Holder, Traditional Tapered Line
(05 2015)

 

The Philadelphia Phillies, hosting the New York Mets and Pittsburgh Pirates, in that order, brought me to Philadelphia for a few days. Valley Creek, French Creek, and Pickering Creek were nearby. The Wissahickon, The Schuylkill, and The Pennypack were within range. Waters borne on the pages of Philadelphia on the Fly and Small Fry: The Lure of the Little.

What mattered more than destination this time was the full fishing experience with all of its supporting details. Spring fishing offers riparian zones flush with wildflowers and songbirds and streams, some marginal at other times of the year, now with trout, holdovers, survivors from the weeks following the opener.

Reports of “little black stoneflies” were replaced by the actual witness to a few scattered rising Hendricksons approximated by a size 14. Forage of the moment took many, more meaty, forms: tiny black tadpoles, parent frogs, crayfish, and earthworms all were sighted in and along several streams. The flows were solid, clear, and warmer than expected given the long winter that had encased the Northeast in snow for three months.

My India Hen and Herl and Silver Ribbed Deer Hair and Black soft hackles in size 12 fit just as well a hatchling tadpole. They were that small; the squiggling creature’s head and tail resembled a comma.

 

The Ronnie Cash: Soft Hackles Dressed In Black (05 2015)

The Ronnie Cash:
Soft Hackles Dressed In Black
(05 2015)

 

Both patterns worked.

Trout, the simple fins to face direct encounter, were few. Again, these were scattered survivors of the opener. Natural forage was on their menu. Artificial colors and sweeteners had been by now learned to be avoided. Imitation, a general for the surveyed stream forage, called for some personal combination of thread, feather, perhaps fur and various glitter of some material, the blacker, the better.

Tussles on the Ebisu were strong, yet static, a kind of slow motion take that saw trout drop the fly three out of four times along two wades of a mile and back.

One rainbow in the net serves posterity enough. One rainbow a caudal fin short of a foot. The fish landed, and all the fish lost, were appreciated in light of the effort involved to lure their strikes.

 

Rainbow Trout (05 2015)

Rainbow Trout
(05 2015)

 

Insights on fly pattern awareness, as well as sightings of Baltimore orioles in full song and flight, wildflowers like the Mayapple, wild Mustards in abundance, plus a single Jack-in the-Pulpit, made a satisfying spring weekend of baseball and fly fishing that ended: Trout 3, Ebisu 1.

– rPs 05 13-14 2015

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Just a Second

Just a Second . . .

. . . As in Happy Second Anniversary . . .

. . . Tenkara Takes Manhattan . . .

Tenkara USA Ebisu: Lillian and spooled tapered line on the table. (photo taken 04 09 2014)

Tenkara USA Ebisu:
Lillian and spooled tapered line on the table. (photo taken 04 09 2014)

— rPs 04 09 2014

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Harlem Meer, Blue Again

Harlem Meer, Blue Again . . .

Free at last: Harlem Meer without ice.. (photo taken 03 21 2014)

Free at last: Harlem Meer without ice.. (photo taken 03 21 2014)

The wind was up. The sun set the high cirrus aglow. Harlem Meer reflected deep blue and, occasionally, bare trees. Rippled, the winded surface did not deter the birds. Canada Geese, Mallard Ducks, and Hooded Megansers all utilized the resource. I found myself, too, with colleagues Fergus and Jesse. We three angled urbanely for an entire Friday.

The water was clear and dark, free of weed. Only the bottom, where we worked our offerings, hinted at the ragged rooted bases of plants yet to rise.

I decided to employ one of my own finished fly patterns:

The Green Guarantee; a bucktail streamer

Green Guarantee: bucktail version.

Green Guarantee:
bucktail version.

Recipe:
Size 6 hook
030 wire for weight
Deer hair for tail
Olive floss for body
Peacock herl for thorax
6/0 Green thread for wrapping

ATURAL DEER HAIR, OLIVE FLOSS, PEACOCK HERL, and OLIVE BUCKTAIL.

Where others using conventional fly fishing outfits and ultralight spinning outfits failed, tenkara succeeded. One fish fell for the delicate dance of the pattern. The limber tenkara tip had provided again.

Crappie as long as your pine handle: Tenkara USA Ebisu and a black crappie. (photo taken 03 21 2014)

Crappie as long as your pine handle:
Tenkara USA Ebisu and a black crappie. (photo taken 03 21 2014)

First black crappie of 2014

The day’s fishing ended on a silent moment. We three stood abreast and watched, as time lapsed in front of us, the bend of a cove letting go the last of its lock of ice.

Harlem Meer, blue again.

– rPs 03 31 2014

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The Luck of “The Spring”

The Luck of “The Spring” . . .

Harlem Meer Still White. (photo taken 03 13 2014)

Harlem Meer Still White. (photo taken 03 13 2014)

I made myself meet the water a few days before this St. Patrick’s Day. I caught and released one fish.

There was a sky full of helicopters, a loose chain of ambulances at emergency, and deep rumbling rolling in from the Northeast. Air, not natural, had burst from the seams and taken down a piece of Manhattan.

My day off: fishing as this was occurring. An awareness of balance, rather than a feel of guilt, charged my exploration of “The Spring” in Winter. Harlem Meer, I would learn later, was a solid white floor surround by the yellow brown fields of March. Lucky Me: I chose first a greener ground of jade where “The Spring” offered water along one of three shorelines, most of the best spread out behind a bankside fence I chose lawfully not to cross.

Hemmed within seventy-five feet of width, fifteen feet of breadth, and a depth measuring less than a rod’s length, I fished a Deer Hair, Peacock Herl, and Thread nymph of my own design. Plenty of cool casting onto the ice opened up to me on a 3.5 Level Line. Thin ice is like an immense, monolithic lily pad. Audible slides along the ice with a tug off to the depths make for a great presentation when successful. What works at an even higher level across the fishing spectrum is the same matched with a larger pattern: next an Olive Deer Hair and Floss Bucktail tied in a manner akin to a Mickey Finn, or with a sparse beard like my Green Guarantee, first described on The Global FlyFisher in 2008.

Tenkara on thin ice. (photo taken 03 13 2014)

Tenkara on thin ice. (photo taken 03 13 2014)

Four extended periods of disaster noise sounded in the distance as I began to fish. The rumbles reminded my mind’s ear of the Baghdad air war thunder shown (and heard) on television during both Gulf War I and Gulf War II. The news through the fog of dust and information settled on eight dead, many injured and displaced. A gas leak? Investigation on site has not yet been engaged in full because of debris. There has been that much material mixed with potential survivors, so great care has been taken.

On the top of the hour of one, a better blast sounded on my side. Luck struck. A sudden take a foot below the ice edge began to move. No winter sluggish fish was this; I saw twice in profile a thick bass with a purpose. The silhouette was a rounded female rather than a thin pickle of a male. I feared my tippet might fray as three runs under the ice audibly shaved my line against the blade on the water’s top.

My Ebisu tenkara rod’s entire 5/5 flex was on arch display. I gripped the pine handle as if it were a solid body guitar. Grip locked in, I was able to lead the bass around a fallow pickerel weed garden to shore.

Blurry? Cold, wet hand and big, fast bass! (photo taken 03 13 2014)

Blurry? Cold, wet hand and big, fast bass! (photo taken 03 13 2014)

I rarely lay fish on any surface for a photo except sometimes wet grass on rainy days. Skies overcast, air still, the fish remained calm and stretched as most largemouth bass will as it endured a bragging shot on packed damp soil beside my laminated ruler and Tenkara USA Ebisu. Best Honest Estimate: 15 inches, 2 plus pounds, female largemouth bass.

Tenkara can (sometimes) tackle big bass. (photo taken 03 13 2014)

Tenkara can (sometimes) tackle big bass. (photo taken 03 13 2014)

The Luck of “The Spring” . . . an ironic reward, when still in winter.

* *** * *** * ***

Angle 360

Doves dived
The depths of damp spring air.

The lake,
Biifurcated between water and ice,

Reflected,
Bare branches and brick towers.

In park,
Central to the whole reality,

One bass
Followed the ledge, following,

Up above,
Something crawling, scraping.

In went it,
Down into the wet water.

When tugged,
Wink, the line squared the circle:

The One and The Other
Spirited by connection.

.
* *** * *** * ***

My First Fish of 2014

– rPs 03 17 2014

Postscript: Read about the Green Guarantee at The Global FlyFisher by following this link:

http://globalflyfisher.com/writings/small-fry/pic.php?id=4614

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Olympic Summer

Olympic Summer . . .

My friend, Stephen, photographed me with the Hamma Hamma River in the background. (photo taken 07 14 2012)

My wife and I visited the Olympic Peninsula of Washington for the first time this summer. We planned to visit two good friends, Mara and Stephen, who had moved to the region from Arizona last year. There was also the possibility we could explore the angling within this storied trout, salmon, and steelhead destination. When in an email our hosts made mention of the fact they had taken up the sport of fly fishing, I thought: What a happy coincidence!

The first morning of our stay in Port Orchard, Washington, revealed we had landed in a new landscape. As we sat with new friends around the dining table of our bed and breakfast, the Cedar Cove Inn, I paused at one point during the meal to absorb a view I could never see in Manhattan. The snow-capped peaks of the Olympic Range emerged through a cool fog dissipating on a July morning. I excused myself and walked outside. The Cedar Cove has a lovely wraparound porch, and the building and grounds are situated on a point overlooking the town harbor and the gunmetal gray ships moored along the Naval Base Kitsap across the Sinclair Inlet. The weather felt like early October in New York, but the view was fully Pacific Northwest summer.

The Kitsap Peninsula where Port Orchard is located resembles an arrowhead on the map. To the east is Puget Sound and Seattle. To the west lay the Hood Canal and Olympic Peninsula. The western slope draining into the Pacific is the land of the famous temperate rain forest and steelhead rivers such as the Hoh and Elwha. The eastern slope, which is somewhat drier, though just as forested, supports a number of other rivers that are better known for coastal cutthroat trout. Several of these, the Skokomish, Duckabush, Dosewallips, and Hamma Hamma, were within just an hour’s drive of our friend’s home beside the Sinclair Inlet.

The Hamma Hamma name I had encountered before through my love of oysters. The Hama Hama oysters found on restaurant menus, (note the slight discrepancy in spelling), originate from the delta of this river. For that reason I suggested we explore the main run during the two days we had set aside for fly fishing.

My Ebisu was ready to try this new and adventurous angling environment. I had successfully fished with the rod both in Manhattan’s ponds and the Pennsylvania trout streams near my in-laws home in southeastern Pennsylvania. What I did do new is add to my fly box. I selected a few steelhead flies from the bins at The Urban Angler. I had prepared for the trip in part by reading The Color of Winter by Doug Rose, and this book with its color plates of classic steelhead patterns inspired me to select both the white and purple Bead Head Woolly Bugger, the Jock Scott, and the Rusty Rat. I knew that our chances of encountering a steelhead in July were slim, so I invested in smaller size 8 and 10 patterns to perhaps lure two species neither of us had ever encountered: the Dolly Varden and the coastal cutthroat trout.

Jock Scott on Hamma Hamma River rocks. (photo taken 07 13 2012)

We drove to the Hamma Hamma River on an overcast Friday the 13th. We skirted the rim of the Hood Canal and passed through the Skokomish Indian Reservation. It took nearly all of my fishing excitement to prevent a detour into the parking area of the tiny log cabin casino there on the tribal land; a casino not much larger than a family restaurant, which, I’m sure, would have provided an interesting if not lucrative experience. I was feeling Lucky 13, and literary as well, knowing I was near Port Angeles and the legacy of Raymond Carver, one of my favorite fiction writers, who was also a passionate fisherman. Part of me wanted to pull out a notebook and just write all of this into something new right there, yet I knew fishing, and tenkara, would be the basis of the day’s real story.

We eventually followed a logging road that snaked through thick forest. A small sign pulled us toward the parking area of a small wooded camping area adjacent to the Hamma Hamma. We hiked a narrow trail surrounded by a canopy containing an infinite variety of green punctuated by bright orange salmonberries and pale yellow banana slugs, some nearly a foot in length. The water’s steady call drew us easily to its banks.

A thin row of alders separated a cobblestone bar from the river. The water was clear and cold, so cold that a mist hovered over the glacial melt. I could see the reason for the temperatures at work when I looked up and saw snow fields on the high slopes of the steep valley through which the Hamma Hamma runs.

Distant thunder could be heard and a spattering of rain that had followed us on our drive came and went. I have rarely been so excited to fish. Tenkara made setting up so much easier despite the emotional distractions inherent in enthusiasm. The telescoping rod, the lillian, the level line, a slip knot, and a size 10 Rusty Rat were assembled, tethered, and tied in seconds rather than minutes.

The gentleman in me handed the Ebisu to Maryann. I said I would rig up the 5-weight while she warmed up with the gentle casting action of the light tenkara rod. She asked if I was sure. Her smile and green eyes made a “Yes!” as easy as breathing.

Of course the first tapered leader I removed from the convenient 3-pack recombined into a bird’s nest after I had looped it onto the end of my pale green floating fly line. Maryann and Stephen were knee-high in the creek and casting when I turned to survey their progress. Both looked comfortably situated, throwing their patterns well upstream.

Maryann and Stephen fly fishing within the Hamma Hamma River’s mist. (photo taken 07 13 2012)

The second leader slipped on smoothly and I added a Jock Scott to its tip. I gathered up, zipped up, walked toward Maryann’s position. I paused beside the water to watch her. She raised the limber rod, made a cast, and followed the fly downstream. She lifted the line off the water again; I turned away to look at an especially pretty stone. That’s when I heard her say:  “Am I snagged?”

There was a deep bend in the Ebisu, that’s for sure. I followed the line’s trajectory into the water with one swift look to the left. “No, you have a trout!” I exclaimed. Above the jade and milky quartz collage of the stream bed, resisting both the rod and the stiff conflicting currents of the cold Hamma Hamma, maneuvered a living band of silver and white. She brought the fish to her side and used her new net before my own boots had graced stream gravel. Held within the damp black mesh was a steelhead parr. The rosy band, leopard spots, and vertical namesake marks of this strong native were more vivid than any eastern brown trout or stocked rainbow I have ever seen, more pastel than the earth-toned brookie. We photographed the fish for posterity and then twisted the little steelhead fly from the top of its jaw. The fish slipped away and Maryann, smiling, breathing heavily with excitement, held out the tenkara rod to me.

I shook my head. “Keep the line in the water.” And with that said I realized I had another kind of line. The ending that, as it so often happens, became another magical moment of conception.

Maryann Amici with her first tenkara-caught salmonid: a Hamma Hamma River steelhead parr. (photo taken 07 13 2012)

– rPs 08 31 2012

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By Ebisu

By Ebisu

Ebisu: front cover of the catalogue for The Vision and Art of Shinjo Ito. (photo taken 04 10 2012)

A recurring theme in one’s life may be perceived either upon past reflection or by present reminder. When one encounters the latest example of the latter and, for whatever reason, be it curiosity or impulse, begins to trace the line of occurrences backward from there, something profound often is found staring one in the face.

One leitmotif that has appeared along the road of my life like a string of green lights indicating “Go!” is all things Japanese. The root occurrence, the one I remember, was a seventh grade geography paper. I pulled JAPAN out of an upturned hat resting on Mr. Armstrong’s desk.  The World Book encyclopedia and a trip to the Carnegie Library followed, supplemented by visual and historical details culled from James Clavell’s Shogun, both the novel and the nine-hour television miniseries, which happened to air at roughly the same time as my assignment.

By the time I arrived at university in 1985, Japan was a dominating player in the world’s coalescing global economy. My plan at Penn State was to study print journalism. The idea of me being an arts and culture reporter in Tokyo lit my imaginative fire. I enrolled in a four-credit Japanese language class.

Mr. Takahashi, sensei, my instructor throughout my formal study of the language, was an enthusiastic young man who sported black glasses and a grey tweed coat. He taught us, he said quite frankly, the way he had instructed grade school children. Each morning we began by vocalizing the entire hiragana alphabet: “a, i, u, e, o . . . ka, ki, ku, ke, ko  all the way through to the concluding “wa, o, n”. . . The consonant and vowel combinations rolled off my tongue with a clear, staccato cadence that lacked the multisyllabic twists of the German that had challenged and daunted me throughout high school.

Classes in East Asian philosophy and history of art followed until I had accrued enough credits for an East Asian studies minor, although I was too distracted by college life to declare one. The thought front and center in my mind back then was a single detail that I noticed was present in a lot of the images I studied, paintings which were actually illustrated poems. Many, it seemed, depicted some variation on the theme of a contemplative monk, sitting beside a pond or stream, holding a rod without a reel, fishing.

University life’s dreams translated into adult life’s reality; I moved to Philadelphia rather than Tokyo. I spent two decades within its red brick setting, focusing on library science by workday and creative writing the rest of the time. The book dominated my life, so I naturally kept up on my reading of Japanese fiction, everything from the pop culture lit of Banana Yoshimoto’s Kitchen to the metaphoric epic of Yasunari Kawabata’s The Master of Go. His storytelling was so powerful that I bought a set and took up the game of black and white stones with a few other Japanophiles who played on weekends beside the large front windows of a nearby coffee shop called The Last Drop.

Besides café culture, there was music – the yin of acoustic guitar and the yang of synthesizers – which was a serious pastime of mine, one that bloomed into something bigger than a hobby in 2006. A friend who managed another café called La Colombe, and who also owned a small recording studio, invited me to play keyboards for a series of sessions. The goal of the project was to work some songs into shape for Murai, a vocalist who sang both in English and Japanese. During rehearsals, the occasional Japanese word I could recognize – like neko (cat) – would inspire me to improvise a grace note, a pitch bend, or a sound effect that often stopped the song, but always with a smile or laugh from the rest of the band.

I sometimes did cat sit for the husband and wife team of Murai when they visited her family, natives of the bucolic horse country on the northern island of Hokkaido. When once her parents visited the states, they invited me, the cat man, to a dinner hosted at her apartment. When, at the start of the meal, I mentioned I spoke some Japanese, her father asked me what I did. I told him I was a writer and a  fly fisher; I wrote about using a rod, reel, and line tipped with a hae, which is Japanese for fly, the insect. Mr. Murai responded with a humorous look and corrected me. The hae, I learned, is the kind of fly that crawls on a window screen. “Kebari,” he said, “this is the name of a feathered lure designed to look like a fly.” This, then, from the source, was my initial introduction to Japanese fly fishing.

Perhaps the most significant confluence of the Japanese with my path occurred in 2008, and it was because this one was to have a profound impact on my fishing writing life. During February of that year, my then fiancée and I visited the Milk Gallery in Manhattan to see the  “Art and Vision” retrospective of the Japanese Buddhist master and artist, Shinjo Ito. One of his pieces in the exhibit was a cast bronze sculpture of Ebisu, the Japanese god of fisherman, good luck, and workingmen, as well as the guardian of small children’s health. He is one of the Seven Gods of Fortune, and the only one of the seven to originate in Japan.

Self, standing by Ebisu by Shinjo Ito at the "Art and Vision" retrospective, Milk Gallery, NYC. (photo by Maryann Amici 02 2008)

I purchased a catalogue of the show and one evening, while contemplating Ito’s image of Ebisu, I experienced an epiphany in the form of a new way to spread the word about the manuscript of my second book, Small Fry: The Lure of the Little. I realized I might be able to serialize the book in the old-fashioned way with a set of biweekly installments, and do so in the most contemporary forum – online, which later came to fruition in the form of collaboration with Martin Joergensen of Global Fly Fisher. The success of its digital appearance resulted in its publication as a paperback published by The Whitefish Press in 2009. Thank you, Ebisu!

Ebisu: a Japanese god, a god of fisherman, residing in the pantheon with all of the others. The fact he was there, representing us little people casting nets and rods in search of fish, inspired a poem about the mortal masters of a related discipline, the art and craft of fly tying . . .

Patterns go
In a stream’s flow.

Fishers,
Men and women,

Tie together
As feathers and fur do

When wrapped
By thread and floss;

Their names, embossed,
Become floating sculptures.

While Ebisu was rejuvenating my own fishing life, he was at also apparently guiding another amerikajin at work on the opposite side of the country. Daniel Galhardo, a young man working in international finance, was manifesting reality from his own Japanese dreams. His experience travelling and fishing in Japan compelled him to introduce the traditional Japanese expression of fly fishing, both the unique gear and their specialized techniques, to America. To do so, he founded a company, Tenkara USA.

Marriage and a move to Manhattan filled my life in 2009. Once established, I began to encounter Galhardo’s name and angling mission on fly fishing blogs everywhere, so I paid a visit to his company’s website. The embedded videos of tenkara gear in action along narrow mountain trout streams fit my fishing style and temperament. I have always appreciated intimate environments, finesse casting, and especially small fish. Large fish, landed on heavy tackle, heave and gasp and reveal the exhaustion of their life or death struggle. By contrast, small fry are a quick, fun catch, almost playful. The way a little largemouth bass or brook trout springs from your open hand is a much more positive conclusion to a fishing encounter than the tentative, winded descent of a giant into the opaque unknown.

Galhardo’s Tenkara USA proved to be a kind of one stop shop that offers a complete assortment of traditional Japanese fly fishing equipment: the Kebari, lines, nets, and several different tenkara rods. One of the models his company offers is named the Ebisu: a telescoping, twelve-foot, light-action rod with a red pine handle. Of course, seeing the name, reading its description, knowing it would fit the kind of fly fishing I have long loved and written about, I pounced. I pounced the way a pugnacious sunny hits a popper floating on a quiet farm pond.

Ebisu: a tenkara rod. (photo taken 04 07 2012)

– rPs 04 10 2012

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