Posts Tagged Tenkara USA

April: A Day; A Lake

April: A Day; A Lake . . .

April: A Lake. (photo taken 04 10 2014)

April: A Lake. (photo taken 04 10 2014)

North of Manhattan I have fished several times in several locations. A fact may be the environment of a stillwater is more important than a place name. If you have a pond accessible in early spring, do fish tenkara there. You may catch panfish, bass, even perch and trout and pike, sized to the scale of the rod you choose.

Ebisu and I ventured into a brisk wind, cold, just not enough cold to put on my fingerless wool mittens. I knotted on a 4X length of tippet a weighted chenille pattern, olive in color, 10 in size, as well as later a classic size 12 Zug Bug nymph tied expertly by the folks at Umpqua. My new tool: a treat; a tapered, woven, 11 ft. Tenkara USA line dressed in a pale olive color.

Converted, instantly, instinctively I was to this line despite the wind level; it was obnoxious enough to make me laugh out loud with myself.

Clean and neat is the tapered line. Greeted I was, after four or five casts, by a modest largemouth bass sporting a clean and neat pattern. The fish met me during a slow Leisenring Lift beside some submerged sticks. Visibility was the best in a year as I would learn further, later, casting to carp on the lily pad flats.

I added a foot or two of Berkley Trilene green 10 lb. monofilament to absorb abrasion and to act as transition between the visible tapered line and the invisible tippet. A loop to loop between tapered line and transition is matched on the other end by a double eight knot on the transition and some kind of slip or clinch knot on the fine side.

Moss gone green; skunk cabbage and onion grass in sprout; red buds tipped the trees, all below a blue as clear sky. The wind remained generous. I learned to cast in step with it toward promising stick piles and boulder banks.

My number of chances at a carp on the flats equaled one. A fish of eight pounds to my eye passed by me bankside. I decided to spin. I pulled the lever, placed the sinking fly four feet in front of fish with a light and tight ripple following its swinging caudal fin. The fish swam on ahead on a singular mission of its own.

Flats Casting. (photo taken 04 10 2014)

Flats Casting. (photo taken 04 10 2014)

The second bass proved to be a miracle of play and patterning. A strike out of visual depth pulled tightly, approached the surface; its side rippled flashes metallic, resisting in equal the bending Ebisu. I had five or six feet of bank to each side, one occupied by a sunning turtle I did not want to disturb. I tiptoed behind the shell; our eyes together, as the rod doubled down like an extended arm wrestle.

My thumb, up, won a short photo session with a long fish; a female to my eye and understanding of fish profiles. Rare have I seen such clarity and splendor in the prominent black lateral line and bordering blotches. Each bass flank is a flag. This one remains high at full mast.

Largemouth April. (photo taken 04 10 2014)

Largemouth April. (photo taken 04 10 2014)

Open brush and dry phragmite stands around an adjacent pond’s perimeter afforded me a chance to ruminate on the catch. I cleared out a measurable amount of public plastic trash, which I disposed of later at a public can. Glass and metal do not disturb me so much as these materials, in moderation, weather better. Plastic, however, and batteries? The bits and pieces add up. Besides, you want your photos to look clean!

The equivalent of three rolls of film later, I found myself wrapping up in another manner. I rolled the tapered line onto its simple, effective dispenser. One golfer passing by announced to his other friends: “I wanna go fishing. I like to go fishing!”

I did.

Ebisu Near Rising Pads. (photo taken 04 10 2014)

Ebisu Near Rising Pads. (photo taken 04 10 2014)

– rPs 04 11 2014

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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.

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


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,

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:

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Time to Read

Time to Read . . .

Tenkara Magazine (photo courtesy of Tenkara USA)

Tenkara Magazine (photo courtesy of Tenkara USA)

The holiday season has brought a festive end to my actual fishing with the fly for 2013. In the time and space reserved for things angling, I have now acquired three good reads on my coffee table. All are worth mentioning.

First, and the one directly linked to tenkara, is the new Tenkara Magazine published by Daniel Galhardo of Tenkara USA. The debut issue features 112 pages of words and images from some well-known tenkara anglers and bloggers, including an illustrated piece – “Uptown Tenkara: A Crappie Experience” – from my own perspective. You can preview (and order) the magazine by following this link:

Two new novels also found their way into my holiday stocking. One is Death Canyon: A Jake Trent Novel by David Riley Bertsch. The author, like me, was born in Pittsburgh and attended Penn State University. While I moved east and into an even more urban existence, Bertsch travelled west to Wyoming and now lives the life of a fly fishing guide and novelist.

Death Canyon: A Jake Trent Novel

Death Canyon: A Jake Trent Novel

Here is the link to Bertsch’s debut novel on

The second novel delivered by Santa is The Royal Wulff Murders by Keith McCafferty. Author of The Grey Ghost Murders, McCafferty’s hard-boiled, fly fishing private detective, Sean Stranahan, fills the void left behind after the recent passing of William Tapply.

The Royal Wulff Murders by Keith McCafferty

The Royal Wulff Murders by Keith McCafferty

Here is the link to McCafferty’s latest novel on

Fishing may be going to hibernation for a spell, but there are plenty of new good words to fire the angling imagination during the cold winter months. Look for in-depth reviews of these publications in future updates

– rPs 12 30 2013

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One More

One More . . .

Tenkara is an excellent way to connect with bluegill in October. (photo taken 10 09 2013)

Tenkara is an excellent way to connect with bluegill in October. (photo taken 10 09 2013)

When the leaves are just about to turn and the asters are flush with their tiny daisy faces, there appears one more window of decent bluegill and largemouth bass fishing before the inconsistent angling of the cold months arrives. Ponds are pretty places at this time and the fish remain within the fixed range of tenkara equipment.

My fly shop coworker, Jesse Valentin, wanted to squeeze in one more outing this month before some necessary dental work. I happily accompanied him . . . to Harlem Meer. There I employed my technique of a large nymph, fished slowly and steadily, in and around the pond’s deeper areas. A size 10 Zug Bug brought two nice fish quickly to hand; I noted a slow lift, rather than twitches, teased these fish into striking.

Bluegill with Asters. (photo taken 10 09 2013)

Bluegill with Asters. (photo taken 10 09 2013)

A chilly wind from the northwest began to pick up as the sky turned gray after noon. Satisfied with the bluegill, I decided to experiment in my quest for a bass. I used a dropper loop to attach a size 6 Olive Flats Fly, a weighted pattern designed for bonefish and permit, yet its greenish tones and split tail make an excellent crayfish imitation.

The extended length of my Ebisu model allowed me to precisely work the fly along the base of some reeds going brown where a flash of bright green connected with me. Three jumps later, a modest largemouth bass allowed itself to be brought ashore for an authentic urban angling photograph: a bucolic pond with a brick highrise standing in the background.

Bright Bass, Big City. (photo taken 10 09 2013)

Bright Bass, Big City. (photo taken 10 09 2013)

Jesse, for his part, caught a bass and a black crappie with one of the jigs from his own vise, so we both headed home happy, knowing we had seized the opportunity for one more easy, fish-filled day. The gray and brown months, the time when methodical angling in uncomfortable weather produces sporadic catches, arrives with holiday season, which begins today on Halloween . . .


– rPs 10 31 2013

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The Utility of the Net

The Utility of the Net . . .

A French Creek rainbow trout successfully landed - thanks to the net! (photo taken 05 2013)

A French Creek rainbow trout successfully landed – thanks to the net! (photo taken 05 2013)

Rarely do I fish with a net. There is no conscious reason; I simply find myself most often angling for fish small and easy enough to handle manually. Panfish are also handfish.

While sorting through a large batch of photos from the previous few months, I found the image of the netted trout above, and the story behind this moment returned to me.

Memorial Day weekend gave the time and French Creek in southeastern Pennsylvania provided the setting. The long weekend allowed my wife and me the ever more rare opportunity to slip out of New York City under the demanding noses of our respective work lives. The in-laws provided family, food, and for me, fly fishing, tenkara style.

Maryann wanted to sleep in on the morning of Memorial Day, but she did wake long enough to permit me to take along her L.L. Bean Pleasant River trout net. I sensed I might need it, as French Creek, like all freestone flows, holds more physical challenges to the landing of fish than a stillwater pond, and an encounter with trout, a fish much trickier to calm than black bass, would be a possibility.

A short stroll down a suburban road took me to the banks of the stream, which was quiet and empty of other anglers despite the bright holiday morning. A deep pool along an inviting bend in the stream above a flat bedrock run gave me a good starting point. There, on a Pheasant Soft Hackle, I caught a few small redbreast sunfish; an attractive and somewhat rare catch in this cold water

This French Creek redbreast sunfish added to the surrounding symphony of green and orange color. (photo taken 05 2013)

This French Creek redbreast sunfish added to the surrounding symphony of green and orange color. (photo taken 05 2013)

Wet wading eventually brought me several hundred yards downstream to the plane tree root jams I had fished the previous Christmas Eve. I had by this time landed a few silvery fallfish and knew the top prize, a trout or two battling my line and limber Ebisu tenkara rod, could very well be present.

This French Creek fallfish fell for an X Caddis. (photo taken 05 2013)

This French Creek fallfish fell for an X Caddis. (photo taken 05 2013)

I was not disappointed. My little Hare’s Ear paused during its second swing, snatched aggressively near the second batch of roots. Stiff resistance and a bent rod replaced the meditative mending of line. A sizable trout directed my attention upstream, where the water broke in a half jump, and then another.

At last, I thought, my net might see some action!

The lanyard sounded as I successfully gripped the handle and brought down the net toward the fish. Another, heretofore unheard tone, also now resonated. The rod tip began to scrape against the low tree canopy overhead. The length of the long rod touched limb, forcing me even lower as I bent backwards, leading the fish toward the mesh of the net. The sight of me so engaged must have resembled a circus contortionist.

The big rainbow eventually allowed itself to be landed, and photographed, and gently released, thanks to the net. The utility of this piece of gear had again, in a very timely manner, made itself clear.

The tenkara angler and his net take a break. (photo taken 05 2013)

The tenkara angler and his net take a break. (photo taken 05 2013)

– rPs 07 31 2013

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Back in Hand

Back in Hand . . .

My Ebisu back where he belongs. (photo taken 04 29 2013)

My Ebisu back where he belongs. (photo taken 04 29 2013)

When a fishing tool is used hard, often, or both, some snafu has to be expected at some point. So it occured to me with my Tenkara USA Ebisu, although the problem did not involve wear or breakage – I somehow lost a segment and the handle screw cap in the field.

An email to Daniel Galhardo received a quick reply and a solution; send the rod to the repair center in Belgrade, MT. I found a Scotch mailing tube that fit the TUSA rod tube perfectly and mailed the package on April 19.

Today, ten (10!) days later – Ebisu is back in my grip! This has been, hands down, the best customer service I have yet experienced with any company.

Thank you, Daniel, John, and Tenkara USA!

– rPs 04 29 2013

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Winter Light

Winter Light . . .

My art supplies assembled around the sitter; an Amano Kebari. (photo taken 01 29 2012)

My art supplies assembled around the sitter; an Amano Kebari. (photo taken 01 29 2012)

The art studio replaces the trout stream and bass pond when the white skies of winter fill my Manhattan rooms with a pale light perfect for my drawing method. Today is such a day. I assemble my materials on the floor, assume the zazen position, and commence to document the fly pattern and the unique shape of its shadow during the given illustration session. The result, if I am successful, shall be a unique portrait. Today’s sitter: the Amano Kebari . . .


– rPs 01 29 2012

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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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