The forest is my friend. She listens and speaks to me. “Adam, be who you are.” And ultimately I am. I walk along a stream picking lines between trees, some of those lanes are natural while others are made by inhabitants. The smells are amazing, the sounds are relaxing, I can understand and make sense of her moods while she helps me make sense of mine.
I feel like Jonathan, a seagull that a great writer detailed in a old book about a individual in a community. Jonathan loved flying where the others simply looked at flying as something seagulls just did. He would practice flying until he knew it well, pushing the envelope of his wings until one day, his flying lead him away from the other seagulls.
The concept is not unique, it’s how the idea for a popular book that is widely read came about.
The suggestion to fish this new to me stream came from a friend. I sent him back pictures of the same jewel like fish he caught. He began texting me back, while on a flight to Japan, his family lives there. “...probably the same fish I caught.”
A week ago, John told me about his dry fly fishing here. Using a fine short rod (by Japanese designers) he sampled the pools in the stream collecting the jeweled fish photographs and his own moments flying free. He sent those photographs to me in a text. “We should go here.”
I was born in Arizona, I believe John was too. We are the same age and we meet nearly forty or so years ago flying free. We have common interests, friends and separate memories of the same friends yet we flew our own flights.
John reconnected with me while I was on my first tenkara trip to Japan. “We should meet”
John did not fish but I did. I had many moons of casting flys in the streams, rivers, lakes and sea. I had gathered fly fisherman from around the world together with the many web sites and forums that I created.
John could read and write in Japanese so we explored the history of tenkara through my library. I introduced him to fly tying and he showed me the differences in the language and meaning between the two countries. John lived in Japan for thirty years before returning home.
Never fishing before, he had no preconceived ideas. His learning was from the old Japanese tenkara books. I never held back when I was fishing and taught him tenkara and while he was a beginner, he taught me tenkara as well.
John and I together meet Hisao Ishigaki for the first time. He briefly translated our introduction and put things at ease while we spoke in sensei’s native language. Later he helped translate interviews for both communities, making sense of the meaning we wished to convey.
And then one day John began to catch as many fish as I did, sometimes more and I knew he was flying free.
I began to receive pictures of monster fish caught with Japanese equipment and techniques. Fish that I could have caught but didn’t. The friend I took to our new stream agreed, we would buy him a bottle of Japanese whisky for turning us on to this stream.
I wrote this story while releasing a tiny jewel like fish.
I want to convey how simple and at the same time, how complex fishing can be.
Fishing a small stream helps me to put my ideas into a medium that I could share with John, Jim and anyone else that I resonate with.
But I feel like Jonathan Livingston Seagull.
Free to fly (fish) the way I want and write about it the way I want.
This particular stream was well suited to a 3.2m Zerosum. I really like the 7:3 flex profile. I use a 3.3m Fujino White Tenkara tapered line terminated with a tippet ring, I use Stonfo. For tippet, I use Trouthunter 5.5x.
At 3.2m I can usually see the fly. On this day I used a Parachute Adam’s size 16. I use floatant, it keeps the fly high up on the meniscus like a real fly. Most of the time the line is not on the water and I am using techniques like suttebari where I might peck the surface gently a few times before setting the fly down.
Japanese tenkara anglers use dry fly techniques for tenkara as well as sub surface wet flys.
The white line is a must in these invisible streams. It appears clear. If you can’t see the fly, you can use the line as an indicator. Or you can strike at movement.
All my fish this day were by sight using suttebari and accurate casting to 5 gallon bucket sized micro bucket pools.
The trout are the same however the approach in catching them needs a little adjustment.
The key to approaching and catching trout in a static environment is to find them first.
I live in the desert southwest. I have to travel by car for ninety minutes to get to my closest watershed. In the winter, the cooler daytime temperatures allow for stocking of trout in city ponds and urban lakes. My long travel to go fishing now becomes a ten minute drive. During the winter, I primarily fish still water using tenkara techniques for a couple of months. I continue to hone my tenkara techniques based on those many days of fishing for still water trout. I call this type of urban fishing #untenkara.
What I have found is this type of fishing directly transfers to fishing for wild trout in pools and slack water found on streams and rivers. This convenient urban setting relates and actually helps me catch the most difficult trout in gin clear and shallow pool water in the wild.
When I fish a stream, I approach a section with care and look for structure. The flow state in a stream indicates to me where the fish are. I look at the gradient, the depth of water and the structure, how it creates the flow or I look at the flow itself and find the fish by knowing where they will hold to feed in relation to rocks, bends and structure. Trout will use the flow like soaring birds to stay in one place as the food source “flys” by in the current. The trout use very little energy in intercepting bugs to eat and fill up the tank that fuels their engine. If I do not actually see the fish, I imagine where they should be in a feeding lane or in a spot in front of a rock or behind it holding in the pressure wave. Or I will imagine them under a root ball in the flow. I will present my kebari in a methodical approach based on many years of tenkara fishing in relation to the structure and flow. I’m actually fishing structure prioritizing where I place my first casts.
When I fish a pool, I begin with a completely different mind set. Ever before I approach a pool in the wild, I’m using stealth, viewing the pool from far away, I’m looking for any signs of current and or the relation of the pool in the stream or river. I want to know where the pool is filled and where is the outflow. How deep it is, where is the deepest spot and what is the temperature. Where is the sun in relation to the pool? Is there any cover or shade?
Do I see fish actively feeding?
I assess the pool ever before I reach it, I find the fish and decide my method of approach.
Just as I fish a stream, I move upstream and approach pools from the outflow. In big rivers, I approach perpendicular from the bank.
Trout in pools typically have three types of behavior. They sometimes move in pods or groups from one place to another feeding here and there. Other times they will be dispersed through out the pool feeding selectively on their own. The will also hold to structure in the pool. If there is a varying temperature or gradient, trout will often seek the depth where cooler water is during the middle of the day.
Before I approach a pool a glade or slack water, I observe from as far away as I can, where the fish are, I find them first and then I cast to individual fish or if I see evidence of where they are, I will cast to rise rings or swirls. Pools, slow moving or still water in rivers are typically in an open environment. On a stream, a still water pool, a slick or a glade often is lined with vegetation and or trees with overhanging limbs. For all my tenkara, I use the longest rods and lines as possible. For still water where trout often have time to inspect what they eat, I will use clear fluorocarbon lines and finer tippets down to 7x. Stealth is key and even approaching the pool I will move slowly and pay attention to my foot steps not clacking rocks together or splashing as I move. The long tenkara rod and light line allows me to present to the trout in more of a vertical orientation with very little line disturbing the surface. Tenkara presentations are often “fly first” the line at an acute angler going in to the water with no line slap disturbance on the meniscus.
To review, asses the pool, quietly move into position and make your tenkara presentation in a super stealthy method with no distractions to alert the trout. This is key to successfully fishing this difficult water.
When you catch trout in a nearly invisible pool of still water, you know you are doing well.
So I approach the pool after figuring out where the fish are and work from the closest trout to me outward. If I know the trout are nervous, as in if I scare one single trout, it will run and put the pool down, I will approach very slowly and deliberately and cast lightly. Precise pin point casting puts the fly close to the trout and often the take is immediate in pools. If I am able to see trout rising, I will cast a little beyond them and depending on the type of fly I have, I'll let it sink for a second or so before beginning to pulse the fly.
I'm so in the zone and comfortable with my equipment that it seems as if I am imagining the takes that catch fish.
I don't think of fishing, I imagine catching.
It's this methodical approach, this repetition of casting and moving the fly, over and over the same way that I believe is the success to my understanding when to set the hook in difficult still water.
A methodical approach promotes a sixth sense for catching.