Fujino Straight Line

I use Fujino Straight Line on my favorite rods and have caught many fish of all sizes with it. I also use it in a variety of applications, in ponds and lakes and also tenkara in mountain streams. It's a versatile line capable of the lightest and most sensitive presentations. It rivals single strand lines while it is a braided line, a totally different construction than a typical fluorocarbon level line.

Dr. Ishigaki designed the line and it works really well for sub surface presentations. The construction appears to be some sort of spectra or kevlar. This line is very tough, almost like gel spun backing but a little different. What ever it is made of, it is strong, limp and has no memory, perfect for casting tight loops. 

As with most lines, preparing them for fishing is a quick process of straightening coils and stretching the line. With this line, all you have to do is to attach it to the lillian, unspool, rig and cast. It is super limp, no memory. No running it through your fingers, no stretching it out before using it. It doesn't coil or knot up when you break off the tippet unsticking your line from the trees. The construction of it is braided, not furled or twisted, it just breaks the knot and it is ready to rig once it is free.

Indicator tip removed and Stonfo tippet ring tied directly on to the line.
Fujino Straight Line suspends well. It is not heavy like a multi strand line that lays on the water. It suspends at length and I use the 5m line with 3.9m and 4m+ rods. For the Furaibo (zoom), I cut the braided end off the line. The Furaibo is 3.9m rod stretched out and I like a line that is 1.5m longer than the rod. Cutting off the braided tip gives me a line closer to 4.9m and add in a 50cm tippet and there is my formula, a rod with +1.5m line. 

To rig the line, I add in a tippet ring. The Fujino Straight Line is comes with a stopper knot. Adding in a tippet ring does not degrade the performance of this line, it just gives it a nice connection (termination) without a kink and a uniform place for the tippet attachment knot to break off while protecting the rod. It's interesting, I've had many people cast and catch fish on my lines, all with tippet rings, and when I tell them the line has a tippet ring, they couldn't tell.

Stonfo Tippet Ring tied into the petite braided indicator tip
I also fish one of these lines almost stock, again, I just tie in a tippet ring on the braided indicator tip. It is clean and petite.

The reason why I am writing this endorsement is simple, I enjoy the line and use it quite a bit. I buy mine from Keiichi Okushi at Tenkaraya if you are interested. I think your favorite vendor may also carry them too. 

I like the tactility, it transmits well. I sometimes use tungsten beads on my kebari and I can feel it dragging along the bottom, hesitating at a rock, loading the line slightly and crawling up a rock, releasing and over the rock, I can feel that. I can feel the subtle take of a small fish and it's tail fluttering. It just might be more tactile at transmitting than a fluorocarbon level line.

I like Ishigaki-sensei approach with tenkara. He does a great job at promoting level line. If you don't know, historically, Dr. Ishigaki is the leader of level line promotion in Japan. When tenkara started to become sport decades ago, much of the community at that time used other types of multi strand lines. Hisao Ishigaki is the guy who turned a lot of people on to "Level Line" style of equipment and technique. Fujino Straight line is a very light braided line with a straight profile it's entire length, same as the fluorocarbon level lines as we use today. Dr. Ishigaki developed this line to accentuate the attributes of the level line single strand techniques he originated. 

Fujino Straight Line is light and durable, it handles well, is strong, limp (no memory) and is sensitive, it also rigs nicely. I've used one regularly for two years and it is durable. I think it is an excellent line that competes within the class of single strand fluorocarbon lines. It is relatively inexpensive and with it's durability, it is more than sustainable. It makes sense and I really like it.

This is a 4.9m Fujino Straight Line without the braided indicator tip.

Interview with Jason Sparks

Golden Trout and Jason Sparks

Jason Sparks is the author of a popular social media forum, “Appalachian Tenkara Anglers” that is very active with quite a few experienced tenkara anglers. It’s a forum where people come to learn about and share their experiences tenkara fishing. In 2016, Daniel Galhardo (Tenkara USA) named Jason Sparks, myself (Adam Trahan) and Jason Klass as “Outstanding Tenkara Ambassadors” for the sport. Ever since that time, I have wanted to find out more about Jason and I’m finally able to do that with this interview

Without further delay, let’s get started.

Adam: Jason, it is my pleasure for you to participate in this interview and I appreciate what you do.

“Is there anything you would like to open with?”

Jason Sparks: It is pretty cool to be able to connect like this. In my mind I see a really cool interview taking place between Will Farrell and Jack Black in wing-back chairs next to crackling fire. That image is a bit funny, because I'm not really sure where it comes from. I think we would be better suited to be sitting stream side to a small brook with a 270 in our hands ready for action at the end of this. Let's work off of that one.

Adam: I really like your forum.

It’s nice.

I personally enjoy participating there.

You drive it with questions and it’s open and the conversation is loose. As with social media, there is the human element in differences of opinions but from what I’ve read, there is very little aggravation. The forum has a great feel, there is a respect for diversity and I appreciate that.

You are the spark that got it started and keeps that going.

You also keep the ship going in the right direction.

I also like it that there is a wide variety of vendors contributing. Your forum is welcoming to all and that is important.

As we get deeper into the subject of tenkara, I want you to remember, I value your openness and your perspective on tenkara. The “ten colors” of tenkara are essential to remember when having the conversation on the growth and the history. The broad spectrum of this fun form of fly fishing is truly served by your forum.

“How did your forum come to existence?”

Jason Sparks: That seems like so long ago. I just had to look up what the date was that this group started, which was October 8th, 2012. There were some independent forums out there like Tenkara USA's forum and your Tenkara-Fisher forum and just a few groups on Facebook. At the time, the Tenkara USA group called “Tenkara Anglers” was the most popular and most active. That group was already having a global reach on social media. There was a few localized groups out there too, mostly tied into state areas. I wasn't really sure what I was doing or how best to approach it on day one. I took a regional approach and started the group originally as “Southern Appalachian Tenkara Anglers”. It was a bit of a rip-off maybe to latch onto the coat tails of “Tenkara Anglers” group name and simply add to it. I maybe should have been more original, but I wasn't. Mea culpa Daniel. At the time, I saw it as a bit of a subset to the TUSA group. I took the regional approach so the entire Southeast could play together and interact. About 2 years into it I could see that the member list far exceeded the Southeast region, it had gone a bit global also. The “Southern” was dropped as we grew into the “Appalachian Tenkara Anglers” group. Maybe it is akin to a baby moving from crawling around faster and faster to finally just standing upright an walking. By the time this renaming happened, the online group was pretty established as a “community” in my eyes.

Adam: It’s always interesting to me how people got into tenkara, especially outside of Japan. In America, there are as many ways as people found tenkara as there is tenkara anglers.

“How did you discover tenkara?”

Jason Sparks: Pizza. I discovered tenkara waiting for a pizza in Black Mountain, NC.

I was out on a day trip of adventure with my family one day. We had driven from Boone, NC over to Black Mountain about an hour away. We looked around that old hardware store on the corner that has been there for a hundred years. We looked at soaps, candles, birdhouses and expensive art in the shops spread around the central “old town” city blocks. When every one was good and hungry we stopped in the local brick oven pizza house. Sitting at the table I was turning pages in the regional “Blue Ridge Outdoors” adventure rag. There was an article titled “Unreel fly fishing” that caught my eye. About three paragraphs into it I realized this was something that I had never heard of before. I started the article over and paid attention to every word. I read it several times. This was something that I needed to know more about. That is the moment I found tenkara.

What my family remembers of the day was the visit to Tractor Supply Co. down the street after that pizza. There they had just put out the Spring load of baby chicks for sale. There were hundreds of soft fuzzy “chirpers” in pale yellow and whites. They begged and begged for those baby chicks. That didn't happen. Tenkara did.

Adam: In 2009, I was making bamboo fly rods when I got my first tenkara rod. Needless to say, I already was fly fishing for longer than the person was alive that introduced me to it! That was a little bit difficult to fathom, but I’ve learned many things in my life from young people.

Before tenkara was exported out of Japan, I had already been conversing with Yoshikazu Fujioka for many years. He wrote very little about tenkara back then, maybe a rare mention. Nothing like he does now with his extensive Japanese kebari study. Yoshikazu is primarily a fly fisherman and that is what his web site started as back in the 90’s.

After I transitioned to fishing tenkara as the only way for myself to approach a mountain stream, I began collecting old Japanese books and traveled to Japan to find out more about it. On my first trip, I was guided around by a Japanese fly fisherman. Here I am in Japan, an experienced fly fisherman wanting to learn tenkara, and it’s a Japanese fly fisherman that is introducing me to Japanese tenkara experts. Tenkara is something that is very small in relation to the whole of fly fishing there.

Truly, it’s the way that I see tenkara here in America. It’s growing but it’s still small in relation to the whole of fly fishing.

Back then and even now, tenkara has always been a little confusing to me because of the nature which it exists and how the information is typically disseminated.

“Was tenkara easy for you to understand when you started?”

Jason Sparks: Tie on a kebari, cast the fly, catch a fish. Tenkara is easy. What more is there to understand anyway?

In the context of the question “... easy to understand when I started?”, I think that answer is yes. In it's simplest form and definition, fixed line fly fishing made sense to me. I quickly saw the benefits the rod system added and I saw the variables it eliminated from other types of fishing. That is a short answer.

I've been fishing for more than four decades. The first ten years of that was introductory and novice in practice. I knew how scour the dark wet grass for night crawlers and skewer them on a 1/0 bait holder hook. I grew out of my Zebco 202 green plastic push-button spin-caster to a spinning rod in my teens. At that time I adopted a mindset to start using artificial baits and lures. I think this was the first conscious challenge I made for myself in my angling. Could I continue to catch fish by “tricking” them to bite a piece of plastic? I went into ultra light spin gear and found that level of touch was so much fun. That started my intermediate phase that was nearly the next two decades. I really didn't grow very much in my angling knowledge or skill set during this time. Towards the end of that period I started dropping treble hooks from my lures and running them with one single hook. That allowed me to fish some North Carolina waters that are designated as “single hook artificial only”. It was another step toward increasing my knowledge and experience to be a better angler.

With all of that said after my short answer, I'd like to say that the fixed line rod system has increased my angling knowledge in just a few years much more than the first decades did. That is where the “easy to understand” in the question takes on many deeper layers on insight and explanation. Since the day I found tenkara, I have begun to study angling, gear application, presentation techniques, approach angles, and much more in very different ways. My willingness to learn from tenkara has made me a vastly better angler. Tenkara was my introduction to fly fishing.

Adam: Recently, I’ve been including a little reading by a broader audience of tenkara authors outside of Japan. Particularly, “Discover Tenkara” and the information that is co-presented with their Japanese peers. Paul Gaskell is an experienced fly fisherman and I see this as an attribute and relevant to the conversation on tenkara. I enjoy a fly fisher’s presentation of tenkara. I believe an experienced fly fisherman, with the help of Japanese experts is an attribute of tenkara. Many of the best tenkara anglers in and outside of Japan also do fly fishing. Their expertise in the greater scope of fly fishing and the focus on Japanese tenkara is advantageous to the story of tenkara within the broader community of fly fishing.

“Jason, can you reflect on fly fishing and it’s relation to tenkara?”

Jason Sparks: I know most of the readers understand the words of “fly fishing” and “tenkara” that we are using are to differentiate between the two styles. For the readers that may be newly introduced to tenkara, I want to let them know that we both agree that “tenkara” is “fly-fishing”. The word choice we are using is to distinguish between conventional western style rod & reel fly fishing and fixed line fly fishing practices.

To the question, I understand what you are saying here Adam. I have blurry lines around this topic. If I were looking to learn a strict discipline of historical and traditional tenkara, then finding an instructor deeply schooled in this practice would be ideal. That set of lessons though would need to set with strict discipline to the origins of the style and the practical application of it. Quite frankly, I'm not sure that exists, or is needed. The Japanese with the greatest knowledge are sharing valuable information with all us that are new to tenkara, and by that I mean those of us that are in it over the previous ten years. I suspect that many of them are familiar with and have fly fishing knowledge. Has that influenced or bled over into the tenkara lessons that have been shared?

Let me take a step back and clarify that. I'm not making any assertions to any of the shared knowledge. Not at all. I'm not saying that they are pure teachings and I'm not saying it it blended with other influences. Let me ask a question here. If you learned pure unadulterated tenkara teachings, would you apply it as such on the water, without blending other angling knowledge?

I don't. When I am fishing I am sure that I blend the lessons I have read or been taught about tenkara with things I have discovered for myself. I am sure that I blend trout tactics with bass tactics. I am sure that I blend moving water techniques with still water ones. I think my point is that I have a toolbox of tactics. When fishing, there is a primary focus on the tools selection I have made, but undoubtedly it is influenced by the breadth of knowledge that I have, whatever that may actually be.

Let me choose some different words to express what I shared in the previous question. I am a better angler because I have learned some tenkara methods. I am a better tenkara angler because I know many other styles of fishing. All my angling knowledge fits into “my toolbox” and I call on it every time I hit the water. So the relationship between fly fishing and tenkara might be about applied comprehension. The more you know about fishing in general, fish behavior, lure selection, lure presentation, reading water, etc. makes you a better angler. The two styles of angling are not dependent to each other. You can do one and not the other. What I have chosen to do gather knowledge across the board and apply it smartly where it is best suited.

Adam: In my old and new Japanese tenkara books, quite a few include western fly fishing within their pages.

I believe the two forms are closer together than they are farther apart and in my view, they perfectly co-exist together inside of Japan and I want to promote this outside of Japan.

I don’t believe you should sell your fly rod to get into tenkara. Get into tenkara to use it where it works. Bring the two together, I don’t want to contribute to a divide. The two should coexist because they belong in the same family, tools in the same tool box.

On their own, the Japanese have been doing both since the beginning of tenkara as a sport.

Marketing tenkara can be like politics. It can bring people together or it can divide them.

Perhaps you understand what I’m trying to get across, fly fishing and tenkara are brothers in the same family.

At the time of the writing of this interview, I do not know if you are a fly fisherman. That is neither a plus or a minus for me, but it will be interesting to understand your perspective either way on how the two are in relationship to each other.

“What do you think of the fly fishermen that negatively portray tenkara?”

Jason Sparks: I don't understand it quite frankly. I sort of have two groups divided in my head around fly fishermen, or more appropriately said, fly-fishing anglers. One would be every day recreational fly casters and the other would be the business/industry side of it. I'm not sure I understand why recreational anglers would get their neck hairs up over a different method of catching fish. I have talked with many people that haven excellent bass catching skills and they don't seem to mind fixed line angling. There have been crappie specialists here in the South that have no interest in coming to fisticuffs over fishing method differences. I don't suppose a “fly fisherman” ever went ape over those swimmers itching to stick their forearm into a 30lb catfish mouth. Do fly fishermen bang on “noodlers”? I don't understand it. I don't feel like they should any insecurity around it or any fear of threat. It isn't like tenkara anglers are trying to take over the world.

 The business side of it also baffles me. For the most part, there are very few things a real business should have strong objections too. Child labor, intellectual property theft, and global/local corporate citizenship concerns are ones I can understand. I can't see any scenario where a fishing style or type of fishing rod is one of them. For fishing industry businesses, gill nets I get. Long-lines in protected waters I get. Dolphin slaughters, yeah that too. But why would a business take such offended positions as some of the fishing industry and small private fly shops have? It doesn't make any business sense to me at all. There are small fly fishing shops and outfitters that even carry tenkara rods and accessories as product. Many make no effort to learn the style or the tactics. Many can't speak intelligently about tenkara or even open and rig the rod safely. I'm surely not suggesting that all fly shops are like that, but we all have stepped into ones that are. It just makes no sense to me.

Adam: As I read more and more on current tenkara perspectives, I see a lot of division. I feel bad about it but people tend to gather together with those of the same opinion. Politics is an example of this divisiveness, the way people gather, divide and the rhetoric that goes along with that.

I don’t even want to go into tenkara politics or contribute to that divide. We go fishing to escape that yet when we gather in social media, we are not fishing, we are gathering and conversing about our subject. I think your forum and particularly you are good for the sport. You are bringing many new people into tenkara and I appreciate it.

“What motivates you to continue with the forum? It’s been a long time now since you have been doing it.”

Jason Sparks: I didn't realize that it has been six years now. That is a pretty long time. Why do I keep messing with it? That is a good question. More than once I've looked at the membership to see if there was a good set of hands, or several, that I could pass the reigns off too. The truth is that the forums takes from me and gives back to me. If it were monetized in some way, I may have people interested in taking it over. As it is, it is a community that I lead, but “we” built one by one. I have a vested interest in seeing it survive and grow in some smart fashion. There are three large tenkara groups on facebook. I don't compare Appalachian Tenkara Anglers to them in any way. Number of members isn't my measure. This group has been modeled to be an interactive community of welcoming and sharing people. I don't have anything to sell. Every week we have new faces arrive and ask a first question. It is the open arms that the returning answers come from that really makes me smile. I see people answering questions now that only six or nine months ago were asking the same questions. We have very experienced tenkara anglers chiming in to help answer stuff. Knowing that this group is accepted as a central place to “gather” online across brands and definitions of tenkara and fixed line angling, I really like that. That is why I continue to do it.

Adam: I think that Japanese tenkara has a story that must be included in the conversation on our subject, it’s where we came from and it is honorable to understand our history and where it was developed.

In my own interview with Masami Sakakibara and also reading interview with Yoshiyuki Mushu in the Discover Tenkara book, I am understanding a common idea that once tenkara has left Japan, it is open to interpretation and discussion however, the Japanese history and form should be included in the conversation along the way. I find that honorable to where tenkara. In my case necessary from day one and to this day, I separate Japanese tenkara and everything else outside of Japan.

When I use my tenkara rod for Rio Grande Cichlids or Sunfish in warm water, I use the hashtag #untenkara when writing about or describing it on social media. If I am conversing with people online, I do not point out what their tenkara is or isn’t, what they do is their fishing, I do mine.

I tell the story of tenkara passively.

I know what tenkara is.

I think the passion for this form of fishing is awesome, the people into it really enjoy it and for me, how you practice your craft, it doesn’t matter to me…

Jason, I understand you are open to different styles of flys and presentation on our subject, tenkara fishing and my words are in no way a critique nor am I trying to throw shade on you.

I respect you and your work and I enjoy your contribution to tenkara and I think you are bringing more people to the sport than you are creating a divide with people that have a singular view.

“What is your perspective on the growth of online tenkara communities and the Japanese storyline?”

Jason Sparks: This is an interesting question and I've thought about it more than a few times. I am sure that my position on this has changed a bit over the last few years. I wonder what other perspectives people have looked at it from. Let me step out on a limb for a second. Have you ever wondered about the origins of using fiddler crabs to catch sheepshead against the pylons of a pier? Have you researched the birth of molded plastic baits for largemouth bass? Was having a deep understanding of sea run striped bass necessary to chase them when they swam miles up the Connecticut rivers? How about... hey, there are many more examples. Note that was to the proverbial “you” by the way. If you have done anything of the sort, was “origins” knowledge necessary for you to be able to fish that way? All the times I fished those ways I didn't really care about origins of or the story behind it. I just went fishing. 

 Why does “tenkara” have to be treated differently?

With that pointed out, I'd like to say that for me, it is different. It has been important for me to learn about it from an inquisitive scholar perspective. I don't proclaim to be the most educated on the tenkara story. I do however know enough to satisfy me for right now. When I want to know more, I'll go find my own answers. I think it is very important that the authentic tenkara storylines are available online and on social media platforms. I'd like to think that all tenkara anglers would be interested in that. It is clear that many are not. I like that the information is available and I like to direct people to it. However, I'm not the tenkara police and don't feel like chasing anyone down that may be “doing it wrong” by someone else's interpretations.

Adam: You do more than the forum. I’ve seen some reporting on gatherings. I’m not playing dumb, I just don’t follow everything you do so I ask the questions here to understand and bring to light what you do.

“What else do you do to create community in tenkara? Gatherings? Camp outs? Get togethers? Can you go into this a little?”

Jason Sparks: I seem to recall that one of the first things that ever got planned was a fishing trip to some amazing back-country water in the Blue Ridge Mountains near Boone, NC. I planned it, promoted and invited people to it. The local tenkara guide, Bob Ivins and I were ready to show off some local waters. One person came. The three of us tackled the water and had a great day together. It was a success. Why? Because it was the first one, with bigger better things to follow.

There was an idea that came about to create a tenkara event that included merchandise as well as educational presentations. The first one came together in Foscoe, NC after a few conversations with Bob Ivins and Lance Milks. As the event was coming together, I was working on branding for it. As a friendly gathering of vendors and anglers, sharing a room for learning, wiggling rods and telling fish stories, along with catered Carolina BBQ and some time on the water together, it was clear it was going to need a name. Late one night, “Tenkara Jamboree” popped into my head. We have had four different “Tenkara Jam” events here on the East coast. I am very proud of those events. There has also been several tenkara camp outs planned and executed. We did an event at Smokemont Campground in the Great Smoky Mountain National Park in October a few years ago. In October of this year we just has the “Tenkara Campout: Davidson River” in the Pisgah National Forest just outside of Brevard, NC. The in-person get togethers are really nice.

I've also tried a handful of interactive events in the Appalachian Tenkara Anglers group. We have held kebari/fly swaps. We have had round robin swaps, where you send a dozen of the same fly to someone and receive a dozen of the same fly from someone else. I also include a “tie or buy” clause in the kebari/fly swaps. This means that buying a dozen gets you in the same way as if you had tied them. The effort is to include as many people as possible. There has been several “kebari material swaps”. This is where you join to send $10-$15 of spare materials you have in your goodie box to someone else. And receive $10-$15 of spare materials from someone else. The idea is that you get exposed to new tying materials without having to spring for it yourself. That concept seemed pretty original and I haven't seen it replicated anywhere yet. The idea actually came from something you did Adam. When I was just getting into tying flies you sent over a care package of feathers, hooks and items. That inspired the material swap where others could participate in something similar.

For the previous fours years, I was presenting a “Tenkara 101” class for the North Carolina Wildlife Resource Commission at the Pisgah Center for Wildlife Education. There were usually six sessions through the warmer months. The program covered tenkara basics to include; history, rods, lines, flies and tactics. I hope this picks up again next year.

I'm always considering ideas to continue and start up in an effort to keep the tenkara momentum moving forward, growing and expanding.

Adam: When I started tenkara, I was all about being a rank beginner. Even as an accomplished (advanced) fly fisherman, I wanted to learn tenkara from a day one perspective. I started a forum, it grew but people did not learn about tenkara as I did and my perspective is mine. I don’t expect people to know what I know, especially if they aren’t studying the things as I study.

As I traveled to Japan and fished with many different tenkara experts in many different mountains and their streams. What I learned was not what I was reading in social media. I didn’t force my understanding of it preferring to just report what I knew.

I see your forum as a portal. There are experts there and there are a lot of beginners too. I like to see the mixing of experiences, I think this is where you see a lot of growth.

“For the Appalachian Tenkara Anglers forum on Facebook, where do you see it going?”

Jason Sparks: It has been pretty much on the same path of growth since it was started. It is very important to me that the group is inclusive. That the group is tolerant. That the group is welcoming. The interactive and dynamic nature of the membership is special. Every week we get brand new members. We do have some very experienced tenkara anglers in the group. The model that has been crafted by my efforts, but driven by the members, is that of mentoring. Every week beginner questions get answered with respect. Valued experience is shared by a veteran angler. Short of Zuckerberg pinging me to let me know that ATA just won the facebook global recognition award that carries a $1MM check with it, I just want it to continue being what it is; a smart and caring place for like minded anglers to share time and knowledge.

Adam: I’ll be honest, as much as I enjoy the social aspect of online tenkara discussion, I also want to escape it. Typically, I go alone on long journeys up to twelve hours drive time and sometimes I get on a plane, alone and follow my dreams about it.

Lately, I’ve had a friend or two to share my adventures with. I have a friend in particular share almost all of my trips. He also is a fly fisherman learning tenkara and I don’t force anything on him. He has access to my library, really isn’t interested so much in that kind of study and his tenkara is excellent. He does cross some flys as I do but that’s about it.

We leap frog each other onstream and we stop for onigiri and some sake or whiskey.

I cherish the time we spend together, he is a family man too and we escape like a couple of kids to our youth.

“How do you do it? Do you fish alone? Tell us about your adventures into the forest.”

Jason Sparks: Not necessarily by design, but I fish alone nine out of ten times. Mostly because I don't plan out many fishing days in advance and it often is a moment of opportunity. I love spending time in the waters with people at Tenkara Jam, and the tenkara camp outs. That is nice to watch others “do” as a learning experience. I love to share that. A bigger truth may be that I like fishing alone. Being alone on the water, operating at my speed in my waters is where I find myself.

Have you seen the movie with Kevin Costner when he is a baseball player about to pitch a perfect game? Not “Field of Dreams”. It is the other one, “For Love of the Game”. There is a scene in there when this perfect game is coming together for him. The fans in New York are heckling him, the pressure of the situation is mounting. I mean “a perfect game” in baseball is a big deal. The camera dials in on Costner's face and you hear his voice say “Clear The Mechanism” as the sound falls to silence and the entire stadium of activity goes into a blur. The only thing in focus is the pitcher and the batter. At that point he is dialed in.

That is me on the water. When I get three steps into the water, I have dozens and dozens of times said out loud those very words, “Clear The Mechanism”. My time fishing allows me to decompress. This is where I find myself. That cool water grabs the hardness of my day and flushes it downstream. The experiences I have on the water are mine. There is a savior in that.

Adam: I read where you traveled to California and you went and caught your trout in Horseshoe Meadows, I’m going to do that too sometime soon.

“Can you tell us about that?”

Jason Sparks: That was the single most impressionable day fishing I have ever had. I will never forget it.

It almost didn't happen you know. My three day California license had expired the night before after fishing Yosemite NP for a few days. At breakfast, I opted to pass on the morning of fishing and just drive out from Lone Pine into Death Valley early. My wife insisted! I had read about them, talked about them, planned for them, mapped them, and tied special kebari for them. She knew where my heart was. Praise her, she saved the day.

This was the day that we drove up to 10,000 feet in the Sierra Nevada mountains and entered into the Golden Trout Wilderness. This place was magical. For an Appalachian angler, these were very different mountains. Once we left the parking lot we were both trudging through sandy soil with small bits of gravel in it. It was very much like walking on the beach. We pushed down the trail about half a mile and then turned left into the meadow. The short grasses were waving in the wind and seemingly pushing us toward the dark green ribbon meandering through Horseshoe Meadow. The creek in that meadow was some of the smallest water I have ever fished.

It averaged about 12 inches deep and about 30 inches wide at most points. There were some bends that opened up a bit and there were some straightaways that were super tight. I had a new Nissin RS 270 rod I was breaking in on these fish. I got it rigged up and started casting quickly. Look, I was super excited and almost giddy. Within a few casts I had my first catch. At this point I was definitely giddy. This was a high altitude Californian Golden Trout, native only to these mountains. It was the most beautiful fish I have ever caught. That is saying something since my comparison it to the Southern Appalachian brook trout, which is a Blue Ridge gem.

This meadow offered no vertical cover at all. There was nothing to hide behind, with the exception being the bank itself. I found myself working back and forth across the side of the creek with a keen awareness to the undercut banks that the slow flow of water had made over the centuries. The little wild fish were very skittish. The wind was breezing and gusting the entire time. The midday sun was bright and the sky was an amazing blue. I worked that creek for three hours. In that time, I landed 39 golden trout. I could probably go on and on about the amazing day on the water. It was a pinnacle day.

Adam: Freaking awesome.

I’ve asked you some really tough questions, I know you are a good guy and I have come to understand a little about your background.

“Can you tell us about what you do?”

Jason Sparks: In my day job, I work for a large bank in a global crimes group and investigate money laundering. Essentially this is looking at the source of funds, tracking movement of funds and assessing activity around those funds trying to determine if suspicious activity is present. Some scenarios present themselves in very obvious manners, some do not. It is important for me to collect information and frame a story that clearly explains illicit monies and the ways that it are being used. It may be more important that I can glean the right information that explains and justifies the activity for your neighbor. We don't want to get these reports wrong.

“Jason, do you have any questions for me?”

Jason: I may be looking for a few tips here. How do you manage to keep your Tenkara-Fisher forum relevant?

Adam: I stopped the Tenkara Fisher forum at the start of 2017 due to a malicious hacker planting a virus in our database.

I have been making forums for twenty some odd years but keeping them relavant was never in the cards for for me. You see, I’ve had at least a couple of forums going on, somewhere since 95. Let me explain, I usually make a forum because I’m interested in something and want to learn more about it. When I have stopped learning, if the forum is interesting on it’s own then I just let it run it’s course. If I end up driving it trying to keep it relavant, then I know the life of it on it’s own is over and I move on either letting it die or transfering it to someone else.

Relevant just was not in the thought process.

Hackers have killed a couple of the forums too. That’s a war I’m not interested in fighting. The way the Hacker’s have fun is evil, screw that, not fun. So I stopped setting up forums on servers I had to pay for and let the big social media companies fight the hacker war. That is a big relief.

At this time in my life, I’m really focusing divorcing myself from the Internet, 

I’m taking back my time. 

Your interview is a project I’m happy to get in the can. I’m not going to do this like I’ve done in the past. It’s all about my time and that is a precious thing. I’ll still go online and do the things I do, I’m just not going to waste time doing it.

Absolutely NO REFLECTION on what you do, you are an individual, just as I am and you do what you do and I respect that as I’ve already said.

Jason: We have seen several companies embrace “warm water tenkara” in the last few years. Badger Tenkara was one of the first to really push on small mouth bass as a target species. I remember having some talks with Daniel at Tenkara USA some years ago about addressing a wider group of anglers, such as warm water fishers. You spent some time working with them on the inside with them. What did you learn or experience about how a business looks at the direction of growth tenkara is making outside of Japan?

Adam: I already had learned a lot about fly fishing ever before being introduce to tenkara by Daniel Galhardo. I was making bamboo fly rods at the time and my education in fly fishing was nearly complete. I just like doing it. I was fly fishing in the salt, making bamboo and then the housing market forced us to sell our home and no more shop. The timing was right, this focused form of Japanese stream fishing that was similar but better to what I was doing comes along and boom, I want to get good at this, learn all about it and sharpen that knife in my tool box.

In learning, I became affiliated with Sakura and many of the experts in tenkara from Japan. I was doing this independantly from Daniel and Tenkara USA, sort of in parallel, same path but a little different.

I’m happy the way I ran my own business, I helped people if they needed help, even if they were a competitor.

When I was hired to work for Tenkara USA, I didn’t find out anything new about tenkara in Japan or the way they run their business. Tenkara USA has done an excellent job at spreading tenkara. The way they do it is their trade and their recipe. I was a professional tenkara angler for a while when I was working for them. As a professional, their secrets are safe with me. But the truth is, there are no secrets, just a bunch of nice guys and well, Margaret, she is cool.

Jason: It looks like my interview is #39 to be posted to your site. That is an impressive catalog you have there. I am honored to be included in this group. I'm always inspired when I see so much strong positive energy being shared across the “tenkara world”. I suppose that mine being number #39 and that fact that I caught 39 golden trout on my bucket list day may be just a coincidence. But then again, maybe not. The “tenkara gods” may shine on me yet.

Adam: I really appreciate who you are and what you do.

“Thank you for participating in this interview.”

A Few Questions with Kozue Sanbe

Kozue Sanbe and Yuzo Sebata
I have been following Kozue-san from afar via social media. Her role in our tenkara community visiting Japan is also important. Her presence in the Bansho as I visited Tadami was felt and I admired her willingness to help in all the things of a travelling fisher. She assisted with meals, transportation and generally being a super guest as I visited her area so far away from home.
I purposefully kept close to her as our group stayed in the Bansho and moved to the Aizu watershed for a fishing adventure. I felt like she was helpful and kind. She does not speak English, I do not speak Japanese but I wanted her to know that I think she is special and that I appreciate her contribution to the visitors of the bansho and tenkara community.
Without going on too much about Kozue-san, let me begin.
Kozue-san driving us to the trailhead to go fishing in the Akakuzure-sawa

Adam: Kozue-san, here we are! I told you that I we would do an Interview! I have wondered about you more than a few times since I saw you in September of 2016 and I hope life finds you well.
“Will you please tell us a little bit about yourself?”
Kozue Sanbe: My name is Kozue Sanbe and I am an administrator at Tadami bansho.
Adam: I want you to know that I really appreciate what you do, your hospitality. Thank you. 
“Can you tell us, how long have you been at the bansho and fishing in the area?”
Kozue Sanbe: I have worked here for 9 years and have been tenkara fishing four years.
Adam: I enjoyed my stay at the bansho in Tadami, it was an amazing experience. I was looking around and observing the different people in the bansho and realized you were a very big help and ever present.
“What else do you do at the bansho?”
Kozue Sanbe: I am also the only sightseeing manager at the bansho.

Adam: Here in my area of the Southwestern United States, our oldest homes are about a hundred years old.
“How old is the bansho and what was it designed for?”
Kozue Sanbe: About 250 years ago, the bansho was a house built for a farmer Shoya. It is a building of the Edo period, a time when Samurai lived and stayed here. The bansho was a guard house.
Adam: Kozue-san, I interviewed Yoko Goto, it was a really fun interview. She is a really keen angler.
You are too from what I see of your pictures.
“Please tell us who taught you tenkara?”
Kozue Sanbe: Yuzo Sebata
Adam: I was given a big bag of zenmai when I got to the bansho, I know that some of the trails in the mountains around Tadami are zenmai paths
“Do you know anything about the zenmai collectors?”
Kozue Sanbe: My father made a hut on the mountain and stayed on the mountain for a month during the spring. The zenmai from spring was handed over you, zenmai collected by my father.
Adam: Sebata-san is a very keen angler, I really enjoyed watching the videos of him while we where there.
“Do you go fishing with Sebata-san? Can you tell us a story about it?”
Kozue Sanbe: I went fishing in a nearby river for three years now. Since then, I go stay in the mountains and Sebata-san taught me a lot.
Adam: There are not that many women tenkara anglers in Japan from what I understand. 
“Can you tell us the percentage?”
Kozue Sanbe: I do not know the proportion of female fishermen, but there are 50 Utsunomiya club members of the fishing association that I am in and there is only one woman.
Adam: When I go fishing, it is a chance for me to escape the stressful world of the city. I understand from talking with many anglers in your area that the old zenmai trails are overgrown and many of the youth in the area are leaving for the city.
“Are the old ways disappearing?”
Kozue Sanbe: Yes, young people are moving into cities.
Adam: I spent quite a bit of time and effort to get to Tadami to stay in the bansho and go fishing in the area. It is beautiful and I enjoyed myself so much. 
“Do you want more people to come to the area and fish?”
Kozue Sanbe: Yes, we want more people to come to this area and catch fish. The transition of the four seasons is beautiful, please come visit the bansho in Tadami.
Adam: I just went fishing this morning and caught a couple of fish with a friend. We went fishing in the city in man made ponds with fish that were put there for fishing. It is very convenient and we do it in the winter because we do not have to drive so far.
“What do you think of things like this? In urban ponds that are in the city.”
Kozue Sanbe: I just want to walk along and fish in the stream while feeling nature. I will be happy if I can see beautiful fish.

Adam: Sanbe-san, thank you again for joining me here, I would like to wrap this up by thanking Akinori-san for his help in interpreting, thank you. I understand these interviews take time.
Tadami Bansho

Genryu Fishing of Japan #42

Rainbow trout in Cobalt Blue stream

by Keiichi Okushi

Driving a car from the town where I live to the west for about two hours, there is a river named Ohsabi-gawa (Ohsabi-river) that flows from the mountains that continue to the south from Nasu mountain ranges. Its genryu area is still close to towns and villages where people live relatively. It is a genryu that can be easily approached, but the beauty of that genryu area is said to be the best in Kanto region. From the nearest village it only takes about 10 minutes to enter the dirt forest way entrance, and if we drive a car around a mountain for about 15 minutes, the scenery around there shows the aspect of deep mountain valley at once. The river is flowing far far below the steep cliffs in deep rich forests. So, we can only hear the sound of the river faintly on the forest road.

And above all, the beauty of the Ohsabi-gawa's water color is noteworthy. Normally, in the mountain streams of Japan, it shows the color of emerald green in the pools and deep flow parts. But, the color of the water in the genryu area of Ohsabi-gawa shines in a wonderfully beautiful cobalt blue. It is said that it is the influence of minerals contained in hot spring water springing in the head of the source. We genryu fishers called it “Ohsabi Blue” to honor its beauty. Even with those points, this Ohsabi-gawa is a river with enough charm to introduce to you, but there is another reason to make this Ohsabi-gawa famous more.

I wrote in this essay that "In Japan the fish living most upstream of the river is Iwana, no fish live upstream from Iwana." I think that it was certainly the episode of "Iwana". However, there are some exceptions, one of which is this Ohsabi-gawa. It is the fact that many rainbow trout were inhabited over the upstream of the habitat of Iwana, in the most upper part of Ohsabi-gawa. Those rainbow trout were also introduced in the articles of fishing magazines long time ago, and I heard from Mr. Sebata, saying that there were many rainbow trout in the stream and the large rainbow trout of 50cm to 60cm bent the fishing rods bigger.

Well, why did such a thing happen? It was because the Japanese fisheries experimental station had been released those rainbow trout to Ohsabi-gawa experimentally to test if American trout could live in genryu area of rivers in Japan. It was said that they discharged rainbow trout several times upstream of Otaki (Big Watefall) which was a run-up stop for Iwana at that time. The result was a huge success, and rainbow trout was said to have expanded their habitat considerably deep into the genryu area after that. It is about the beginning of the Showa era, that is more than 90 years ago from now. At that time the food situation in Japan was still bad, and rainbow trout was imported as the new food from the United States under such circumstances.

Unfortunately, now we are unable to see a group of rainbow trout swimming in the source of Okawa. This is because someone released Iwana from down-stream of the waterfall to the habitat of this rainbow trout 20 or 30 years ago. Afterthat, Iwana won the inhabitation competition with rainbow trout and now it is hard to see the appearance of rainbow trout in the genryu area. In recent years, not only fish but also various organisms raise problems of alien species, but it seemed that Iwana of native species of Japan was stronger than rainbow trout in this case.

Even now, rainbow trout is often released to the rivers and lakes here in Japan, but mostly it is done in the sections such as the catch & release areas, and many fish are poorly conditioned and many do not have natural mating power. Nevertheless, there are some places where rainbow trout, which were released in some rivers in Hokkaido and Honshu, are breeding naturally. Actually, even in this Ohsabi-gawa, we can meet descendants of rainbow trout that continues from the long time ago. It is only a little, but if you go to the most upper part of genryu section beyond a series of waterfalls walking several hours from the entrance point of the genryu. Yes, we are still able to encounter rainbow trout who are alive in that isolated area.

In the summer of 2018, I went to Ohsabi-gawa to see those rainbow trout with my genryu fishing friends Takano-san and Fuku-chan for 2 nights. Actually, I had gon fishing in Ohsabi-gawa 5 or 6 times so far, but I had never caught rainbow trout at all. Once, I walked to a considerable genryu section and stayed for a night and fished, but it seemed that I had not reached to the habitat of the rainbow trout. This time, we gathered at parking palce at the end of the forest road and stayed for a night. We got down to the river as soon as the next morning walking for about an hour and a half. We set up a temba (camp) where we walked the river about 30 minutes from the entrance point. We walked to the most genryu area soon taking only fishing equipment and lunch. On the way, we did not do any fishing. We left the temba at 9 o'clock and arrived at the place which seemed to be the habitat of rainbow trout at around 11:30.

We prepared for fishing quickly and started fishing. Soon Fuku-chan and Takano-san caught fish first, but both were good sized Iwana. "Well, I guess we can not catch rainbow trout easily." After such conversations, Fuku-chan finally fished a small rainbow trout at the place where we climbed over two small waterfalls. And Takano-san fished a little bigger rainbow trout as well. Both rainbow trout were not big but beautiful, a wild rainbow trout without any doubt. At first glance, the rainbow trout of Ohsabi-gawa had very dilute green (or blue) color on the back, and the red band on the side of the body was remarkably shading in color. It was rainbow trout with a distinctly different personality from rainbow trout living in other rivers and lakes in Japan.

Following them, I also took out my fishing rod. They gave me a first-class point with a deep flow under a small waterfall of about 1 meter. I cast the fly just under the waterfall and letting it drift natural about 2m, then fish came out immediately. When hooked him up, the next moment the big fish jumped. A typical rainbow trout fight pattern. I enjoyed his powerful pull. After a wonderful fight, I landed a rainbow trout that was a little smaller than 30cm.

While I was taking pictures of the fish which I normally do not take, I suddenly got a feeling "this rainbow trout was living his life in that isolated genryu area connecting the life from ancestors released to Ohsabi-gawa almost 100 years ago." Then he looked like a very precious thing like a jewel to me. Yes, I thought he was the jewel of genryu, and although rainbow trout is not a native fish of Japan, I really wanted them and their descendants to stay alive in this genryu area of Ohsabi-gawa forever.

Genryu Fishing of Japan #41

Snow Bridge in mid July

by Keiichi Okushi

This year, rainy season ended much earlier than usual year. In our main genryu fishing field Tohoku, generally the rainy season ends around middle to end of July, but it ended by the end of June this year. As soon as July came, the summer had come. The sun was shining and glittering strongly every day. I do not like the rainy and humid climate of the rainy season, but when the rainy season had ended so soon, I was concerned about the shortage of water. Not to mention growth of agricultural crops, I was also worried that the genryu in the summer would not be drought.

In mid-July, on the three consecutive holidays including the marine day, I went to Arakawa flowing on the south side of the Asahi mountain range with 2 friends, Go-chan and Ubi-chan. Arakawa genryu area is a beautiful mountain stream that runs through white granite river-bank, and the stream is surrounded by mountains of 1,500 meters to 1,800 meters and untouched forests of beech. For me Arakawa is a stream that I have fished many times already, but it is the first genryu in Asahi Mountains for Go-chan and Ubi-chan. Tenba (Camp site) is only 2 hours walk from the car parking, and we can use the climbing trail up to the tenba.

In this fishing trip, we planned to stay at this tenba for 2 nights and aimed to go to the upstream waterfall called “Magari-daki” that I have never been before. A little while ago when I visited Sebata-san at Bansho in Tadami, as I talked about this fishing trip, Sebata-san said, "There must be still snowy bridges remaining in mid-July and it might be impossible to go to Magari-daki." However, we did not have much snow this year, so I thought that it would be fine in the middle of July as expected.

When we arrived at car parking lots by Arakawa, as the weather forecast was very good for the three consecutive holidays, there were 5 or 6 cars were parked in the parking lots at the gate of the climbing pass already. Early in the morning, when nobody had gotten up yet, we started walking up the mountain path. Arakawa's climbing path continued upstream along the river, so there was no hard climb. We walked breathlessly in the deep forest where stunning beech trees are scattered. We crossed three suspended bridges that gradually became poorer, and when the sun appeared over the mountains, we arrived in Temba.

Around the time the Tarp and the Blue Sheet were set up in the tenba, 2 anglers were coming down to the stream. We exchanged greetings. They said "We will stay for one night, so we would like to go to the tenba of about an hour and fish around there." I said “OK, then we will fish lower part today.” “We will take care walking not to spook fish” they said and walked to up stream.

We had a break for a while and prepared for fishing. Go-chan said he would like to fish near tenba and have a little nap today. I could understand him because we only slept for 2 or 3 hours a night before. Ubi-chan and I decide to fish up to Masudome-no-taki (Trout Stop Water Fall) which is about 1km up-stream from the temba. Arakawa in this section is surrounded by un-touched deep forest of big old beech trees, and stream flows slowly with a large amount of water.

I thought fishing might be a tough condition because it was already July and many fishers walked and fished around this area, but contrary to expectations, the fish showed good reactions to our kebari. There were nice sized iwana of 24-27 cm vent our rods at every good point. Apparently the two leading fishers seemed to have walked so as not to rough the fishing points. Ubi-chan and I enjoyed fine fishing up to Masu-dome water fall. We had lunch under the water fall and walked back to the tenba.

When we arrived at the tenba another 2 guys lookd ike fishers were resting by the tenba. I said hello to them, then one guy told me “You are Okushi-san, aren’t you?”. He was a genryu fisher that I once met in the keiryu and talked for a while. They were wanting to stay at this tenba, so we welcomed them to set a tarp by our place. Luckily there was enough space for one more tarp. I said, “Let’s drink together tonight.” “Yes, of course.” they answered with smile.

"Photo by Uberto Calligarich"
We started bonfire around 5:00 and prepared for dinner. That evening, Go-chan cooked lamb-chop steaks with salt, pepper and rosemary. We called 2 guys and had beer together. Lamb-chop steaks were so good. We also cooked more foods and enjoyed talking until about 9:00 pm. When noticing, the starry sky, that was promising good weather of next day, was spreading in the night sky.

Next morning, we woke up at 6:30 am. When we were having breakfast, 2 young guys looked like Sawanobori (Stream trekking) were coming over. They told that they were on a day hike sawanobori and do some fishing too. We said we would probably catch up sometimes later, and we saw off them. There were many people because of 3 consecutive holidays. Well, thought that day's fishing was difficult, but I thought it was OK if we could see Magari-daki, and we left Tenba after 8:00 am.

"Photo by Uberto Calligarich"
The morning mist hung over the river where the sun light was not reached yet. We aimed up-stream and walked in this fantastic scenery. It only took us 30 minutes to Masu-dome waterfall where we finished fishing yesterday. Masudome waterfall is only about 8m but it had a large amount of water and there was a huge pool under the waterfall. There was also another 8m waterfall right after Masudome waterfall. I told Go-chan and Ubi-chan how to climb over the waterfalls, and I traversed right side of the pool and climbed Masudome waterfall and waded across the rapid stream and climbed the next waterfall. Go-chan and Ubi-chan climbed the waterfalls safely. We really enjoyed this waterfall climbing.

Gorge finished just upstream of the waterfall and the vast Hirokawara (Wide and flat shallows) spread before our eyes, and over there the spectacular scenery of the Asahi mountain peaks were spreaded under the shining sun and the blue sky. There were no clouds to obstruct this majestic scenery shone on the summer sun. Ubi-chan and Go-chan both were taking photos. This was the landscape I wanted to show them. I said, “Real Arakawa genryu is starting from here.” Since we have a predecessor, we took walk forward for a while.

Two fishers we met yesterday came down as we walked a little. Talking, yesterday they took a tenba near there and fished up-stream. “Fishing was good.” They smiled fairly. Talking with them, I learned that they are the same locals as me. We talked for a while and said good-bye. Around 9:00 am, we reached the confluence of Nabekura-sawa where a huge snow bridge lied down even in mid-June. The snow bridge had disappeared without a trace, but the mainstream was deep pool for about 30m that we can not wade or traverse, Ubi-chan and I decided to climb over the 40m high right-side riverbank, but surprisingly Go-chan swam and broke through the pool.

We started fishing from the up-stream of this big pool. We fished some iwana but size was not satisfied, we knew it was because there were still 2 sawanobori guys up-stream. We walked again and then we found 2 guys about 100m up-stream. We soon caught up with them. It was around 10:30. They said they were just finishing fishing and go down the stream as they had to go home by the evening. Finally, there was nobody up-stream of us in Arakawa genryu. Now, as soon as I thought that Arakawa fishing was going to be real high right, the river suddenly became little muddy. I think it was the sign that a snow bridge broke down somewhere up-stream. "In July, there must be snow bridges left." I remembered Mr. Sebata-san’s words.

As we fished and walked for about 30 minutes, the turbidity disappeared. After passing a large tributary called Ohobi-zawa, the flow of mainstream became rapid, and the contrast of white granite of river banks and green forest, pale blue sky showed us a beautiful scenery of Arakawa genryu. Iwana to catch got bigger, and they bent our fishing rod comfortably.

"Photo by Uberto Calligarich"
After few minutes, we faced Ex-Sakanadome Waterfall. It was only 2m high water fall, but there was no clue, I climbed the right bank acrobatically and put out the rope for Ubi-chan. As we walked for a while, the valley became the deep gorge and the compressed flow became deeper and stronger. When we turned one blind corner of the valley, there was a huge snow bridge caught upon 30 meters high valley hill. It looked like breaking and falling down any time soon. That was too huge and too unstable snow bridge. The current under it was very deep and rapid. We had to give up wading up the stream there. However, it was quite an inspiring sight.

"Photo by Uberto Calligarich"
We had lunch at down-stream of that place and slowly went down the stream. The sun in summer was as strong as ever, the temperature went up but the walking in a pure flow was very pleasant. In the pool by Nabekura-zawa, high school students boys and girls sawanobori (stream climbing) group was practicing swiming supported by instructors by a rope. They said they were wading up Oh-Obisawa from now on and stay overnight in the mountain and coming down the climbing path tomorrow. We waved hands and said, "Take care and enjoy!". Everyone turned about and waved hands with a smile.

This time, we could not reach the target waterfall. Moreover, it was only 200 meters from the waterfall. It was disappointing, but fishing was very good and we really enjoyed breathtaking sceneries. Also, we met more fishermen and sawanobori climbers than usual during this trip, and everyone was very nice. On the last day, we met the local elementary school students who were led by the teachers. They were on a beginner river hike tour and everyone looked enjoying the walk very much. They all said hello to us with smiles. It reminded me the smiles of the high school students who were waving hands at that pool Nabekura-zawa a day before. I was thinking that Japanese young people were still not that bad.

"Photo by Uberto Calligarich"

Packrafting Glen Canyon (September)

One of my favorite spots in the world is right here in Arizona, 9 miles upstream of Lees Ferry on the Colorado River in Marble Canyon. The only practical way to get there is on a boat with a captain that knows the river channel. You can't hike to it, it's at the bottom of a deep canyon on the isolated beach bend of a huge western river. The river beach where I will camp is at the famous “Horseshoe Bend” that I have and many tourists have taken pictures of from above on the cliff top, about a thousand feet above.

I’ve been visiting this place as a fisherman for many years. I was introduced to it by one of my hang gliding friends. We would sit around the campfire after a great flight and he would talk to me about this place that was so grand, the soaring cliffs, the ice cold river and the big trout that cruised it’s depths. Here we were on a hang gliding weekend and we were dreaming about camping and fishing at Horseshoe Bend in Marble Canyon.

I finally took him up on his offer to take me there. It was in the early 90’s. I took ten days off, he said that if I was going, we needed to live there for a while to really experience it and that is exactly what I did. It was in February and the boat was loaded up to the gills with mesquite firewood, two ice chests of food, our tents, chairs and all the things necessary for a week plus fishing trip. We drove the four hours North from Phoenix, launched the boat, parked the truck and motored upriver for nine miles to a life changing adventure.

The Colorado River carves through the sandstone earth of the area. Glen Canyon, being just like the Grand Canyon but farther upstream is just a little smaller. The cliffs in this area are about a thousand feet tall and straight up from the river. The river meanders back and forth in this area below Glen Canyon Dam which creates Lake Powell. This dam was completed in 1963. The diversion tunnels were blocked and the beginning of Lake Powell began. Being a bottom release dam, the water is cold and habitable for big river trout.

At nine miles upriver, there is very little sound, maybe a guide boat motoring upriver now and then but only a few times a day, otherwise, silence. The water in all its immensity is flat through the canyon with a few riffles but it’s quiet, really quiet. Being at the bottom of a slot canyon on a grandeur scale, sound, when it happens is amplified and it is also really quiet at the same time. Depending on the time of year, sunlight may not reach the river. During my 10 day stay on my first trip there, a block of ice left by someone prior to us did not melt, it was bitter cold, I wore a snowmobile suit the whole time I was there. During the summer, the temperature is very hot at 100 degrees while the river is cold at 47 degrees.

This is a magical place of extremes.

Camping at the Horseshoe Bend is an experience to remember. You can only get here by boat. The cliffs go all the way to the water. From the camp, the only people you will see are those motoring upriver or the anglers fishing your area. If you look hard at the top of the cliffs on the other side, you can see the tourists viewing the immensity of the horseshoe bend. It's a popular place but it isn't hard to feel small, desolate and alone.

But there is another way to the spot, being backhauled by the big river inflatable pontoon boats that are run by tourist groups for visitors. They sign up for float trips down river from the dam. When they reach Lees Ferry 14 miles down river from the dam, they beach, let the tourists out and motor upriver alone. The tour companies have figured out that there are people like me willing to pay for a ride back upriver with our packraft, kayak or other personal watercraft to float or paddle back to Lees Ferry only to get out and drive back home. If you miss the put in, you are in for a rude awakening. Downriver of Lees Ferry is world class whitewater. 

Don't miss the boat ramp.

I'm no stranger to the area. I've been upriver countless numbers of trips since my first stay. I've camped at the Horseshoe Bend or "9 mile" as I like to call it many nights. I continue to go back for camping and fishing, lots of three and four day weekends and several one day upriver forays. I've crashed boats up there in the silence of daybreak, had 100 fish days where a small fish was 12" and my largest trout there ran about well, pounds, four pounds or so, big.

My respect for the river is as deep as it is powerful. I've been knocked out of the boat by the captain hitting a submerged boulder the size of a travel trailer only to nearly be run over by the boat. I've been smart enough not to be swept downstream by rising water, yes, the dam fluctuates from 7,000 cubic feet per second to a pretty regular high of 14,000 cfs. You must get creative in beaching your boat by placing a couple of anchor lines if you don't want the boat stranded on dry sand when the power generating flows are down.

The focus of this story is not about that, it's about taking on this river in a much more simple craft and fishing it with a tenkara rod. I'm taking my packraft, being hauled upriver with it and some firewood, dumped off and living for a few days, living and re-living, fishing, napping and dreaming.

The drive across the Navajo Reservation is desolate and stark in contrast to the forest of Flagstaff

Navajo Bridges, you have to cross the Colorado to get to Lees Ferry

I have no idea why this guy was down here

The Vermillion Cliffs

Headed upriver, they call it "back haul" and it takes about 45 minutes to get to 9 mile

On the way upriver

My ride upriver driving the rest of the way to the dam at 14 mile

Set up camp and relaxing

I use a block of ice, it lasts longer

Going for a hike

Felt sole tabi work well for pack rafting, wet wading and a little hiking, the felt grips the sandstone that you must climb

Looking back at the horseshoe

A picture through my binoculars 

It's amazing how people will just back up to the cliff to get a selfie

Minimal camp kit

These guys got into my bread, note to self, hard container

Headed just downstream from 9 mile, on my way home

Finger rock on the way back

The river is like glass in some places but you are zipping along

Looking back upriver, that's all my stuff in the yellow bag, about 35 pounds

Almost to Lees Ferry

That's me, about 20' deep, super clear water

On the way back, that's the San Francisco Peaks where Flagstaff is

Pack raft, pfd, dry bag and stuff that goes in the bow bag

Tent, tarp (did not take) quilt, chair, pad etc

Food for four days, I took half, I did three days, two nights

Lees Ferry (web page I created from 1998)

Lees Ferry USGS Current Flow
Patagonia Simple Fly Fishing

Some of the Equipment used

Alpacka Packraft
Mountain Laurel Designs Duomid

Packrafting on Tenkara-Fisher: Packrafting - Salt River - Glen Canyon