EDC - Every Day Carry / My Tenkara Minimalist Kit

Fall, 2021, the simple two parts of my tenkara kit.

My current version of my minimalist tenkara kit has quite a history behind it. I've been working on a minimalist kit, ever since I've found out about tenkara ten plus year ago. I am not going to go too much into depth about what you need: you obviously don't need a lot of anything if you know what you want. I want a fishing kit that I can carry, every day and it not be invasive to my daily life. I also want a kit that is very effective in what it was designed for, modern Japanese fly fishing, tenkara.

I have written about my kit in the past, the development of it and I can say this, I designed and used one for a solid year before taking it on a two week trip to Japan. I was travelling all over Tokyo then travelling within the country. I didn't want a kit that was separate from my luggage, I wanted one that could go inside of my two backpacks that I was carrying. I used that kit on a pretty intense genryu fishing trip. My hosts, many tenkara experts had an understanding of the Pocket Mini but probably had no need for one as they were in their everyday element and didn't need to carry compact equipment from half way across the globe. I had designed lines that balanced the cast and upon handing them the rod, I received all kinds of compliments on the compactness and usability. After a while, it just was not mentioned, the kit embodies tenkara minimalism and they work so well.

Nissin designs the rods that I choose, the Pocket Mini V3 and the Tenkara Mini (I choose the 3.6m.) If I am targeting a stream known to be tight, I will grab the Pocket Mini V3 2.7m and stuff it inside of the Tenkara Mini case. The Pocket Mini V3 is an exceptional rod that I have bought, used and sold thinking that I didn't need it any longer and sorely missed it for my minimalist kit and ended up buying it again.

I could actually make the kit substantially smaller by choosing a 2.7m Pocket Mini but, I often use the kit as a sort of calling card to introduce tenkara, the Pocket Mini looks like a toy (which it is) but it really doesn't have the look of a serious fishing rod (which it is) if I am showing someone new to tenkara equipment 30 stories up or at a nice restaurant or somewhere no one would have their fishing kit along.

I've been able to introduce tenkara effectively to people by pulling out the rod and extending it and handing it to someone at the office where normally, I would have to pull out my phone and try to describe it. There is nothing like pulling out my fishing equipment out of my bag and showing them the different elements. The Tenkara Mini is impressive as I pull it out, so small and petite. I can pull the 20 sections out for effect or pull it taught in a couple of big pulls. It is a rod of incredible engineering and the people that I hand it to are nothing less than impressed. 

It's a great calling card for sure.

In the years that I have carried my kit on my travels, I have had several opportunities arise where I would normally not have had my equipment. Trips to lakes, under bridges on streams and in city streams too. It is a great excitement to realize that YES! I can fish when normally, I would have to just look at the water and turn it off...

My minimalist kit laid out, it goes into my Every Day Carry bag.
Contents
  1. Nissin Tenkara Mini 3.6m
  2. Rod Grippers
  3. 4" Derf Needle Driver
  4. Mini Bear Bell on a quick link
  5. Micro Dropper Bottle of floatant
  6. Kazuo Kurahashi made Kebari Box and Spool
  7. Snow Peak line cutter
  8. Zimmerbuilt custom made Micro Pack and Rod Bag

My EDC kit, I carry it everywhere, all the time.

Contents of my EDC kit. I carry this everywhere.
Contents
  1. North Face Field Bag
  2. Mountain Laurel Design Small Packing Cube
  3. Alcohol Wipes
  4. Triple Antibiotic
  5. Sunscreen
  6. Bandaid
  7. Chapstick
  8. Cologne
  9. Medicine
  10. Kenwood THF6 Tri-Band Radio Cheat Cards
  11. Mont-Bell Trekking Umbrella
  12. Matador Pocket Blanket Mini
  13. Sea to Summit Ultra Sil Backpack
  14. Sea to Summit Sling Bag
  15. Tasco Monocular
  16. Small Zippered Pouch of Crystals
  17. Pens
  18. Bic Lighter
  19. Flashlight
  20. Sea to Summit Micro Stuff Sack
  21. Bic Mini
  22. Petzl Micro Headlight
  23. Mini Survival Candle
  24. Sewing Kit
  25. Fold-a-Cup
  26. Leatherman Tool
  27. At-A-Glance Monthly Planner

Depending on the mission, I will add in these elements.

The Tenkara Mini is an enjoyable rod for the sweetest mountain streams.

Tom Davis from Teton Tenkara on the Nissin Tenkara Mini: Casting this rod is fun. It is very lightweight in the hand and has excellent balance. The action is stiffer than most Nissin 7:3 rods that I have felt. Even though the RFI is in the low 6:4 range, the rod feels stiffer than what it measures at. I suspect that might be due to the large number of joints and it's aggressive taper. Still, it's a great casting rod. I used a #3 level fluorocarbon line under breezy conditions, and I had no trouble controlling the line and getting the fly to its intended target.

ストーリー




—————

A Story

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.” 

Probably.


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.

Tenkara Techniques for Slack Water Trout


There are many techniques in fishing for still water trout that directly transfer to pools and slack water on rivers and streams. In my area, I am fishing tenkara in a variety of water from one foot wide 3 cfs streams to a hundred yard wide river and 14,000 cfs flow. I also fish winter stocked urban ponds close to my home. I’ve fished these urban ponds for trout over the years and the knowledge that I have gained along with fishing for trout in lakes directly relate to trout in pools and slack water in rivers and streams. 

The trout are the same however the approach in catching them needs a little adjustment. 

Trout in still water feed on the move and their behavior is based on finding and consuming food in a static environment while trout in streams and rivers find and take food in a dynamic moving environment. 

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. 

Even in very selective water, I am not matching the hatch. I use a favorite fly that I'm confident in. The fly doesn't seem to matter, it's the stealth that matters with tenkara presentations, not matching the hatch or dead drifting. It's the fact that the trout are not alerted to your presence first. Your fly is an opportunistic meal and their attention is fully focused on feeding.

Fishing a 4-5 meter rod and a 7 to 10 meter line is in the neighborhood of 40 feet of reach. Casting at that length, I am not able to see my fly, let alone a clear fluorocarbon line. Much of what I am doing with the fly is by feel. All of my still water fishing is sub surface and most of the takes are felt or indicated by the line movement. There are times where I am so in the moment that I feel like I imagine fish. From those many days of watching my line and feeling my fly rub along the bottom, I am indicating subtle un-familiar line movements and or tiny telegraphed rattles of the lines as fish taking my fly and turning. 

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 am. 

That imagination of what my fly is doing gives me the cutting edge to set the hook on even the slightest change in the way that the line is behaving or in the feel of the rod. You learn to let go of thinking and start being mindful and in the moment. 

I don't think of fishing, I imagine catching.

Fishing in an urban environment allows me to inspect each and every aspect of my casting, presentation and pick up and cast again. While retrieving the fly, I am concentrating on my casting hand, what it feels as the rod tip loads, how that feeling changes, how the line drape changes as I tighten the line and pause. I have time and repetition, over and over. I keep my body in the same position, I am a machine, my body in the same position, everything the same, methodically, over and over making the same movements. Through this methodical and repetitive movement, I am able to discern the line movement and more importantly, any different movement in the line, SET!

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.

I would say that there is no magic in it but the truth of it but there is. 

How do you explain to someone this magic?

The above is the best that I can do.

Set yourself up with a method that is the same every time. Remember this method, do it the same way every single time. 

A methodical approach promotes a sixth sense for catching.

I used to wonder why watching a successful Japanese honryu angler was robot like. He moves from one area to another sampling holes, runs and holds with the same cast, the same rod angle, everything the same. It appears that he is mechanical in his cast, retrieve moving on, doing it again and again in the same fashion.

The whole rod line and fly is the indicator, the system to tell you that the fish, beyond your sight has taken the fly. The fish's mouth is small, the fly even smaller but the line is big, the rod is too, put it all together and you have a system of indication of when to set the hook.

I've written it before, it's the software of tenkara fishing that catches fish. You can stack the odds in your favor but if you aren't keeping touch with the fly, you will miss the opportunity to observe the subtle facts of the take, the feel of the line and the fluttering of the fish's tail.