fishing water wheel 8/11/19

When ever you read "fishing water wheel" at tenkara-fisher, it is the East Verde just North of Payson, the closest stream to my house. Today took 65 minutes to get there by car. Not bad.

What is bad is this is the confluence of Ellison Creek and the East Verde River, in a canyon that is popular with swimmers. This is the place where in 2017, ten people in one family were killed in a torrential flash flood. Out of respect, I did not take pictures of the memorials along the stream where they found the bodies. It is very morose...

Moving on, it's close to home and there are plenty of fish to be caught, even in high and chocolate water. We moved up the canyon to third crossing and walked the road back down the canyon to the car.

I've been using the Wrong Fly with a small tungsten bead tyed in and today it was the ticket. I caught a couple of types of rainbow, about a dozen fish in all. Super happy with this pattern, I've caught fish with it everywhere, it is my go to fly for sure.

Bendo in my Furaibo

As you can see, the water is chocolate brown and high from the run off from recent storms. The flash flooding that occurs is when there are active storms in the area. The last storms in the area where greater than 12 hours before and I am always careful about fishing here. I know about flash flooding from early on when I was a kid.

We caught a lot of fish today, just what Jimmy and I needed. It's a nice place to run up to, and escape. It is noon and I've been back for a while collecting the images and writing down my notes.

Wrong Kebari with Tungsten Bead

My "go to" kebari is a pattern that I have settled on and have been tweaking to use at all depths. It is the "Wrong Kebari" and I've named it that way as a twist on words. If you click on the link, you will see why I name it that. But this is a variation on the theme, I use tungsten beads because of the limited reach of a tenkara rod. I want to preface "limited reach" because I use relatively long lines compared to everyone I have fished with. For a 3.9m rod, I'll use a 5-6m mainline plus about a 50cm of tippet. Most people I have fished with use a line as long as their rod which I find much too short to reach and play big fish. All of this into account, I want the fly/kebari to sink NOW and I want the hook point to ride up as I am swimming or playing the fly. 

Integrating tungsten beads, I tye in the silk bead cord on the underside of the hook to keep the end flare from turning the hook to it's side. Eiji Yamakawa tyes his hooks like this and by the way. I do not overwrap, it does not take much to hold the silk bead cord on to the hook. It only has to be stronger than the strongest tippet I use. I have never broken or had a silk loop let go. Tye them in tight and straighten out the loop with your whip finisher. You can also strength check your loops like I do with the whip finisher. I give all my loops a couple of good tugs to simulate a fish fight. Tying in the loops is a little bit of extra time but the hooks are so sharp and I love the shape. You can check out why I use bait hooks in the article about the "Wrong Kebari."

I also use "Owner Super Yamame" bait hook that are available from Tenkarabum or Tenkara Ya. I use this hook on the suggestion of Yamakawa-san. It is super sticky sharp and has a slight barb that I am still able to back out without forceps if I do not have them.

The above Wrong Kebari have 2mm tungsten beads tyed in the black body. The bodies are coated with "Sallys Hard as Nails" clear nail polish. I find that this helps keep the thread from wearing and or the bead from chipping. I think it may help, maybe not. I do know I catch a lot of fish on this version. On a lot of trips, my friends end up using this one a lot. I always tye a few because I end up handing them out. I really enjoy it when people catch fish on flys that I have tyed, quite an honor.

You can use different sizes of tungsten beads depending on what you want to do with your kebari. These are size 7/64, I do not go much heavier than this, these sink RIGHT NOW and they lose action when they are heavier than this.

I use BLACK beads to match the Uni thread that I tye with. I do not wrap thread over the beads, I tye off and then tye back in and taper the body.

I have caught fish 10' deep in good flow with my 3.9m rod and a 5m line. That is casting straight upstream and letting the kebari drop into the deep pool with the flow. Catching fish this deep is a skill that I like to hone. I learned this using heavy gauge hooks. Often I knew there were fish but I was not catching them. I started to use typical brass beads with the bead in the placement behind the eye but the way I was observing the fly, I did not like the way it swam and rode over rocks. So I started tying in the bead a little bit farther back until I found the sweet spot.

You may like to try this sometime. If you do not like Japanese bait hooks or do not have them, you can use a "jig hook" to keep the point up. Or, you can use a slotted tungsten bead on a jig hook if you are a fly fisherman and follow those lines of fly tying. 

What ever way you want to do it, tungsten beads help get your fly down NOW so that they are in the fish catching zone much longer with our limited tenkara rods and line lengths.

Zenmai on Oni Hooks

I try all different kinds of hooks, this one, an Oni bait hook has always intrigued me so I bought a pack and stuck it in the bottom of my fly tying kit. I found it the other day and decided that I was going to get down to tying a few to try. 

Recently, I went to Ketchum, Idaho and one day there I was having difficulty catching on my goto fly, the "wrong kebari." I had some Sebata-san magic zenmai kebari with me (I always carry a few) and picked one that color matched the insect that was hatching. I started catching and finished the day with that kebari, it really caught a lot of fish. 

I have not tied with zenmai in a while so I decided to tye up a few kebari on my interesting Oni bait hooks and the following is a little photo essay that I put together.

Notes: The Oni hook (not Masami Sakakibara as he is known as Oni) is a bait hook for keiryu fishing. It has nothing to do with Tenkara no Oni. I use Griffin silk bead cord in #1 for this hook as it is an extremely light wire hook. #2 silk bead cord, which I normally use is a little too heavy. 

If you would like to try some zenmai yourself, you can get it from Keiichi Okushi at TenkaraYa at this link.

Simple Utility Belt for Tenkara

As with all my tenkara gear, my utility belt is well thought out. I use compact equipment to facilitate ease of travel and use on stream. I work with a pack maker (Zimmerbuilt) to custom make the products I want that are not readily available. I've used this simple belt for two trips to Japan and travel all over America and it's about 10 years old now. It has been everywhere with me and it just works really well. I use it to carry my tamo, I always have a Gerber LST (knife) in a Rainbow pouch on it.

It has become a part of my kit just as much as my net.

Nissin Tenkara Mini

In the recent past, I’ve used a version of this model as my primary rod for fishing small streams. The Nissin Pocket Mini V3 is similar to the Nissin Tenkara Mini in that it appears to have the same taper but a non-corked keiryu style handle. With that rod, I carried three different lengths as I was using it as a primary tenkara rod for travel. If I broke section, I could use the other two rods as a parts replacement and back in the water in no time. 

I’ve caught mountain valley trout from 4” to “16 in the southwest (USA) and I took a set of three different lengths with me to Japan and caught Japanese trout in the mountain streams around Tadami, Bansho.

I’ve also caught various sunfish and cichlids in an opportunistic setting having the rod with me in my pack, I wasn’t expecting to go fishing but I could because I had everything I needed.

The Tenkara Mini is not a toy, it’s a tenkara fishing rod that is really a specialized tool for the traveling tenkara angler. I use mine as a back up on stream. It is so small that it is no trouble to carry with me somewhere, either on my belt in the holster I had made or in my pack.

I use a Tenryu Furaibo compact zoom rod as my primary rod now with the Mini as a back up.

The line I use is a 4.2m #3.5 Nissin Oni in pink with a Seaguar #3 tip section spliced in to a tippet ring. I use a little heavier line to handle wind and with the relatively short line length, drape is never a problem.

I only use 7x premium tippet (Seaguar GrandMax FX) to protect the rod. I've never had a problem landing any fish that is fair game for this rod, 16" would be the max I've caught.

Please refer to the Pocket Mini V3 for more information and thoughts on this compact rod from Nissin.

Nissin Tenkara Mini
Teton Tenkara Mini Review
TenkaraBum Tenkara Mini Review

Ketchum, Idaho

I have old friends there. Mother’s, fathers, snowboarders and skiers, carpenters and shop keepers, locals and friends. They’ve been telling me to visit and in a moment of opportunity, it all came together...

“Noah, you want to go to Idaho?”

“Sure Dad!”

Trying to find a flight in was not easy. Or reasonable. Hailey has a airport but it isn’t populated with common jet airliners, when we drove past, there were six private jets and one small Delta commuter. Boise and Twin Falls are a couple of hours drive and a rental, I tried for days to work out a plan.

So we decided to drive. Phoenix to Salt Lake City, 10 hours and in to Ketchum was another 4.

Rolling through Flagstaff, the Museum fire was only 10% contained. It was putting out a lot of smoke.

The mighty Glen Canyon Dam was awesome but we wanted to keep going, we wanted to get there. There is an amazing tour through the dam and I wanted to take Noah on it, next time.

I asked Noah to look at Google and see if there was anything he would like to do.

“The Shoshone Ice Cave, I want to go there.”

It’s a big lava tube just shy of Hailey out on the flats as you approach the the valley that leads to the “Gateway to the Sawtooths” mountain range, Hailey and Ketchum. The ice cave tour was so much fun and interesting. I’m glad Noah picked it out.

We rolled into Ketchum and went to Lost Rivers Fly Shop where Laura works. She took care of us getting our license and opened her home to Noah and I. Chris, her husband was working too so Noah and I went to Lefty’s to get a beer. It’s where the locals hang out and I know a few.

Later, Chris joined us and it was nice to finally close the gap, the last time I saw him was like 30 years ago at his brother’s wedding.

We went to his house and Laura was there with Charlie, his son. Noah and Charlie grabbed the Nerf guns and Chris and I grabbed our sticks and bags, we headed up canyon to a little wild stream filled with wild (native) rainbows. I tied on the wrong fly and in a couple of casts, I was into trout. We hopscotched up the stream while I listened to Chris narrative catching fish along the way.

Last year I sent Chris a tenkara rod. He is a lifelong fly fisherman living in Ketchum, Idaho. A land of fly fishing as religion passing it down from generations but when Chris showed interest, I wanted nothing more than to plant that seed.

In Ketchum, as I thought, Patagonia had their tenkara rods and at the rich people’s shopping store, they had Daniel’s rods. Things settle as they do, as it should be. The locals not grasping on to tenkara.

Why would they?

This is a fly fishing neighborhood.

I think Yvon Chouinard has a much better approach toward the hard core embedded fly fishing areas. He teaches a simple fly fishing method with a floating fly line. It’s much more palatable to people that only know fly fishing. He also targets fly fishing supporting it with waders and specialized gear and he doesn’t push his tenkara rods by telling people to sell their fly fishing gear. I think “rod, line and fly” doesn’t go over that well to people that only know fly fishing.

(click on the pic for a vid, you can see the fish I caught finning on the inside corner)

While we were fishing, Chris pointed out a rainbow finning the inside corner of a bend. Darting in and out feeding on nymphs, he told me to catch ‘em. I crept into position and that’s exactly what I did, I sight caught that single fish.

The Furaibo bent both of us hooting.


The next morning was mine, it was mid week and everyone had to work. I drove two minutes to the river and stretched out my Suimu (5m Honryu rod) with a clear 7m line. I think it was 5 or 6 casts, Noah said it was four and the big rod was deeply bent. It took a few minutes to land the 20”+ trout. Noah getting the pic, “Nice fish dad.” And that was enough for the morning, we folded it up and headed over to Sun Valley to ride the lift and do a little hiking.

We went fishing afterwards to a beautiful area where they filmed a Clint Eastwood western. Later, we all meet at “the ranch” where I was a guest at a private disc golf course in a special place filled with legendary stories of vintage opulence as we moved from one hole to another in a course carved out of the woods.

Back at Lefty’s more local friends and a little talk about tenkara. “Look guys, it‘s a tool in the box, it’s easy to dissect a stream with stealthy pin point accuracy. They knew I had caught fish. They knew my experiences but what they were interested in was my experiences with my Japanese friends. I told them about Japanese culture of respect, the gasso style homes, steep mountain valley streams, the tenba, the assist ropes and iwana sashimi and shioyaki. I told them about this badass, and Yuzo Sebata that came to this area of the USA to show the locals about tenkara a long time ago, when all our fathers were killing it on the streams.

There isn’t anything wrong with learning fishing with tenkara. I’m not talking just learning to catch fish but learning to live the lifestyle of a fly fisherman. But tenkara’s roots are firmly embedded in Japan and Americans are not Japanese. There is no generational American tenkara experiences in the USA, it's all new and what little culture there is, what do you think it is? It's an Internet small community and there are people that do it without the internet. I see a lot of head butting of tenkara vs. fly fishing, nasty memes, Internet culture and I understand why. So many new people to fishing in fly fishing water catching fish, instant experts. Fly fishing is often earned hard.

Experience always tells the story and experiences also bridges the gaps. That’s how it always is, skiing, snowboarding, surfing, hang gliding and paragliding. The new kid on the block is going to meet the old guy...

I saw a sticker, “Lefty no tenkara” Even when he poo pood on tenkara, I still liked Lefty. I learned quite a bit about fly fishing from him. I understand what he meant but he came around before he left us. I like that sticker, I gotta find one. I was at a old fly fishing trade show in Arkansas (Sowbug Round Up) and one of the guys that ran the show said to Daniel and I, he was looking at me, “Oh, you brought the sage.” I laughed understanding him, my friend? Not so much.


My expensive five weight stayed in its case. I didn’t need it but I brought it though and was even excited to use it. During the trip, my two tenkara rods got quite a workout in Ketchum. Chris, as experienced as he is learned some new techniques but he’s already experienced and now even more with tenkara. He also caught a pretty big fish on his Amago. He is the tenkara fisher in Ketchum. He will tell the story there.

I had trouble at one stream with my wrong fly. I wasn't hooking up. Chris came over talking about a yellow insect that was hatching. All I had was a little Sebata-san magic. Zenmai dubbing that he had tied up himself and gave to me. I always have a few of Sebata-san kebari and a little box of Jun Maeda-san dry flys. That zenmai kebari saved the day for me.

Chris had some zenmai, I gave him a small bit after receiving a batch from Sebata. He took that zenmai, tied up some soft hackles and railed trout with it.

Laura, you are the best! Thank you for opening your home to me (Chris, you too) and Ron? Thank you for the best day disc golfing with Jayce and your brother. It was awesome to see DK and Dana at Lefty's. I really enjoyed meeting Mariah and Josh too. I'm bummed I didn't get to see Mike Muir, maybe next time.

The trip pegged the fun meter. The round trip milage was 2,090 miles. It was a long drive up and back but I really enjoyed myself. I got back this morning, Sunday, uploaded the photo's and pecked out my thoughts. 

I hope you enjoy my little adventure.