Honryu Tenkara

Photo by Siegfried Forster
My tenkara is based in the mountain stream environment yet I enjoy fishing the mainstream. Apparently I am in the same class as many Japanese anglers as they also take their tenkara with them to the river. They use long (4-5m class) single hand rods using tenkara techniques to catch river fish. My experience in fly fishing rivers is long and intense, my practice of mountain valley tenkara is extensive and my honryu tenkara is starting now to develop to the point where I can share it now. I will put down some of my thoughts on setting up my equipment and using it.

Photo by Siegfried Forster 
In my area, I choose a large cold water river that I use my tenkara techniques. My favorite is a tailwater or a bottom release dam on the Colorado River in Northern Arizona. There are other rivers here that contain trout but they are more like large streams in the mountains so I will focus on my practice of honryu tenkara in the Colorado River in Glen Canyon. My access to this river is difficult, there are no roads in the canyon. I travel upriver by backhauling in a larger powered boat, dropping me off to camp and to return the many miles back to the put in by a small but efficient inflatable raft

Photo by Siegfried Forster 
I practice minimalism, only what I need. I may use sasoi, dead drift nymphing, dry fly midges, big cicada presentations and streamer fishing in moving current as well as deep slack water.

For now, I will use this project to gather my thoughts into an organized system and work from there by returning to these thoughts and refining them. I do this with my pack lists up in this canyon by only using what is on the list and striking out items that I do not use and packing again only what is left in the list.

This keeps me focused.

I use only one rod, the Gamakatsu Suimu EX 5m, a long cork handled single hand rod that is exquisitely designed to cast a long level line, I use a #3.5 to have a little "punch" into the swirling canyon winds of the afternoon. The fish in my river are heavily pressured by spin fishers ripping spoons and streamers and also guided fly fishermen as well as adventuring anglers such as myself.

Rigging lines, I always use my little kit 
Part of developing good tenkara skills is making your own equipment. Of course you can purchase nearly all of what you need from the many vendors available however, there is not a lot available that is marketed to this genre of tenkara. So I make my own lines, clear lines which go against the marketing of "lines that you can see" in pink, orange and fluorescent green or bright and muted colors. The fish I am after are pressured and wince at a large pink moving thing above them in the ultra clear water against a sky that has no direct sunlight, the river I am making these lines for is in a thousand foot canyon. Currently, there are no lines for this application.

Seaguar INVIZ X .330mm which equates to #3.5 Valcan
I do use a Fujino Soft Tenkara 7m line but that is rare in this river. If I do not use it this next trip, I will remove it from my kit. This is how I hone what I use, attrition, if it does not get used, it is removed. I also have a light fly line that I use for specialized situations. There are dry fly midge hatches that a fluorocarbon line at length will pull down a tiny size #22 midge dry. So I use a floating line. In the summer, there is a cicada hatch that is incredible to behold and using a fly line for plopping down a large bulky fly works really well. A fly line has demanded it's way into my quiver and I have no problem using it. It even fits into the definition of tenkara in Japan.

I use card spools as they are flat and you can stack them
The bag I use is a little larger than a tenkara strap pack. I have a tenkara box and a highly specialized box of flys that I have developed for this river over decades of fishing it. The tenkara box and the fly box fit into this bag as well as the many different lines and pieces of kit that I use.

It is funny, the quote I use, "the more you know the less you need" is from Yvon Chouinard and his company, Patagonia offers this "Wader Workstation" bag and it's twice the size of my tenkara bag. What is funny, my tenkara bag is half the size of this bag, I am much more experienced at tenkara in the mountain stream environment. My honryu tenkara is in the intermediate stage and I am still in the research and development throes. I am developing my techniques so I carry more, as my skill is strengthened, I will carry less. Right now, I carry far less into the canyon than I ever have in my 30 years of fishing here. 

I put everything in this kit which I can use as a strap bag or hang on my waders
My kit list is as follows.

Gamakatsu Suimu EX 5m

Seaguar Inviz X .330 7m line (tippet ring) x 2ea
Valcan #3.5 7m
Valcan #3.5 5m with markers
Fujino Soft Tenkara Long Type 7m
Floating Fly Line 8m

Dinsmore tin shot
Nipper on a fly line
Derf Needle Driver

Micro drop floatant (Gink)
Un-stick pads

Trouthunter Flourocarbon 5x - 6x - 7x

Wheatley Medium Black ripple foam fly box and specialized flys
Orvis Waterproof Compartment fly box with specialized flys and kebari

New Zealand indicator kit
Arrow indicator

Patagonia Middle Fork Packable waders
Patagonia Wader Workstation

The primary fish of the Colorado is a couple of different types of Rainbow trout with small numbers of Brown trout and even smaller numbers of Brook trout. There are a few different types of chubs and a couple of types of carp that live in the river. Almost all of the time you will catch two types of Rainbow trout with a rare catch of a Brown.

There are three basic presentations.

Drifting the bottom.
Sasoi in the water colum
Surface type

The techniques I use in the Colorado River in Glen Canyon have been developed from a knowledge of where the trout are depending on the varying flows released from the dam and the time of year or the amount of sunlight that affects the floura and fauna of the area. I choose to break up the year in seasons to make it easy. When I write about fishing there, I tag the title with the month of the year so I can refer to the article to others to know what to expect. Starting with winter, the rainbow trout that are my primary target are in the spawn. The females have made "redds" or depressions in the rocks and gravel and stay there protecting and nurturing their eggs. As we move into spring, the insects are starting to proliferate with huge hatches of midges or tiny black and white flying bugs that are larvae in the water (nymphs) and hatch out of the water. Summer can be a time of terrestrial fishing with grasshoppers and the cicada hatches, fall is a time of the start of the spawn. Through out the year, depending on the flows, there are scuds or tiny fresh water shrimp type bugs, tiny worms and small fish or streamers.

The purpose of this article is to begin separating my writing into the different areas that I practice tenkara, one in the mountains and in the headwaters and two, in the mainstream. I also practice tenkara techniques in ponds and lakes. Although this is not typical moving water, I do use the techniques of the rods and equipment there. 

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