Monday, January 15, 2018

Faux-Keiryu, GSMNP

With a brief, warmish day that managed to climb above the 30’s, we left Blue Ridge early and headed towards the Smokies. I wasn’t really looking for an intense outing, just a nice way to spend a day in the long-missed sun. The rod of choice was a no brainer.

I have fished this rod twice now, only in a tight-lined, keiryu style of fishing. I can’t wait for spring, when it will get a good workout with a level tenkara line. The flex profile of this rod is very nice.

Because bait isn’t allowed within the park, and for good reason, I waivered between a chenille ‘pinkie’ worm, or the Overhand Worm, simply knotted on the hook I have been using for wax-worms (an Owner Main-Stream tenkara). With numb fingers, I chose the lazier of the two, and fished out a pre-cut hank of pink chenille. It took a few casts to adjust my markers, and I was amazed once again how well they show up against the background of our mountain streams.

They photograph terribly, but in reality, they are tops. Because of the softer rod tip on the Traveler, I think the fish get a little more room to take the fly before feeling tension in the line and spitting it out. On my third cast, the markers dipped slightly, and a small brownie took to the air.

I fished for a couple of hours all told, and finished the day in a deep pool that rarely provides fish for me, though I know they are there in the emerald depths. I missed one take, and a couple of drifts later, the markers paused and I set the hook, this time with a little more weight at the other end. The fish put a respectable bend in the rod, and within a few minutes was scooped and netted. 

A fine brown, hooked squarely in the top jaw. The Overhand Worm provided, especially in a brutally cold mountain stream with sluggish fish. More amazing was that the “worm” stayed on the hook all day.

Friday, January 12, 2018


If you are kind enough to continue following the blog after I made the unfortunate decision to gut it and start over, you will remember that 2017 was a year of experimentation as far as fishing goes. After 24 years of fly-fishing, and 6 or 7 years of tenkara, I decided to shatter my own prejudices by trying something new, ultralight spin-fishing, or finesse-fishing, for trout.  This year is no different, and I have taken it a step further by exploring the methods we Americans understand to be keiryu. Chris Stewart has taken the time to explain a method that other than in the tenkara community, is rather unknown outside of Japan, so I’ll direct you there for more detail. Briefly, it is a tight-lined method that involves long, fixed-line rods, light lines, split shot, and bait, usually the nymphal form of common aquatic insects such as mayflies or caddis (check local game laws before pursuing that route). Waxworms and red worms are other commonly used baits. Unlike tenkara and fly-fishing, that rely on the weight of the line to carry the fly, Keiryu uses the weight of the split-shot resulting in more of a lob or pendulum-like swing to make a “cast.”

I purchased my TenkaraBum Traveler 39 mostly as a tenkara rod, but also as a way to dip a toe or two into the realm of keiryu. I had an hour or two free one recent afternoon, and in the mist, placed a Mummy Worm on the hook and began. 

I thought that I would feel immediate shame and deep-seated guilt. But as I watched the markers trace their way through the seam, I had a rather interesting response: nothing. Hadn’t I done this before? Yes, every time I had fished this seam with a euro-style tight line rig. Just last week, same mechanics, same seam (different rod and line), and a pink chenille worm. I chuckled, because as fly-fishermen, we will gladly cast an imitation of a worm and feel good about it.

The lowest marker (out of four) dipped ever so slightly, paused and I instinctively raised the rod tip. The action was met with a dead weight, and a fish was on. 

A decent rainbow in the net. Notice the hook set. One of the reasons I was willing to try keiryu in the first place was that Chris stressed the fact that because the method was an active form of fishing, with takes registering almost instantaneously, hook sets would inevitably be like that of a fly and somewhere in the mouth. Passive bait fishing, like most Americans are used to, relies on the fish taking the bait deep, thus raising the mortality rate. As another aside, the markers used on a keiryu line are vastly superior to any indicator or sighter that I have ever used.

I had enough fun that I am interested in further exploration. Of course, many of the places that I like to fish have artificial-only restrictions, but that’s okay. The same principals can be applied, but with a chenille worm or caddis imitation. I could even keep the set up as it, ‘baiting’ the hook with Chris’s Overhand Worm  a subversive fly that is as simple as tying a piece of chenille on a hook with, you guessed it, an overhand knot.

Sunday, January 7, 2018

Frozen Out

On Sunday, my wife and I drove to check out a new stream. We have been experiencing something of an 'arctic front' for the deep south. With temperatures in the low teens at night and below freezing during the day, it feels more like Wisconsin than North Georgia. I was itching to try out my new Tenkarabum Traveler 39, though I knew the fishing would be slow to dismal. What I did not expect was to find a watercourse nearly frozen over.

There were a few gaps and pools open here and there, but in the end it didn't seem worth it, and so I didn't bother opening the rod tube. I was content with just walking along the stream, with good company, and letting the dog stretch her legs. In the end we walked about six miles, and though I didn't get to explore the stream, I know I will be back in the near future.

Thursday, January 4, 2018

On the Board

New Year's Day was a blowout, with the previous night's temperature dipping down into the low teen's.  Not the best day for fishing a small, freestone stream. After finishing up some work, I went back out looking for redemption. Though the temperatures haven't improved much, I knew I might bolster my success by hitting up the local tailwater. I caught the very tail-end of a generation release, and as the water lowered I found the old, familiar seams slowly beginning to form. With a strong, icy wind blowing from varying directions, it was hard to get a decent drift with a #3 level fluorocarbon tenkara line, but in a brief respite from the wind a good drift was attained and so the tell-tale pause midway through told me to strike. I was greeted with the first fish of 2018, one that looked surprisingly wild for this particular river.

Yeah, I have no shame. Those little chenille worms are magic during the winter months. I have faux-keiryu plans for them in the upcoming months.