It is said that the normal progression of a fly fisherman is to go from wanting to catch any fish, to wanting to catch lots of fish, to wanting to catch big fish, to wanting to catch big, challenging, hard to catch fish. Tenkara is for people who have no need to catch big fish either because they have gotten over it or because they have never gotten into it.
I hurt my foot. Again. Yesterday. While fishing. I suppose there are more ignominious ways to do it, but I’m still rather irate.
My fishing season is around 10-12 weeks long. I’m a fickle devotee, if not an outright hack. Yesterday was a perfect example of how and why I like to fly fish. Warm day, shorts and trail runners with neoprene socks, clear water, a tiny stream, and no sign of any other person. Brushy attractor dry flies and smallish, hungry, undiscerning cutthroats. Easy fishing, in most respects. Around here such streams also always have slick cobbled bottoms, and it was on the way back wading the main stream that I stumbled in thigh deep water, took a few lurching steps to stay upright, and strained something in the top of my left foot. M may just have to carry me in on our South Fork trip tomorrow.
Tenkara is ideal for the kind of fishing I like, which rarely has much to do with the (excellent) little video above. When I acquired a TenkaraUSA Amago a little over two years ago, my small stream preference only grew more pronounced. Even though the Amago was at the time the longest tenkara rod available, it was and is so much easier to use in tight quarters. While the thought of a shorter rod for tighter streams has been with me almost since the beginning, I learned to manage the extra length with slingshot casting and other tricks, buying another rod never made it very high on the priority list, and none of the available options seemed different enough to be worthwhile. Fishing is one of those things I choose to keep basic, I only have enough energy to devote geekery to a limited number of pursuits. For a more extensive overview of tenkara rods, read this.
That changed a bit when I noticed that TenkaraBum Chris Stewart was selling a range of short, soft rods designed for very small fish, and at a price a fair bit less than the TenkaraUSA offerings. I got the Soyokaze 27, the 9 footer.
It’s fantastic; almost as far removed from the Amago as the Amago was from my Orvis rod. Yesterday is a perfect example of why a lighter tenkara rod might be a good thing. I investigated a small side branch of a small creek I’d hiked this past winter. The main stem and especially the smaller fork are very steep, the first 1/2 mile of the later drops about half as much vertically as it runs horizontally, with the narrow conglomerate walls catching tons of deadfall and building with sediment a series of stairstep pools. Each pool had at least several hungry cutthroat or cutbows. Higher up the gradient relents and the willows close in, with the stream being 6-10 feet wide. Each bend, big rock and log has a pool under it, and each of these had numerous lively fish. I intended to climb and fish the stream until the fish ran out, but was short on time long before that happened.
The nine foot rod is easier to manage in such environments, and has perfectly adequate reach, but the main draw for me is that compared to the much stiffer Amago the thin Soyokaze puts me on even footing when catching five to eight inch trout. Or as even as a pursuit as barbaric as sport fishing can be. Hooking a ten inch cutt on the 27 is the functional equivalent of hooking a 20+ incher on the Amago; great care and focus is needed to land it. One ~footer I hooked, played and lost when it dove under a log was as engaging and heartbreaking as a certain monster rainbow I lost on the Blackfoot last autumn. The difference was brought home when I headed back down to the main stream and deployed the Amago to get extra reach. I hooked the biggest fish (~14 inches) of the day, and controlled and landed it with ease. Fish much smaller than a foot are, once hooked, just too easy with the Amago.
So now I have a quiver of two which should complement each other nicely with their difference. Now that a very promising fishing season is in full swing, both will be used extensively.