Tenkara Rod Round Up

Three years ago Tenkara USA bravely stepped into the industry spotlight and brought tenkara to the fly fishing industry’s annual trade show, IFTD. Since then a number of rods have appeared on the market and this year Tenkara USA, Patagonia and Tenkara Rod company all had space at IFTD.

When I started guiding tenkara trips the number of tenkara rods available in the US was pretty limited. Today, not so much.

Mostly because my clients regularly ask the question, “How many tenkara rods are there on the market?” I decided to pull a list together of the various tenkara rods currently available in the U.S. that I am aware of.

As I get a chance to try different rods, I’ll post a review.

In all likelihood I will miss someone, if I do please let me know and I’ll add you to the list.

Here is my current list (Mark 1, Mod 3 087614):

26AUG14 1030:  Thanks to Rick for pointing out the links snafu!!!

The Reel Case for Tenkara

Earlier this month I traveled to the International Fly Tackle Dealer show (IFTD), the fly fishing industry’s trade show in Orlando, Florida. There is a virtual smorgasbord of fly fishing gear at the show and much has been and will be written about that.

However, one item caught my attention and appealed to my tenkara loving ways.

Dan Rice at Bozeman Reel Company got my attention when he showed me what they had done to the reel case they include with every reel they sell.

First Dan showed me how they had put a series of small holes in the bottom and a some stretch fabric in the top flap to aid in air circulation. They added a space on the label so you can mark the line weight.

Bozeman Reel Case closed Bozeman Reel Case open

Then Dan pointed out two pieces of velco inside the top flap and a band of elastic fabric inside the main section of the case. He pulled the top flap under his belt, securing it with the velco and the reel case now had a higher purpose; a beer holder!

Genius!

Genius!

Of course, I immediately saw this as essential tenkara gear. You may not need a reel but a Bozeman Reel case is a whole other matter…

Blood Knot Wins Big at The Drake Film Awards

One of the annual highlights of IFTD, the fly fishing trade show, is The Drake Film Awards. This was the 9th annual awards show and an especially exciting night was in store for Mossy Creek Fly Fishing and TwoFisted Heart Productions as Blood Knot took two awards in front of a audience of fly fishing industry pros.

As Brian and Colby said “it was pretty exciting to have Blood Knot get included in F3T, then get nominations in The Drake Film Awards, but none of us expected this…”

Brian and Colby Trow accept the award for Best Freshwater Movie at the 2014 Drake Film Awards

Brian and Colby Trow accept the award for Best Freshwater Movie at the 2014 Drake Film Awards

Colby’s post on Facebook captured the gratitude in winning the award, “Unreal. Overwhelmed. Utterly blown away. Thanks to everyone who supported the film. Nick and Kami Swingle Ladson Webb, Two TwoFisted Heart Productions for creating this film! Tom Sadler for getting us all mixed up in the industry. The Orvis Company, Tenkara USA, Art Webb with BCF, Virginia Tourism, and of course the lovely wives that put up with our shenanigans. Best Freshwater Film? Seriously. Thanks Tom Bie , The Drake Magazine, and F3T!”

Still pumped from the previous honor, the night got even more fantastic when they were called back to the stage!!!

Best Movie

Brian and Colby Trow accept the award for Best Movie of the Year at the 2014 Drake Film Awards

Colby on Facebook again, “BLOWN AWAY! We have no words. Thanks to everyone who has believed in our shop and guides. Nick Swingle Kami Swingle Ladson – We need to PARTY!!! The Drake Magazine Thanks for the love. Best Film…..really? This is insane. Party time!”

Then the smiles really broke out!

Brian and Colby show their appreciation to Tom Bie, The Drake's editor.

Brian and Colby show their appreciation to Tom Bie, The Drake’s editor.

 

There are two special people that make the video magic that is Blood Knot happen. Kami and Nick Swingle of TwoFisted Heart Productions are the brains behind the scenes and the camera that make it all come together. Colby and Brian shared the awards with Nick and Kami -fittingly on the banks of Mossy Creek, last Sunday.

Swingle Trow Trophys

Brian and Colby share The Drake Film awards with Kami and Nick Swingle. Photo by TwoFisted Heart Productions.

 

Rhodo and Sato Reviews

New_Tenkara_Rods

Rhodo (L) & Sato (R)
Tenkara USA Image

In my review of Tenkara USA’s new triple zoom rods the Rhodo and Sato, I included links to a couple of reviews. As folks get their hands one these rods more reviews are popping up.

In order to have reviews handy they are listed and linked below. I will add more as I find them.

The Fly Line: Fly-Fishing: Tenkara rods don’t have to be long to be effective

Troutrageous!: OMFG! Two New Tenkara USA Rods

Tenkara on the Fly: TenkaraUSA’s new rods: the Rhodo and Sato

Discover Tenkara: Exciting New Tenkara Rods and Field testing the Sato

Tenkara Talk: New Sato & Rhodo Rods from Tenkara USA

Teton Tenkara: New Tenkara USA rods: Sato and Rhodo — review  and Tenkara USA Rhodo — review on You Tube.

Tenkara USA: New Tenkara Rods Sato and Rhodo Triple-zoom with “Keep Your Plug”

If you have a review you would like included, let me know in the comments and I’ll post it here.

Want one?

You can get the Rhodo and Sato in the store or online from Mossy Creek Fly Fishing and there is no charge for shipping!

Five Great Trout Streams for Tenkara (fini)

Tom and Lily search for new waterThis is the final installment and instead of pointing out just one more great trout stream, here is a way to see all of Virginia’s trout waters courtesy of the GIS folks at the Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries.

They have created Google Earth files for the Commonwealth’s trout waters and when you load the file on Google Earth you can explore to your heart’s content.

So grab a tenkara rod, now you have no excuse not to “ramble out yonder” and find some new water to try.

Enjoy!

A tip of the Kromer to Mike Kelsey of the Appalachian Tenkara Anglers Facebook group for the heads up on this cool tool from VDGIF!

source: http://www.dgif.virginia.gov/gis/google-earth-files.asp

The Tenkara USA Rhodo and Sato

Two new tenkara rods

Tenkara USA recently brought out two new rods, the Sato and the Rhodo, earlier this month. I picked up one of each this week at Mossy Creek Fly Fishing and celebrated a 60+ degree winter solstice giving them a work out on one of our local spring creeks. You can get the Rhodo and Sato in the store or online from Mossy Creek Fly Fishing and they don’t charge for shipping!

“The gear testing load out”

“The gear testing load out”

While it was warm, it was also breezy, giving me a chance to see how these new rods handled in the wind, a common tenkara nemesis. I took along my two current favorite Tenkara USA rods, the Iwana and the Ito so I could compare the new against the tried and true. I am not a level line guy (Tenkara Talk has excellent level line review here).  I like lines that let me feel the rod load and level lines don’t do that for me. I fish the tapered tenkara lines and some lightweight, narrow gauge, fly lines that we have been using at Mossy Creek Fly Fishing for a year or so. The lengths are noted in each rod review.

Rhodo

Fish long enough in the mountain streams and you find yourself in tight cover. If you are fishing an 11’ or 12’ rod it can be challenging. TUSA invokes the pretty but incessantly fly grabbing rhododendron bush when it named the shorter of the two new rods.

I can relate...

I can relate…

The Rhodo is a “triple zoom” rod letting you fish it a three different lengths, 8’10”, 9’9” or 10’6”.  This is a great option for our mountain streams. Over the years I have taken as many as three rods on trips to my favorite streams; a 12’ Iwana, a 9’3” Iwana and the Ito, using each as conditions dictate. Many times however, I didn’t want to hassle with switching rods, lines and flies and instead “just make do.” The ability to change lengths at will is fantastic, giving you a variety of presentations at your fingertips. When I saw the rods I was amazed at the difference in profile. The Rhodo is much slimmer than the Iwana. I was surprised because I had expected the rod to be thicker not thinner given that it was a zoom rod.

here's the skinny...

here’s the skinny…

I noticed this slim profile was an advantage in the wind. Switching between the Iwana and Rhodo there was a marked difference in the feel of wind resistance casting the Rhodo. This translated into better casting accuracy and increased confidence in choosing tenkara in windy conditions. The Rhodo feels lighter as well. It is listed at 2.1 ounces and the 12” Iwana is listed at 2.7 ounces. The difference is even more pronounced when you cast them. The Rhodo “feels” lighter.

There is a logical, scientific explanation for this I’m sure having to do with weight, balance point and centers of gravity, but I never paid much attention to that stuff in school so I’ll leave that to others (Teton Tenkara does a great job here). What I did notice was that it didn’t change appreciably at the different lengths. From the start, defining action with tenkara rods has been a challenge and there are a variety of measures used these days. So far nothing has emerged as the standard and TUSA has avoided labeling the actions of these rods.

ACTION: We’re phasing out the Tenkara rod index system. We have decided that we will make the best tenkara rods around and the flex of a tenkara rod is not a crucial aspect of selecting a tenkara rod. If you have been tenkara fishing for sometime and want a frame of reference, the Rhodo is a fast 6:4.

When compared to the Iwana, this description seems fair. At all three lengths the rod feels a little crisper and more precise regardless of which line I used. I tested the Rhodo with an 11’ TUSA tapered line and 12’ fly line. I used the fly line to cast the bigger flies we fish on our Valley spring creeks. In the mountains fishing for brookies I fish the tapered line almost exclusively. I fished a size 16 parachute BWO, then added a size 18 bead head hares ear, a very typical combo in our mountain streams when chasing brookies.

I cast into, across and down wind at all lengths. Both rods delivered the fly to target but as noted above, I noticed a big difference in the wind resistance of the Rhodo. The ability to change rod lengths on the fly as I worked across seams made me an instant fan. I made some casts to tricky lies, like under overhanging branches, and the Rhodo was as precise as I could have wanted. Changing lengths allowed me to sneak the fly into those lies without changing positions or try contorted casts.

The “fish the close water first” mantra is a basic fly fishing tenet. With a long tenkara rod we sometimes have to stand back or shorten our casting stroke to hit the close water. Not so with the Rhodo or Sato. You can start with a shorter length and cast close with the full advantage of the rod action. Bottom line, for the mountain streams I will be packing one rod and that is the Rhodo!

Sato

As a Mossy Creek Fly Fishing guide I spend a lot of time on the glorious spring creeks here in the Shenandoah Valley. Those spring creeks hold browns and rainbows from 16” to 24”. Big fish eat big bugs and I need a tenkara rod that can turn over big flies. My tenkara rod of choice for our spring creeks has been the Ito. That is until I fished the new Sato.

more skinny

more skinny

The Sato, like the Rhodo, is a “triple zoom” rod letting you fish it at three different lengths,10’ 8”, 11’ 10” and 12’ 9”. While not as long as the Ito, it has a much more agreeable casting feel. Like the Rhodo the Sato is light in the hand at all lengths, a noticeable difference from the Ito that feels softer and tip heavy when fully extended. I’m not dogging the Ito, the extra length can be important. The Sato’s more refined feel is much more to my liking.

The Sato’s profile is significantly smaller then the Ito and this was advantage in the wind. The Sato weighs in at 2.6oz compared to the Ito’s 4.1oz or the Amago’s 3.5oz. Sato/Ito pix In the summer, the beetles, crickets and hoppers make for some of the best dry fly fishing around. Big fish eating big flies. Unfortunately level and furled lines have trouble turning over big terrestrials.

To start I fished a little bit bigger fly than I did with the Rhodo, running a size 12 parachute Adams and then adding a size 14 bead head pheasant tail. The Sato fished this combo with ease. Like with the Rhodo, the ability increase and decrease rod length was a terrific advantage. In order to see how the Sato handled big flies I put on one of our 14’ flylines with a size 8 PMX. This would be a typical rig for summer. Fished at all three lengths the Sato turned it over easily and accurately. I added a size 10 CK nymph as a dropper and the Sato handled it just fine. Upping the ante with a 17’ line the Sato still put the fly on target and with a much crisper feel than the Ito.

The take away

These rods are impressive. They provide tenkara anglers with options that static length rods just don’t have. If you are new to tenkara I envy you. You get to start with these rods and save yourself the multi-rod hassle. Tenkara veterans are going to want to give serious thought to adding these to the quiver.

They will be what I reach for first in the coming year! Remember the Rhodo and Sato available in the store or online at Mossy Creek Fly Fishing and there is no charge for shipping!

Rhodo and Sato now have a place of honor.

Rhodo and Sato now have a place of honor.

Five Great Virginia Streams for Tenkara (part 4)

When I started Five Great Virginia Streams for Tenkara on March 5th I had hoped to get all five covered in a couple of weeks. Now here we are on May 4th and I am just getting to number 4, the Rapidan River. Sorry about that, but life and new job keep me away from this chronicle.

a typical pool

The Rapidan is probably my favorite brook trout water. I have spent more time and logged more miles on the water then any place else on earth. It truly is my home water.

The Rapidan, located in the Shenandoah National Park, is a high gradient mountain stream with a variety of riffles, pools, runs, and falls. You can drive right to the water but you will be on a dirt road of varying quality much of the way. It doesn’t require a 4×4, but a sports car is not recommended.

To reach the Rapidan take state route 29 to Madison. Head west on route 231 toward Banco. Bear right onto route 670 toward Criglersville and Syria. Go about 2 miles and turn left onto 649/Quaker Run Rd. Follow Quarker Run Rd. until it becomes a dirt road. Stay on the dirt road and you go up on over the ridge, crossing a fire road and head down into the Shenandoah National Park. You will bottom out at the Rapidan with a 4-5 car parking area on your left.

You can start fishing up or down from here and there are miles of water either way. If there are more than two cars, I would continue on the road until you find a pull off that suits you and start fishing.

If you continue on the road you will cross the first of two wooden bridges. There are 4-5 car parking areas near each bridge. When you cross the first bridge you will be entering the state’s Wildlife Management Area. You can camp in this area if you want.

President and Mrs Hoover's Rapidan Camp

President and Mrs Hoover’s Rapidan Camp

Continue past the second bridge you will pass an in-holding (not open to the public) and further along you will come to a locked gate. If you hike up the trail you will reach Rapidan Camp, President Hoover’s summer getaway. This is where the Mill Prong and the Laurel Prong form the headwaters of the Rapidan. The U.S. Park Service maintains an interpretive operation at Rapidan Camp. It is an easy ½ hour hike and worth the trip if only for the historic value of seeing a rustic presidential retreat.

A typical run

pocket water

If you have read the other posts then you already know what flies work in these mountain brook trout streams; a dry or dry-dropper rig either Adams or BWO parachutes. For nymphs try a Pheasant Tail, Gold Ribbed Hare’s ear or Copper John. A few Quill Gordons, March Browns and Sulfurs for mayfly imitations; little black stoneflies, yellow sallies and some tan and olive caddis round out the assortment. Of course if you want to go the full tenkara route then try an Oki or Ishigaki. Check with Mossy Creek Fly Fishing to get the latest on what’s working.

Because the Rapidan has more gradient it offers more complexity to the water. You can spend a lifetime fishing the Rapidan and will always find interesting water to fish. I have fished it in every month of the year and covered most of the water and still look forward to fishing it again.

Give the Rapidan a try and let me know what you think.

Image

Photo courtesy of Marty Hayden

Five Great Virginia Stream for Tenkara (part 3)

So far we have looked at Ramsey’s Draft, in part 1 and Skidmore Fork, in part 2. The third and last river in the George Washington National Forest is the St. Mary’s River.

The St. Mary’s River.

Pools

Pools

The St. Mary’s River is located in the George Washington National Forest’s St Mary’s Wilderness area. It flows through a beautiful canyon like area in the mountains and is one of the more scenic fishing spots in the Old Dominion.

The St. Mary’s is near the town of Vesuvius. One way to get there is from I81/64 to exit 205. Take Route 606/Raphine Road to Route 56/Tye River Turnpike to 608/South Bottom Road-Cold Springs Road to St. Mary’s Road. There is a parking area at the end of the St. Mary’s Road.

Like Ramsey’s Draft you can start fishing very near the parking area. I prefer to hike in for a bit and start my serious fishing above Sugartree Branch.

St. Mary's Falls

St. Mary’s Falls

This section from Sugartree Branch to the falls is really a beautiful area and you will find yourself looking around as much as looking at the water. Like the previous rivers in this series it is a typical riffle-pool-run system. The area plenty of open area’s making casting very easy and enough tight spots to make it challenging.

Depending on the water conditions Sugartree Branch is worth looking into to. It is a reasonably steep gradient with a trail running along side. You can take this trail up and around a section of the river and come out at the falls. You will cross a couple of branch that lead down to the river but the going can be steep and tangled. Think first before you blindly head down. This section is deep in the wilderness area so plan accordingly.

As with the other streams, a dry or dry-dropper rig works well; either Adams or BWO parachutes. For nymphs try a Pheasant Tail, Gold Ribbed Hare’s ear or Copper John. A few Quill Gordons, March Browns and Sulfurs for mayfly imitations; little black stoneflies, yellow sallies and some tan and olive caddis round out the assortment. Of course if you want to go the full tenkara route then try an Oki or Ishigaki. Check with Mossy Creek Fly Fishing to get the latest on what’s working.

Above the falls

Above the falls

Fishing St. Mary’s is a commitment and will eat up a day very easily. The numbers and size of fish in the St. Mary’s are fewer and smaller than the other rivers; the scenic nature of the canyon however more than makes up for it. It is great hike and fish river, but you need to be sure you are up for it. Take some emergency gear, food and water with you. You may want to look at topo map to see what you are getting into.

If you go let me know what you think.

Five Great Virginia Stream for Tenkara (part 2)

In part 1, I wrote that I would be sharing some notes on five of my favorite tenkara streams. All are public water, three in the George Washington National Forest, and two in the Shenandoah National Park. This is the second stream in the series, Skidmore Fork

Skidmore Fork

Pool and run

Pool-riffle-pool

Skidmore Fork is a tributary of Dry River that flows into and out of Switzer Lake. The section below the lake is the easiest to get to and fish so that is what I will focus on.

Skidmore Fork is easy to reach. From Harrisonburg, Va. take 33 west about 18 miles to a moderate sized parking area on your left. If you start-up the hill you went to far. Just as you enter the parking area you will see a gated road on your right. Park your car and follow that gated road around to the first ford on Skidmore Fork.

Brian Trow in stealth mode

Brian Trow in stealth mode

Skidmore is a soft gradient stream with the typical pools, riffles and runs. You can fish up from this first ford all the way to the base of Switzer Lake or down to where Skidmore meets Dry River. If you fish up, a logging road runs along the stream and makes access and egress very easy. The logging road crosses the stream four times before it gets to Switzer Lake.

Skidmore does not offer the wide open casting that you will find on Ramsey’s Draft or the Dry River but is still easily fished with an 11’ Iwana.

A long run

A long run

Here, like Ramsey’s draft, a dry or dry-dropper rig works well; either Adams or BWO parachutes. For nymphs try a Pheasant Tail, Gold Ribbed Hare’s ear or Copper John. A few Quill Gordons, March Browns and Sulfurs for mayfly imitations; little black stoneflies, yellow sallies and some tan and olive caddis round out the assortment. Of course if you want to go the full tenkara route then try an Oki or Ishigaki. Check with Mossy Creek Fly Fishing to get the latest on what’s working.

Daniel lands a brookie on an Ito

Daniel gets his tamo wet!

Skidmore can easily occupy a full day of fishing, offering plenty of variety to keep you entertained the entire time. By the way, on your way to Skidmore you will be driving along the Dry River, which is also an excellent brook trout stream. No one would blame you if you yielded to temptation and stopped at the many pull-offs along the way to give the Dry a try.

If you go let me know what you think.

Five Great Virginia Streams for Tenkara (part 1)

The 2013 Tenkara Summit will be in Harrisonburg, Va. on May 11 and 12, hosted by Tenkara USA and Mossy Creek Fly Fishing. I am excited to be part of the team planning and hosting the summit and because many folks are not familiar with the bounty of brook trout fishing here in the Valley I thought I would share some notes on five of my favorites. All are public water, three in the George Washington National Forest, and two in the Shenandoah National Park. My five favorites are:
Ramsey’s Draft
Skidmore Fork
St. Mary’s River
Rapidan River
North Fork of the Moorman’s
I will start with Ramsey’s and over the next couple of weeks I’ll write about the others.

Ramsey’s Draft

pocket water

pocket water

You will find Ramsey’s Draft 4.5 miles west of West Augusta, Va. on route 250. Look for Mountain House Day Use Area on your right as you are headed west. There is plenty of parking in two areas; the paved lot with picnic tables and a smaller unpaved lot across the low water bridge.

RD1

moving to a pool

Once you are geared up you can fish up or down stream from the parking areas. Most of the water is above the parking areas but a trip downstream is worth the time. If you want to hike in a bit you will find an easy trail that heads upstream from the parking area and runs along and crosses the stream a few times. It is very easy to move along and fish where it suits you. Ramsey’s is a pool-run-riffle stream and for the most part gives you lot’s of casting room. It is a low gradient stream so you will not be scrambling over boulders or falls.

Here is an interesting story about Ramsey’s. Colby and Brian Trow, the owners of Mossy Creek Fly Fishing, took Tom Rosenbauer of Orvis here. Colby fished his tenkara rod in pools that Tom had just fished and caught fish left and right. It was then that Tom decided he needed to give tenkara a try and spent the afternoon fishing tenkara on Ramsey’s.

RD7

a small run

I generally fish a dry or dry-dropper rig; either Adams or BWO parachutes. For nymphs I will use a Pheasant Tail or Gold Ribbed Hare’s ear. You might want a few Quill Gordons, March Browns and Sulfurs for mayfly imitations. Little black stoneflies, yellow sallies and some tan and olive caddis round out the assortment. Of course if you want to go the full tenkara route then try an Oki or Ishigaki. Check with Mossy Creek Fly Fishing to get the latest on what’s working.

RD3

Pool and run

Fishing Ramsey’s is not hard but you want to plan your route in each section. The water is shallow and you can easily spook fish if you are not careful. Wade carefully and look ahead for the next good spot. The runs can be surprisingly good especially if you take the time to study the water and pick out the small pockets and holding water. The pools are spaced out so you have lots of water between them to drop a fly into. Ramsey’s rewards patience and a stealthy approach. If you think it might hold a fish it is a good idea to check, you will be surprised how often you are right.

RD9

brookie!

If you fish Ramsey’s let me know what you think!