August 26, 2016

EDC for Off-Grid Adventures

Most of the places that I fish don't have cell reception. I don't know about you, but the older I get the more conscientious I am about making sure my wife knows where I am and, as I joke with her, where search and rescue can find my body. So with this in mind I carry a few things with me when I go into the mountains.

First, I always have my cell phone with me. Like I said, the vast majority of places I fish don't have cell reception. But I use my phone as a GPS receiver; to let me know where I am in relation to things around me: my vehicle, cliffs, streams, etc. I really like a few apps that work off-grid to help me accomplish these tasks.

I use Topo Maps for my mapping app. I works perfectly for me and I'm able to store "pins" of places, like where I start and end fishing, or where a nice hole or fish are. I have years worth of data on this app and it backs up the data I record to my computer.

I also use Compass Go.  This is a simple GPS navigation app that lets me mark a certain location and find it again without any difficulty. I mainly use it set the location of my parked vehicle. I've used a dozen or more navigation apps, but Compass Go is simple and works.

I don't carry a lot of "survival" gear with me, but I do carry a small pouch on my belt that has a few essentials in it. The pouch is a Granite Gear Belt Pocket. It's designed as a backpack accessory, but I use it as a stand alone pouch. It attaches to my belt via two straps and holds just enough, but not too much.

Out for a hike. You can see my chest pack in front and my tenkara rod in my back pocket.

In the Belt Pocket pouch I have a three items: ResQLink personal locator beacon, a Pak-Lite torch, and a ferro rod with striker.

I have the ResQLink PLB because it's small, self contained, waterproof and pretty much idiot proof. It's the size of a small flip phone and fits in the Granite Gear pouch perfectly. It's easy to register, has a strobe light, floats and there's no subscription. Also, if you have to use it the company will replace it free! It's registered with NOAA, not a private company, and it's very unlikely that NOAA will go out of business! That's comforting to me. The PLB doesn't send messages, it only shows your location to search and rescue.

I also carry a Pak-Lite tourch. This is the best basic flashlight there is. It runs off a 9-volt battery and doesn't add much weight to the battery. I have the "Super" which is tested at a 30+ hours run time. It's very compact, robust and reliable in all temperatures I'd likely be in. The 9-volt battery is also a backup fire starter.

Finally, I carry a ferro rod and striker. It's compact, durable, and works when it's wet. I prefer a "soft" ferro rod and I have practiced enough with it so that I can start a fire in under 20 seconds with a well made feather stick. The ferro rod and striker are in a Chums wallet with a few waterproof fire starters.

I also carry a knife with me. But that's a different discussion.

My EDC pouch is not for survival. It's mainly to provide my location if I get injured enough that I can't get myself out. Or, to provide light if I can get myself out but I have to go slowly and get caught in the dark.

So that's what I carry. It's always with me, either on my person or in my vehicle (if I'm at a drive to stream). I've personally tested each item and they work - they work well. If you go off grid don't rely on your cell phone to get you help, because it won't -- particularly here in the west.

August 12, 2016

Not Tenkara: Two handed keiryu rods for larger waters

As I have mentioned many times before I don't pursue large fish. I did at one point in my fly fishing journey, but large trout attract fisherman, and I avoid fisherman. Large fish are generally in larger waters (Henry's Fork, Madison, South Fork - to name a few in my general area) and therefore I don't fish large waters either. But on occasion I'll go to more remote locations on larger rivers to fish.

I have used longer tenkara rods, but I don't care for longer tenkara rods; the swing weight is too high for my liking. The unavoidable fact is that the longer you make a rod the more tip heavy it gets. It's just a fact of physics. Longer than 400-410 cm in length and the rotational moment measurements go way up.

So instead of fishing longer tenkara rods, or standard tenkara rods with longer lines, I have gone with longer keiryu rods; two handed rods. Using two hands makes casting these rods much easier for me, and my shoulders, than casting long tenkara rods. I find them quite easy to cast and, due to their length, very easy to fight salmonid species, even in swift water.

I have two longish keiryu rods that I use for trout -- the Suntech Fine Power 56 and the Suntech Keiryu Suikei Sawanobori 63. I like both of them a lot. I say "longish" because they are not as long as some keryu rods can get. But just like tenkara rods, the longer a keiryu rod gets, the more heavy and difficult to manage it becomes -- a lot more inertia. Some keiryu rods get into the 8.0-8.5 meters range. Now that's long!

Two handed is usual for these rods...

...but the Fine Power 56 can be fished one handed also!

Chris Stewart, of TenkaraBum, has advocated the "long rod, short line" approach to fixed line fishing. I say that I have to agree with him. I know that there are tenkara lines in the 7m or longer range, but there is no way, unless you only fish downstream, to keep the line off the water with longer lines. After all, that's the point of tenkara fishing, keeping the line off the water and being in direct contact with the fly. If the line lays on the water then you might as well be fly fishing with a rod, reel and PVC line. [I've heard of that style of fishing somewhere before, but I just can't remember where ;o)  ]

Anyway, what I like about these longer rods is that they get the rod tip high enough in the air that even when using a longer line (at least for me) all of the line is off the water. More importantly, the angle of the line penetrating the water's surface is more nearly perpendicular than using a shorter rod with a long line. With the line penetrating closer to perpendicular there is less affect of the water's currents on the line than when it comes in at an acute angle. I can stay in "touch" with my bead head nymph easier and both see and feel the fish's take easier. Here are a couple of rudimentary cartoons to illustrate the point:

Tenkara rod with a long line. Note the angle in which the line enters the water. The water will float the line.

Longer keiryu rod with shorter line. Again, note the angle at which the line enters the water. Much less affect on the line.

Both rods have a nice smooth, mid flex action; they both throw a #3 line very well. Neither of the rods weighs too much for them to be comfortable. The Fine Power 56 weighs only 96 grams, while the Keiryu Sawanobori 63 weighs 122 grams.  I can cast the Fine Power 56 one handed without much difficulty if I choke up on the handle a bit (at its 5.2 meter length). The Keiryu Sawanobori is too long for a CCS penny measurement, but the Fine Power 56 is 25.5 pennies at 5.2 meters and 26 pennies at 5.6 meters. That gives it a Rod Flex Index of 4.9 at 5.2 meters and 4.6 at 5.6 meters. See, really nice actions!

Like I said above, I don't hunt large fish, but both of these rods could handle far larger trout than I caught the other day. I have landed fish up to about 18 inches with the Keiryu Sawanobori, with 5X tippet, without any issue at all. I'm sure both rods could handle larger trout than that!

So if you don't care for tenkara rods over 400 cm, or tenkara rods have let you down when hooking large trout in fast water, then consider one of these keiryu rods. The other option is a rod,reel and PVC line -- they still work great for big trout!

August 6, 2016

Umpqua High-Vis Practice leader

A few companies sell tapered nylon tenkara lines --  these include Fujino and Tenkara USA. I have used the Fujino lines, but I've not tried the Tenkara USA ones. Personally, I'm a level line fan, so I usually don't use the tapered nylon lines that I have. But there are a few situations in which I will use one. One of these situations is wind.

Not strong wind, mind you, but a breeze that is just strong enough to throw off my #3-3.5 fluorocarbon line, and still mess with a #4 line. I have found that a stiff tapered nylon line will "punch" its way through a headwind easier than the level line. I'll emphasize the word stiff. The Fujino Soft Tenkara lines are just that, soft, and as such don't work as well for me as a stiffer line. For a stiffer line I prefer the Fujino Tenkara Line in Ice Blue.

But I don't fish long lines either. I may fish a 13 foot line on occasion, but for the streams I frequent I prefer a line about 9-10 feet long.  This leaves tapered nylon lines in the 3 m length as the only option. Either that or cut a longer one down to size. For what it costs for these lines I don't like to cut them.

I tend to fish higher gradient freestone streams, not slow flowing rivers or lakes. I also tend to fish casting upstream. I like to use a longer rod with shorter line. I can get quite close to the target and with a shorter line get very precise casts. This is why lines in the 9-10 foot range, when 2.5-3 feet of tippet is added, work well for me.

About 6 months ago I started testing some other commercially available tapered nylon lines. They are not made for tenkara, rather, they are made as practice leaders for western fly anglers. These leaders are Umpqua Practice leaders. The freshwater leader is 7.5 feet long and the saltwater one is 9 feet long. I know these lengths are a little short for many tenkara anglers, but for less than $8.00 USD they are a real bargain if you need a tapered nylon line for a small stream or creek. I use the 7.5 foot one on really small creeks when the wind is blowing in my face. The saltwater leader ends in a 12 lb line equivalent. That's about 2X. You could add another couple of feet of smaller fluorocarbon line to carry out the taper, if you wanted.

From Umpqua

Both of these "lines" are bright orange, and the nylon is quite stiff with an aggressive taper -- what Umpqua calls a power taper. These two characteristics make these line turn over is a very tight loop  and thus punch into the wind quite well. They won't handle a steady 15 MPH blow, but 10 MPH seems to be no problem -- especially when matched with a slightly stiffer rod, say in the RFI range of 5.5+.

From Umpqua

Umpqua has a few other colored leaders that might also interest the bargain minded tenkara angler. These are made for Czech nymphing, but may also serve as shorter tenkara lines. I just have't tried them. Their coloring is a little bit less bright.

So if you would like a shorter tapered nylon line that works well in a breeze and doesn't cost much you may want to try one of these leaders from Umpqua.

August 3, 2016

One Hour -- I needed to get out!

After having surgery a few weeks ago I have been relatively confined to my house. It's sort of like being on home arrest but without the legal implications. Still, with all that sitting around I've been going a little stir crazy. So yesterday I was feeling pretty good and I decided to drive up into the mountains near my house for a sortie.

I took with me my Tenryu TF39TA, a few flies, and a couple lines. I walked carefully down the stream side trail looking around and enjoying the scenery.

After a few minutes I came to a section of the stream without beaver ponds and I decided to fish for a few minutes. The water was low and clear and there was an annoying breeze, making casting among the willows a challenge. I used a #12 light wire hook kebari, subsurface. I could have used a dry fly, the water being so shallow, but where's the challenge in that?

The fly after being eaten by the trout.

I first cast to a shallow run (if you could call it a run, it was so small) and on the second cast the line hesitated. I lifted the rod tip and set the hook into a small, but beautiful cutthroat. I brought him to hand, took his picture and then let him go.

Over the next 30 minutes I caught and released eight other cutthroats. None were very large, but that didn't matter. It was just good to be back in the mountains and fishing.

I fished for exactly one hour; it was all I needed. I know that I shouldn't be on the stream at this point, but I just had to go! I walked carefully back to the truck and then drove home. It was very good to be back in the mountains again.