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tenkara research

PostPosted: Tue Jun 15, 2010 5:00 am
by jbenenson
I am going fishing on Thursday on one of my "research" streams. You pay $35 for a day's fishing. Only ten people are allowed per day on the 6.5 mile section I'm on; so far I'm the only person who has signed up for that day! (That's right folks. It looks like I will have 6.5 miles of private water to myself for an entire day :) ) It's a narrow stream in a wide-open meadow, so the problem of getting hooked in the trees is eliminated. I am bringing two tenkara rods, one furled and two horsehair lines (made by Chris Stewart), 5x, 6x, and 7x tippet, some tenkara flies and some terrestrials: beetles and hoppers. It's not challenging fishing, but the opportunity is there to observe how different variables affect results. I'll post what I will have learned shortly thereafter.

on_the_beat.jpg (44.76 KiB) Viewed 3620 times

This is a photo of the actual stream where I'll be. Not me and definitely not tenkara! (Why is he wearing a bright red shirt?) Stay tuned...

Re: tenkara research

PostPosted: Tue Jun 15, 2010 10:48 pm
by rsetina
Looking forward to the review of your experiment. It should be an interesting read.

Re: tenkara research

PostPosted: Sat Jun 19, 2010 12:00 pm
by jbenenson
The report...

Thursday was a beautiful, cloudless, windy day, i.e., tough fishing conditions. The strong sun meant that the fish were almost all hiding deep beneath the undercut banks and the 25 mph winds meant that hitting the narrow stream (see the above photo) with the fly from a distance at which the skittish fish couldn't detect my presence was difficult but not impossible.

I used two 12' tenkara rods: a TenkaraUSA Ebisu 5:5 and a Sakura Seki Rei 6:4 (est). Both rods have the wood handles that I really like; the Seki Rei handle is twice as long as the Ebisu's. On this occasion the Seki Rei was the winner as the faster action permitted more accurate casting of beetles & hoppers, especially into the wind. Because the stream is entirely in an alpine meadow, 12' was the right length for me. An 11' rod may be more appropriate for what most think of as a "standard" small stream -- approximately 10' to 15' wide with a lot of overhanging trees and/or willows -- but here casting control and reach are more of a concern than getting hung up in foliage. IMHO, 13' would be overkill. The best TenkaraUSA rod for almost stream fishing in New Mexico and Colorado, based on the years that I have fished here, is the 12' Iwana.

I didn't use the furled mono line as I had used it enough to know its characteristics. Using horsehair lines was a great experience! The natural blonde color made them clearly visible on the water but muted enough to not frighten the fish. They cast with a grace that I have never seen any mono/fluoro line match. It would be worth your while to try one; mine were made by Chris Stewart of this forum. Of the two lines I used, the medium weight outperformed the light weight in both accuracy in the wind and in delivery of the hoppers & beetles. Since wind is almost always a factor here, I recommend a medium-weight line over a lighter one for 90% of Western fishing. It is a real experience using horsehair: catching a wild trout on a horsehair tenkara line is not only real fun but is about as close to the origins of fly fishing as you could ever get!

Later in the day I moved to a nearby "standard" small stream in a canyon where there was less wind and more shadows. The stocked fish there are eager to eat anything that resembles food; you never really need anything but an elk hair caddis, by itself or with a pheasant tail dropper. I continued using the horsehair lines; in this case they performed equally well. Because of the cobbled stream substrate, after a while I snagged the fly on a rock in an unwadeable section. There was no alternative but to pull on the (lighter) line until something gave: the line broke before the 5x tippet did. Since I have learned some rudimentary furling, encouraged by some of the forum's threads (pun intended), all I need to do is create another three-strand section, knot it to the end of the line, and go along my way in the merry month of June. Two lessons learned here: use a 6x or 7x tippet with a horsehair line, and carry a couple of three-strand and four-strand line sections to make field repairs.

If this kind of analytical report meets with your approval I will write others in the future. If it bugs you (pun intended) let me know.


Re: tenkara research

PostPosted: Sat Jun 19, 2010 5:15 pm
by LMarshall
Two lessons learned here: use a 6x or 7x tippet with a horsehair line, and carry a couple of three-strand and four-strand line sections to make field repairs.

Jim, I'd go even lighter than 6x or 7x. Out of haste and inexperience I snapped one strand in the 3-strand tip my first time out with horsehair using 6x tippet when I tried to free my line from a tree. I'm going to try a 6x extender of maybe 18" or so with about two feet of 8x to the fly.

I know a lot of you are probably wondering why anyone would bother with something like horsehair - my experience is the same as Jim's here, horsehair really does cast like no other line I've used. Within it's limits it makes an incredible line, superior to level fluorocarbon or tapered mono.

Edited: Wow, just looked back on this and realized I really mixed up my facts on this comment, no idea how I did that. That'll teach me to make quick posts when I'm in a hurry...

I was actually using a single hair tippet on a snelled fly from Chris, yet somehow I had it in my head that I'd been using 6x when I wrote the original post. In any case, even with a single hair tippet, you can still have individual strands break farther up the line.