First Weekend with Iwana 11'

Trip reports, findings, events, and general experiences with tenkara fishing. Tell other tenkara enthusiasts about your tenkara experience

First Weekend with Iwana 11'

Postby tnitz » Mon Aug 23, 2010 3:20 pm

Iwana 11' arrived Friday and at Daniel's suggestion I fished the same section of stream I had fished the night before with conventional gear. I don't pretend to be a great caster or fly fisherman, but have been concentrating on small mountains streams for the past few years. I was about to purchase a 7 foot 4 wt conventional rod because of frustrations encountered with anything longer when a dear friend and former teacher told me about his weekend fishing with a tenkara rod he was gifted with. As soon as he mentioned it, I recalled reading as much as I could about tenkara fishing in Japan a few years ago via internet sites I cannot now find but never associated what I was reading with the kind of fishing I was doing. Mostly I took away from the reading a new way to fish soft hackle wet flys.

I found a new section of the river here in town that I hadn't fished before and fell in love with it. It is densely choked in and there's no evidence of other prior fishermen. It averages about 12 feet across, maybe 16 inches deep, but a fair number of cutbanks, pockets, a pool, and riffles. Trash is composed of sunken polyethelene, plastic bags, and corrogated steel panels but no casual litter. Thursday night was my best so far, landing two 12 inch rainbows relatively quickly. I retired early.

Friday the rod arrived. A few lawn casts during lunch and after work I was down on the stream. There were a couple motorcyclists setting up camp at my parking spot, so I had to go upstream and work my way down to where I was the night before. I figured the time spent fishing down would give me time to get accustomed to the gear. That wasn't true. The fish kept getting in the way. I can recall only one time before that I had a strike on every cast - that was near Thompson Falls at twilight and half of those strikes were bats. I think there were maybe 4 casts without a noticeable strike.

I am not trying to say this is miracle gear. It's not and it has it's own peculiarities. However, it quickly becomes clear that this is gear designed for small stream work. But it's beauty goes far beyond that. Here are some observations from someone who just made the switch:

1) The rod and gear are professionally packaged and you won't be ashamed. It's good stuff and the care is clear. The only issue I found with mine was that a flaw in the cork was pretty poorly filled with excess epoxy and the largest hole not filled. Also the butt wasn't even and the cork rough so that the butt cap doesn't sit evenly. I don't know if this is typical but it doesn't mar performance and a little sanding quickly took care of the excess epoxy. Otherwise my rod is flawless as was all the associated gear.

2) The blue spool works perfectly and I see no reason to go otherwise. I recommend getting one with your rod.

3) I've been fishing furled leaders for a few years now so the traditional line was nothing new to me. The only comment I have is that you should have a spool of 3x with you, I broke the line extension on both of my lines.

4) I've read of others who lost the butt cap right off. Mine hasn't loosened up yet. I've read of others who lost their tip plug on their first day. I didn't. I lost mine the second day. It's probably a good idea to get a second one right off or find a cork to fit as a spare.

5) I bought a few flies for samples with the rod. I fished soft hackle wets all weekend of various patterns, including one of the reverse hackle flies I purchased. I noticed NO difference between all of them.

6) For this past weekend I fished the way I've been fishing, downstream drift and upstream retrieve. I will try other techniques later, but for now I wanted to compare.

7) The wind does affect the light line. I will eventually try level lines for those times.

8) I recently bought a Fish Pond San Juan bag to replace vest. Even it is now too much, you just don't need much stuff with this gear.

Will continue with fishing experience in seperate post.
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Fishing with Iwana 11'

Postby tnitz » Mon Aug 23, 2010 3:55 pm

I was going to order the Iwana 12' but Daniel suggested that the 11' might be better for the stream I was describing. I am glad I ordered the 11' it allowed me to fish both choked streams as well as mountain streams I could have reasonable fished conventional tackle. I actually think I could use a 9' rod on the first and definately the 13' rod would have worked better on the second. Here are some observations:

1) It felt kinda funny getting my waders and boots on and then proceeding to the stream with a little length of cork with short graphite extension. Kinda like carrying a candle at a memorial. I'm glad no-one saw me. It's an odd feeling. That quickly disappears when you are following a deer tunnel through the undergrowth. At one point I had to exit the stream and reenter downstream. I was able to collapse the rod, wind the line around my hand and be out and back in in seconds. I don't know how I would have done with a conventional rod. It quickly becomes apparent that this gear was meant for these kind of conditions.

2) My impression is that you are substituting rod for line. That seems obvious, but I am continuing to discover how true it is. It's a good substitution, mostly. For example, I would describe the control you have over the fly as "skating." To me it's the same as skating a fly downstream on the surface using the flyline and mending techniques while steelheading, for example. But now, instead of the line and current, you are controlling movement with the rod. Also, you can skate at any depth, whether surface or subsurface, you have that kind of control.

3) I am amazed at how much control I have over the fly. Because the line is so close, I could use the tippet loop to guage depth when I couldn't see the fly itself. Usually I could watch the fly. I also found that as long as I could move the rod, the line would follow. There is one place where I can get the rod between overhead branches by using a curved swing. So long as the rod made it through, the line followed. I don't know how I would have done this with conventional gear.

4) It is ALOT of rod for a small choked stream. I hit branches all the time. Of course, I hit overhead branches with flyline all the time too. The biggest difference is that I found that most of the time the tenkara line and fly readily came loose with a light switch whereas my conventional gear often embedded itself in the bark or branch. I think it's the light line, but overhead snags weren't near as much of a problem. But again you are substituting rod for line, so at least I was still hitting overhead vegetation alot.

5) Underwater snags are more difficult, I believe. WIth conventional gear you can often roll cast the fly loose. With tenkara gear you are wading out to the fly, there's really nothing you can do. The only consolation is that it's easier to avoid obstacles you know about and control the depth of the fly.

6) I have been fishing 7 1/2 foot furled leaders for a few years now. Casting wasn't much different, except that the Iwana can actually cast such a line. WIth only about 6' of flyline out on conventional gear, I couldn't load my rod and it really wasn't built for that kind of twitching of line. I had to rely on current, line mending, and drifts to get flies where I wanted. If I was careful I might be able to twitch a fly under vegetation into a cutbank. But actual casting was exceedingly rare and as a result I was limited in where I could place a fly, I was reliant on the current and line drift. That is nearly removed as a limitation with the tenkara gear.

7) The Iwana is much more sensitive than my conventional gear, even my little 7 foot bamboo currently disabled. I have a much better idea of what is going on now. Also, I can see most of what is going on since I am so close.

8) I was headed down a path of figuring out how to severely overload (perhaps properly load would be a better description) a 7 foot rod so that I could do short casts to fish this area. The benefit would be that I could continue to fish streamers and use line mending techniques, but also fish in closer for other fly patterns, like hoppers or caddis or even wets. What I hadn't counted on was how important the sensitivity of the rod would be and what would result. More on this later.

9) I've read people who associate this gear with "dapping" (dipping) or pole fishing. They obviously haven't tried it. It requires a cast and I admit I haven't got it yet. I still "plop" my flies. But it does cast and does so well and delicately. I am just not yet accustomed to the rhythm. I was expecting to learn this on the water, but the fish kept getting in the way. I need to spend time lawn casting with it and recommend you do, too. You won't have time on the water.

10) I am getting a "click" in the rod tip. At first I thought it was a loose section of rod but after tightening it, the click continued. I thought it was a trailing loop but when I watched, that wasn't it either. In any event it doesn't affect my casting, it's just there. I kinda think I might be feeling a "hinging" of the lillian or line connection or maybe even a tag end hitting the end of the rod, I don't know yet.

11) Being so much closer to the action, I can actually see more of what's going on. This is important to connect feeling with sight for those times when I can't see what's going on. I can feel everything. There was one fish (a 10" rainbow) that was "gumming" my fly. I could feel him gumming it and I kept applying steady pressure hoping to set the hook. It never set and when I got it back the peacock herl was completely removed. The light line isn't so affected by current, but I can better feel my fly on rocks and it at least seems like I can feel every strike.
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Joined: Fri Aug 13, 2010 8:52 am

Results and Personal Change

Postby tnitz » Mon Aug 23, 2010 4:22 pm

I don't want to make out this gear as "miracle gear". It's not. I don't want to get all mystical about it either. But it is something, and there's much about it I can't figure out. It has also changed my fishing for the better.

1) My first night was a strike a cast, except for maybe four casts. The fish were rainbows and bull trout, with one redband and ranged from 1 1/2" inches (poor thing, I nearly cast him without realizing it) to 12" rainbows. I've never had such a session in my life and the best on this stretch before that was the day of two 12" rainbows or days of a half dozen 4-5 inchers. I had just attached my line for the first time and was preparing to figure out how to cast the gear when I had my first fish on. I have ideas about why this is, but can't account for all of it. Other sessions over the weekend ranged from a strike a cast to nothing, but overall each section I had MANY MANY MANY more strikes and landings than ever before. I was fishing the same wet flys I've been using for a few weeks and with much the same delivery technique. The only differences I can account for are that I can get to many places I couldn't before, and I am using a much lighter line.

2) I realized that this gear is really good at presenting wet flies and using them to mimic a variety of stages of aquatic life. For me this was life-changing. I started out my fishing that way, using very general patterns in a variety of ways, but over time have compartmentalized my presentations and fly selection. I fish nymphs OR wet flies OR emergers OR streamers OR drys. The up and down "jigging" part of this gear (and that's only a small part, to be sure) brings back to me the life cycle of aquatic insects. It forces me to think again of the insect and it's movements, not the line presentation and mimicking one aspect of its' life. Again, I am fishing mostly the same now, but already see myself thinking more about the relationship of one part of the presentation to one part of the life cycle and completing the cycle in a single presentation. In a sense, then, each cast becomes a replication of a lifecycle. It's kinda interesting and new for me. It also helps that despite fishing a number of different wet flies over the weekend, I didn't see any one performing better than others. I will keep my hoppers, caddis, and streamers for a while more, yet, but...

3) For me, much of my past small stream fishing was figuring out where I could fish, how I could place the fly (and line) in such a place that I could mend the line to drift my fly into place and how to retrieve it using the current and my position. What this did to me was place greater emphasis on the casting and presentation and leave out the setting of the hook and the landing. Of course, the latter weren't of much value given the scarcity of fish. It's no longer a question of will I reach a spot, will the fish take the fly, it's now a question of when will the fish take the fly, how will I set the hook, and how and where will I land the fish. These latter two are REALLY important now. I am losing a great number of fish. I was taught that if you keep your line tight the fish will hook themselves. Hogwash. I tried gentle pulling - that doesn't work. I tried jerking a set like you see everyone do (and I've always avoided doing) - that doesn't work. I even tried giving slack when I felt the take. That didn't work either. I haven't a clue what to try now. I did notice, however, during the sunny period on Saturday, that alot of the strikes I was missing were from VERY small fish, maybe they simply couldn't get their mouths around the fly, I don't know. I just know I am relearning setting of the hook and it amazes me that such a fundamental part of our sport escapes me. Landing the fish is an entirely different matter - you have all that rod to contend with. The result of all this is that I am seeing the casting/presentation now as a cycle. I am not focussed on the cast or setup of the fly presentation, I am thinking and seeing my way through the whole process with each cast. It's good for me and will make me a better angler. I don't know how many strikes I was missing with conventional gear and didn't even know about or if there is simple something very different about this gear I don't yet understand, I only know that I no longer worry about if or whether.

4) The next change I am encountering has less to do with the gear than with the overall approach. This is one area that I think has come over from Japan relatively whole. Like most of us, I have been in pursuit of the BIG fish, thinking I would find them even on these small, fast, mountain streams. I have tried techniques and searching for the holding spots of these big fish I knew to exist. I had completely overlooked the little guys and they tended to depress me more than anything. I still hope to find a big one someday (although 12" is pretty big for this water) but largely through the influence of this forum and the videos and other sites, I am finding joy in fishing with the little guys. I am amazed at how resourceful they are, wedging themselves in little rock crevices when they can't find slow water, darting out 4 feet or more after a fly so quickly I often miss them. They are simply amazing. And they are everywhere. I am relearning my whole concept of "holding" water and realizing that there are fish everywhere. It's really cool. And I am having fun catching these little fish. I had a 6" fish on Friday that felt more powerful than the 12" and he was all over that water. It was exciting.

5) Lastly, and this may just be me, but my entire fishing is more well-rounded. I am getting so much action now that I find myself taking breaks, watching the water instead of fishing, and actually spending alot of time hauling trash out of the water. I can set the rod aside and take a break for a while cleaning the river and go back to fishing, nearly picking up where I left off. Before I worked all day for the kind of activity I was getting in just minutes now and so taking a break from it all isn't such a big deal.

Maybe none of this applies to you, and well it shouldn't. We will each find our own way. But regardless of how much you take on in this approach of how it fits into your fishing life, I can only say that it's been an important progression for me and is starting to change me dramatically. I think it's making me a more well-rounded angler.

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Re: First Weekend with Iwana 11'

Postby wrknapp » Mon Aug 23, 2010 4:39 pm

Great posts. Welcome. I'm sure others will enjoy reading the details as much as I have. Thanks.

"When thou passest through the waters, I will be with thee; and through the rivers, they shall not overflow thee" Is 43:2a "I will cause them to walk by the rivers of waters in a straight way, wherein they shall not stumble" Jer 31:9b
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Re: First Weekend with Iwana 11'

Postby grampa » Tue Aug 24, 2010 8:22 am

re: line "clicking" - I experience this as well, and have also come to the conclusion that it is something with the lillian or the lillian/line connection.
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Re: First Weekend with Iwana 11'

Postby Morgan » Tue Aug 24, 2010 4:28 pm

Great observations, well described.
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