We recently headed for a local stream a couple towns over and tried out our new tenkara fishing gear. We found an easy spot to leave the truck off the side of the road just after a bridge and the adventure began. This was a place D had fished before but it was new to me.
Set up was easy and MPP waited patiently, relaxing in a pocket of shade under the truck. I am one of those people that will leave protective coatings on things even after I get them home from the store, because, hey, why not? But I managed to convince myself to peel the plastic covering off the cork grip on my rod. I figured in this case the extra protection would probably not be ideal for a potentially sweaty hand and who wants to hear the crinkle of plastic while out in the stream?
There are no reels in tenkara fishing, but we have these handy line holders, that also float, to wind up your line on and then secure your fly for travel. Tenkara has a lot of convenience and things are simple and compact which is super appealing to me.
After we tied on our tenkara line to the tip of the rod (the rod has a handy swivel tip, by the way) and then secured our leader to the line and fly to the leader we collapsed the rods again with the line holder sitting right on the rods. Whenever I had my rod collapsed and the line holder on in this manner, I felt like I was at Christmas Eve mass when I was little, holding a candle with the little paper ring guarding against the drips of hot wax.
I made sure to tie some knots myself and to not let D do it all in an effort to be a bit more functional should I go out without him. Don’t want to be too dependent on him as a fishing buddy as I am sure he doesn’t tie flies on for his other companions. Then, with everything secure we took a steep but quick jaunt down to the water.
My first thought was that the rod was so light and whippy and…um, short. After just a few minutes, I expressed my fear of the rod being too short with D and insisted that I try his. Of course, as soon as I had my palm around the grip on his rod I started thinking, whoa, this is so heavy and long! So…quick…switch back! I am lucky D is so tolerant. There are definitely benefits to the shorter rod in weight and then in ease when casting in such a tight stream as I am pretty good at taking advantage of all the opportunities there are for snagging lines and flies in leaves and branches. But, part of me wonders if a rod between my rod, at 8ft, and D’s rod at 12ft would be ideal for me. That four foot difference is such a big jump, but overall I am really happy with my new rod.
We continued upstream dabbling in pools that looked promising for a little over a mile. It was fun, but not very fruitful. We got a few nibbles but it was difficult to set the hook. Whether this was me being overeager or the rod being too forgiving or something else entirely, I am too much of a novice to know. I did catch a very small brook trout, just a few inches long. And we continued trying to hook something bigger and trying to find a large pool that D knew of and had luck in a couple years prior.
During this time, as we made our way along the rocks and riffles, we committed what is probably considered a tenkara sin. We put a few worms on. Now, the “slogan” per se of tenkara is something like “a rod, a line, a fly.” And here we were, “a rod, a line, a chunk of worm from the garden that has been sitting in a yogurt cup in the fridge.” Now we didn’t have instant success, but we certainly had fun doing some slingshot casts to get under fallen trees and right up against or under the lip of some boulders. Holding the line back enough to bend the rod tip and then shoot the hooked worm through the air in a way that made you want to produce a few sound effects.
After a while, D determined that we should have already reached the big pool he was thinking of, perhaps hurricane/tropical storm Irene had changed things up enough to eliminate or really alter this pools presence. He suggested that things probably wouldn’t get much better if we continued upstream and that he was willing to turn back if this was what I wanted. I determined that either way, we didn’t have enough snacks, and a little disheartened, agreed we should head back.
In order to make progress more quickly downstream, we collapsed our rods and hopped on the bank, knowing we could dip back down to the water should we see a good spot or think of something new to try. So, I should say that D has the ability to bushwhack like it’s his job. And, in fact, bushwhacking once was his job, when he was cruising woodlots and scouting property lines as a forester. And then there is me. I like to think I am tough and in many ways I am, but there is something about brush, with and without prickers, scratching my bare legs and having my feet sliding around in whatever footwear I may be sporting that has collected rocks and debris rumbling around between my foot and the footbed that just drives me crazy. Combine that with D’s breakneck speed and mad bushwhacking skills and I was just trying to focus on the ice cream stop we might be able to make on the ride home. Honestly, the prospect of an ice cream stop gets me through many a weary moment.
Just as I was feeling sorry for myself and my pebble and pine needle ridden sandals, D ventured down to the water to try a pool just one more time. I can’t remember if it was before or after this attempt that we came upon this turtle! He or she didn’t seem outwardly interested in meeting us and recoiled into his/her shell, but tolerated our introductions very politely. MPP was slightly curious but more so oblivious and no harm was done to any party.
We thanked our turtle friend for adding a bit of excitement to our return trip and continued to bounce down the stream, careful not to slip or twist an ankle on any threatening rocks. The water was a nice cool on our legs but likely would not have been so nice should it have soaked our clothing and made the ride home unpleasantly squishy bumping along in the truck.
Then D saw the flash of a little brookie in a pool almost back at our starting point. He quickly extended my wee rod and began an interesting back and forth with that brookie and his buds beneath the surface. D kept putting the line in and they kept biting, only to have us come up empty after attempting to set the hook. Here we really thought it was how soft the rod tip was. There was just so little resistance that the hook didn’t have much force behind it. One after the other, the mini trout would avoid having to take the ride to the surface. Meanwhile, MPP was being patient but looking a bit sleepy as he waited on the rocks, surely a less comfortable resting spot than one of the many dog beds at home.
And then finally in the last moments one of those brook trout connected for the full cast, hook, and photo op. How cute! And with that, we hiked back to the truck, rolled down the windows for MPP to assume his usual perch with the wind in his ears, and steered toward home (with an ice cream stop).