First Year on the Fly
by Alan Luecke
(Kansas City, MO)
Exactly one year ago I decided I could catch more fish if I could put small buggy lures closer to the fish. I purchased a 6 weight combo from Cabela's and signed up for a casting class at a local fly shop.
Since it was still winter I kept reading and planning. In the process I came across tenkara - strange, no reel, how could this work? I kept looking and found Tenkarabum, I read every word. It was interesting, it made sense and most of all everyone was so enthusiastic and seemed to be having so much fun. When Chris posted a note that he was about to run out of Soyokazes I immediately ordered a "Kids Starter Kit" thinking it would be a little fun on the side -- little did I know.
While visiting the in-laws in South East Kansas I went prospecting at a small community lake with the Soyokaze and a black wooly worm. I found the bluegills and everything changed. Catching small fish on a tight line at close range was so much fun I couldn't stop. My wife was pleased but suspicious about my new found enthusiasm for visiting her mother.
Jumping all the way in, I joined the Heart of America Fly Fishers club. This group is nearly 30 years old and is an incredible resource of knowledge and experience -- one member guides in Patagonia and Mongolia. They're traditional Western style fishers but everyone had heard of tenkara, some had rods and no one had a bad thing to say -- it's just fishing. Hanging out, I began to hear talk of clear local creeks, secret spots and urban carp -- oh boy.
As the year past I fished more than I ever have, caught more fish than I ever have (by multiples) and caught the largest and smallest fish I ever have. I had big fun in my canoe fishing residential lakes with lots of stone walls and docks. I caught "The Big Carp" in a small muddy city lake. But the thing I am most excited about is small stream wade fishing. It turns out that the Kansas City area has miles of small, rocky public access creeks that are full of all kinds of fish -- if only they were cold enough for trout.
As I think about my favorite images from the year two come to mind. Both wade fishing local creeks.
Mill Creek in suburban Johnson County, Kansas is clear and rocky with some great holes separated by long shallow flats. Wading one of those flats, prospects didn't look good but as I waded in knee deep water, the sun through the trees, I cast my Zerosum with a Partridge and Orange into every shadow and under the roots and branches, sometimes sidearm. Every place that might have a fish had a fish -- green sunfish, a pumpkin seed, a small bass and then creek chubs, my first creek chubs like baby trout. The rod, the fly, the day, the fish -- perfect.
For variety I like wading the Blue River in a wooded park area in Kansas City, MO. this is really a big creek most of the time but does carry more water than my other creeks. It is also less clear and generally rougher. I worked my way down a quarter mile section with a Daiwa 33SF, a short line and a big, ugly, weighted version of a Little Dark Kebari, sort of a "Mucho Kebari". This set-up let me twitch the fly on the surface, pulse it in the water column or bounce it off the bottom. I caught green sunfish, bluegill, pumpkin seeds, a bass, a catfish and a short nosed gar. I can't imagine another set up that would do this, and with only one hand.
Some rods are going in the suitcase for a Mexico beach vacation in Feb.-- I'm thinking some shrimp patterns around the rocks and some tide-pool micro fishing. Next summer I have two days booked with Paul Vertrees from Rigs Fly Shop in Colorado. I've found a creek in Missouri that the Conservation Dept. claims has 41 species of fish. Spring can't come fast enough.
I want to say a special thank you to Chris Stewart for finding all this neat stuff and presiding over such a friendly, informative and well run place for it to be shared (and of course purchased).
Walk softly and carry a long stick. - Teddy Roosevelt (almost)
Tenkara has no strict rules. Enjoy tenkara in your own way.
- Eiji Yamakawa
“The bitterness of poor quality remains long after the sweetness of low price is forgotten” – Benjamin Franklin