A lot of my fishing is experimentation. I always seem to be trying new things. From that standpoint, the TenkaraBum Challenge is quite foreign.
I've spend most of the last three months fishing with the same fly (or variations thereof). The black Killer Bugger has proven to be a very effective fly, though, and there have only been a couple times where I really wanted to fish something else (a CDC & Elk on a little brookie stream immediately comes to mind). For most of the streams and lakes I've fished, you really never know what you will catch, and there has always been at least one potential species that would count for the challenge if caught on a black Killer Bugger.
At the same time, I have been trying a number of new rods. The latest, and one that I've decided I really like, is the Suntech ZPRO 54, which is a double zoom rod that can be fished at 4.5, 5.0 and 5.4 meters. As I mentioned in last week's trip report, it is one of the Japanese keiryu rods designed to fish extremely light lines.
Actually, most keiryu rods are intended for lighter lines than we fish here. I truly believe that Japanese anglers want to use the lightest possible tippet while American anglers always seem to ask for the strongest tippet they can use. Although the ZPRO is designed for extremely light lines, even the Daiwa Kiyose 43M and 53M, which people here have used very successfully for large trout and carp, is rated for lines of 5X to 7X.
The light lines have a major advantage and a major disadvantage. They are so light that they don't have any appreciable sag so you can fish with a very tight line - which when combined with a long keiryu rod means very little line subject to drag. The disadvantage, though, is the line is so thin it's hard to see.
Keiyru anglers use yarn or flag markers rather than colored line. The markers greatly add to the wind resistance that has to be overcome when casting, though, which increases the amount of weight you have to have (either split shot or weighted fly) to overcome that wind resistance.
There may be a compromise solution, although it is only effective in bright sunshine. Varivas makes a couple lines for Ayu fishing that come in the line weights recommended for keiryu fishing with the Daiwa 43M and 53M, and the Nissin 2Way 450 and 540 ZX stiff and medium rods. They are fluorescent chartreuse, similar to the Yamatoyo tenkara lines, but in much lighter weights. The line I used Friday was line size .8 (equivalent to 5X). If you like the drifts you get with a size 3 or 2.5 line, try a .8!
On a bright sunny day, as Friday started out to be, they are plenty visible enough to register strikes. Even better, without the wind resistance that the markers would cause, you can cast a relatively light fly. With the .8 Varivas line, both the Suntech ZPRO 54 and also the Daiwa Kiyose 53M could cast a size 12 Killer Bugger without any split shot or bead head. The wool yarn absorbs enough water to provide the necessary weight.
An unweighted Killer Bugger doesn't get that deep, but depending on the stream, it does get deep enough to catch fish without getting snagged nearly as much as beadhead Killer Buggers do. Also, with the fly staying above the rocks, there were many fewer false "strikes" caused by the fly getting caught on rocks.
Before I went on my vacation to Maine earlier this summer, I tied a 17' horsehair line following the instructions of Charles Cotton, who wrote the fly fishing section of Izaak Walton's The Compleat Angler. I tried it with a couple keiryu rods while fishing a lake in Maine and was impressed by how well they cast it. I tried it again on Friday on a river and was very impressed by how well it did with the Suntech.
Late in the day (after waiting out a thunderstorm) I went to a much smaller stream to try the Suntech as a long rod - short line tenkara rod. Pairing the rod at the 14'10" length with a 12' size 3 tenkara line and 3' of 8X tippet, I fished one of the streams on which I had first experimented with the long rod-short line technique.
It worked out very nicely indeed. The stream is relatively narrow - I've fished it successfully with a 9' rod - but it has very little in the way of overhead canopy. Using a 15' rod was not a problem at all (and casting the rod one handed was not a problem at all, either.
With a line that is short in relation to the rod, it is very easy to pick your spots and keep all your line off the water. With the end of the tenkara line just barely above the water's surface, you have a point of reference to watch for any hesitations or twitches. It makes an extremely sensitive indicator and registers strikes very easily. In the relatively short time I was on the stream, I picked up four browns and after weeks of just catching brown trout, finally caught my rainbow trout for the Challenge. (Rainbow at the end of the gold?)
I was impressed enough with how well the ZPRO handled the long horsehair line and the short tenkara line, next time I go out with this rod I'll have a very light 12' horsehair line for it. That should be some combination.
Actually, I'm impressed enough with the rod overall that I'll try and get more in. I don't know how many people would be interested in a big water rod that isn't a big fish rod, but it makes a dandy rod for the long rod, short line technique also. I'm sure there are enough people who fish streams that don't have overhead branches, and as I always seem to say, fish the longest rod you can get away with.