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Blue Line Special

by Les Albjerg
(Caldwell, Idaho)

Blue Line Special

Blue Line Special

Here is a picture of what I call a "blue line special." Chris often talks about fishing the blue lines that don't have names. This particular creek does have a name. It actually begins in the High Desert south of where I live at close to 8,000 feet. The discovered "blue line special" area is much closer to where it enters the Snake River. I was inspired by Chris' last fishing report. I was moved by the following statement, "It's not the simplicity of the gear that makes tenkara interesting, it's the complexity of what you can do with it."

The creek in the picture is truly a Tenkara creek above 4,500 feet, and has nice red-band rainbow trout in it. It is a high gradient stream. I have fished up there. That said, I would venture to say where this picture is taken strict Tenkara isn't the best fixed line method. I would broaden out what Chris said to say, "All fixed line fishing brings a complexity that makes it intriguing, challenging, and enjoyable." I have not fished this part of the creek yet. From where I am standing, I have observed carp, sunfish, and smallmouth bass. I could fish from the bridge, and from where I am standing, but I am working on getting permission from the landowners so my fishing experience won't be so limited. I am sure I will fish it with some form of bait when the time comes. I am finding that the planning is almost as much fun as the fishing. As I have observed this spot several times, there are no tell-tale signs that anyone fishes this spot.

When pondering Chris' great fishing report, I realized I have only fished "true Tenkara" three times this year. In all of my fishing trips this year, that is it! I will say, those three times were very fun and rewarding. The reason I have not fished "true Tenkara" is that it wasn't the best method. For example, this morning I went to one of the big pools at Wilson Springs. It is a large Spring that comes bubbling out of the ground and maintains a nice 55-60 degree temperature. It is not a high gradient stream, but an ultra clear slow moving pool that is part of the headwaters of Wilson Creek. I began fishing to schooling trout that I could see with a kebari. They wouldn't come up to it, so I put on a Dinsmore #10 split shot. One of those tiny shots doesn't take away from the grace of the classic Tenkara cast. With the TB 40, I was able to still make a full cast without a huge splash, and the rig settled gently down to the fish. I did all sorts of manipulations, but could only get lookers and followers. I then switched to a Utah Killer Bug with the same results. I then switched to a beadhead black killer bugger, with the same results. I was using 8x fluorocarbon tippet, and the fish didn't appear to be leader shy, but simply not interested in the flies. I finally got out a squirmito fly, and had a trout grab at it. At this point I was done with flies. I had brought three different Mummy Worms with me. I tied on my favorite hook the Gamakatsu R10B size 14 and proceeded to fish all three mummy worms. I was still using the # 10 shot because Mummy Worms do float. I had one looker with the red Mummy Worm. My trusted natural color failed me too. I was determined to catch one of these fish. About every 2-4 minutes, a pod of 3-6 nice trout would go cruising by! So, I took the shot off, and put a Red Wiggler on. I made a nice gentle cast, and pulled some slack into the line and let the tippet slowly sink as I lifted the rod. (The slow current was coming toward me.) As the Wiggler descended and was about 8 inches from the bottom, a trout hammered it like it was being run over by a freight train! Five fish later, it was time to go home and get ready for work. My point, you have to learn what works on the water you are fishing. My second point, is I had a lot of fun working through the progression of finding out what did and didn't work.

What I have discovered in the past six weeks, is the need to evaluate where I fish to determine what is the best rod and setup is to fish that area. I find myself fishing my Kyogi rods when there are large fish out and about. It is as fun as the Kurenai when fishing the tiny creeks. I wouldn't want to catch a 12.5 pound carp on the Kurenai! It wouldn't be much of a thrill to catch a 4 inch brook trout on a Kyogi. Picking the right rod is part of the fun too.

I have also made a commitment to try to fish close to home. (I have taken 3 nice fishing trips this year too.) I would encourage all of you to get a map, and draw a circle at 10 miles, 25 miles, and 50 miles from your house and explore the fishing opportunities that are close to home. I have spent a considerable amount of time this summer fishing close to home. I will continue this practice because I get to fish a whole lot more. That said, by doing some exploring on Google Earth, and OnX Maps, as well as some other mapping tools, I have discovered at least 4 true high gradient streams that are worth exploring with the grace of Tenkara. I have also discovered many places to fish fixed line using other methods that may not have the finesse, but they do certainly provide the thrill! There is one creek I am really looking forward to now that the leaves are gone. As soon as rifle season for deer hunting is over, I will be on that stream. I don't want to be rustling the bushes and the willows near the creek with crazy rifle hunters in the field. I currently have 14 places identified on my maps that need checking out!

So, as Chris pondered methods in his fishing report, I would say, it is fun and adventuresome to also ponder, "Where am I going to fish next?" As well as, "What method will work the best?" Tight lines everyone, and I am looking forward to hearing your adventures this fall. Have you found any Blue Line Specials?

Comments for Blue Line Special

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Oct 23, 2017
Fishing Waters Close to Home
by: John Evans

I agree with your encouragement to look for fishing opportunities close to home. Now, a fishing expedition is nice, but most of us just can't travel long distances as often as we might like. So, you look for angling opportunities where you can find them. In my neck of the woods there are several local creeks that are almost never fished by others because they're just too brushy, tight, or shallow for western spinning and baitcasting methods. But a short light seiryu or tenkara rod, perhaps using a slingshot cast most of the time? What fun! Well, keep poking around. It seems like most permanent pockets of water--even the narrow, little ones, have some fish in them.

Oct 23, 2017
Rumbles in the Jungle, etc.
by: Herb S.

Hi guys, very well thought-out observations and opinions! Chris’s excellent fishing report with his experience and well-reasoned analysis leads to more observations from the members. Being scattered across the country and around the world it's adapt tackle and techniques to conditions.

First, in Michigan the very thin blue lines with trout are seldom fishable with tenkara. Except for parts of the western Upper Peninsula our rivers and streams are mostly flat flowing with none of the classic pool-riffle-pocket water found in the east and west. Worse yet, many (but not all and I’m looking for them) of our eastern U.P. and Lower Peninsula small creeks are encased in brush, making them unfishable with standard tackle. Maps are fine but ground-truthing is the only way to know.

Way back in the last century I was scoping out the upper Baldwin River, fly rod in hand, hunting for brook trout. After giving up even trying to fish, the alders, willows and other plant growth literally covering the stream, I met an older guy (younger than I am now!) with a creel full of brookies. He was carrying what turned out to be about the only practical outfit to fish these streams, a fly rod with a spin-cast reel underneath. A fairly heavy split shot near the hook completed the rig. The idea is to poke the rod through holes in the brush, push the button and lower the worm into the water. The small fly rod guides and short drop from rod tip to hook makes this possible. This works well IF you can hack your way through the brush to get to the creek. I told Chris this over the phone and he sounded horrified. So am I!

Most of our trout rivers and medium-small size streams are very fishable with fixed line, and so are our warm water streams, the ones I fish. After getting into tenkara in 2010 it didn’t take long to realize that it’s not as adapted to the streams I fish and the way I fish them. That is not to say that tenkara isn’t really good for fishing dries and shallow wets, but that in most cases longer rods are better, especially in very clear, flat, sand/gravel bottomed trout streams that are normal here. Rocky-bottomed streams are around but not plentiful and with few large boulders you find in mountains, again, except in the western U.P. Shorter rods, with careful wading work well for less spooky panfish and bass, but keiryu is more adaptable to fish both tenkara and keiryu lines and techniques. So I’ve been no-cork since 2014 when I luckily found Tenkarabum.

That said, I’m tickled pink to announce that my newest rod is a Suntech GM Keiryu Special 27. I just received it a few days ago, too late for our now deserted warm water streams. Nevertheless, I went out anyway and although the migration to deeper waters is complete, I cast as if fishing. WOW, what a lovely rod! The reviews on the rod page are spot-on. It’s almost too light to believe, it’s accurate and throws a beautiful straight line with almost no effort. So this winter when not ice fishing (tenago-like squatting over a hole) I’ll be researching those blue lines in the western U.P. and planning a trip to Judy’s old home place in VA and Shenandoah National Park.
Happy Fishing,

Oct 24, 2017
Upper Peninsula
by: Les Albjerg


My biggest Brook trout was caught in the U.P. I caught it on a small stream that went into Lake Superior. I don't remember the name, but it was a 27 incher! I had a friend who had family with a cabin on the Fox River, and fished it a number of times during college.

What Tenkara and Chris has opened up to me is to explore water that never seems to be fished. What I am discovering is there are fish in these little streams beyond both numbers and size than one would think because they don't get fished.

I think it is awesome that you got a Keiryu Special 27. I debated long and hard over that rod or the Kurenai 30. I went with the Kurenai. I am happy with my decision. I have been happy with every rod from TenkaraBum. Now that you have a relatively short rod, it should open up some of those smaller streams for you to explore!

I am looking forward to Ice Fishing too. In Minnesota we called it "Nordic Zen."

Oct 24, 2017
Back atcha, Les
by: Herb S.

Wow, Les, you caught a COASTER! That 27 inch brookie is one of the small population that lives in L. Superior and sometimes enter some of the streams. Just last week our TU chapter had a "guides night" with a couple of fishing guides who operate on the Kalamazoo River for smallmouth. One got sidetracked and talked about coaster brookies, with the valuable information that while our MI waters hold a few of ‘em, the Canadian streams just across from the "Soo" are loaded with coasters and BIG ones, too. You certainly have a catch to remember, Les! Congrats!

"Nordic Zen" – I like that! A true northern Midwestern expression ;- )

The GM Keiryu Special 27: OH YES! I thought about the Kurenai 30 quite a lot since I dearly love my 390. What changed my mind was 6X vs 7X. Sometimes good size brookies live in those thin blue Michigan lines which, though narrow, often are relatively deep with deeper holes. I caught a surprise 22" rainbow in a Delta County crick several years ago while stalking a very nice brookie rising in mid-stream below a snag. I had been soaking a #8 Muddler in my mouth while sneaking through a meadow above the brookie and flipped it into a pocket with overhanging grass to make sure it would sink and WHAM. But I digress. Anyhow I went for a bit more capability due to snags as well as fish size. Can’t wait for next season with blue lines and-
Happy fishing,

Oct 24, 2017
Brook Trout
by: Les A.

Herb - I knew those big brook trout had a special name. That 27 incher is on my "top ten" fish list. It was an epic battle on a 4 weight fly rod with a size 10 muddler minnow. It was carefully released to live another day. There were several streams near Boise that had nice populations of Brook Trout, but the Idaho Fish and Game in their infinite wisdom decided that since they are not a native fish, they would raise the limit on them to 25 fish. It has all but wiped out the population of brookies close to home.

I got the Kurenai 30 over the Keiryu Special 27 because of my 3 ponds that have a lot of 4-8 inch bluegill and pumpkinseed sunfish. It is also the perfect redband rainbow trout rod for the high desert streams. I had (my son's rod now) a Keiryu Special 44, and loved it. I really wanted to try a more "specialized" rod. I am sure that I would have loved the Keiryu Special 27 as well, but the sensitivity of the Kurenai catching 4-8 inch panfish makes it a great battle everytime. I bought the Japanese 6.5 tippet that Chris recommends, and fish with either 2.5 level line with no wind, or 3.0 level line in the wind. What really pushed me over the line was rationalizing that if I needed a more all purpose rod, I would just go ahead and get the Keiryu Special 27 in the future. I'm always looking for an excuse for another rod!

If I need to reach out further, I go to my Suntech Keiryu Sawanobori 63. I first tested my TenkaraBum 40 on Panfish, it was over powered for the smaller fish. Strike detection was no problem, but the fight was over too soon. I would love to do a comparison between a Keiryu Sawanobori 63 and the Aoi ZPro 63 on my panfish ponds. I know the Suntech Aoi ZPRO 53 is one of your favorites. Hmmm, I don't have a size 53 rod. Too many temptations.

Oct 24, 2017
Muddling, Fly Rods and So Forth
by: Your Name (REQUIRED!)

Les, good on you for releasing that monster brookie. That must have been a fight of epic
proportions on 4-weight! By the way, my go-to fly rods are 4-weights: 9’, 8’ and 7 ½’. But they see much less use these days, if you catch my drift ;-)

The Muddler Minnow is my go-to fly rod fly and gets lots of use with keiryu, too, in #10, 8 and 6. I tie the #8 (go-to version) with one batch of deer hair for the head, trimmed before spinning, it’s more like the Gapen original, rough, not the poodle parlor style. The others have a second batch of deer hair to float better when fishing dry or damp. Buggy is beautiful.

The question is, "Can you have enough fixed line rods?" Chris puts it at 15 and I’m over half way there! Oh, the humanity – LOL! My excuse is that I’m a compulsive (maybe inveterate sounds better) experimenter. That Aoi ZPRO 53 is light enough to cast one-handed, by the way, and really pleasant two-handed. I was hemming and hawing over the Kiyogi 18 before ordering that lovely Keiryu Special 27 but light and delicate won out over powerful and maybe on the heavy side to handle. Well, there’s a winter to think it over.
Happy fishing,

Oct 24, 2017
Gut Feeling
by: Les Albjerg

Herb - To keep with the topic of this thread. I am very excited to be getting a Kyogi 15. I have a gut feeling that Chris is going to like this rod. Many of those blue lines that I have been exploring in the Treasure Valley (Idaho) have carp in them. I special ordered a Kyogi 12 (11 feet 11 inches) for fishing the flooded trees in Lake Lowell for Carp. It has handled an 8.5 pounder without breaking a sweat. However it is a little short for some of those blue lines and the 18 is a little too long. My gut feeling is the additional length of the almost 15 foot rod is going to cast even better than the Kyogi 12 due to a nicer flex profile. The Kyogi 12 and 15 are built on a different blank that the 18 and 21. The flex profile on the Kyogi 21 is nicer than the one on my Kyogi 18. That isn't to say the 18 doesn't have a nice one! The 18 and 21 share the same top sections, and I believe that the 12 and 15 do the same. The additional length of the 15 will be perfect for some of the areas I have scouted that I know have both smallmouth bass and carp as well as catfish. This is a long way around to say, there is a Kyogi 15 out there that may be the "Cinderella's slipper" for you Herb when it comes to a 4x - 0x rod. I am curious as to what Chris is going to think about the Kyogi 15. A word of note, I have fished the Kyogi 18 with 6x and it protected by tippet catching 4-5 pound largemouth bass.

Oct 24, 2017
Suntech Kurenai 30 vs. Suntech Keiryu Special 270
by: John Evans

Interesting turn of discussion. I have both rods and have used both of them consistently for more than a year now. Both rods are winners, but they definitely have a different purpose and feel to them. Both are lightweight, and fun with smaller fish, but the Kurenai 30 is definitely a "smaller-fish rod---more of a finesse rod, if you will. The Suntech Keiryu Special 270cm is capable of handling bigger fish, in tighter situations, but it's not quite as smooth casting, at least in my hand. Again both are great rods, but I'd choose the special 27 if I was unsure of the size of the fish in the water. I think the Kurenai is more stylish with its color scheme. Keiryu 270 is a lttle more reserved in its colors Hey, if you can afford both, buy them both. You aren't likely to regret it.

Oct 25, 2017
Muddler Minnow
by: Les Albjerg

Herb - The Muddler is one of my favorite flies. I used to tie them commercially for Kaufmann's Fly shop in Portland. My grandfather was a good friend of Don Gapen, the originator of the Muddler Minnow. The Kyogi rods handles muddlers really well! One of my goals for 2018 is to fish more streamers.

John - Thank you for the comments on the Kurenai 30 and the Keiryu Special 27. I have never met, "Coach" who Chris talks about, but I must agree with him. Chris does underrate the ability of his rods! I have caught a 17 inch cutthroat and a 3 pound bass on the Kurenai 30. I was targeting smaller fish, and I was holding my breath several times during the fights, but I never felt out of control with the Kurenai 30. I did feel like I was close to the max! My line was singing during both of those fights.

When I evaluate the streams that I would like to target, and the rods I already have, I think my next rod in this range of fixed line fishing is going to be either the TenkaraBum 33 or the TenkaraBum Traveler 39. Staying with the theme of this thread, rod choice should be made based on the fishing environment. Chris taught me this when he recommended the Keiryu Sawanobori 63 as my first premium rod. Many of the blue lines or ponds I want to chase are not weed choked, but are fairly broad streams with warm water species.

I would really like to hear more adventures on the blog! Where are you guys and gals fishing, and what has your experience been? I learn a lot from the fishing reports. Teach me (us)!

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