Fly rod spoons have been out of favor for decades but perhaps it's time to reconsider. They have (and deserve) a place in your fly box.
Before spinning gear became popular in the US, the only effective way to fish small lures was with a fly rod. The baitcasting reels of the day were not capable of casting light weight lures. Fly rod spoons, spinners and plugs were available and effective. They'd be just as effective today if they were available.
When spinning gear became popular in the 50's and 60's, demand for fly rod lures diminished to the point that they are now essentially gone. If you look hard enough you can find some 1/32 oz spoons - but 1/32 oz is a bit heavy to cast comfortably with a fly rod (let alone a tenkara rod). It works, but it jerks.
However, much lighter spoons are available in Japan! They are not sold as fly rod spoons, but instead as lures for extra, extra ultralight spinning rods. Extremely light spoons (down to 1/70 oz) and extremely light lines (down to 1.5 lb) are used there to fish in highly pressured, private, stocked, pay-to-fish lakes called "Areas."
The Daiwa Iprimi 56XXUL-S is one of the rods rated for lures down to .4 gram. To see what they could do, when I imported the rods I also got in some .4 gram (1/70 oz) spoons. Even with the extra, extra ultralight rod and 2 lb line, they proved to be hard to cast very far.
*Light bulb goes off*
If they're a bit too light for the lightest of the ultralight spinning rods, how about a fly rod? It had been years since I picked up a fly rod, but I have to tell you they cast just fine on a tenkara rod. And truly, if they cast well with a tenkara rod (which they do) they'll cast very well with a fly rod.
The Daiwa Vega spoons (actually, Daiwa Presso Vega but I've shortened it for the website) come in nineteen colors. They come in three weights (.8g, .6g and .4g). All are 7/8" long and 3/8" wide. The heavier spoons are stamped from thicker metal.
One of the nicest things about the spoons (aside from being so light you can easily cast them with a fly rod or tenkara rod) is that they come with a single barbless hook. Releasing fish couldn't be easier.
Because the hook is attached to the spoon with a split ring, which allows it to turn in any direction, the fish can't use leverage to dislodge the hook - which can happen with a streamer. Once the fish is hooked, it stays hooked. You won't lose many - even the wriggly little ones.
Not too long ago, I read on a spin fishing forum that contrary to popular belief, it is absolutely necessary to set the hook when fishing a spinner. Well, all I can say is that may be necessary when fishing a 1/8 oz spinner with barbed treble hooks, but does not seem to be necessary when fishing one of these little single barbless hook spoons. When fished with a tight line, more often than not the fish hook themselves. The hook is amazingly sharp (which I am confident you will find out for yourself as soon as you pick one up, unless you are extremely careful). It penetrates extremely easily and holds quite well.
Every silver lining has a cloud, though, and that amazingly sharp hook is very light wire. It is intended for fishing in lakes (no current to fight) with ultralight lines (1.5-3#) and ultralight spinning rods and reels with the drag set light to protect the light lines. I have broken one of the hooks as the fish flipped just as I grabbed the hook with my clamps and have had one report of the hook straightening on a big fish. One angler who has been catching a very impressive number of very impressive fish, in current, with a keiryu rod, has reported multiple instances of broken hooks. He still loves the spoons but he now replaces the light wire hooks with size 8 Cultiva SBL-35 single barbless hooks. If you are getting hooks to replace the Vega hooks, do not get the Presso "Speed Hook," which is the same hook that the Vega spoons already come with.
Realistically, there is a downside to having a single hook rather than a treble hook. There will be times when a fish hits the spoon but misses the hook. Personally, I believe the advantages of a single barbless hook greatly outweigh that disadvantage. Less damage to the fish and a much quicker, easier release top the list. Besides, I still catch a lot of fish with single hook spoons.
And don't think for a minute that they're only for trout. I saw a thread on a crappie forum lamenting that very small light weight spoons, which used to be available, no longer are.
Well, small fly rod spoons are available again. They are just as effective for bluegills, crappies and even modest bass as they ever were.
Purists may refuse to fish the Daiwa Vega spoons because they aren't flies. Many will happily fish streamers - even though other purists believe that streamers aren't really flies either! Personally, I'm not a purist. I fish streamers with no qualms whatsoever.
The fly rod spoons are going to replace the streamers in my box, though. They're just so much more effective.
Both represent tiny baitfish but there is something about the flash and the wobbling action of a spoon that a streamer just can't match. I have caught fish on a streamer, but I have never seen three or four fish race each other to get to it - which I have seen with the Daiwa Vega spoons.
I haven't seen a fish miss the streamer and keep coming back and slashing at it until it finally catches it and gets hooked. That is not a rare occurrence when fishing with a small spoon. I have fished a pool with a streamer, without getting a hit, and then put on a small spoon and caught multiple fish from that same pool. Truly, a fly rod spoon is more effective than a streamer. Plus, depending on how wind resistant the streamer is, the spoon is even easier to cast!
Give them a try. I don't think you'll be disappointed.
And if you have any doubts at all that a large fish would hit such a small spoon, please look at the photo below. It shows a fish caught with a TenkaraBum 36 and a Daiwa Vega .4g spoon. If you look closely, you can see the spoon that hooked the fish. Please keep in mind that the spoon is very nearly an inch long!
Several months ago an accomplished tenkara angler told me he had never caught a fish with one of the Vega Spoons. I'm sure that's because he doesn't use them, and I'm sure that's because he tried once or twice and then went back to the kebaris or bead head flies he normally fishes. Another angler told me a that he likes them, but he didn't think they got deep enough.
Not long ago, I received a report from Les A, who fishes them a lot and has learned a how to fish them with great results. The following is from Les.
|It was a beautiful day here today. I went down to the Boise River close to home. It's not the best tailwater, but this time of year there are browns and rainbows present. I could do no wrong with the fly rod spoons today. Well, that is once I began fishing the right ones. The Silver and Gold were too bright for the sunny day and low water. I fished the Horizon, Nightmare, and Yellow Dagger. I fished the TenkaraBum 40 and the FinePower 56.
What a day! (2 hours), 18 fish landed with fly rod spoons, (2 Mountain Whitefish, 9 Browns, and 7 Rainbows.)! I went out just to test my new net, and I really put it to the test! Almost all the fish nailed the spoon on the drop. The key was putting the spoon in the right spot. All of my fishing was upstream, letting the spoon drift down to me as I raised the rod to keep control of the spoon.
I really think I am reading the water better than ever. The ability of a long rod to keep the line off the water leads to better accuracy, and more precise manipulation.
Three of the browns I caught were due to great control of the spoon with the Fine Power. I cast three feet into the riffles and allowed the spoon to flutter down into the pool. Once it hit the bottom of the pool, I did a wounded minnow retrieve, and saw two fish hit the spoon so fast they looked like torpedoes going through the water locked on their target.
Three fish were caught casting back toward the shore with the TenkaraBum 40. I let the spoon flutter by slack holes the size of a coffee table, and the rainbows slammed it! All the other fish were caught fishing accurately in the seams.
Les A, Idaho
I think the key is to fish upstream, and to fish the spoon slowly enough that it "flutters" and can drift into or beside quiet water, or even settle to the bottom of a pool. If you fish it downstream or across in fast current, the force of the current will not let it drop and will cause it to just spin rather than wobble or, fished even more slowly, flutter.
Just as when fishing a fly, be ready for a hit as soon as the spoon hits the water.
In a follow-up comment, Les said it took him a few times to learn how to use the lightness of the spoons to his advantage. He also said that the Tairiki Snaps allow the spoon to flutter more freely and allow him to change spoons more easily. "I won't fish without one."
PLEASE NOTE: THE PICTURES BELOW DON'T SHOW HOOKS, BUT THE SPOONS COME WITH A SINGLE BARBLESS HOOK AS SHOWN IN THE PHOTO OF THE THREE SPOONS HIGHER ON THIS PAGE.
Daiwa Vega .4g
Area Brown - $6.00
Daiwa Vega .4g
Manhattan - $6.00
Daiwa Vega .4g
White Bug - $6.00
I am continually surprised at the number of tenkara anglers who ask me about getting an ultralight spinning rod - or at least dusting off the one they've had for some time but haven't used much lately.
The .4 gram spoons shown above cast well with a tenkara rod or fly rod, but for an ultralight spinning rod I would suggest a heavier spoon (and I would still recommend a spoon rather than a spinner). On the Finesse-Fishing site you will find spoons that will cast quite nicely with ultralight spinning gear. For that matter, the heavier spoons on the Finesse-Fishing site will cast quite nicely with ultralight baitcasting gear.
Initially, I tied my tippet directly to the spoons with the same Double Davy knot I use for flies. I am sure a nonslip loop would be better, but I haven't used one.
Since I got in micro swivels and snaps (which until now I only had on the Finesse-Fishing website) I have used either a snap or a swivel and tied the tippet to it. They do allow the spoon to wobble more freely.
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TenkaraBum Home > Fly Rod Spoons
|I had the spoons with me and trout like spoons. I tied one on the Tenkarabum 40 with a nonslip loop knot and cast not knowing what to expect. As I should have expected the TB40 cast it just fine. In fact it was less clunky than some bead head flies.
The retrieve is whatever you want it to be. A very slow steady pull produces perfect spoon action. The solid connection allows pulsing and fluttering the spoon at will.
Alan L, Missouri
|They flat out work!
Jeff R, Texas
| Oh, my gosh. Those spoons are amazing. I just killed it on the San Juan for 2 days with them.
Steve E, Colorado
|The fly rod spoons are awesome, got out yesterday for a couple hours. Fish catchers for sure, you were right about casting, just like a fly.
Second order coming!
Jim H, California
|I got out the TenkaraBum 40 and rigged up with a .4 gram Daiwa Vega Yellow Dagger, and worked the pockets in the pools. I caught 4 nice trout in the first 5 casts!
My theory is since everyone is tossing hardware with spinning gear the fish just learn to ignore it. I am also learning how to really accurately present the .4 gram spoons to either the fish I can see or where I am confident one should be.
The fourth fish of the day came out from behind a rock as I manipulated the spoon about 2 inches from where I thought one might be. He pounced on it! He set the hook, not me.
I'm really enjoying fishing with the fly rod spoons. There is a learning curve. I'm not sure how far up the curve I am, but I do know I am in the "fun zone."
Les A, Idaho
|Those tiny spoons are unbelievable. I caught ~50 crappie in 3 hours this weekend -- had to hose all the fish slime off my fancy tenkara rod :)
Joe A, North Carolina
I have taken to fishing the spoons almost exclusively when out with my tenkara rod. They are incredibly effective on the trout streams here in Virginia. I also tie them on with a loop rather than a clinch knot for the same reason one would use your micro swivels. The action in the water is amazing, and yes, I often get a hit as soon as the spoon hits the water.
In guiding for both Project Healing Waters and for Reel Recovery retreats, I have used the tenkara rod, and the spoons, to very effectively put folks on trout almost instantly. And the look on their faces is absolutely priceless.
Phil S, West Virginia
Project Healing Waters