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Following Thin, Blue Lines
by John Evans
(San Antonio, TX)
What Tenkara or Keiryu Angler Can Resist?
The intersection of two worlds, the aquatic and terrestrial, is an interesting place. There’s something about visiting the world of fish and frogs that all anglers understand. While I’ve never carried my rods to the northern states, it’s my impression that mountain stream fishing is a well-established, accepted tradition there. Here in Texas, fishing means lakes, ponds and rivers. Following the thin, blue line of a stream or creek is something that kids do with cane poles. It’s not a pastime for the serious angler. Or at least that’s the way many people think.
What a shame! Since my wife and I took up tenkara and keiryu angling three years ago, some of our best times have been following the water that other fishermen pass by. Perhaps you’ve heard the reasons: “The fish are too small . . . The water’s too shallow . . . It’s too hard to cast . . . It’s too buggy, too snaky . . .” Lightweight, telescoping tenkara rods are made for this kind of fishing! What can be more exciting than rounding an unexplored curve in a little creek, with a deep, fishy-looking hole right over there by that fallen log? That’s it . . . put the Killer Bug right up against the cover and watch the swirl. Few things can match the tactile excitement of landing a one-pound fish on a one-ounce rod.
Sometimes Robin and I will meet hikers beside the creeks we’re fishing. You can read the puzzlement on their faces. “You’re fishing there? Are there any fish THERE? Why are you casting your ‘cane pole’ that way? Whatcha using for bait?” More than once they’ve been startled to see our rods bend to the explosion of a fat bluegill or a feisty Guadalupe bass.
Bring a home-tied fly of your own design, and throw a tight loop. Cast the fly, soft as a whisper, just under that limb. Yes, you’ll probably decorate a few trees and bushes. That’s part of the experience. Be kind to the country and retrieve your flies if at all possible. Walk and listen; pause and reflect. Enjoy the mystery. Ease your way along, and pick your spots. Why rush when you have all morning? Can you feel the breeze freshen from the south, or catch the orange flash of a Monarch’s wing on the milkweed? Sit cross-legged on the big, flat rock beside the oak and sip the last cup of coffee from your thermos.
Let’s face it: In today’s world, it’s getting harder to find the spots that other anglers haven’t trampled down and fished over. Get a super-light Nissin Air Stage 240 rod (or maybe the Suntech Keiryu Special 27), a tin of small flies in your trusty day pack, and start following the thin, blue lines on the map. Go where other fishermen aren’t. Often there will be more fish in those waters than you imagined, and some of them will surprise you! Find out how a little panfish on the right rod can be just as exciting as a largemouth lunker on a broomstick. Hone your wading and casting skills, see some beautiful country, and feel that carbon fiber rod dance in your hand. You won’t be disappointed.
“The bitterness of poor quality remains long after the sweetness of low price is forgotten” – Benjamin Franklin
"Study to be quiet." - Izaak Walton 1653
"Be sure in casting, that your fly fall first into the water, for if the line fall first, it scares or frightens the fish..." Col. Robert Venables 1662
As age slows my pace, I will become more like the heron.
The hooks are sharp.
The coffee's hot.
The fish are slippery when wet.
Beware of the Dogma