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Following Thin, Blue Lines

by John Evans
(San Antonio, TX)

What Tenkara or Keiryu Angler Can Resist?

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.

Comments for Following Thin, Blue Lines

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Jan 19, 2017
Picture Perfect
by: Terry Farmer

You've painted a wonderful experience with words and pictures. Bravo!

Jan 19, 2017
Many Thanks
by: John Evans

I appreciate your kind remarks. I finished this piece after returning from Lost Maples State Natural Area near Vanderpool, TX. The weather was perfect (for winter!), and the fish cooperated. It was a fine morning. Thanks again.

Jan 19, 2017
by: Brett Williamson

Bravo, John! Masterfully written, and truly inspiring!

Jan 20, 2017
Nailed it
by: Dave

You nailed my trip the other day. Thin blue lines and coffee on a thermos. Well done.

Jan 20, 2017
The essence of fishing
by: Ron T.

At age 74 and with a Nissin Zerosum I will "Go home again" this Spring. I've lived a flyfishing life making big fish out of small fish, all relative to the weight rods I carried.

The fishes of local Bluelines are what brought me to the dance in my single digit age years and I'm comin' home. Thanks for the reminder.

Jan 20, 2017
Nissin Zerosum a Great Rod
by: John Evans

The Nissin Zerosum is a great rod--suitable for many sizes of fish--including those in the thin, blue lines. Happy angling!

Jan 20, 2017
You nailed it!
by: Les A.

I live in the north. The mentality isn't much different. Here in Idaho it is going to the famous steams that get all the attention. Most folks have heard of the South Fork of the Snake River, Henry's Fork, Silver Creek, the Big Wood, the Salmon River, etc. When you talk about the Owyhee River in the Boise area, everyone thinks of the great 12 miles of blue ribbon trout water below the dam. I personally love the river above with the smallmouth bass and other fish that are classified as trash fish. This summer I will be going to Jack's Creek Wilderness and trying my tenkara rods there. If you look on YouTube, and type in "Big Jack's Creek Fishing." you can see a couple of guys and their dogs on a wonderful fly fishing adventure. It is a wonderful video to experience our kind of fishing without being there. Some folks think I am nuts when I tell them my favorite river to fish is the Deadwood River. I am just hoping the fires from last summer don't mess things up too much. It is hard to beat the fun of an 8-12 inch trout on a rod that is less than 2 ounces. Your story makes me want to go fishing! I tried to get to the Boise River the other day, but the ice was unsafe and out over 6 feet from the banks. Us folks up north are waiting for spring! I have been tying up Keiryu rigs and flies so when the weather breaks I will be ready! I keep drooling over the new offerings from Chris!

Jan 20, 2017
Great-looking Country!
by: John Evans

I watched the video--great country, and just made for tenkara. Makes me want to take a long trip . . . in warmer weather!

Jan 20, 2017
Always looking for someone to fish with!
by: Les A.

John, if you do make a trip out West it would be fun to go fishing. I love where I live. To the south of me is the high desert with "blue lines" like Big Jake's Creek. To the north are classic streams in pine forests as well as to the East. Near town, the Boise River flows down the valley and just over the hill is part of the Snake River. We have lots of ponds as well as the high lakes in the mountains. It is often tough to chose where to go! Idaho is a wonderful place to live if you like to fish and hunt.

Jan 20, 2017
"Bucket List" Grows Longer
by: John Evans

I'll have to add that to my retirement bucket list, which grows longer by the day . . .

Feb 03, 2017
great post
by: Colin Slack

This is without a doubt one of my favorite posts I've read on this blog. Don't get me wrong I love my longer keiryu rods, but my favorite fishing is on the creeks and brooks no one else fishes with very light and short rods. I was one of those kids fishing tiny tributaries with a cane pole and worms when i was a kid and after discovering tenkara/keiryu/seiryu rods over a year and a half ago I'm right back to being 8 years old again. I live for finding native brookies in undesignated streams. I am very thankful that I can relive the childhood joy of bushwacking to tiny overgrown creeks and find beautiful wild fish hiding untouched and unseen from the mainstream angling world.

Feb 03, 2017
Exploring When You're Close to Home
by: John Evans

Thanks for the encouraging feedback. Following the thin, blue lines is one of the best ways to feel as if you're truly exploring, even when you're close to home. Many of the smaller waters are overlooked by the average angler, but they can provide excellent sport in unexpected places and in surprising ways.

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“The bitterness of poor quality remains long after the sweetness of low price is forgotten” - Benjamin Franklin

"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.

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