Putting my Gear Though its Paces

by Tom T.
(Marion, IA. USA)

I've only had my Iwana rod 5 months and felt that I should put my gear though it's paces before I left any reviews or feedback. After today the rod, lines, flies, and overall Tenkara concept have entirely won me over. I might never go back to my conventional fly rods if I were not going to Florida for spring break.

I fly fish quite a bit and tie a lot of my own flies. Ever since I read about tenkara in a magazine over a year ago, I felt drawn to its simplicity and uninterrupted connection between the angler and the fish. I finally caved and put down my growing collection of conventional rods, lines, and flies to try my hand this new style that promotes one rod, one line, and one fly. The first trip out I caught a nice brown and afterwords promptly broke the tip off showing my dad how easy it was to tie on a line. So my tenkara journey would be put on hold 5-10 business days. A week or so later I stopped by a local stream I had just found out about but never tried. It probably would have taken me longer to kick the habit of fishing with a fly box of a couple dozen different flies had I not caught 16 nice trout in my first 30 min on the same fly. The Griffith gnat was destroyed but it was well worth it. The only time I have ever caught more fish in less time was on a small lake casting to bluegill (which I still think is near cheating). Ever since that day I have almost exclusively used my tenkara rod. I generally tie on the fly in my car and carry a few extras in case I find a tree or bush. I upgraded from a level line to light hand tied hi-vis fluoro line available from TenkaraBum and also picked up a few of his hand tied flies as well. I have been catching a lot of fish but, still did not feel that I had fully tested the gear until today.

The odds of me catching a fish today were very slim. I'll give you some background on what I was up against. I live in Iowa currently. It is by no means the trout capital of anything. I decided to go back to Spring Branch creek. The first few times I fished there I was amazed by the beauty and trout, but could not manage to catch a single fish. I found a DNR officer at the nearby hatchery and asked if they could give me some tips. They told me to fish somewhere else. Despite it's proximity to the hatchery, it is a wild stream and is not stocked (well at least not since the hatchery flooded in 2007). I usually see a few fisherman but it is very rare to see anyone catching at Spring Branch. It quickly became my favorite stream. Every fish I catch feels like a hard fought badge of honor. I know that I had to be on my game to hook into something, and nothing is given for free. Today is January 8th (Iowa has a year round season) it was 13 degrees when I pulled up to the stream around 3:00. Like always there was the 10-15 mph breeze that I've come to expect. Not a cloud in the sky so I was throwing a huge shadow. The stream runs gin clear and averages a foot deep in the winter so I stuck out like a sore thumb in my winter gear and every trout knew it. I didn't expect much, but could not think of anything I would rather be doing. I didn't see much surface action (winter can actually bring some good midge dry fly action) so I tied on a Killer Bug I purchased from TenkaraBum. I fished for about 45 minutes and spooked quite a few fish but could not fool anything. Finally, I approached a little hole I saw a few fish in when I first arrived. I knew this would be my last shot since I was chilled to the bone. At this part of the stream I was throwing a 12' shadow upstream so at a near crawl I slinked up behind a tree above the fish. I made a few casts down to where I thought the fish were holding watching the end of that hi-vis line freeze in the air. The line stopped and I set the hook into what I thought was the bottom until the water boiled. The fight that ensued was better than any I've had on a conventional rod. I'd bring that big rainbow towards me and she would roll back into current and dart back down stream. I think the action of the rod must help because I've lost similar fish on my 6wt with a heavier tippet. Finally I brought her up to the bank and I wish I could upload the picture off my phone. She was a beautiful 18" rainbow and one of the biggest I've landed to date. Though I was very tempted to have trout for dinner tonight, the angler in me got the best of me and I let her swim away.

Before today I had my doubts about Tenkara. Could I actually land a big fish? Could I throw enough line not to spook wary fish? Can I leave my box behind and not miss out on some good trout? After today Tenkara has allayed all my fears. Although I have not given in to the one fly pattern philosophy yet, my setup is so much simpler and I have been catching better and better fish. My only questions now are if I should get another Tenkara rod...

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