The trip was intended to be a tenkara trip. Following discussions with Adam K last week about his trip to Japan, I had intended to spend the day concentrating on tenkara as practiced in Japan (although without the camaraderie, foraging, drinking and blue tarps which seem to be more central to tenkara as practiced in Japan than anyone realized). The goal was to entice the fish to strike with careful water reading, accurate casting and subtle manipulation.
When I got to the stream I was disappointed to see that it was decidedly off color. Rather than the clear glacial blue of the Japanese mountain streams, this was the algae bloom green of New York suburban streams. The fertilizer that makes suburban lawns green also makes suburban water green. Visibility was about a foot. The water is never really clear, but it usually isn't this bad.
Despite the conditions, I intended to make the best of it. With proper presentation the choice of fly is not particularly important so I chose a rough fly that I had tied in hand from a bent pin. (I have actually done quite well with flies very similar to this one, tied in hand on bent pins, so this is most certainly not a case of snarky "satire." I fully expected to catch fish.)
Perhaps because the water was so murky I got no hits in an area of the stream where I have usually caught fish. I fished the area pretty extensively, giving each spot that looked like it could hold a fish several casts, with dead drifts and pulsing drifts.
My second goal for the day was to give 9X tippet another try, as several of the Suntech rods that I really like, GM Suikei Keiryu Special and Keiryu Sawanobori included, are rated for tippets down to 9X. I intended to fish it with a Nissin Royal Stage Syunki 450, which I realized after the fact should have been taken on my Ultralight Worm Fishing trip. It is very soft rod but it has a very nice progressive bend profile. The stream has some low overhanging branches, so I also brought a Keiryu Special 39 both for tenkara fishing in tight spots and to see how well it would protect the 9X tippet.
Well, after having fished a generally productive section of the stream and having gotten not so much as a tap, I rigged up the Syunki with a light keiryu rig (7X main line, 9X tippet, yarn markers, a #6 split shot, a Varivas 2300 #28 hook and a red wiggler).
I fished the exact same 20 yards of the stream that I had just thoroughly worked. I missed a fish on my first drift and caught the rainbow above on the second. Rainbows just don't want to hold still for photos. Browns will often stay perfectly still for about two seconds, which is enough for a photo, but rainbows? No way.
That first rainbow was quickly followed by a second, and a little while later by a third. On the third, though, the hook pulled out just before I got it into the net. When the hook pulls out at that point, it's like a slingshot cast in reverse. In an instant my line was in a tree. It turns out that 9X tippet will subdue a trout pretty nicely but it will not pull a branch down far enough for you to grab it.
I don't think I have ever seen a stocked rainbow that had such pink cheeks. Catching this fish was possible only because of the long rod and light line (4.5m and 7X). The fish was in a fairly swift run on the other side of a small, low island, which itself was on the other side a channel that was deeper than I wanted to wade. Without the ability to keep the line in the air (above the island) there is no way I could have fished that run.
The trout above is the second one I've caught that had a deep heron scar (the fish's other side looked a lot worse). Trout may not be quite as fragile as we're led to believe.
For most of the day I fished with size 28 Varivas 2300 midge hooks. I did miss a few fish, but I've missed a lot more fish when using larger hooks. I was quite pleasantly surprised at how well they hooked and how well they held. In no case did I "set the hook." When the line stopped or the markers dipped I just tightened the line. If it was a rock it didn't move. If it was a fish it started to wiggle.
The Suntech GM Suikei Keiryu Special 39 (since replaced by the TenkaraBum Traveler 39) did just fine with the 9X tippet. Several of the fish I caught Sunday were as large or larger than the fish that had broken 10X a couple weeks ago. The 9X is substantially stronger than the 10X (1.6 pound test vs. 1.1 pound test). It is also easier to see and tie knots with. It's almost as strong as 8X (1.6 pound test vs. 1.8 pound test). If you are not fishing for micros or pretty small trout, it's as light as I would recommend even if you wanted to utilize a "zero" fishing approach. The fish here are just bigger than the fish in Japan and you do have to scale up your tackle to handle the fish you intend to catch.
This brown in the photo above and the one with the heron scar had surprising coloration. Their sides, particularly right above their pectoral fins, were blue. It wasn't a bright royal blue, but it was definitely blue.
This was the best fish of the day, and the photo proves that even the browns don't always hold still for a couple seconds. A 15" fish on 8X tippet in a small stream with low tree branches overhead and slick rocks underfoot is a handful. Definitely the best, and the most white knuckled, fight all day.
I had already caught quite a few fish using 9X tippet. None broke the tippet before I landed them, but I broke the tippet myself several times trying to unhook them. The size 28 hooks are small enough that I had to use the Spring Creek Clamps to remove them, and if (when) the fish wiggled at just the wrong time I clamped down on the tippet rather than the hook shank. I switched to 8X and kept catching fish.
My initial intent was to fish the entire section of river (roughly a quarter mile) with Japanese tenkara techniques and then fish the whole section again with worms to see the difference in catch rates. It became obvious within the first 20 yards that the catch rates would be pretty lopsided. It also became obvious pretty quickly that I would not have time to cover the whole quarter mile stretch twice. As it is, I wasn't able to cover the whole quarter mile even once by the end of the day.
The wading was extremely difficult, partially because the rocks
were large and irregularly shaped, and partially because the off color water made it impossible to see the bottom. There was no way to
know whether the next step would be in knee deep water or hip deep
water. Also, the water had enough features that there were lots of places where fish could hold. I fished it thoroughly and that took time.
Although I did fish with the rough looking sakasa kebari for a while, it didn't even draw one strike. The worms had worked so well that I tried a pink chenille worm for a while. I caught one little fish on it.
Catching a little trout is actually a very good thing. It shows that there is still natural reproduction in the stream, as the state does not stock fish that small. Since the browns reproduce and the rainbows don't, I do wish the state would stock only browns, though.
I spent most of the day fishing with worms - real worms not the pink chenille worms. I have gotten a bit of blowback for fishing with worms and writing about fishing with worms. There is a reason for it, above and beyond just catching a lot of fish (and I did catch a lot of fish Sunday). I still have a lot more to learn before I can effectively pass along a very nice way to fish.
I see a market in the US for Japanese keiryu style fishing. Granted, most tenkara fishermen have no interest in it, other than to the extent that it will help them fish weighted nymphs. People do fish for trout with bait, though, and in streams I firmly believe that the keiryu style of fishing will catch more fish than fishing bait with a spinning rod. Also, it will result in a lot fewer deep hooked fish. With the keiyru style of fishing, bait and catch & release are not incompatible. That should make it a net benefit for all anglers.