On June 18 I was able to return to the private club that my friend Mark belongs to, trying again for the largest trout I've ever caught and also for a fish that would defeat the Long Rod, Short Line approach to fixed line fishing. I say fixed line fishing because in my view the Long Rod, Short Line technique is applicable to both the tenkara and keiryu fishing styles.
I did have a couple other goals for the day: I wanted to catch a rainbow trout and a brook trout on a streamer or bucktail for the TenkaraBum Streamer Challenge.
In the spirit of inquiry, my first goal should have been to test the Long Rod, Short Line technique. I must confess, though, I wanted to actually catch a big fish, not to have the largest fish I'd ever hooked break the tippet because my line was too short.
Starting at what I believe is the most productive pool of the club's waters, it took me a little time to get my first hit - which I missed. The fly of choice, as it was on my first visit to the club, was an egg pattern. Before too long, though, I got a solid take, a solid hook set (carp rods are good at that) and a fish in the net.
It wasn't a huge fish, but it was the largest I had ever caught (by about an inch). The next fish was a bit larger, but would not hold still and it slipped out of my hands before I could take a measurement or a picture.
Goal One accomplished, rather than zeroing in on whether the Long Rod, Short Line technique can or cannot land big fish, I switched goals. Granted, those first two fish were not a valid test of whether a carp rod can subdue a steelhead. I was actually a bit surprised at how easy it was to land the fish. As dozens of tenkara anglers have found out before me, you don't need a carp rod to land a 21" trout in quiet water! I decided to see how the Suntech Keiryu Sawanobori 53 could handle the club's fish.
That question was easily answered just a bit later that morning. The fish was a little smaller, but there was more current and it fought quite a bit harder. The Suntech Keiryu Sawanobori 53 handled the fish without a problem. What is the limit of the rod? I don't honestly know, and can only fall back to what Coach tells people at the Fly Fishing Shows - any fish you can catch on 5X tippet.
It so happens that other than the first pool I fished, most of the nicest sections on the club water seemed to be under trees, where I had to stand back far enough that my rod tip did not get caught in the tips of the branches. The fish were far enough under the branches that I could not reach them with the Long Rod, Short Line technique I outlined in my Go Long trip report, which was with a line plus tippet as much as 4' shorter than the rod for a 6.3m rod. For a 5.3m rod, it would be perhaps 2-3' shorter than the rod. That technique produces exquisite drag-free drifts, but you are almost fishing under your rod tip, and you cannot do that if you have to get the fly very far under overhanging tree branches.
The true test of the Long Rod, Short Line approach will have to come on that first pool and on another day.
On Sunday the 19th, I turned my attention to catching a rainbow and a brookie on a streamer for the Challenge.
The club has one pool just below a riffle that A) is very deep, B) has a sunken log C) has a big root ball from a downed tree and D) has an undercut bank. Sounds like brook trout heaven. I guess the brookie above thought so! As a guage, my thumb to pinkie span is about 8", making that the largest brookie I have ever taken. It hit a Muddler Minnow tied on a #4 streamer hook (which, by the way, the TenkaraBum 36 casts nicely).
Let me digress a bit and make a quick comment on the Muddler Minnow. I have heard more than a few comments along the lines of "If Don Gapen wanted a sculpin imitation, why did he use deer hair? Sculpins hug the bottom and deer hair floats!" The quick answer is that the way Don Gapen tied the original Muddler Minnow is not at all like the modern versions you see in fly shops.
The heads of his Muddler Minnows were much more sparse, not tightly packed, and not closely clipped. If you can wait long enough for the deer hair to absorb water, which it will, it sinks. If you can't wait, as you head out in the morning, put your Muddlers in a small watertight container FILLED WITH WATER. When you're ready to fish, they'll be ready to sink. Of course, you can also do what I did to catch that brookie - add a split shot about 10" above the fly!
Catching the rainbow on a bucktail took a bit longer. There is one nice section of riffles in the club that doesn't seem to get a lot of fishing pressure. The fish there are smaller but with the right tackle (a TenkaraBum 36 rather than a carp rod) they are still a lot of fun.
I was fishing relatively fast water with an unweighted Minimal Dace bucktail. As the bucktail started it's swing from down to across it was just barely under the surface. This little 'bow hit it so hard he came completely out of the water. One thing I have noticed with trout in streams - when they hit a streamer or bucktail, it isn't subtle!
Reminds me of the first time I went fishing for bluefish with a friend. I asked him how I would know when I got a hit. He just looked at me and said, "Oh, you'll know!" He was right.