I was shocked, saddened and embarrassed when I realized that my last trip report was from early January! Right after that report, we went into a deep freeze and the fishing has been nothing to write about ever since.
My vacation in Maine and the Oni School each deserve more coverage than I have time to give them now. I firmly believe that sending out orders is more important than sending out trip reports (based on my assumption that you'd rather go fishing than read about fishing). Even this report will be brief.
Last weekend was my first time out following the Oni School in Utah the previous weekend. I'll write more about the Oni School later, but suffice it to say most of what I have written about casting has been wrong (as is most of what everyone has written about tenkara casting - at least in English). A little one-on-one with the master is extremely valuable and if you get a chance to go to the next Oni School, go.
On Sunday, I only managed to catch a few fish, and only got one usable photo of my tenkara catches. Even that shot was blurred, as the fish would not hold still for even 1/30th of a second. The second fish seemed too small to bother with and the third, which was actually a very nice fish, flipped out of my hand just before I could get a shot.
The first was caught fishing downstream, which I very rarely do, but which I watched Tenkara no Oni do repeatedly in Utah. He also fished (and caught fish) in water I would have walked past - what appeared from the bank to be featureless riffle and nothing at all like what I had always thought of as being "tenkara water." Trying to emulate the master, fishing downstream and guiding the sakasa kebari from faster current through a seam and into only slightly slower current put a fish in the net. It wasn't a trophy, but it was a fish I would not have caught had I not watched Oni do a very similar thing a week before.
The fly was not pretty. Crude, yes. Effective, you bet. It was one I had tied on the plane on the way to the Oni school. I've now fished, and caught fish, with a number of flies tied without a vise as part of the TenkaraBum No Vise challenge. I am getting a whole new perspective on flies. They really, truly don't have to be beautifully tied or proportioned. Who knows what goes through the pea brain of a trout before it hits a fly? One thing is sure - they're not art critics.
After losing the fly in a tree (if you concentrate entirely on your forward cast your back cast will cause you problems), I switched to a black Killer Bugger.
The bugger was tied on vacation in Maine, without a vise (as have been all the flies I've used since the No Vise Challenge started on June 1). After just a little bit of practice, tying with clamps and nippers instead of a vise and scissors is really no big deal. It is a bit slower, and my flies are not as durable (harder to get the wraps quite as tight), but the biggest difference has been not having the good light and the big gooseneck magnifying glass that I've always used to tie all my flies, even up to size 6. The flies may not be as pretty, but they still catch fish.
I hadn't used the black Killer Buggers much since the Killer Bugger challenge last summer, but they still do produce. If you've never tried one, do yourself a favor. They're easy to tie (even without a vise). The black Killer Bugger yielded two fish in the net, a couple missed hits and a long distance release - which sent the Bugger into a treetop behind me (where it remains).
In addition to practicing my casting - and trying to overcome several years of muscle memory - I also did my first keiryu fishing since the Midwest Tenkara Fest.
I had found this pool the last time I was out, in a section of stream I had driven past dozens of times but had never stopped to explore. It looked fishy but it did not measure up to the probably unreachable standard of the Midwest Fest miracle pool.
The first rod I wanted to try out was the Blue ZPRO 63, which is a new offering from Suntech.
I love the length and light weight of the two previous ZPRO rods, the 54 and 64, but the recommended tippet range of 10X - 8X is a bit light for some anglers. The new 葵 ZPRO (when I do a page on the rod I'll explain why I call it the Blue ZPRO even though 葵 isn't "blue") is just as light as the original ZPRO rods (2.8 ounces for the 5.3m rod and 3.8 for the 6.3m). However, it extends the tippet range to 10X - 6X, which should handle fish into the mid teens with no problem. For anglers who want Zero Tension fishing - but only some of the time - it might be ideal.
Just as fly fishermen often spend the evening before an outing tying flies, keiryu anglers spend the evening tying up lines. As it was getting late before I even started, I only tied one line for the Blue ZPRO 63 and one for the ZPRO 64, which I had first used at the Midwest Fest.
Unfortunately, there was one branch that was just a bit longer and lower than I thought, and my pendulum cast was just a bit higher than it should have been. I got my line caught and it broke when I collapsed the rod and pulled on the line. Rather that tying a new line, I switched to the ZPRO 64.
It wasn't long before the first fish was in the net. I was using the same single marker rig that I explained in the Strike Detection article, and it worked just as well. With the green foliage background, I found the red Bright Marker (which is a fluorescent red-orange) was more visible than the fluorescent yellow I usually use.
A few drifts later, the marker just stopped, and when I lifted to see if it was a rock or a fish, the line started to move. It seems I constantly tell people they don't have to strike hard when fishing with a tight line. Perhaps I should just tell them to fish with 8X tippet. That will cure overly aggressive hook sets quickly enough (and save their rods, too).
A few more drifts yielded another rainbow. This time the marker, which I try to keep just a few inches above the water's surface, just disappeared as it dove into the water. The fish was hooked immediately, and as is typical for keiryu fishing with a tight line, the hook placement was just where it would have been had I been fishing flies rather than bait.
The fish ranged from a little over 9" to a little under 12", which is a good size for the ZPRO 64. I'll try to do a bit more extensive write up of the new Suntech Blue ZPRO 64 soon, but it probably will have to wait until I am caught up with my shipments. If you're curious about it, though, send me an email.