Flyfishing the Sierra Blog
Monday, 14 April 2014
Tenkara Fly Fishing
Topic: General Flyfishing
Tenkara Fishing with Yvon Chouinard

Yvon Chouinard, founder and owner of Patagonia, with his tenkara rod at Foster Park in Ventura, Calif.

Yvon Chouinard is a fellow Sespe Fly Fisher member and has presented us an introduction to Tenkara Fishing at a recent meeting. The following is an article written by Peter Bohler for the Wall Street Journal.

FOR SOMEONE WITH a vested interest in selling goods for exploring the great outdoors, Yvon Chouinard, the owner and founder of the outdoor-apparel company Patagonia, takes a surprisingly stripped-down approach to one of his favorite pastimes. "Heaven knows we fly fishers are suckers for every new gizmo we think will give us a leg up on catching fish," he writes in "Simple Fly Fishing: Techniques for Tenkara and Rod & Reel," to be published by Patagonia Books on Monday. With what could safely be described as ornery skepticism, Mr. Chouinard, along with his co-authors, Craig Mathews and Mauro Mazzo, questions the rise of $1,000 fishing rods and tackle boxes overflowing with flies. "I would offer," Mr. Chouinard continues, "that this proliferation of gear is supported by busy people who lack for nothing in their lives except time."

Therein lies the book's charm. Part straightforward how-to, part back-to-basics manifesto, the volume is also a bit of a sermon that seeks to spread the good word about a centuries-old Japanese technique known as "tenkara"—which calls for a long, flexible, reel-free rod—that Mr. Chouinard believes is the hands-down easiest and most pleasurable way to fish.

"Some people say, 'I don't fish because I don't have patience,' " Mr. Chouinard said by telephone from Patagonia's headquarters in Ventura, Calif. "Well, it takes no patience whatsoever to fly fish. It's not like sitting in a boat and dangling a worm down below and waiting for a bite," he said. "It's proactive. It's like dragging a toy mouse across the floor for your cat. If you just drag it, the cat just looks at it. But you stop it and give it a little twist, the cat pounces on it."

Granted, Patagonia does stand to profit from a surge of interest in tenkara; the book is part of a kit they're selling—complete with a rod, lines and flies. But a portion of the proceeds from the book, which can be purchased separately, will be donated to various conservation organizations. And Patagonia stores around the U.S. will offer free clinics on the technique. We asked Mr. Chouinard to highlight beginner-friendly techniques from the book.

The Gear




 The Tenkara Rod

One problem with a traditional fishing rod, explained Mr. Chouinard, is that it's stiff: "It's just a dead stick." Giving movement to the fly is essential, he said, which is where a tenkara rod excels. Long, thin and flexible, tenkara rods are traditionally used by market fishers in Japan. Mr. Chouinard's favorite is a telescopic 10½-foot soft-hackle model from Temple Fork Outfitters (shown collapsed at left; ). Using a tenkara rod also makes it harder to cast your fly too far past the fish's actual location, he said. "Everyone's been making fly rods as if you need to cast 100 feet to catch a trout, when in reality the trout are at your feet, practically."

The Essential Fly

"If I was to use only one fly for trout fishing for the rest of my life, it would be a 'partridge and pheasant-tail' soft hackle," said Mr. Chouinard, specifying a size 14. Known as a "wet" fly because it's intended to float beneath the surface of the water, the partridge and pheasant-tail imitates insects that are part of the trout's diet. "It's an all-purpose fly," he said. "You could probably go out with this one fly and outfish anybody."



The Beginner's Knot

To secure the fly, Mr. Chouinard's go-to knot is the nonslip loop. Here's how to tie it.

The Beginner's Knot

1. Start by forming a basic overhand knot.

2. Thread one end of the line through the fly, then send the end back through the loop of the overhand knot.

3. Wind the end around the line four or five times, then thread it back through the overhand knot again. Pull to tighten.





The Basic Cast

For beginners, the technique known as the Belgian Cast is the easiest to master, according to Mr. Chouinard. The key is not to bend your wrist; otherwise "you lose all your power in the stroke," he said.

The Basic Cast

1. Stand a bit sideways to your target and throw the rod behind you, keeping the rod tilted at a 35-degree angle from the vertical.

2. Throw the rod forward, keeping the rod at a 10-degree angle from the vertical.

3. On the back cast, the rod goes to about a 2 o'clock position; on the forward cast, about 10 o'clock.

4. The line should make a small oval as it travels; there are no abrupt stops.

Fishing Technique

Trout are masters at expending as little energy as possible to gather food, Mr. Chouinard explains in the book. It doesn't pay for fish to swim up to the water's surface from four feet down to nab a tiny fly. When feeding on small insects, they need a large quantity (a hatch) to make it worth their while, but a trout can be enticed to fall for an artificial fly if the fly is close enough that the trout only has to move a little and open its mouth.

Fishing Technique

1. Cast the line at about a 45-degree angle downstream.

2. As soon as the fly is in the water, lift the loose part of your line and place it across your body. This mending upstream slows down the drift of the fly and prevents the loose line from getting caught in the current and swinging your fly at an unnaturally fast speed.

3. When the line comes tight, twitch the tip of the rod by squeezing the bottom fingers of the hand holding the rod. (Your goal is to imitate the emerging and swimming stages of the caddiefly and mayfly.) The rod itself should hardly move. Almost everyone who tries this overdoes it at first. Here's the rule: If you think you're not moving the fly enough, move it less.

Posted by stevenojai at 9:21 AM EDT
Saturday, 1 June 2013
Marshall caught his first fish
Topic: General Flyfishing

My grandson, Marshall, has just turned 3 years in March. He's all boy with a sense of adventure and inquisitive of his surroundings. I bought him a picture book of Construction Equipment for his birthday and, based upon the cover, he identified "Excavator" rather than "Tractor". Then, he proceeded to show me the "Backhoe" and the "Loader". Coming from a family of contractors, I should have knowned that he had all that figured out.

We got the family together for Memorial Day at our cabin in the Southern Sierra. As with any cabin, there are the work details to complete like sweeping pine needles and clearing the underbrush. With the light snowpack this year, we got an early start. However, every work detail has to be followed by a little recreation and we figured that it was just the time for Marshall to experience catching his first trout on a fly rod.

We live at just over 7000' elevation near the headwaters of the Little Kern River and there are a number of Forest roads available to head for small creeks. Since these are the headwaters of the Little Kern River, our choice of trout would be the Little Kern Golden.

We parked the truck near the trailhead and walked about a 1/4 mile to a meadow. Within this meadow was a small tributary about 2 feet wide and 2-3 feet deep. The banks are lush with grass and the bottom structure is dark with woody material mixed into the gravel. This is the home of the Little Kern Golden and here was the last vestage of hope from extinction when invasive species were allowed into their sanctuary during most of the 1900's within the waters downstream.  In the 1980's, Calif. Fish and Game personnel were able to eliminate these invasive species above the natural waterfall barrier on the Little Kern and repopulate those waters with these fish. Fortunately, there is a shift away from widescale planting of hatchery trout and an appreciation of our native trout to continue to flourish within the waters that they have inhabited for over 20,000 years.

  These streams are deceptively deep, even for a bird dog like, Star. The banks are undercut and there is no foothold, so he needs an assist. Point out these dangers to your kids as well.


Small Goldens are much like small kids, they are eager and active. We have to walk quietly and not get too close to the bank. Once they make your presence, they head for cover and remain. If they don't make your precence, you will have non-stop action with a dry fly. I tied on a size 18 BWO with a barbless hook and used a 7' 3 wt rod. It would have a 7 foot 5x leader with a 2 foot section of 7x tippet. We brought the kids up to the stream's amazing how the kid's understand quiet when they want to. We positioned ourselves so that we could reach the water surface by extending the rod tip and allowing the wind to cast for us. Dropping the rod tip brought the fly to the surface and then the action would begin.


Most of the time, there would be a flash of water and nothing on the hook. Learning a proper hook set might take some time. But the kids are totally tuned-in. After 10 or more "hits", you finally get that "take". Forget the fish, take a look at the expression of the kid. Total concentration and exhilliration of something alive pulling on the line. Keeping tension on the line is the only hope of keeping that fish attached and this doesn't happen often. But when it does, you have your first trout.




 The next lesson is to appreciate catch and release. We enjoy eating trout but we only keep those trout that we intend to feast upon that day. On most days, we never keep our catch. When you are in a lovely meadow as we are and you recognize that this is the home of a living creature that has given you the opportunity to enjoy an exhilirating experience, it is easy to understand the release of that trout will allow you and many other families to experience the same feelings in the future.


The beauty of the Golden trout is not only it's coloration but the delicate features it has. It is small, eager, and loves it's surroundings. Much like my grandson, Marshall

Posted by stevenojai at 7:22 AM EDT
Thursday, 25 November 2010
Get Your Kids Started Young!
Topic: General Flyfishing

I was fishing the Truckee River just before season end. My daughter, Petra, joined me and brought my Grandson, Marshall, along. It wasn't long before Petra put a fly rod into Marshall's hand which is kind of a feat in itself since Marshall is only 8 months hold. However, he handled that rod like a Pro with a smile on his face.

I've got four kids and they have all been introduced to flyfishing. Petra got her start on Hat Creek when she was about 9 yrs old. As I recall she had as much fun out-fishing her brother as she had hooking the trout. She offered to show her brother, Eric, how it's done but Eric got a little obstinate at her suggestions and doggedly worked that stream without getting the same results. She still kids him about that.

Petra is married to a great son-in-law, Steve. They met in Junior College within a group of students that enjoyed lunch together. Steve overheard Petra talk about her recent Flyfishing trip with Dad (We fished Eagle Lake in the Mineral King area) and immediately took interest. Petra phoned me shortly afterwards to tell me about the great guy she just met and how flyfishing was a common interest. Eight years later, they got married and are both structural engineers. My grandson, Marshall, is a result of that marriage and I think he's going to be a superb flyfisher.

Posted by stevenojai at 12:41 PM EST
Updated: Thursday, 25 November 2010 1:18 PM EST

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