Tuesday, September 2, 2014

Wetfly Back Country Tenkara Outfit Review

When the package arrived I marveled over the layout of the bundle.
Image from BackCountry.com

The box is all black and each piece of the outfit had it's own slot. The fly box was nice and had the quality of the flies was pretty much what I expected. They were nothing spectacular but not horrible either. The presentation of bundle overall was top notch. When I pulled out the rod I couldn't wait to try it out. The finish is a graphite dull look which I loved. There were no instructions so I had to go with stuff I found online. Wetfly provides this video to get you started.

The rod extended easily enough but here's what this video doesn't talk about. There's a piece on the very bottom of the rod that unscrews. I was curious to what exactly this was for. I thought maybe it was a place to put your end cap. When I unscrewed it I noticed it was hollow inside. That was until my rod collapsed back into place and actually shot out the hole I was looking at. Basically the rod now was inverted and coming out beneath the cork. It was a pain to get back in the blank and get the rod to extend again. The rod is made to telescope and extend but what you don't realize is this is a fine process and if the blanks are misaligned even by a millimeter it will cause the rod to not collapse or extend properly. I learned my lesson with that. Keep the butt cap screwed in. 

I was able to get the rod extended properly and setup. The 3 lines that come with the package are a furled leader, level line and tippet. The furled leader is basically braided mono. The level line looks just like regular mono and the tippet is your average tippet. When I first saw how you tie the leader to the tip of the rod I figured I was going to break this in a matter of seconds. Once I had everything setup though I found it was quite sturdy and felt more durable than I thought. I tried playing around with the different rod lengths and imagined myself casting in small streams. The images in my head quickly vanished as I fought with the rod to collapse different sections. The alignment has to be perfect or the rod will not collapse. In some rare instances you can actually collapse the tip down inside the other blanks and won't be able to get it out. Luckily I had the leader tied on and used that to help pull the tip out. This annoyed me pretty quickly. I found I would not be able to use this rod how I wanted to. The idea of collapsing the rod depending on the situation is not as easy as it sounds. 

The rod was very stiff. It seemed to have an action faster than any of the rods I own. I took everything over to a local pond to test it out. Casting was a little awkward at first but I started to figure it out. I actually let my daughter have a few turns with it and she could actually cast better than I could. The key was to slow down and let the rod do all the work. Then came my next issue with the setup. The furled leader sinks. This caused my fly to sink as well. Not a huge deal but it was hard to detect strikes once the line and fly were submerged. I could have tied on an indicator but I was too lazy. Having only so much casting distance became very frustrating. There's really nothing you can do about it. If you can't wade in the water you're stuck only casting so far from the bank. You better hope the fish are with in 30ft of you or they are out of casting range. That is unless you add some line and have plenty of room to back cast. Make sure nothing is overhead as well. This rod is 12ft tall and finds branches easily. Especially in the hands of a 5yr old. 

I was able to catch fish with the rod and not having a reel felt strange. I angled the rod and was able to land the fish but I'm not sure what I'd do with a significantly large fish. With this rod a large fish would be about 2lbs. The whole experience was fun but had me unimpressed. I felt limited in how I could fish which I didn't like at all. I like the ability to cast where I want and as far as I want. I also didn't like the issue with collapsing the rod. There were several times I thought the rod was moving a little or trying to collapse on its own. Worrying about this was just another annoyance. In the end I decided Tenkara probably isn't for me. I can see how the style can be attractive to others but for me it's a fad that doesn't really have an advantage over traditional fly gear. Actually you're at a disadvantage in my opinion. Fly fishing to me is difficult enough. 

The main reason I considered Tenkara is I liked the logic of simplicity and being able to avoid the different currents while casting to a certain location. After my experience I'd say save your money and use a long stick for those scenarios.

Thursday, August 21, 2014

Sunday, August 17, 2014

I'm Trying Tenkara

I hit the beach today in hopes of drum, spanish mackerel, bluefish or something with fins. All I got was a sunburn and sand everywhere.
It wasn't a total loss. The day was beautiful and the kids had fun playing in the surf.

I've been kind of a lurker when it comes to Tenkara. I read articles here and there and watch videos from time to time but to tell you the truth I had a hard time buying in on it. The technique to me looked like a fancy way to cane pole fish. The rods aren't what I'd call cheap either. It seems hard to find one under $100. As I've researched more about Tenkara I started to understand and agree with the techniques. There are some advantages. With a long rod you can extend over currents and make casts easier than you can with a western style fly rod. Why don't you just get a really long western style fly rod you say? I could do that but Tenkara has another advantage there. Tenkara rods telescope allowing you to extend and retract the rod depending on the situation. That's something you just can't do with a traditional fly rod. Sierra Trading Post recently had a deal on Wetfly's Back Country Tenkara Package. You get the rod, case, line, leader even a box of flies for under $120. I couldn't find many reviews on this package but I decided to pull the trigger and try it out. I think Tenkara can be a great thing to use with the kids. The rod takes out the confusing and sometimes very frustrating line control issues beginners fight with when learning fly fishing. With Tenkara they can focus on just casting. I'll definitely post reviews of the rod and how it performs later this year. 

Wednesday, August 13, 2014


I haven't been posting much because every time I plan to go fishing the weather has not cooperated. I don't mind fishing in the rain but storms lately have been accompanied by plenty of lighting and torrential downpours. This chart gives a picture of what the last month has been.
You're reading that right. Almost 14inches of rain in 30 days. I haven't even attempted to make a cast in that time. I'm hoping to change that this weekend. The weather forecast looks amazing. 

Monday, July 28, 2014

First Family Camping Trip

I had been anticipating camping with my kids since they were born. I wasn't sure what age is the right age to take them on their first trip. My wife and I decided to do a test run by going one day over a weekend. I have fished Stone Mountain State Park several times but never camped there. The day we arrived at the campground I was really impressed with the quality of the campsites and bathrooms. The bathrooms were cleaner than some of the hotels I've stayed in. We made camp and started a fire. This where I started to realize what this trip was going to be all about. Instead of just enjoying everything this experience was going to be about teaching the kids what they can and can't do while camping.
The first was to teach them that fire is something dangerous and not something you play with. This was actually harder than I thought. The kids were constantly getting too close to the fire ring. Especially when they were chasing each other around the campsite. 
I was sure someone was going to be impaled with a skewer but we managed to roast marshmallows and cook hot dogs without any incidents. My wife got these giant marshmallows that were almost too big for smores. They were a meal in themselves. 

The next day we decided to go for a hike. My wife and I didn't sleep that well due to our air mattress not inflating. She did buy some small 1/4 inch foam pads for the kids and we tried those as a substitute. It didn't work and we spent the night tossing and turning. She ended up sleeping in the car. Even with the bad nights sleep we rallied and went for a hike. 
Stone mtn is a impressive sight. The wall looks almost vertical but from a distance you can see the mtn is actually a rock dome. Many rock climbers from the surrounding area come here to test their skills. 
My daughter wanted to climb this so bad and it took me constantly berating her to keep her from attempting an ascent. The plan was to hit a natural water slide after the hike. My wife twisted her ankle pretty bad on the hike back to the car. She could still walk but it was obvious she was in pain. I made a walking stick for her and of course the kids bugged me to make them one of their own.
This seemed like a good idea until the walking sticks became guns and later swords. The walking sticks ended up back in the forest before the hike was over. 
The water slide was part of a small waterfall. The upper falls have a pretty spectacular view.
My daughter begged me to go down the water slide with her but it looked pretty bumpy. I heard from other hikers that people usually bring something plastic to sit on to protect their rear. We ended up just playing at the base of the falls and the kids had plenty of fun.
When we were about to leave my daughter was yelling about an orange lizard. 
I have been looking for one of these newts for years. The last place I'd expect to find one is by a popular swimming hole. The color of these creatures is amazing. You'd think the vibrant color would make them vulnerable to predators. The color actually indicates the newt is toxic. Various times on the trail we came across some mushrooms that had the same color.
I wonder if this is a coincidence or if the salamanders feed on these mushrooms. I think even with our mishaps the camping trip was a success. On the drive back home my kids asked if we can go camping again and stay longer next time. 

Monday, June 30, 2014

Quality and Quantity

My buddy Troy asked me to fish with him last weekend. There's some people who just have a special knack for catching fish. Some call it mojo, sixth sense, a gift or the Troy Factor. Doesn't matter what you call it Troy has it. Fishing with him is a privilege and I try to jump on every opportunity I get. Storms were threatening in the forecast but we still hit the marshes early. 
The marshes off North Carolina's coast have a beauty all of their own. It can really only be appreciated up close and personal by paddling slowly. At first glance the marsh looks like a prairie with several creeks flowing through it. It doesn't take long for you to realize the still view you see above the water is the opposite of what's happening underneath. You'll constantly see bait and shrimp busting the surface fleeing from a predator. Wakes from creatures moving under the surface disturb eddies and grass lines. Every now an then you hear a splash or see an eruption of bait fish as a red drum attacks. There's so much prey in these marshes it's amazing that a fish ever hits a fly. What's great about this place is everything looks fishy. Around every bend is another pool, oyster bed or small cove that has bustling movement. 
Stealth is the name of the game and long casts are usually needed. Especially if the water is calm. In the summer the water is murky and it's hard to see even a foot into the water. The water isn't dirty it's visibility is clouded by plankton. We saw several fish moving through the shallows but none seemed eager to chase a fly. While blind casting near a bank I had my first real hit. The fish didn't seem very large at first. Then as it got closer to the boat it bolted. My reel screamed and I had to slow the rotations with my palm.
One thing you can count on with reds is a battle. They never just surrender and come in. The runs are fast and furious and you need to be on your toes. This fish circled the boat a few times before we could finally land it.
If I had a list of top 10 fish to catch with flies red drum might just top the list. I don't think anyone who catches a red drum ever forgets it.

The next day we hit the Neuse River in search of striped bass.
Rumor had it that the fish were hitting top water lures and we were all armed with stealth bombers. There was one hit with in the first 10min then no other action. We moved to the bridges to see if the fish were holding near structure.
Cruising towards the bridge the views were spectacular. Once we got there we looked for birds working and signs of fish activity. It didn't take long until we saw birds hovering over fish busting bait. I've seen birds bust bait before but never this close.
The birds and bait seemed to move all around the area. Sometimes the bait was pushed right against the boat and shad almost jumped up on the deck. The birds would get in a feeding frenzy and seemed to disregard our presence. There were so many that it started to interfere with casting.
We weren't sure what to do when a buddy hooked one of the birds,
Luckily the bird just had the leader wrapped around its wing. When it came close the leader loosened enough for the bird to free itself and it flew away unharmed. The fish chasing the shad turned out to be small stripers also called schoolies. Most were barely 12 inches. I'm guessing these fish were barely 2yrs old. Even with their size they were very fun to catch. We could almost predict our hook ups with what showed on the fish finder. The screen would literally turn black. The schoolies were fun but we wanted to explore up another river. 
A family of osprey greeted us at the mouth of the river. It was neat how the scenery changed from a wide river with intercoastal type features to something almost swampy. 
As we moved upstream more gnarled trees showed themselves and many had spanish moss hanging from the branches. 
After people watching and checking out the scenery we headed back and had our fill of some more schoolies. It was a great day and I hope to some day return and explore this area more.

Sunday, June 15, 2014

Dredging For Gills

When the water gets really warm and all the beds are empty I start dredging. The fish all seem to stay deep and won't investigate a fly on top. That's when I use something heavy with a lot of legs. I drag it across the bottom feeling every rock and stump. The strikes vary from slight resistance to a super hard yank. The really vicious strikes almost pull the rod out of your hands. I find the fish aren't as plentiful but the ones you manage to hook are a nice size.