Aug 21, 2010 at 4:53 pm #1262493
Jacob SmithBPL Member
@wrongturnLocale: The Soda
Just picked up a great deal on a BPL Tenkara Hane rod setup, and am wondering what size flies I should be looking for. I'll be fishing the small trout streams in Mount Rogers and the South Holston area of Southwest Virginia. Most steams are under 12 feet wide, and are relatively shallow. Fish should be no larger than 15in where I'll be fishing.
Also any particular flies I should look at getting? I was looking at getting a couple of the sets from TenkaraUSA
ThanksAug 22, 2010 at 8:11 pm #1639633
@mowLocale: Minnesota, USA
Fly size is dependent on the bugs you're trying to imitate and has nothing to do with the size fish (trout) you're targeting. Any local fly shop should be able to help put together a few flies that are specific to your area. With that said here is a good "starter" list of flies:
#14, 16 & 18 Adams
#14, 16 & 18 Parachute Blue Winged Olive
#14, 16 & 18 Pale Morning Dun
#14, 16 & 18 Peacock Caddis
#18 & 20 Ants
#14, 16 & 18 Bead Head Pheasant Tail
#14, 16 & 18 Bead Head Prince Nymph
Good luck and have fun. Feel free to PM if you'd like more detail.Aug 23, 2010 at 4:43 am #1639711
For most small-stream tenkara fishing, "matching the hatch" is not necessary. You really only need a few patterns (many tenkara experts in Japan use only one pattern in a couple different colors). I would suggest that you probably won't need more than one dry fly, one wet fly and one nymph pattern. I would suggest an elk hair caddis for the dry, a sakasa kebari for the wet and either a gold ribbed hare's ear or a pheasant tail for the nymph. All can be size 14. If you are fishing larger streams with prolific insect hatches, the fish can get very selective. I haven't found that to be the case with small stream fish.Aug 23, 2010 at 11:47 am #1639788
@mowLocale: Minnesota, USA
Fly fishing, tenkara or otherwise, is still matching insects to imitation flies. Fishing small backcountry streams in Virginia is much different than fishing similar streams in the Wind River Range. In the latter case, high gradient pocket water with little pressure, a smattering of patterns would suffice (Royal Stumulator, Price Nymphs, any caddis, a dark mayfly and a light mayfly would be a good start). In the former case, small spring creeks that probably see a fair amount of traffic, having a good assortment of flies can definitely be the difference between a successful outing and otherwise.
Not all of of the sizes of flies I listed are necessary, but if you're looking to create a fly box that you can "grow into" and be confident you're equipped for most situations the flies I've listed are great start.Aug 24, 2010 at 11:33 am #1640058
@davecLocale: The West Slope
The TenkaraUSA flies are really boutique ($$$$$$). Your local shop should have what you need, with flies in the 1-2 dollar/per range.
The western fly paradigm puts a premium on matching fly to insect for a given setting. Tenkara seems to take a different approach. While having the generally correct fly for the season (fishing dries in November is not so good) is necessary, I'm skeptical that the level of exactitude espoused by many is needed.Aug 28, 2010 at 8:32 am #1641203
@jasonklassLocale: Parker, CO
I rarely ever have to match the hatch. 99% of the time, I fish a #16 Elk Hair Caddis or a #22 Griffith's Gnat.Aug 28, 2010 at 11:59 am #1641224
I had my first tenkara experience this summer, while backpacking along the Piedra River in So. Colorado. I actaully brought both a UL spin set up (with which I’m comfortable and familiar) and a tenkara set up (which was new and mysterious) and switched back and forth. Not surprisingly I ended up catching all of my fish with spin rod and lures, but I hope to jump 100% into the Tenkara style of fishing next summer, at least for small rivers like the Piedra. I enjoyed the aesthetic of it (a lot), and gained an appreciation for the pure “hunting” skills I’ll need to acquire to catch fish this way.
Anyway, I started out with 9 flies I had purchased from Tenkara with my initial order, but unfortunately lost them during a river Xing (let’s just say I now wear my foam tackle box in a zippered case suspended around my neck). So I visited a fly shop in Durango and picked up a random selection: elk hair caddis, parachute adams, copper johns, Royal wulffs, and some others that looked really cool– all in #12.
I’m just looking for advice on how to stock my fly box for the next outing. Tenkara seems to sell only #12 and #16. Chris recommends #14 as a good all-purpose size, John recommends having a wide variety of sizes all smaller than #12, and Jason’s two primary flies are considerably smaller than #12.
Philosophically, I think I’m in the camp of wanting to find those two or four flies that will work anywhere most of the time (the simplicity factor), but the only way to discover this for myself is to buy a real wide assortment and learn by trial and error.
Can I ask: how often do fisherpeople typically change flies during a day’s outing? Is a #12 fly considered on the large side of things? Should I be focusing on smaller flies?
DanAug 29, 2010 at 8:00 am #1641330
@jasonklassLocale: Parker, CO
For most small stream fishing, I almost never change flies. I fish one attractor (usually a #16). #12 is on the big side for the places I fish but if you're on a bigger river, it might be OK. Also, it depends on if the fish are really keyed in on a hatch. So if they we're hitting #12 caddis, then of course that would be the ideal size. I try to err on the side of smaller flies when possible.Aug 31, 2010 at 1:46 pm #1641942
@davecLocale: The West Slope
I don't use anything smaller than a 20 because they're so darn hard to tie on the tippet! Not the most sophisticated reason I know.
I've caught some pretty small (4-5") trout on a #12 elk hair caddis, so that size certainly works. I have two seperate level lines with tippet and flies wound around a piece of foam board in my kit bag. One usually has a small emerger, the other a larger elk hair caddis. Switching lines is easier than switching flies on one line.Sep 4, 2010 at 10:14 pm #1643107
(from Tenkara USA founder)
Your question prompted me to write a new blog post on sticking with one fly: http://www.tenkarausa.com/blog/?p=1043. Please take a look, don't get bogged down with many fly options, you'll be fine with one if you can persist.
It takes a lot of confidence to stick with one fly only, to not believe that you must change flies if the fish aren't biting, as the current thinking goes. But you can stick with one fly. The confidence to do it is is something that you can build over time.
I'd say, if you are fishing streams (the area I can really speak for), don't get bogged down by fly patterns or fly sizes. I used to do that, I used adams, caddis, all flies named above, in many sizes. After years of doing it, and then converting to one fly, all I can say is don't overthink it, stick with one fly, size 12 is fine. Tie it yourself if you can, the Ishigaki fly is my recommendation as it is very easy to tie (I started tying flies with no tools, just free-hand, and this fly is great for that), and it works(http://www.tenkarausa.com/blog/?p=796)Sep 5, 2010 at 11:11 am #1643188
Hi Daniel, thanks for the input.
I don’t think the discussion about fly selection is a discussion about the best way to catch fish. Obviously many different approaches work. Fly selection is more a discussion about the personality and philosophy of the fisherman; the choice reflects what one finds fun and challenging about the sport.
For many, learning the insects, observing what the trout eat, choosing a fly that’s just right for the season, place, time of day and type of river is a big part of the sport. I admire this skill. For others who have a desire to simplify, catching fish with a single pattern is more satisfying. This approach is one of relying on skill and presentation instead of "blaming the fly". I admire this, too. As a saxophone player, I often scoff at those players that switch mouthpieces every 3 months to improve their sound–stick with one and learn how to use it!
I know this goes against your advice (and my own advice, apparently), but for next season I've decided to stock my fly box with at least one of each major fly pattern in at least 2 sizes: caddis, stonefly, mayfly, attractor, midge, and nymphs (some bead head, some not). I’ll probably throw in some misc stuff like a crayfish imitation, and a sneaky Pete for smallmouth. I’ve been enjoying reading and learning about all the classic fly patterns and I want to try them out. I don't feel I can make an informed decision until I do this. And, I have to admit, part of this approach comes from discovering after 10 years in the same house that I have an Orvis store just 3 minutes away. I’m a kid in a candy store right now.
Will all these flies help me catch more fish than someone with a single type of fly? Who knows. Unless you fish both styles side-by-side there will never be a control for the experiment. And I’m not sure the answer matters that much in the bigger picture.
DanSep 5, 2010 at 9:03 pm #1643286
I completely agree with you. I think there is the side of fly-fishing, learning insects, that can be very interesting to many people. My main point is that you really don't need to know that to fish and catch fish. I have experimented a lot, once fishing a big stimulator (large stoneflies were hatching) and a simple tenkara fly in the same river, alternating them, with very similar results. I also fished both on the same pool caught two near-identical fish, one with each.
It does not quite matter what fly you're using. Any of the flies mentioned above will work. Any fly, within reasonable size, will work. I repeated the experience from my blog post again today, in 3 different streams. I only use one fly pattern.
The "match-the-hatch" thought is so ingrained in our minds that it's very hard to let it go. Tenkara anglers in Japan do not switch flies or try to match the hatch. As far as historians know, the professional fisherman who used tenkara at least a hundred years ago, to catch fish for a living, also did not switch flies. Matching the hatch is one school of thought, but not the only one for successful fly fishing.
I think it's important to know you can really simplify fly-fishing, beginning with the fly choice.Sep 5, 2010 at 11:16 pm #1643304
I forgot to mention that I enjoyed your blog post quite a bit.
This whole topic is fascinating and I’m not sure I know what to think anymore. Using just one fly is a true paradigm shift from what I understand as something pretty fundamental to fly fishing. But you make a convincing argument. I’m curious what others have to say.
I’m going with some friends to the Black River in the White Mountains (Arizona) in 2 weeks. Hopefully squeeze in a day and a half of fishing. Hopefully catch my first Tenkara trout. I'll probably bring a huge assortment of flies and end up using only one :)
I found this passage in the “Curtis Creek Manifesto” by Sheridan Anderson:
“Many fly fishers feel inadequate if they go near the water without a veritable armada of flies. The truth is…a hotshot angler can probably do pretty well anywhere in the country armed with nothing more than a #16 gold-ribbed hare’s ear.”
DanSep 5, 2010 at 11:43 pm #1643306
Great quote, Dan.
It is indeed a paradigm shift. And I admit it's hard, very hard, to buy into it. In a way I was in a position where I was really pushed to try it, being the "tenkara ambassador" here I need to understand and practice pure tenkara. Who knows what I'd be doing otherwise; and it took me exactly a year to really convert to not picking a fly, but just fishing – a year to the date, actually; I first learned about the concept on May 23, 2009 when Dr. Ishigaki visited the US, and fully converted when I visited him in Japan on May 23, 2010.
So I completely understand both sides. It may be what some people have been looking for, but just like tenkara, it may not fit everyone's taste.
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