At the core of my efforts is the pursuit of the simplest set up. I wanted a way to carry just the gear needed and have a reasonable sling bag to carry my day’s food and a few survival and minor comfort essentials. Overall it was a very enjoyable process. I tried to remain honest with myself about my actual needs. Of course these needs can change over time and with each specific trip. It is better to plan ahead.
In researching hacks I found some to be less than ideal and actually causing more issues than they solve. Some things pretend to be hacks and fall short of being a solution at all. By loose definition a hack should be practical, solve a problem, be fairly easy to make and accomplish the job intend as well (if not better) than the thing it is replacing. Hacks are great because they let us look at things and use them in unconventional ways. .
Some of the ideas I came up with did cross over onto each other and some were stand-alone ideas. I have always enjoyed life hacks and small D.I.Y. projects and these ideas fall somewhere in those categories. I am sure that you too will find your own ideas and I hope that you will share them with all of the other readers either in the comment section of this blog or on the Tenkara Path Facebook page.
I continue to look at approaching tenkara fly fishing with the idea that getting in to the areas and fishing with least amount of gear in tow is the ideal approach. I can move quicker and cover more fishing area and holes which of course leads arguably to more chances to catch fish.
The Power of Reduction and Combination
One thing that tenkara has taught me is to keep reducing things to a simpler and simpler form. Understanding that utility and necessity trump gimmick, newest model and hype. Reductions should be a benefit that removes the use of bulkier solutions and yet still obtain the same effect. Finding items that can serve two or more solutions as one item are almost always better than carrying individual items that have only one function. .
Keep the Essentials
I’ve continued to use a small nipper and carry a hemostat clipped to my shirt. My fly box and lines now fit nicely into a shirt pocket or two at the most. When I take a net with me I just tuck it into my belt at the small of my back. Net options will have to wait for another day. I’ve been working on finding the best way to manage my leader, flies and tippet. I want to keep everything easy to access and easy to put away. I have found that there is very little reason to have a fishing bag other than to carry my lunch, a rain jacket, maybe an extra rod, a phone and/or a camera.
I’ve probably gone overboard in my search and found a variety of items that work well as solutions.
I hope that at least one of the ideas that follow seem like something useful to you. You may not know until you try it out yourself and give it a field test. Each hack has some advantages and disadvantages. I try to cover these with each description.
Lets Talk First About Spools.
A spool of course allows you to manage your line when you are not using it. There are certainly very nice wooden, foam or even plastic spools that have been created specifically for line management. But this article is about DIY and hacks… So I started looking at spools I could find that were being used for something other than tenkara lines. I like a lot of the commercial spools but I really like how personalized that a hack or DIY can be. One thing I have wanted is a spools that could double as a fly box. I have listed a few of those with the ideas below.
Early on I repurposed some ear bud cases as spools. These worked okay in that I could put the hook in a chamber and then using the winder feature of the case to wind the tippet and line onto the spool. There was even a little room in the case for a few more flies to be stored. Downside was that these cases are each different. Sure you could find one that worked but I have a couple lines and don’t really need that many sets of ear buds. Purchasing a product just for a component is again not a bad or good thing.
Pieces of wood and chunks of bone have been fashioned into spools for fishing line long before there were fishing rods. I have looked at cutting out a flat “H” shaped spool for keeping my line on. I know that there have been traditional spools of this kind used by the Japanese forefathers of tenkara as well. One ongoing issue in doing this with modern day lines is that your line can form a memory on the bends and will need to be stretched out each time it is unwound. If you like this more primitive design I am sure one could be whittled out of a nice piece of found wood or your next trip out. There are a lot of beautiful wooden spools on the market too but making one yourself is rewarding and personalizes it.
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Turtle shell spools
In a sewing and knitting shop I discovered some wonderful “turtle shell” style spools. These have a dome shaped side that can be turned inside out to open the spool and then close back up over the spooled line in a protective way. I have been using them as a way to store my line for a while now. They were very inexpensive and even had a large hole so I could drop the spool over the shortened rod just like many of the popular commercial spools. I found a similar, smaller version of these in an old tackle box at a garage sale. These older ones were originally made to hold tippet and have a small cutter on them for trimming the line. (Neeto!) I have not found the ones with a cutter commercially available so you just have to look for them or super glue on a cutter from a box of dental floss perhaps.
I found this salt and pepper bottle at a backpacking store and probably spent too much on it. It has two twist-off caps that open and can hold a few flies on each side. You can actually wind a couple of spools of line on this one. It is small and fits in a pocket easily. The container is clear as well so you can see how many flies you have or what style of fly is kept in what side of the container. Keep and eye out for these at garage sales and thrift stores.
Old 35mm film canisters
Remember film and film canisters? I have a few of these from my days as a photographer. In addition to the plastic kind I have also collected some nice aluminum ones. I put a wine cork inside the canister and kept flies attached to the cork. When I needed a new fly I could open the canister and let the fly covered cork fall out into my hand. I suppose you could also attach the cork permanently to the canister with a cord so that it could still fall out but not get separated from the canister. Use these as a spool by wrapping your leader around the body of the canister.
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Slap wrist bracelet
Recently, my son brought one of these home from a party and I immediately knew it would work for a field spool. I actually bought a bunch of these that were covered with silicon and found them to be really good. You just curl them up and wrap the line around them. They can then be dropped over the collapsed rod tip as you walk. OR you can just wrap one around your wrist like a wrist band and spool the line around them while you move up or down stream. You just wear the band on your wrist while you aren’t using it. There are pluses and minuses to using these. Wrapping a line on them while they are on your wrist is a little clumsy at first and this mode is only good for short term spooling. You also have to figure out what to do with the fly as there isn’t an obvious place to hook it unless you make one.
Two Tin Spool (one of my new favorites)
I came up with this spool by accident while holding a few of these tins my wife had for a project she was working on. I realized that the two tins could be connected to each other “bottom to bottom” with a drop of superglue glue. Finish the tin spool off with a bit of electrical or gaffers tape to seal the seam between the two tins. This design is pretty cool as it allows for two compartments with twist off lids. You can let the flies float loose or add a bit of craft foam or even a magnet to hold the flies in place. There is a lot of potential here to also turn one of the tins into a tippet dispenser. I never tried but figure it wouldn’t take much to engineer it. You wrap your leader around the center section of the two tins where you laid the strip of tape. One issue that I could see with this design is the reflective flash that the unpainted tins can have. A sticker or a coat of flat paint might be the solution to this. Gear shouldn’t scare the fish.
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Travel pill bottles / boxes / compacts
I've found several small pill bottles and boxes that can be converted into a spool and fly box combination. One company specifically, HumanGear. HumanGear makes "GoTubbs" and "GoCup" and they are available at REI and most stores that have travel cases. These containers seemed to accomplish the job as a do nothing, out of the package solution. The "GoCup" is a collapsible silicon drinking cup that folds flat in sections. The cap of this cup holds a small capped space for pills (or flies in our case). The cool part is that you can wrap your leader around the cup part very easily AND you have a cup to drink from on the trail as well. So this one covers triple duty and for me that makes it a real winner. The one down side is that these really work best as spools you would carry in your pocket. They don't attach or slip over the rod. They do slip into your pocket easily.
The irony is not lost on me that I have covered so many ways to minimize your spool here that it is far from minimalist to use all of these. I would suggest that you look at them and decide for yourself what works best for you and go with that.
In Part TWO of this series I will talk about rod mounted line tenders. I have fallen in love with them and continually look for materials to make them for all of my rods. I will tell more about that later. Until then I hope that you will explore these spool options and share any others that you find in the comments below.