I enjoy the freedom of being able to move quickly from hole to hole. As a result of that I have found that the less I have to carry the better I can maneuver through the brush, around the trail and to the next hole. One of the major advantages tenkara has over the traditional Western style fly fishing is the reduction of gear. In my most stripped down form I can carry everything in my hands, pockets and on my body. It shouldn't take you 10 minutes to get out to the stream because you had to dress up, rig up and make sure that everybody knows you are there to fish.
We’ve all heard it. “Tenkara is just a rod, a line and a fly”. …Yeah …yeah…yeah. This is true but does not apply to the “extras”. I strive to only take what I need that day on the trail I am taking or for that pull off I am stopping at. Beyond the rod, line and fly there are a few things that you will certainly need to have worked out.
I am always looking for ways to life hack or even multipurpose things. Utility is king in keeping things simple. If you have a tool that will do more than one job you save yourself from a redundancy of carrying two things. The main things I need to do on the stream are to cut lines, store flies, spool my line, land a fish safely and finally, have something to remove a deep set hook. Most everything else can just stay kept in your vehicle unless you have indication that you will need it. I leave a lot of items in my vehicle rather than take them with me.
All I really need are good pockets and most fishing shirts offer a good selection of pockets. If you are like me you also really like cargo pants and shorts. Managing your pockets is a skill in itself. Practicing putting things back in the same pocket every time will save you time and sanity.
Here are my "Essentials" and thoughts...
- The "Mostly Optional" But "Handy" Sling Pack .
I take my sling pack along primarily for food, water, a raincoat and to keep my wallet keys and license. The size of sling pack you use is up to you. I am currently testing out different sized sling packs to see how low profile I can go without giving up the efficiency and utility that they can offer. Your needs may be greater or less than other’s needs for comfort. If you are going to be stepping into the terrain and trails away from your vehicle a sling pack can be a nice way to carry a controlled amount of gear with you and help you manage your pocket space.
- "One... and ONLY One" Rod
As recently as last Monday I did what I usually do and carried my spare rod with me into the brush. Unfortunately, it fell out of my sling pack somewhere in the deep brush and despite backtracking as best as I could, it remains lost. This one event has made me think about the idea of carrying a back up rod with me.
I can alleviate the need for a second rod by making sure that the rod I am using is in good working order. It also motivates me to be more careful with the main rod. Just keep your spare rod in your car unless the bother of going back to your car is going to mean the end of your day. Wouldn't it be just as smart to just have a spare top three sections of your rod anyhow? These segments take up less room if you do decide to carry them with you and should you lose them it is a lot cheaper than losing a whole rod... Yeah, I'm still moping about the lost rod.
- Lines, Leaders and Tippet
Which ever main line you use, level or furled, be sure to have some extra with you. Have at least enough back up for a second rigging should you need it. Ever go to rig up and pull off some tippet and are surprised to find you only have a foot left on the spool? Yikes! Lines and tippet are light and take up very little space. There is no reason not to just have an extra supply of each with you. As insurance I also always keep an extra spool of tippet in my glove compartment.
- Flies, Flybox, Better Still ...a "TenkaraPath Flybox Spool"
I don’t like to carry a large box or multiple boxes of flies out with me. Boxes can be bulky and nobody needs to carry 1000 flies out with them for "just in case" This year I am doing the “one fly” approach. It has treated me very well even in the middle of a colossal mayfly hatch. I keep a "main supply tin" of flies in my car and reload my "stream supply" as needed. Though the ingenuity of consolidation I created the TenkaraPath flybox spool. The spool holds my tippet, line and acts as a fly box too. It has eight chambers that will each hold two flies securely with rare-earth magnets. I can carry 16 flies with me. The Flybox spool fits neatly in my breast pocket when I am fishing. Otherwise it is used as a traditional line spool and slipped over the collapsed rod.
- Streamside Hardware
These items of hardware are your nippers for trimming your line and a set of long nosed pliers or forceps for removing hooks. It never hurts to carry a pocket knife, a whistle and perhaps a lighter too. All of these items still carry easily in your pant pockets. Your phone (aka your camera), keys and wallet can go into your sling pack. Sunglasses are imperative. These can be hung around your neck or just worn.
- Waders, Shoes, Hat and Sun Glasses
Depending on the time of year and the conditions that you will want to have the option of waders and boots or shoes to get out into the water and muddy terrain. In the hotter months I will occasionally forgo wearing waders altogether and just wear a pair of boots or water shoes to fish in. It is nice on those hot days to just let your legs and feet fly free in the water. It is important to pick shoes that are meant to be submerged and that have a good grip on the rocks should you find yourself in swift water. Keeping your head covered with a hat is also a good idea. I wear glasses for reading need them to thread a fly. I continue to work on solving my eyeglass/sunglass dilemma. I will keep you posted on that.
- Landing Net, (Tamo)
The less we touch fish the better. I like having a net to also help me get a fish to land. Be sure that you are using a net when you can to bring a fish in. Tenkara fishermen often use a special net called a “Tamo”. This net has a unique bend shape to it and is made usually from a single branch of a tree. They are aesthetically beautiful on their own and a literal lifesaver for fish. I made my own net and continue to play with making nets.
- Food and Water...But Mostly Water
Having food is more of an option but water is a necessity. I love taking a break now and again and finding a granola bar or bag of M&M’s in the side pocket of my sling pack is always nice. It can give you a needed bit of energy. Put it in your pack and forget about it. Having water is probably the most important thing you can carry with you. I try to keep a gallon jug of purified water in the trunk of my car and I carry a water bottle in my pack. Recently I started carrying a personal filter straw and have used it to drink directly from the stream. These are relatively inexpensive and if you don’t want the weight of a water bottle they are a way to stay hydrated on the fly.
- FIRST AID KIT/BUG STUFF/SUN SCREEN
It is better to have it and not need it than to need it and not have it. I don’t go overboard on the first aid but as I have fallen on rocks, hooked my finger, scratched my face, and been bitten by mosquitoes, I have a small kit that carries at least a few band-aids, some bug repellent and a small container of sunscreen. These you can keep together in a small sized camera bag stored in your sling pack.