Here we are in the final post of the Three Part series on minimizing our basic gear and tackle. I do hope that you can see now that the commercial answers are not always the best. There is a lot of benefit to be found in dropping the load stone that gear can be when we fish. When I started backpacking I remember learning that if I didn't use something it probably wasn't needed. If I needed something I tried to remember to plan ahead or at least be able to improvise. I think these same thoughts apply to tenkara gear too.
Let's face it... your field fly box does NOT have to carry ALL of the flies you own. I know that people have boxes with rows and rows of flies that look like soldiers in formation waiting to go to battle. Sure this is fine for storing them at home or perhaps bringing along a good selection in your car. But why carry that big old honking box with you on the trail? Have the fancy big box for keeping your library of flies in but leave it behind. Carry a smaller box and be surprised by how little you really needed.
What I realized was that in any given day of fly fishing I never need more than a dozen flies at the very most. I can take couple varieties of flies along with me in a smaller box. All I have to do is have a few dark patterns, a few light patterns and a few that I just want to try out for the first time. The most I have with me at any given time is about 16- 24 flies and that too is overkill.
Of course one of the basic tenants of traditional tenkara is to use presentation over the “match the hatch” approach. We don’t need a dozen different flies to do this. I am of the school of make flies that you think will catch fish. If they catch fish then keep using them. I'm pretty sure at this point that there isn't a fly that can't catch a fish.
I love boxes of all kinds and am a self-proclaimed “box freak” who never met a box I didn’t like. I collect boxes of all kinds because you never know when you will need a good box to put something in. You may notice with the ideas below that some of the boxes I have collected here can also be used as line holders. That dual purpose makes them a great way to manage your line and keep everything together in just your shirt pocket.
I've had a great time exploring these ideas. I hope that you are inspired to keep your eye out for solutions and other ideas as well. More importantly I hope that you will share those ideas. Until my next post...Have fun being creative!
Last week in part ONE we covered a scope of line management and spool options This week we look primarily at just a couple of ways of attaching your line directly onto your rod.
Its about being able to move quickly from one place to another.
One thing that I found troublesome on the stream is managing line while moving from one place to the next. You know, when you have to break your rod down so that you can get past a bunch of brush and move to the next hole? I've wrapped the line in my hand and around the handle of the rod too. For these short cuts I've been rewarded with nice knots in my leader and frustrating time not fishing while I tried to undo my mess.
Line tenders are not reels.
Just because Tenkara is without a reel doesn't mean we don't need to have a place to put line when we aren't using it. Sure some of the spools I shared last week would work just fine. They are reasonable solutions to the issue. One thing to consider with some of those ideas is that they aren't always the fastest way to manage a line when you are just jumping up or down stream a short distance. You have to find the spool wrap the line and break down your rod. When you get to that next hole you end up going through the whole process again of unwinding from a spool and putting the spool back into your pocket. This is not a huge deal but... I don't know how many times I've dropped that spool into the stream and had to chase madly after it. The obvious answer to this is a rod mounted line tender.
Rod mounted line tenders
My good friend Jason Klass wrote about creating these some time back on his blog TenkaraTalk. Someone else came up with the same idea and commercialized them. (I believe personally that Jason was the historic inventor but I am a biased friend.) These clips attach to your rod and you wind your line around the two points. They are held on by elastic or silicon bands. These are probably the most practical item you can add to your tenkara rod. However the commercial ones in my opinion are overpriced for what they are. I have been experimenting with some variations on this idea.
There certainly are more ideas out there for mounting different kinds of line managers to your rod. Please share your ideas in the comment section below.
In the next and final installment of this post I will talk about some fly box and fly management solutions. After that I hope to share some other topics. I am sure I will be back to more of these ideas too.
When I first started writing this blog post over a month ago it was still fair weather fishing. I wanted to look at all the ways I could reduce my gear in hand. I wanted to make the management and handling of line, flies and leader efficient. Along the way I found a lot of great options. So many as a matter of fact that I have had to break this topic down over three blog posts to make it more manageable.
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.
Ear bud cases
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.
Backpacking Salt and Pepper bottle
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.
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.
Dennis Vander Houwen lives in Colorado with his patient and supportive wife, talented artist son, a cuddly dog, and a very lucky cat. Dennis is an avid minimalist, wood craftsman, curious tinkerer and learner and most notably a deeply focused tenkara angler.