Lessons Learnt in Glen Helen
Anyone reading my blog will know I've been struggling with bouncing fish off and wondering what that was all about. I wanted to blame the relative stiffness of the rod and devised a pole elastic solution to increase the shock absorption. It worked, but it was not elegant and broke away from the simplicity of Tenkara. Lengthening the leader was only a partial solution.
I've not picked up my reservoir rod for a few weeks now (10' 8wt) and my hands have become softer. By that I mean I'm not ripping the heads off stocked fish and dragging them, skipping on the surface, into the net. It's an aspect of competition fishing that makes me uncomfortable these days.
Glen Helen is a beautiful piece of the River Neb which flows into Peel. Glen Helen is quite a long way from the sea, in Isle of Man terms, but it is perfect Tenkara water. There are open sections, some quite tight areas, narrow gorges with plunge pools. More importantly, very willing trout.
This rather fine specimen (over 10 inches, I measures my hand later) came from a rather unexpected corner. There is a culvert that flows out into the river from under the car park. It's right at the very start of the section I had marked to fish today.
this good sized fish came up from the depths to snaffle the black dry fly I dropped on the still water to the right of the picture. The first lesson I was concentrating on today was: Fly first and minimal line.
Trying to make every cast as accurate as possible and landing the fly without any line touching down. It certainly paid dividends with this trout and many to follow. Not all the fish were big but the vast majority stuck!
Below the playground is very narrow and steep sided section of the river. the water runs quite deep and holds a lot of fish. Keeping tight to the bank and shortening my rod I was still able to cast the same line with ease without scrapping the tip on the opposite wall. With the cast kept parallel to the water I was able to keep the line from snagging in the foliage. Lifting the rod at the conclusion of the casting stroke lifted the line and allowed the fly to land without the line touching down and spooking fish.
The second lesson of the day was quiet wading and stealth.
Using the bank to breakup my outline each step was carefully taken. Causing the minimal of ripples and as little disturbance as possible to the stones on the bottom meant I was able to take a dozen fish from this run as I worked my way up it. The fish were sticking today but I wasn't sure why.... that's not a complaint either!
My little black parachute dry was doing the business, time and time again. One thing that Tenkara has taught me is to fish the pocket water between pools. There is a big pool in the background beneath the bridge but this little chap came out from behind a rock where there was a pot, of only about a foot square, of deeper calm water. He was not alone. Two others put in an appearance from similar places.
The big pool was a bit of a bust mainly because the family on the bridge were playing "Pooh Sticks" with logs that landed like a leaping salmon. No chance of catching anything while that was going on.
Above the main pool in Glen Helen is even more stunning water. The rocks funnel the water into rapids that terminate with falls and pools of deep water. Fabulous and varied fishing.
The Sunline BMS fluorocarbon was working really well for me in these conditions. You can see it cutting through the right of the picture. Not so bold as to spook the fish but with plenty of indication on some part of the line when the sun was at a bad angle.
The fish were responding really well to the dry. Coming up from the depths and either grabbing the offering or swirling away leaving it bobbing on the top. I've been experimenting with various powders to dry and float my dries and I have one that is even better then the "amphibian rectum" and the cheaper bulk you can buy on eBay. Getting the stuff into bottles is a nightmare! There's a Tenkara day coming up in Wales. I'll bring some along. It's crazy stuff but not cheap. To make it worth while I'd have to sell 600 bottles!
Anyway, back to the fishing.
I'd had quite a scramble up the bank to get to the path. Covered in mud and sweating. From the elevated height I could see another pool with an easy path back down to it. Another 10 yards and I would not have had to make the climb!
Back down to the water I washed myself off in the tail of the pool. I could see fish swimming a few inches blow the surface of this 6 foot deep pool in an obvious feeding pattern. Well, I couldn't not have a cast at them!
Fish after fish came up from the bottom of the pool taking a few seconds to reach the fly and accept or refuse the presented creation. It didn't matter if the fly was floating or just below the surface. It was one subsurface take that taught me the last lesson of the day. I saw the fish open it's mouth and take the fly and I struck. I felt a firm tug and the fish almost flipped over in the water! The poor thing sorted itself out and dived for cover while I had a slack line.
That was it! That is what I had been feeling. The more frustrated I got at bouncing the fish the harder I was "tapping" the line to set the hook. It just wasn't necessary. With a firmer rod you don't need much of a tap at all. A slightly longer leader was only part of the story. A short "lift" of only a few inches was all it took. I knew this, but with my fishing on the reservoirs I had forgotten and become a bit of a thug. These were not reservoir stocked fish to be bounced to the net.
Last lesson: Tenkara is not a competition.
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