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Thursday, July 18, 2013
Fishermen love the next big thing.
That’s likely because fishing really hasn’t changed that much over time.
It used to be you put food or something a fish thought was food on a hook and tied it to a line. When a fish bit, you pulled the fish in.
Because that’s really what fishing still is, even relatively small developments can be the next big thing.
In fly fishing, one of the new big things is Tenkara.
Tenkara, which has roots in Japan, simplifies fly fishing.
Roanoke physician Kevin Kelleher has helped popularize the technique with his great book, “Tenkara: Radically Simple, Ultralight Fly Fishing.”
Anglers use only a rod, a line and a fly. There is no reel.
Which is to say, this new trend is not really new.
Tenkara is really just a fly-specific approach to cane pole fishing, a method that’s been around pretty much as long as fishing itself.
Yes, there are differences between Tenkara and cane pole fishing.
Tenkara rods — they really should be called poles, the appropriate term when reels aren’t used — are typically constructed of high-tech materials and are light as a feather. Like most cane poles, they are telescoping.
Tenkara uses a special line that has weight to it, in order for the line to carry the fly to its target.
But, at its essence, it’s cane pole fishing.
Fly fishermen are clamoring to try Tenkara for the same reason many of us have been using cane poles for years: Not only is it simple, it’s effective.
It’s not great all the time.
On big water when longer casts are needed, or when targeting larger, stronger fish, a cane pole or Tenkara is not going to work.
In certain circumstances, cane pole fishing — like Tenkara — is more effective than any other method.
Fishing for panfish such as bluegills or spawning crappies around brush is one of those circumstances.
Using a small jig or piece of bait under a float is usually appropriate in that kind of fishing. With a cane pole it’s easy to swing the bait and bobber with precision, dropping it right on target.
With a 5-foot-long ultralight spinning rig, such precision with casts is pretty much impossible.
On a recent evening while catching sunfish to use as catfish bait, I caught three sunnies to every one pulled in by my ultralight-equipped buddy.
A number of years ago I spent a day fishing for crappies on Lake Gaston with Carl Herring of Suffolk.
Carl, who at one time held the all tackle world record for black crappie with a 4-pound, 8-ounce Kerr Reservoir monster, favors cane poles for his approach.
He spider trolls with them, and he also uses them to pinpoint cast his jigs and minnows next to stumps and other cover.
Carl uses big poles, some 20 feet long. They are stout and heavy, and he rigs them with pretty strong mono.
That can come in handy when a big bass or even a striper nails his bait or lure.
With no reel, fighting really big fish is pretty difficult even on a big cane pole. That’s why Carl wraps a piece of foam around the butt of his poles.
If he hooks a big fish, he lets the fish take the pole. Then he chases after the floating pole with his boat and eventually pulls the fish in when it tires.
So, it’s actually sort of a hybrid of cane pole fishing and jug fishing.
Most cane pole fishermen use the rigs to present bait, rather than lures. But cane poles work for lure fishing, too.
A heavy cane pole with heavy line can be used to target bass in shallow water and heavy cover. An actual flipping or pitching rig is better, sure, especially in the right hands. But the point is the cane pole is not a bad alternative.
I recently broke out my little sunfish cane pole for some trout fishing on a mountain stream.
It was partly out of necessity, as it was the only rig I had in my truck when I made the unplanned stop at the creek.
I pulled a little bead-head nymph out of my truck’s sun shade, and put a little fly rod float about four feet above the nymph.
The ultralight 10-foot-long cane pole was ideal for placing the nymph in the exact spots where I thought trout might be holding.
The creek’s little wild rainbows and brookies gobbled the offering with abandon, not seeming to care that I was fishing with a pole I bought for $10 at Walmart.
Had a real fly fisherman happened to see me, he would have assumed I was Tenkara fishing.
Which, for all intents and purposes, I was.
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