BADGER TENKARA CLASSIC-MEDIUM FLEX

(Note to Readers:  I first wrote this review of the Badge Tenkara Classic-Medium Flex on Upland Ways in March of 2015.  I sure do appreciate the guys from Badger helping me get into tenkara.  I thought the readers of this blog might enjoy this!)

In the last few years, it seems like just about everyone has jumped aboard the Tenkara bandwagon. Tenkara seems to be everywhere in social media Facebook, Instagram, and numerous blogs. Some may argue that this is just a fad that will pass. No doubt, fads come and go, but what do you say about something that has been around for over 200 years?

 For those of you who don’t know, Tenkara is an old form of fly fishing invented in Japan. A Tenkara rod is much longer than your typical fly rod (i.e. 12 to 14 feet as opposed to 7 to 9 feet) and there is no reel. The modern Tenkara rods telescope outward.

When I first read about this form of fishing, it piqued my curiosity, but—based upon the written descriptions—I really didn’t quite understand how it worked. However, last fall, a good friend of mine, Matt Tower, agreed to show me how to Tenkara fish after a grouse hunt. I took him to a favorite hole on a tiny stream I call “Trickle Creek” and even filmed him catching a nice trout.  Matt let me try it out and I instantly became a fan of Tenkara fishing and had to have one.

I approached the gentlemen from Badger Tenkara—Matthew Sment and Mike Lutes—about reviewing one of their rods and they graciously agreed. I explained that I planned to fish it on small mountain creeks and asked for their suggestion. Within a week, I received the Badger Tenkara Classic-Medium Flex rod. This telescoping 12 foot rod came in a nice plastic green tube, with screw on lids that open at either end. The rod itself was in a black cloth sheath. They also sent me about twelve feet of Badger fly line. In short, everything is super nice.

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Unlike a regular fly rod, there are no ferules on a Tenkara rod. Rather, the line is attached to a small piece of woven nylon at the rod’s tip called a “Lillian.” I had to go to the Badger Tenkara’s webpage to learn how to tie the appropriate knots for the line-to-Lillian and the line-to-tippet connections.

Matt Tower fishing Trickle Creek.
Matt Tower fishing Trickle Creek.
The same week I received the rod, I called Matt Tower and we planned again to fish Trickle Creek with our Tenkara rods. Though the creek was low and clear, the numerous Yellowstone Cutts rose to nearly every well-presented fly. The real challenge was to not spook the fish with a clumsy approach or cast. I missed the first few fish as my timing was a little off with a twelve foot rod (as opposed to the seven foot rod I typically use), but I eventually dialed in and started to catch a few small cutthroat.

Andy fishing Trickle Creek.
Andy fishing Trickle Creek.
At first, I found it a little difficult to keep the line from tangling in the tall brush around me and I snagged my fly in the trees overhead more than once. I think that comes with trying to get used to a longer rod and the loose line. Matt had purchased some line keepers from amazon.com so that when we moved to the next hole, he simply wrapped all his line on the keepers above the rod’s cork handle to keep it from tangling with all the natural obstructions that lay before us. I will definitely invest in this for this summer and fall fishing. All said, I caught numerous fish that evening and missed many others. I truly enjoyed myself, but was surprised that it was more difficult for me than I expected.

Tenkara means "from Heaven" in Japanese.
Tenkara means “from Heaven” in Japanese.
My major goal last fall for acquiring the Tenkara rod was to be able to quickly fish while out bird hunting as it seems that grouse and trout are often in close proximity. Unfortunately, I didn’t get to use the Badger Tenkara rod as much as I would have liked last hunting season. However, there was this one glorious day mid-October that was the perfect opportunity. Mother Nature was showing off in all of her autumn splendor that day and the hunting was phenomenal. By 4:00 p.m., I already had two blues and one ruffed grouse in the bag. I wrote the following about the remainder of this wonderful afternoon:

Even though I do not yet have my limit of four birds, I decide that three is plenty. I turn back down the road and head for the car with a smile on my face. The only thing that would make this day any better is to catch a cutthroat out of Trickle Creek and that is exactly what I plan to do with my new Badger Tenkara Rod. Once back to the car, I load up the dogs and drive up the road to fish a favorite stretch of the creek.

After stringing up the Tenkara rod, I tie on one of Shawn’s Chubby Mormon Girls and start fishing the familiar water. In a deep hole, a large yellow fish rises and I miss it. I cast the fly into the hole again and the same big cutty rises again. I stick him, but he is off in a flash. This has to be the biggest fish I have ever seen on Trickle Creek.

In the skinny water, the fish are skittish, but I manage to catch four or five beautiful Yellowstone Cutthroats, none the likes of the one that got away, but special nonetheless. My love for this special canyon, its birds, its little creek, and trout abounds.

And so did my love of Tenkara fishing. I can honestly say that the Badger Tenkara rod was perfect for what I had in mind that glorious fall day.

So what do I think of Tenkara fishing? I love the simplicity of it. Notice that I did not say that Tenkara fishing is “simple” because it is not. Rather, it hails back to a time when life was simpler—when man did not have all of the conveniences of modern life but made do with what he had. In that sense, Tenkara never was or will be a passing fad. A friend of mine with whom I often fish recently teased me about taking up Tenkara fishing and said that “Fishing without a reel is like riding a bike with training wheels.” I think maybe it’s the other way around. Oh well, to each his own.

No reel necessary.
No reel necessary.
As I did a little research for this article, I found that the word “tenkara” means “from heaven” in Japanese. Honestly, that made me love Tenkara fishing even more. Indeed, any fly fishing—including Tenkara—is heavenly.

*****
I appreciate Matt Sment and Mike Lutes from Badger Tenkara for allowing me to review the Badger Tenkara Classic-Medium Flex. The rod is reasonably priced ($85.00 to $105.00) and casts great. I have no problem recommending the followers of the Tenkara Wandering to Badger Tenkara for all their Tenkara needs. Matt and Mike are great guys and are more than willing to answer any questions that you have to help you get started—not to mention that Mike has great taste in music (“I want to make friends with the Badger!” –The Dead Milkmen). Here is the link to Badger Tenkara’s website.

"I want to make friends with the Badger!!!"  --The Dead Milkmen.
“I want to make friends with the Badger!!!” –The Dead Milkmen.
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KEITH’S CREEK

“Sometimes the veil between this life and the life beyond becomes very thin.  Our loved ones who have passed on are not far from us.”

-Ezra Taft Benson

It had been three years since I fished this creek.  The last time I fished it was in July of 2013 with my Dad, Keith Wayment.  Dad asked me what I wanted for my birthday and I responded: “To go fishing with you!”  Dad agreed and showed up early Saturday morning with a box of his hand tied flies and a twenty dollar bill for my birthday.  While the gifts were appreciated, I was just glad to spend the day fishing with him.

Dad at Birch Creek
Dad fishes with my Brittanys on Birch Creek in 2012.

Our first stop for the day was a large creek on the Idaho-Wyoming border.  Anywhere else, this creek would have been considered a river.  However, like all the creeks in the area, it was overshadowed by the goliath Snake River downstream.  This creek has a proper name, but I like to give small creeks nicknames just like my grouse coverts to protect them and to endear them more to me.  At one time, I kicked around the name of “June Creek” because in the month of June bigger fish run up this creek and you can catch them just as the runoff drops and the creek clears.

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Keith’s Creek

In mid-June of 2013, a friend and I caught numerous nice trout on this creek.  However, Dad and I went there mid-July and, by then, the bigger fish had moved back downstream.  I caught a few skippies, but Dad got skunked.  Before he could figure things out, we had to abandon the area because of a black storm cloud and rain.  We stopped at a few other creeks on the way home and Dad finally caught a cutty on a creek I call “Siren Creek.”  This was one of the last fishing trips I had with Dad before he passed away the following spring.

Life got hectic over the next three years and I never could seem to find my way back to this special creek, until yesterday.  My law partner, Aaron, asked me to take him and his son David fishing and this seemed like the perfect place.  Since it was June, I hoped that we would still find some of bigger fish.  Also, with it being Father’s Day weekend, I thought this would be a good place to go and remember Dad.

Upon arrival, we found that the creek was a little off-color which—I thought—was perfect conditions.  However, the big fish were not as abundant as in 2013.  I’m not sure what made the difference, but we had a harsher winter this past year.  Unlike the last time, however, there was not a cloud in the sky.

I strung up the 2 Weight St. Croix Ultra Legend fly rod that my Dad built and tied on one of his Red-butted Double Renegades.  This seemed like a good combo to begin with.  When I fish, I like to keep moving upstream.  I call this “running and gunning.”  I’ll stop and fish the better holes for a while, but if I don’t get a strike after numerous casts, then I keep moving and searching for the primer spots.

As I headed upstream I caught numerous small cutthroat, but no big ones.  I worked up to the head of a long, aqua-green run and skittered a Renegade across the seam between two currents. A beautiful yellow cutthroat rose, but missed the fly.  That is a bigger fish!  I thought to myself.

I tried dead drifting the fly, but the fish ignored it every time.  After skittering the fly cross-current four or five more times, the aggressive fish finally got ahold of it and he was on.  This cutty gave me a good fight on the two weight and I ended up landing him about 20 yards down river.  I was excited about the nicer fish and thought how cool it was to catch him on a rod built by Dad and a fly that he tied.

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Snake River Fine Spot Cutthroat on Dad’s fly rod and Red-butted Double Renegade. 

I then went back downstream to check on Aaron and David, who stayed near the vehicle.  In my absence, Aaron had caught a big cutthroat on a rubber leg.   Since the fish were biting dry flies, I decided to switch over to Tenkara and a Renegade, which was the perfect combo.

As I worked my way upstream from where I had earlier left off, I thought a lot about Dad.  I wished he could have experienced this creek in its glory.  He would have loved its boulder strewn runs and pockets, though he may have had some trouble wading the slick, boulder-laid bottom in some areas.  Although he never heard of it during his lifetime, Dad would have liked the simplicity of tenkara.  A man of faith, he would have appreciated that tenkara means, “from heaven” in Japanese.  Of all people, Dad understood the strong spirituality that is connected with fly fishing and the outdoors.

June Creek” is a little generic of a name, I thought to myself. Maybe I should name this creek after Dad.

As I was thinking about these things, I came upon a dark green hole that just screamed of fish on the left bank.  I cast the Renegade into the run and the biggest cutthroat of the day rose and engulfed the fly.  Upon setting the hook, the fish gave me a wonderful scrap and just as I was almost ready to land him, my tippet snapped.  I knew there was a knot in my line that I should have fixed when I tied on my fly and that was my undoing.  I had just lost the fish of the day and all I could do was smile.  Dad, who had a great sense of humor, would have appreciated that.

Having been away from Aaron and David for a while, I decided to go check up on them and made my way across the stream to an area shaded by big pine trees.  I then saw a small swing with a wood plank seat and looked up and noticed a metal plaque secured to the tree, which read, “IN MEMORY OF DAD, 1-20-24 to 3-10-02.”

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As I reflected on my own father, I was amazed that I stumbled upon a memorial that another family had posted for their dad.  Somehow, I don’t think this was a coincidence.   I resolved right then that the name of this creek should be “Keith’s Creek” in honor of my Dad.  I thought this was the perfect tribute to my hero and father. 

My hero
Happy Father’s Day, Dad!

 

 

 

SIREN CREEK

There’s a special creek not far from home that beckons to me. An unwary angler could get lost forever as each curve and bend of the creek looks better than the last and tempts you onward. I call it “Siren Creek,” though that is not its real name.

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Siren Creek

The second time I fished it, I was with my father—my hero and outdoor mentor—on one of our last fishing outings. Earlier that week, Dad called me and asked what I wanted for my upcoming birthday and I quickly responded, “For you to go fishing with me!” Dad agreed and we planned to fish the next Saturday.

Unfortunately, it rained hard that day. Dad and I fished numerous creeks and the fish did not cooperate. By the time we finally made it to Siren Creek (our last stop of the day), Dad wasn’t feeling well and stayed near the truck. Right off the bat, he caught one cutthroat. I was glad to see that he didn’t get skunked.

Under the circumstances, I fished only a small section of the creek. The further upstream I hiked, however, the better it looked. I caught a nice brown in a run not far from where we parked and later a beautiful, dark cutthroat that rose to a Stimulator in a deep hole overshadowed by exposed roots at a nice bend in the creek.

 

The creek was so enticing that I repeatedly longed to see what was around the next bend.  Despite its almost irresistible call, I decided to go back and check up on Dad.  I found him sitting in the car ashen, feverish, and cranking the heat in July.  We decided to call it a day.

As we drove home, I had the strong premonition that Dad would not live much longer and the thought brought tears to my eyes. To my dismay, Dad passed away the following March.  There is not a day that goes by that I don’t miss him.

Some may think that this sad experience might steer me away from Siren Creek.  To the contrary, I have been back numerous times and have become enraptured with this little creek, its seductive twists and turns, and its small Yellowstone Cutthroats.  The creek has become one of those sacred places where I go to remember Dad and the good times we spent together.

I’m starting to understand what Norman Maclean meant when he wrote about reaching out to those he loved who had passed on to the other side and hearing some of their words in a river’s whisperings.  It’s like a siren that keeps calling me back.