Monday, June 29, 2015

Northeast American Genryu #1 - new friends and headwaters in the ADK High Peaks

The forecast for the weekend was for rain close to home, so I hatched a plan similar to Japanese Genryu (headwaters) fishing and set off for the Adirondack Wilderness with a handful of Keiryu rods, a couple of Tenkara rods and some good company, in the hopes of beating the weather.

My companion for the weekend would be Sugi, another fisherman I had met at the Trout Unlimited outing just a few weeks earlier. He had expressed some interest in fishing Tenkara with me, and I figured this would be a great opportunity.

The area I chose was the headwaters of a trout stream that I've known about for a long time, camped near, and yet had never fished. This weekend would have me kicking myself for having missed a couple of previous opportunities to do just that.

We reached the trailhead around 7 and wasted no time hiking in. I was immediately excited and impressed with the pools, runs and overall layout of the stream.

I snapped photos on the hike in. An unmaintained trail follows the stream up towards a slide ascent of one of the ADK high peaks. It is a beautiful section of wilderness for certain.

Each pool we passed had me more and more excited for the next day. Quickly we were into new territory, as I had never gone far up this trail nor surveyed the headwaters section of this river.

There were many prime lies and some very picturesque plunge pools. 

After some minor confusion as to where to cross the river and when, and where exactly the campsites were, we chose a flat area in a pine forest not all that far from the river, and barely legal as I counted my steps from the trail. But it was perfect.

We couldn't wait for the next day, so we set up camp and thew our lines in right away. I caught two fish in the 4.5' range within minutes. A good sign that there were in fact plenty of fish.

Sugi used his western rod and reel on the first night. It was pocket-water galore near the campsite.

Darkness was setting in and so we put the rods down and ate some dinner. Sugi had brought some goodies from the Japanese grocery - some squid that peeled like string cheese, some crunchy hot-dog shaped fried goodness with black sugar, and ramen. It was starting to feel like a real American Genryu trip with this taste of Japan!

Meanwhile, I was obsessing over the Hilleberg Akto that Sugi had brought. What an impressive tent. You can see it in the background behind my tent. It was a beautiful dark-green, with very lightweight fabric. The craftsmanship was second to none. Other than having no mesh (solid walled inner) this tent was right up my alley.

The next morning was partly sunny and a little overcast. Perfect for fishing this gin-clear water. We hiked down from the campsite, estimating the distance needed to fish from there back up to lunch at the site. We figured we'd hit the upper section above the site and up to the falls in the afternoon.

My first fish of the day, barely 4.5 inches long.
Sugi started the morning with his western rig again, but soon was borrowing a Keiryu rod from me and loving it. He got the hang of it pretty quickly and I gave him a couple of nice large bead-head flies for small streams. We both were into some fish pretty fast, with Sugi hooking the first fish of the day on a dry fly.

 I caught a few in this picturesque little pool.

Fishing with another person on a stream like this is no problem... there are so many places to fish that sharing is easy. No reason to fight over the "best spots" here!

I took some photos, but many of the fish were the same size. It seemed that 4.5-6.5 inches was the standard for this stream.

It requires a lot of energy for a fish to fight the currents created with each new storm that can wash out the river. It is not uncommon for a stream like this to double in size, or even triple with heavy rains. 

Our timing couldn't have been better... some rain earlier in the week had water levels just about perfect.

I hooked a few nice ones in this picture-perfect run and bend in the stream.

Small wildflowers, moss and small ferns made for a nice contrast against the grey rock.

I lost a larger trout near this log, but hooked into a smaller one shortly thereafter.

We noticed many insects, but not a lot of hatching or life on the bottom of the stream. It was clear that the trout had less food here than they get in the streams of the Catskills.

These interesting green dragonflies were chasing eachother in pairs down the bank, landing every few feet. I snapped a quick photo before this one got away.

I was also fortunate enough to be the landing pad for a beautiful butterfly that was trying to find some nectar... Somehow I managed to get the camera out just in time to get a quick video, above.

I spent the morning fishing bead head uglies as usual, and brought at least 10 or 15 to hand, losing many more. Soon it was time for lunch, so we took a break to eat and make some tea. After lunch, Sugi contnued with my Nissin Yuyuzan ZX Keiryu rod, with much success. He used a combo of flies and they all seemed to work - yet another example of how small stream trout are not as selective as their big-river relatives.

This spot, above, was right near our campsite. Below was by far the deepest pool I've ever seen in a small stream, and was essentially a 20 plus foot trough created by the intense flowing water coming from the falls, barely visible behind the rocks.

In high water, that falls is more than visible and an insane amount of water pummels through this little section of stream.

In that pool I was able to tease the fish to the surface. First I fished a streamer and got them all excited, getting a few fish to swipe the fly, but not hooking anything. Immediately after, Sugi gave me a blue winged olive because he had seen them hatching. First cast brought a nice rise and a decent fish, but I failed to land it.

I switched back to my #14 home tied uglies and soon had a couple of fish to net.

Moving above the waterfall we found many more amazing fishing spots...

... except that the one thing missing, was the fish. Clearly we had reached an Uodome, or "fish stop waterfall" in Japanese. I also took a temperature reading. While the lower sections read out at 56-58 degrees, this section above the falls was reading at 60-62 degrees,

A clearing in the trees soon clarified what was going on. The river flattened out above, and was much shallower, with very little oxygenation. The combo of less oxygen, higher temps, and possibly even the presence of beavers explained it all.

But it sure was a beautiful spot. And instead of trout,we found newts. Red efts, to be precise, and in their water stage.

Sugi pointed out the coloring and how similar it was to small brookies that had the darker color... orange spots, orange belly - what an interesting observation.

Soon the day was over and we headed back to camp to eat. With heavy rain setting in as we finished dinner, we knew our timing had been perfect. 

 I can't wait to get the chance to do another Genryu style trip... there's another section of this stream above the flat section that flows through a very steep and deep gorge. I suspect there are fish up there as well, and I aim to prove it to myself as soon as I have the time.

Sunday, June 21, 2015

Thin Blue Lining with the Nissin Yuyuzan 290 ZX in Connecticut

Yesterday the weather forecast for New York was rain and so I figured I'd scout a new stream in CT that had many of the right stats "on paper" and looked to be a good trout stream. I planned a couple of back up locations just in case it turned out to be a bust. Good thing.

Thanks to Tom Davis of Teton Tenkara's recent post on small stream rods, I discovered a new rod that I had never heard of and reached out to Tenkarabum to see if I could get one. A short time later this beautifully finished and affordable rod was in hand.

I walked down a steep embankment to the stream and it looked pretty good. The water was not too low.

I caught countless numbers of creek chub and moved up trying to get above riffles and plunges that would hopefully keep them downstream. Unfortunately that wasn't the case. This rod was way overkill for creek chub. I needed some trout.

I resorted to using the ol' thermometer and discovered, to my dismay, that the temperature of the water was 68 degrees. Not ideal. 

I moved up, hoping some colder springs or feeders might create some nice holes for trout. All I found was this half-crayfish, likely some bird or even a mink's meal. Look closely... the antennae on the right side of the photo as you're looking at it has some kind of nymph exoskeleton hanging from it. Nature is kind of crazy sometimes.

At least the scenery was nice. 

In "automatic transmission pool" I caught a ton more creek chub. I didn't even bother to take pictures.

I fished a small waterfall above this and then decided to cut my losses and hit one of the backup locations. Not long after, I was on a beautiful small stream I fished much earlier this spring and soon hooked the smallest trout I've ever caught.

It was a little brown.

Missed a larger fish in that pool, and moved up to the next one.

Netted one and missed another. The rod had no problem landing any small brookies. I loved the way it could bow and arrow cast a bead head fly anywhere. It had the backbone for the heavier flies. This is not a rod for throwing light flies to small fish. 

I fished many of the same pools as last time, but with less success. Lower water levels definitely had created a new reality for the fish. I was also making mental notes of the differences between the streams I fished on this day... water color, sources, temperature, surrounding environment, etc.

In one of the pools I hooked into what could have been one of the largest small stream brookies I've ever hooked. The Yuyuzan is a stiffer rod than even the Kiyotaki and Suikei, especially when it comes to the tip flex.

The rod clearly could take this fish. The problem though, wasn't that the rod didn't have enough backbone. This fish was NOT screwing around. It was really pissed off at being hooked and immediately turned hard and started rolling. When you don't have a reel to let line out on, you really rely on a nice long rod and every extra few inches count when it comes to playing a fish and holding it away from snags. At any rate, it put a solid bend in the Yuyuzan. I saw its rust-colored belly and red fins and knew it was a beauty. But I lost the fish, presumably because the rod was short and the fish couldn't really play with a longer and slightly more flexible tip section...  it just dove deep into the dark hole in the middle of the pool, bending the hook and somehow throwing it.

After that, the rain came. Some locals walked by on a trail nearby and asked how the fishing was. They pointed out this spot in the pool above, where some idiot had somehow managed to get their SUV down into the gorge. What a ridiculous drunken moment this must have been for someone. I wondered if this is why the fishing had been less than stellar this time and was slightly dismayed.

In the pool above "SUV Pool" I caught some little darter or dace.

I moved up stream to a higher section I had never fished before. And then it happened, I hooked and landed the fish of the day... a nice 8 inch wild brook trout, in a TINY run with a pool barely large enough to house said fish.

I took a picture holding my rod out for perspective.

I love when you find surprises like that. The rain picked up but I was feeling good and kept going to see what I had missed last time. I was soon pretty happy about that decision, because I found an even more beautiful upper section of the gorge.

I decided that I should definitely continue up river and fish the pool above, which would not have been accessible during higher water periods.

The first one held a few trout, but I figured I'd save it for the way back.

Working my way up the gorge I took a few photos of the stunning rock walls and bright light coming in from above.

I unfortunately spooked a few fish here and the pool went quiet. The rod could reach most of the spots I wanted to fish, and I liked the zoom flexibility. I wish it went one step farther to about 3.2 meters.

This was the last pool I fished, going above the second falls would have to wait for another day with less slippery rock, and perhaps a different approach.

Fishing the pool below that I had saved, I landed a couple more fish. This one was the most photogenic by far.

On the walk out the greenery was really standing out after the rain. We could use a little more. 

It ended up being a really fun day, and I liked the Yuyuzan 290 ZX enough for specific conditions, but was disappointed in it overall. It had a very slight rattle when casting in the collapsed 2.4 meter position, but when extended that obviously wasn't the case. I did find it just a tad tip heavy in the longer 2.9 meter setting, but not too much. There is no tip swivel.

The rod is generally pretty stiff, and that's an issue - while the very first tip section is relatively flexible, the sections immediately below are much stiffer - this rod is definitely designed for heavy flies and is solidly a "keiryu" style rod in my opinion, not a crossover Tenkara rod. I'd rate it at a stiff 8:2. Personally, I think there are better choices in these lengths if you don't need a rod for heavier flies. The rod is a little on the short side for "all around fishing." I lost more fish with this rod than any other I've tried to date... food for thought.

 You can read more about this rod on Tom Davis' Teton Tenkara blog as well. In addition, Nissin makes another version of this rod that zooms between 2.9 and 3.3 meters. I will try to review that rod soon, as I bought one as well. (Update - same issues on that rod, just longer.)