Monday, February 22, 2016

Oni Type III & Tenkara Rod Co. Mini Sawtooth - out for a day in NJ

I decided to take advantage of a break in the wintery weather to hit a couple of small streams and a larger one this last weekend. I figured most of the snow and ice was melted out and that while the water might be high, it would likely be a great day of fishing.

A good friend who doesn't fish came along since I promised a good amount of walking away from the roads, as well as picturesque picnic spots for lunch by the water.

Starting on a smaller stream with good flows, I was into some fish right away. I presume at least some of the fish I caught had been stocked since they did stock the water the small stream flowed into. I started with the Oni type III which was perfect for the job with its progressive mid-flex profile.

To both mine and my friend's delight, I was into fish right away, and pretty consistently on the first stream. It was textbook brookie water, with plunges, small waterfalls and a lot of rocks to create safe lies and good oxygenation. The Oni type III performed beautifully, bending and dancing around as the fish fought in each pool.

The coloring on the fish was beautiful, wild or stocked. NJ stocks rainbows, browns AND brookies, so it was certainly hard to tell what was what.

After a handful of brookies on the Oni rod, we worked our way down to to the main stem and as we got closer, fish got bigger.

This beautiful brown trout, below, was still sporting its parr marks and had large spots. If I had to guess, I would say this one was wild, but who really knows.

In this pool I hooked into a sizable brook trout much larger than the previous photos. It immediately jumped not once, but TWICE! A few onlookers gasped as it came up for the second jump and released itself from my hook. Oh well.

The main stem was running high and fast, and looked wonderful. The only problem was that there was still tons of shelf ice melting into the river. The temps were frigid and I knew the fishing would be hard.

Evidence of recent ice dams was present all along the banks of the river. I am sure glad I wasn't around when those first began to break and release water!

There was some beautiful Tenkara water, but the Oni type III was smaller than I would have preferred here. The overhead room was reasonable so I think I would prefer to go with a slightly longer and stiffer rod next time for this spot.

Ice shelves made access to the best spots difficult if not impossible. I wasn't looking to take a cold swim or drown in this icy water so I kept my distance, noting good spots for the next visit.

The walk was difficult with plenty of slippery ice and melting snow to make rock hopping more risky than usual. We took our time on the rocky trail and didn't have any issues.

These pools were far deeper than one could hope to see... Prime lies for some sizable trout, to say the least!

Large trees fallen across the river created breaks and protection from the sky. This giant tree fell from atop a hillside and was tall enough to span the entire hill and still reach across the river. Epic!

We hiked to another tributary and I switched to the Tenkara Rod Co Mini Sawtooth. I have been eager to compare it to the Nissin Pocket mini. The rod is about the same length, but there's really no comparison, sadly.

The Nissin pocket mini is a wonderous rod... and has a beautiful flex profile even though it is on the stiff side for these rods. Alternately, the Tenkara Rod Co mini sawtooth is little more than a thin broomstick in one's hand... it was a struggle to use, and sadly not pleasing at all.

This little wild trout brook should have been productive, but I had no luck on this day. I spent some time casting the new rod, playing with drifts and a couple of different flies. Even the heaviest of my large bead heads was not heavy enough to make the rod feel right. Forget casting, even throwing the flies was not an easy task with this rod. Calling it a stiff 8:2 would be generous, but probably accurate.

The tip section and the section immediately behind it were not painted or coated and had a surprisingly thin look... for a moment I thought it might have been similar to the Suntech tips, but when I fished the rod I knew that was not the case. Still much stiffer.

I really liked the chartreuse color of the Lillian, and the swivel tip section was well attached, nice quality and by far was the nicest feature of the rod. It made me wonder if they had used different material for the tip, or if the unfinished rod blank just had better action than the remaining painted sections of rod did. The tip plug was very nice, and fit snugly. The rod tube is visually pleasing and the threading works great. The butt cap cannot be removed without a pliers because the plastic threading is so poorly cast in the mold. The paint is uneven along the rod, with spots of glue or finish that need to be polished off or removed in some other way. The paint job overall was sloppy and looked cheap. The "wraps" which were really just painted designs near the end of each section were particularly sloppy and looked as though they would chip off with the touch of a finger. The rod sock is a total piece of junk and appears to be made out a plastic-based fabric, if that's even possible. It appears to be scratching the paint on the rod by itself.

Needless to say, I was less than impressed overall. I do not recommend this rod to anyone, especially since it is now barely $15 cheaper than the Nissin Pocket Mini series, so the choice is clear for anyone looking to purchase. The Nissin rods are Japanese and made of MUCH higher quality materials. The finish is nicer, the tip is finer, and the flex is just significantly better.

This is all too bad, because I really wanted to like this rod, and had been impressed with its original price of $150 offered via Kickstarter. They now list at $229 on the Tenkara Rod Co site. I've spoken to a few people who have already broken these rods opening and closing them, as well as on the water. That should not happen to seasoned Tenkara anglers. I suspect the price increase was due to unforeseen costs and breakage. Bummer. There is something to be said for doing your due diligence in researching rod companies and manufacturers. At this point, I can't get behind Tenkara Rod Co. They make a greatly inferior product at a ridiculously high price. This rod should cost no more than $79 based on what you get. I hope to see Tom Davis review the longer rod soon, it is even worse, IMHO.

While removing a snag on a stick, I almost grabbed this guy with a nasty looking "stinger" type thing. It didn't look like the giant stonefly nymphs I have seen before, not sure what it was... but it was huge.

Walking back to the other stream on the way to the car, I managed to hook a small trout on this rod. Playing the fish was no fun at all - the rod barely moved at all. I can imagine this rod would handle large fish quite well... only one problem... without a flexible and sensitive tip section, the fish can throw or pop the hook way too easily. At this rate, I don't even want to keep the rod as a loaner, lest I piss off new anglers who think they are doing it all wrong when in fact the tool isn't matched for the job...

Overall I had an incredible day with a good friend in a beautiful location. I wish I had just stuck with the Oni rod all day, but hey, you have to kiss a few frogs if you want to find your princes (or princesses,) right? ;)

Friday, February 12, 2016

Pocket to Pocket Brookies with the Nissin Pocket Mini - Superbowl Sunday Fun in the Garden State

There are many beautiful wild trout streams in New Jersey. I have not given this state its fair share of fishing time, and this year I intend to change that. With this in mind, I headed out to a spot that I had been sent to by another skilled and seasoned Tenkara angler for a warm winter's day of fishing.

Upon arrival I discovered that this stream was everything it had been promised to be, and maybe more. A somewhat remote location, I drove on winding roads to arrive at a small pull-off and an old concrete bridge crossing the water.

Right away I knew this would be a challenging day of fishing - bright sun casting shadows, short and steep plunge pools with obstacles leading to challenging drifts... but I was ready.

Working my way up the stream I struggled to keep my footing on the icy rock surfaces and to keep out of view of the fish. I had a few nice follows and a missed take early on, but worked a decent section before switching to a downstream style of fishing and landing two in a row.

I knew I needed to move quickly as I had a lot of water to cover and not all that much time... but it was hard not to cast to each deep pocket. I had new polarized glasses that gave me more insight into which holes were deeper than they looked without this added feature.

As the water warmed up and some clouds moved in, my success rate increased. Getting good drifts more than a few seconds was really hard if not impossible in most places. Adapting to the conditions, I did my best to use the rod and the currents to my advantage.

A fallfish? Seems odd above all that plunging water...

The Nissin Pocket Mini proved to be a great rod for this stream. Enough backbone to pull a bead head fly in strong current, as well as the strength to control a fish and hold it away from snags and waterfalls.

I used a fly that Robb from Creekside Kebari had sent my way, as well as my own standard home-made pattern.

His fly looked a lot more appealing to the human eye than mine, but they all worked just the same.

Here a few deep pockets formed to the side of the main current that was being forced between the rocks.

Inevitably, it got to be late afternoon way too quickly and the sun began to dip. I figured I'd save the rest of the stream for another day and walked back to the car. 

At this point on this trip there was the somewhat bittersweet added bonus of it being 4:50PM on Superbowl Sunday. I experienced my (possibly first ever) traffic-free ride back into and through downtown Manhattan from New Jersey. What I wouldn't give for the drive to go that easily every time... a man can dream, can't he?