Isn't it amazing how I've been pumping out blog posts lately? It's been a few interesting months, and since the fishing has been a wash-out out more often than not, life kind of takes over before you know it.
Recently I managed to get out on the water and fish for a few hours. I met Stephen Sautner, the author, on the Musconetcong River and had a great time despite not catching a damn thing. The river was clear but a little high and quite cold - 36 degrees F. The air wasn't much better at about 41 degrees F with a light breeze. I was warm and comfortable except my toes. It seems no matter what I wear on my feet to keep them "warm", the cold water always manages to win the battle of temperature rights. The good thing is that I didn't notice until I got out of the water and started back to the car.
Stephen was fishing Tankara for the very first time, and I was fishing with a traditional set-up. If you aren't familiar with Tenkara style fishing, it's essentially a long limber, telescoping rod (13 feet long in Stephen's case), to which a long length of line (10' to 12') is attached to the tip. To the end of the line a length of tippet material is attached and a fly or two. On this occasion, Stephen had two flies tied to the tippet - an egg pattern and a zebra midge along with some split shot.
All was going well until Stephen hooked a fish and suddenly realized that its a whole new ball game fishing without a reel. The rod was bent deep into the butt and the fish ran back and forth and with the help of the swift currents pretty much did what it wanted. He played the fish well - a bona fide trial by fire - and when he lifted the rod to bring the fish in to land it, the rod and the fish had other ideas. Since Stephen didn't have a net, he was left to land it by hand. He came close once or twice to grabbing the line with the rod high over his head, but the soft tip of the rod allowed it to rotate from the pressure and the line jumped all over the place just out of his reach. He also tried to back up to find softer water near the bank, but the overhead branches wouldn't allow it with the long rod held high.
After a short while, what looked to be a respectable rainbow, managed to free itself. Perhaps this was a reminder that Stephen's first book, "Fish On, Fish Off", has innumerable chapters for all anglers.
Over the next hour, Stephen hooked two more fish, both of which were long-distance releases. They weren't on the line long enough for him to again try to land them, but I suspect if they were, he'd have figured it out. He did say he enjoyed fishing Tenkara and looked forward to the learning curve of fly fishing with a fixed line and no reel.
Sharpen your hooks...and use a net! : )
* Stephen Sautner is the author of "Fish On, Fish Off", and more recently "A Cast in the Woods"