An American Tenkara Rod, Made in Japan

Most of the tenkara rods sold in the U.S. are made in China. Nothing wrong with that – Chinese factories make some fine rods, tenkara and otherwise, these days. But for the most serious tenkara fans, there’s just something special about a rod made in Japan.

So it’s something of a milestone that New York-based TenkaraBum is out with a new rod made to American specs in tenkara’s homeland.

“This is the first rod developed by an American tenkara angler and a Japanese rod company for sale in America and also Japan,” says TenkaraBum founder Chris Stewart.

tenbum rod

The Japanese company is Suntech, in Nagoya, and Chris says it has a reputation for high standards. Other Suntech rods, when they’re available, have been very well-received in the U.S.

We Americans just love our bead-head nymphs, but standard tenkara rods have never been ideal for that kind of fishing. Their soft action leaves something to be desired on hook-sets. Stewart asked Suntech to give the TenkaraBum 36 a stiffer midsection that provides the necessary backbone to set a hook several feet under water.

“It has a different action than any tenkara rod I’ve come across,” Stewart said. But it is still a tenkara rod, of course, so it’s sweet for wet flies and dry flies.

The 2.2–ounce TenkaraBum 36 is 11 feet, 10 inches long and has an EVA foam grip. It’s a beauty, black with a silver band around the end of each section and a fine glittery finish on the handle section. I got mine today and plan to use it for the first time on the Farmington River in Connecticut.

TenBum is proud to have his brand on a Japanese-made rod. “It’s a Japanese fishing style,” he said. “I wanted to have it made in Japan. They’ve got the institutional knowledge and making these kinds of rods for years.”

You can get yours for $230 at


Rich Strolis: Flies for ‘The Toughest Fish’

I was lucky enough to tie flies next to Rich Strolis at Partridge Days at the Catskill Fly Fishing Center and Museum earlier this month.

Rich made a name for himself while guiding on the great trout rivers of western Connecticut, close to his hometown of Russell, Massachusetts. He’s become one of the leaders of the modern streamer fly movement, targeting large fish with large flies.

Trout Dart

It’s challenging to design a fly that’s big enough to tempt a big fish while remaining easy to cast and resistant to getting the tail wrapped around the hook. The fly shown here is a rough draft of one of Rich’s current flies, the Pike Dart. He usually adds either a head or an eye of some sort, but he had to run off to give a presentation on streamer fishing.

It’s a great-looking fly with a smart design – a body made from an EP Fibers dubbing brush gives the fly a nice fat profile and keeps the tail away from the bend of the hook. Here’s a video showing how it’s tied.

Rich ties this fly anywhere from 7 to 9 inches long, in various colors, to catch pike. He said he would consider this one a Trout Dart, but I think it would be a great peanut bunker imitation for striped bass. (The larger ones would obviously be good striper flies too.)

Rich has a book coning out January 1: Catching Shadows: Tying Flies for the Toughest Fish and Strategies for Fishing Them, by Stackpole Books. I’m looking forward to reading it.

strolis book cover

Gierach Coming to the Catskills

John Gierach, author of Trout Bum, Another Lousy Day in Paradise and 18 other books, will be inducted into the Catskill Fly Fishing Center and Museum’s Hall of Fame Oct. 10.

Also being inducted is Bill Elliott, an artist who has illustrated 38 books and whose work has run in all the big hunting and fishing magazines, including Field & Stream, Sports Afield and Outdoor Life.

Curt Gowdy, host and producer of The American Sportsman (and a member of 20 other halls of fame, as an angler and sportscaster) and Charles Ritz, influential 20th century fly-fishing author, will be inducted posthumously.

Gierach gave a talk at The Fly Fishing Show in Somerset, New Jersey in January. Here’s a report I did on that event for


The Improved Montana Stone

The Improved Montana Stone is a traditional all-purpose nymph. What’s unusual about it is its very simple construction. It’s made of one feather and a six-inch piece of wool yarn (not counting the chassis – hook, lead and thread.)

Improved Montana 12

I’m a big fan of yarn as a material for sub-surface flies. It’s quicker, easier and probably cheaper than dubbing fur onto tying thread, and creates a natural, slightly rough-looking body with built-in segmentation. You can separate the yarn into plies to make smaller flies or use it as is for the larger models.

Speaking of larger models, I brought a handful of IMS to the Farmington River in Connecticut, which thanks to Mother Nature, the Hartford water supply district and the Connecticut Department of Energy and Environmental Protection is chock full of sizable trout.

brown trout farmington 2 8-29-15

It’s unusual to catch anything smaller than an honest 12 inches on the Farmington, and if you do catch anything smaller than that it’s a wild trout, which is always nice. People who know the river well land 20-inchers on a regular basis. I’m not one of them, but having grown up on skinny 9-inch hatchery yearlings over the state line in New York, I enjoy the Farmy’s plump, 12-inch browns.

The IMS was met with approval by a few handsome trout and one acrobatic show-off bass during a couple of brief sessions over the weekend.

farmington brown 8-29-15

As its name suggests, the Improved Montana is a stonefly pattern, but I figured it would be a good Isoynchia nymph in size 10 and the fish didn’t disagree.

The wing case did pop loose on one fly after a tussle with a trout. So the IMS isn’t exactly bomb-proof. But it’s so easy to make, I consider it expendable.

You’ll find the recipe and how the fly came to be on page 74 of Simple Flies: 52 Easy to Tie Patterns That Catch Fish.

U.S. Youth Are World Champs — Again

The land of Gierach and Gordon, Lefty Kreh and Lee Wulff, used to be a perennial also-ran in the world of competition fly-fishing.

The U.S. adult fly fishing team went decades without so much as a bronze medal, while European countries – in particular the Czech Republic – took gold after gold.

That’s all changed in recent years. The men’s team finally medaled this year at the World Championship, winning the silver. Last summer in Colorado, Fly Fishing Team USA won the America Cup, an international tournament very much like the world championship.

The grown-up American anglers have now finished in the Top 5 three years in a row. And the 2016 world championship will be in Vail.

But while the men have steadily worked their way toward respectability, the U.S. Youth Fly Fishing Team has become the world’s best by a mile. The younger anglers won the FIPS-Mouche Youth World Championship over the weekend – the team’s third gold in a row and fourth in five years. Hunter Hoffler of Moreland, Georgia, who at 18 is aging out of the youth team, won the individual gold medal.

Hoffler is the host of “In The Loop: Modern tactics on the Fly,” a comp-fishing inspired show that has aired on cable outdoor sports networks.

Fellow Georgian Mason Sims took the individual silver medal. Cam Chioffi of Massachusetts finished sixth and Hunter Enloe of North Carolina finished seventh.

The youth team beat out Poland and the Czech Republic, the silver and bronze medalists respectively, in what was described as a tough, close contest on the Eagle and Colorado rivers, Sylvan Lake and Dillon Reservoir.

John Gierach and and Lefty Kreh may or may not care for comp fishing. Wulff didn’t have much to say about it, as far as I know (though his wife, Joan Salvato Wulff, was a world champion competition caster), and Gordon flat-out didn’t like it.

Even so, with the U.S. men finding their groove and a dominant youth team aging out of the junior circuit and into the senior ranks, the American anglers’ days as also-rans seem to be over.


World champion Hunter Hoffler with his his folks, Melissa and Phil Town, and the U.S. Youth Fly Fishing Team’s first-place trophy.

Long Time No See!

Hello again. The Fly Line returns after an extended absence. During the past 20 months, I managed the fly-fishing page at, a fun job but one that took up most of my time. The Fly Line went on hiatus. I’m no longer with, and I’m happy to return to The Fly Line, chronicling the news of the world of fly-fishing.

What happened while I was away? Well, for one thing, I wrote a book. It’s called “Simple Flies” and it’s both a fly-tying manual geared toward beginners and an essay on how and why ultra-simple flies — some made as little as one material, plus hook and thread — can be really effective. It turns out this has been a topic of discussion in the fly-fishing world for at least 150 years. I’ll post more about the book, but it’s available now in paperback, Nook and Kindle versions.

Also while The Fly Line was away, American anglers became a force in the world of competitive fly-fishing. This weekend, the U.S. Youth Fly Fishing Team won its third straight team gold medal at the World Fly Fishing Championships, held this year in Vail, Colorado. In June, the adult team, Fly Fishing Team USA, won its first medal — silver — at the World Championships in Bosnia-Herzegovina. European countries have long dominated the international competition circuit, but the U.S. has now established itself as a major player. Next year’s world championship will also be held in Vail, and no one will be surprised if the adult team takes the gold, too. More on the youth team’s win soon.

striper boat

Photo courtesy of Capt. Joe Blados

Thanks for reading, and please don’t hesitate to comment!

Brown Trout Gaining on Esopus Creek Rainbows

Daily Gazette article
Thursday, December 26, 2013

By Morgan Lyle

Rainbow trout were first stocked in Esopus Creek in the Catskills in 1883, and pretty much ever since, the creek has been a rainbow stronghold.

Rainbows are common across New York, and a self-sustaining population of rainbows has flourished in the Delaware River for decades. Still, nowhere in New York has the rainbow dominated a stream so completely as the Esopus — until now.

For reasons that aren’t yet clear, the rainbows of the Esopus are losing ground to wild browns. Stream surveys in recent years by the Department of Environmental Conservation and the U.S. Geological Survey showed wild browns outnumbering rainbows.

“From 2009 to 2013 at our study sites, we see a steady decline in the number of rainbow trout,” said Scott George of Delmar, an ecology and evolutionary biology student at the University at Albany, studying trout habitat on the Esopus with the USGS.


A U.S. Geological Survey crew counts fish in Stony Clove Creek, a tributary of the Esopus, in July 2013. Morgan Lyle photo.

At four locations on the Esopus and five more on tributaries, the USGS team has counted fish for the past five years. Consider these preliminary findings, on a stream where historian

Austin McK. Francis once reported wild rainbows outnumbered wild browns 10 to 1:

In 2009, the USGS crew found 410 rainbows and 814 browns at the nine survey sites. In 2010, rainbows were back on top, though not by much — 428 ’bows, 331 browns. In 2011, there were 175 rainbows and 120 browns.

In 2012, the electrofishing crew found 147 rainbows, 962 browns. This summer, browns outnumbered rainbows, 441 to 59.

It’s an amazing turnaround — from 10-to-1 rainbows to 10-to-1 browns.

The USGS study is being finalized and will be formally released next year. The DEC, meanwhile, has been counting fish in the creek and in Ashokan Reservoir downstream, and it, too, has found a decline in rainbows.

Electrofishing two sites twice a year for the past four years, “in general, we saw fewer rainbow trout and more brown trout,” said Region 3 fisheries manager Michael Flaherty. “We also finished a three-year period of ‘season-long creel surveys in 2012.’ Over those three years, we saw what appears to be a greater proportion of the catch reported as ‘brown trout.’ This is different than what we saw in the early 1990s, when small rainbow trout were more commonly caught than brown trout.” Gill-netting in Ashokan Reservoir produced fewer rainbows than in the past, he said.

The DEC’s findings are also preliminary, with final results expected in the spring. The trend seems clear, but neither agency is ready to declare that browns have permanently overtaken rainbows on the Esopus.

“This is one little snapshot that says there may be a trend there, but we need to look at it from a lot of angles,” Flaherty said.

There’s nothing mysterious about the dominance of browns the past two seasons. We can thank Tropical Storm Irene for that.

The monster storm in late Aug­ust 2011 left behind vast expanses of clean gravel that brown trout used for spawning a few weeks later. By the time the 2012 class of rainbows hatched out the following spring, the creek was full of young-of-the-year browns that out-competed them for food and habitat and probably ended up eating more than a few of them.

The trend, however, was in place before Irene. Then again, Irene was hardly the first big storm to impact the Esopus in recent times. Going back to 1996, the creek and the region have experienced numerous big storms, and the timing of such events can impact the success of year-classes, as in the fall of 2011 and spring of 2012.

Is climate change causing an increase in big-water events which have eroded the rainbow’s trad­itional dominance? Neither agency is prepared to make that claim, though both said it’s conceivable. The current decline of rainbows and rise of browns may also simply be a blip with no long-term significance.

There’s nothing wrong with catching wild brown trout, of course, but somehow it would be a little sad if the Esopus ceased to be a haven for beautiful, feisty, wild rainbows after 130 years.