A Quick Weekend in Raleigh.

One of the things I like best about living in the Hampton Roads area is that we live about three hours from family in Raleigh, North Carolina. Driving three hours is an easy road trip and this weekend was an all of a sudden type trip. Saturday morning my wife asked if I was into going out there to watch a movie and hang out for the night. Of course I was down. Plus, I had a little bit of an ulterior motive. Our cousin Greg is into fishing like I am so I knew that we would find some way to cast some lines no matter how little time we might have.

The drive to Raleigh is easy once we got past the traffic through Suffolk and then it was the speed limit to Emporia, the birth place of our Chihuahua Chola. After that it’s all about the speed down I-95. It’s a whole lot better than trying to fight tunnel traffic going to northern Virginia.

When rolling out on family outings unless it is implicitly stated, fishing is not the main activity. But, as any angler knows you make it work and “get in where you fit in”. I was more than ready I had received the TenkaraBum 36 a few weeks earlier and although I had success at the local pond, I really wanted to put it through its paces and do some river/stream fishing. How the rod was meant to be used. I didn’t really have any idea of where we were fishing because in Raleigh there have been so many different fishing trips from hitting up the local golf course to cruising for lake bass. So I was up for anything and all I knew was we were going to a river.

No sooner did we pull up and catch up we were getting our gear together to get out there. We were already a little behind the power curve because it was already one o’clock. So we were already feeling the pressure to get out on the water. Little did I realize the spot that we were going to was a five minute drive from the house. Cool. The place we landed up at was the tail waters of Falls Lake which is part of the Neuse River.

We quickly donned our waders and I was stoked because I had purchased a pair of the cheapest Redington wading boots and they fit perfectly. My other wading boots before this were from BassPro and had Velcro and felt bottoms and really never fit right. This part of the river is by no means a trout stream; I knew we were going to get into some nice warm water varieties with no problem. I rigged up with a size 12 pink beaded squirmy worm and a Palsa stick on float about 24 inches above on 6x tippet. I was ready to go.

My cousin about to get very serious. (Above)

This part of the Neuse River is a 27.5 mile greenway trail and very nice. We looked for the first place to put in and realized it was super shallow with constant riffles and nowhere that our quarry would find relaxing to hang out and possibly take our offerings. We decided to walk about a quarter mile down the greenway and then we found a little piece of stream that would suit us perfectly. Swift moving water and pools behind awesome outcroppings of Gneiss. Gneiss is a reddish rock that runs through this part of Raleigh. What is awesome is you can stand and cast from flat rocks into the seams and pools and not have to worry about footing.

My first casts were unsuccessful drifting through some seams and then into some pools, we kept on walking and found a rock formation that split the stream in two. The north part of the stream was quick moving with a lot of little pools and seams behind smaller rocks and the southern side was a slow moving pool with a fallen tree across it. Warm water varieties love their structure so this was the obvious place to get down to business. First cast, success. Little redear sunfish. Then another and then another. Greg and I were both on the fish. The pool that we were casting into I couldn’t quite get past the 12 foot mark with the tenkara but he was nailing fish with his fly rod from across the pool. Once, I figured that I had spooked my share of fish in the pool I moved to the other side of the stream to that swifter water.

At some point the phone call came into Greg that we were going to see the movie at five so once again the pressure was on to fish as much as possible in whatever time we had left. Like I said fishing wasn’t the primary objective of this trip.

I used the knowledge that I had picked up during my crash course learning how to fly fish in Pueblo, Colorado and aimed above every rock and let my fly drift through the seams and pools below them. I was rewarded with everything from sunfish, suckers, and fingerling bass. There were too many to count. Not that any of these fish were trophies but hanging out with family and fishing is always a blast. We both traumatized the fish population of the Neuse River that afternoon.

With our time running out we walked back up the river and tried our luck in a few other spots but I think the fish knew we were on the prowl and decided that they would lay low.

We were on to our next mission to get home and go see this movie. The theatre we all decided to go to is one of the cinema bistro type deals which is awesome if fishing was on your mind and somehow you find yourself forgetting that you have a stomach. This place is the Alamo Drafthouse Cinema and is done up in with all the retro VHS décor and actual video tapes for rent. Much like fishing even if the movie sucks it is always better when you are enjoying it with friends and family. I thought that Bad Times at the El Royale was going to be a lot better than it was. I will always check out a Jeff Bridge’s movie because he will forever be the “dude”. But, the movie was definitely not what I thought it was going to be.

Good movie or bad, it is always nice to get out of town and see family. Especially when they live so close to us. Oh yeah and land a few fish no matter what the size.

Tenkara, the first time……..

Call me lame or lazy. But, I have walked away from the conventional and the overly complex nuisances of conventional bait fishing and fly fishing for the simplicity of tenkara fishing. It really started when my wife and I were starting our Airstream experiment. I realized that I needed to par down all my fishing equipment to only the essentials that I needed to catch fish. Really, it came down to a lack of storage space.

Like any nerd with excess time on my hands I started doing my research on which rod I was going to start with. Now there are an infinite amount of choices out there from cheap Chinese rods on Amazon to expensive starter kits from what I would consider “hipster” brands found at almost any mom and pop outdoor equipment store. I realized that I didn’t want an American version of a Japanese rod and that I wanted one that was produced domestically in Japan. Call me a stickler for that kind of thing. I eventually discovered http://www.tenkarabum.com. I was sold. He was a guy that is so into this style of fishing he has imported almost every imaginable rod that I could want, all from Japan. The massive variety of the equipment carried on this website is awesome, especially there is some much information from not only Chris but people have used each of these rods. Plus, the photos with each of the rods gave me a good idea of what size of fish it is possible to catch with a particular rod.

I decided on a TenkaraBum 36 and some 3.0 level line. The TenkaraBum series rods are made by a company in Japan and my rod is legit. It casts like a dream. When it arrived I was so excited. I had everything that I needed to make a quick trip to a nearby pond at the Linkhorn Bay Apartments, it didn’t matter that every time that I have fished this pond I have had mediocre luck at best. I was determined and with an ample supply of flies, I was ready to go.

The one thing that sucks about this pond is that it is ringed with trees and brush all around the bank, except for a little fishing dock. You really have to keep it low when casting or else you will just add another decoration to the tree branches above it. It looks like a messed up Christmas tree with a massive assortment of bobbers. It was October and the water was definitely starting to cool off and like always the wind in Virginia Beach is blowing one way or the other. So I could only cast in one direction.

I was rigged up with twelve feet of 3.0 level line and six feet of 4x tippet. The terminal tackle was a size 12 bead head black wooly bugger and a stick on strike indicator. First cast dead easy and accurate, I slow count to ten as I let the bugger sink. I do this about 20 times. Suddenly, I see the strike indicator slip under the water and I feel a strong tug on the line, I lift and set the hook. I really didn’t expect to catch anything on this first outing, I hadn’t thought about the logistics of getting unto the bank. So I did what came naturally and let this guy swim from side to side while putting a little pressure on him by lifting up my rod. The whole time I was worried that he was going to break off my tippet.

As I played him I finally got him close enough to see that I had hooked into a decent little bass, something I had failed to do so many other times with other methods. I got him close to the dock and realized that I needed to walk him around so I could get clear of the four foot rail that runs around this dock. I finally got him on the bank and right then I was sold on tenkara.

I think there is a psychological reason that I got back into flinging bugs, rooted in the peer pressure that I was feeling when all of my friends and family fly fish. I could hear them thinking the question as they would look at the pictures I would send them, “Did you catch that on the fly?”. Maybe that isn’t what they were thinking at all, who knows? I guess subconsciously I would think that somehow bait chucking was somehow taking the easy road.

For the last year I was caught up in the pursuit of catching carp using the UK style, which can basically be described as “bait and wait”. Did I catch enormous fish? Yes. Was I bored to death? Yes. So as the winter rains in Tidewater gave way to spring I got back out there for another session. After an hour I got my first carp of the season. After this session, I realized that my heart wasn’t into this method of fishing anymore it was time to move on.

So as my season starts up, I am only going to fish tenkara and see where it takes me. Above all I just don’t want to be bored while I am fishing. I like the simplicity of rod, line and fly. It doesn’t get any easier than that.