Wednesday, 23 September 2015

It's Tenkara, But Not As We Know It!

The Honryu - Not Just For "Tenkara" Trout!

The term “tenkara trout” has recently been adopted on social media to describe a small trout, however it may have been caught. It’s a term used in a slightly tongue in cheek way, often taking the p*** out of your fishing buddies catch. This is quite understandable given the origins of tenkara and that even today it is still a technique reserved for small fish (or at least should be) and it is still not the technique to use where large fish can be expected. Well all that might be about to change…

The Honryu
The Honryu
(click to enlarge)
I was recently invited by Brian Smith, co-founder of Tenkara Centre UK, to try out a couple of new rods on the River Ure in the Yorkshire Dales. Parking at the river Brian proudly pulled from his car boot his latest incarnation, the Honryu, a tenkara rod aimed at anglers who fish big rivers where big fish can be expected. A rod not just for existing tenkara ‘converts’ to extend their collection, but one that might just see anglers previously reluctant to take the tenkara plunge to finally do just that!

The Honryu will be available in two lengths: 4 metre (13’ 4”) and 4.5 metre (15’) and the first feature of the Honryu I noticed, before even laying a hand on it, was the oversized handle. Brian explained that the rod had been carefully designed and the purpose of the extra long handle was so it can be held in various places, in effect lengthening and shortening the rod when necessary. This was a feature I exploited throughout the day, changing my grip position from top of the handle for close range casts to the bottom for long range casts. The longer handle also plays a part in balancing a rod as long as this, as does changing your grip position.

Brian passed me the 4 metre model, taking the 4.5 metre for himself. With the rods extended I was amazed just how long they looked, and yet in the hand they weren't the slightest bit unwieldy. These are seriously long rods though and would only be at home on open stretches of river, such as the one we were faced with, and I couldn’t wait to get to work. We both tackled up with 5 metre Fujino Tenkara Tapered Leaders and I attached a CDC & Elk Caddis to my tippet section and started casting from the river’s edge out to the middle where the river was a pushing through at a nice pace.

A 2lb 1oz River Ure grayling
(click to enlarge)
Within half a dozen casts my fly disappeared in a large swirl to which I instinctively lifted and the line tightened - fish on! A good start by most people’s standards but then I caught a glimpse of the fish and my jaw dropped. This was a very good fish, but what species? It certainly wasn’t a trout but the peat stain in the water, which is typical of the Yorkshire Dales rivers, made it look very golden, with large scales. I shouted to Brian that it might have been a chub (the River Ure has many in the area) but it turned out to be my biggest ever grayling from the River Ure, a river that I must have fished hundreds of times over the years. It took my weigh-net down to 2lb 1oz - some fish for the Ure; so the Honryu really is the tenkara rod for big fish! In all honesty the grayling never really tested the rod’s ability to handle large fish. I think the river lacked the pace and flow that a grayling uses with its dorsal erected to exert itself and it was quickly netted.

The Honyru is at home on big,
open, rivers & you needn't be
afraid of hooking big fish

(click to enlarge)
The river here was wide, so much so that Brian and I fished opposite each other, both casting towards the middle. There was now a good hatch of Pale Watery Duns so a quick change to a CDC Upwing brought constant success with grayling and the odd trout.

My favourite tenkara rod, by a big margin, is Tenkara Centre UK Hayase. This is the only tenkara rod I can pick up and cast immediately without any thought or obvious change in casting style from casting with a fly line. The Honryu wasn't quite as intuitive as the Hayase, I had to concentrate initially to get the best from it, but I was quickly casting and getting good presentation without having to think about the cast. Casting distance and control at range was outstanding; I would say that this rod, for possibly the first time, can now out-fish a fly rod and French Leader.

We fished in close proximity to each other for the remainder of the day but apart from an odd trout all the action was confined to the first pool to which we returned to end our day. The Honryu had been a pleasure to use all day, not once did it feel heavy or unbalanced in the hand. I was able to effortlessly present a dry fly or nymph at previously unattainable distances and, more importantly, control them.

At the time of writing Tenkara Centre UK were awaiting delivery of the first batch, but they should be with dealers very soon. The Honryu is highly recommended for big, open rivers, with fish of a good average size and you wouldn’t need to be afraid of hooking into a larger than average river trout. It is certainly not recommended for small rivers with bank-side trees and it wouldn’t be my first choice to use where typical “tenkara trout” are the target.

The outline text for this post was written on the plane to Slovenia with my Honryu safely packed in my luggage. I was hoping to finish this during the fight and post from Slovenia, but with the flight to Slovenian being under 2 hours I ran out of time, so I might as well add my findings from that trip now…

A 3lb Idrijca rainbow trout puts a good bend the the Honyru
A 3lb Idrijca rainbow trout
puts a good bend the
the Honyru
(click to enlarge)
Until now using tenkara on big, rapid, boulder strewn rivers such as the Idrijca and Soca, with their large, hard fighting rainbow and marble trout was unthinkable, but it was also the perfect testing ground for the Honryu. I put it to work on the Slovenian rivers and it gave me amazing control at quite extraordinary distances, allowing me to explore places that would have been previously impossible or involved some extremely tricky wading. I didn’t have to wait long before a 3lb rainbow trout put the rod under pressure in a fast, turbulent, pool on the first morning. There were a few nervous moments but the Honryu proved too much for this trout (though it slipped back before I could get a photo). On our last day in Slovenia I used the Honryu as a quick change method, alternating between it and my streamer rod. Again it presented my nymphs in difficult spots and fooled more trout, handling them with aplomb in fast flowing water.

The Honryu from Tenkara Centre UK is a specialist tool only for use on big rivers with large fish but with its development and introduction tenkara takes a giant leap forward!

An Idrijca rainbow trout subdued on the Honryu
An Idrijca rainbow trout subdued on the Honryu
(click to enlarge)