February 17, 2011


Admittedly, I am not some old-soul fly-fisherman. Truthfully, I'm new to this fly-fishing thing. Really new. Up to this point I'd been a bait-fisher, with my PowerBait and lures in tow. Even at that I was pretty unknowledgable. As a kid I would drag my saltwater rod to the municipal pier in Long Beach and fish the waters with the heaviest test line I could find. It was my understanding that heavier was better and that, should I catch a 22-pound fish, I didn't want the line to snap if I was only rigged with a 10-pound line. But I mean I wasn't an anomaly when you considered the people next to me were doing the exact same thing.

Then I discovered tenkara fishing (thanks to Tenkara USA and Russ Roca)--a form of Japanese fly-fishing that is relatively new to the States.

With tenkara, only a rod, line and fly are necessary. Compared to western fly-fishing, which require a bevy of equipment (some of which is prohibitively expensive), tenkara may seem downright pedestrian. But its simplicity belies its effectiveness. My recent trip to Upper Piru Creek can attest to that.

Upper Piru Creek, a Heritage Trout Water about an hour's drive from downtown Los Angeles, may not be the most idyllic spot for trout fishing (hell, in some sections you might even be able to catch a glimpse of the I-5 freeway) but for a city-dweller looking to get away it's plenty wild.

Waking up to a frosted tent, I made my way out to Frenchman's Flat and eventually to the bridge of Upper Piru Creek. With the cold weather keeping most visitors away it was a pretty pristine site compared to what I'd read about Piru Creek's infestation of garbage.

I set up my 12-foot Iwana rod (the first iteration of this rod) and found a clearing from which to cast. A few casts later there was a splash of water and a tug at my line. Fish! But alas, the hook didn't set. How am I ever going to get my fly near those rocks where that fish probably is? My casting abilities with a bait rod aren't the best so I doubted my ability to accurately cast with a tenkara rod even more so. However, I discovered my very next cast landed in nearly the exact spot I wanted it to. It was merely a matter of see where I wanted to cast it.

And sure enough, another bite. This time I set the hook and out came the fish.

I might have set the hook a little to hard, however, as the fish ended up in the branches behind me. With a little bit of finagling my prize landed back in the water. And it was no wonder the thing was so willing to take flight. He was only about 3.5 inches. After snapping a photo I released the swift moving baby rainbow trout. Hopefully, the flight didn't cause too much trauma.

Henry David Thoreau once said, "Many men go fishing all of their lives without knowing it is not fish they are after." If that's true then I don't feel so bad extracting a feeder fish-sized trout from Upper Piru Creek. A solitary journey, the biting cold and a chance to discover simplicity are sometimes what the geriatric mind needs.


  1. I always saw the signs for Piru Creek when I lived in Santa Barbara and would take HY 126 from 5 to SB. I never got to fish it, but I really like the picture and am very proud tenkara is being fished there too!

    Nice thoughts, thanks for sharing.

    Tenkara USA

  2. Thank you, Daniel. I hope and plan to write more on tenkara as my experience builds.

    By the way, I lived in Santa Barbara for about 8 years. Small world.