Saturday, November 26, 2011

Forum Vocabulary 101 -published January 2011

In The Net
Forum Vocabulary 101
Trevor Shpeley

Hi folks, it's been about two months since we re-launched the BC Outdoors forums and I thought it might be a good time to explain some common discussion board terminology and what it means to you, the forum members.

Internet forums are not new. In fact long before there was a real internet there were bulletin boards where like-minded people would gather to share information, discuss computers and make fun of the newbies.

Newbies were people that arrived after the first wave of early adopters had established a beachhead and claimed an internet space as their own. It didn't really matter that the new person might know more about the subject material than everybody else on the board or that they had arrived only a short time after the veterans, they were newbies and therefore fair game for a bit of virtual hazing.

Luckily that was then and this is now. These days the people you meet online are the same ones you meet in everyday life and just about everybody outside of the teen gaming world understands basic social skills and follows the golden rule. The term “newbie” still exists but making fun of one will get you chewed out by your fellow forum members and often kicked right off the board. There is no longer any need to be nervous about your first posts because if you commit some sort of horrible gaff the other members will gently steer you in the right direction and if you fall afoul of a Troll, the moderators will step in before you get in over your head.

No, I'm not talking about the large unattractive creatures that hide under bridges and extract tolls from passers by. I refer to the large unattractive creatures that hide behind keyboards and attack anybody unwary enough to respond to one of the carefully worded traps they design solely to get an emotional response and cause people to write an angry post in return. Nothing warms the cold lonely heart of the internet Troll like disciplinary action being taken against somebody that the Troll has provoked into hostility.

Trolls are not to be confused with their much appreciated and less common cousins the Faux-Trolls. Faux-Trolls keep a forum interesting with biting sarcasm that never quite gets mean, clever well researched rebuttals and a good nature that takes the sting out of their criticism. Real Trolls contribute nothing of any consequence and are easily avoided.

The way to deal with Trolls is to ignore them. If you resist the bait they will slink back down into their Mom's basements and look for a place with victims willing to play. They are far too crafty to get themselves banned so a website with good moderation will in extreme cases eject a Troll in the interests of public tranquillity rather than have their productive posters go elsewhere to avoid an obnoxious Troll. BC Outdoors has very good moderators.

Moderators are the police of the internet. The BCO forums are a community and like all communities it has community standards. Sometimes a good discussion will get out of hand or somebody will make racist, sexist or insulting statements and that's when a moderator will step in.

Moderators don't make the rules, they may not even like all of them but they do try to ensure that everybody gets a level playing field. A good “Mod” will never let his or her personal opinions guide their moderating and will make every effort to keep the critical discussion focused on the subject material and not about the person doing the posting.

An internet forum is a collection of “threads” which consist of a collection of “posts”. Without posts there is no forum. It has been a couple of months since the re-launch of the BCO forums and new membership is way up. Unfortunately a lot of the new members are brand new to discussion boards and are a little shy about posting.

To those people I say, “just go for it”. Write about whatever on-topic subject interests you. Ask questions, have a rant, pass on a tip or just say hello. Tell us what you like about the magazines or the articles. Tell us what you don't like. All we ask is that you post early and often. There is nothing more tedious than a forum where nobody talks so take a chance and start a little chatter, we don't bite. Much.

Eitism in Fly Fishing, published Oct 2011

A few weeks ago I was sitting at my computer as I am wont to do on quiet autumn evenings, (who am I kidding, I take an ipad on the water with me so I can check my e-mail and play Angry Birds), when I came across a lively thread on fly fishing elitism. This one happened to be on FlyBC but the same thread pops up on most fishing forums from time to time.

Since the subject was being discussed by fly fishermen one might imagine that the the thread would develop along predictable lines in much the same way as if you had asked a few McDonalds executives to debate the ethics of paying minimum wage or a gaggle of soccer moms to discuss the merits of their precious snowflakes. In other words, it's a tough arena to get an unbiased opinion never mind some constructive, informed discourse. One might imagine that but that wasn't really the case.

The thread began with the usual question; “Why are fly fishermen so elitist and why are they always pointing their fingers at the gear crowd in regards to ethics?” Which was promptly answered by a forum member with more years on this earth than the Joshua tree;

“This is the order of life,
#1 – People that use two handed rods for fly fishing.
#2 – People that use single handed rods for fly fishing.
#3 – Gear fishermen
#4 – Bait fishermen.”

As trite as the above statement may appear, it is unfortunately an opinion that is at least casually shared by some fly fishermen.

Here are a few more (slightly edited) quotes from the FlyBC thread;

“I think that flyfishers feel it requires more intelligence and skill to be a flyfisher. There is also a sort of mystique and romanticism connected to fly fishing, an art form if you will. I remember when I used only a spinning rod and I watched a fellow fly fishing and it was poetry in motion. I thought someday I would do that and I do. For me it was a spiritual and cerebral pursuit which became more important than actually catching fish. Maybe this is where the perception of elitism comes from?”

“I think that you will find that most, if not all, fly fishers started out as bait/gear fishermen. Very few bait/gear fishermen will claim to have “been there, done that” with fly fishing.”

The fact is that most flyfishers do not believe they are elitist . We all pretty much started on bait or gear and then chose another path. I myself use gear and or bait when conditions require it, I just prefer to flyfish when I can and my choice of fishing locations and target species tend to reflect that preference.

Some more words of wisdom;

“ You have three fishermen at the top of their game.
One is the best angler with a spinning rod.
One is the best angler with a bait casting outfit.
One is the best angler with a fly rod.
Of the three, which is the best most ethical angler?
If you can narrow it down and come up with an answer, then you likely believe in elitist values.”

“Fly fishing is what you make of it, if you look for elitism you will find it. It's all a matter of personal perspective and what you fixate on.”

Bottom line is that you will never get away from elitism. If there are two or more methods of doing something, the person that does it one way will think anybody that does it any other way is misinformed at best and at worst, living in a uni-bomber cabin in some backwoods hollow married to his sister. Ferrari drivers look down on Lamborghini owners, beef farmers believe the best use of land is for cattle while canola growers feel they could put it to better use. It goes on and on. Rarely do people just shrug and say “Go ahead and stand next to me brother and practice your dark art while I just enjoy my own thing and live and let live.”

Fly fishing, gear fishing, bait casting, it doesn't matter how you do it as long as you enjoy it and the regulations allow. Elitism is a sort of racism and we as thinking entities should be able to rise above our xenophobic genetic programing. Stop worrying about what everybody else is doing and just fish!

In the Net, May 2011

In The Net
Flossing, the great debate continues
Trevor Shpeley

Well, summer is here and I've been talking about the BCO forums for about six months. In that time we have more than doubled our membership although getting the new members posting has been a bit of a struggle. So enough talking about ourselves, it's time to get on with the real business of this column which is to report on what BC fishermen are talking about when they sit down at their computers.

For this first instalment of forum hot topics I thought we should start with the granddaddy of all internet fishing debates which is flossing Salmon. By the time you read this, the annual debate/argument/street-fight, on the practice of “flossing,” (as long-leader bottom-bouncing has become known,) should just be getting started and forum moderators everywhere will be working overtime trying to keep the virtual carnage to a minimum.

The basics of the issue are this:

Bottom bouncing for Salmon is a legitimate fishing method where a heavy weight is attached to a three way swivel with a short leader tied to the other end and a hook at the end of that. The rig is then dead drifted through a run and allowed to bounce along the bottom keeping the bait close to where the salmon are. At the end of the drift, the line is reeled in without being allowed to swing. Fish caught by this method are usually fairly hooked.

The problem comes when people use a long leader and then cast across the current and swing a large arc through the Salmon that are packed side by side with their mouths wide open into the flow. The wool decorated hook will often snag as the long leader “flosses” through the Salmon's mouths and if it doesn't, the huge pull the “angler” sometimes imparts at the end of the swing will usually do the trick. The hook is often in the inside the mouth giving the impression that the fish was fairly hooked and by the letter of the law, it was. THAT, in a nutshell is the core of the debate.

Just because something is legal, or quasi-legal, or just ignored by fisheries, should you be doing it? Many people would say no, snagging is snagging and it is a black eye on the fishery. Many other people would say “What difference does it make? The fish is dead either way. Do you think the fish cares how it was caught?” Sport fishery or harvest fishery? Do people really care? You bet they do.

Nothing has the power to divide an internet forum like a debate on flossing. Good friends have parted company over this prickly question of ethics. Whole websites have sprung up to denounce the practice only to collapse under the ponderous weight of their own idealism.

So who's right? I have no idea. Here's a sampling of posts taken from various fishing forums. Screen names have been deleted to protect the opinionated.

“ Until DFO states that it's illegal, I'll exercise my right to bounce for Socks. As long as I'm fishing within what DFO deems is legal, don't tell me what I can and can't do.”
“Flossing is snagging and snagging isn’t right. It will be a great day for sportfishing when they finally stop this so-called harvest fishery”
“Flossing is good. That's what the sockeye are there for. Whether you net 'em, floss 'em, or snag 'em, it's a resource that we should be allowed to enjoy. Have fun!”
“Just as long as this form of "fishing" isn't confused with being sporting. You wouldn't catch me dead doing this. If I am seen as uppity or holier than thou then so be it”
“I can understand having a moral revulsion to flossing in one’s conscience. But why must I obey your conscience?”
“It is my personal belief that any fish that does not hook itself is snagged”
“A small group of folks has arbitrarily defined terms like sport and morality, with the definition based on their say so. Then they have applied their rules to everyone else, with the not surprising conclusion that anyone who disagrees is not sporting”
“What happens when you see people lined up on the Thompson doing it!! It won't be OK then will it?”

Do I have an opinion? Yes I do but I'm not going to share it here! If you want to know come to and ask me!

15 things you only do once - published Oct 2011

15 things you only do once
Story by Trevor Shpeley
Illustrations by Marie Murphy

Fishing is a sport of repetition. We cast, cast and cast again. By repeating ourselves we become skilled and wise in the ways of the water. There are some things however that you only want to do once if at all. Here are 15 of them.

1 - Forget to replace the drain plug in a boat before launching
A lot of boats come with drain plugs in the transom which are removed when the boat is on a trailer to get rid of any accumulated water. When you arrive at the boat launch the first thing you do is secure the plug before you back down the ramp. That's the theory anyway. If you are like me and you spend 20 minutes every single day searching for your car keys and have left children in shopping carts at the mall then this simple task of remembrance can be a hit or miss affair.

The problem is compounded with the addition of a wife who has been placed in the boat before launching. Trying to explain to a panicked partner about the location and mechanics of a drain plug as she slowly sinks into the shipping lanes is hardly ever the start of an awesome day on the water.

There are plenty of commercial solutions like long colorful ribbons and tethers, use one or at least if you choose not to, don't think poorly of me as I stand on the shore laughing at you while you find out for sure if the boat manufacturer skimped on flotation.

2 - Step off the side of a boat at a gravel boat launch
Your average boat launch is very predictable, about the most drama you can expect when you take the boat out of the water is a 45 minute wait while the guy ahead of you does everything but paint his boat and re-grease his trailer bearings before moving out of your way.

This is not always the case if you fish somewhere like the Fraser where the launches are made from river gravel and half the people using them are in jet boats. Jet boaters often back the trailer halfway in and goose the throttle until the boat rises and settles on the trailer. It takes a little skill, looks cool and they are out in a hurry. No harm done, right?

Well not really. The problem with goosing the throttle of a jet motor at a 45 degree angle to a soft gravel bottom is that it digs holes. Big holes. Wife swallowing holes. The Fraser is murky and many a fisherman's spouse have stepped over the side of a boat only to vanish in a froth of bubbly curses and floating sun hats.

Unless you were planning to sell your boat and take up permanent residence on the couch anyway, probe the bottom with a net before you send your wife over the side at a Fraser launch.

3 - Take a young dog fishing
Dogs make great fishing partners,,,when they are old. Young dogs are like young humans in that all they really care about is food, making noise and breaking things. It is inconceivable to the mind of a young dog that it might be possible to stay still for minutes at a time and really, those loons were just asking for it.

70lb dog overboard + small boat + attempted collar-grab rescue = swimming fisherman, broken rods and a doggy date with Dr Neuter. Why the good creator decided that young dogs only need a brain the size of a huckleberry to control 12 feet of leg and a tail that could sweep a barnacle off a navigation buoy is beyond me.

Leave the dog at home until he is old enough to appreciate a dry spot to sleep and an occasional piece of beef jerky tossed his way. I feel pretty much the same way about young humans.

4 - Slam car door with fishing rods anywhere near the opening
You can leave fishing rods on your car seat over 50 miles of bumpy roads and they won't move but give the door a shove when you have fishing rods within 10 feet of it and they will slide out the opening just before it closes, every time. There is no stopping the carnage. All you can do is watch in horror as time slows and $600 worth of space-age graphite is obliterated like a twig in a wood chipper.

Put your rods back in their cases before you put them back in the car, even if it's only for a few minutes. BTW, rod company warranty guys can tell the difference between a rod that broke from a fish and one that was crushed in a door. Don't ask me how I know.

5 - Place fishing rods against tree while you finish loading the truck
I always insist on loading the truck at the end of the day by myself. I'm not trying to be rude to my partner but when you break your routine, bad things happen. One of those bad things is placing your rods against a tree while you load everything else and then driving away without them. You might get lucky and they might still be there when you come back but most of the time they vanish like socks in a dryer the moment you drive out of sight.

They say, “if you love something, set it free, if it comes back to you, it's yours, if not, it never was” but don't believe it. If you love something, keep it locked in the truck at all times. Common sense trumps t-shirt philosophy every time.

6 - Fail to check your knot after catching a fish or three
How easy is it to take a quick look at the connection between your lure and your line? It's pretty simple, I do it all the time. Usually right after I get 50 feet of fly-line in the face after an unhappy fish decides he's had enough of this nonsense.

Fish have sharp teeth and tippets are typically small and relatively weak compared to the rest of your rig. When you catch a fish you are in effect rubbing very thin plastic across a very sharp cheese grater. One fish can destroy a connection, a half dozen and you'll need divine intervention to keep a nice trout on your line.

7 - Low-hole a pack of Steelheaders
Steelheaders are a friendly bunch. Sit down next to a few of them in a pub and chances are they will spin you tales of fish caught and lost and the glory of rivers past. Like I said, real nice guys. Until you step in below them on a pool that is.

To understand the sudden change from jolly old men to raging medieval beserkers you need to understand a little bit of Steelhead etiquette. A fisherman will start at the head of a run, fish his cast to the end of it's swing, take two steps downstream and start over. When he gets to the bottom he walks up shore and waits his turn in the rotation. The system works well and it has been working well for a long time.

The problems start when a someone, typically a neophyte, sees a long stretch of nice water downstream from a line of fishermen that appears to be vacant and quite innocently steps into the bottom of the run and starts fishing. That's when the fireworks start and the blood pressure pills come out of the vests.

At that point if words are exchanged it's best just to apologize and ask them for advise on how to work the river in a cooperative way, they will usually become friendly and helpful again if you respect the fact that they know the drill and you don't.

8 - Take your kids fishing and bring your own rod
When my kids were young I loved to take them fishing but not until I learned to leave my own rod at home. Kids enjoy fishing and they love to spend time with you. If you try to get in some fishing yourself however, it's only a matter of time before you are frustrated, your kids are bored and somebody is crying, usually you.

Here are some simple rules for taking kids fishing:
Let them pee when they want to.
Don't let them hold their rod while you tie on a hook.
Buy cheap disposable gear.
Bring bandaids, lots of bandaids.

Until your kids decide they don't want you helping them anymore, you're better off thinking of it as a day in the boat and not a day fishing.

9 - Fly cast between you and your partner in a boat
I fish with a lot of different folk and there are maybe two people I trust to cast a fly-line between us on a boat. I am not one of them.

Position your boat so that you can each cast in opposite directions to the outside of the boat. Either that or wear a big hat, a high collared jacket and make yourself as small as possible. Try not to squeal when the fly gets too close, your friends will make fun of you.

10 -Use lawn chairs in a tin boat
Folding lawn chairs in a small tin boat are bad news. They tip over backwards much easier than you would expect. I can't even make a joke about this, too many people have died this way. Get a proper boat seat if you have to recline. Seriously.

11 - Try to learn Spey casting from a book but ignore the directions regarding wind direction
It is possible to at least learn the basics of Spey casting by reading some of the fine books available on the subject. Combine them with a video and you will have a general idea of what to try out on the river but you must pay attention to the part of the text that tells you which casts are appropriate for which river and wind direction.

Spey lines are longer, thicker and much heavier than a standard flyline. If you try to learn the wrong cast for the conditions, it is very possible that you will end up looking like a cartoon tornado as the line hits your head and wraps itself around you. If you are very lucky you were practicing with a piece of yarn instead of a fly but lets face it, you probably had a big heavy Salmon fly on there didn't you?

Read ALL the instructions, they really are there for a reason.

12 - Wade a river in open toed sandals
Summer, the river is cool, and the landscape around you is shimmering in the heat. What could be better than wet-wading while you throw a line to Stonefly crazy trout? Nothing. Nothing that is as long as you put on a pair of wading boots.

The temptation is great to just strap on the old sport sandals and it seems wonderful until you step on the first greasy volleyball sized rock and your foot jams down in between it and the next greasy rock at which point your toes are compacted into a space that wouldn't hold a McDonalds pickle. Even running shoes will leave you feeling like you ran your foot through a pasta maker.

Ditch the waders on hot days but wear the boots!

13 - Cast a heavy fly with a light fly-rod
You've heard the term, “chuck-n-duck”? It describes a particular way to fish heavy weights with a fly-rod but it also describes the process of fishing too big a fly for the rod you are using. A heavily weighted fly hits surprisingly hard when you get it in the back of the head. It can also destroy a graphite rod, both from the action of casting it and the impact of a solid collision.

You hardly ever really need a fly that big and when you do, bring the big rod, don't try and cast a brick with a chopstick.

14 - Ignore requests from your bladder while fishing from a float tube
You can get a long way down a lake in a float tube, especially if you are going with the wind. In fact even on a small lake you can put an hour between you and an approachable shoreline with no difficulty. None of that is really an issue until you get that little tickle that tells you it's time to make your way in to where you can peel down the waders and relieve the situation, hopefully without traumatizing any sensitive cottagers.

That also wouldn't be a problem if we heeded that first warning but we don't. We tell ourselves “one more cast” and after 20 “last” casts we catch a fish and the whole thing starts all over again. By the time the red light is flashing in our brain that says “either you take care of this now or you make up a leaky wader story” we realize we are a long way from shore and that it's really tough to cross your legs while you paddle with your feet.

If you are an observer these folk are easy to spot, the grim look on their face, the steady rhythmic paddling, the frequent glances over their shoulder to check their progress. I don't know if the old wives tails of exploding bladders are true but who really wants to find out?

15 – Change your line with a cigarette in your hand
This actually happened to a good friend of mine. We were fishing the Thompson and had paused to take a break and change to a more suitable line. The line he was changing was an old favorite and one that had been discontinued by the manufacturer. He being a smoker was killing two birds with one stone and satisfying his demon while he fiddled with loops of flyline.

I happened to be looking right at him when the cigarette in his left hand contacted the fly-line in his right and half the line fell to his feet like an electrocuted snake. I wish to this day I had had a camera to record the look of dismay on his face as he stared at his treasured heirloom lying impotently on the ground.

I guess the moral to this story is “don't smoke”. Or maybe it's, “when they stop making your favorite line, stock up” or perhaps it's “don't do anything funny in front of your friends because who knows, they might put it in a magazine someday” but I prefer to think that the moral to this and all the other stories is simply “Be present in the here and now and if it sounds like a bad idea, it almost definitely is.”

Simple advise that I mean to follow myself. Yup. Any day now.

Thursday, June 2, 2011

Soon the Canucks will sport these :)

Tenkara fishing

Tenkara Fishing
A rookie's experimentation with an ancient technique

Story and photos by Trevor Shpeley

Fixed-line flyfishing has been around a long time. Before there were steel line-guides, fancy reels and braided silk, there was a piece of string tied to a stick and a few feathers tied to hook waving around on the business end of the string. Since those early days the sport has come a long way. Somebody eventually did get around to inventing those fancy reels, guides and braided lines and building Fishing rods became a science, as did everything else having to do with the sport of catching a fish. Fixed-line flyfishing has at this time been consigned to history books and nostalgia buffs with a few notable exceptions. One of those exceptions is the centuries old practice of Japanese Tenkara fishing.

When I'm not fishing, or riding a motorcycle or up to my eyeballs in the “honey-do” list, I enjoy spending a few hours cruising the internet fishing forums. They are a great place to meet new fishing partners, tell a few tall tales and every so often catch a little information you had never heard before. That was how I first heard about Tenkara and it's long whippy rods with just a few feet of line and a fly tied to their improbably thin tips.

It wasn't just anybody talking about this simple setup, it was some of the most modern, up to date flyfishermen I know and they were waxing on about an angling technique Mark Twain would have recognized immediately. I was obviously missing out on something interesting so I set out to find out for myself what all the buzz was about.

I had to start somewhere and since I knew less about Tenkara fishing than my dog knows about lawn mowing, I placed a call to my friend and fellow internet dweller, Aaron Laing. In addition to his skills as a fly tyer, competitive flyfisherman and flyfishing blogger, he is probably the best river fisherman I have easy access to so I recruited him to join me for a day of fishing on one of his favourite urban streams.

I then executed a quick Google search and with a decisive push on the “BUY NOW” button, my new gear was on it's way for about the price of the new shoes that regularly appear in my wife's closet to the familiar audio accompaniment of “what those old things? I've had those forever”

Nobody is sure what the word “Tenkara” actually means. Some say it translates as “from the sky” in reference to the delicate way flies seem to float down from the heavens. Others say it refers to a child's jumping game, mirroring the way fishermen hop from rock to rock as they fish. The only thing everyone seems able to agree on is that it's been around about 1200 years and it was a very effective method for the commercial fishermen of the day to harvest small fish from the rushing mountain streams of Japan. Fishermen could tie on a simple inexpensive fly and fish for hours without having to worry about re-baiting their hooks between every cast.

The traits that made it so effective back then, simplicity, low cost, and efficiency carry over quite nicely to our own mountain stream fishery with the added benefit that it's just plain fun. Nowhere is that quality more obvious than on a small river or stream where you can effortlessly control your drift as your fly moves through the pools and riffles close enough for you to watch the fish rise and turn as they take it down. Less gear means a stealthier presentation and a lighter line means less chance of spooking a fish by accidentally slapping 20 feet of thick plastic cord onto it's head.

The Modern Tenkara rod is typicly12-14 feet long and are usually graphite, telescopic, and often come in a scaled down aluminium rod tube depending on who you buy them from. The small size of the rod case, approx 20 inches long and 1.5 inches in diameter make the Tenkara rod perfect for back-packers, motorcyclists or anyone who just wants a creek rod available in their vehicle at all times and doesn't have a lot of room behind the seat for storage.

The rods also sometimes come with a spare, easily changed tip. It's not so much because the fish might break it off in the heat of battle but because overly eager fishermen will sometimes snap them in their zeal to open or close the rod quickly. A fresh Tenkara rookie would be wise to heed the warnings and instructions included with the rod package.

If you want to go full-Monty with the Tenkara fishing then you need to tie or buy some Tenkara flies. Luckily for the beginner there aren't a whole lot of Tenkara patterns to choose from, the prevailing wisdom is that pretty much any Tenkara style fly works as well as any other so just pick one you like or is quick to tie and you are good to go. In Tenkara the operative word is “presentation”. Fly selection is far less important.

A typical Tenkara pattern will have some sort of simple dubbed body with the hackle tied in reverse, angling forward toward the eye of the hook so that the fly will pulse in the water when the soft rod tip is twitched. The flies are most often fished on or just below the surface but are sometimes sunk to the bottom and fished in a drag free drift like a standard nymph. Another favourite traditional technique it to slap the fly onto the water and snatch it away several times in the same spot before dropping the fly into the film and letting it drift. Quite often it doesn't get to drift very far.

Of course many Western patterns work very well with a Tenkara rod. Heavily weighted Czech nymphs are especially well suited to the long stick as is any familiar nymph you might normally use. You don't usually need an indicator since you can control depth very easily with the rod tip and tippet length but a small tuft of yarn tied to the leader is helpful for detecting strikes. Dapping dry flies in the pocket water and small pools of a stream is a piece of cake when your line is as light as a Tenkara line and your rod is 13 feet long.

It is generally agreed among enthusiasts that the best line to use is the traditional furled line which offers some shock absorption and unparalleled delicacy but does so at the cost of disturbing behaviour when stretched past it's limit. Level line is also popular and some people I know use sections of light fly line, 2wt or less, which will deliver the fly well but is not recommended due to the tendency of the heavier fly line to form a “belly” in the middle between the rod tip and the water with the resulting sag pulling the fly towards you and removing much of the “magic drift” effect people expect from a Tenkara setup.

The total length of the line and leader is usually about the same length as the rod so a 13 foot rod would give you a reach of about 26 feet, give or take a couple of feet. Relatively short leaders are tied to the Tenkara line which is in turn looped onto the end of a small piece of cord attached to the end of the rod called the “Lilian string”

When you hook a fish, you lift the rod to set the hook and then let the long flexible rod absorb the efforts of the fish as you guide it to the net by raising the rod tip above your head. With bigger fish you will have to let it fight for awhile but the process is very intuitive and about the only way you can really do it wrong would be to just hold the rod static and wait for something to break. Move your rod with the fish and keep your tip high as it runs around the pool in front of you and it will tire and come to the net in the usual way. Don't be afraid to put a bend in the rod, the soft tip will protect the tippet and a fish played too long is a fish with a diminished hope of survival.

On the day Aaron and I chose to hit the water it was a typical Vancouver fall day, which is to say the rain was falling at a rate somewhere between a tropical monsoon and a biblical population adjustment. The rivers were running high and muddy and the hope of a productive morning chasing small trout and the occasional larger sea-run cutthroat got dimmer and more distant with each new rivulet of icy rainwater down the back of my wading jacket.

As if on cue after we got comfortable in a nice run the heavens parted, the sun shone down upon us and the river which had been rather drab up until this point was transformed into a gorgeous imitation of the prettiest Vermont spring creek you ever saw. If you added a covered bridge and a few guys in tweed waving bamboo around, the illusion would have been perfect.

This wasn't Vermont though, it was Vancouver. The covered bridge was cement and by covered I mean somebody had spent a lot of time covering the bridge supports in colourful street art. It may not have been New England but it was very pretty in the rising mist with the emerging sun shining off the tangled blackberries and lush green willows that dip down to overhang the rivers edge.

The high water meant the larger fish we were targeting were probably going to be spread out and very tough to find but the alternative was packing up and heading back to our uninspiring, non-fishing related, daily activities so we decided to give it a yeoman's effort and waded out into the stream at a spot where the current washed over a shelf of submerged weeds and into a deeply undercut pool at the head of a long riffle.

Aaron started out by showing me how to cast with the Tenkara outfit. The technique uses a motion that would not be unfamiliar to anybody who'd spent even a little time swinging a fly rod, it's just a little slower and the stroke is a little shorter than a standard overhead fly cast. The line is easy to direct and hitting your target is intuitive and quickly mastered. The temptation to use the longest line your rod will support is strong but Tenkara is all about control and control in this case means being able to hit your mark without having to choke up on the rod.

You would be well served to carry a few extra lines of different lengths wrapped around an old spool and change them whenever the conditions warrant. Spare lines are not expensive and it literally takes only a minute or two to switch between them and is no more complicated than changing a tippet on a traditional outfit.

A few casts in to our trip I discovered why some people do not like to use the traditional furled line. A sloppy attempt at a roll cast had solidly lodged my heavy Czech nymph in the bark of a tree branch above my head. I thought that perhaps I could just pull on the line and bring the branch down to my level which I attempted to do until the tippet broke and the line snapped back into my chest. What I was left holding in my hand looked more like spaghetti than a fly line. The braided material of the furled line acts like a spring when it is stretched and recoils into a tightly curled mess when released. The line can be worked until it is more or less straight but it takes a few minutes. Level line doesn't do that but it does not have the built in shock absorbing qualities of the Tenkara line either.

The river we were fishing is the closest stream to Aaron's house so it isn't surprising that it didn't take him long to catch the first fish. His line twitched, he lifted the rod to set the hook and the battle was on. After a short but spirited fight he slid the net beneath the fish, all six inches of it. The fact that it was an enjoyable experience is due to the nature of the long flexible rod. Tenkara gear will handle fish up to 16 inches but is still light enough to make catching the smaller fish fun. A quick flick of the barbless hook and the tiny fish was released to grow a little larger.

We didn't catch any more fish that rainy fall morning but we had a great time effortlessly moving along the overgrown banks and through the rushing water without a lot of extra gear to snag or weigh us down. We could easily have continued our day with steadier action by heading over to the Fraser river delta and fishing the sloughs and backwaters for coarse fish and it would be tough to imagine a better fishing method for those types of fish in those waters.

As luck would have it however, Aaron knew a place in Mallardville that was serving an awesome cheeseburger and since the rain had started up again, we chose the option that included a fireplace, big screen TV's and a total lack of icy cold rivulets of water running down the backs of our wading jackets.

Tenkara is made to order for the minimalist fly-fisherman. It is easy to learn, you don't have to cash in your kids savings bonds to buy the new gear and it works. If you like to do things a little different, you admire efficiency and you fish smaller waters, then this modern adaptation of an ancient method is for you.

Maybe it isn't really a smart thing to go ahead and order a bunch of new gear because some guys you barely know on the internet suggested it might be fun. Maybe you shouldn't ignore all the innovations in the fly fishing world and go back to a method that has been kicking around for six centuries. Maybe you shouldn't have said to your wife “what that old rod? I've had that forever” and just fessed up to the fact that you went out and bought another fishing rod.

I'm certainly very happy I did all those things and I look forward to many wasted afternoons on mountain streams, urban rivers and lowland sloughs with nothing but a few flies in my pocket, a stick in my hand, a piece of string and a grin on my face. Tom Sawyer would have been proud.

In the net, good, bad, ugly

n the Net
The Good, The Bad, The Ugly
Trevor Shpeley

“The only way three people can keep a secret is if two of them are dead.”

The debate has been raging for as long as communication has been possible between more than two people at once. It probably started when one cavemen told his buddy from the next valley about a good spot to find eggs. The next time the original group went to their favorite spot there were no eggs left and to top it off, the others had left shells all over the place and ruined the path in. The blabbermouth caveman was promptly killed and the others swore nobody would ever leak their secrets to strangers again. We all know how that turned out.

With the arrival of newspapers and magazines it became possible to reach masses of readers hungry for information on the best fishing and hunting spots. This saved people the trouble of physically combing the countryside or worse, listening to the rambling tales of crusty old timers which then, as now, were long on wind and short on facts.

Picture rich articles on hidden lakes were greeted enthusiasticly by magazine reading outdoorsmen. They were greeted somewhat less enthusiasticly by fishermen that were already enjoying the watery jewels in question but as history has shown, the stories in the fishing magazines never had much more than a temporary effect on a featured water and an equilibrium was reached with only the occasional debate in a riverside pub to keep the issue alive.

That was before the internet of course. We now live in a world where anybody can sit down at a keyboard and post whatever they like for everybody to see. That fact makes online forums a real game-changer when it comes to the issue of “hot spotting” as the practice of posting sensationalized fishing reports has become known.

First let me say if it's not already apparent that I am a big fan of internet forums. There is simply no better way to learn new techniques, improve on old ones, discuss ethics and current events, get to know fellow fishermen or just plain brag about your latest catch. Magazines such as the one in your hand do a fine job as well and they do a much better job than the net at delivering facts that turn out to be actual facts, but there is a limit to how much information you can stuff into the confines of a magazine every month or two.

The detractors of online forums make some very good points. Forum posts happen in real time and are seen quickly by many people. When a person writes something to the effect of, “Hey you should have been at Secret Lake yesterday, the sedges were coming off and six pound fish were slashing around like cats at a string factory,” you can be sure that within a day or two you will be hard pressed to find a spot to anchor. Hot spotting is a very real phenomenon and a fish-hungry flash mob at your favorite lake is not a pretty sight.

So does it have to be that way? Does a fishing report have to include GPS coordinates in order to be interesting? Not at all, in fact, the trend now on many internet forums, the BCO Forum included, is to encourage you to withhold exact locations from your fishing reports. You can always communicate via personal message with people that really want to know where it is.

By all means tell your fishing story in all it's glory, but remember the report is just as enjoyable when it says something like “a Kamloops area lake” rather than the actual name. If somebody recognizes your lake from your pictures, good manners suggests that they keep that information to themselves and since they obviously already know the water in question, no harm is done. On the other hand, if you are fishing a large well known body of water where secrecy isn't really an issue like Roche, Tunkwa or the Fraser, well you aren't going to do any harm naming names so fire away.

So, internet forums, good for the fishery or bad? I say good. Discussion among fishermen means a higher standard of ethics, better knowledge of proper fish handling techniques and a more unified user group. Does it have it's warts? Yes absolutely but with a little common sense and some gentle education these problems can be minimized.

What do you think? Join the debate at

In The Net Contests and Forum 101 pt2

In The Net
Contests and Forum 101 pt2

Don't you just love a contest? This month we had two contests which wrapped up just as this column went to print.

The first was a draw among members who could answer the skill testing question; How long has BC Outdoors been in publication? Proving that the only skill necessary to win was to look at the top of the page, nobody had any trouble finding the answer which was: “over 65 years” The prize was a 5wt Cortland Endurance rod with a Cortland 444 line and the lucky winner was xxxxxxxx

The second contest required a little more participation. We were looking for your funniest outdoor image. Flyfishingcouple posted a picture of Tunkwa personality Richard in an outfit that made his dog Buck hide his head at the front of the boat. Kettlefisher and CU-Wader both posted pictures of their inflatables where they shouldn't be and Morris posted an interesting rendering of a lonely deer hunter.

The prizes we gave away were a Dragonfly 7wt full sink flyline and a Rio Outbound wf6f Coldwater. Congratulations (and the lines) go to xxxxxxxxxx

Forum 101 pt2
There is one question that gets asked by new forum participants more than any other. “How do I add pictures to my posts?” Posting pictures requires learning a few simple procedures that once you've mastered them will cause you no trouble at all from that point forward.

Step one:
Start your own BCO photo album. Why? Because in order to attach a picture to your forum post, that picture must be hosted somewhere else. It doesn't have to go far, the BCO forum has it's own gallery where you can place all your outdoors pictures for online sharing. You can also post videos to your gallery which you can then share by simply sending somebody the address instead of having to mail the whole bulky file.

To get started, go to the black menu bar near the top of the BCO Forum page and click on “Trophy Wall”. After the page opens, click on “Members Gallery” and when that page loads you will see on the far right a menu item called “New Album”, click on that.

Give your album a name, usually your username, and follow instructions to finish creating your personal album and start filling it with pictures. Don't be shy about loading it up, a photo album with no photos is kind of pointless after all.

Step two:
Step one was all the heavy lifting, step two is a piece of cake. It's time to attach your photo to a post.

Go to your album and click on the picture you wish to post. It is very important that you bring up the full sized picture. One of the most common mistakes is performing the following actions to the thumbnail instead of the large picture.

Right click on the picture and when the little menu box pops up, select “properties” and look for the “image address” or “image url” On some browsers such as Google Chrome, you don't have to go to properties, you can just click on “copy image url” What you are trying to achieve is to get the address of the picture itself and not the address of the page the picture is on. Once you get it the first time you will never have a problem finding it again. Copy that address to your clipboard. (right click then copy or just press ctrl C on a windows computer)

Start a post in the usual way, either by starting a new thread or replying in an existing one. When your workspace for the new post pops up, place your cursor where you want your picture to be and look for the “Insert Image” icon. It looks like a little framed picture and sits just above the text entry box. If you are like me and the tiny icons look like little fuzzy blobs, just hover your mouse over them and the label will pop up. Click on the icon.

When the dialog box pops up, paste the address of your picture in the box that says “http//”, then click “insert image” and that's it, your picture is posted. If it doesn't work after a few tries, send me a message and I'll help you figure it out.

So there you go, Join the BCO Forums, make yourself an album and show us what you caught!

Monday, January 31, 2011

In the Net 1 - BCO Dec 2010

In the Net
Trevor Shpeley
October 1, 2010

They don't generally go by their real names. They give themselves peculiar nick-names like “Swamp Donkey”, “Fishhead” and “Woody”. They come into your living room late at night, haunt your den, your bedroom, sometimes even invade your workplace. They are not a gang of crazed hillbillies up to no good, in fact they are doctors, police officers, lawyers, plumbers and millworkers. They are your friends, they are people you have never met, they are the members of an online discussion forum.

When I joined my first fishing forum about 10 years ago, I started out with a few tentative posts and before I knew it, it was as if I had known those people for years and everybody I was fishing with was someone I met on the net. I remember the conversation I had with my then 14 year old daughter when after delivering many fire and brimstone lectures on the importance of internet safety I told her I was going into the woods to meet a guy I met online to go fishing. *Awkward*

This the first of what will become a regular column reporting on the antics, exploits and accomplishments of the members of the new and improved BC Outdoors discussion forums. Great fish stories will be re-told and some of them might actually be true! We will print any pictures we find particularly interesting, touch on the highlights of popular threads and use this space to announce contest winners. In other words, “In The Net” will be the newsletter of the BC Outdoors online community.

To sign up go to, click on the forums button up near the top and then click on “register”. Answer a few questions, pick a catchy screen name and password and you're ready to go. Don't worry if you know less about computers than a teenager knows about hygiene, the BCO forum is easy to use and it's denizens are friendly and eager to help new people get their feet on the ground.

So what is an internet forum and why would you bother?

The BCO forum is your chance to have your voice heard directly by the editors and writers of BC Outdoors Magazine as well as an opportunity to interact with other people who share similar interests. You can be a passive observer if you wish or you can join in at whatever level you feel comfortable. The forum is well moderated and is considered a family environment.

The forums are also a place for contests. Photo and essay contests will be frequent and in addition to great prizes, you may find your prose or pictures published in the magazine. All members receive an online photo album and are encouraged to use it.

Are you buying a waterproof camera but don't know which one to buy? How about new wading boots? You might not have tried them all but somebody on the board probably has. Going to an unfamiliar area in May and you want to know what lakes will be ice free? No problem, somebody on the forum will know. Ask and you shall receive.

The BCO forums are also a place to discuss articles that have appeared in the magazine. You may have further insight into the subject of a recent piece or perhaps you would like to discuss the points and opinions the writer has presented. BC Outdoors contributors are encouraged to take part in these discussions but remember that not every writer has the time or opportunity to participate.

Feel free to discuss the content and theme of an article but please treat our writers kindly, they work hard at what they do and would you really want strangers coming into your workplace and telling you how they think you could do your job better? Personal attacks have no place on the BC Outdoors Forum, it's a pleasant place to spend time and we'd like to keep it that way thanks.

So there you go. Contests with great prizes, a chance to have a voice in your favourite magazine, lively discussion with like-minded people, photo hosting, outdoor news as it happens, potential fishing buddies and a way to keep a part of your mind out in the woods while you are stuck in the office. Short of winning the “buy whatever you want and fish all day” lottery, what more could an outdoors person want?

Sign up today at and join the fun!