Fountainhead Fly Fishing Furled Leaders/Lines


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Tenkara Lines

Posted by fountainheadflyfish on December 23, 2009 at 7:33 AM Comments comments (1)

Having spent some time furling and lawn/pond casting some weight forward furled leaders, a light bulb went on, why not furl a weight forward line for Tenkara applications?  

Weight forward tenkara lines seemed very intuitive to me.  I think a significant portion of the western fly fisher population prefer and use weight forward fly lines for alot of their fly fishing.  So,  I decided to furl up some prototype weight forward mono tekara lines. The first test I conducted was to try to cast them by hand to see how well they would turn over.  Not only did they turn over great, but I could actually cast a pretty tight loop.  That's exactly what I was hoping to see.

So the next test was to attach a rod to the end of a weight forward line and go outside. I wasn't surprised to see how nice they cast. I will say they are by far the best casting line configuration I've experienced to date.  As with western style fly lines, the weight forward configuration may lack a bit of the delicacy of a finely tapered line, but I think you will find that the weight forward lines will punch out larger, wind resistant flies and bugs. I think they definately provide an advantage for at least certain Tenkara fishing applications such as warm water bugging for panfish and bass.

Weight Forward Leaders

Posted by fountainheadflyfish on December 14, 2009 at 6:03 AM Comments comments (1)

About a month back, I ran across a minor reference to a concept I had never thought about before, a weight forward leader.

The article referenced a formula for single strand leader.  That got me thinking and tinkering with building some weight forward furled leaders. I wasn't really totally sold on the idea, the concept did not seem intuitively obvious to me.   However I found the idea interesting if for no other reason than there does not seem to be a alot of innovative things to think about when it comes to leaders.  Folks have been furling leaders for the better part of 400 years, with the same basic thought, start out fat, end up thin.


I didn't know what to expect as I started to field test my first weight forward leaders.. Bottomline, they did cast much better than I expected. They do turn over great, once they get moving, they do straighten right out. It is a bit cold up here inMichigan, so I don't know exactly how they will fish in moving waters that require alot of mending.  Need to spend some time with them on the water once it warms up.  FIeld testing, it's a tough job, but it needs to be done.  

I do think the weight forward leaders will be great for still water applications, particular when it comes to fishing larger or wind resistant bugs and such. The other application I really see them excel at is small stream, close in fishing. It's very easy to cast a "tight" loop with just the leader extended out of the rod tip.

I'm still not sure they are the answer for all fishing situations, but I do think weight forward leaders will offer advantages for a number of fly fishing conditions.  I guess the often favored adage of my former British boss may apply - Different horses for different courses.



Single Pattern Fly Box

Posted by fountainheadflyfish on August 21, 2009 at 5:55 PM Comments comments (0)


For the past 13 or 15 years, I have been using a single fly pattern for 98%of my time spent trout fishing. Perhaps not surprisingly, it is a simple, impressionistic dry/damp fly pattern . On rare occasions,when the mood strikes, I will use an equally simplistic bead headpattern which I can fish slightly deeper.


Although I never heard of Tenkara until earlier this year, I have fished Tenkara like for along time. By that I mean I've fished a very short line, in order to have optimal control of my fly. In my mind, the active (or passive)manipulation of your fly is what makes fishing, fishing.


I'm not sure I agree with some folk's contention that fish have poor eyesight, and will hit anything that comes by. Of course, particularly in fast water conditions, the fish never does get a clear, long view at anything passing by on the conveyor belt. I think they at best get a fleeting partial glimpse of the food item, and have to quickly decide to take or pass. That at least is my assumption, and based on that assumption, I think fishing a very impressionistic fly makes sense. Let the fish see something somewhat vague, and let the fish figure out exactly what he/she thinks it is.


The one thing I will add, I think in order to be optimally successful, and angler must be actively engaged in "fishing" their fly. Over the years, a dead drift presentation has accounted for about 25% of my catch. The other fish have all been caught while the fly was moving some way other than dead drift.


Again, this is where a simple, generic impressionistic pattern excels. It can be effectively fished in a variety of presentations cast to cast, sometimes varying the presentation in the same cast. Being able to seamlessly fish the same fly in a variety of ways provides me much more variety than fishing a number of different flies in the exact same manner. I know it works for me.


I should add that I spend the majority of my time fishing my home river, the Muskegon River in Michigan. It is a big, fast river, with a wide variety of food items. It is very rare on my river that the fish will selectively feeding on one particular blanket hatch. I'm not sure how well the one fly approach would work in other situations, particularly slower moving bodies of water, or environments which have a less diverse forage base. I certain can see situations where an exact pattern would be more effective.

Tenkara vs. Larger Fish

Posted by fountainheadflyfish on August 6, 2009 at 5:46 AM Comments comments (0)

Granted, large fish (and small) present a challenge, but I personally think the challenge is what makes fishing fun. The one thing I like about Tenkara, I think it will make you a better fisher person. This is particularly true in the process of trying to control (and hopefully land) larger fish. THe challenge is certainly there, but I do think in most cases, all the odds aren't on the side of the fish.


There are alot of real nice conventional  fly reels on the market today, and that has become a mixed blessing.  It allows the conventional fly angler let the disk drag reel do the work in subduing larger fish.  The angler strikes the "orvis pose" (rod high over head) and hangs on.  When the fish runs, the reel supplies resistance (and about a mile of line), when the fish gets tired, the angler derricks in the prize.


The one thing to remember when fighting fish, the fish always follows his/her head.  The fish can only go where it's head is pointing.  A fish's head does not move up and down, so when you apply overhead pressure, it needs to be sufficient to lift the fish out of the water column, if not, it doesn't do much good.  The fish feels pressure and responds by heading in the opposite direction.  That's exactly what you don't want to happen in Tenkara.  (It isn't all that great with conventional fly gear either, but that's where our old friend, Mr Fly reel comes in with several hundred yards of line and a disk drag that can slow down a Buick Park Avenue.)


A fish's head is made to move side to side.  When a fish's head is side loaded, it has one of two choices, either follow the direction it's head is being pulled, or expend alot of energy trying to pull it's head in the opposite direction.  Of course, things can get even more complicated for poor old Mr./Mrs. fish when that direction of pull suddenly changes from one side to the other. Once the fish starts getting turned, he/she must now also fight any current, which will tend to try to further spin the fish.  (When pulling straight up and back on the fish, it takes off straight downsteam, so the current is working in the fishes favor)


Tenkara equipment excels at providing side pressure to the fish, and with the mere flip of the angler's wrist, suddenly that point of pressure moves 24' in the opposite direction from where it was just a second ago.  Bottom line, in my opinion, Tenkara equipment can be a very effective fish fighting tool.  


Of course, everything sounds easy in principle, and things don't always go exactly as planned. But that's what makes it fun, and trying different things is what makes one a versatile angler.

Close Encounters

Posted by fountainheadflyfish on July 21, 2009 at 7:18 PM Comments comments (0)

I went fishing this evening in my local subdivision pond.  I looked up and saw a Blue Heron on the opposite shore (maybe about 65' away). He was watching me intently, almost as though he knew I was fishing. As I worked my way down the shore line, he followed me step for step,maybe 40' down the shore line, all the time with a fixed gaze.

I got to wondering what would happen if I tossed him a fish.  I caught a smallish bluegill, and gave it a toss across the pond.  It didn't make it all the way to the far bank, the heron waded in two steps to where the fish had splashed down, of course the fish had swum away.  I looked away from the heron to get back to fishing, when I glanced back, he was gone.

When I turned back to watch my popper, I see the heron had come acrossthe pond, and was now on my side, maybe 30' away.  I caught another small gill, tossed it his way, he was on it like Oprah on a Easter ham. Down it went, he then took a sip of water to wash it down.  Then he came about 5' closer.  Caught another small gill, and he downed that one as well.  I wasn't sure how much a heron can pack down, and I didn't want to over feed him.  So I decided to head home so he could go about his business.  He followed me several steps, but once he saw I was leaving, off he went.

Very neat.

Followup - Mr. (of Mrs., not sure) Heron ended up being my fishing partner every day for a period of several weeks last fall. He became very comfortable to be around me, and followed me like a puppy dog.  It finally got too cold, so I stopped fishing. 

I only saw him once early this spring.  He came right over, but was gone the next day.

Four days ago, he flew right up like we were old friends -

Foam Poppers

Posted by fountainheadflyfish on July 15, 2009 at 7:24 AM Comments comments (0)

Since I starting fishing for bluegills some 45 years ago, poppers have always been my favorite top water bug, trouble is they are sometimes time consuming to tie, and sometimes fragile in use. For the past several years, I've been tying flip flop spiders, I was happy with both their performance and durability. I recently was going thru my old bookmarks, and saw a link to a site I saw probably a year back. It  was about forming foam using a dremel tool as a mini lathe. I decided to give it a shot, and was happy with the results .

Start off with a dollar store pair of flip flops in the color of your choice.  First step is to lop/cut out some chunks.  I use a scroll saw whichs cuts the foam quickly and easily.  First I cut strips, then I cut the strips into blocks

Once you have your foam chunks, skewer them thru the middle with a toothpick.  I then (optionally) trim off the corners with a pair of scissors, just to reduce the amount of material that needs to get sanded off

Now chuck the toothpick into your Dremmel tool.  I use an emery board to do the actual sanding. Turn on the Dremmel and sand the foam to the desired shape and taper

You'll end up with a formed foam head that has a hole in the center for ease of mounting on your hook

The finnished popper, of course the foam cam be decorated with markers and such


Tenkara Furled Leader

Posted by fountainheadflyfish on July 13, 2009 at 9:42 PM Comments comments (0)

Several people have asked me about the furled line I've been using for my Tenkara fishing.

Since I furl and sell a load of leaders, developing the line was alot of fun.  The logistics of furling a one piece12' long leader is daunting (and I wasn't exactlysure what taper I wanted to go with), so what I 'm currently using is a two piece line connected with a loop to loop connection.  I whip the top three foot top section directly to the tip of the pole.  That's intended to be a pretty permanent connection.   I then use a built in loop to loop connection to attach the 7' tapered bottom portion of the furled line (this is easily replaceable).  To the bottom furled portion,  I have attached about a 3' mono extension, to which I attached my tippet, I've been using about a 3' lenght of 4 lb test for my tippet. 

I knew that a furled line would turn over well, and it really has worked out well.  I know some other folks use straight mono and or mono shooting line, like Amnesia.  I really haven't tried any other line options, the furled line works perfect for my purposes.  I will say that I fish almost exclusely dry, sometimes slight damp.  A straight mono may work better if you intend to deeply fish nymphs.

Tenkara techniques

Posted by fountainheadflyfish on July 7, 2009 at 6:46 AM Comments comments (0)

I've been interested in giving Tenkara techniques a try for a while now. I've primarily held off due to the fact that the fishing has just been too good. I know it's a tough problem to have, but the past month has been pretty much prime time in Michigan for big fish on big dries,and quite honestly, I wasn't sure I'd be able to handle the larger fish using Tenkara equipment. I decided to spend the past week giving it a go.


My experience was slightly off the general curve with regards to most of the Tenkara related information I've read to date.  Typically it focuses on catching small fish on small steams. To begin with, my home river is the Muskegon, it is a large river, usually about 200' across in most sections -

I did not have a problem fishing and covering water. Of course Tenkara techniques provide superb control and presentation, and was very effective.  This is probably the most significant advantage Tenkara offers over conventional fly fishing.  The ability to totally control the line and presentation of the fly.  I fished a single impressionistic pattern both dry and damp.  I caught fish using all presentations.  I was pleasantly surprised to see that I could easily suspend the entire line and leader above the water, having only the fly itself make contact with the water's surface.  I found I could raise the fly an inch or two from the surface, and place it down an inch over from it's initial contact point.  It really allows one to animate the fly to represent an egg laying movement.


I one thing I did not expect is how different the casting technique and feel is using Tenkara. I don't know I can accurately describe the feel involved with conventional fly casting, but certainly there is the input of energy to accelerate and transfer energy into the cast. I didn't feel that at all using Tenkara, my first impression was more akin to using the rod to paint the line, everything was soft and slow. No speed involved. It's a mistake to try to overpower the cast in terms of force or power.  Easy does it.   It did take me several minutes to get used to the feel and tempo most every time I fished. It's hard to teach an old dog new tricks.


My wife on the other hand is a much less experience fly fisher than I, she was comfortable with theTenkara feel from the first cast. She and I both practice Iaido (Japanese swordmanship), she said she thought the movements were very sword like, and as I thought about it, I agree. The Japanese sword is a cutting machine, the primary goal is to guide and direct it, the sword does the cutting. I think it's the same with Tenkara, guide the rod, the cast will take care of itself.


The one thing that surprised me the most is how effective Tenkara was as a fish fighting tool. From other readings, I expected it to be a handicap, quite the contrary, I thought just the opposite. I was amazed at how fast and easily I was able to bring fish to hand. The biggest fish I caught was a 16" football of a rainbow.This was in fast current, I had no trouble totally controlling the fish. Granted I'm not ready to tackle chinook salmon on Tenkara (yet),but I had remarkable control over every fish I caught the past week. I can't always say that with fly rod and reel. The length and flexibility of the Tenkara rod really lends itself to apply fish fighting techniques and strategies. I was very impressed.  Of course, one must actively engage and play the fish.  One cannot be content to strike the Orvis pose and hold on, you will very quickly run out of line.  Rather by actively apply force from side the side, the fish can be controlled and actually "walked" to hand.

I fished a 12' rod I bought at Walmart for $15.00. It's called the BlackBeauty 4 pc Ultra light model BBP12 made by South Bend -

I used a furled mono 11.5' line  that I made specifically for this application. It cast and fished great.  Other folks have used level single strand mono, some use something like amnesia. One thing I found that really helped performance was to bind the line to the end of the rod to prevent any hinging -

Although this technique is not for everyone, you may want to give it a try.  It is different and fun.

Michigan Real Time Stream Flow data

Posted by fountainheadflyfish on June 23, 2009 at 10:38 AM Comments comments (0)

Very useful to get data regarding water levels for Michigan streams and rivers -

Data for other states are also available by clicking the drop down at the top right hand side of the page.

Fishing your fly

Posted by fountainheadflyfish on May 31, 2009 at 5:54 AM Comments comments (0)

Twenty five years ago when I first started to fish seriously for trout in what has now become my home river, I was puzzled.  I had already been fly fishing in lakes for bass and panfish for 15 years, so I was pretty fair caster.  I was also very well read,so I had a good understanding of entomology as well as having been well schooled in the concept of dead drift.  All that said, I wasn’t catching any fish.  And I knew they were there.  I often fished with riends who were new fly fishers, and they consistently at least caught a few fish each time out.  I knew my technique, experience and knowledge was superior, but my friends always out fished me.  If  truth be told, about the only time I lucked out into a fish was when I was walking thru the currents, dragging my fly behind me.

I can’t place my finger on exactly when the light bulb turned on, but at some point, I came to realize the fact that dead drift was not always what the fish wanted.  As a matter of fact, more often than not, the fish responded MUCH better when the fly was actively manipulated.  This was a revelation, since I came to understand this simple fact,  I’ve caught fish.

I have a confession to make, I am a dry fly bigot.  I know fish spend most of their time feeding subsurface, but I like to catch my fish on top, where I can see them.  So I've spent alot of time on the water fishing dry flies. A second thing that's important to note, the rivers I fish contain large populations of caddis flies, there are some may fly hatches, but there are caddis on the water almost continuously.  

So I want a dry fly that I can fish in a variety of ways.  When I first started fishing a long time ago, I assumed that you always want to fish a dry dead drift.  I've come to find that in the rivers I fish, Iprobably catch only 25% of my fish on a dead drift.  The rest of the fish are caught when I'm actively manipulating the fly.  I may be skating, skittering, or swinging the fly.  I also will often fish the fly damp, fishing it just below the surface.  So I want a fly that is a pretty strong floater, on one cast I'll be skittering it, on the next, skating it, and then after a few false casts, fishing it dead drift.


The other thing about fishing the rivers I do, it's very rare that there is a true blanket hatch going on, maybe only 5 or 10% of the time.  More often there is a smattering of species present, a few of these, a few of those.  So I'm not looking for an exact representation of anything, I want a fly that is pretty impressionistic.  Let the fish use it's imagination to figure out what it sees.  I feel this gives me a shot to catch a fish regardless of what the last morsel it just ate.  Since it's rare there is a blanket hatch, it's most common to see a sporadic fish feeding here, and one feeding over there.  I find it's great if you can cover a fish right after it just took a natural. He/she justate something good, and all of a sudden he/she sees another one toeat.  So again, I want an impressionistic pattern, nothing too specific.


Of course your waters and conditions may vary, but give it a try, nexttime you have a dry on, to give it a small jerk, or tweek, or let it drag like a bat out of Hades.