On July 21st Zen heads for the seventh consecutive year, back to Rapids Camp Lodge in Alaska. This home-away-from home lodge is a place of pure indulgence. They own both a Beaver and an Otter float place plus a jet that picks you up in Anchorage and is part of their full-service and daily fly-out package. I’ve written about RCL several times over the years so I won’t get into it here. But trust me, this place is heaven on earth.
In July the weather in King Salmon, AK can be varied. Some days it might reach the mid-70’s, be bright and sunny. Other days might only reach 45 degrees and be wet and overcast. When packing, it’s a bit of a crap shoot and you need to check the weather prior to loading up your luggage and then still be prepared for wide weather swings.
Since we’ve been there many times, gear picks are easy. Although Rapids Camp Lodge has waders, boots and rods (both conventional, tenkara and even spin gear), to borrow, we prefer whenever possible, to bring our own. I will be packing my waders, boots, and an 8wt.
For my tenkara arsenal I’ll pack a Suimenka and a Kyojin (just in case the silver are in). Usually a 15ft Zen Fusion Line in Light is all I need for the Suimenka. And this setup covers about 95% of the water there. I’ll also bring up a 28ft Zen Fusion Line BIG for the Kyojin and possibly another long line – 20ft, for the Suimenka, again, just in case. It’s really that simple. I don’t need much more than that. Generally we are using 8lb test tippet and 20lb for the silvers. Whenever I travel, even if it’s just a relatively short hike, I always bring along an extra tip because accidents can happen. For Alaska, I like the Performance Tip on the Suimenka. This helps with casting the bead-patterns-with-weight setup we use when targeting rainbows, and the Performance Tip also gives me a faster hook set and more control in high or fast water.
Greenland is a whole different story. To begin, I have never travelled there, let alone fished there. The fish and the water will be new, so choosing the best tenkara rod to use will take some careful consideration. The conventional equipment is easy. Breakaway Classic Adventures will be hosting us. They provide a packing list which recommends a 6wt and an 8wt. This gives you an idea of the size fish we’ll be getting into. The list also includes:
- 2x 9ft Leaders
- 2x Tippet Spool
- 0x 7.5ft Leaders
- 0x Tippet Spool
- Reels should have 200yd 20olb Backing
I’d say we will be dealing with some sizable fish. Strong ones for sure. So which rod out of the Zen lineup can tackle that? The Kyojin II is an easy pick for the “just in case scenario”. I’d like a chance to target some real monsters so bringing the Kyojin is a must. But I’m guessing like most locations, most of the fish are in the mid-sized range meaning 5-6lb, with occasional shots at fish in the 10-14lb range. It’s a toss up between the Suimenka and the Taka. Hear’s my thinking.
I bring the Suimenka to Alaska each year. It performs awesome on big, fat rainbows, char, dolly varden and even chum salmon. Many of the streams we fish in the Bristol Bay area are narrow. The Suimenka is a shorter zoom rod (9ft/11ft or 10ft/12ft) with trememndous backbone. It’s a fast action rod and gives me a lot of turning power and control over the fish. This allows me to manage big fish in tight places. It’s also benifical when you are casting very heavy setups or if you are dealing with a lot of wind. Both of which apply to Alaska.
In Greenland wind is a probability, plus, the flies we’ll be using are size #2 and #4 streamers and the same size beaded nymphs. Include some beefy dries and terrestrials and your tenkara rod has to have some stiffness to it or you will struggle immensely just to cast with that much weight hanging from your line and off a soft tip. The Taka is a long zoom rod, 13ft/15ft and it too has a lot of backbone. The Taka rod by some, is considered a “fast action” rod (especially at the shorter length setting). You can feel it has power, but there is much more of it to bend, to flex, to give, when you consider its long length. That can be a benefit or a hinderance depending on the scenario.
I believe most of where we will be fishing in Greenland is wide open. Backcasts should be easy and there won’t be many trees or bushes around. The rivers will be more freestone with a much less pronounced bank. Maneuverability should be easier than in Alaska. The Taka rod can hold on to really big fish and tire them out quickly. It’s a lot of rod and can absorb tons of pressure. So the Taka should be very effective on those bigger, upper catagory fish.
After lengthy consideration, and hours of pondering, the Taka is the winner. I’ll be taking it with me, paired with a few extra Performance Tips, just in case. And of course, a Kyojin II will also be packed for opportunities I may get at any monsters. Again, the 15ft Zen Fusion Line/Light is an absolute and I’ll bring a 20ft one too since the water there is gin clear and pretty shallow. Stealth may be an issue. A 16ft and a 28ft Fusion Line/Big will be packed for the Kyojin, just in case.
Finally, for flies, I was told by the owner, Indrek, “any pretty colored flies work whether its steelhead, salmon or char.” I took his advice and filled my fly boxes with pink, orange, purple and bright, sparkly, flashy streamers that should be a ton of fun to cast. A few heavier nymphs were also included, a handful of big a** terrestrials like chubbys and chernobayls and I couldn’t resist a couple of mouse patterns since after a bit of research, I discovered there are mice in Greenland, again, just in case.
In the Part 2 article I’ll cover my packing list, minus rods, flies and tippet. Stay tuned and thanks for reading.