Hook and Cook and Fun: seiryu rods for catch and keep fisheries

Keiryu-caught stocked rainbows getting ready to become "shore lunch"

Keiryu-caught stocked rainbows getting ready to become "shore lunch"

Chris Stewart of TenkaraBum.com is very much my mentor in exploring the world of tenkara and related fishing methods. Most of this is largely because I read his site religiously, and whenever he posts about something like the micro egg fly, the radically simple overhand worm fly, or ultralight worm fishing I rush to the nearest water to try it out. I have also met and fished with Chris and I can tell you that he is the real deal: he loves to fish, he loves to get people interested in new ways of fishing, and he is an all-around great guy.

So when I saw his latest post on his website and realized it was inspired by me I was very flattered! In the post he lays out one of the major goals I hope to accomplish here at Ozark Tenkara: I'd love to spread the gospel of keiryu fishing for trout. Many trout fisheries throughout the country have coldwaters that will support trout, but are not favorable for trout spawning. These waters are heavily stocked with hatchery rainbow trout to support "catch and keep" or "hook and cook" fisheries. People want to catch and eat fish, and I think keiryu would be an ideal method for them.

As an example, let's take a look at one of the fisheries where I'd like to start a keiryu guiding service, the Beaver Lake Tailwater on the White River of NW Arkansas. When I searched for trout fishing guides for the area on Facebook, I found lots of pictures of smiling clients posing next to limits of modest rainbow trout on a cleaning station table, so there is obviously a demand for "hook and cook" fishing here.

This 7-mile stretch of river is a mixed species fishery, with large numbers of rainbow trout (projected 96,000 fish for 2018) stocked to support a harvest fishery and modest numbers (6000 for 2018) of brown trout stocked to provide potential trophy fishing. There is a special management area allowing only barbless hooked artificial lures, but the majority of the tailwater allows bait fishing with a single barbed hook. There is a harvest limit of 5 trout. Only one trout over 16" may be kept, and all trout between 13-16" must be released.

Here's where keiryu comes in: the slot limit. One of the concerns regarding bait fishing and catch and release is post-release mortality rate. The classic slip-sinker and Powerbait rig is very likely to result in deeply hooked fish. The same is true of 3-way drift rigs. With spinning tackle and passive fishing tactics, the angler often has a great deal of line out. By the time the angler realizes a fish has taken the bait and sets the hook, the bait could be halfway down the fish's esophagus.

What is needed is an active bait fishing method with a relatively short, tight line and a very sensitive strike indication system and preferably barbless hooks. This is exactly what keiryu provides, and trout caught keiryu fishing are rarely deep hooked. Instead, the hook ends up in the jaw, exactly like a fly. So we can bait fish and safely release those slot limit fish (and I'd recommend releasing the browns and bigger rainbows, but they're legal to keep so I'm not going to stop anyone if they insist.)

Given the modest size of the average trout in this fishery (a 2010 electrofishing survey found that 70% of the trout in the system were in the 11"-13" range), I think the longer length (4.5+ m) seiryu rods would be better suited to the task than more robust keiryu rods.

My concerns are rod weight, cost, and "fun factor." I want a light rod that won't wear out a client, that doesn't cost an arm and a leg, and provides an exciting fishing experience. While there are relatively inexpensive long keiryu rods like the Nissin 2-Way Yu Yu Zan series, these rods are relatively heavy. There are very light long keiryu rods like the Suntech Kurenai Long 61, but these rods are much more expensive. As for fun factor, a modest rainbow trout will put up an exciting fight with a long seiryu rod.

But what about the occasional "big" fish? Chris Stewart's fishing buddy Coach says we often underestimate the ability of a long soft rod to subdue sizable fish. I've seen pictures of impressive fish Coach has caught with the seemingly very delicate Suntech Kurenai HM39R seiryu rod, and I've tangled with and landed a few good-sized fish (including a 10" smallmouth bass that may have provided the single most exciting fishing experience of my entire life) with the even shorter Kurenai HM30R, so I think that the very affordable, light, and slightly more robust Daiwa Seiryu-X rods (rated for 5x tippet instead of 6.5x) in the longer lengths should be ideal for this fishery. You may not land every one of the 16+" fish, but you will certainly have a very exciting fight on your hands. 

I have  Seiryu-X 45 and 64 rods in shipment to me as we speak. Testing will commence as soon as my schedule permits!