Tenkara Angler - Spring 2017

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Spring 2017 tenkaraangler.com


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Photo: Isaac Tait


From The Editor

Spring is Here - Bring On The Fish!

Thank you for taking the time to page through this issue of Tenkara Angler. Holy smokes, 140 pages of content in this quarter's edition. One hundred and forty! Not only is this the largest issue of Tenkara Angler to date, but I'd also argue that it could be considered the best. There were so many fantastic submissions at this particular magazine's deadline, I really didn't want to omit any, so I didn't. For online readers, that won't mean much, but for the few of you that purchase print copies of Tenkara Angler, I do want to note that as a result of the additional pages, I had to reduce the paper quality from the on-demand printer from "Premium" to "Economy" in order to keep the retail price around $25. It is still a going to be a high quality end product, just wanted to make you aware of the change. With about 30 pages of extra content, I trust no issues.

I also wanted to thank everybody that entered this issue's cover photo contest. I received a handful of submissions, and decided to name three winners - Paul Gaskell (front cover), Steven Smith (back cover), and Brian Schiele (inside back cover). Congratulations to all three of you, I'll be in touch shortly regarding your prizes! As far as what's inside this issue, well... I don't want to spoil too much of the surprise. You'll definitely find submissions from names familiar and new that include essays, technique, destination travel, fly tying, original art, two long-form interviews, and a bunch of other awesomeness too cool to tease. So stop reading this and get to flipping pages. It's been a joy putting together this issue, I'm certain you'll enjoy it!

Michael Agneta Editor In Chief




Photo: Isaac Tait

Do you want to contribute to the next issue of Tenkara Angler? Tenkara or conservation-themed articles, essays, y tying recipes, gear reviews, tips, tricks, & photography are all fair game!

See www.tenkaraangler.com for more information


Tenkara Micro Cosmos

Immerse yourself in a world of its own, discover details and be captivated. From endless inďŹ nity, this snapshot is composed in a tenkara micro cosmos made by Claudia Niedermair.





Notes on Unconventional Tenkara


Mike Lutes & Matt Sment

Mike with a good Machaca

If the social media sites are any indicator, I think it is safe to say that the “Tenkara Wars” are over. Perhaps now we can all agree that while tenkara has a specific definition in Japan, here in the U.S. we are apt to call any fixed-line fly fishing tenkara. Let the purists do their thing and the innovators and experimenters will continue to explore this thing some have called American Tenkara. I purchased my first tenkara rod with visions of using it on the tumbling free stone streams in my region. But like many


of us here in the U.S., I took one look at it and thought “well, what else can I do with this thing?” Panfish were the first nontrout targets, but my horizons broadened quickly. As the conditions and fish species diversified, so did my gear and techniques. Let us not forget that tenkara was developed as a method to catch a few species of fish in a specific environment. Is it really that surprising that so many anglers here in the U.S. have modified traditional tenkara to suit their pursuits? The Japanese love baseball and have been

playing it for almost 150 years. Their game is a little different than ours, but I don’t see anyone telling them it is not baseball.

Stretching to the Meet the Challenges of Spring Creek Trout

I was delighted with how effective my tenkara rod was on higher-gradient free stone streams here in Wisconsin. Sure, brook trout are not all that selective about fly patterns, but I think the ability to pick apart pocket water with a tenkara rod certainly helped. Our success, though, was not translating on the crystal-clear spring creeks which make up the majority of the fishing opportunities in our region. Here we differ from convention. The widespread advice seems to be to use 2-3 feet of tippet, 5x or 4x. Our spring creek browns don’t seem to care for this set up. As a general rule, we rig a tippet section that is the longest possible length that will turn the fly over properly in cooperation with our line choice. This usually ends up being between 5-6 feet. Switching to this longer tippet length created a dramatic improvement in our catch rate on Wisconsin’s glass-clear spring creeks.


Toothy Critters

The 2016 season was the Year of the Toothy Critter for Badger. Mike caught several Northern pike, what we believe is the largest muskie landed on a tenkara rod, and a lesser known central American fish called the Machaca. This season, we hope to spend more time chasing fish with intimidating dentition on a tenkara rod. We learned a lot about targeting these species that we’ll put to use this year:

Rod: You’re gonna’ need a bigger rod. Several tenkara companies now sell a “big fish” rod. If you are serious about pursuing the toothy fish, you will want one. Not that you can’t land small to medium pike on your “standard” 12 foot tenkara rod, but it is fitting that for bigger fish you need a bigger rod. That being said, while pike are certainly savage in their strikes, the fight is not the same as, say, a smallmouth bass of equal mass. While a certain amount of “backbone” is required, an overly stiff rod that fishes like a 2x4 isn't the answer. An ideal rod won’t max out in either direction - you want it to stay loaded and flexing while the fish moves. We took this into account when we redesigned our popular WISCO rod, and softened the action a bit. The WISCO 2 will be more dynamic but still strong enough to dig in its heels against a larger fish. Line: Floating line all the way. You can still use very light line, and with such a long lever it is still easy to turn over larger flies. For big fish on open water, we typically rig with a rod length + 2-4 feet of line, and 6-8 feet of “tippet”. Yeah, those quotation marks are there for a good reason, read on! Tippet: Here is where the biggest difference occurs. No more 5x. You can use a pre-packaged steel bite tippet with your tenkara rod. You will have no problem casting it with a “big fish” rod and floating line. Make certain to rig a “break away” section between the bite tippet and fly line by tying in a length of monofilament with a test rating appropriate to your rod - steel bite tippet


will not break if you need to disconnect from a snag or if your rod is outgunned! What I like better than the bite tippet is using about 18-24 inches of heavy monofilament line at the “fly end” of your tippet with a breakaway section of lighter monofilament between that and your fly line. From butt end to fly, it would look like this: lightweight fly line equal to length of rod or slightly longer, roughly 4 foot section of monofilament (6-10 pound test, depending on the recommendations of your rod manufacturer and your own riskbenefit analysis), roughly 2 foot section of heavy monofilament (20-30 pound or heavier). The thick mono line is rather abrasion resistant and less likely to be sliced by sharp teeth. It is cheaper than


WISCO Smallmouth Bass


bite tippet and can be changed out if it gets roughed up. It is also slightly more graceful to cast. These toothy fish are not tippet-shy, so you don’t need to worry about line thickness that much. Fly Patterns: Streamers. Big ones. I actually caught the muskie on a three inch purple streamer, and some of the pike were caught on a size 4 bass streamer, but in general, big flies with lots of action are the way to go. You would be surprised at how easy they are to cast with a tenkara rod. I won’t go into too much detail on fly patterns, as that could obviously be a whole article or book, but think long, wavy streamers. Techniques: Fairly straightforward here,

just cast and retrieve, varying the rate of the retrieve and pauses to the fish’s liking. If you have a little weight on the streamer, you will get more of a jig action when you pause, but straight retrieve will also work. Strikes are usually not subtle. Keep the rod tip as high as possible to keep the line away from the teeth. Have a net handy.

Smallmouth Bass

If you have not chased smallmouth bass with tenkara, you are missing out on what we think is probably the most fun you can have with a tenkara rod. Whether wade fishing (my favorite) or fishing from a boat, the violent strikes and fighting heroics of the smallmouth can’t be beat! If you are wade fishing, your standard 12 foot tenkara rod is probably still fine. We have both caught smallmouth in the high teens with our Badger Tenkara Classic rod. If you are fishing a bigger river with stronger current from a boat, you would be better off a “big fish” rod. Lightweight floating line is our hands down favorite line choice. Save your expensive tippet for the trout! For wade fishing, we use inexpensive 6 pound test monofilament. I bought a spool of it about 5 or 6 years ago for a few bucks and still have it. Around 6 feet is a good length. Consult your rod specs for maximum tippet section test. Size 4 or 6 flies are about right. Having some weight is nice. If fish are taking on the surface, a faster retrieve will keep your fly more in the zone, or pack some weighted and unweighted options. Dries and nymphs can work in certain


conditions, and poppers are a blast, but streamers will produce with the most consistency. Inspection warning! Bass have very abrasive teeth. Make sure to inspect your tippet-to-fly connection after every catch, otherwise the “wear and tear” might cause you to snap-off on the next fish. As a precaution - you might reconnect the fly every couple of fish to make sure the system is strong and intact, or use a short length of more durable 30lb or 40lb test mono as a bite guard at the end of your monofilament section to connect the fly.

Tenkara on the Drift (Boat)

We’ve been fortunate enough to have had numerous opportunities to fish with my tenkara rods on different configurations of drift boats. Tenkara offers some distinct advantages in this setting versus traditional fly fishing, but there are a couple of noteworthy considerations to be aware of. First, the advantages. If you’ve ever fished from a boat with a conventional fly rod, you no doubt will have had coils of fly line snag on something at the most inopportune time. With a tenkara rod, you simply hold the line at the ready. No tangling on the oarlocks or around your feet. You can launch a cast a lot faster than with a standard fly rod as you are not playing out (or taking in) line. If you are actually moving, this aspect of tenkara fishing is really helpful for prospecting multiple likely lies in short order. Your guide needn’t worry about getting hooked with your back cast when the rod is 12 or 14 feet long. It is also far easier to cast


Mike with a Tenkara Musky


from a seated position with a tenkara rod than a standard fly rod. So, you will get more casts on target with less fuss, which most days should get you more hook ups. There are a couple of distinct disadvantages to discuss. First, snags are problematic. If you are out with a guide or a friend’s boat, I would suggest you discuss how to handle snags before you begin the float. If you are drifting in fast moving water and snag, your best bet may be to drop the rod if you can’t quickly free the snag. I have not found a tenkara rod yet that doesn’t float, so assuming your guide can reposition the boat, the best bet may be to drop the rod and go back and get it. I think it is safe to say that far more tenkara rods are broken by snags than fish. One also needs to decide how heavy to go with


tippet. Heavier tippet may mean fewer lost fish but also increases the chances of breakage when dealing snags. Secondly, If you are fishing from a boat and a big fish runs in strong current, you have limited options on how to play that fish. You cannot reposition yourself much as you would while wading or on shore, and there is only so much give in your system. I have lost fish from drift boats that I think I could have landed if wade fishing. Make sure you bring your “big fish A game” and think hard about how heavy you want your tippet to be. Your tenkara rod can be a ticket to a variety of fishing adventures. Don’t be afraid to do something unconventional with it!


Fresh Off The Vise Jayson Singe



Tenkara In The Clouds Andrew M. Wayment


“There is divinity in the clouds.”

-Lailah Gifty Akita Pearls of Wisdom: Great Mind

With the Arkansas River totally blown out for the second year in a row, Shawn and I had to find another place to fish on our last day of annual Colorado fishing trip. Our friend, Josh Houchin planned to join us and we met up at Barry’s Den in Texas Creek to discuss our options over breakfast. Their green chili smothered omelets always put a hum in my tum. During breakfast, we talked about tenkara and all of the negativity it gets from other fly fishers. Brother Shawn has often teased me about tenkara by using that meme with the oriental dude in class that yells out, “HA! GAY!!!” “I have no opinion on tenkara whatsoever. I just like to give you a hard time,” Josh replied. I boldy responded, “I really don’t care what others say about tenkara. It’s fun and it works. I let the fish be the judge. ”


When we finally decided to fish Can’t Tell Ya Creek in the Sangre De Cristos Mountains, Josh proclaimed, “That won’t hurt my feelings one bit. That is my favorite place in the whole world.” Josh, a career army man from Kansas, was stationed at Fort Carson in Colorado Springs at the time, and had just received word that he was being transferred back east. So he knew his time at this special place was limited. Brother Shawn had introduced Josh to this creek years earlier as he was teaching Josh to fly fish. Both the lesson and the creek obviously stuck.

The Sangre De Cristos, which means “the blood of Christ,” are towering red-tinted mountains with numerous peaks over 14,000 feet. To get to the prime waters on Can’t Tell Ya Creek, you have to hike up quite a ways. The fishing is good all along the way, but especially above treeline.

Shawn and I had fished this creek together two times before, including the previous year. However, on that day, I was worried that the creek was too tight for tenkara and borrowed a fiberglass rod and reel from Shawn. We had a great day and caught a lot of beautiful fish.

This year, I was determined to fish nothing but tenkara come hell or highwater. I opted to use my Tenkara USA Rhodo rod as it is adjustable to different lengths, which would come in handy on some of the tighter spots. Having fly fished now for over twenty years, I can attest that tenkara is every bit as effective as traditional fly fishing on small mountain creeks, maybe even more so.

As we drove to our destination, we climbed up quickly in elevation from the valley floor onto a forest road that ended in a patch of quaking aspens. After we parked, we took to the trail and hiked as quickly as we could up into the pines. Along the trail, we saw numerous Columbines, the Colorado state flower, which are some of the prettiest wild flowers I’ve ever seen.

After about a half mile, we crossed the icycold creek, and then started to fish a few of the holes. At one point, Josh showed us where he caught “Bob,” a chunky resident brook trout. He let me try for him, but we did not find him. Josh mentioned, “The


The author fishes a nice run. The flower in the photo is called, Purple Monkey Flower (Mimulus Lewissi). I've only seen this flower along pristine AAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAA AAA high mountain streams.

runoff blew out the log jam that was here and Bob must have moved on.” We fished many of the creek’s holes on the way up. Renegades and Double Renegades were the perfect fly for this high mountain creek and, after he came up fishless, I gave Josh a Red-butted Double Renegade so he could get the skunk off. I showed Josh and Shawn, a technique that I call “Skittering,” which is when you cast the fly and then drag it either upstream or cross current to trigger a strike. Tenkara is perfect for this technique because with the longer rod, you can get most of your


line and leader off the water so that only the hackles of the fly disturb the water’s surface. The cutthroat of this creek went nuts over this technique and I giggled, hooted, and hollered with each fish. I love all cutthroat, but the fish of this creek are the most beautiful cutthroat I have ever seen. The higher we went, the better the fishing. We mostly fished together and cheered each other on. Once we hiked above the treeline, the stream’s gradient leveled out some and the runs were longer and held


Josh Houchin with a beautiful little cutthroat

more fish. The casting was easy and the fishing was excellent. We all took turns at one beautiful run and caught twenty to thirty fish on Renegades. The camaraderie with Josh and Shawn made for as pleasant a day as I have ever had on the stream. I talked Josh into trying tenkara at this open spot overlooking a waterfall with a deep hole below. I showed Josh the skittering technique in the hole below us and told him to go for it. Josh cast a few times, skittered the fly back upstream and quickly caught an eager cutthroat. They can’t resist the skitter! After he lined the

fish to hand, he placed the cork grip of the rod in his teeth so he could hold the line in one hand and release the fish with the other. He then grabbed the rod and yelled out, “Good Stuff, man!” I can’t say that Josh will become a tenkara fisherman, but he certainly gained a respect for it and learned firsthand that it is fun. Once we made it back to the trail above treeline, the clouds in the otherwise blue sky looked so close at such altitude, I almost felt I could reach out and touch them. I can see why Josh and Shawn love this creek so much. I hated to leave.


Shawn Wayment fights a fish from the top of a waterfall Simply Beautiful


On the way home, we stopped at a nearby Mexican restaurant (can you expect anything different from a Wayment Brothers?). As we enjoyed our food, Josh said, “I had a total blast fishing with you guys today. Andy, I have never fished with anyone who exhibits as much genuine childlike enthusiasm and excitement as you. It was a true pleasure to fish with you.”

For me, I could think of no better compliment. “Right back at you buddy. I’d spend a day on the water with you any time.” I replied. Isn’t that why we go fishing? To feel that wide-eyed wonder of a child again? Tenkara in the clouds is the perfect way to reconnect with the inner child.


Like a kid on Christmas every time!

Peeping Caddis Kebari Stephen Myers

Originated from Ralph D'Andrea's Peeping Caddis Nymph Pattern The peeping caddis is meant to imitate many of the cased caddis that we see in our local waters, with the added bonus of having a "peeping" larvae (chartreuse chenille) exposed at the rear of the fly. This is a great pattern for any stream or river with populations of caddis flies. Add some wraps of non-lead wire and fish it along the bottom or tie it unweighted and let it roll across the riffles. It's up to you.


- Hends Barbless BL 254 Nymph/Wet Fly Hook - Size 8 - 6/0 Thread (Green, Black, or Grey) - Small Chartreuse Chenille - India Hen Soft Hackle (Speckled Grey) - Masterblend XB English Hares Ear Dubbing Step 1: Wrap the thread down to the bend of the hook and back just behind the eye.

Step 2: Tie in the chenille just behind the eye and make securing wraps back to the bend of the hook.

Step 3: Form a dubbing noodle on your thread with the hares ear dubbing.

Step 4: Make wraps forward with the dubbed thread. Try to keep an even taper up to just behind the hook eye.

Step 5: Build a tapered thread base behind the hook eye to tie in your soft hackle feather.

Step 6: Stroke back the fibers of the soft hackle feather to get an easy tie in portion, then tie in the feather with the bowl shape of the feather facing upward.

Step 7: Make one wrap of the soft hackle feather around the hook and secure the feather with a few wraps of thread. Add some super glue to the thread and take two or three more wraps around the hook.

Step 8: Add some hares ear dubbing to the thread and take a three turn whip finish around the hook to secure the thread. Cut or clip the thread. You're finished!












Photo: John Pearson

Interview: Isaac Tait Adam Trahan

I am excited to interview Isaac Tait. It is as simple as that. I have been reading Isaacsan’s stories at his web site, “Fallfish Tenkara” written in English from his adventures in Japan for a while now. I could feel what was going on through his words, this guy is passionate about what he does, and he writes with the freshness of someone new at Tenkara yet his stories are filled with sage advice. My own trip to Japan was coming up and I contacted him about my plans to visit Keiichi Okushi and Yuzo Sebata. At the time, I did not know if Go Ishii was going to join us, our plans had not been fully realized. Isaac already had previous engagements but I knew plans sometimes


change, usually what happens is you make a plan and the best things happen around that plan. That is exactly what happened when I met Isaac. We finally met at an old guard house in Tadami, it is called a “Bansho” or a guard house. In the old days’ samurai were stationed there to protect the assets of the land. Isaac’s previous trip did not come together, but still this was a great opportunity for him and even myself. I understood disappointment but I really wanted to meet and introduce him to Keiichi and Sebata-san and now, as our plan together started to happen, Ishii-san and Adam-chan entered the fray. I had just gotten back from the genryū fishing where we overnighted at a tenba

(tarp camp) and everything in my pack was soaked. I was wearing clothes that I had left behind that were already worn a couple of days. I felt a little dirty and soaked to the bone from climbing mud slopes, I needed to shower and to put on some clean clothes. I was very tired and a little bit overwhelmed with what I had been through; but there was Isaac and his little kei van at the Bansho, his hand outstretched; “Hello Adam, it is a pleasure to meet you.” “Hello Isaac! I am so glad to meet you too!” We talked a little bit and I found out that he too was in need of a dryer for his clothes, which were also soaked from fishing. Before we knew it, we were in the small-town laundry, pulling out gear from our bags and throwing it into the big dryers. Our gear was similar and we made small talk as we waited in the laundry. My fishing gear was spread out and my small strap pack was on the laundry table and I pulled out my fly box. I had tied a couple of dozen kebari for the trip. I showed him my one fly version and gave him some samples. I noticed he was grateful and smiled putting those kebari away. Little did I know that moment would come back later in a surprise. We have some similarities in our lives, we are both Americans in Japan and Tenkara fishing is our passion. We are writers sharing our adventures and both of us knew that we were in a special position in the presence of some very great people with a long history that goes back deep into the very history of Tenkara. Both of us also understood that this history was


being carried on by Keiichi and friends. I wanted nothing more than to introduce him to these friends so that he could make those connections. I was part of something that was supposed to happen and Isaac had listened and answered that call. Looking back, I was on the right track indeed, so was Isaac-san. But now I am in the future, somehow I knew all this would happen. We talked about this interview back then. We have charted our course and now we are living the adventures we have created. How cool is that? It is early morning now, nearly two months after our meeting. The house is silent, but I have some of my favorite music playing. Music that I had been playing at the time while I was in Japan. Music brings back memories for me and I want to remember these things sharply - and now I do. With that, I will begin. Adam: Isaac-san! Here we are, we are doing it again albeit a little differently. I think it’s best before diving right in, let us get some of the basics going. Can you tell us a little bit about yourself? Isaac: Good morning Adam-san! First let me say thank you for taking the time to interview me, I am honored! Let me see where should I begin…? I was born in late 1983, so that makes me 33 I guess – but sometimes I feel like my life is just beginning. There is so much to see and enjoy in this great big world.


I am married to a gorgeous woman and we just adopted a Japanese boy who was born New Year’s Day of 2017. I am a U.S. Marine. I signed up when I was 17 for the infantry – Light Armored Vehicles specifically. I got out after 9.5 years and two combat deployments in 2010. My favorite color is red (and white but that is not really a color… ), I prefer whiskey over beer, and I am a dog person. Adam: I’m 56, married to a lovely gal and we have a son, Noah, who is 9. I also have two older boys from a previous marriage, Jacob and Elijah, all of them Tenkara anglers. I work in cardiology as a technician, I’ve done this sort of work my whole life after I got out of the army in the 80’s. I have a long history as a surfer, skater and a foot launched soaring pilot. I only dabble in those things now; I’m pretty beat up from them and I pour my energy into Tenkara now. My computing is self-taught. I am not technical, I know html, ftp and some backend stuff for C.M.S. I produce a portal as you know and Tenkara-Fisher is not a commercial success but it is the most successful site that I have built, maintained and I know that it is my favorite project online. I think you get the idea, this is not about me though, it’s about you.


Isaac, please tell us about your interests on publishing a Tenkara web site in Japan? Isaac: When we (my wife and I) moved to Japan I was definitely overwhelmed trying to


figure out where to fish, when to fish, and how to get to the rivers. My wife is a doctor in the U.S. Navy and that is how we found ourselves in Japan in the first place. There was not much in the way for satisfying employment for me and since we moved there in the Fall I could not fish. Consequently, I had a lot of time to kill. So, I began building Fallfish Tenkara. At first I envisioned it as a venue for my writing (something I like to do) but after about six months or so I began to be contacted by anglers asking questions about fishing in Japan. At that point I switched gears and began to build Fallfish Tenkara as resource for anglers of any bent looking to travel to Japan. Adam: I use Macintosh computers, Apple products. My mother gave me her Mac back in the early 90’s. I took to it easily after struggling to configure a PC into something I wanted to use but was unable to love. My PC was nothing more than a gaming console back then and it really sucked. It was cool, I could simulate flying a glider in thermals with Microsoft “Flight” and play mystery games with my friends, “Myst” comes to mind, really fun stuff but I knew I was wasting my time. I knew instead of using up my time, a computer was for painting, creating. I just couldn’t do it with a PC. The Mac worked for me. I began to write about small stream fly fishing I was doing. I was using my fly fishing to get away from hang gliding. I had to divorce myself from it because I could not invest the time I needed to continue on a high level of soaring cross country. It took too much of my time and the stakes were too high for me. Some of my friends had died doing it and that was sobering, it brought me down.


So, I continued the “up” with my fly fishing the little streams near the top of the mountains I was hiking in. It worked, I’m satisfied and what you see here is a continuation of my passion for what I do. Isaac-san, how about your Tenkara lifestyle? I know you climb and do other mountain sports. I’m pretty sure I understand you on this so I will go there. How has Tenkara (minimalism) affected other things you do? Isaac: I too prefer Macs! My first computer was a Macintosh Plus from 1986 I believe. Years later I bought an iPod Mini 2nd Generation in Apple Green with my first credit card! All my laptops have been Macs too. Solid hardware for sure.

When I got back from Afghanistan in 2010 I was looking for peace mostly. It had been a rough deployment with too many good men lost. It was then that I began to think a lot more about fly fishing. Something about it was calling to me, but I could not afford the initial investment for equipment. So, I put it on the backburner for a few years. I got into backcountry skiing instead at that time. Yeah, I know, it sounds like odd logic to consider skiing accessible financially but not fly fishing. Allow me to explain: at the time, I was on a mountain rescue team and I could justify the expense of buying ski equipment to my wife on the premise that I might need it on a future rescue operation. It is more difficult to justify fly fishing equipment as a necessary mountain rescue equipment purchase… I liked the idea of being able to escape deep


into the mountains on skis. My goal was to eventually combine skiing with my love of climbing mountains. I quickly realized though that my skiing had to improve exponentially before I could safely ski into the backcountry with a rope, trad rack, and camping gear… Through this learning process I began to realize the necessity of not just minimalism but good gear that was not too heavy. This served to prime me for Tenkara. Before I may have settled on a six piece Cabela’s Stowaway fly rod but through skiing I wanted something better than that. That is how I came to discover Tenkara – the necessity of lightweight compact gear that matched the calling of the freedom of the hills, that had been placed deep within me by a higher being.


Adam: Tenkara has profoundly affected me in a positive way - how I look at solving problems and how I communicate. I am a Tenkara fisherman and it was learned from the same flow that I took my first drink from, Japanese Tenkara learned from Daniel Galhardo. I had been exposed to it almost 20 years ago by Yoshikazu Fujioka but it took my own investigation, my own look into its history and now visiting Japan by myself. I have made long distance connections through my computer. I followed up with long flights in airliners to make those connections real. On the other side of my words are adventures planned and realized. My Japanese friends have met me and taken me in. Even though I am so culturally different, even though I sit under the tarp far up a river valley, in the rain, cold, tired and missing my family, I am still part of them - they know I am there


with them sharing the adventure and I will take these common experiences home and share them like I am now. …and I am learning their lifestyle. Being an America is so different but my friends, my fishing brothers in Japan know what I am after, the same things as they are. Tenkara and dreaming about it is a little magical. It’s a trick for sure, we wind feathers on a hook and send it out there with little more than a thought looking for excitement over and over. Tenkara can be ethereal, thinking, dreaming about it, dream up a trip and then do it and at the same time, it is real, fishing, friends and Japan. Japan and its culture are influential in my life, in my head and in my dreams. You have been reading my writing and know a little bit more about me… Isaac-san, I know you made some connections through our meeting. I know there is magic in there too. Can you tell us a little about it? Isaac: The Japanese people are the kindest, most warm people I have ever been blessed to meet. I have made so many friends over here in the Land of the Rising Sun. Let me back up a little and make an illustration… John Keegan wrote a splendid little book back in 1976 called “The Face of Battle” and in that book he wrote: “Mountains, like battlefields, are places inherently dangerous for the individual to

inhabit. It is less easy to get killed, of course, on a mountain, if one takes sensible precautions, than on a battlefield; yet the risk of death always stalks the climber, just as it attracts him to the mountains in the first place…” During my time in the Marine Corps I made friendships that were as strong or stronger than brotherhood. When I got out of the Marines I missed those friendships. The camaraderie was hard (if not impossible) to find in the civilian sector… As a child, I remember my father taking my brothers and I to Jenks Lake, a tiny manmade lake near Big Bear Lake in California. This lake was routinely stocked with Rainbow Trout. We were using spin rods with worms as bait. It was during these family trips that I made two observations at the tender age of nine or so:


One, my Dad spent about 90% of his time patiently untangling our lines (and I stood around with nothing to do waiting for him). Two, most of the grownups fishing on the banks were grossly out of shape men sitting in faded folding chairs, drinking cheap beer, and complaining about their wives. Nothing about fishing at the time interested me. A few decades later I discovered Tenkara; furthermore, I discovered that it was not only an adventure but could not have been further away from the fishing I had done as a child. Shortly after this discovery I moved to Japan where the adventure reached heights of excitement that I had almost never seen in America. You see, in Japan they combine mountain climbing with fishing and throw in some waterfall climbing too because they are

just that bad ass. I quickly discovered that my Japanese Tenkara friendships harkened back to my days in the Corps. While clutching to a suspect root a hundred feet above a roaring waterfall, when you are more worried about your friend than yourself and vice versa, the bonds of friendship are forged in a fire that is hard to find in this day in age. While I have yet to embark on a deathdefying adventure with the folks you (Adam) introduced me to at the Bansho, I know through the quiet and humble stories they tell (only after a few drinks) that not only are we cut from the same cloth but the bonds of our friendship have been forged by the dangerous yet captivating mountain streams of Japan. Adam: To see those pictures of you, Ishiisan and Yamano-san in his shop, it is amazing. You know I am sitting there with you guys. I know you know it. As you work those bamboo pieces, I am write there with you (I love a double entendre) and I am telling jokes, looking down the section of bamboo. I have got friends with me when I am there. Friends that I have taken along with me! Where are you at now with your project rods? Will you tell us a little more about them? Some time has passed since I started the interview. Have you fished the rod yet? Isaac: Ah yes, the bamboo rods. What a joy it has been to learn how to create a fishing rod out of something that was growing in the mountains, sustaining itself from the very nature that I “consume” to sustain myself! Go Ishii and I finished one rod, but it was very simple and rudimentary -mostly just to learn


the basics of edo wazao. We are actually starting on a much more refined rod now. It will probably take a year or so to finish. Normally a rod takes about three months to finish but Yamano-san lives in Kawaguchi which is about three-hours from my home, so I can only visit one day a month. I will be making a five piece Tenkara rod. I want something that I can carry in a backpack into the remote keiryu of Japan. Adam: I have made bamboo fly rods, have gone through the same sort of training with bamboo rod craftsmen here at home. I’ve learned a lot about bamboo already. So, when I saw Yamano-san’s shop, it reminded me of my own. Quite a bit different tooling but much in the same, a dream maker’s shop of magic wands. It’s true. There are so many different paths.


I read the other day, a Tenkara guy was writing about how “gin clear” a stream was. Funny, I think it’s a prerequisite that if you are going to call the water gin-clear, you have to know the bottom of a gin bottle. But he doesn’t drink but understood the term. I don’t know why that seems so funny to me… Speaking of gin, how about sake? Isaacsan, we drank some sake in the Bansho didn’t we? Sebata-san’s friends turned on the old Tenkara movies and I remember lying next to him as he sat on the stool next to the irori (indoor fire pit) and I looked over and there you were talking to Ito-san, Adamchan and Ishii-san, making new friends, drinking sake. It was a wonderful moment for me. Everything was as it should have been.

I’m lying on the floor next to Sebata-san watching Tenkara videos and I’m wondering how you are going to move forward with your new friends and experiences in the Bansho. Will you tell us what you were experiencing in that old house? Did you have any idea what was going to happen before you came? And after? Isaac: We did drink together in that Bansho, Adam. Several ochokos (small cylindrical cups) of superb sake, shochu, and Gentleman’s Jack if I am not mistaken. Honestly, I had no idea that the folks I met that night were to become such good friends. I hoped that it would happen, but I did not want to assume. Now many months later I have shared a table with them many times, been fishing together for wakasagi and haze, as well as enjoyed a few stream side BBQ’s, long train rides, and of course liter upon liter of sake, wine, and beer! To be honest throughout that night in the Bansho I was wishing I could speak better Japanese. The decades of experience in that one room is seldom replicated and I wanted to soak up as much knowledge as possible. Adam: Keiichi just sent me a note about a story he is writing about our visit. I just bet you will be in the story… I think we should get down to some nuts and bolts stuff. If you were not a keen Tenkara angler before you moved to Japan, you are now. The environment is much different there. It is an amazing place to fish.

You wrote about the kebari that I gave you. Apparently, you had a good day with it. Can you tell us a little bit about the way you look at and choose the fly? Isaac: When I first moved to Japan I used terrestrials, killer bugs, and pheasant tail flies. As I spent more time fishing in Japan I moved further away from “western” flies. Now I exclusively use a handful of patterns of Japanese kebari. Last season I was given several hand-tied kebari as gifts that resembled the headwaters of the Kurobe area kebari with red cock hackle, peacock herl, and black thread. That fly brought a lot of Iwana and Yamame to hand for me. Then I got your kebari and it was equally successful. This season I am hoping to whittle down the contents of my fly box even more and focus more on line control and fly manipulation to land fish instead of fly selection. Adam: I think kebari styles, rather, hackle types go along with the type of rod you are using. Not a hard and fast rule, nothing like that. I like a soft hackle with a long soft rod and slow moving water. I think that is some of my favorite fishing. Typically, you can drift and swim the fly, you see the take, you feel more of what is going on. I bet you have talked with Ishii-san about fishing the longest rod you can to get the line vertical, I happen to agree with him. I just added a non-zoom 4.5m rod into my small quiver, a Nissin Zerosum. I’ve been using that rod for #3 long line and soft hackle. I learned this from using my Ito which I really enjoy. Do you still use the Ito? I learned a lot with mine, can you give us some words on it?


Isaac: I do still use the Ito. It is one of my favorite rods. I know a lot of folks do not like the way it casts… For the rivers I fish it is a perfect rod. I have also found that the Three Rivers Tenkara Ultralight Floating lines cast beautifully with the Ito in both lengths, which helps overcome the awkward casting feel in the 14’7” length. Adam: For me, Tenkara is about skill, it isn’t about the equipment. I’ve found in my approach towards a stream, I like to use the longest rod I can get away with and a level line. As the rods get longer, the line gets longer too. If I’m using a relatively short rod such as 2.7m, I’ll use a line that is 3.5m long and on the longest single hand rod, a 4.5m, I use a 6m line. I used to try to use the lightest line I could and I experimented with #2 for quite some time. What I found is that with a #2, I was struggling with casting in any wind. I could not drive the cast as well with a that little line weight. My skill in controlling the line diminished with light lines but the presentation and vertical presentation was excellent. So, I went up to a #3, and then a #3.5 which I really like. I lost some of the delicacy but I made up with versatility. My vertical presentation was still ok but man, it was just so much easier in fishing conditions in my area. I’ve sort of settled on a #3.5 adding in a clear #3 tip section to a tippet ring. I have one line that I have been fishing for about a year now and I just love it. Isaac-san, will you geek out a little and tell us about your equipment of choice? What have you found that you like? Any story of



how you have developed your own style of Tenkara? Isaac: I am really excited to use my Zimmerbuilt Tailwaters pack this season. For several years, I was using a sling pack but I have a neck injury that never fully healed – so the sling pack is uncomfortable to carry for long periods of time; not to mention I could not carry a jacket in the sling pack because it was too small. I am also on my second pair of Montbell sawanobori boots this season. In my opinion sawanobori felt soled footwear is absolutely essential for genryū Tenkara in Japan. There is just too much rock climbing and waterfalls for one to wear any other type of footwear. I have heard a lot of good things about the Caravan footwear too, so I’ll probably pick up a pair of them too this season. Last but not least, I just ordered the Tenryu Furaibo TF39TA Tenkara rod from Keiichi Okushi-san. I am very excited to take that rod out on its maiden voyage. It will be my first Japanese Tenkara rod made in Japan – for that alone I think it will be worth the price tag. Plus I was fortunate enough to hold the rod at the 2017 Japan Fishing Show and I really liked the feel of the rod in my hand. Adam: I understand you have recently adopted a child, congratulations! My life as a husband and father are the best things I have ever done and personally, I’ve lived a full (gravity) sporting life, many times over compared to my life as a father. Do you have plans to return state side? What are your future plans for Tenkara either in Japan or America?


Isaac: Unfortunately, my stay in Japan does have an expiration date. Honestly, I am not looking forward to returning to the United States. I want to stay in Japan for the rest of my life. My wife and I are considering our options to return to Japan, we just have to tie up some loose ends first in the States. As for my site, I created Fallfish Tenkara to be a resource for any angler looking to travel to Japan. I would like to keep it that way. My plan is to create another website for my Tenkara adventures once I return to the United States. I have already selected another URL but I will keep that under wraps until the time draws nearer. Adam: I wish we could keep going on but I must wrap it up a little quickly, my apologies in advance. Please use this space to let us know anything you want. Thank you so much for sharing your life and enthusiasm for Tenkara with us Isaac Tait. Isaac: I would like to conclude with two

observations. The first, we all need water to survive. Our bodies are comprised of it. Fish live in it; and for untold thousands (even millions) of years water has been flowing from the mountains to the ocean. This to me defies all reason. The water never ceases, faithfully it proceeds even when unobserved. The unceasing nature of this world we inhabit is oftentimes easy to overlook and under-appreciate. Take the time next time you are on your local river to think on this… Secondly, it seems to me that not very many Tenkara anglers visit Japan. I think this should change. Japan is a phenomenally beautiful country, and not only is the fishing extraordinary but the culture, food, hospitality, and countryside are unlike anything in this world. If you have taken the time to read this entire interview you owe it to yourself to book a flight and pack your bag – and if you have any questions along the way, please do not hesitate to contact me directly.




Tenkara Off The Dock

ron P. swegman

Some of the now antique fishing books on Grandpa’s shelves have chapter titles like “Dock Fish” and some give reference to cane poles used for a catch of saltwater fish of eating size. “Saltwater Panfish” is another title one may stumble upon next to the World Series Baseball Almanac for 1960-something.

The snapper, or juvenile bluefish, a textbook example, are yearlings that reign the dominion of the east coast pier and have done so for many deserved years. Numerous, pugnacious, strong, a set of ten snapper Pomatomus saltatrix makes a legal limit island lunch to remember. And there is second famous dock fish of note: black sea bass (Centropristris striata), which finds home lower in the water column, hits slower retrieves bumping bottom, and


tastes just as tasty.

Long the quarry of the young and the ultralight angler such fish can be had by means of a technique much newer to the scene: Tenkara. The Japanese method of fly fishing without a reel has won over many mountain trout anglers since 2009. The telescoping rod’s much greater length and limber tip also make it a magic wand around the coved perimeter of a warmwater sunfish pond. The Salt, too, can be tackled off the dock by tenkara.

Pick a slower rod with a 7:3 flex ratio that can better handle breezes and heavier fly patterns. Decorated hooks will require a line. Seek out a quality tenkara Level Line, not traditional tapered, as silk does not wear salt as well as the fluorocarbon or

monofilament. Attach one cut to the length of the rod, usually twelve feet, knot on a small #7 barrel swivel, the opposite end tied to a straight leader of tippet; a 4X averaging around 6 lb. breaking strength. You will want the leader to be breakable in case a miscast hooks into a piling of wood; an admittedly occasional hazard.



Next, find that dock and fish. The style has been described over and again as "simple fly fishing" for its tackle's comparative simplicity.

Tenkara and the Black Sea Bass

I have been trying, toying in earnest, to infuse my tenkara with diversity through variety in waters flowing and still, freshwater and... salt. The black sea bass (those I have caught, lost, or otherwise released) on the tenkara rod have coerced me to believe this is a saltwater sporting equivalent to the green sunfish found in freshwater streams. Both fishes are a strong lover of the rocks and other cover, natural or wreck.

The black sea bass is by classification a grouper, a smaller one, hardier to colder temperatures, a member of the family more well-known by its southern relations, which range in color, pattern, and in size up to a 70’s fly Volkswagen beetle.

The black sea bass exhibits broad shoulders, a flank thickness like the green sunfish, dressed in pearled black scales that hold an iridescence that glows bright blue around and along the lateral line. Vermiculation of a similar color resembles that of the green sunfish. The size encountered off my Manhattan dock(s) range from six to twelve inches. Only the very few largest are potentially one in the hermaphroditic phase, an interesting fact of this fish, which sets in at around specimens of ten inches or longer, in weight reaching eight to ten pounds.

Fish take a fly firmly and quiver shake in resistance. Bright weighted streamers, say a chartreuse variety of size 4 Clouser Minnow, can be cast, sunk, and twitched.

Black Sea Bass


Snapper Bluefish

Target structure where past snags have taught you their location. Cast and animate the pattern beside or along the cover. The swing with slow pulses of the wrist will take fish during one or two parts of a tide, often on incoming, but not always. One certainty, speed up the presentation of the fly to be intercepted by another hard hitter.

Tenkara and the Snapper Bluefish

The snapper is the perfect quarry for a bright streamer pattern twitched near the top at high speed. Close to the surface cruise pods of juvenile bluefish like shiny tin toy soldiers. Monomaniacal, but quick to disperse, most encountered are chasing fry and rainbait schools near the surface. The schools of bluefish cutting baitfish like class come in and go out on quick waves that rarely last longer than two caught fish. Several hours of fishing will provide one half dozen waves of two minute bites disappearing like a puff of smoke on most occasions.


There also are changing skies to contemplate and inquisitive tourists, in between, plus a smorgasbord of aviation and ship sightseeing. The snappers, ten often being the limit, when taken on tenkara make a quick afternoon of fun fishing.

Fly patterns remain consistent with those best for the black sea bass. Simple halfand-half Clouser patterns tied for skinny water, perhaps with a bit more sparkle to the hackle. Cinderworm patterns are normally ignored, although any dart-able streamer of white can do. Sizes 6 through 10 are small enough for the tight-lipped bite of both fishes.

Close fishing to the docks works best for all species when peak tides and solunar tables meet. Check predictions on your preferred website and study saltwater access nearest you. Tenkara may work on bergalls, croakers, and flounders as well as many other fishes of The Salt; fish that can fit into a pan if you coax them, by rod, line, and fly.



Learnings From The Team Oni USA, Oni Tenkara Schools John Vetterli

In 2015, our company Tenkara Guides LLC hosted the first Team Oni USA, Oni Tenkara School. The name Oni School was chosen because of our relationship with Masami Sakakibara, aka, Tenkarano Oni (Tenkara demon), a nickname given to Sakakibara san by his fishing friends and students. We bring Masami Sakakibara and his wife Kyoko to Salt Lake City, Utah each year to teach a small group of 20 students the finer points of Oni Tenkara. Over the past 38 years, Masami Sakakibara has been refining his personal tenkara methods, techniques, and philosophy into a single complete integrated tenkara system.

Sakakibara san is the developer of a family of premium tenkara rods called Oni rods that have been refined through many generations of design and improvements


to become some of the very best tenkara rods on the market.

So, what have I learned as the organizer of these schools and why do I keep punishing myself by hosting them each year?

Erik and I met Masami in 2014 while traveling and fishing in Japan. We had an immediate connection with Masami that has continued to grow through many long conversations on the water together, via email and social media, and some epic road trips across Japan and Utah.

Masami is a legitimate tenkara master angler and teacher. In Japan he is considered by many other master tenkara anglers as perhaps the greatest living tenkara angler in Japan.

When you first meet Masami in person, it is surprising how humble he is and how approachable he is as a teacher. He has a gentle soul combined with an intensity on the water that you just have to experience because I can't quite figure out how to describe it.

So, over the past few years I have

developed a personal relationship with Masami that has bridged the culture gap and we have become a part of each other's family. He is one of my best friends, mentor, teacher, and fishing buddy.

We host these Oni Schools for a several of reasons:


1. It gives me a chance to hang out with my friend Masami and the other great friends I have made because of Oni School. 2. The small size of 20 students allows people to connect and establish real relationships. There have been several Oni School students that have met at the school and continue to meet up with each other across the country for tenkara adventures. That is one of the things I find most rewarding. Creating an environment where people can connect and build long term friendships. 3. I love staying up until 2am prepping meals for 25 people for 3 days (that part kind of sucks).

4. Exposing people to the tenkara culture of Japan and giving them the opportunity to get one-on –one personal instruction from a living legend tenkara angler/teacher. There is so much tenkara that is missing as it continues to move across the globe. So many nuances of culture, history, and tradition. This is a way that our company is trying to make a lasting contribution and commitment to the American tenkara community. To bring a bit of Japan here because let's face it, traveling to Japan to study with these great teachers is just not practical for many of us. 5. We do things a little different than other tenkara events in the USA. There are no conference rooms, no artificial casting ponds, no vendors, no PowerPoint presentations,

hell, we don't even bring chairs for you to sit on. Our school starts early each morning with a briefing of the day's activities and we hit the water. You will be fishing 8-10 hours each day. This is a school first and foremost. The best classroom is the river. 6. The final reason. I find so much personal enjoyment in seeing the faces, hearing the stories, and sharing the water with the other Oni School students. I spend a lot of the days during the school cooking food, moving people and gear, maintaining the business relationship with Sundance Mountain Resort that allows us to host the school at their amazing resort, and keeping the machine in motion. During all that, I get the chance to step back and just see the event from a big picture perspective and see how it changes this group of relative strangers into a small family sharing their passions and experiences.

As we work to plan the upcoming Oni School 2017, I get excited to see the many return students that have attended the previous Oni Schools and meet new members the Team Oni USA family. Once you attend one of these schools, it will change your tenkara perspective. Hopefully you will continue to share the things you learned and experienced during your time with us. That is the ultimate goal.

So please join us September 8-10, 2017 in Salt Lake City, Utah for perhaps the smallest tenkara event of the year, but the most intense.

There is a Oni Tenkara School USA Facebook page. Join it and get updated as we open up registration and continue to plan this year's Oni School.


Early Autumn Tenkara: A New Beginning For An Old Craft


Bob Long, Jr.

I was Tenkara fly fishing for rainbow trout on Rock Creek in Illinois in early autumn, with good friend John Miao. The leaves were just starting to change, with the colors of red, rust and golden yellow jumping out of the starting gate first. As it was a weekday, we were pretty much alone on the water. We may have seen, perhaps, three other anglers out over the course of the day, although I can’t be sure. At distance, they could have been the same guy or two. Our fisherman’s sense of courtesy and respect expect us to give each other a wide berth. It is one of the things thoughtful and enlightened people do on the water, you know.


Tenkara is wonderfully suited for this little gem of a stream. (Aren’t they all “little gems of a stream” when you love them – even ones with such blemishes and warts that you’d be hard pressed to find it shown on someone’s fishing calendar?) For me, one of the many beauties of Tenkara is that once you figure out exactly how far your fixed line is going to go (arm length + rod length + line length + leader length + tippet) your casts will land right where you wish them to go, time after time. False casting? Barely needed, except for when you need to adjust your casts when breezes blow your fly off course. You can turn all of your attention to the water and

waiting fish with Tenkara’s fixed line approach. Marvelous. We were fishing streamers and winged wet flies, so wading downstream, while casting down-and-across and downstream was the order of the day. When I teach downstream wading and casting techniques, I also teach Tenkara’s wonderful practice of giving one’s flies animation and life with gentle-pulsing to strong-jigging motions as your fly swims its way through the drift. It’s a technique I’ve used with flies for decades and it works exquisitely with Tenkara as well. John is new to Tenkara, although not to fly fishing. Thus, it takes more of a bit of getting used to, this Tenkara, than for those with no or limited fly fishing experience. Western fly fishers tend to grab for the missing fly line with their free hand - to hold while casting, to strip as the fly drifts, to pull when setting the hook, to strip down when trying to bring in a hooked and wiggling fish. But it isn’t there. I smiled a lot at his phantom grabs and that momentary look of befuddlement when his hand came up empty. I did that too when I started. A few curse words slipped out periodically. Comes with the territory. I conduct fly fishing on-the-water workshops; Tenkara and some Western (not as much western anymore). In all honesty, the technical part of Tenkara is easy if you relax (and I’m not a stickler for “this is how it’s done” coaching). When I teach on the water, as far as I’m concerned “Close enough” works for hand-grenades, horseshoes and Tenkara. As long as you stay out of the trees and land somewhere on the water where the fish are, I’m good. You’ll get it.

But, one of the more difficult things to teach is the importance to learning to read and connect with the water that’s in front of you. Here and now. This is not the water as described in books, videos, drawings or photographs: that’s someone else’s water. Those are their experiences, visions and interpretations. What’s in front of you right now is yours. This water will be with you when the books, photos, videos and I, are not. But our heads are full of things we’ve read, videos we’ve seen, voices we’ve heard, experiences we’ve had, especially with western style fly fishing, as the history is so deep. Gets crowded up there sometimes, yes? I stress that you need to work to let go of all of that and open yourself to take in – with purposeful intent - what THESE flows of water are telling you now (with every sense that is available to you – sight, smell, touch, sound). The water in which you are standing is alive in the present moment here and now, flowing all around you. Are you open to feeling it? Embracing it? Imagine that you are lying in bed. Would you like to have a photograph, drawing or video of your partner in bed next to you? Or would you rather have your love lying next to you in the warm and succulent flesh? To be able to hold them, caress them, and savor the moments with all of your senses that can come into play? Same attitude I say to bring while fishing on the stream with Tenkara (or many other activities in life, I feel). How do you like that analogy, huh? I do. It seems to fit the spirit of intimate connection that is fisherman/Tenkara/ water/fish; at least for me.


You need to be present to the possibility of being on intimate terms with the waters you fish. Those high, mountain stream, Tenkara fishermen are. They seem to know that flowing waters speak to us, whether we are listening or not; sometimes in whispers, sometimes in a roar. But I would add that waters only speak in a voice that each of us has to hear individually – no one else can hear it when the waters speak to you.


Are you open to listening? If your heart and mind are open, the river will share all of her secrets with you and give you fish. If your heart and mind are dark or closed (you already know everything), she will not only just give you few fish, she just might drown you for good measure – or at least give you a real good dunking.

Tenkara’s history, newness here, and apparent openness (“Tenkara has no rules;


enjoy Tenkara in your own way”) present a rare opportunity to approach fly fishing with a fresh, open attitude unfettered by our own traditions and past. True, our natural, western way of seeking to impose structure on things - to quantify, qualify, package, compare and classify all the world around us, depriving much of it of its magic, I feel - is already at work seeking to define (and thus confine) Tenkara through western fly-fishing tinted glasses, and make it simply another extension of our dry fly fishing practice and ethic (or, my goodness, cane pole fishing?). But I am hopeful and working to see that will not succeed. (Although I think I’m on the losing end of that one with Tenkara’s seeming attempts to straddle the philosophical fence of “It’s a New Thing and a New Way of doing an Old Thing.” As almost all of Tenkara’s potential customers come from “deep in the Old

Thing” it is an inevitable conversation and juggling act.)

Still, Tenkara’s eastern origins and history do make it (spiritually & physically) markedly different than our way of fly fishing. However, we do Tenkara and ourselves a disservice by overlooking or dismissing those differences instead of embracing them (which I think starts with our cultural unwillingness to at least try to pronounce the word as ten-ka-Rah – accent on the last syllable, not the second – as in “ten-Care-uh,” or “ten-Car-uh.”


“Corruption begins when things are not called by their proper names.” – Confucious

I have been made fun of (all passiveaggressively of course, although sometimes not) in fly shops and among fly fishers for trying to say it as the Japanese say it. (The Japanese smile tenderly at my clumsy attempts, perhaps with a slightly bowed head, and a finger or two over their lips, which is a universal facial expression when someone from one culture feels honored and appreciative for someone from another culture saying or doing something cute, while trying so earnestly to please).

Then again, I admit I am not trying to make a business of this Tenkara fly fishing thing by trying to get the 90% of the fly-fishing market (comprised of Northern-Eastern traditioned, dry-fly, fly fishing Americans) to try or buy into something that seems so gimmicky or “foreign” to them. Tenkara proponents have their work cut out for them, and my admiration for trying.

For those open to the idea, Tenkara’s pared down simplicity allows one to

consider new ways of approaching fly fishing (dry, if you wish, wet if not, deep sub-surface if you dare). You can now learn some of what I feel needs to be learned anew, e.g., the fish in any body of water will be where THEY need to be (for reasons you may or may not immediately grasp), not where they are supposed to be (because that is what you read, heard, saw, or experienced somewhere else). They will respond to conditions as they wish (with no explanations given or required, thank you). It is up to you to explore this with a child’s mind (an open appreciation for new information).

Also, we need to be reminded that sometimes fish will follow the fly fishing script, while at other times, not at all (it is, after all our script, not theirs. I doubt they’ve read it or would care too). Time of year, time of day, water temp, oxygen, food availability, shelter, current speed, depth (and things we cannot begin to imagine) all play their part and we can “feel this” better than we can know it. Good hunters feel the pulse of the their prey, yet remain open to surprises. (All of this isn’t easy to learn or be present to, of course, when you are fumbling about with our usual battery of rods, reels, lines, leaders, tippets, flies, fly boxes, nets, vests, waders, shoes and a “whole line of matching accessories” for every possible situation to contend with.) “Just how many damn boxes of tiny, brown, scraggily, buggy things do you really need?” my wife once asked me upon seeing me stuffing my vest anew. “You’ve got year’s worth you already never used that look just like these.”

A rod, some line, maybe some tippet, a small box of flies anyone?




We tend to be surprised and dismayed at how “off” everything can feel about fishing when nature and fish do things their way instead of ours. We often think of such days as aberrations that the next issue of “My Fly” magazine will have answers to. (Another article, book, video on drag free drifting? My Goodness, how did humans ever manage to share information with each other before the printing press?)

But, may I suggest that you be receptive to not only being surprised, but willing to be amazed and inquisitive (each and every time you go out – even to waters you know like the back of your hand). Especially with Tenkara in your hands. Your fly fishing will greatly improve if you are so willing. Resist these opportunities and it won't.


Tenkara’s newness, “eastern exoticism” and simplicity grants us tacit permission to get deeply connected with your water’s environment by having little history here (and we are here, not over there. That is their history, acquired honestly through time. Try to create your own history and approach – paying homage as you go, but not slavish imitation). But it takes work – not just in learning the new, but being willing to “unlearn” that which you think you already know about fly fishing and fish. And what we think we know – in general, and about specific subjects like fly fishing, even when we know our knowledge is proving suspect, will fight to keep its place in our minds. “Duke’s up, buddy. I ain’t goin’ nowhere” our mind’s will protest. It’s what makes learning so tough as we age.

(As a teacher/facilitator of people who come to learn this elegant craft with me, I


need always be patient and understanding when unplanned and unexpected, deeplyingrained feelings of resistance come bubbling up to the surface when participants come face-to-face with new situations, words, language and concepts. Even people who have paid me to help them “address” – I don’t like the word “fix” their fly fishing issues – mainly not catching fish - still have a hard time letting go of traditions, whether newly acquired or old and ingrained, that simply aren’t working for them. “Things aren’t working, but I don’t know what to do,” is an uncomfortable place no one wishes to be). But apparently, so is something new that butts up against old ways of thinking.

“Resistance may be futile,” say the Borg, but with adult fly fishers, it damn sure seems mandatory sometimes. LOL.

Admittedly, it is all a lot to let go of – this “dry fly trout is the essence of fly fishing” tradition. Not easily done. When in doubt you go with what you know. It is familiar and comfortable - even when you can sense it's not paying off. You will question many things with your fly fishing – the rod, the line, leader, tippet, the fly; the water, the weather, time of year, time of day, the fish, or your luck – but not the concept as a whole. We usually just go off tinkering about the margins trying to fix things that would have slowly died a natural death if left alone. We embrace “ways of doing things” that may simply need to be let go of altogether or at least, deeply reconstructed. Yes, it is not often that something new comes along and we find ourselves, just perhaps, willing to question the old concept as a whole, as perhaps, rigid, outdated, incestuous and in need of

a makeover, instead of just picking at the parts.

Tenkara creates a bit of that questioning for us – drawing attention to the complex and bloated primacy of old fly fishing concepts and traditions - not only because many of the old, sacred parts of the tradition are missing in Tenkara, but also because those sacred parts have no real place or value to add to what Tenkara already is: whole and complete. Tenkara does not ask us to feel this way or to reject anything. Tenkara brings questions to us, by virtue of existing so simply as it does: rod, line, tippet, a couple of flies (and just as many fish as any other technique, maybe more, once we get good at it).


trout came to my seemingly unorthodox hands, and wondered – even if ever so slightly - if there wasn’t just a wee bit o’ slight of hand or trickery involved. “If not,” he wondered, “is this something I can do too?” As the day progressed, he learned he could, and he caught fish. He found broad, new possibilities to his beloved craft of fly fishing – not only in casting, but in where fish might be, how they might behave, and in ways to present his fly to them - he had not entertained as possible before. John looked very comfortable and at home on the water, Tenkara rod in hand, fish on the line, smile on his face. His day went well. Very well. So did mine. :-) I hope that yours does too.

New ways of seeing and being every now and again are good things in my book. And, as I caution those who take my workshops, you don’t have to chuck out the old, to take in the new, even if you wish to. Just leave the old be, and simply open yourself up to take in what’s new and speaks to you.

For me, Tenkara isn’t either/or. It isn’t this and that. It is kinda’ what you wish to make of it. Damn, that’s fresh. Like I said, getting to Tenkara won’t be easy for many. Good things seldom are. But it won’t be as difficult as you are now, or have been, imagining it to be.

Oh, John was very coachable. He listened. He tried, stumbled a bit. He didn’t resist, although at times he was surprised and amazed at how easily


One Really Big Hole

A Story Of Trout And Tenkara At The Bottom Of The Grand Canyon Rob Worthing

Photos by Kaylan & Phil


“Oh, hell yeah.”

That’s the only logical response when Phil, your best friend from college, calls you up to say he’s got a cabin reserved at the bottom of the Grand Canyon. Never mind how he got it – cabin reservations at the canyon’s historic Phantom Ranch book thirteen months in advance and within minutes of opening. After twenty years of talking about fishing the Grand, he’s got reservations. So that’s exactly how I replied. On behalf of both my wife and myself, with zero hesitation.


“Oh, hell yeah.”


It’s December, and I’m looking out my window at a really big hole in the ground. Phil, my wife and I are spending the night at Bright Angel Lodge, where the rooms practically fall off Grand Canyon’s South Rim. Tomorrow, we’ll make the seven and a half mile hike down the South Kaibab trail to the Colorado River and Phantom Ranch. I’m a little nervous for the hike. It’s been a bit since doing something of this scale. Not like my wife, Kaylan, who just finished both the Camino de Santiago and Appalachian Trail. Or Phil, who is the kind of guy that seems to be giving Father Time the perpetual middle finger by growing stronger with age. So I busy myself by going over gear one last time. The cabins at Phantom Ranch come stocked with linens and the like. No need to carry shelter, ground pad, or a sleeping bag. Two meals a day and a sack lunch at the ranch dining hall means packing a lot

less food, too. Normally, that would make for a pretty light pack. But I’m including a few luxuries on this trip. Weather at the rim is cold this time of year, with snow and ice a real possibility on the upper section of the trail. Days are warmer at the bottom, but still cold when the sun goes down. My base pack weight for a winter trip usually comes in around ten pounds. Items like my favorite thick wool shirt with the collar that stands straight up, heavy wool cargo pants to match, a couple cigars, and a healthy dose of quality Kentucky bourbon quickly jack my pack weight to an estimated sixteen pounds or so. Then comes the fly fishing gear. There’s trout in the bottom of the Grand Canyon. More importantly, there’s trout in Bright Angel Creek, a tenkara-perfect freestone flowing directly past Phantom Ranch and our cabin. Or at least there used to be tout. For the past decade, the Park Service has undertaken the Bright Angel Creek Trout Reduction Project, an attempt to eradicate non-native brown and rainbows inhabiting the creek. The project is one of conservation, with the ultimate goal of restoring native species like the speckled dace, flannelmouth sucker, and the endangered humpback chub. Years of electroshock harvesting while a weir dam traps fish near the creek’s mouth might mean precious few fish for me in Bright Angel. But I plan on being ready anyway. For this trip, I pack two precision instruments for tenkara fishing in mountain streams - the Oni Type I, and the Oni Type III. At 390cm and 360cm respectfully, the two rods will allow me to cover a wide variety of conditions, and will back each other up in case of a mishap. I


pack the two Oni rods along with the Tenkara Bum 36 (an all-arounder, and my wife’s favorite) in my beloved Zimmerbuilt Rod Roll. A single Tacky fly box filled with Ishigaki and Oni kebari, Red Assed Monkeys, and Grave Diggers slides into a Zimmerbuilt Strap Pack along with #3 green level line and my Arizona state license. Combo hemostat scissors and a spool of 5x tippet complete the kit. No wading gear. Just a pair of waterproof Seal Skin socks to keep my feet dry in case I find it necessary to soak my trail runners. THE SOUTH KAIBAB



I’m more of a backcountry guy. I usually shy away from the main attractions in our National Park system. The South Kaibab and Phantom Ranch are a bit of a main attraction. Though difficult, they stay busy, both with foot traffic and burro trains. At some point during prep for the

trip, I guess I had quelled my enthusiasm a bit thinking about piles of hikers and mule shit. Man, was I wrong. Yes, there is plenty of foot traffic. Yes, there are plenty of piles of mule shit. But the vistas are spectacular, truly one of a kind. I am very glad to be exactly where I am. Halfway down, I approach a hiker that looks like he could use a break from his uphill slog. He’s carrying a 4wt Sage in a rod tube strapped to the side of his pack, and I happily provide him with an excuse to stop and rest. “Do some fishing? How was it?” “Yeah... did a lot of fishing... but no catching”, he replied in between huffs. “Fished Bright Angel Creek for two days. Didn’t get a thing. They’ve got the weir dam up. Fished below it, too, but no luck. Don’t think there’s much left.” The South Kaibab



Bright Angel Creek

We finish the hike and check in to our cabin. The crew at Phantom Ranch doesn’t do much to improve the fishing forecast. Plenty of people trying, they say. One guy a couple weeks ago that caught some, but nobody else, they say. Guess I’ll have plenty of opportunity to practice casting.


It takes me a whopping ten minutes to catch my first rainbow trout that night. A respectable 12 incher on a size ten Red Assed Monkey delivered with my Oni Type I. I remember a trip my friend and fellow guide, Erik, and I took to Utah’s famed Green River. The water was blown out from a large release. Nobody else thought

it was worth the time, and we were the only ones on the water. We slayed it, catching big brown after big brown on heavy wire worms and massive tungsten scud patterns using fixed line nymphing techniques. We couldn’t help but share our enthusiasm with the proprietors of the local fly shop as we bought up more of the same patterns. For the next two weeks, fish reports for the area talked of nothing but wire worms and tungsten scud patterns, all based on two idiots with tenkara rods that reported one good day. I was repeating that lesson on Bright Angel. Whether good news or bad, don’t pay too much attention to what other fishermen have to say. Fish your own game. One hearty stew dinner later and we’re


Bright Angel Rainbow


racked out in our cabin. We’ve got two nights at the bottom. For tomorrow, we decide on a twelve-mile round-trip hike along Bright Angel Creek via the North Rim section of the South Kaibab Trail to Ribbon Falls. That first fish was near the confluence of the creek and the Colorado River, below the weir dam. I want to know what the rest of this creek holds.


Nothing about this place disappoints. We get an early start, long before the sun’s rays will reach the canyon bottom. Our reward is a cool, mist-laden hike capped with explosions of bight gold where the


early light smashes into the highest peaks and faces. By the time we reach Ribbon Falls, it’s warm enough to enjoy the water. I hadn’t taken advantage of the bath house back at the ranch, and shed my clothes for a quick shower, au natural. Bribing Phil and Kaylan to destroy those pics is gonna cost me. Dressed and on trail, but not dry for long. I’m right back in Bright Angel Creek, this perfect freestone stream that my tenkara rig and I have all to our selves. Every ten feet of trail seems to bring another fishy hole in sight. The creek is small enough that I manage to do all my fishing from shore. Over and over, I cut off trail and pick my way through the rock and brush


on the path to the perfect presentation. I can’t get enough of it. No sense in stashing the rod at this rate. It stays rigged and at the ready, steadied in my right hand with the tip facing aft for the rest of the hike. I don’t catch many brown trout. The browns feed heavily on other fish, and seem to be the primary target of the Trout Reduction Program. But there are enough bows, outnumbering the browns 5 to 1 on my line. One thirteen incher comes out of a picture perfect hole, hugging the rock near the tail of the pool, right where I thought he would be. He takes me downstream where a Russian tamarisk blocks me from dropping my rod to turn him. I quickly make the decision to wet the

trail runners, ensuring a gentle, successful, humane landing. We might be in the middle of a Trout Reduction Program, but no sense in breaking good habits with bad substitutions. My Seal Skins will once again prove to be worth their weight in gold with these wet shoes.


With lush riparian lines along gin clear creeks breaking up layer upon layer of differentially colored rock as old as time, the trail back to the South Rim turns out to be even more impressive than the South Kaibab we took down. My legs turn out to be up to the task of the trip as well. Despite seven and a half miles down,




followed by twelve miles along the creek, and a mild hangover to start the morning (turns out they sell beer at Phantom Ranch), we manage to kill the ten-mile uphill grunt in around four hours. Grand Canyon’s upscale El Tovar restaurant is on the menu for dinner. Steaks and a bottle of red are well earned, and that much more tasty for it. Tomorrow, we fly out. The trip turned out to be beyond great. Better than anticipated, really. And after twenty years, there was a lot of built-up anticipation. At dinner, I catch myself contemplating



Bright Angel Trail

the Trout Reduction Program. Back in Utah, we’ve seen successful use of rotenone to clear invasive brown and bows followed by replacement of native Bonneville cutthroat in some of Salt Lake City’s streams. I can understand the need to avoid such a program in the case of Bright Angel, but I can’t help wondering about the limitations of an electroshock strategy. Part of me hopes it isn’t too successful, leaving a few trout to chase. But the better part of me recognizes the importance of such a conservation effort, and looks forward to the day when I can return to Phantom Ranch to chase a notso-endangered humpback chub on the fly.

The South Rim



Traditional Japanese Fly Fishing: Which One? Chris Stewart

For years now, every time I’d read the phrase “traditional Japanese fly fishing” I wanted to ask “Yeah, which one?” Of course, the writer always meant tenkara, but tenkara is not THE traditional Japanese fly fishing. It is but one of several traditional fly fishing methods, one or two of which might be hundreds of years older, and perhaps thus even more traditional than tenkara.


You will occasionally, although very rarely, read about a second traditional method – dobuzuri or dobutsuri – which is fly fishing for ayu, although no one in the US ever refers to it as traditional Japanese fly fishing. Actually I don’t think I have ever seen it mentioned other than tangentially – through the flies, never the fishing. Interestingly, the late Robert Behnke, (aka Dr. Trout) who had been a Professor of Fisheries and Wildlife Biology at Colorado State University, fished for yamame and iwana in Japan in 1951-52, and saw only dobuzuri flies and imitations of western fly patterns (Japan at that time was a major exporter of trout flies to the US). He saw no tenkara flies. Of course, that was before tenkara became tenkara and had its resurgence in popularity. Perhaps tenkara flies were rediscovered. But the third or fourth or fifth traditional Japanese fly fishing methods? I would bet most readers have never heard of them. For example, I remember reading that


tenkara anglers didn’t use weights, with the reason given that the flies were too valuable to risk getting snagged on the bottom and lost. However, we know that fly anglers in at least two regions did use weight – either applied to the fly or on the line above the fly. It might not fit the definition of tenkara, so I suppose it might be true that “tenkara” anglers didn’t use weights, but other fly anglers certainly did! Perhaps even more surprising than a traditional Japanese fly fishing method that used weighted flies was the method that in addition to a fly (tied on the line as a dropper) used a bare treble hook a bit below the fly to possibly snag a fish that rejected the fly and turned back down or that the angler missed while attempting to set the hook. You never hear about that one! Perhaps intentionally snagging fish offends our sensibilities. Recall that ayu fishing, which is probably the pinnacle of fresh water fishing in Japan, is done not only with flies (dobuzuri). It is also done with a live “decoy” fish and bare treble hooks to snag the ayu. A fifth method, which survives to this day, is called kebari tsuri. Tenkara, before it was called tenkara, was called kebari tsuri. It may well be that kebari tsuri was a much broader and more inclusive term – possibly encompassing any fishing with a fly. After all, the translation of kebari tsuri is “fly fishing.” The kebari tsuri of today is a method that uses multiple flies, generally either five or seven, tied as droppers on a tippet behind a wooden float. The float is cast across the stream and allowed to swing downstream. Today this is a method for catching oikawa (pale chub) and haya





1) Talk about tradition, Meboso Hachirobei, run by the same family in the same location since 1575, started making ayu flies in the late 1800s.


2) Traditional weighted fly - split shot on shank 3) Traditional weighted fly - split shot on tippet 4) The Japanese says Kebari Tsuri Shikake. Google translates Shikake as "gimmick" which is actually a good translation, as the Japanese has the connotation of a device intended to trick or fool.

(Japanese dace), not trout, but a fishing method differing only with respect to where on the rig the float was placed historically was used in the Iwate prefecture to catch Yamame. I guess the most telling piece of information, though, is that the earliest written account of tenkara fishing was in either 1877 or 1878 (two separate accounts, neither of which mention “tenkara” but both of which describe a fishing method that might have been tenkara). However, the earliest written account of fishing with a fly in Japan dates from 1678, a full two hundred years earlier! That fishing was for oikawa and haya rather than trout, so it doesn’t fall into the definition of tenkara. When considering “traditional” Japanese fly fishing, though, one really ought to give the greatest weight to the oldest recorded method – haegashira – which is fishing for chubs and dace, and later ayu, in the

lowlands rather than tenkara, which is fishing for trout and char in the mountains. Realistically, tenkara is probably much older than the written accounts of the late 1870s. Perhaps it is as old as haegashira but we will never know because there are no written records. What we do know, though, is that tenkara is not the only traditional fly fishing of Japan. So next time you string up your seiryu rod and go out to catch a few creek chubs, realize you are carrying on an old if unsung tradition. And after you return home, fire up the computer and read (or re-read) the wealth of information on traditional Japanese fly fishing that you can find on Yoshikazu Fujioka’s website My Best Streams http:// w w w .h i -h o .n e .j p /a m a g o /b -s t r e a m s / index2.html It is mostly about tenkara, but if you read it carefully, you will realize there is much more to traditional Japanese fly fishing than just tenkara.


Tenkara Fly Fishing in Quebec, Canada Danièle Beaulieu


Photos Courtesy: Julie Moffet

Destination: Montmorency Forest, owned and operated by the Université Laval faculty Located just 45 minutes north of the beautiful City of Quebec, Montmorency is the largest teaching and research forest in the world, totaling 412 square-kilometers.

With three beautiful, easily accessible rivers and many small streams, there is the potential for over 10,000 brook trout. As such, they have discovered a technological breakthrough in the field of fly fishing TENKARA!

"We want visitors to gaze at our beautiful forest landscape." To do so they needed to find another way to attract more people interested in the outdoors. One of the problems that the administration was having was making the most of the small streams where "traditional" fly fishing was not necessarily the ideal method. That is when they learned about Tenkara on the internet.

They saw the potential of the Japanese style of fly fishing and immediately contacted me to find out more information about it. I did not have to tell them too much before they were sold on the idea. They purchased two Nissin Prosquare 5:5 10-1/2' rods and fell in love with Tenkara. Perfect for their streams, the simplicity made them feel that Tenkara had a place in the Forest.

Another thing that the Montmorency Forest does is help people with mental stress issues. We all know that exposure to nature is a therapeutic healing method, and that is why when the Project Healing Waters Fly Fishing Canada in Quebec approached them to be partners in 2011, they simply could not say no. Now well established, the faculty wants to make the Montmorency Forest a Tenkara center! Presently the administration is putting the finishing touches on the concept, but one thing is certain, this Summer Tenkara will have a place in the largest teaching and research forest in the world!

Reference: Hugues Sansregret, Director of Operations Web: http://www.foretmontmorency.ca/en/activities/summer-activities/fishing/ Map: http://www.foretmontmorency.ca/assets/documents/CarteFM_Ete_2016_rv.pdf


Coming Home Sam Larson

This winter I did the worst thing I could for my Tenkara habits: I bought a house. I can hear you now. “That’s great!”, “It’s a wonderful investment”, “You’ll love owning and not paying rent to some absentee landlord”. And I agree with you, it is great. But in the process of dashing around looking at homes, meeting with bankers, haggling with sellers, and lying awake at night wondering if I was going to get outbid again, and again, and again, I stopped going fishing.


In the summer I carry gear around in my car nearly all the time. I’m lucky enough to live where trout streams flow through town, making it an easy stop on the way to or from the office. I fill my weekends with bent Tenkara rods, splashy strikes, and the backdrop of Colorado’s twisting mountain canyons flowing by as I cruise two-lane roads with one eye on the centerline and the other on the eddies and pockets in the river below me. And in the winter I’m dressed in thick neoprene, bundled to the eyebrows in a balaclava and layers of Gore-Tex, battling it out in the wind and snow at one of the regional tailwaters, sacrificing the divine cast of a Tenkara rod on the altar of winter nymphing so I can sling split shot and dredge nymph rigs across the river bottom. And even when the weather is so bad I can’t talk myself into heading out of doors I tie flies and think about the changing seasons and


spring, waiting around the corner. But not this year. I lost track of my weekends and my afternoons somewhere in the thick of the Colorado real estate market. Even after I booked a new house I saddled myself with months of repairs; hardwood floor installation, new paint, appliances, and all the sundries that I was somehow living without all the while but now found that I needed, deeply, personally, and immediately. But eventually, just when it felt like my future was to be nothing more than home repair, I finished. The paint had dried, I had installed the floor, and spring, fickle, changeable Colorado spring, was here. I took a day off work. I’d earned it, I reasoned, by giving up my weekends for the last several months. One of Colorado’s puzzling early-Spring weather about-faces blew into the state, where the snowstorms of the prior week faded away and the weather shot into the mid-60s. That Thursday promised to be warm, breezy, with the kind of cloud cover that gets a midge hatch up and off the water around noon. The night before my day off I woke up several times. I’d piled all my gear by the door, gone through the packing list twice, and couldn’t shake the feeling that I’d forgotten something. Late that night, or early the next morning, whatever you want to call the hour immediately before

dawn, I had a sudden thought. What if I choked out there? After all, it’d been a few months since I’d even been near a stream or river. Even longer since I used my tenkara gear. I’d finished out the fall with a couple long days on local streams but the all-consuming task of purchasing and remodeling a house had put fly fishing out of my head. What if I got the water and couldn’t read it any more, couldn’t see the seams or deduce what was happening down low in the eddies and currents where the trout spent their winters? I lay in bed thinking about this, turning it over and over in my head, until my alarm went off.


The hike down to the river was steep, and blessedly short, though made harder by the thick, boot print-pocked ice that covered the trail wherever the trees blocked the sun. But the water was, in a word, perfect. South Boulder Creek ran quick and clean and cold, helped along by Denver Water’s opening of the gates at Gross Reservoir Dam a couple miles upstream. While every other local stream languished, reduced to a thin trickle with their water lying trapped above tree line in the Rockies, South Boulder Creek was beautiful. I geared up, tying on a double rig with a Copper John and Mercury Midge dropper. Before I approached the first seam I limbered up a bit, cast my tenkara rod a few times to get the timing back, and then stepped into the river. The first cast went to the right, drifting out of the seam and getting pulled into a swirling back eddy, and the second fell to the left, pulled along in the fast main current. The third fell where I wanted it, just outside the fast

current, missing the slow upstream swirl of the eddy to one side. I high-sticked through the seam a few more times and then moved on to the next likely spot. My cast felt smooth, even with the weighty clunk of the nymphs on my line, and wading felt as stable and natural as I remembered it. This, I thought, is exactly the kind of day that I needed. Despite my strong initial impressions, I got skunked. Hard. Even so, as the day wore on I slid back into tenkara without a single hiccup, reading water, making the same kind of precision casts that I had felt proud of after a full summer’s worth of fishing several times a week. I checked under rocks, matched insects, and plumbed seams and pockets. I saw dozens of fish, all of them darting away from me in the low, clear water. At the end of the day, six hours after I started, when I managed to catch a pair of brown trout one after the other I felt absurdly, unbelievably happy. The steep canyon walls above me reflected the sunlight that slanted in over the top of the ridge to the west and I hadn’t seen another angler all day. My house, finished now that I had wrapped up all of my projects, was waiting for me down the road, and despite my worries the river, and the trout, were still here. My tenkara rod felt as subtle and smooth as it ever did, broadcasting every bump and tap from my beadhead Copper John as it danced across the riverbed. And when I hooked the first brown trout of the day I laughed loud and long, with only the trees and the river to hear me. I’d found what I’d placed aside in my worry and work, and when I picked it up again saw that it was just as I had left it.


Canyons and Coulees Paul Vertrees


My work, as with anyone’s, is limited by the hours in a day. From time to time it pulls me away from the things I hold dear; family, backcountry, and… writing. My writing suffers from that once in a while, but I try as best I can to return to it when I have something I feel is notable to share, which may or may not be as notable as I think, and more times than not probably isn’t, except in my own mind. Having visited the driftless area of southwest Wisconsin recently, where I participated in the Midwest Tenkara Fest as a presenter and vendor, and also where I fished for trout for the first time east (if only slightly) of the Mississippi River, and


finally where I joined up with several very good friends on the banks of meandering spring creeks and revisited old friendships. This is a story about the driftless (or is it a proper noun, being a “place”?) …The Driftless… but it’s also a story about my own semi-desert, ruggedly mountainous, and just south-of-central Colorado canyons at home. It’s most certainly a story about what fly-fishing author, Ted Leeson, calls the “intimacy of scale”. I had been interested in The Driftless for some time; fascinated that such a place existed in the company of dairy cows and Amish farmers. I suppose the years I spent

living in the rolling hills of northern Missouri, during assignments in the Army, gave me an understanding of all things Midwest… of hunting whitetails, quail, turkeys, and morel mushrooms, and of misty river bottoms filled with rows of soybeans and corn. However familiar from past experiences, The Driftless is also distinctly different than my previous time in the Midwest. Here in The Driftless there are clear, cold spring creeks, and there are trout! Here in The Driftless there is also that small-scale familiarity with the landscape, and although it’s vastly different than my own canyons here at home, it’s also very much the same. I grew up fishing small water, and to this day that’s where I feel most at home. As a kid I learned how to cast on a ten-footwide creek in the Colorado Rockies, one choked with willows and water birch. Looking down that creek was like looking down into a tunnel, with the upper half of the tunnel leafy and green, and the bottom half of it wet and clear. There were lots of 7-9 inch brook trout in there, and if you played your cards just right, you might catch one that would go 12, but I can count the number of times that happened, in the span of 18 years spent growing up on that creek, on one hand and still have a thumb left over. Coming of age on water like that left an indelible mark, and small, tight, difficult places are where I’ve spent the last 40 years fishing my best. The rugged, narrow, rocky canyons here at home are a great lesson in small water tenkara. These are the places I refer to generically as “The Canyons”, and they define most of the fishing I do on my own, on those days I’m not guiding clients. The


landscape surrounding the canyons is a labyrinth of nearly bare, rocky, extremely vertical mountains where mule deer, Merriams turkeys, mountain lions, and a scattering of bighorn sheep live among the pinon pines and cactus. At night ringtails, those little raccoon-like bandidos, scurry around the rocks, and on quiet mornings the descending notes from the canyon wrens flow down the walls. These are tiny, quiet canyons that become intensely violent each year when the massive mountain range to the west sheds it’s white winter coat and releases snowmelt some sixty miles downstream. My good friend and Arkansas River fly fishing legend, Bill Edrington, refers to the headwaters of the Arkansas drainage as “fourteen-thousand-foot-tall ice cubes”, and for good reason. Good fishing water in the canyons runs at about 25 cubic feet per second, and during peak runoff each year it quickly changes to around 300. Car-size boulders and hundred-year-old cottonwoods are dislodged, sent tumbling downstream. Once every few years, some brave soul carries a kayak overland to the canyon, launches, and attempts to ride the creek to its confluence with the next river. Some make it, some don’t. Early summer in the canyons is a dangerous time, and both the trout and I seek refuge. However, the time just after the ice recedes up until runoff, in other words springtime, is a magical time in the canyons. These rocky cracks in the earth freeze nearly solid each winter, and the only places the trout can really survive are the deepest bend pools and huge pockets among house-sized boulders. I often wonder how many trout stack up in


dormancy in those places all winter, lining up side-by-side, in a near-coma, waiting for winter to release its icy grip. Shifting gears of thought and landscape… I recently read the amazingly well written and crafted book, Jerusalem Creek, by Ted Leeson, in preparation for a trip I took to the driftless region of southwest Wisconsin. Everything Ted wrote about in respect to the small water and scale of the driftless resonated with me, although I live and fish in a dramatically different smallscale place. Ted’s Driftless is landscape covered by verdant rolling hills and farms… farms totally devoid of the “yard art” and junk so common on the Midwest farms I’m accustomed to. It’s covered with small, deep valleys called “coulees”, flattened ridgetops and plateaus, and miles upon miles of small, gin-clear spring creeks. The coulees and creeks are tiny places you can lose yourself in… just like my rugged, semi-desert canyons.


Where the Driftless spring creeks are surrounded by green hill country and grazing dairy cows, the canyons I call home are hemmed in by towering granite walls, nearly barren except for the scattered cholla cactus and pockets of pinon pine and rocky mountain juniper in the steep washes coming down the sides. The only green existing in the canyons are the strips of riparian habitat lining the creeks themselves. Seen from a thousand feet above on the rim of the canyons, the serpentine creek looks as if someone drew a thin green line on either side of it with a piece of chalk. At first glance, the creeks in the Driftless and in my home canyons seem as different


as night and day. However, once you spend some time watching them, not fishing them, you realize more and more that they have very much in common. I’ve found myself guilty of rushing to deploy my tenkara rod and start fishing without really WATCHING water for a while, allowing the creek to divulge its secrets. Once I really took the time to really watch the water, I noticed that the triple crown of small water features… pools, pockets, and edges… are all there in both places, and there in abundance. Where the comparatively slow waters of the spring creeks in the Driftless cover most of those features with glassy smooth pools and runs, although they’re still there, the rushing Colorado canyon creeks shove them into your face with protruding boulders and rock-scoured cottonwood logs. The trout are still there in each as well, stacked in the bottom of deep bend pools, suspended solo in small pockets, and hidden behind rocks along the edges. The intimate smallness is there too, and it’s that commonality that draws me to both places more than anything. The beauty lies in the smallness. Intimate smallness. Like Horton discovering Whoville, tenkara anglers (or any anglers for that matter) can discover amazing treasures in the smallest and narrowest of places like the canyons of southern Colorado and the coulees of southern Wisconsin. It’s that smallness that seems to direct one’s focus and attention, and the tinier the creek the greater the focus. The screams of redtailed hawks high on the granite walls along the creek would certainly get lost in the air and space of anything wider, just as

Beneath the surface, the waters of the Rockies (top) and Driftless (below) are not as different as they may seem


the busy rustling of mice in the thick pasture grass along a Driftless stream would surely drift into nothingness, save for the protection of the overhanging hardwoods and narrow span of the creek. I’ve found my 10-power hand lens much more useful than binoculars in both the coulees and canyons. Matter of fact, the closer I look at both the coulees and the canyons, the more I learn their secrets. I’m not the only tenkara angler who’s noticed the connections between canyons and coulees. My good friend, Dave, shares my fascination. You see, Dave hangs his hat in southeast Minnesota, a stone’s throw from The Driftless, having only an hour’s drive through farm country and the Mississippi River between his home and Vernon County, Wisconsin. I’ve had the


A beautiful stream runs through 68 a Driftless Area pasture

pleasure of guiding Dave on some adventurous tenkara trips here in my little Colorado canyons, and in turn he introduced me to The Driftless. He and I have had some long conversations about the landscapes and the water in both his backyard and mine. So, not only are the canyons and coulees connected by the beauty of their smallness, they have also provided a connection between two tenkara anglers who absolutely love small, tight places where twelve-inch brown trout are king. Canyons and coulees; soft valleys and sharp cracks in the Earth. Two distinctly different landscapes with a whole lot in common, and the closer you look, the more you will find.



Hajime Jim Tignor

In the Tenkara community, I have found there are many different types of anglers. Some are helpful, some are easy going, and of course, some are very opinionated. I love learning from all of them. One topic that seems to consistently create controversy is the simple question of “What is Tenkara?” Boiled down, ultimately, the most significant division regards the observance of tradition versus the embracing of modernization. Readers be warned: I still consider myself a novice Tenkara angler. Since I began, however, I have found myself deeply engrossed and fascinated in the history, culture, and people who partake in this wonderful art. I also happen to be a voracious reader. I purchased my first rod in March of 2015; a Teton from Tenkara Rod Co. I immersed myself in fishing my small local Piedmont creeks, learning to cast for a variety of pan-fish and Bass.



I fished those creeks because they are 10 minutes from my house, and the nearest cold water trout stream is a 2-hour drive. It was a full year before I hooked and landed a trout on Curtis Creek in North Carolina. Since then I have purchased several other rods, and caught countless rainbows, brookies, and browns. I still fish my local streams after work several days a week. The debate of “modern” versus “traditional” reminds me of a similar conversation from

the martial art I studied for ten years. Not unlike Tenkara, Ninjutsu was originally developed and practiced in the mountains of Japan hundreds of years ago. The utilitarian simplicity of both art forms was the result of necessity. The fishermen did not have reels, nor did they have time to forage for bait. So, they adapted and made simple flies, and they fished efficiently. Similarly, when they needed to defend themselves, the same farmers and fisherman made due without modern weapons like swords, or naginata. Communities adapted, using farm and carpentry tools or whatever they had as weapons to get the job done, and they did so skillfully The martial art debate I referred to concerns the traditions of Togakure-ryū and To-Shindo. Togakure-ryu is a historical tradition of Ninjutsu and it is still taught by Masaaki Hatsumi, the 34th Sōke, or Grandmaster. It is a martial art that is beautiful, deadly, and ruthless. Many of its movements were designed around clothing and equipment of a bygone era. In addition, some of its ethos was created out of the political and social dynamics of that same era. There is merit in studying such traditions, particularly if you as a student are interested in those traditions. With training and dedication, it is an effective and beautiful martial art form. To-Shin Do is a modern form of Ninjutsu. It


was founded by Black Belt Hall of Fame instructor Stephen K. Hayes in 1997. Hayes learned from Hatsumi, but ToShindo differs from the traditional Ninjutsu taught by Hatsumi in several ways. To-Shindo prepares students to handle threats found in contemporary western society. It has been radically modernized. Of course, rarely, if ever, in our today’s world will the average citizen encounter a group of Samurai. Nor will the average citizen engage in a bar fight with someone wielding a sword. To-Shindo is a very effective art form, and several of my peers and I would argue that it has become more effective in our modern society than the traditional Ninjutsu. I appreciate the traditionalist embrace of the roots and origins of Tenkara. There is much to be learned from the true “barebones” simplicity of the classic style. To ignore the practices and traditions of this style would leave a Tenkara angler with an incomplete practice; a lack of understanding of what makes Tenkara an art form. However, I am confident the ancient Ninja would quickly and without hesitation employ the use of a modern hand-gun or AK47s, were they available at the time. Similarly, I believe that if we were to go back in time and offer a Tenkara angler modern equipment, or access to tasty and easier to catch fish, he'd jump on the opportunities. So, perhaps a blending of the two approaches would serve to benefit both sides.


Just like in the Tenkara community, practitioners in the Ninjutsu community sometimes debate which art is the “better” of the two. I posit that one is not better than the other; just different. As practitioners, we don’t need to denigrate one to appreciate the other. If you wish to emulate traditional Japanese Tenkara fishermen from long ago, you can do so. To what extent? That of course is up to you, but will you use a bamboo rod? Will you create your hook from a sewing needle? And will you forgo modern waders and boots? Do it if is suits you. Or perhaps you will go the opposite direction and forgo tradition. You may be interested in the latest, most advanced Tenkara rod available. Modern gear is comfortable, and can make standing in a cold river all day more comfortable. In both discussions, I would say that neither the more “traditional” form, nor the “modern” form is better, only different. After all, we are all fishing a form of Tenkara. Perhaps the distinction might be that some of us fish “traditional Tenkara”, while others are fishing “modern Tenkara.” Regardless, I’m confident that we are all drawn by the same beauty the natural world offers us, and the thrill of the cast, hook, bend, and landing. Hope to see you on a river! I will be the guy muddling between ancient Japanese and modern styles. I may or may not have a fish on my line.


Tenkara American Style:

That’s A Capital T With A Side Of Attitude


Karin Miller

Okay, some of you are already intrigued and curious while others might already be deciding not to read any further. Where ever you fall, I encourage you to buck-up and continue on. Exactly what does “Tenkara American Style” mean? What does it involve? And well, does it even exist? It may possibly be a figment of my own imagination. Possibly. But in the meantime, I’ll try to explain and hope you’ll follow along. I’ve been deeply involved in tenkara for some years now. And when I say deeply, I really mean it. As owner of Zen Tenkara/ Zen Fly Fishing Gear, I’ve been “studying” tenkara rods and the method since at least 2012 when the company was started and obviously for several years prior to that.


It’s been a long multi-year learning process that has brought me full circle to where I am today, and yet somehow, landed me not quite in the exact same place. I started out as a western fly fisher that enjoyed the outdoors, was passionate about water and had a so-so relationship with fish. I fished because my then-partner fished. It was more obligatory than passion driving me but I did it just the same. However, I really fell in love with fishing when I discovered tenkara. The method removed all the clutter and allowed me to concentrate on the things that “really mattered” in fly fishing. It clarified and crystallized the purpose of an accurate cast, fly placement and presentation and really helped me learn how to fish. Period. And with those

understandings in place, I fell hopelessly in love not just with catching fish, but with the entire experience that went with it. So where does ”American Tenkara” come in? Well, it’s about the journey of not only discovering tenkara but discovering myself and becoming confident and independent in how I fish. I began my tenkara experience by learning the traditional approach to it - long rod, short line, one fly and small streams. I wanted more, so I experimented with longer lines and larger species such as carp. This year however, I took things to a whole different level and discovered a confidence in myself and my fishing that I never had before. It started this past October when I almost canceled a trip to the Florida Keys. A plan was in place to target bonefish, tarpon or whatever saltwater species would hit a fly, but at the last moment things changed and I almost decided not to go. Advice from friends encouraging a “what the hell” attitude, landed me on a dock at Dolphin Marina on Turtle Key,


meeting Scott Yetter early in the morning with a single line set-up and a beefy Zen Kyojin rod in tow. Twelve hours earlier I had walked into Florida Keys Outfitters fly shop and explained to the guy behind the counter what I wanted to do on a fixed fly line. He didn’t immediately laugh at me so I took it as a good sign. Matt was his name and he listened and checked out my rod with a long contemplative stare. He actually saw the potential and thought it just might me possible, crazy yes, but also possible, to land something really big on my beef-stick tenkara rod. About an hour later after brainstorming and knot tying, I walked out of the shop with about a 30ft line set-up that I was hoping could stop a train. I won’t include all the details here, they can be found on my blog, but what I will say is, I caught and landed sharks and a tarpon and it worked well. After about 8 hours of doing that in the sun and wind, exhausted, I indulged in stone crabs and a rum and coke feeling rather content and satisfied with myself. I


realized I was the first woman and the first person, to land a shark on a tenkara rod, and that felt awesome. A few months later I would be heading to Patagonia, Argentina, by myself again, sporting another “what the hell” attitude. This my friend is where the “American Style” comes in and comes from. American Style Tenkara is about using what you know and what you have, it’s about being innovative and creative in a way that suites the situation, breaking tradition not to simply break tradition, but breaking tradition and being a rebel because in doing so, it allows for something else to happen, something great, something thrilling, something new and exciting. Fast forward a few months. January arrives and I depart. I head off to Miami, Buenos Aires, then Esquel in the Chubut Region and finally to Las Pampas Lodge. I’m carrying a dozen tenkara rods, about the same number of lines and other tenkara accessories. I’m carrying one gear bag and a backpack. I’ve learned to pack simple and light for 8 days of fly fishing. Five years ago I would never have dreamed I’d be fly fishing in the Keys or in Patagonia, but here I am. I arrive at Las Pampas and I realized I’ve walked into the image I've dreamed about for several years now from the first time I met Oggy, one of the owners of Las Pampas Lodge. I day dreamed for hours of what it would be like. What it would feel like? How I would fish? The view, the lodge, the entrance, are exactly like the photos in the catalogue except they are real and now they’re actually in front of me. They have smell, texture and dimension. I am really



here. And that’s when it hits me - having the “what the hell” attitude has opened up my world again, to all sorts of new experiences, fishing and otherwise. To clarify, it’s not a “what the hell” as in, I don’t care. It’s a “what the hell” as in, I’ll open my mind and give it a try to see what happens. And what I’ve discovered is, you learn a lot by doing this. The first day in Patagonia, I wanted to hang onto “my tenkara” (slightly adapted but still rather traditional) and do what I knew how to do. I was coming from Colorado. I knew wind and how to break apart water. I’m a rod manufacturer. I know how to fish tenkara and do it well. So after spending the day using a 15ft line with 5ft of tippet and watching fish jump 5ft out of the water then go silent the moment I cast, I realized I needed to channel the “what the hell” attitude again. I am in the middle of a river, in the middle of Patagonia, near the southern most part of Argentina, and I’m being stubborn and stuck in my ways for the sake of “tradition” or something similar to it. That’s when I calmly remind myself, “Let it go,” and decide once again, to be open to the experience. From that point on again, I become the rebel and go out on the limb to do something different, “what the hell.” Twenty-five feet of 4wt floating line is now tied to my 13.6’ foot new Zen Sagi rod. On to that is a 9’ foot tapered leader plus about 5’ feet of 3x tippet. Total line length is about 40’ feet. With my 13.6’ foot Zen Sagi rod, my reach is well over 50’ feet…. on tenkara. Pause. Rewind and reread that last sentence again and out loud. I have an approximate 54’ foot reach with entire tenkara set-up!



My flick-of-a-wrist, small tenkara cast won’t cut it and I experiment, feeling when the line lays out and figuring out the pause that gives everything time to load and unfold. It’s a new feeling and after some time I find the timing. Here, in this moment, I am somewhere in the middle of tenkara and western fly fishing. My cast is like neither and the way the line lays out in front of me is different. In that moment, all boundaries are blurred and I am doing my own thing, by myself, on a river, in the middle of Patagonia, no longer stubborn. I’m in heaven and it’s a defining moment for tenkara and a defining moment for me personally. Who knew I’d travel to Patagonia to learn about tenkara, but I did.


The rest of that day, in 30-40 mph winds, I learned to cast 35ft of line, with accuracy, into the most beautiful rivers, ripples, pockets and pools. The next day was setting the hook and landing fish from that kind of distance. For a few days I indulged in a guide. But wanting to really learn, I gave that up to do it myself. Bottom line you still need to keep things stretched out to reduce slack. And you better be ready to move your feet! I lost a few beauties at the last moment hand lining, but eventually found my rhythm and in no time was swift and efficient. I wasn’t even carrying a net. It was pure, and raw, and a freak’en thrill. That, is Tenkara American Style. During my stay at Las Pampas Lodge I had the pleasure of meeting and spending time with Yvon Chouinard, Owner and Founder of the gear and clothing company, Patagonia. He’s an avid tenkara angler so it was interesting to get a glimpse into his perspective, style and preferences fishing

this method. It was also just plan cooool meeting the man behind all the gear and jackets hanging in my closet at home. It happened to be my birthday while down there, so that was a birthday gift to remember – another opportunity brought about by the “what the hell” attitude. I have a whole list of other places I’d like to go and things I’d like to do on tenkara. I’m open to experiences, open to learning and opening to trying new things. Some of them will be successes, some failures. I will learn from both. And through it all, I’ll have fun, smile, curse and become more and more confident from the things I accomplish, and more and more humbled by the things I’ve yet to do. What is Tenkara American Style? It’s having the guts to travel by yourself to another county; it’s problem solving and building a line from scratch for a specific trip; it’s throwing 30ft of line with an 8” streamer attached and a chunk of squid to boot; it’s adding a wire bite guard to your tenkara line set-up; it’s landing Hammerhead sharks; it’s landing Bonnethead sharks; it’s adding a spring guard to your tenkara line; it’s landing a tarpon, it’s casting 35ft of 4wt floating fly line into 40 mph winds; its dropping a huge stimulator into a 2ft by 2ft opening in a spring creek filled with reeds and plant growth, from 50+ft away; it’s watching a 24” brown come up in slow motion and nail it, then take off like a bullet; it’s running backward in muck while your rod is bent in half and your 35ft line is screaming tight as hell; and its landing that fish fast, admiring its beauty and letting it go. That my friend, is what I do and that, is Tenkara American Style!


Folk Flies and Moorland Trout David West Beale


What does a horse, a seagull and a sheep have in common? Well today at least, they have all unwittingly donated fly tying materials to my cause. Yesterday I arrived in Cornwall. I'm planning to fish for native trout in the fast bright streams that tumble down from the moorlands and into the Atlantic. I thought it would be an interesting challenge to leave my fly boxes at home, arriving only with some basic tying tools, a few hooks and some grey thread. I will scavenge some fly materials directly from the local landscape and see if I can tie up some passable kebari and catch wild trout with them. I have been thinking about folk fly


patterns that have evolved from materials locally to hand and about the resourcefulness of fly-tying artisans living remote in time or space from any Orvis shop. How much more their fly patterns must resonate with the landscape for being a product of it. I hope that I can find a stronger connection too by getting out and scavenging my materials from the land. So this morning I am up and out early on Davidstow Moor and walking amongst the sheep to look for some wool for my dubbing. Davidstow Moor Airfield was used by the RAF to launch bombing raids in WWII. The runways and some of the old

buildings are still here, including the control tower. As I cast around the ruins looking for my wool I reflect on how Tenkara can take us to new destinations with new stories. This place certainly has its fair share - ghost stories that tell of phantom service men and women and even of a stricken bomber that replays its crash landing on dark lonely nights. This is not a place to dwell too long and I am glad when I eventually find some fleece. Little scraps are blowing around and some is caught here and there and I collect a little in my bag. It's creamy coloured and oily and will make a nice dubbing rope for my kebari bodies. I would like some dark wool too for contrast but there are no black sheep here. Later and I am walking on the Atlantic cliffs. There are some dark colored horses here and I can see some little tufts of horsehair clinging to some barbed fence wire. Perfect! Although I've never tied with horsehair before.. it's quite coarse and dry compared to wool but I think it will give a nice 'buggy' texture to my kebari bodies. More challenging is the need for some feather for hackles. Descending from the cliffs and down into a rocky cove, sea birds wheel overhead. Herring gulls mostly, and before long I find some stray sea-wet feathers stuck on the rocks. They grade in color from chestnut through greys, cream and white. They are very oily and the filaments are too long and stiff to wind hackles from. But with a bit of trial and error I find I can remove the filaments separately from the


central flue and stack them around the hook shank and tie in. Not a bad stiffhackle kebari, and using the downy lower feather, I can also make a soft-hackle version sheep and herring gull kebari. They aren't going to win any fly tying competitions but I'm really quite pleased with the results of my early attempts. I have learned a lot from working with unfamiliar materials. Keen to put them to test, I arrive at the little moorland stream with high anticipation but a little anxiety too. It was bold to drive 300 miles without my usual fly-box of tricks. Perhaps too bold. It would be a shame to drive home again without saying hello to a few wild brownies. Time will tell, but right now the self imposed pressure is on! It's what some anglers would term a 'technical' little stream, - with complex braided currents, a low overhead tree canopy and highly contrasting lighting all adding to the challenge of presenting a fly and detecting takes. It's an easy river to read though, with obvious fish holding features in profusion. Creases, pools, slacks and undercuts all have trout potential and often the better fish occupy the best of these. The problem is all one of presentation, as often the best marks are separated from the angler by chaotic faster water. The tenkara approach is ideally suited to such flow mosaics, except that here a rod long enough to hold line clear of the water is often too long to use under the low branches. My rod of choice is just 8 feet in length.



Even so possible fishing locations along the river are limited if a reasonable dead drift is desired. Down and across wet fly presentations with a low rod angle are more viable but invariably the fly skates across to end its swing in the riffles where the smallest trout parr seem to predominate. Relegated to the least favorable water these smallest of trout are hell bent on packing on weight and growing big enough to occupy the more profitable features and structure of the river. Given the choice I always prefer casting to sighted fish over 'prospecting' the water and so today is all about looking and watching. I soon see a splashy rise in a slack under the far bank. Some small pale flies are flitting around the bankside and the trout is keyed on to them. I angle a cast below the overhanging branches and my folk fly lands and is hit, the hanging line plucking taught for an instant then falling slack again. It's an encouraging start but I know this pool is blown now for a while. Further along, a down and across wet fly elicits those inevitable knocks from tiny trout parr, until a better fish properly


takes. It's an average size for this stream, a lovely buttery 6-incher, now I know that my folk fly pattern is working! More walking and watching. The water is the colour of old malt whisky and the trout here have the most beautiful colouration grading from burnt toffee on top through to butterscotch underneath, with a cosmic-camo of red, blue, black and silver along the flanks. In the water though these fish are shadows, take your eyes off them and they are gone when you look back. I cast my fly to such a shadow, the fly lands and the tail of the shadow flicks but the fly swings too soon out of the trout's window. Not spooked though, but interested and 'on the fin'. A change of angle gives a longer drift next cast but the fly passes through a reflection and I lose sight of the fish as well. There is no indication of a take but for some reason I lift and the fish is on. A good fish for this river and the proof of the pudding for my home-spun folk fly. And for me it's rare perfection. Follow tenkaratales.blogspot.co.uk for further tenkara adventures from the UK


Jean Santos's


Line Winders Isaac Tait

Jean Santos hails from the quaint countryside on the outskirts of Avignon, France. Besides enjoying Tenkara fishing in small mountain streams he is also a very talented artist and metal engraver. A few months ago, Jean contacted me with an offer to make me my very own custom engraved titanium Tenkara line winder. After a flurry of emails discussing design and several weeks of eager anticipation I received them in the mail! The detail in each of his winders (there are


two) are exquisite! They are quite small, so much so that I am sure Jean must use a microscope to complete some of the finer details. The color he is able to impart to the winders by anodization is striking. I have temporarily mounted (with small rubber bands) my line winders to my trusty companion, the Tenkara USA Ito Rod. However, I am currently building a Tenkara bamboo rod under the tutelage of my Edo Wazao sensei Masayuki Yamanosan. Later this year, once the bamboo rod has been completed I will more

permanently mount them to this rod using clear thread and lacquer. I think these works of art will perfectly compliment the natural beauty of the Hoteichiku (布袋竹 布袋竹), Yadake (矢竹 矢竹), and Hachiku (破竹 破竹) bamboos that I am building the rod with. The Design of My Line Winders Early in my Tenkara journey I was enamored with Fallfish so my fishing partner started calling me Aki Sakana no Oni. Originally, it was meant to mimic our Tenkara hero Masami Tenkarano Oni Sakakibara. Eventually though the name morphed into a second meaning. You see Oni in Japanese actually has two meanings - Demon/Devil and Ghost/Phantom. When using Oni (鬼 鬼 ) in the context of demon/ devil it communicates Shutendōji (酒呑童 酒呑童 子 ) a supremely wicked and powerful Japanese mythological being. When using Oni in the context of ghost it communicates Yūrē (幽霊 幽霊) or a specter, apparition, or phantom. It was the second meaning that I was after… When I lived in Maryland and had just started Tenkara-ing (a neologism that I think should be widely adopted) I preferred to fish rivers without trout. There were only a few rivers close to where I lived that held trout year around. Due to the close proximity of Washington D.C. these rivers were always crowded and consequently the fish were difficult to catch. The rivers without trout though tended to be wild, un-trampled, and offered solitude; however, they were loaded with fish of the pan variety (e.g. Bluegill, Sunfish, etc.…). Sometimes I would go several days only catching these Pan fish (now there is nothing wrong with


Pan fish they are just a little too easy to catch sometimes). Consequently, I craved the excitement of a larger quarry. So, I sought out Fallfish. I studied their habitat, feeding habits, and mating rituals so that I could increase the odds of enticing one to my fly. They were an elusive quarry though because pollution and habitat decimation had driven them from many of their native rivers. Hence the idea was birthed in my mind that Fallfish were elusive, a phantom and this only served to heighten my fascination with them. The No between Sakana and Oni is actually a Japanese particle that implies ownership or possession. “Effectively, No converts ‘I’, ‘you’, ‘he’, ‘she’ and ‘they’ into ‘my’, ‘your’, ‘his’, ‘her’ and ‘their’, respectively.” In other words, the No in Aki Sakana No Oni indicates that Aki Sakana, or the Fallfish possess the quality Oni. I think Jean perfectly captured my river name Aki Sakana no Oni in the design of my line winder (even though I have since come to learn that to a more developed Japanese speaker the name makes no sense…). Of course, no Japanese line winder would be complete without Mount Fuji. We also included the Kanji (正 正 ) for my son Tadashi to remind me of him when I am away in the mountains, with the hope it would make me rethink some questionable decisions I typically make, such as climbing waterfalls and cliff faces without ropes while attempting to access ultra-remote keiryu. If you would like to see more of Jean’s superb artwork be sure to check out his website: http://gravure-couteaux.info




Does “Japanese” Tenkara Translate to Western Rivers? Stories in Pictures Paul Gaskell

You sometimes hear it said by western anglers that the tactics developed in Japan’s mountain rivers “wouldn’t work in my stream”… Well between myself and JP, we’ve been testing that theory pretty hard over the last several years and, it likely won’t surprise you to hear that trout all around the world fall for the charms of simple kebari and Japanese tenkara presentation methods… So I won’t labour that point. Instead I want to invite you to share just a handful of the wonderful experiences and adventures that tenkara has given me outside Japan. Those adventures, it turns out, can happen on a lunchbreak from work just minutes from home – or on a special tenkara vacation. All that it takes is to venture out on stream with some simple flies and stream skills. Tenkara is the perfect ticket to amazing experiences...

Ferris Bueller Trout from an Urban Stream: Driving between trout habitat survey jobs, I skipped lunch and explored a short section of river in a “post-industrial” English stream (love the halos round the spots!)


The Discover Tenkara Club Streams: JP & I set up possibly the world’s first “tenkara only” trout streams in 2012 in the English Peak District. The whisky coloured water comes from the peat bogs that feed the streams and the trout are all wild (C&R, barbless hook and tenkara only).


Italian Paradise Fishing: We were treated to a mind-blowing trip to the Italian Dolomites by Vito Rubino last year. The food, wine and all the people we met - including Christian and Helga (silent “H”) who are renovating the beautiful Farmhouse for visiting anglers – were just incredible. Christian “Nokill” (on Facebook) is pioneering wild fishing and C&R in the area; which includes marble trout, brown trout grayling and even wild brook trout populations.


Saitou-san’s “Suzutake” Bamboo Rod & Net: Again on local urban streams and “stolen” lunchtime sessions with a simple bamboo rod, horsehair casting line and, now, a Suzutake bamboo net to match! Wild trout and grayling in English rivers – and yet, at the same time, the chance to experience tenkara in a similar way to the original “Shokuryoshi” professional mountain tenkara-fishers. The bamboo rod and net have already featured in Tenkara in Focus – and the Italian trip is coming up in future episodes too. Check out the Tenkara in Focus public Facebook group for more stories, updates and the chance to shape future episodes.



Enjoy Tenkara!

Davide Muccino Zarlenga The sun was about to set when I arrived in Trentino Alto Adige to follow my dream. While driving I could catch a glimpses of clear crystal waters and the urge to stop the car and go fishing was overwhelming. However that afternoon was to be devoted to checking the best fishing spots for my TV show on Tenkara: "Enjoy Tenkara!" on Pesca TV (Ita This is a dream I had been pursuing since 2009, when I bought my first tenkara rod and began practicing this ancient Japanese fishing technique. There were plenty of failed attempts and


lost fish, but soon they gave way to an increasing sense of fulfillment in performing Sasoi and Sutebari. Now I was ready to make my dream come true. The next morning I began my adventure in the River Chiese, just steps away from the hotel, and immediately my 11-foot red Nissin flexed and I found myself looking in the eyes of a gorgeous Rainbow trout. From that moment on, a string of catches made time fly, and the evening came too soon.


The next day paradise awaited me, what is called "the little Italian Canada." The Val di Fumo! What I found is difficult to describe without pictures. Multi-colored vegetation surrounding a swift stream of transparent water, with cascades and rocks breaking its course, and fish, lots of fish. Brown trout, rainbow trout, grayling and brook Trout. Silence and calm were around and inside me. The only noises were the rustling of vegetation and the splashing of fish hooked to my line. My 12-foot Tenkara rod

with a horse hair Kebari worked wonders. Sasoi, my favorite technique, rewarded me with this specimen and helped me catching more than ten brook trout in this stretch of river coming out from the lake of Nudole. The shots were beautiful and in the end I think I succeeded in showing the happiness and enjoyment that Tenkara fishing gives me. I'm waiting for you in Italy and I say goodbye to you all with my motto: "Tenkara, no reel, just reeeelax!"


Interview: Jeff Lomino Riverworks Company Michael Agneta

After a lot of back and forth over several submission deadlines, I was finally fortunate enough to catch up with Jeff Lomino, the proprietor and craftsman behind the Riverworks Company, a shop specializing in custom fishing and tenkara rods. While photos of Riverworks rods surface in social media from time to time, most anglers know little about Riverworks and their offerings. This interview aims to remove some of that mystery. Mike: Jeff, before we get into Riverworks and your rods, please tell us a little bit more about yourself. I understand you’re based out of Tennessee. What’s your fly fishing background, and how did you get interested in tenkara? Jeff: First off Michael, I want to thank you personally for the opportunity for this Q&A with Tenkara Angler. I have been a huge fan of the publication since the beginning. What you do here is very important to the future of fixed line fly fishing here in the U.S.


I have been passionate about fly fishing since the age of 8, tying my first flies for bluegill, bass and “exotics” in South Florida using the extraordinary yarns from my grandparents burnt orange shag carpeting, and pirated feathers from various unlucky birds I happened upon. My love for coldwater species developed upon moving to Idaho in 1986 when I was lucky enough to fish some beautiful trout water in the shadow of some truly inspiring high country. From my very


first lopsided, failed cast I was hooked on trout fishing with a fly rod. I began fly fishing with a solid fiberglass 8-foot rod coupled with a multi-pound automatic Pflueger fly reel during my formative years in Florida. My dad bought me my first graphite composite flyrod upon moving to Idaho and it was then that I really began my life as a fly fisher. In essence, my first experience with the Tenkara method really began around the same time as my first experiences with a fly rod. I found an abandoned 10’ 2 PC bamboo cane pole along a canal near our home in Port Charlotte, FL. I found that a small tan “carpet fly” presented on a 12’ section of 14 lb. mono was a viable method for catching slab bluegill in one of my secret spots where back casting was difficult with my fly rod. One day the cane pole was shattered by a large oversized canal monster (unidentified to this day), and I really didn’t give the concept much more thought for the next 25 years. Even though the memory of that improvised method was still imprinted somewhere in my grey matter. In 2007, I made an ill fated trip to one of my favorite fly fishing streams on earth, the headwaters of the Raven’s Fork in Great Smoky Mountains National Park. I had been making the trek to this remote stretch of water for several years and fell in love with the isolation and the wild brook trout that inhabited this pristine backcountry region. On this trip, more thought was put into the transportation of a pint of Jack Daniel’s green label than to any notion of backup fly fishing gear. After an arduous crawl up the Hyatt Ridge trail and down into the Ravens Fork Gorge I began to cast into my favorite plunge pool with my 7’6” Fenwick 3 WT coupled with my seemingly ageless Martin click and pawl fly reel.


On my third cast, I hooked a trophy size (12”) native brookie. I was really excited about the monster at the end of my tippet and the opportunity to get a fish “on the reel” and hear the drag scream if only for a few seconds. After the first turn on the handle, the old Martin violently fell apart throwing all of its five or so moving parts into the torrent at my feet. A few seconds later I lost the fish and fell into a dejected heap at the edge of the pool. What was I going to do now?? After a few minutes of panicked contemplation, that old memory of the cane pole struck me like a bolt of lightning. I proceeded to strip the fly line off the now deceased Martin, cut a 10’ section off, and affixed it to the tip of the ole

Fenwick. That weekend in the Raven’s Fork Gorge was a profound time of enlightenment for me and my personal journey as a fly fisherman. I realized that for that section of water, that old Martin reel was holding me back and I didn’t need it all, nor would I ever need a reel here to make the most of my time on the water. Even though I didn’t realize it at the time, I was wandering into the world of Tenkara, and things haven’t been the same for me since. In 2010 when the initial groundwork was being laid for Riverworks, I knew I wanted to become involved in the Tenkara industry and the rest is history.


Mike: For those readers that aren’t familiar with Riverworks, can you give us a brief overview about what your company is all about? I know you produce many different types of custom fishing rods. What do you feel your niche is in the tenkara community? Jeff: I have been building fly rods since 2001. I built rods initially for my own arsenal because I simply wasn’t satisfied with the level of performance I was getting with the rods I could buy “off the shelf”. I knew exactly what I wanted in terms of performance and styling and the only way I could get exactly what I wanted was to build a rod myself. The Riverworks concept began in 2010 as a way to commercially present my designs through a very small operation to our local market here in Southeast Tennessee. We officially went live in July of 2014 with a couple of core product lines- the Stealth Fly Rods, our Gen 1 Tenkara Rods, and our specialized rod transport tubes. As a company we are dedicated to producing the most exquisite hand made rods available on the market.


Given how small Riverworks is in the grand scheme of the international fly fishing community, our gear is designed to be completely unique in terms of performance and styling and we don’t have to cater to a board or market trends. We use the word “commercial” in the very loosest sense of the word itself. We are here to provide our customers with a completely unique product and a buying experience you can only get with a very small operation. I run Riverworks with the mindset of “what if I was the customer? How would I want to be treated?, how would that experience translate to other companies selling similar products? In the end, I know all the answers to these questions


and I strive to live up to an impeccable standard of quality and customer satisfaction in every single piece of gear that leaves our shop. I believe the question of “where do we feel our niche is in the Tenkara community” is one that could get a really overstated answer, even by my definition of overstated. The Tenkara industry is very unique here in the US. It is definitely an industry we can still classify as an emerging market. One important aspect of our market is the astounding fact that almost all the companies “competitively” marketing fixed line rods here in the US occupy a pretty specific niche. Without making specific examples, and excluding the “me too” companies selling rods, everyone is doing a really good job of marketing a fairly specific set of tools to their customers. I think the Riverworks Tenkara niche is centered in the philosophy of offering handcrafted, uniquely styled, and highly specialized rods to Tenkara anglers who think along the same lines as I do. Given the low volume that we deal in, and the final product we market, our gear is easily categorized within a special niche in the community. For those who are looking for a highly specialized (technique specific) handcrafted rod, with a certain sense of style, I believe Riverworks offers a great lineup of rods for these individuals. Riverworks Tenkara is the little guy in the Tenkara community and we intend to keep it that way. We have never rushed a product to market, which explains the length of time between the release of our Generation 1 and our Generation 2 rods. Mike: How would you best describe the tenkara rods you produce? Is there a specific style of fishing for which they’re

designed? There are several different series listed on your website, can you take us through the differences? Jeff: Our Generation 2 rods were designed as fixed line “tactical” nymphing rods. When I use the term “tactical nymphing” I am referring to a term that Rob Worthing has been developing over the past couple of years. Tactical nymphing is an adaptation of competition nymphing techniques, commonly referred to as Euronymphing or tight line nymphing, using a fixed line rod. The resulting rig is lighter and lower profile, allowing for an even more natural presentation, and ensuring fly control over a greater range of on-stream conditions. Tactical nymphing may be the most powerful fly fishing technique developed to date, and the ZX2 Series of Rods that we build are produced to maximize the effectiveness of this style of delivery given the level of sensitivity the carbon fiber grip affords the user. The ZX2 is our flagship grip style, sporting a handmade carbon fiber handle with a revolutionary carbon composite core. The ZX2 Grips offer the most sensitive connection between the fly and the users


hand, and in my experience, that split second gained with the added sensitivity in the connection has resulted in more consistent hooksets over the course of any given day on the water. I think the added sensitivity in this regard is crucial when presenting a bead head nymph or soft hackle deeper in the water column. Our ZX Hybrid Rods are based on a lighter core composition with a carbon fiber/ fiberglass hybrid sleeve. This translates to a slightly less sensitive grip interface between the user’s hand and the fly as the core is not as dense. The trade off in the reduced sensitivity is that it has allowed us the opportunity to do some really cool things in regards to styling. We are offering the ZX Hybrid grips in 4 different color schemesNeon Green, Red, Blue, and Orange. The ZX Hybrid Series has been a lot of fun for me personally and the grip yields an exceptional level of performance for tactical nymphing far exceeding any other grip material on the market today. Our last 2 Grips are exquisite hand lathed cork grips we are calling our Backcountry Series and this includes the Backcountry model and the Backcountry Limited.

ZX2 (Top), ZX Hybrid (Bottom)


Backcountry (Top), Backcountry Limited (Bottom)


Our Backcountry model is the lowest cost option to getting your hands on a Riverworks fixed line rod. Our Backcountry model sports a Cork/EVA hybrid grip that is ultra durable and looks really cool with our cutting edge blanks. The Backcountry Limited grip is composed of Variegated Cork. The Variegated cork rings that we use in the construction of the Limited model are among the finest available on the market today and really give the rod a truly one of a kind look. We know that not everyone will be drawn to the futuristic jet fighter looks of our ultra high performance composite grips. Our cork Backcountry grip models still provide our customers with an exceptional experience in Tactical Nymphing with more traditional styling. These 4 distinct grip families are installed onto our cutting edge 360CM (11’10”) or our 315CM (10’4”) tactical nymphing specific blanks in either Silver Matte or Satin Black finishes. The ZX2 model is only available on the 360CM blank because the grip was designed to work best on this length of rod. Our 360CM blank is best described as a fast action blank with a sensitive tip and tremendous backbone built into the midsection of the blank. The overall profile of the blank is intended to provide positive hook setting capabilities with flies presented deeper in the water column and


the backbone necessary to control and land larger fish all while maintaining an overall thin blank profile and the lightest weight possible. I believe a combination of these factors have yielded one of the most unique high performance fixed line blanks the market has seen to date. Our 315CM blank is thinner and not quite as fast as the 360CM version and of course provides a smaller footprint in tight quarters for folks who are interested in a shorter nymphing rod. Lastly, and this is something we are particularly proud of, is our completely unique component system for the new rods. Our butt caps and butt cap inserts are machined and finished right here in the USA. The component design is something we have been working on for almost 2 years and it is completely unique to the industry. We will be offering different color schemes to accent the color options on our grips. This goes back to your niche question, Riverworks will be the only company on earth using this particular component package and it really puts the rods in a league of their own as far as styling is concerned. To finish up, all our rods are assembled by hand, one at a time, here in our little shop in Chattanooga, Tennessee. Because our blanks are manufactured by a small company in

China, we can’t claim the Built in the USA tag for the rods, but with our component and assembly program, we are closer than most, and we are really excited to include local businesses and US vendors in our overall production scheme. I know there is a lot I have left out here, but I think this gives everyone a fairly comprehensive overview at what we will be offering the Tenkara community in 2017. Mike: This is probably tough to answer, but If you’re picking up one of your rods for a day on the water, which one do you grab first, and what kind of line, tippet, and fly are you tying on? Jeff: Over the last year I have been fishing my ZX2 360 almost exclusively. I am using the special tactical nymphing line system that Rob Worthing has been developing. I have gone away from colored fluorocarbon lines and am using a clear fluorocarbon line (10lb


test Fluorocarbon F-C Sniper Sunline) with a hi-vis sighter built into the end of the line. My favorite setup for the ZX2 includes the special 12’ tactical nymphing line setup, 2-3’ of 5X Orvis Mirage Tippet, and an array of Tungsten Bead Soft Hackles. I’ll have my favorite patterns up on the website here in the coming weeks... Mike: I read that your blanks are sourced by Luong Tam (Tanuki). Are they based off of his tapers or is the design specific to you? Jeff: First off we are blessed to be working with Luong. He has been instrumental in helping Riverworks Tenkara take that next step with our rods. To answer your question, our blanks, are an exclusive blank built exclusively for Riverworks Tenkara. The blank profile and action of our blanks are a complete departure from the current Tanuki rod in terms of action.

Jeff Lomino & Luong Tam 2016 Tenkara Jam


Mike: Rob Worthing of the Tenkara Guides seems to have an affinity for your rods, and you've mentioned him several times in this interview. Is Rob affiliated with Riverworks, either officially, or as a product tester? If so, what changes have you made to your rods based on his feedback? Jeff: Rob and I originally started talking about a Tactical Nymphing Rod at the original Tenkara Jam in 2014. He and I really wanted the same thing in a blank for this specialized technique. Rob has been a trusted friend and advisor to me personally, but he does not specifically endorse nor is he compensated by Riverworks. He is a customer as well as a friend, which has


Rob Worthing


happened with several like-minded individuals over the last couple of years. Rob fishes a lot of different rods for the various techniques that they are intended. I am honored to have Rob use the ZX2 as his weapon of choice when it comes to Tactical Nymphing with a fixed line rod. One other note when it comes to Rob and the ZX2 360, is that he has been showing us an additional side benefit to the action of the rod. He has been taking some large trout on the ZX2. This has showed me the ultimate capabilities of the rod when it comes to subduing some bruisers. Mike: You seem to really push the boundaries when it comes to rod

cosmetics. From carbon fiber grips to silver blanks and they all seem to stand out from the other offerings on the market. From where do you draw your inspiration? Jeff: I have to admit, when I did the first carbon fiber grip on a Tenkara rod back in 2013, I had a very rudimentary knowledge of what advantages might be gained with the use of a carbon fiber grip. One thing I did know; it looked really cool. I didn’t gain a full appreciation of the performance capabilities until I was able to fish the rod alongside my rods built on EVA grips. Even back when we were using “run of the mill” blanks there was a noticeable advantage for me on the water with the carbon fiber grips.


More than anything, I really wanted the Riverworks Tenkara rods to be completely different from anything else available on the market. I love the futuristic styling that carbon fiber and the hybrids offer. I love rods that give off a “jet fighter” vibe. Something unique. If you have a rod that offers real high performance capabilities, I just believe that you might as well outfit that rod to look cool. Some don’t agree and I’ve even had a few people tell me that such a radical break from the traditional styling that has become the norm for the vast majority of rods on the market today was a kick in crotch to the establishment. Again, I may be longwinded here, but my inspiration comes from stepping outside the established norm and building grips, components, and having the rods finished in a way that I find appealing. Being the little fish in the big pond affords me the luxury of individuality. Like I have said before, I don’t report to a board or shareholders, I build

what I want how I want it. Some folks think my designs are pretty damn cool and these are the folks I build rods for. Mike: I also find it interesting that you have done limited edition custom rods with both Tanuki & Badger. How did those come about and do you anticipate any more collaborations? Jeff: The collaboration aspect of the Riverworks Customs program is one of the coolest parts of my business. Luong is more than a supplier of blanks to me. He is a friend and a mentor to me in the Tenkara philosophy. When Luong asked me to begin work on the Snow 375 Custom project, I was honored at the opportunity. That project jumpstarted my effort to bring some “exotic” grips to established rod models. Like Luong, Matt Sment is also a friend. With Matt at Badger, I actually approached him because I saw something that did not fit with what Riverworks had going on, but I thought would be awesome on a Badger rod. The Spec Ops Rods we have been doing for Badger are a prime example of what a cool thing we have going on in the Tenkara Industry. Given that pretty much everyone selling rods here in the US occupies a certain niche, we are not stabbing each other in the back for sales at every opportunity. I love the fact that we can collaborate and it was really cool at the last Tenkara Jam in Cherokee, we had the owners of 4 very different rod companies fishing alongside each other in the Raven’s Fork. It is a very unique situation and one of the things I love about the Tenkara industry. Aside from the Tanuki and Badger rods that we are working on, I am cooking up a couple of other collaborations, one of which is a




Riverworks Customs / Badger Classic Spec Ops Edition

Japanese rod manufacturer. So yeah, this is going to be an ongoing thing for our custom shop and I am just really stoked about the future of this side of our business. Mike: It’s been a while, but I seem to recall Riverworks developing a split grip, twohanded tenkara rod a few years back and posting some photos to social media. What happened to that project, and do you see yourself trying that again in the future? Jeff: Pretty much right off the bat, I realized that the Split Grip (Monster Grip) Concept was radical, even by Riverworks standards. The idea behind the Monster Grip is a design concept centered around a two-handed casting style for long rods. Most rods on the market that have the very longest grips have a certain amount of material in those grips that offer no real value in two handed casting. The split grip removes the material that you don’t need for a reduction in the overall weight of the grip. We couldn’t source a blank that really took advantage of a two handed casting style. If we ever move into the 425-450 CM (up to 15’) rod market, the Monster grip system would certainly be the


style we would use. This is a project that is tucked away for future use. Mike: We first met face-to-face at last Fall’s 2016 Tenkara Jam. Events such as the Jam are fantastic not only to put faces to names of people from the online tenkara community, but also to get your hands on rods you might otherwise never be able to handle. Do you do many events to promote your shop? Where might interested anglers be able to see your rods in person in 2017? Jeff: 2017 is going to be a big year for Riverworks in terms of showcasing. We will be working a lot with our local fly shop, Blue Ridge Fly Fishing Co. here in Chattanooga, for regular meetups and have a couple of Tenkara boot camps here in the works for this year. This year we are also taking our rods to the Midwest Tenkara Fest in Wisconsin. The Appalachian Tenkara Jam is a huge event for us. The Tenkara Jam is such a fantastic event for us because we consider the event to be in our backyard, and our local market is such a huge focus for what we do in terms of marketing. We are not ready to take the leap to the big shows yet, but that is certainly on our radar. We will also be doing a “pass around” rod demo, where we have folks sign up to take the ZX2 for a test drive and then send the demo down the road to the next tester. More information on this will be coming in the next few weeks. The best way to learn about this and our other social gathering is to visit the Riverworks website or visit our Facebook page. Mike: Is there anything else do you want

to tease or promote? I know everybody likes good “gear talk.” Jeff: I have been developing a concept in rod transport called the Tenkara Rod Pod. The Rod Pod is the first multi-rod, hard-sided rod tube developed specifically for Tenkara rods. We are really close to having the final design complete on this tube and hope to have it ready for launch in the next couple of months. We also plan on having a couple of new blank lengths available for the Gen 3 rods, some folks have been asking for a slightly longer variant of the 360CM blank as an option. We are also considering doing a small run of our original Ronin G1 Rods which folks really loved. So that’s not necessarily new, but a resurrection of an old favorite, but we don’t have a timetable on this little project yet. Mike: What are your interests away from fishing? I find that many of the people I’ve encountered through tenkara have a pretty diverse set of passions. Jeff: I have a real passion for the outdoors in general. Though fishing seems to occupy a lion’s share of my time outside these days. I love the opportunity to explore isolated areas. There’s just something cool about walking into an area that few humans visit. I also have the strange hobby of designing “off the grid” homesteading solutions for remote properties. I love the idea of simple self sufficiency in wild places. I am also a Geography buff and still love to study a good old fold out map. There was once a time not so long ago that we needed a compass and a map to find our way in the backcountry. I love spending time with my family. My two little boys, ages 20 months and 4 years keep me pretty busy when I am not building rods.

Mike: Jeff, I really appreciate you doing this interview. If there’s anything else you’d like to add in closing, feel free... Jeff: Our new hardware packages are clearing quality and we hope to have the rods ready for sale to the general public in the first couple weeks of April. I am absolutely stoked to be this close to releasing everything. A lot of folks are already on a waiting list, but for those of you interested in a specific release date, I try and keep my Facebook page current on release dates... www.facebook.com/riverworkscompany Everyone can also stay tuned to our brandnew website which for the first time includes a completely integrated store... www.riverworkscompany.com/neoriverworks-tenkara.html I think I have already presented myself as the most longwinded rod builder out there. Again, Michael, thank you for the honor of doing an interview for Tenkara Angler. I just want to say again what a fan I am of the publication. This magazine is such a huge part of acquainting the masses on what Tenkara is all about. This is so very important to the future of our sport.


Prismatic Tenkara Jim Tignor

"That Guy In Orange" 104

"Each one is a winner"

105 "Sundown"

"Marry A Woman Who Fishes"



Jim Tignor is a regular contributor to Tenkara Angler. Additional examples of his art can be found on various online resources:


Not Fishing Adam Klagsbrun

There comes a time in each fisherman’s life when they attain a certain level of fishing ability and a shift occurs in that fisherman’s mind. The shift is focused around the idea that once, this angler yearned for every single fish… an idea that relates to the 5 stages of fly fishing that I enjoy referencing here and there. Yet now, that pseudo-hysteria, or gentle “addiction” if you will, the need to chase every fish has faded - replaced with a new confidence and peace of mind. In short, the angler no longer wants to catch every fish, or even a lot of fish, when spending a day on the water. Landing a lot of fish is no longer the most important part of going fishing. However, I believe it is safe to say that no self-respecting angler would be happy with zero fish… a skunk… true? Or maybe I exaggerate? Some people truly do exist on a zen-level when it comes to these things. Most of us do not.


For this reason, as well as some others, it’s important, then, to know when not to go fishing instead! And the time in which this is most true is this season we are just moving out of now, the Winter. So many times I’ve pushed myself to brave the cold because I know there are fish to be caught. Other times I’ve taken risks with ice shelves and a strong current in the seasonably high melt-out conditions. And then there are the days in the sleet, the snow, the cold rain… sure, I know chances are I’ll usually catch at least one fish… but I often would wonder - is that the best use of my day? Would I have had more fun and felt less frustrated having chosen not to fish, and to do something else, instead? This is an internal struggle many fishermen know all too well. As I get older I find myself moving away from pushing myself to be on the water at every opportunity. In return, I’m finding myself spending more time on the trail, getting in shape, and enjoying other elements of the outdoors. Sometimes it’s hard not to go fishing. Other times, it’s easy.


The Long Goodbye: An Ode To My Fishing Buddy John Yokley

I’m slowly losing my fishing buddy. My dog Abby has been many things to me over the years – a hiking buddy; a furry daughter; an object of amusement & joy; a source of comfort during my darkest days; an expression of forgiveness & tolerance; as well as a constant reminder of unconditional love (it is not a coincidence that “dog” is “God” spelled backwards). But in recent years, she has transformed into my faithful fishing buddy. Abby, like all of my dogs over the years, is a rescue. A beautiful Border Collie mix with enough “mutt” to keep her in fairly good health. While she was quite a handful in her younger days (there was a lot of bark coming out of that little body), she has matured into an excellent companion animal. And, besides a catastrophic leg injury requiring surgery (Abby’s “college fund”) and a cancer scare last year, she’s been relatively healthy and low maintenance (okay, so maybe her dental bills did add up due to her affinity for chewing rocks). At about the same time as Abby started to show some age, I re-found an old love of fishing through my introduction to Tenkara. And Tenkara was really the perfect kind of fishing for me to include Abby – there were less accoutrements to distract me, less line for her to get tangled in and less of the purist’s mentality (sometimes bordering on an arrogant “snootiness”) in this style of fly-fishing. The



fact I was even fishing Tenkara informed most western-style fly-fishermen I encountered that I was a little “off” and not to be trusted with small children, or even a nice run during the hatch. And showing up on the river with Abby in tow, while holding a Tenkara rod, usually resulted in a slow, knowing nod of pity from the traditionalists (“bless his heart”) – I had fulfilled their low expectations. A favorite author of mine, John Gierach once wrote:

“People who own fishing dogs are all blinded by love. There's no such thing as a good fishing dog. Most of these beasts are retrievers who think they can do to trout what they've been trained to do to ducks. It may sound cute, but it’s not. Stay away from people who take their dogs fishing.” Far be it of me to question this man’s wisdom – he’s right. Most dogs are not the ideal fishing partner. They can be rambunctious, spook your fish, get tangled in your line on a back cast and generally make themselves an annoyance during a peaceful afternoon on the river. But, an errant paw isn’t quite as damaging as a men’s size 12 on your rod. And a dog will never bore you on the ride with “shop talk”, will never take the last beer from the cooler nor ever need to get home early to “keep the Missus” off his back. In the past year, I’ve grown to relish my time on the water with my fishing buddy. As I learned how to effectively fish the


Tenkara style, I spent more time on the water with Abby. She would stay on the bank, not spook the fish and seemed to enjoy watching me improve on my casting and reading of water. And once I hooked a trout, she would stand at river’s edge and “stare” the fish in, as if acting as my spotter, to insure I kept the right tension on the line and played the fish to keep it out of the rocks or away from rapids. A finer guide was not found during those moments, and this guide only worked for belly rubs and jerky treats. Little did I know, however, this past season would be the nadir of her fishing career. Abby’s still with us, but her days of acting

as my spotter, and a soundboard for my fly selection, seem to be limited going forward. While I still take her fishing on occasion, she doesn’t seem to get as excited and I have to carry her down to, and across, the river; a labour of love on my part. She just turned 15 years old (which is equal to about 90 for us humans) and the old bones are just too sore to go with me at the same rate and frequency. As she approaches the winter of her existence, I take solace in the blessing to write this homage as she naps at my feet. I’ve always thought it unfair that man’s lifespan is so much longer than a dog’s life. Life offers such few stalwart companions



like a good fishing dog. And, once found, a dog and his master should be able to live out their days together. But upon sober reflection, it is as it should be as are most things in life. The chance of the dog outliving his master would be greater. And any dog owner worth his salt knows no other person is capable caring for his dog as well as he did. So, as we approach that day in the not-todistant future when Abby’s existence in this world will be over, I know I can look forward to finding her at Rainbow Bridge. And I’m sure she’ll be under the bridge at water’s edge waiting for me to stroll up with my rod so she can be my spotter once again. No good fishing dog ever really dies, they just go scouting for new water… Author's Note - This article was written and submitted for publishing consideration on February 26, 2017. Less than a month later, Abby was ready to scout for more water. We had to let her cross Rainbow Bridge on morning of March 19, a tough day for all. The night before, I took her to the river pull out, parked with the windows open allowing her to hear the water one last time. And on the way home, we were able to spot 40 deer in the various fields around North Mills, a new record for the both of us. We like to think the deer knew and were coming out to say their farewells. She was as fearless facing death as she was in living her life. She was as good of a dog as any man had a right to expect to call their own for over 15 years. She will be sorely missed....


A Model Of Courage Dave Menicucci


“The doctor will see you now, Mr. Grossman.” With those words Jim could feel his chest pounding as he anticipated the diagnosis. “I have reviewed the test results and I am sorry to report that you definitely have the beginning stages of Parkinson’s. There is no cure but there are treatments.” With those words Jim was swarmed with the thoughts of the dire prospects of slow physical debilitation and increasing immobility. This kind of news changes one’s life and one of Jim main concerns was how this would affect his greatest outdoor love—fly fishing. For many years he spent most of his leisure time on the streams of northern NM and those in neighboring states. Just months from retiring from his research engineering job at Sandia National Labs, he had been dreaming of spending his golden years tying flies and fishing with his buddies. It was 2009 and now this golden dream had been tarnished by a dreaded disease, one that slowly degrades the brain’s ability to regulate the body’s motor movements. According to the World Parkinson Coalition the condition is diagnosed in over 60,000 Americans annually and over 10 million people are living with Parkinson’s world-wide. Fly fishing, particularly on streams, involves careful maneuvering and balance along with manipulating various pieces of equipment—rod, reel, nets. It can sometimes be dangerous, especially when standing in the water and walking over algae-covered rocks in the stream, which can be as slippery as wet ice. Fly tying also involves a steady hand as does loading the fly on the line. All of these are activities


that would be affected by the tremors that are one of the most visible manifestations of the disease. But Jim was determined to fight back. Initially, Jim’s most common symptoms were limited to slight foot dragging and some persistent back pain, both of which were easily manageable. “I knew that I had some time to develop some fishing techniques that would be useful when the symptoms became more acute,” he said. So, he set off to continue his plans for retirement fishing. He moved up his retirement schedule and thus began his quest to become a mobility fisherman, one of the greatest challenges of his life and one that would employ all of his engineering skills. Although his symptoms were becoming overt, he thought his balance was still good. That thinking changed after an accident on the stream. “I was fishing a nice stretch and moving upstream slowly, casting well above a set of riffles. As many anglers do, I grabbed branches along the way to give me stability. Unfortunately, one I grabbed broke.” He twisted himself around to keep from going in face-first, but then ended up incapacitated in the stream. The cold water temporarily paralyzed his motor ability. He lay in the stream with water gurgling about him for several minutes before he managed to twist and crawl to the bank. Shivering, he whistled for help and called for his buddies on the handheld radio, but they were out of range. Finally, dragging himself onto a nearby sunny bridge he began to wring out his clothes. After about 20 minutes he finally contacted his buddies, both of whom


immediately came to his aid. “It was a close call, but I learned a lot,” he said. Jim understood physics and knew that balance would be improved with some external support, one that is more dependable than some branch on the stream bank. “I started using a walking stick,” he explained. “Three points of support greatly improves steadiness and it is especially important to safely traverse the stream.” He attached the adjustable walking pole to his belt with a retractable lanyard so that it would be in easy reach whenever he needed it. “The system allowed me to use the pole whenever I moved. And it was great for walking to and from the stream too,” he explained. Another problem that developed was the fly rod, which requires two hands to operate. “Because my balance is faulty, I need one hand to hold my pole and that leaves just one to operate the rod,” he explained. After talking to local fly fishing shops, he discovered the Tenkara fly rod, which was developed in Japan and employs no reel; the fly line is fixed directly to the end of the rod. “It was ideal for me because I can operate the rod with one hand, although the fishing techniques are somewhat different from conventional western rods.” Tenkara employs a tapering system starting at the angler’s elbow which continues down the arm through the rod into the tapered fly line and onto the fly. The fly line is about 10 to 12 feet long and with an 8 foot rod the system is about 20 feet in length. The rod is collapsible down to about 16 inches and the line is wrapped around it for easy transport.



“Fishing is different with the Tenkara rod and my walking sticks,” Jim said. “I tend to intensely fish a few areas instead of moving along the water as many anglers do. I pick a good spot where I know there are fish and work the area. Initially, the fish scatter, but they return after a while. They seem to accept me as part of the landscape after I have been there for a while.” Landing a trout with a Tenkara rod is different from a standard rod because there is no reel to retract the line. “Once I have one on, I raise the rod to keep tension on the line while I slowly work it back and forth to wear it out as I bring it onto the bank. It takes longer and I don’t catch as many as a



fully mobile fisherman, but I get my share,” Jim said. Jim has been able to continue to tie his own flies, a custom he greatly enjoys. “There is something especially satisfying about dreaming about catching a trout on a fly that you are tying and then realizing that dream on the stream,” he said. The tremors have not been as much a problem as might be expected because of the medications that can temporarily steady trembling hands. He ties when he is steady. Loading a fly on the line is also not as much of a problem as might be expected because he can hold his hands close to his chest to quite down the tremors while threading the line through the eyelet. But he tends to load fewer flies. “I depend on

my buddies to tell me what is working and then I load that type of fly and keep using it until I either catch some or I get a report of something better. I found that many times I simply have to keep presenting the fly to get some action on the water to stimulate the fish. It requires more patience but I am successful.” As the disease has progressed and Jim’s balance has degraded, he decided he needed another walking pole to improve steadiness, especially when approaching the stream and setting up. “Three points of support are good, but four are better,” Jim said. But that left no hands free for the rod. “I did not want to have to collapse the rod and reel and stow them in a backpack every time I wanted to move,” he said. Again, Jim’s engineering skills kicked in. “I searched web until found a carrying holster for my rods and sticks. I got a fellow in San Diego to build it for me. It allows me to carry two rods and two sticks. I configure one rod for dry flies and the other for wet ones. The holster has a loop for different tools, such as my pliers or line trimmers,” he said. It sports two tubes to contain either a standard rod with a reel or a Tenkara rod. Using this system he has ready access to everything he needs to stay safe on and about the stream. The buddy system of fishing has become essential to Jim as the disease has progressed. His accident on the stream taught him the value of having a helper if he gets into trouble. “I never fish alone anymore. And I always carry some small twoway radios, which you can buy at any sports store or online,” he said. “My buddies know my condition and they stay in touch when we



are in the field. We always work as a team.” Jim’s determination and ingenuity has allowed him to continue to enjoy his passion of fly fishing in spite of a steady degradation in his health. His tremors have begun to be less responsive to the medications, and he and his physician have had to increase dosage deal with additional side effects—fatigue, feeling hot, and requiring lots fluids. He is considering Deep Brain Stimulation (DBS) in which an electric element is inserted into the brain surgically. DBS uses a surgically implanted, battery-operated medical device called a neurostimulator, which is akin to a cardio-pacemaker, to deliver electrical stimulation to the electrical element in the area of the brain that control movement. It blocks the abnormal signals that cause tremors and other Parkinson’s symptoms. Many people have found that DBS can reduce symptoms for years.


One a recent fall afternoon after a successful day of fishing Jim sat on the porch of the author’s cabin and reflected on what has motivated him. “Fishing is one of the great experiences of my life,” he said. “When I am on the stream I forget everything else and can concentrate on just what is happening at that time. It is relaxing and I enjoy it immensely. I will never give up until I can no longer move, hopefully a long time from now.” While Jim has found a way to conquer his physical ailments, he now faces a challenge that might finally derail him— the federal public land management bureaucracies that have been on a tear closing roads and restricting access to public places. The US Forest Service has implemented a frenzy of these closures under the guise of their Travel Management (TM) Program, which started with the beneficial objective to restrict deleterious off-road activities but morphed into a monstrous program to

protect a mouse that nobody has even seen.” Jim wonders aloud why the federal government does not exhibit equal concerns for him, a disabled human who is actually a citizen-owner of that waterway. Jim will be spending his winters tying flies. With DBS he plans many more afternoons at the author’s cabin reminiscing about a day’s experiences trying to fool those slippery creatures of the water and their efforts to fool him. A model of courage, Jim has never given up, is eternally optimistic and is a fine example for other outdoorsmen and women with debilitating neurological disorders. But he encourages all those with similar conditions or needs to talk with their congressional representatives about the growing public land access problem.

restrict motorized travel on public land. And it is hitting hard at seniors, disabled folks, families with children and anyone else who needs a motor vehicle to access and enjoy their public lands. In the Santa Fe National Forest alone over 2/3rds of all roads have been closed, many of them useful and important to folks who have limited hiking ability. While the USFS conducted extensive TM public hearings on possible closures and developed a set of five options, a couple of which were quite reasonable, they chose, without public consultation, to implement the most severe closures.


Additionally, the USFS has collaborated with extreme environmentalists to use the Endangered Species Act to restrict access to prime fishing waters. In one popular area of northern NM, Jim said, “they closed an ideally located public-land stream to

Here are a few of the places where equipment applicable to mobility-limited fly-fishing anglers may be purchased: Rods

Tenkara USA www.tenkarausa.com

Rod holders and holsters Kim’s Rod Holders www.Kimsrodholders.com

Wading sticks, Retractors and Lanyards, Hip/Waist/Chest Waders and Boots Simms www.simmsfishing.com Cabela’s (owned by Bass Pro Shops) www.basspro.com / www.cabelas.com Academy www.academy.com/shop/browse/fishing Columbia www.columbia.com/activity-fishing/


The Case Against "Match the Hatch"


Jim Wright

Photo: National Park Service

Choosing kebari when fishing over rising trout, the logical conclusion one might reach would be to imitate the fish's diet as precisely as possible in order that our artificial might be accepted as food. However, there are many reasons one could make a case against this approach. I have successfully used completely different appearing flies under similar circumstances with a reasonable degree of success. Certainly much more successfully than the "Match the Hatch" approach. First, we have to understand that a fish is an opportunist as are most life forms on this planet. For example, observation of a trout in it's natural environment will show that anything which even remotely


appears to be something to eat, and even things that do not will be sampled. The shear amount of debris in a stream far outnumber the actual edible food items, so for a trout it's a numbers game. The percentage of edibles just has to be sufficient to provide the energy to search for them. Of course, the success rate needs to be somewhat greater if a fish is to grow larger, not simply to survive. Some streams provide that, some do not. In slower water a fish can take time to try out a great variety of potential fare. Many times I have observed a trout try the same object two or three times before letting it settle to the bottom. That's assuming that a different trout will not pick it up and try

it for himself, which they almost assuredly will. Now in faster water, a fish only has a second or two to decide whether or not to take the "energy-robbing" plunge into the current to try out an interesting looking tidbit. These trout behave differently and are more selective of what they choose simply because they have to be. Their survival depends upon it.


Let's look at the classic "Match the Hatch" situation. You are "in-stream" and aquatic insects are hatching all around you. The fish seem oblivious to distraction, so focused are they on feeding. Put yourself in the trout's place. You don't have to go searching for nourishment, or try out every possible stick or leaf bit. The food almost flows right into their mouths. Now down the current comes your imitative fly. Will the trout notice it? I hate to tell you but the odds are against it. That is the kind of boxed-in thinking that we need to reconsider. Out of thousands of hatching insects, your nearly exact match may or may not be noticed. And often it is not. What we need to offer the fish is something that will make them notice and react. Depending upon conditions and depth of presentation, this might be a hopper, streamer, crayfish or a hellgramite. All are good bets. The approach might be to make the fish angry, or just offer a bigger mouthful. These patterns don't need to look exactly like their natural counterparts, they only need to attract attention.

colorful or with a unique action or sound. The goal at this point is just to present something bigger or potentially outlandish at the correct depth for it to be noticed. It helps even further if you use a fly that you are familiar with, one with which you have become skilled. This approach may just be the ticket to upping the angling odds for you. Most patterns based upon Eastern Tenkara tactics are rooted in this concept, but Western patterns can be just as useful. It's the action, the bright color, the flash or sound which advertises it's presence, proves the ability to attract attention, and finally allows you to connect. Does "Match the Hatch " strategy work? It surely does or it would not have stood the test of time. But it's not the only game in town, and may not be the best bet for your next trip. A few gaudy flies in your box might be the ace in the hole that will bail you out of your next tough situation.

So the strategy in such a situation, is to offer something much larger and/or flashy,




Tenkara As A Secondary Sport Sean Dziedzic

Truth be told you'll almost always see me with a western fly rod in my hand on most any body of water. With that being said, I just can't stop seeing the benefits of Tenkara which I've been following regularly since 2012 when I bought my first "Tenkara" rod, a Daiwa Soyokaze. It's technically a Tanago rod but same idea. When I say Tenkara as a "secondary sport" I mean something you do as a result of another outdoor sport. For example, hiking way out in the middle of nowhere is a common activity for a good portion of us. Bringing a Tenkara rod, line, and a few flies will go completely unnoticed in your pack until the time comes when you find that pristine trickle of crystal clear trout heaven. I've hiked hundreds of miles everywhere from The Great Smoky Mountains National Park up to The White Mountains National Forest and all the way out to Rocky Mountain National Park, every time a Tenkara rod in my pack and let me tell ya, I sure have been rewarded greatly! Shoot, I even


brought it with me on a trip to Hawaii and caught some interesting little creatures out there. It really is the ideal go anywhere rod. It's not very often you see a guy decked out in the latest western gear from Simms or Orvis much more than 4-5 miles from the car, and even that's pushing it. Yes there are a few folks wet wading way out or just casting from shore, but what about those "super-ultralight" and/or long distance hikers and backpackers. My very first backpack fishing trip was with mainly older gear and weighed around 40 pounds for the 5 day trip. In my defense this was my first planned trip alone so I wanted to be prepared for anything. After that I started becoming fascinated with ultralight gear, I would take my weekly trip to REI and Cumberland Transit in Nashville, Tennessee to pick up the lightest thing I could find. Over the years I've bought and sold tons of incredibly light gear, some of which I'm still blown away by the weight of, and Tenkara happens to be one of them. You'll see some serious backpacking setups in the sub 3 pound range and even the average weekend warrior’s pack is down to 15 pounds these days. A fully

functioning fishing kit can add as little as 3 ounces to that, which is weight well spent! I'm very fond of Tenkara USA and everything they've brought to the table, but there are many lighter options for backpacking. My Daiwa Soyokaze is the rod of choice here weighing in at 1.8 ounces! They keep the weight and bulk low by removing the cork grip which seems to add an average of 1-1.5 ounces for any given rod. Using a foam line spool saves a bit of weight as well, I usually put two lines on one spool and that's all I need for almost any situation.


My Soyokaze is 9 feet long so I'll bring 12 foot and 18 foot lines with some tippet and a lightweight fly box holding more than will ever be needed for a full weekend on the water. To go even lighter you could always stick a dozen flies in the top of your hat skipping the box all together. Most of us carry forceps of some kind as well. These can pull double duty if you have the style with scissors integrated in the middle. If you go without those I would still highly recommend carrying something along the lines of a multi-tool

to get hooks out, be it from a fish or from your body. Apart from hiking, Tenkara also fits very nicely with cycling. Road bike, mountain bike, fat bike, they all take us to some incredibly scenic areas all over the map, many of which are home to immaculate waterways teaming with eager fish. A rod can be simply strung to the frame using a pair of gear ties, (or anything for that matter, this is just one example) while the flies and lines are stowed neatly in a small saddle bag or even your pockets. You'll never even notice it's there until it's time to hit the water! Long distance bike packing Tenkara works rather well too, you can probably save yourself a few bucks by eating your catch every night. Not to mention the morale booster after those grueling days with your record high mileage. I certainly have an appreciation for the folks who do these incredible journeys as fast as they possibly can, but to me the journey itself is the real adventure. Who wants to see entire countries by bike if you can't remember


anything particularly significant about the culture and the different areas? Fishing is a fantastic way of delving into the society of new places, specifically with Tenkara, but even western rods in some locations, because there will be many questions from locals and you'll meet plenty of very welcoming people. There's nothing better than having the time of your life with folks you just met, still getting to know each other, enjoying all the different stories, it really does a lot for the warm and fuzzies. Even just by bike packing you'll be sure to draw some attention, hopefully the joyful kind! I've never personally experienced more than 100 miles of a bike packing trip but those who are lucky enough to have done so have amazing stories about people they met. And last, but certainly not least, rock climbing or canyoneering. In Colorado I climbed into a few locations that held beautiful trout, locations that would have required miles of wading otherwise. Again, all this gear will take up very little space even in a stuffed climbing pack. It's those picture perfect pockets miles away from just about everyone that are the most incredible. It's no secret that over millions of years rivers have carved their way through mountains leaving behind monstrous walls just begging to be hung from. Rappelling down these walls into untouched waterways is breathtaking in itself, and then you get to climb out after a day of chasing rises and take one last look at what nature has to offer us. Because fishing has been around probably about as long as people, there are very few



untouched waterways. That's why we outdoor enthusiasts have started going further and further into the wild searching for pristine native fish. They act different than hatchery fish, they're far more beautiful, and they don't see the pressure so they're not as likely to pass up a proper meal. The trout on my home river have seen just about every fly ever created from fishing pressure every single day of the year, no matter what the weather looks like there will always be at least one person fishing there. We have the saying "if you can catch a fish here, you catch a fish anywhere" and it's actually quite true. During hatches it's easy to catch them, but any other time it's very difficult. Tenkara actually helps fool these trout because they look for the line on the water, with Tenkara there is no line for them to see. That's one of the many benefits; you can conceal your location much easier. Many anglers all over the country wear camo clothes and crawl through tall grass to prevent shadows, casting from such a position is incredibly easy with a Tenkara rod in hand. The movement we get from such a simple fly like the sakasa kebari is both enticing and "newish" to trout which undoubtedly creates more hook ups! It's also movement you can't easily get from a western rod, even though there are western patterns that resemble sakasa kebari, they're more of a spider imitation. Kebari suggest a wide variety of trout food from tiny bait fish down to small nymphs and everything in between. Above all, just get out there and enjoy this magnificent planet while it's still ours to explore.



Wide Open Rivers Nathaniel Skaggs

As the cold, winter months arrived in the northeastern Tennessee mountains, fishing both tailwaters and small mountain streams becomes difficult to manage. These difficulties range from frozen rod guides, choosing the right fly for the right conditions, and listening to the reports from guide companies struggling to put their clients on any trout in the water. I have fished the tailwaters of the Watuaga River when it was 18 degrees Fahrenheit and pulled out a sixteen-inch rainbow trout on a size #22 blood worm, and then fished the next day with the same pattern and had no luck. Returning to the same stretch of river a week later and the trout weren’t hitting small midges but were taking small, size #20 BWOs as they lazily hatched. In an attempt to switch up my normal fishing routine on a larger, open tailwater, I decided to use my small-stream tenkara rod, which is an eight-foot rod instead of the typical thirteen-foot. The smaller rod helps navigate thick vegetation in the higher elevation mountains of southern Appalachia, but on a wide, more open river, a longer rod would have been more useful. Many anglers are probably thinking


to themselves: an 8ft tenkara rod on a tailwater is completely insane! Or how are you going to land a fish on that toothpick?! Yes, hindsight is 20-20. By fishing a known stretch of water, I knew where most of the nice rainbows were holding, and reading the water, I knew a small midge and a scud would work perfectly; however, the choice of flies required the twelve-foot leader line with four feet of 5X tippet to the midge and fourteen inches of 6X tippet for the scud. Unlike casting on a small, tight stream, casting on wide open rivers is somewhat difficult to control once the line begins to drift, and mending becomes a nightmare for both presentation and maintaining a drag-free drift. One method of fishing these larger waterways is to locate specific locations on the river and target those areas. And that question on landing a fish on a toothpick, I guess we will never know. One thing I learned on the water that day, use the right gear for the right environment. Hats off to the anglers that can catch trout on wide rivers using their tenkara rods, but for me, I’ll stick to hunting small brookies in the mountains.

Winter Dreams


Winter now, and I dream

The Sentinel

Bury me green beneath the cedar tree,

of mountains' silent streams,

the one that stands sentinel to the stream,

of high meadows, too,

that I might

white, trammeled

lie there and see

by the hare's nervous flight.

trout rising to caddis' awkward flight,

A cerulean sky above it all,

mayflies riding the morning light,

knows that the coming tug-of-war

that I may hear

must be lost by Winter,

the trout's guffaw,

won by Spring.

and the angler's curse,

'til snow

and the crow caw

now only secreted by the shade,

his avian verse,

too fades,

until such a time

and birdsong, celebratory, returns.

I am more earth than flesh.

Spruce shake their branches clean, aspen explode in yellow-green. The creek, now a whisper, soon will roar, and ravenous trout begin to stir. Spring now, and my dreams begin anew.

Photo: Adam Klagsbrun

Christopher Seep


Friends of Tenkara Angler








TenkaraCalendar.com is a simple community-driven resource to organize, keep track, and promote tenkara-based events, get-togethers, "takeovers," meet ups, and seminars. The upcoming events posted to the site are listed below, however please feel free to visit the website to submit and publicize your upcoming tenkara or conservation themed initiatives, or simply learn more.

Virginia Fly Fishing & Wine Festival

Saturday, April 8th & Sunday, April 9th, 2017 Meadow Event Park, Doswell, VA

Tenkara Fishing Clinic

May 5th, 6th, & 7th, 2017 Fox Carlton Pond Sporting Camps, Phillips, ME

History of Japanese Tenkara Rods

Saturday, May 20th, 2017 Catskill Fly Fishing Center, Livingston Manor, NY

Midwest Tenkara Fest

Saturday, May 20th & Sunday, May 21st 2017 Coon Valley American Legion, Coon Valley, WI

5th Annual European Tenkara Convention Saturday, June 24th & Sunday, June 25th 2017 Tramonti di Sotto (PN) - Italy


Contributors & Credits This issue of Tenkara Angler Magazine was made possible by the extremely generous contributions of the following members of the tenkara community. Danièle Beaulieu

Started fly fishing in 2000 and tenkara in 2014. She fishes rivers all across Canada & New England. and started a business selling Tenkara rods and accessories called Tenkara Canada.net.

Christopher Seep

Chris Stewart

(aka) the TenkaraBum, grew up in Colorado and is currently based in NYC. He is the owner, CEO, & shipping clerk of TenkaraBum LLC. He usually can't be found because he's wearing camo.

Jim Tignor

Christopher Seep began fishing while still in diapers and hopes to finish that way. Since adopting Tenkara six or seven years ago, he has never looked back.

Jim Tignor lives in Chapel Hill, NC. He is a relatively new fisherman, but seemingly obsessed with Tenkara. Find Jim's prints at: www.jimtignor.com

John Yokley

Adam Klagsbrun

is a full time husband and part time writer who lives in Mills River, NC. And he's still trying to figure out how to be as good of a person & fisherman as his dog Abby thought he was...

Adam Klagsbrun is an avid lightweight backpacker from NYC and fishes small streams in the Northeast USA. He authors a blog named "Of Rock & Riffle" rockandriffle.blogspot.com

Jim Wright

Stephen Myers

Owner of TenkaraFlyShop.com, Jim Wright has pursued trout, studied stream entomology and tied trout flies since 1967 and retired his Western fly gear, taking up Tenkara in 2012.

is an environmental scientist/writer and fishing guide in Tampa, FL. He has been practicing tenkara since 2014 and operates a fly tying company, 411 Flies (411Flies.wordpress.com).

Dave Menicucci

Rob Worthing

Is a freelance writer whose objective is to help people know how to counter the obstacles of disease or age in order to continue a life-long passion on the stream.

An avid angler, world traveler, backpacker, and wilderness medical professional, Rob enjoys going off the beaten path to find the best fly fishing possible. tenkaraguides.com

Paul Vertrees

Karin Miller

is VP of Zen Tenkara working in public relations and product design. He is a professional tenkara guide with Royal Gorge Anglers and also writes for his personal blog, Tenkara Tracks.

Davide Muccino Zarlenga

Taken by the effectiveness of tenkara, Davide introduces it's charms to a new generation of anglers through SKY's Pesca TV (channel 236) programming, "Piacere Tenkara."


is the owner of Zen Tenkara/Zen Fly Fishing Gear. Since its start in 2012, Zen has looked to push the traditional, established boundaries in an effort to “define American Tenkara.”

Jayson Singe

A outdoor and tenkara enthusiast, Jayson also contributes to several Facebook groups such as the Tenkara Kebari Library and Appalachian Tenkara Anglers

Bob Long, Jr.

Bob is charge of Chicago’s Fish’N Kids Program which takes kids age 8–12, teens, adults, seniors and people with disabilities of all types fishing. He also teaches many Tenkara and fly tying.

Sean Dzidezic

ron P. swegman

ron P. swegman is the author and illustrator of Small Fry: The Lure of the Little, available from The Whitefish Press. http://ronpswegman.com/sketches.html

Paul Gaskell

is an avid fly fisherman and rock climber who spent 6 months in Colorado climbing, fishing, and tying for fly shops. He enjoys both western and tenkara rods on his home streams in MA.

Paul (along with John Pearson) blog at Discover Tenkara and have a free email tutorial series that teaches tenkara step by step; Sign up at: www.discover-tenkara.com/subscriber-country

Andrew Wayment

Sam Larson

An attorney by profession and an outdoorsman by passion, Andy is a freelance writer who writes for two blogs, Upland Ways and Tenkara Wandering.

Sam Larson lives, fishes, and writes in Colorado’s Front Range. In addition to Tenkara Angler, he is a co-founder and contributing author at Blue Lines (www.bluelinesfly.com).

David West Beale

Nathaniel Skaggs

lives in England, UK, where he fishes for anything that swims with his fly rod. A recent tenkara convert, you can follow his adventures at: www.tenkaratales.blogspot.co.uk

When not on the river hunting for native trout, Nathaniel is actively trying to protect stream management. Nathaniel has also been published in the Red Mud Review.

Isaac Tait

Mike Lutes & Matt Sment

Originally from Los Angeles, Isaac now chases Amago, Iwana, and Yamame in the magnificent keiryu of Japan. When he is indoors he describes what he has experienced at FallfishTenkara.com

Proprietors of Badger Tenkara, Mike & Matt are students of angling that believe tenkara's simplicity can transfer to almost any fishing, almost anywhere! www.badgertenkara.com

Adam Trahan

Jeff Lomino

created Tenkara-Fisher in 2010, the 2nd oldest resource outside of Japan dedicated to Tenkara. His extensive catalog of interviews with tenkara personalities can be found both online & in print.

Bernhard Niedermair

A true ambassador for the sport, Bernhard spreads his love for tenkara in Europe, particularly in his home waters of Austria.

Based in Southeast Tennessee, Jeff hand produces custom fishing and tenkara rods to suit his customers' specific needs under the Riverworks label. www.riverworkscompany.com

John Vetterli

John Vetterli is one of the founders of Tenkara Guides LLC. My story? I like to fish with my friends Erik and Rob. Yea, that's about it.



Photo: Paul Gaskell



News & Notes From Around Social Media Did you notice the ad for the new Three Rivers Tenkara Conuence Zoom rod a few pages ago? 3RT has the details...

New wooden line winders/y boxes are now available at the NightSparrow Designs Etsy Store... Tenkara Grasshopper opens the kebari box to show us how to tie his Yin Yang kebari pattern...

tenkara (the book), is hot off the presses and will be mailed to those that supported the Kickstarter very soon... The 10 Colors Tenkara forum is now offering Hoo-Rag buffs in exchange for a small donation...

Mark your calendars! The venue & dates for Tenkara Jam 2017 have been set for September 30 & October 1...


Photo: Brian Schiele

Spring 2017

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