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Spring 2016 www.tenkaraangler.com

Spring 2016






















112 TENKARA CALENDAR Front Cover Photo: Tom Davis Back Cover Photo: Lance Wilt

Redbreast SunďŹ sh; Llano River, Texas Photo: Rob Gonzalez


From The Editor Random Musings...

Thank you for taking the time to page through this issue of Tenkara Angler. Springtime means many different things to many different people. For some, it may signify warmer weather, the awakening of nature from its Winter slumber, or perhaps even the opening day of trout season. For me, Spring means new opportunities. It means hitting the water, adventuring, and exploring. Taking advantage of all that nature has to offer (at least before the Summer heat & mosquitoes become unbearable!) This issue of Tenkara Angler somewhat plays along that theme of exploration. With articles about U.S. tenkara gatherings, ways to travel and navigate foreign lands, and even first hand accounts of fishing waters near and far - from the Shenandoah Mountains to Colorado to Japan! Even if you aren't able to get away, the wonderful essays and fantastic tenkarathemed art may just satisfy your wanderlust, if only temporarily.

Sprinkle in some solid tips, tactics, and fly tying recipes; this issue of Tenkara Angler definitely has at least something new for you to explore. I hope you enjoy the Spring 2016 issue of Tenkara Angler. Once again, I'm positive you'll find the reader-submitted content to be top notch. It's amazing to see all of the talent that our tenkara community possesses, both on and off the water!

Michael Agneta Editor In Chief




Photo: Adam Klagsbrun

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 Anglers In The Wild...

John keeping a low proďŹ le | Photo: Tenkara Guides

Adam with Friends | Photo: Adam Klagsbrun


Steven stalking upstream; Valley Creek, Pennsylvania | Photo: Steven Smith

Rob feeling the bend; Crabapple, Texas | Photo: Edward Ramirez


It's Showtime! Matt Sment

It’s hard to deny that Tenkara’s popularity is skyrocketing across the US. As the community of anglers and companies continues to grow, events catering to Tenkara enthusiasts are popping up more and more. One of the most exciting developments in this trend is the “open vendor” event. These dynamic fly fishing shows are full of unique learning opportunities, social connections, and a ton of exceptional Tenkara! The “open vendor” concept means that the event invites participation from any Tenkara product vendor, so the show is not limited to a single brand’s content or point of view. This results in an unbeatable mix of products and presentations that you simply can’t find at other shows. Ask anyone who has been to the “Appalachian Tenkara Jam” or “Midwest Tenkara Fest” why they had a great time, and their answers will probably fall somewhere into these categories:

Excellent Classes and Presentations

These events bring together a lot of knowledge! Look at the schedule of events from the previous JAMs and FEST, and you’ll

"It all starts with the fundamentals!"


see an impressive list of the Tenkara communities’ subject matter authorities sharing their knowledge. Past topics have included: Fundamentals of Tenkara, Traditional Japanese fly patterns, Tenkara for bass, targeting large fish, small stream tactics, Tenkara fishing from kayaks, lessons learned from fishing with Japanese masters, and Tenkara rod building. Every event is a great mix of exclusive content that you cannot find anywhere else!

Putting Faces to Names

You may be on the forums and Facebook groups, and you may be familiar with a lot of other Tenkara enthusiasts by their names and online personalities. These people actually exist outside of the internet too, and are a lot of fun hang out with in real life! One very cool aspect of this is being able to fish with anglers from all over the country. There is a lot of experience to be shared between friends, and you can learn a lot from observing styles that were developed in other regions of the country.

Industry Interactions

This is your chance to talk to the companies that design, produce, and import the gear you take with you on the water. Ask them questions and share your ideas. Tell them what is working well for you, and what you would like to see improved. You might be surprised to find out just how much impact your feedback has on what they do, and how important your opinions are to them. Stop by the tables, get to know the companies, and let them get to know you!

"I'll give you three guesses who's table this is..."

Browsing Products

Hands down – there is simply no better opportunity to try out Tenkara gear than to come to an open vendor event! Have you had your eye on a new sling pack, but are not sure how it might ride on your shoulder? Want to know how that new rod you’ve heard about casts a furled line before you buy it? Can’t make up your mind between this rod and that rod? Most of this gear is not sold in stores – and there are no stores anywhere on earth that carry all of this gear in the same place!

"...and then I caught a fish THIS big!" Photo: Justin Ide

Fishing Somewhere Awesome

These events are held on some of the best Tenkara water that North America has to offer. They are a great opportunity to fish new regions with people who know the area and have the inside scoop! If you are local, this is your chance to “rep” your water and introduce new friends to streams you love to fish. Fishing in a new region can be a great way to sharpen your skills, too, as you must adapt to unfamiliar conditions. What better way to get out and explore! Come out this year and enjoy an open-vendor event in the Tenkara community. You’ll meet good people, broaden your knowledge, and sharpen your skills. Last but not least, you’ll get the best “hands on” time with the widest variety of Tenkara gear you’ll see anywhere in the United States!

"This water is worth traveling for!" Photo: Justin Ide

For More Information, Visit: Midwest Tenkara Fest

May 14th and 15th, Coon Valley Wisconsin www.mwtenkarafest.com

Appalachian Tenkara Jam

October 15th and 16th, Cherokee North Carolina www.appalachiantenkara.com


Tenkara Abroad

Adventure Is Just A Click & A Jump Away! Adam Klagsbrun

Traveling can often be a daunting task. While some people really enjoy constantly traveling and seeing new things, for others, the experience can be taxing and sometimes a bit overwhelming. Historically I never really enjoyed air travel, mostly due to motion sickness, and that certainly held me back from wanting to travel much overseas on my own.

A few years back I started traveling for work, and I had to quickly figure out how to make the best of these otherwise less than enjoyable traveling experiences. After finally discovering a combination of medications that took care of my motion sickness, I realized I could adopt a completely different mindset about traveling, adding on at least a few days to any trip in order to visit the mountains and some trout water in a foreign place. Looking back, I can’t believe how much I’d missed for


so many years… but looking ahead, I see lots of opportunity and I want to share that possibility with other members of the Tenkara community too.

Traveling for fly-fishing has traditionally been a big deal for anyone, regardless of air travel issues… there’s so much to deal with! Between the heavy bags filled with gear - waders and reels to the long and hard to stow rod cases for those big water western rods, the number and size of bags one must carry (and now pay extra to check) makes the whole experience less than ideal. Additionally, there’s the issue of cost, as well. Many of the typical fly fishing destinations require multiple flights, sometimes a small chartered plane, a boat, and a fancy (often remote) lodge that costs a pretty penny and offers the only amenities for hours (or days) in any direction. The cost of these

experiences can range into the multiples thousands of dollars and up over 10K in many cases. No wonder we don’t often think about buying a plane ticket and planning an adventure! But we should… because it doesn’t have to be that prohibitively expensive when you do it on your own, with a little help from the Internet.

So how does Tenkara make this all easier? The answer comes in a few forms, not just related to the more packable nature of the gear. This much we all know – the lack of reels, the smaller size of rods and the reduction in the number of different fly boxes and accessories one carries is an obvious benefit. But what of the other benefits of what the Tenkara community has to offer?

First, Tenkara opens up a lot of water for fishing destinations abroad. If there’s one thing I’ve learned from traveling and fishing so far, it’s that mountainous regions around the world are somewhat similar. Most have some kinds of roads leading up to trailheads or river crossings. Most of those beautiful tumbling mountain streams are open to fishing, and the most important thing – most of them are full of healthy trout. All it takes is a plane ticket, a rental car, and a willingness to go on an adventure.

the kindness of a pseudo-stranger can be – as well as the friend that they can become after a shared experience fishing together in a foreign place. So how would one go about this process when planning a trip?

Engage in a Community

If you plan to travel to, say, Italy… get online and join the community there first! Spend some of your time reading other people’s posts and about their experiences. Take note of the people who seem to be doing things the way you do at home, or close to it. Comment on their posts, and ask questions. Become friends online if it feels right. Talk to each other and ask about the other people they know in the community. Spend some time following those people, and be supportive and positive. (IE Don’t talk politics or religion and don’t be that guy that disagrees right away… as I often forget myself!) Most importantly, try to contribute to that community in a positive way. Putting in a little bit of your effort and good will goes a long way.

The Internet, and particularly these days Facebook, has become a powerful tool for flyfishing based travel opportunities. Instead of having to call a fly-fishing company abroad or use an expensive US-based outfitter, one can use the internet to research good fishing areas, obtain trail maps and make friends…. All of a sudden you have people to fish with, people to show you good water and people with which to share a good time.

It's amazing when you think about it, how far



The more you engage in the community, the more you begin to make real friends and find common interests. Later on, when you announce your plans to visit and fish in the area, you may be surprised at how many people jump at helping you out or want to meet up and show you their favorite local waters. Not to mention that this will save you a significant amount of money that you might have otherwise spent on a guide. That means more $$ saved, or more to spend on meals and your hosts.


You don’t have to go crazy. Eating on a budget abroad is a lot easier than it is here in the US. There is a large supply of high quality dailybaked breads, easy to find cured meats and cheeses, and other kinds of travel-friendly preserves and packaged foods that you can’t even imagine here. $7 at a roadside Japanese 7-11 will get you a meal that actually rivals what you’d order at any passable local sushi restaurant here. $3 in Italy gets you a large chunk of bread with tomato and garlic. $8 for a pizza that you can barely finish… and I guarantee it will be the best pizza of your life.

Don't Isolate Yourself

Choose lodging options that don’t isolate you from the people in the place you are traveling to. Ask your new friends online for some recommendations on where to stay locally. Their advice is worth more than any travel book or discount travel & hotel website. They know what will offer you the best local experience or value better than Google does, guaranteed. And chances are you’ll be happier interacting with locals, seeing more of the culture, and being a part of the area you are traveling in rather than just traveling through it. Doing things like this is often significantly less expensive as well – local lodging

ownership doesn’t always speak English or outsource their marketing to international sources that would reach you here, in English. This is HUGE. I’ve paid, in some cases, less than half of what the least expensive option on hotels.com can offer, and had what was obviously a more rewarding (and comfortable) stay because of it.

Be Flexible

Make loose, flexible plans and be willing to change them at a moment’s notice. If you want to engage with your new friends online, recognize the favor they are doing you by sharing their time and information with you by making it easy for them. Do not go into your trip with an exact schedule of when you plan to be on the water and where. Talk to your new friends once you arrive at your destination and let them make recommendations. Follow them where they take you instead of insisting on doing things “your way.”

Travel Light!

Pack one carry on bag of legal size, as well as a backpack that you’ll use for fishing and as a daypack. You may carry both of these on an airplane - it is your right as a passenger to have the two items as long as you keep to the correct size on the bags. Your rod tube can be strapped to the side of your pack where the water bottle goes, and secured with the straps on the side of your pack. I’ve NEVER been called out for this and I’ve carried on every flight I’ve ever taken… NEVER CHECK YOUR BAG. Losing your fishing gear or half your stuff is a disaster that will ruin your trip. It will happen at some point, so don’t take any risks. Using wool socks and synthetic underwear that can be sink washed every evening will save you a lot of space in your bag. Choose one warm layer, a rain jacket,


some travel/hiking pants and the essentials. Try not to pack much cotton. It takes forever to dry and is not ideal for staying warm while wet or for being washed during your trip. Think hiking clothes. You may carry your tackle. There are clearly written regulations allowing fishing tackle on all flights, just toss your fly box in your carry on as you please. Remember to remove any knives that might be in your bag.


Ask for help from the people you are in touch with online. See if someone can help get a license for you. Use your discretion at who you give info to, but be aware that you’ll have to be flexible with this kind of thing if you are to be successful in making this easy for yourself and for the people helping you out, if you know what I mean. Part of making new friends online is about trust, so just make sure you use the proper methods of communication so your info can’t get hacked online.

Have Backup Plans

Sometimes your hosts’ schedules will change. Be flexible and have a backup plan in case you


need to go on your own. Staying near a river and having your own rental car ensure that you can do what you want, when you want, but also that you can adjust to changes in a flash. Offer your new hosts a ride in your rental car… they might appreciate the gesture and you might enjoy learning more about driving into the mountains in a foreign country.

Keep an Open Mind

Especially when it comes to food. Eat local delicacies and specialties, don’t go looking for burgers and pizza! Things you thought you didn’t like might end up being favorite meals by the end of a trip. Its amazing what an open mind can do when it comes to eating, drinking and having fun. Just go with the flow and you won’t end up frustrated.

Take the GPS Option on Your Rental Car!

Wifi is spotty and cell service is expensive. Don’t rely on your phone or Google Maps as you do at home. Your rental car will have a GPS option, and you can easily set the language to English. This will save your ass over and over again if you plan to really explore or drive around in the unfamiliar regions of foreign

countries. Its also great because when your host tells you where to meet him or her, and the address looks insane, fear not – GPS knows what to do!


if you don’t spend time learning the language, don’t freak out. It’s ok. Your hosts will understand that you don’t know the language. While it’s a sign of respect to learn at least a few basic phrases like Hello, thank you, etc… you will not be treated any worse for not understanding the language. Fishing is a language of its own. I can recall a few days in Italy where I spent almost the entire day with people who spoke barely a word of English. We didn’t need the language to understand each other. For deeper conversation, download an English translator application. They cost between $10-$20 and can be used OFFLINE even when you have no service. Many times I used a translator app to get into deeper details and discussions. IT WORKS!

Be a Good Guest

If you are lucky enough to be offered housing or a meal by your hosts or new friends, remember to be on your best behavior! Sometimes it’s easy to forget how our ways are different, so keep your eyes open, do as you see, and try to make the experience as easy as possible for your host. Bring gifts!! Someone is spending time, effort, and in some cases money, to show you a good time, and you have never even met before. Nothing shows your good manners and brings a smile to a stranger’s face than a gift. It may be something as simple as some of your favorite flies that you made for them, some art, or even something that you find very “American” that is worth sharing. Anything that shows thought will do. A gift is a token of respect and thanks, and goes a long way to building a good friendship or guest/host relationship.

Return the Favor

Don’t forget to thank and invite your host to your home and offer the same courtesy and amenities you were offered in return. Friendships formed in this way can last a lifetime and add a lot to your overall experience in the world. On the last day or evening of your trip, offer to take your host(s) out for a meal on you. If you can’t afford this at the moment, at least be sure to offer them an opportunity back in your hometown. I’ve found that often my hosts want to take me out to a nice meal, and it’s the least one can do to return the favor.

In my travels last year I met so many incredible people. The Tenkara community is really an incredibly friendly, helpful and generous community - its almost unbelievable, the amount of good will and help you can find simply by contributing, asking questions and connecting with others. Traveling for Tenkara is less of a big deal and more of a fun adventure than you might imagine. Next time you book a trip, think of where you might be able to fish and don’t forget to pack your rod!


Interview: Nick Cobler Photos Provided By Subject

You may have noticed the new "Tenkara Angler" wordmark on the cover of this magazine. That design (complete with hidden tenkara rod) was the work of Nick Cobler, a Pittsburgh area creative director, designer, and fly fisherman. Originally befriended through an admiration for his work on Instagram, as I spoke more with Nick during the logo design process, I couldn't help but want to learn a bit more about his background, both in regard to his creativity & fishing. The result is this interview, one I know you will enjoy. Nick, thanks for taking the time to give the readers of Tenkara Angler a little bit of insight into who you are. I’m really looking forward to this interview.

I first met you through Instagram as someone who was creating some really rad fly fishing designs and came to learn you have quite an extensive background in art & design. How did you get into that field of work, was it a passion you developed from a young age?

Thank you. Yes, I’ve always been interested in art and design. The first art-related book I remember picking up as a child was by David Douglas Duncan. It was a photo-journalistic account of the time he spent with Pablo Picasso. I still have it, and I can say Picasso is one of my favorite artists to this day. I grew up sketching as well. Eventually, I realized graphic design was the route I wanted to take. I graduated from the Art Institute of Pittsburgh with a degree in visual communication. I’ve been in the advertising industry ever since. I spent ten years working as a creative director for Mullen / Lowe, then moved on to other agencies large and small. So I’ve done everything from production art to art direction to full blown creative direction.


Speaking of those fly fishing designs, there are quite a few centered around the phrase “Drifters,” what does that mean?

Funny story. I, like most fishermen, have a group of friends that travel and fish together here in Pennsylvania. One summer trip a bunch of us where sitting around a fire after a great day on the waters of central PA. As we sipped a few adult beverages, I brought up the idea of having a name for our group. My good friend, Todd Lepley—proprietor of Toddopolis and a fantastic writer, coined the term ‘D.R.I.F.T.’ which evolved into ‘Dudes Really Into Finding Trout’. We laughed and the name stuck. We became Drifters. How and when did you come across tenkara? I “found” tenkara back in 2009 through the original Tenkara USA videos, not even a year after I first started fly fishing. I know some people are drawn to tenkara because of the perceived simplicity, some are just looking for something “different,” others simply admire the Japanese aesthetic. What was/is appealing about tenkara to you? Well I started fly fishing with my Dad over 30 years ago in small mountain streams. I loved catching the wild trout and going to places where it wasn’t shoulder to shoulder. I also

grew up backpacking and got interested in the ultra-light style. I don’t count pounds and ounces, but I liked the theory behind traveling as light as you can. When I heard about Tenkara in around 2010 — and more specifically Tenkara USA, I looked into it. It seemed to fit the bill for minimalist backpacking and I ordered a rod. Once I hooked my first fish, this new style of fishing hooked me. I’ve been doing it ever since, although I still use my other rods too. All depends on how I’ve planned for the day. Sometimes I’ll take both and mix it up. The fish can’t tell. Although gear isn’t really the heart & soul of tenkara, let’s explore your tenkara outfit. I like the versatility of zoom rods such as the Tenkara USA Sato, paired with a light level line, and Takayama sakasa kebari. But I’m not opposed to tying onto a light floating line with a foam hopper, especially in the summer months. What do you use, do you have any favorites?

I don’t have a favorite set up really. I’m constantly learning so I like experimentation. Right now I bounce between a 12’ Tenkara USA Iwana and a 9’ Streamside Signature Series. I’ll also mix it up with line, but I do really like the Streamside furled lines. Give me lots of different options for the conditions. And I like to throw classic dry fly patterns with my Tenkara rods. Give me a Royal Wulff and rising brook trout in a cool, mountain stream and I’m as happy as can be. Even when they aren’t much bigger than my hand. I think catching those guys takes me back to my youth fishing with my Dad.

or 6 years ago. We got rained out one day on the water, so Dad and I sat down in his camper, pulled out the vises—and I grilled him on his techniques. In a few hours I had learned so much, saw some progress in myself and felt some more confidence. That’s all it took.

I like to spend the winter tying lots of nymphs and streamers. I would say I tend to tie the flies that are my favorites to use. My top five patterns that you can usually find on my vise are Royal Wulffs, Parachute Adams, Woolly Buggers, Caddis and Midges. You live in Pittsburgh; there’s a lot of great fishing in Western Pennsylvania, what type of water to you prefer? Without giving away any secrets, are there any general locations or bodies of water you’d like to share? I’m certain you have a few favorites.

I’m a small stream guy through and through. And in Pennsylvania—there are a lot of places that fit that bill. I don’t tend to stay much in the western part, hence the Drifter in me. North Central PA does hold a special place in

Being a creative person, are you into tying your own flies? If so, what patterns regularly come off of your vise?

Yeah, Dad got me into that as well, although I didn’t really get serious about it until around 5


my heart though. That area is where I picked up the sport and try to get back there whenever I can. Have you traveled to fish before? I find the landscape of the American West stunning. Colorado, Utah, Wyoming, all breathtaking in their own way. The scale of everything is gigantic, big sky, big mountains, incredible.

camping trips this year. Might even take the tenkara rod. I’ll apologize in advance, but I ask this of everyone. Bigfoot. Do you believe?

I believe. And he’s pretty tech savvy. He even has an Instagram account. Check it out: http://www.instagram.com/pabigfoot.

For sure. I’ve been spending a few weeks in the Montana / Wyoming / Idaho area for around 8 years now. I’ve hit all the legendary spots—The Firehole, Madison, Gallatin, The Ruby Valley, Henry’s Fork. Prior to that, I had a stint of about 5 or six years fishing all over Colorado. The Dream Stream was a favorite for sure. The Frying Pan is fantastic. We stopped in Colorado last summer on our way to Montana, but due to all the run-off at the time, it was hard for walk/wade fishing. Pretty gnarly. But it gave us a few more days chasing trout in Montana though, so it was a win-win.

Circling back to Instagram, what’s your thoughts on it as a social media platform in comparison to others such as Twitter or Facebook? Is that your primary form of marketing, and what do you think of Instagram as a marketing tool?

What else do you like to do besides fishing? Outdoors, indoors, music, you name it...

Seems to me that other forms, but mainly Facebook have more conversations occurring. I use them all to promote myself though. They each have their own strengths (and downfalls) but if you have the right marketing mix, you can make it all work together.

I like biking. I bought a sweet Burly Long Haul Trucker at the end of summer last year and can’t wait to break that thing in this summer. I want to do a few more self-supported bike


Instagram is so immediate. That’s good for getting something up pretty quick to the masses. It’s not much of a conversation though, and I think things get lost in the feed. It is very inspiring however, and I use it as such. It’s also a good way to make new contacts for future work, like in the case of Tenkara Angler.

On your website (nickcobler.com) you call yourself a “creative director + art director + designer hybrid.” What sort of services does a three-headed monster of a title like that provide, and who is your typical customer?

Photo: Lance Wilt

Well since I’ve worked with companies large and small, in just about every industry, I’d say my clients are all over the place. And since I’ve been in the business for a while, I’ve done a lot of different projects and provided a multitude of services. I’d say my focus these days is on graphic design and branding, with art direction and illustration sprinkled in.

Have you taken on clients in the outdoor industry? Yes, and I enjoy them more than any others. Currently, I’m working with Lance Wilt’s Outcast Anglers on some new branding assignments. He’s a great guide and friend of mine. I highly recommend his outfit if you are in the State College area. I’m also teamed up with fellow Drifter—Todd Lepley of Toddopolis and working on branding and campaigns for Upper Canyon Outfitters, located in the Ruby Valley of Montana. (www.ucomontana.com).

My day job is in sports industry. Are you a sports fan, Steelers, Pirates, Penguins? I’m originally from the Philadelphia-area, and although we’d never admit it, it’s tough to see all the Keystone State sports success stick to the West. I hate Sidney Crosby. Just had to get that off my chest.

But French fries inside a sandwich; explain...

‘Burghers put French fries on everything. How do you think we get through PA winters? Primanti Brothers was started in the ‘30s, and the story goes that Joe Primanti had a guy stop in with some potatoes that he thought might be frozen. Joe cooked them up, some folks asked for them on their sammiches, and he obliged. Voila. Man, I’m hungry now.

Black and Gold through and through. I’ll leave it at that.

If the world was ending and you had time to squeeze in one last dinner & movie, what would you eat (and drink) and watch?

Oh and what’s with Primanti Bros.? In Philly, we have the “famous” cheesesteak establishments, which are half tourist trap, half a place to go after the bars close and you need something to absorb the night’s alcohol consumption.

Hmm. Good question. I’m not really a movie guy…but if I had to choose it would sipping Oban Scotch or Iron City Light Beer, while watching The Lost World of Mr. Hardy, after tacos, chips, salsa and guacamole.


Photo: Todd Lepley

Great stuff! In closing, is there anything else you’d like to say about fly fishing, tenkara, or even your design services? Feel free to say whatever comes to mind.

I think fly fishing, tenkara, being outdoors in nature—really are great for the soul. I encourage anyone who is interested in learning about tenkara or fly fishing, just ask someone. Try it. Don’t feel intimidated at all. It is impossible to know everything, but if you try you’ll learn more about yourself, nature and these great activities.

As for my services—I don’t really toot my own horn very much, but if you are interested in my services, check out my website at www.nickcobler.com. Tight lines - Nick






Photo: Lance Wilt

"God's Light"

The Artwork of Jim Tignor Art takes on many forms. While proficient in painting with oils and creating with wood, Jim Tignor, a tenkara angler from Chapel Hill, NC also fully embraces the electronic palette that his iPad provides, where a touchscreen serves as his canvas, and his imagination the paint and brush. Jim's digital collages and drawings tastefully border on the surreal, allowing the viewer to experience the subject through a decidedly different lens. Naturally, modern technology has also provided increased accessibility to these dreamscapes in the form of Instagram, where fly fishers and tenkara anglers can enjoy Jim's latest works. @SHINOBIJIM



"Catch & Release with Sweet-L"


"Trout, Trout, Everywhere Trout"



"Fishing in the Rhodo"

26 Set, "Ready, Fish!"

"Sweet-L on the Tuck"



Wool Bodied Flies Tom Davis

Everybody has their favorite flies. Some are traditional patterns, some are new designs. Some use time tested materials, while others incorporate the newest in synthetic or UV offerings. Some catch a lot of fish; others catch more fishermen than fish! But whatever their characteristics, we all have our favorite flies. The one fly style that seems to epitomize or is iconic to tenkara is the sakasa kebari. This reverse hackle pattern seems to fly in the face of western patterns that attempt to “match the hatch”. With its forward facing hackle, the

sakasa kebari is more of an attractor or impressionistic pattern, and relies on movement to entice the fish into striking. While relatively easy to tie, there are some nuances that, if followed, can make the tying process a little easier.


In my part of the western United States streams originating in the Rocky Mountains tend to be of moderate to high gradient and freestone in type. These streams and creeks all tend to hold trout species, whether introduced, like brook, rainbow and brown trout, or native, like cutthroat trout. Since the waters are fast moving, these fish have only a split second to decide if a fly pattern represents food or flotsam. Therefore, in these waters, the forward angled soft hackle adds life-like movement and seems to fool the fish more frequently than stiff, realistic fly patterns.

Some of my favorite sakasa kebari patterns involve wool. Wool helps build the body up, making the fly easy to see in turbulent mountain streams. Wool, once washed of its protective lanolin, absorbs water readily, making the fly sink quickly and thus getting it down into the pockets where the fish lie. Wool is also easy to work with and very robust.

When tying these flies, always start by tying the thread in at the eye and working backwards towards the bend of the hook. This is generally opposite of traditional fly tying, where you start near the hook bend and tie forward towards the eye. Tie the head first, then add the hackle. Make sure that the curve of the hackle faces forward towards the eye of the hook, then wrap the hackle two to three

times around the shaft. Tie off the hackle on the body side of the fly and then wrap your thread back to the end of the hook shaft. Tie in the body material and ribbing. Wrap the body material forwards, tying it off just behind the

hackle. Wrap the rib forwards, again tying it off just behind the hackle. Dub the thorax and wrap it from the hackle backwards over the first part of the body. Whip finish just behind the thorax. It’s that easy.

Here I present four of my favorite wool bodied flies

The Grave Digger Hook: Barbless competition curved pupa hook, size 10-12 Thread: 8/0 chartreuse Hackle: Partridge Body: Shetland Spindrift, Purple Haze (1270) Rib (my version): silver wire, small Thorax: Hare-tron Seal, brown

The Grave Digger is a fly originated by the Tenkara Guides, LLC of Salt Lake City, Utah. This fly is a real producer for me and often is found on the end of my line. I made some substitutions in materials, since one of the original materials for this fly is fur from a Chesapeake Bay Retriever. I don’t have this fur readily available. Also, I tend to make my fly body thicker and more prominent than the original.

The Red-Assed Monkey Hook: Barbless competition curved pupa hook, sizes 10-12 Thread: 8/0 black Hackle: Partridge Body: Shetland Spindrift, Sunset (186) Thorax: Hare-tron Seal, brown This fly, like the Grave Digger, originated with Tenkara Guides, LLC and was originally tied as a jig fly. It works great when tied as such, but it also works very well as a more traditional sakasa kebari pattern. Once again, I’ve substituted material for the thorax as the original pattern also uses dog fur.


Oxford Wool Kebari Hook: Barbless competition curved pupa hook, size 10-12 Thread: 8/0 red Hackle: Partridge Body: Shetland Spindrift, Oxford (123) Rib: Red wire, BR or medium Thorax: Hare-tron, black This is one of my patterns, as you can tell by the boring name. When the water is low and the sun bright, like on an autumn day, this pattern really produces.

Soft Hackle Grey Kebari Hook: Barbless competition curved pupa hook, sizes 10-14 Thread: 8/0 gray or red Hackle: Partridge Body: Shetland Spindrift, Sholmit/Mooskit (119) Rib: Gold or copper wire, BR or medium Thorax: Hare-tron, grey

This is my variation on the classic soft hackle wet fly that has been around for decades. It is a top producer, particularly when caddis are active. I tie this pattern in two variations, one with grey thread and the other with red. I’m a believer in hot spots on sub-surface flies and the red head seems to induce takes when other flies will not. So there you have it, four of my most favorite wool bodied flies. I tend to use these from spring to autumn; I don’t find them to be as effective in winter, except in jig form with tungsten beads. I hope you also find them to be useful and that they find a place in your fly box!


Photo: Dave Blackhurst


Springtime Crappies Bart Lombardo

When the trees begin to bud and winter finally releases it’s grip on the landscape, my thoughts start drifting towards springtime crappie fishing. All winter long I have been looking forward to fishing the lakes and ponds around my home. Although I am a dyed-in-the-wool trout fisherman, the nearest quality trout water is over an hour from where I live. With those commuting times, trout fishing becomes a full day commitment. However, I could be chasing crappies and other panfish at over a dozen lakes and ponds within ten minutes of walking out the front door. That being the case, you are just as likely to find me on a warm water pond, as you are a trout stream. In both cases, a tenkara rod is my weapon of choice.


Where To Find Early Season Crappies

Crappies are one of the first fish to become active in the spring. They will enter the shallows to spawn earlier than other species like bass, bluegill and sunfish. Preferring cooler water, they begin actively feeding before other warm water species. The shallow bays of ponds and lakes will be the first to begin warming up after ice out. You can expect fish to move into these areas first. Crappies will often hold along the edges of weed beds and submerged timber. You can also find them in reed beds, especially early in the season. If you are a shore based angler, weed lines within casting distance of shore and fallen trees will be your best bet. Those fishing from watercraft will obviously be able to access

more water and different fish holding structure. These fish definitely show a preference for feeding early and late in the day. Your chances of finding fish will improve if you can get on the water during the early morning and late afternoon hours. My personal preference is the late afternoon right up to sunset.

The Ideal Tenkara Rod For Crappies I prefer rods in the 12 to 13-foot length for most of my crappie fishing. The longer rod gives me the reach to access more water, especially when fishing from the shore. I will use the same rods that I use for trout fishing and get great results with them.

The length of the line will depend on fishing conditions and the distances you expect to cast to reach the fish. When fishing close I will keep things on the short side. I will fish a line about three feet shorter that the overall length of the rod and add about three feet of tippet material so the overall length of line and leader equals that of the rod. If I need to cast further, I will increase the length of the level line between one and a half and two

I usually steer clear of the tenkara rods designed for larger fish like bass or big trout. I prefer the softer rods and lighter tips when targeting crappie.

These fish have paper-thin tissue in their mouths and the lighter rods prevent the fish from tearing loose. If you're blessed to be fishing water with large, slab-like crappies holding in or near heavy cover, then a stiffer rod may be a better option.

Line and Leader Selection

I mainly stick to fluorocarbon level lines when fishing for crappies. Almost all of your fishing will be done subsurface and a level line will help get the fly down quickly. For most fishing conditions a size 3.5 line will be adequate. When using larger, more wind resistant flies or fishing in breezy conditions a size 4 or even 4.5 line may be required.

times the length of the rod. Ideal conditions must be present to fish a line twice the length of the rod you are using. It requires an open bank with no obstacles that will interfere with the cast if you’re fishing from shore. Regardless of the length of your line, the tippet length remains the same, two to three feet is all you need.


Warm water tenkara fishing offers some unique challenges and hazards. When fishing from the shore, bank side vegetation and overhead tree limbs can make fishing longer tenkara rods difficult. Casts like the bow and


arrow casts can make presenting the fly easy, but remember you still have to land the fish. If you hook up and you can't raise the rod, things are going to interesting. Another hazard is snagging on underwater debris. If you hang up when fishing from the bank and you can't collapse the rod and grab ahold of the line; you may not be able to exert enough pressure to free the fly or break the tippet without damaging the rod. I will usually fish a 5x tippet to minimize this risk. I'd rather lose the occasional bass that happens to grab a fly, than risk damaging my rod trying to free my fly from an underwater snag. Crappies hold tight to cover in a lot of situations so be prepared to deal with the occasional hang-up.

The Techniques and Flies

Fishing shoreline weed beds can be very productive. During early spring, it is usually fairly easy to locate weed beds. I prefer to present my fly to the deep-water side of the


bed and allow it to sink to the bottom. After making your cast, watch the line where it enters the water for any suspicious movement. Crappies are notorious for inhaling the fly as it settles to the bottom. Once the fly has settled on or near the bottom, I lift the rod and swim the fly back over the weed bed staying as close to the tops of the submerged weeds as possible. The fish often appear out of nowhere and grab the fly. Another benefit of tenkara equipment is the long rod allows you to present the fly parallel to the bank, opposed to retrieving it towards shore. This can be a very effective technique, depending on the orientation of the structure your fishing. When fishing submerged trees and other structure like docks and bulkheads, casting accuracy is important. You will need to present your fly as close to the structure as possible. Crappies often hang tight to underwater structure waiting to ambush anything that swims by. Fortunately, pinpoint-casting

accuracy is just one more benefit of using a tenkara rod.

will out fish a traditional soft hackle every time.

As far as flies go nymphs, wet flies and small streamers are all effective. My favorites are soft hackles and kebari style flies.

Small streamers can also be very effective, especially when fish are actively feeding on minnows. I like small woolly buggers and hair or feather wing patterns. Just keep them small and light and you'll have no problems casting them on a tenkara rod.

I have developed soft hackles and kebari patterns that I tie specifically for crappie. They are flashy and bright and the fish can't resist them. For standard retrieves, the traditional soft hackle style works better but for presenting the fly on the drop the kebari style

Let your tenkara rods get a warm water workout this spring. Give tenkara crappie fishing a try, you will not be disappointed!


Matching Nature Vito "Tsurikichi" Rubino

I always feel satisfied returning home from the river. Every single day spent Tenkara fishing, no matter how the weather was or how many fish I caught, keeps me company during the rest of the week. My mind is still there, by the stream, casting and enjoying the grinning water and the beautiful landscape surrounding it. Some days last in mind more than others, with few moments that become indelible snapshots. Laughter with friends, the joy of being in the nature finally free... Every fish caught it is much bigger and heavier when you’re in this mood. I have always believed and said that the essence of Tenkara lies in the "handle," shifting the attention from the imitation to the expert hand of the angler that moves it. I have seen evidence of it many, many times. During the past season I caught many native trout using traditional kebari, and in few occasion of


experimentation, “Western" dry flies - mayflies, sedges and so on. Most of these catches also came using flies that were not hatching while I was fishing, and that were not part of the trout’s diet in that period in that stream. I believe that "match the hatch" (which is the practice of using an identical imitation to what the fish is preying at that moment) it is a fascinating strategy full of knowledge, where entomology meets angling. For the ones in love with that practice sees it almost as a chess battle. They love to search for the solution to the problem (such as a reluctant selective trout) by constantly changing flies, focusing their efforts on the imitation of appearance rather than on the fly movement in the water and other factors, using always the dead-drift approach. In my point of view, it is therefore just a strategy, a personal way of approaching and

viewing fly fishing. Just another way to reach the goal. It is not the golden rule. So my questions were: In terms of fly fishing (or tenkara), is there another approach to achieve the same goal? Is there a reverse way of thinking, one which brings attention from the fly imitation in itself to the way it is handled, focusing on fish perception? The answer, in my opinion and in my experience, is “Yes” and it is the one upon which all the fly fishing methods were originally developed. "Imitate" does not mean just using a fly that appears identical to the real one. Imitating also means "to appear alike" through movement, with dynamism and distinctive features in a kind of stylization, far from every mannerism. The verb "to imitate" derives from the Latin "imiter" and means "to bind" or "to connect" one thing to another, a vision to another vision.

Let's try to build a generic fly, that does not resemble any real insect, a quickly rolled

feather on a hook. Then show it motionless, still on a table, to your wife (holy woman) or to a non-angler friend (do you still have any?). They will tell you that it may resemble some bugs. But they will do it quietly, without fanfare. Now shake the same “fly” in front of their eyes, make it dance on their shoulders (I hope you are using a barbless hook for their sake!). You will get screams as natural reaction to an unidentified "junk" insect bouncing on them. And what we call "junk," the fish would call it food. Fish reaction will be predatory, and just when its other senses will be notified of the non-edibility it will spit the fly. Meanwhile, in this very short span of time, we will hopefully have already set the hook. Those who say that Tenkara flies, kebari, do not imitate anything in my opinion, are making a big mistake, because he or she forgets the basic principle that has given life in every part of the world. From Japan to Italy, from Macedonia to England, fly-fishing, Tenkara, Valsesiana or another traditional method. The


principle is to imitate insects of the river that are at the base of the fish diet with feathers and thread, with a knowledge anglers got from experience ignoring entomologic names for ages. Now, the big difference between Western art and Oriental art lies in the essence and in the constant research of it. In Western art, the artist reaches a point of balance and then add details to obtain the final result. In contrast, in Oriental art the artist reaches a point of balance and then subtract elements to reach the essence, the stylization, the symbol, the icon. And kebari are a heritage of Oriental art and its spirit. Those are generic imitations and stylization in their absolute minimalist, able to interpret many insects thanks to the life that an experienced Tenkara angler gives them through the right movement. And with the word “movement” I mean their way of being in the water, from dynamic to static or deaddrifting. To clarify my point of view, I shall write about an emblematic day. I decided to put this theory into practice, so one day I brought with me to the stream some of my kebari, very different in colors, sizes and materials. Given the lack of activity, typical of the cold hours of the opening season in early Spring, I began to fish with my Tenkara USA Sato, about 15 ' of #3 level line, a 4' 5x tippet, and an Amano Kebari. The imitation worked perfectly under the surface in very shallow water. After a few casts I hooked the first brownie. The joy was so great. A beautiful ten-inch trout, in the free section of a stream which is heavily fished with natural bait during the


opening week, always represents a good trophy. I released it with care and kept on angling, but with poor results. It was raining and sleeting. Few peeps of the sun were immediately crushed by clouds which took again their place and continue to threaten. During the day the temperature warmed up a bit, so I decide to stop on a spot that looked really promising with warmer weather. "If they decide to move, this is the spot" I said to myself, in a tone between stubbornness and confidence. Suddenly, the corner of my eyes saw something, able to make every sick angler crazy, “BLUP!” Here we go. Something started to rise. I decided to use a traditional kebari, hand-tied the night before; eyeless hook with a black silk eye, size 12, dun thread for the body, a couple of rounds of dun cock for hackles. Nothing could be simpler. I cast it upstream, allowing the kebari to flow with the current on the water surface in deaddrift. And a trout rose. I released it, cast again and... another trout rose. That's entertainment! Then, nothing more. Two trout were rising upstream and a friend, an experienced fly angler and tier, joined me and began his chess game. His "match the hatch" style made of expert entomological knowledge and a lot of technique. I stopped and looked. His fly passed over the head of the trout in a completely natural way, free of dredging, but nothing happened. He changed his fly. Nothing. And again. Nothing. His flies were incredibly identical to the hatching insects, realistic and beautiful to the human eyes. That scene got me thinking, and as my friend moved away, I moved to his spot and mulled it

over. Why was that? Why didn't the trout rise on such perfect flies? What was wrong? The first kebari I had used was not so imitative, but it was still the same color and size more or less of the mayflies in the stream. I tried to give an answer to the question that haunted me by putting into practice what I learned from the Japanese Masters, from the rivers, and most of all, from Daniel Galhardo, founder of Tenkara USA, when I had the chance to fish with him in Italy. At that moment, I deeply realized that it is not the fly to make a difference but it is how it moves, how it is alive. So I decided to use a totally different kebari, similar to those from the Kurobe mountain area in Japan. Very simple and used by a lot of anglers, also in past ages, around the world.

Red thread body, ginger cock palmered on the body and ginger cock for tail. That's it. Nothing could be more different from every insect at that time on the stream. I cast upstream and let the kebari flow in dead-drift downstream. No fish reaction. So I tried again, casting in the same point, but stopping the kebari, holding it still while the stream pushed beneath it. The kebari drowned against the current, then got rid of surface tension and fought with all its strength to remain on the surface thanks to my traction. In Japanese this technique is called “Tometsuri” (tome=stop tsuri=fish). Not even a second and a lightning flash grabbed it voraciously. Fish on! I set the hook, and after a short fight I put it in my Tamo and I kept looking at the trout, with my hands still trembling with


I like to call it the “X Approach:” Cast in the spot upstream leaving the kebari flow natural in dead-drift, and then retry the same spot downstream holding the kebari (holding it against the current, stop-drift-stop and so on), then change spots. I think it represents the best strategy to approach mountain streams, also varying movement techniques. In Japanese this movement technique is called “Sasoi,” that literally means “entice,” “invitation.” Master Masami Sakakibara always began a fishing session on a new stream by stopping a big kebari against the current to check the superficial activity and the tendency of the fish to rise. Besides kebari pulsing, the Master Dr. Hisao Ishigaki often uses the prior mentioned “Tometsuri;” holding and releasing the kebari making it swing under and on the surface. The last trout of the day seemed to be sent by someone as a joke, to confirm my theories. So obvious that I suspected the fish was trained by some “video prank” producer. emotion. "Ok - I told myself to calm down my excitement - it does not mean anything." Just the time of the release and I cast again, then I hold the kebari until it reached another spot. It drowned, it emerged, it fought against the current. And splash! Another trout rose angry and ended up into my photo album. I cast again and applied the same technique to another spot. And another trout came. One may be an exception, two could be luck, but the third trout represented a confirmation of the theory, at least in that stream. Entranced, as only Tenkara makes me feel, I moved upstream, trying to refine an approach that took account of the new findings.


I cast upstream, and the kebari swept past in dead-drift. Nothing. I made ten steps upstream then cast in the same spot but downstream, stopping the kebari against the current. Splash! The trout rose but it missed the kebari as it was bouncing on the water. Not what we would call a “refusal,” but a real miss. I knew the fish was still there since I did not sting it. I cast to the same spot, but left the kebari to drift free. Nothing. I cast again, holding it back. Splash! The trout rose and missed again. I laughed through my teeth. I cast again and let it drift. Nothing. Cast again and holding it back. Splash! This time the trout was there, hooked, rebelling with all its strength but eventually ending up in the Tamo.

I would have liked to have a chat with that trout and tell it about my new sensational discoveries, but then I saw its face and I understood that it would not have enjoyed the conversation at all. I released it, leaving us to think about what had just happened, the trout in its hole, me in my thoughts. I met my friend again, who had a wonderful day as well. We talked, exchanged opinions, and removed our waders with the slow pace of children who do not want to go home. If the world is beautiful because can always surprise you, the river is a paradise because can surprise you even more. The deduction that worked here may not work elsewhere, but a strong belief took place in my mind like a new awareness: It is not what you use. It is how you use it. And if you think about it, this motto can apply to everything in our life. I could say that the principle “it's not what you use but it's the way you use it,” can really match nature.

In conclusion, kebari can be fished in the stream with a dead-drift, my first technique to use especially on native fish. But this cannot be the only technique, and if the dead-drift does not work you can find the solution with the right manipulation without the need to change the fly, becoming what some Japanese tenkara anglers call a “fly nomad”. My friend pulled a CD out of his pocket, mysteriously found on the banks of the stream, strangely mint. As a funny thing to do, we put it the car stereo, leaving to the fate the soundtrack that took us home after that wonderful day. The stereo read it smoothly. It was an Italian song I'll never forget, and the lyrics seemed to read my mind, plagiarizing my thoughts:

"For every day, and every single moment I'm experiencing... Thank you very, very much. "


Tying the Catgut Kebari Robb Chunco

cat·gut / katˌɡət /

noun A material used for the strings of some musical instruments, made of the dried twisted intestines of sheep or horses (but not cats). Like many people who tie flies, I enjoy exploring the possibilities of new tying materials. It's part of the fun of fly tying.

segmented appearance.

I had seen the use of catgut by Czech nymphers and was immediately intrigued by its possible use in tying a kebari pattern.

When a catgut fly is submerged it swells slightly and gains a very lifelike and buggy


To be clear, catgut is not made from any part of a cat. This is one of a few patterns I've tried with catgut. There are several sizes and colors available.

Have some fun trying a few of them out!

First, fill a small glass or bowl with water. The catgut is stiff and dry right out of the package and must be soaked for several minutes to become workable. I only soak a few inches at a time, but you can certainly soak the entire length if you'd like. Mount a hook in your vise and start the thread at the eye and make about 10 turns back. Choose a feather a bit smaller than you would normally use for a sakasa kebari. You don't want to "overpower" the appearance of the fly. Tie in the prepared feather and trim the excess. Make turns back, stopping at the feather base. Very lightly dub the thread with dark hare's mask, and form a small head. 5-6 wraps should be enough. As with most dubbing situations, less is more. Now bring the bare thread behind the hackle and make 3-4 wraps. Wrap the hackle using your fingers to gently sweep the fibers forward as you go. It doesn't need to be swept forward in an exaggerated fashion, just enough to stand out perpendicularly to the hook. Tie off the hackle and trim the stem. Wrap the thread back slightly into the bend, and begin to build some bulk for an underbody. It's best to make it slightly plump in the middle and tapered off at both ends. This helps create some room by the hackle when it comes time to tie off the catgut. By now, the catgut should be nice and soft and ready to wrap. I've found that it's best to leave the length intact in order to not waste any of it. It's a bit trickier to tie this way, but you will end up saving a substantial amount of material.


Tie in the catgut about 3/16" behind the hackle, and with nice tight wraps make your way to the end of your thread underbody and then back toward the hackle. It's important to keep the catgut on top of the hook in order to have a nice, even appearance in the finished fly. Start wrapping the catgut with touching turns toward the hackle and tie it off just past where you tied it in. I usually use a drop of CA glue on the thread just for a bit of insurance. Dub the thread with more of the dark hare's mask mixed with a bit of pine squirrel for a nice spiky effect. Being careful not to crowd the hackle, wrap the dubbing noodle to and whip finish directly behind the thorax you just created. Again, I usually apply a bit of CA glue to the thread before I whip finish to help ensure the integrity of the knot.

When a catgut fly is submerged it swells slightly and gains a very lifelike and buggy segmented appearance.

This fly sinks nicely without being too heavy for a softer action rod. I've used it with my Oni Type I without any casting issues. I fish it with a simple "down and across" presentation. Throw in a few gentle pulses and let it hang in the current for a bit before you pick up to cast again. Good luck and have fun!

Hook: Fulling Mill Czech Nymph, size 12 Thread: UTC 140 denier "Olive Green" Hackle: Metz #1 Hen neck, Grizzly Dubbing: Dark Hare's Mask & Pine Squirrel Body: Troutline Catgut Biothread "Caddis Green", Size Medium Available at Performance Flies & TroutLegend



Advanced Casting:

Fixed Line Fly Fishing in Four Dimensions Part Two of a Three Part Series Rob Worthing

Introduction In Part One of our three-part series on advanced casting for fixed line fly fishing, we learned about four-dimensional casting. Four-dimensional casting taught us to dissect complex casting strokes into four basic elements, or dimensions. - the vertical, the horizontal, the rotational, and time.

In Part Two, we learn the concept of The Advanced Casting Progression Table. This is the part where we begin combining dimensions to construct casting strokes, building the casting skills that will make us advanced fixed line fly casters. The Advanced Casting Progression Table is the tool we use to get it done.

But before you dive deeper, remember that each part in this series builds on the part that came before it. If you caught Part One, we hope you’ve been practicing. Now that you feel adept at thinking about casting in four dimensions, you are ready to move on. If you missed Part One, or didn’t get a chance to practice, we highly recommend reviewing it prior to moving on with this article. Part One laid the foundation on which we’ll build advanced casting skills. We’re looking to build a lifetime of casting skills, so laying a strong foundation is critical.

The Advanced Casting Progression Table

Progression tables are used in a multitude of sports, martial arts, music, and more. A progression table organizes skills into levels of difficulty. Each skill relies on the lessons learned during mastery of the skill before it, and lays the foundation for learning the skills that follow. From the weekend warrior to the elite competitor, progression tables have a proven track record of building skill in all these disciplines. Fly fishing is no different.

Our Advanced Casting Progression Table organizes casting strokes according to both dimension and difficulty, leading the fixed line fly angler through the process of building an advanced casting skill set. The table is not an all-inclusive list of advanced casts. Rather, it includes certain casts that emphasize particular skill sets. By practicing each cast, you build the strength, fine motor skills, and muscle memory needed to tackle more difficult strokes. Once mastered, these skill sets can then be combined in any number of ways to meet ever-changing demands on the water.

Included with the Advanced Casting Progression Table is a detailed explanation of each casting skill. Each explanation provides a description of the cast, examples of when the skill might prove useful


on the water, and a measure that tells the angler when they have mastered the skill. Though it is certainly possible to use a “thumbs up” grip, a “finger on top” grip is presumed when explaining casts. Pictures illustrating key movements of the casting strokes are included. Initially, all skills should be practiced using a standardized rig. Consider beginning with a total line length that is around 1.5 times the length of the rod. To reduce physical stress, you want a rod that is light and well balanced, not tip heavy. You also want a rod that is a little softer in the tip, not too stiff. A rod with a softer tip will be easier to load. The same rod and line should be used throughout. Worry about messing around with different rigs later. The only exception to this suggestion is the long line cast (level 5), for which the line should be not less than 2.5 times the length of the rod. Ultimately, the dedicated fixed line fly angler can work toward mastering each casting skill using different line lengths and rods, different stances, beginning with the fly on the water or in hand, etc. But for now, you want standardization.

Finally, as with all progression tables, it is important to understand that an individual’s skill development might not follow the exact order presented in the table. In fact, at one point or another, it almost surely won’t. For example, one angler might find it easy to master a steeple shoot (level 3), but have difficulty mastering a forty-five degree cross body cast (level 2). When inconsistencies arise, they should be embraced as a good thing. They should be viewed as an opportunity to identify and correct weaknesses in your skill set. Ignore those weaknesses - instead seeking the easiest path to demonstrating a “higher” skill level - and you will plateau quickly. For example, if you jump to long line (level 5) without first mastering the supine and prone roll (level 3 and 4), you may find you do not have the strength, endurance, and control of the forearm needed to master long line casting.




Overhand Cast

Steeple Shoot 50

Supine J

Prone J


Supine Roll

52 Prone Roll

Now, go fishing. Invest some serious time throwing a few casts in your lawn, too. Consider bringing the casting progression table, maybe even the explanation of casting skills, with you. Try each cast in order, measuring your skills against the standards listed for each stroke. Don’t get all bent over the “level” of your skill, or worry about what the guy next to you can do – pride is a recipe for disaster in this process. Patience and humility are needed to recognize and improve your weaknesses. Patience and humility pave the road to becoming a master angler.

In the next edition of Tenkara Angler Magazine, we’ll bring it all home by analyzing a few on-thewater scenarios where your new casting skills might make the difference between getting blanked and having a trophy day. ----------------------

Editors Note: Part One of Rob's Advanced Casting Series was published in the Winter 2015-2016 issue of Tenkara Angler. All back issues of Tenkara Angler can be found at tenkaraangler.com

Photo: Dave Blackhurst


The World in Black & White Anthony Naples

I’ve always been a little envious of those organized, decisive folks that just do things. I imagine that their world must be a simpler, more easily navigable place than mine. Instead of a whirling kaleidoscope of confusion and an infinite spider web of possible paths they see the obvious, straight and clear way forward. They are not sidetracked by distraction and paralyzed by infinite analyses that forever loop back upon themselves like a Moebius strip, leaving one back where one started.

I can get stuck - paralysis by analysis. Sometimes the simplest decisions can leave my brain reeling and wheels spinning. And so I simplify. Though I never really think about it consciously like that. I never said to myself


“Hey I’m going to simplify”. It’s just that the less complicated a thing is the more likely I am to actually do it - it’s like there’s a low-pass filter on my life. More complicated things just don’t get past the filter. This doesn't mean that I can’t get big projects done when we need to, it just means that I need to chunk things and work hard at not overcomplicating it. I’m not complaining. It takes all kinds of people to make the world go round.

So when it comes to leisure time and relaxation - the simpler things tend to be the ones that provide me with the most peace and enjoyment. So I tend to keep it simple when it comes to things like fly fishing. Not because I go out of my way to seek simplicity - but

because at the end of the day I only have so much focus left. When it comes to planning the next day’s fishing trip I’ve usually put it off to the last minute and I don’t have the focus or will to sort through 5 different kinds of leaders, numerous sighters and indicators, several spools with different fly lines for several different reels, multiple rods, a fly for every stage of every bug… you get the idea. It’s not that I don’t think about, or read about that stuff. I do. I love learning. But when it comes to actually implementing … well that’s where I can get stalled. Tenkara sort of fell in place for me. It fit in my life very neatly. It was a happy accident. The simple trappings of tenkara became the way I fished because it worked. Not just worked as a way to catch fish but because it worked in my life. This has all become startlingly clear to me now as I explore European nymphing and competition style fishing. I can feel things bogging down as I look at all the possible ways to make a nymphing leader.

It is staggering really, the variety is simply staggering. What does this have to do with printmaking? Well - maybe not a whole lot - but it does help explain how it’s become my creative outlet. It doesn’t get much simpler than black and white prints. But the fly fishing/tenkara parallels go deeper than just the apparent simplicity.

The process of working on a linoleum block print for me is very deliberate and it forces me to break things down into basics. I have to look at positive and negative space and figure out a way to get my design done without the benefit of the color and shading, that painting and drawing allow. Of course you can do multicolor block printing - but I’m still working out the possibilities of one color (and that could take a lifetime).

The block printing process reduces variables and makes me focus and look at things differently, creatively. Just like tenkara did for my fishing with the limited tackle, fixed line and simpler rigging.


Getting Started

I do not claim to be an expert printmaker. I had a class in printmaking while attending Penn State (I was a mechanical engineering undergrad) and relief block printing stuck with me. I’ve done it on and off since then but lately I’ve been doing it a lot more - tenkara and fly fishing have given me a wealth of inspiration and subject matter to work with. As with anything you can make relief block printing as complicated as you like - but I tend to keep it very basic and simple.

If you’d like to do some of your own block printing it’s simple enough to get started and the basic tools and materials are not expensive. In the figure below I show the basic


tools and materials. There are kits available that will get you started for as little as about $15. Utrecht is a good place to find materials and kits online. http://www.utrechtart.com/ Sets-Block-and-Relief.utrecht

Relief block printing is a reductive process and theoretically be done with any material that can be carved. Common materials are wood, linoleum and rubber blocks. Wood is more difficult to work with and to do it well it generally requires more expensive higher quality tools - though I have carved woodblocks with a basic utility knife before. Linoleum is much easier to work with than wood because it’s softer and easier to cut. Soft polymer blocks such as the Speedball SpeedyCarve are even easier to work with.

Speedy-Carve and other similar polymer blocks are much like those white Staedtler Mars Plastic Erasers. If you went to school for engineering, like myself, you’re likely very familiar with those erasers. If you’re new to block printing I’d recommend the SpeedyCarve. It cuts like a dream with the basic linoleum cutters and requires very little force. Fine detail work can be a bit more difficult with Speedy-Carve than with linoleum, but still some very nice work can be done.

I’ve been using the Speedy-Carve myself lately because of my hands. Even working with the linoleum has been hard on my aging hands and wood is pretty much out of the question these days. Unless I want aching hands for weeks.

Next you’ll need paper, ink, a linoleum cutter, a brayer and a spoon. With linoleum you can use oil-based or water-soluble inks. With the polymer blocks you’ll have to use watersoluble ink. Unless you have a dedicated work space I would go with the water-soluble inks for the ease of clean up. You’ll need a brayer for rolling and applying ink and some sort of inking plate for rolling it out. Many kits will come with these. The linoleum cutters come in various sizes and are gouge type cutters that you push. The shapes vary from very sharp “v” shapes to wider “u” shapes. I like to have several different blades installed in several handles handy while I’m cutting. That way I don’t have to keep removing and installing blades in the same handle. The handle that I show above comes with the blades, which can be stored inside the handle.

The graphite transfer paper is a non-greasy transfer paper for transferring images to the block. It works well on the linoleum but not on

the Speedy-Carve. With the Speedy-Carve you can actually print an image with a laser or ink jet printer and then use an iron to transfer it to the block. This iron transfer didn’t work for me on linoleum with my laser printed images, perhaps inkjet print out could be iron transferred to linoleum (I didn’t try that). Of course you can always draw directly on the block or cut without drawing at all - but I usually don’t do that. I work on designs for a while usually. So… The spoon. Many kits will come with a barren for hand printing your blocks. Inexpensive barrens are basically round plastic discs (about 3” diameter) with a handle. These are used to rub the back of the paper after placing it on the block to transfer the ink. I don’t use one. I prefer to use a simple metal spoon. As I work with small prints, I like the control of the spoon versus the larger barren. A word on paper. My favorite paper to use is Unbleached Japanese Kitakata paper (http:// www.utrechtart.com/Legion-PrintmakingJapanese-Paper--Kitakata-MP-10416-001i1008149.utrecht). Unbleached Kitakata has a warm natural tan color with interesting character and takes ink easily. Generally, the thicker the paper, the more difficult it will be to hand print your block. I get Kitakata in large sheets that I then tear to the needed sizes. You can also get good paper for hand printing in packages of smaller sheets. The paper that I show in the figure is a bleached Mulberry paper and it works well though it’s not quite as easy to print on as Kitakata.


Design Process and Block Prep

The great thing about block printing is that you can take simple design and through the process of cutting a block enhance it and give it great character. The act of cutting, even if you’re not that great at it lends an honest, earthy feel to the finished product. In this age of digital media I find the process of working with real materials grounding and meditative.

Usually I start with a hand drawn sketch such as in (1) above. Then I’ll usually scan it into the computer and using a vector program like Inkscape I’ll try various layouts and compositions. The bluegill print here was a simple composition so I really didn’t do much with the computer. In some more complex prints I’ll draw up different parts separately


and then use the computer to manipulate the various design elements. It’s a great way to work on composition without wasting a lot of paper and erasers.

Remember while working on your design that any lines or areas that you want to appear as black (or whatever color ink you’re using) have to be left uncarved. So you need to think in reverse.

If you are going to use graphite transfer paper you’ll need reverse your image (2) before transferring it - otherwise you’ll end up with a mirror image. To use the transfer paper just cut it to size and place it with the graphite side down on the linoleum block. Then place your reversed

image on top (4) and trace with a ball point pen or a hard pencil. Tape the image and transfer paper down as you do this, otherwise you’ll never keep it from moving. If you’re using the Speedy-Carve you can print your image on a printer and then place it face

down on the block, cover with a blank sheet of paper, to protect any exposed areas of the block, and using a hot iron transfer it directly to the block. You’ll have to experiment to get find the temperature and amount of pressure needed to transfer it well. You do not need to reverse the image if you’re using this method.

Carving the Block

Be careful not to push too hard. You don’t have to carve very deep for the print to work. Try to plan your cutting so that you’re not cutting toward areas that you don’t want to remove. It will take a little practice but you’ll get the hang of it. I usually work on the main outlines (3) and then work outward from there. Also you don’t need to clean out every last bit in the open areas - leaving some evidence of your cutting actually can lend a lot of character to the finished product (4).

The first image (1) shows the block with the image transferred via the graphite transfer paper. Remember that the black lines will be left uncarved. At first you may find that making fine lines that way can be difficult, but just be patient and take your time. The linoleum cutters come in various sizes and shapes (2). When cutting you’ll be pushing away from you.


Printing To print you’ll place a small amount of ink or your inking plate and roll it out with the brayer. You just a want a thin coating on the brayer. If you get too much ink on it it will fill in the fine details of the block. You can always roll the inked brayer on some scrap paper if you’ve loaded it with too much ink.

Make a “proof”. For a proof you can use printer paper - it’s not good for final prints but works okay for proofing. Carefully place the paper on the inked block and then use your spoon or barren to rub the paper and print the image (2). With a thin block printing paper you’ll see the image appear as you work with the spoon (3).

Once the brayer is properly inked you can roll the ink on the block (1). Make sure to roll the brayer in all directions over the block to get it properly inked. You can apply more ink to the brayer as needed. If you’ve got too much ink on the brayer it will become apparent as you ink the block. If so - no problem - clean it off and start again.

If you’re careful you can lift the paper at a corner and peek to see how the transfer is going and then lay the paper back down and do more rubbing. Large areas of ink will be the most difficult to transfer fully. You’ll get a feel for each individual block and paper type that you print. When you think it’s ready pull the paper off of the block (4).


If you’re printing a proof you can now see what areas of the block may need more work. So clean the block and go back in with the cutters and work on any trouble areas. Repeat as needed. When your happy with the print then switch to your good paper and print the good prints. Sometimes as you’re printing, the fine details can get filled with ink. If this happens, clean the block before printing more. If you're using water soluble inks - clean up is very easy using water. If using oil-based inks its more work. I like to use Gamblin Gamsol odorless mineral spirits for oil-based clean up.

framing. The best thing is to plan the size of your prints so that they fit readily available pre-cut mats. Otherwise you’ll be getting into mat cutting, which is a pain in the butt, or paying to have it done, which can get pretty expensive.

After the print has dried you can mat it for

Have Fun!

Alternatively, buy a frame that comes with a mat - and make sure to plane the print size as mentioned.

So, that’s the basics. You can get more advanced and do multi-color prints with multiple blocks, or even hand colored prints. The possibilities are many.


Hooked on Tenkara Steven Smith

There is not much that I remember from middle school. It was a time in my life when I really didn't care for school. The one thing that jumps to my memory, however, is the police van that would sit out front on certain days. There would be a D.A.R.E officer there to try and warn us about the danger of drugs. One drug in particular would be referred to as the “gateway drug.”

This was the drug that would open up the world to using hard drugs and eventually being on an episode of COPS. It was a drug that was easy to get, fun to use and was great to share with friends.

As I grew up, I did get hooked on a gateway drug, and it was all those things - easy to get into, fun to use and great to share with friends - Tenkara, the gateway drug to the outdoors. This is something that is so easy to get the hang of and to get into. It is super fun to use, and is great to share with friends. While I am not advocating you getting people hooked on drugs, I am pushing you to share the good stuff and get people hooked on Tenkara. Take a friend, a spouse or a child and get them outside. Put down the cell phone (unless its to take a fish pic) and get some fresh air. Sometimes getting involved in an outdoor activity can be overwhelming and very expensive. This often leaves people lost, and in many cases they end up getting frustrated and don’t even start, but it doesn’t have to be that way. I can’t think of a better way to introduce people to the great outdoors, or to get people out on the water catching fish. Tenkara offers a simplistic approach that does not overwhelm


people with a mountain of gear that they need to buy. You literally need a rod, line, tippet, fly and time. Time to get out and explore, to go where you have never gone before. The thing I love about Tenkara is that it is for everyone, all ages. My 3 year old daughter loves when we take out a short 8 foot Tenkara rod and try and hook some bluegills. I can then turn around and take a friend or my wife, who has never really fished before, and get them to enjoy an afternoon out fishing. Tenkara is the perfect gateway into the outdoors. It meshes well with almost every other outdoor activity as well. You want to hike? Good news! A Tenkara rod, line spool and flies take up little room and add very little weight. You like to ride bikes? Sweet! You can strap on a Tenkara rod to your bike frame and hit up streams and ponds in your area. The versatility and compactness of Tenkara is amazing! So pull your friends aside and pop open your trunk to show them the good stuff. Get them outdoors and hooked on Tenkara!



Photo: Steven Smith


Pushing Back At The Seasons by Sam Larson

Late February is when I start to push back at the seasons, exerting my as-yet untapped psychic potential to force the weather to break and fish to rise. It hasn’t worked out yet. Spring is a heartbreaking time of year to be a fly fisherman. Early spring rivers sit in a brief moment of calm, still largely dormant but braced for the knockout punch of rushing snow melt. It’s a woefully inconsistent time of year and one that I, Scrooge-like, swear off every year with foul-tempered tails of nymphing in icechoked rivers or swinging streamers through a thick, brown current no self-respecting trout would hang around in. But there are those soul-saving stretches of warm days and warm water and fitful middle-of-the-work-day midge hatches where I burn down any remaining goodwill in the office by ducking out so I can


be on the water when the sun still shines. And so I go, wrapped in three layers of wool and neoprene and preemptively writing off sensation in my toes, because I have no choice. Because I am compelled by last summer’s fading memories, the longed-for heft of my Tenkara rod in my hand, and the fact that today might be the day when the weather finally breaks. Like everyone else in the area I head out to fish the big name tailwaters of the Front Range during the winter months; the Arkansas, the South Platte, the Big Thompson up in Estes Park. Winter fishing on these tailwaters means warm water, reliable hatches, and a tide of fellow anglers, three deep at every bend. I don’t love these annual pilgrimages. They’re simply what I have to do to stay sane when the

water I love, the tiny trout streams of the Rocky Mountains, have yet to be unlocked by the changing of the seasons. I am at my happiest and best stalking spooky 6-inch brookies through streams narrower than my Tenkara rod’s span.

But those days aren’t here yet. Early-season scouting forays show stubborn ice and snow in the shadowed north-facing curves of the canyons, and fish huddled down at the bottom of the deepest runs. The awkward weight of lead-wrapped wet flies and bead-head nymphs fouls the supple cast of my Tenkara rod, but I fish them anyway. On warmer days emergers and midge patterns pull slow-moving fish from the bottom to take half-hearted strikes at the fly. I can tell the fish are eager for spring waters as well. They’ve felt the season changing in their rocky beds, the whisper of warmer days caressing their fins. They’re struggling to shake of winter’s torpor, fitfully dreaming of gorging on summer hoppers. I’m searching for a seasonal window, the witching hour between the rebirth of warm spring waters and the surge of runoff. The day when I can confirm bodily, on the water with a trout on the line, that winter will not last forever. Winter does that to me. It blinds me with grey skies and frigid temperatures, confines my perspective to my home, the tying bench, and creeks shrouded in ice and snow. It makes last summer’s fishing feel like ancient history, and next summer’s warmth an impossible dream. Spring stirs the waters, and the blood of anglers and fish both, confirming yet again that clear water will flow, fish will rise, and the rivers I love will open their arms to me once more.


Footsteps of the Masters John Vetterli

Photos by Tenkara Guides LLC


June 1st 2014, two American tenkara fly fishing guides, Erik Ostrander and John Vetterli, along with Erik’s wife Ann traveled to Nagoya Japan to begin the tenkara journey that would profoundly change my views on tenkara methods, tools, cultures, and most importantly, is tenkara different in the land and culture of its origin as compared to what we know back home in the United States?

morning breakfasts long days on the water accompanied by lots and lots of skill tweaking and instruction of Masami’s theories about fishing strategies, casting mechanics, biomechanical efficiency, and just a hell of a lot of fun. Masami is a true friend who will freely share with you as much of his 35 years of tenkara knowledge as your brain can process.

We have been very fortunate to make some fantastic friends in Japan. People who most western tenkara anglers know only by name and reputation. Friends like Eiji Yamakawa, Kiyoshi Ishihara, Masami Tanaka from the Harima Tenkara Club. Hiromichi Fuji, Nissin tenkara rod designer and pioneer of modern tenkara. Dr. Ishigaki, Diawa tenkara rod designer, and the World Tenkara Ambassador. And my mentor, teacher, and friend Masami Sakakibara (Tenkara no-Oni) Designer of the famed Oni rods and perhaps the greatest living tenkara angler in the world.

During one of our many conversations he said something to me that rocked my tenkara world. I asked him ‘How does someone become a tenkara master in Japan?” He simply said, “There are no real rules to become a tenkara master. You simply work very hard to develop your skills, innovate whether it be a product like a rod, lines, flies, a casting technique, a method of fly manipulation, etc. Then you must share your knowledge and continue to refine and perfect what you know.”

All this name-dropping has a purpose. Erik and I traveled to Japan to meet, fish with, and learn from some the best Japanese tenkara anglers alive today.

When we arrived in Japan, our first adventure was to travel by train from Nagoya to Mazegawa fishing center to meet for the first time, Masami Sakakibara, his wife Kyoko, and Rocky Osaki, our newest bestest buddy and translator.

Masami Sakakibara is and incredibly humble man. Unassuming, no ego, quick to make a joke, and an incredible caster and angler. We spent time learning about the biology of Iwana and Amago, where they live in the rivers, their personalities and feeding habits and then it was off to the water.

The next several days consisted of early

So I condensed that to Explore, Innovate, Share, and Repeat. It's a never-ending cycle.

After several days with Masami we hooked up with our old friend Dr. Ishsgaki for several more days of fishing at Itoshiro Village and to attend the Itoshiro Fisher’s Holiday. A meeting of all types of mountain stream anglers. Western fly fishers, tenkara anglers, spin casters, keiryu bait fishers, it's a chance to see the mountain stream fishing spectrum of Japan all in one spot.

We met Dr. Ishigaki at the first Tenkara USA Summit in Montana in 2011. We immediately hit it off with him and a great friendship began to develop. Over the years Dr. Ishigaki has been a great resource of information for me as we kept our friendship alive via email.

Dr. Ishigaki is the face and voice of tenkara in Japan. If there is a tenkara celebrity, it is Dr.


Ishigaki. He appears on television shows, magazine ads, articles and interviews, lectures, and teaches many students. His personality is infectious. This is a guy who takes his fishing very seriously but himself very lightly. A man with a great sense of humor, a hell of a lot of fun to hang out with and just a great all around guy.

We spent long hours discussing the arts of fly manipulation, stream tactics, and a lot of fishing. And I learned that Dr. Ishigaki could probably eat his weight in rice. Man, that guy loves his rice.

During the Itoshiro Fisher’s Holiday we met hundreds of other anglers of all types. Fished side by side with keiryu bait fishers and spin casters. Met some extremely talented western fly rod designers and craftsmen. Talked about what fishing is like in the Western United States. Answered lots of questions about cowboys and Indians. (Apparently the American Wild West is a fascination of the Japanese). The festival was an amazing


experience to meet a lot of people.

I also asked Dr. Ishigaki about how one becomes a tenkara master in Japan. Strangely enough, his answer was the same as Masami Sakakibara’s answer. Explore, Innovate, Share, Repeat.

After several great days of fishing in Itoshiro, we were on the road with our great friend Eiji Yamakawa headed to Kyoto to meet up with the legendary Hiromichi Fuji.

We met Eiji Yamakawa, Kiyoshi Ishihara, and Masami Tanaka at the 2nd Tenkara Summit our company hosted with Tenkara USA in our hometown of Salt Lake City, UT.

Eiji, Kiyoshi, and Masami are members of the Harima Tenkara Club. One of the oldest tenkara clubs in Japan. These guys are awesome! They are some of the most fun people I have ever fished with. Eiji taught me how to build tapered furled tenkara lines from fluorocarbon. Masami is a supreme stream

tactician; Kiyoshi is perhaps the most humble man I have ever met. They each bring their own version of tenkara to the table. Each man has developed his own complete system of tenkara. It includes rod type, kebari patterns, casting methods, stream tactics, line types. Each has his own distinct style.

tenkara rods. These rods were my first true Japanese tenkara rods. If you have never used one, you are missing out on something unique.

So, after about a 5-hour drive and an intense trip through Osaka rush hour freeway traffic. (Los Angeles traffic is nothing compared to Osaka Japan). We reached this tiny hut alongside a fairly busy mountain road across

Fuji Sensei discussed his casting technique with us and began to immediately teach the subtleties of his methods and his personal tenkara philosophy. Fishing with Fuji Sensei was one of my life’s greatest honors. He is a living legend, one of the modern sports greatest innovators, a fantastic teacher, and just a fun and interesting

the street from this beautiful river that flowed through the valley. As we pulled up to the hut, a small group of about 6 men ranging from ages 20-75 came to the cars to greet us. We were immediately introduced to Hiromichi Fuji. A quiet and unassuming man about 75 years old.

For a man who is for all intents and purposes, the father of modern tenkara, he is very warm and approachable. He is quick with a joke, a perfectionist in everything he does, and a very patient teacher.

We dumped our gear in the hut and immediately began fishing the river across the street.

Hiromichi Fuji or Sensei as his students refer him to, is the guy who pioneered the use of monofilament line materials for tenkara. He is most likely the first person to use nylon and fluorocarbon materials to build the first furled lines of these products. He is also the designer of the Nissin Airstage Fujiryu family of


man to talk to about everything from his experiences in Japan during World War II and how the country rebuilt itself after the war, tenkara history both ancient and modern. His many different kebari patterns he ties and uses, and most interestingly, how the sport is evolving now that it has left the country of its origin. Fuji Sensei looks to the future of tenkara with great excitement. The West is pushing it in new directions, unexplored regions, new cultural ideals, evolving, and developing new skills. I get the strong feeling that Hiromichi Fuji sees the full circle at this moment. He has seen the evolution of tenkara from mystery and a practically lost art to the modernization of rods from bamboo to fiberglass to carbon fiber, lines from horse hair and silk thread to fluorocarbon level lines and now the surge of new ideas freely flowing from a distant culture that is a bit wild and unencumbered by past history. We are just


going to do what we are going to do best. Adapt and make it our own.

One evening Fuji Sensei and I were sitting on the steps of the hut, just the two of us and I asked him my now infamous question “How does someone become a tenkara master?” Fuji let out a little laugh and said “Learn all you can, explore and make your own tenkara, share it with others, never stop learning.”

The next morning we left the fishing hut and headed to Fuji Sensei’s home in Kyoto to visit his workshop where he ties kebari for Nissin and manufactures the spectacular Nissin PALS furled fluorocarbon tapered tenkara lines.

After spending several hours learning about his line designs and watching him make several lines, he sat at his desk and tied a few of his signature kebari and then it was done. Our time with Hiromichi Fuji was over. We then

piled into Eiji’s van and we were off to our next adventure. Somewhere in the middle of the Japanese wilderness. I have no idea of where the hell we were headed, but I was very excited.

We first spent the night at this really cool village an hour or so out of Kyoto. This house we stayed in is around 250 years old. A building that existed during the reign of the Samurai.

The next morning we headed out with Eiji and Masami for a few more days of fishing. We traveled up high into the mountains and explored streams that I cant even do justice trying to describe. Steep canyons, volcanic rock and granite, the clearest water I have ever seen, lush cedar and bamboo forests. After a few semi-rappelling descents into the canyons, we hit the water and started fishing.

Fishing with Eiji Yamakawa is always a lot of fun. Eiji or “Eddie” as his friends know him, is a legitimate tenkara master in his own right. He has no interest in titles or recognition. I like to refer to Eddie as the “Reluctant Master”. His casting skills are deadly, the way he approaches a section of stream and analyzes it, allows him to pull fish out of the most unlikely places that 99.999% of anglers would pass by. His personality is very laid back and filled with humor.

Masami Tanaka is another “Reluctant Master”. He and Eiji have been fishing partners for decades. They move through a stream together as a seamless team. Each has their own distinct style and methods that equally balance out the other. There are simply no gaps in techniques between the two. They move through the water leaving no potential lie untouched by more than one method of casting, fly manipulation, drifts, or angles.


With these two guys in the stream, the fish just simply don’t stand a chance.

So, following the theme of my trip to Japan, I asked Eiji my question “How does someone become a tenkara master?” Eiji may very well be the originator of the term “The 10 Colors of Tenkara”. He simply said, “You must find your color of tenkara. Take the basic skills and explore them, shape them, make them your own. Find your tenkara.”

And just like that, I was sitting on a Boeing 747 leaving the ground at Nagoya Airport and my first journey to Japan was over. I had 18 hours of travel time to digest everything that I had experienced in Japan fishing with several of the best and most renowned tenkara master anglers alive today. Met hundreds of people along the way. Ate some of the best food I have ever had. And had a hell of a lot of fun.

These people are just that, people. Here in the West, there has been a tendency to put them on a pedestal and idolize them. Maybe that is just our way of romanticizing tenkara. It has centuries old history based in a distant and exotic culture, in our countries outside of Japan; tenkara is still in its infancy. So it seems natural that we would look to the land of origin for heroes to follow.

So, here is what I really learned from my time both in Japan in 2014 and even as I write this article. Tenkara is not mystical, exotic, Zen, or any of that. It is just simply a method of flycasting. There are no hard rules. There is no single and correct tenkara method. Tenkara is a reflection of the angler who uses the tools and techniques to suit his/her natural environment, fish species, knowledge and skill base they bring to the table from past fishing experience. Tenkara is just you.


I believe that the next generation of tenkara masters is in the process of being created right now, at this exact moment in time. This next generation will most likely come from the West. We are pushing tenkara in directions it has never been. Carp fishing, warm water species, and ocean fishing. We as a culture are unencumbered by tenkara’s history. We are completely free to Explore, Innovate, Share, and Repeat.

The history of tenkara and its origin is Japan. The future is being forged here in the West. There is no other time in the fly-fishing culture that such a dramatic swing has ever occurred. We are all a part of this paradigm shift.

I had a conversation with Hiromichi Fuji about how he feels about how tenkara is being changed and adapted outside of Japan. He finds this exciting and a necessary evolution of tenkara’s future. The sport was gradually dwindling in popularity in Japan. The peak of its popularity was most likely in the early 1980s. Once tenkara left Japan, a true revolution occurred. There is a lot of speculation among tenkara anglers in Japan that tenkara is vastly more popular in America than it ever was in Japan. There are more tenkara anglers outside of Japan now than inside.

This is the future and we are all taking a part in shaping it.

To follow the footsteps of the masters is impossible. For as soon as every one of the Master’s footsteps are made in the stream, the water washes them away. There is and can be only one tenkara path. Your path. Go and Explore, Innovate, Share. Find your own tenkara. Make it yours. Share what you know, never stop questioning what you know. And above all have fun!


Shinrin’yoku (森林浴) Isaac Tait

September 15, 2009 - Semper Fi

I am awoken by the sound of rats scurrying beneath my rack. Someone had failed to throw away their trash and the rats had scampered in to clean up the mess. How cordial of them to clean up the mess… I think to myself while I stare into the darkness of the Quonset hut. My thoughts drift to my wife and what she must be doing at this moment. Even though we are still in the same country, even the same state, we could not be any further apart. Pushing the nostalgia into the back of my mind I reach for my boots, making sure to give them a good shake to dislodge any unpleasant critters who might have taken up residence in them while I slept. The sun was still several hours away from cresting the horizon and so with a twinge of sadness I flipped on the lights, yelling “reveille” with false motivation.


Several curses were directed my way, but eventually everyone was awake and bundling up to brave the cold desert wind. Groggily we made our way outside into the dark cold to fire up the engines of our “pigs”, the name we half lovingly bestowed upon our Light Armored Vehicles (LAVs). A few hours later I find myself sitting on an unnamed bluff while F/A-18 fighter jets scream overhead lobbing 500 pound bombs into the blue void. The explosions, I am told, are far enough away to not pose any danger to us. However, I was told the same thing, just over six years ago, during an explosive ordinance disposal mission in Iraq; and then we were all diving for cover as shrapnel came raining down all around us. Consequently, I am enjoying my breakfast inside the turret of my pig - with the hatches closed.

While tanks are the sexy and haughty sister of mechanized warfare, the homely and disheveled step sister is light armor. Conceived to bridge the gap between truck and tank she has the merits of none and the shortcomings of both. Despite her shortcomings though she does, somewhat surprisingly, excel at reconnaissance and plays a central role in maneuver warfare. For this reason, the U.S. Marine Corps Light Armored Reconnaissance Battalions (of which there are four) were the perfect tool for a particular nasty job that needed doing in Afghanistan. That is why I found myself listening intently for the telltale sound of incoming shrapnel while baking inside the turret of my LAV under the intense California sun – my battalion was scheduled to soon rotate into Helmand Province and we had to complete the necessary training before shipping out. Seven weeks later, on the Marine Corps’ Birthday, I am sleeping in the back of a Sikorsky CH-53E Super Stallion helicopter (as soundly as one can when they are being buffeted by wind, intense vibration, and noise that does wake the dead) when I am awakened by bullets zinging through the hull. It is pitch black and I could only make out my buddy’s face, who is sitting across from me a mere ten feet away, when the flash of the door gunners’ machine guns lights up the cargo bay. I take off my helmet and sit on it. Welcome to Afghanistan! It is going to be a long seven months. I think to myself.

September 15, 2014 - Eldersburg, MD

It is a cold, dreary, and wet morning – a bit of a change from the long hot summer (really the only difference is the temperature; it is always wet in Maryland). My buddy Nick and I are gallivanting through the countryside in a Buick looking for a trout stream. Both of us have never been to this particular river and we are following directions that are proving to be a little more than vague. After getting things sorted out we park in the mud at the end of a long dirt road. We step out of the warm and dry car and follow a narrow footpath into the misty, humid, and dripping forest. Judging from the increasing stentorian call of the river we suspect that we are headed in the right direction. Even after several months of fishing the rivers of Maryland, my Southern California sensibilities are still unaccustomed to the dense and abundant vegetation that grow with an incredible voracious nature in these parts. The foliage,

I think about those days, and the many more like them quite often – when I am having a beer with old buddies, in the middle of night when I wake up in cold sweats, and when I am out on the river Tenkara rod in hand with nothing but the silence of nature, and my memories, reminding me of how precious life is.


combined with the threat of Copperheads and Rattlers, makes navigating to and from a river almost always an adventure in itself.

Safely standing on the river bank we begin fishing. My buddy hooks into a nice Fallfish (he almost always catches the first fish), but we are here for trout so we press on deeper into the forest, following the lazy bends of the river. I come across a bit of faster water and cast into the riffles not really expecting to find anything there. Rather, I am trying to set up a nice drift into an undercut bank. As my fly drifts towards my target the line suddenly goes taunt. Thinking it has gotten snagged I try pulling my line upstream and then the water erupts in a violent explosion. This is not a snag - we have found the trout that are rumored to shelter in this river through the summer! After a hearty fight I bring to hand a beautiful 15-inch Rainbow. After a few quick photos, we return her to the water and press on downstream.

Seven weeks later I find myself sitting in the cabin of a 747 peering out the window to the Pacific Ocean over six miles below. Glancing forward I catch my first glimpse of land since passing over the Olympic Mountain Range in Washington - the Kashima Coast of Japan. As we fly into the interior I see the flash of the

78 Photo: Tetsuya Ishida

sun against lakes and rivers hidden in the tumultuous topography. From the air I realize in an instant that I am going to fall in love with this island, the “land of the rising sun”, which is to be my home for the next three years. Suddenly three years, or possibly even a lifetime, does not seem like enough time to get to know her.

September 15, 1916 – The Somme

I consider myself an appreciator of military history - if I ever went back to college I would get my Masters in Military History. Because of this affinity with the history of battle and tactics I know many seemingly useless facts. For example, the centennial anniversary of tank warfare is this year. The British have the dubious honor of being the first to deploy tanks into warfare - they did so during the Battle of Somme on September 15, 1916. The first ever mechanized warfare deployment during World War I not only changed an entire generation, causing ripple effects in the following generations that may never fully be known, but was also the testing ground for new technology and science that through many iterations and trial and error impacted my life some 93 years later! Sometimes I wonder if the creators of the Mark I tank would have rethought their plans if they knew what it

would bring about?

While many horrors were realized, experienced, and endured during the Great War there were a few good things that did come from it. For example, two of my favorite authors both fought in the Battle of Somme. Through that experience of raw and horrific human emotions forged in the fires of battle their stories were born. Lord of the Rings and Narnia are just a few of the stories that these two men wrote. Those stories are based, more deeply than first meets the eye, on their experiences in the Battle of Somme and the continued conflicts after that score had been settled. Their imagination created a world where nature, heroes, love, and selflessness reigned supreme over the ugliness of the mechanical horrors that the enemy wielded. Some years after the war, C.S. Lewis (the author of Narnia and many other greatly loved books) said: “There are times when I wonder if the invention of the internal combustion engine was not an even greater disaster than that of the hydrogen bomb!” In the immensely popular trilogy The Lord of the Rings, the abominations of the machine world are even more clearly defined and the glories and beauty of the natural world raised high and shown as possessing true merit and honor.

Their view of the world, as seen through the prism of the Great War, inspired them to create stories about the splendor and majesty of the natural world – and how this world was at war with the mechanical and progressive forces of the machine and of science. While their view may seem a little extreme and outdated I do find myself pondering if maybe they were on the right track. Some 100 years later breakthroughs in science and machinery have vastly improved the human condition – as well as harmed it. Theirs was a call to return to the

spiritual and natural while simultaneously moving away from the intolerance, hate, and jealousy that had caused so much horror. Unfortunately, this is something we as a human race have never seemed to be able to master.

Seven weeks later the Battle of Somme is decided and the world moves on to other battlefields. The lessons learned from that battle “that should not have been forgotten were lost. History became legend. Legend became myth.” The memory of the carnage, and what caused it, slipped from memory into the realm of lore and conspiracy.

September 15, 2015 – Asahi Mountain Range, Japan

It is a beautiful afternoon albeit a little hazy and on the warm side. I am anxiously watching numerous hornets and wasps buzz around the trailhead and so when the two other expedition members, Kado-san and Wan-san, are ready to leave I gratefully shoulder my heavy pack and lead the “charge” into the forest – if only to put some distance between me and those vile flying insects. However, I soon find myself knee deep in a muddy bog and so the epic slog up the side of the mountain begins. As we struggle for altitude Wan-san becomes hopelessly stuck in the mud on the side of the near vertical hillside. Together Kado-san and I link arms while he hangs from a tree with his free arm. I grasp our friend and together we pull him from the quagmire. Maybe we packed too much wine and whiskey; these packs are proving to be insanely heavy. Stubbornly we continue upward, stumbling over roots, contorting ourselves and our packs through a maze of downed trees, and feeling our way through dense thickets of bamboo.



Photo: Tetsuya Ishida

Photo: Tetsuya Ishida

Photo: Tetsuya Ishida


Finally, the echo of the river that is our destination, reaches our ears and gleefully we slip and slide down the far side of the muddy mountain, and plunge into the icy cold water. As the cold water washes away the mud, the blood, and soothes our burning muscles the retrospection of our journey to get here slowly fades into a more pleasant memory than the actual occurrence. I cannot help the reversal though because my awe and splendor at the majesty of the place I am now standing in overwhelms me and overcomes my senses of reason. That night as I lay in my hammock staring up at the stars, the sound of the babbling river mingling with the crackle of the fire I think about days gone by and the card my wife got me for my birthday, a few years back, that said “I have survived damn near everything!” I can now add to that list of survival: a Japanese cross-country backpacking Tenkara trip. I think my sensei Kado-san could give Mr. Yuzo Sebata a run for his money in the “most daring Tenkara angler” award, if there is such a thing. The modesty of the Japanese people would probably not allow it, but still if there was such an award Kado-san would at least be inducted into its Hall of Fame.


As exhaustion tugs at my eyelids I reflect on the simplicity and pureness of Tenkara and how it has been cathartic in taming the intensity of my past experiences. It blends together natural beauty with serenity in a way that I have not been able to replicate with other endeavors. It is not the fish I am after (although it certainly is a good reason) but rather the adventure, the natural beauty, and the peacefulness that combine to create a revival of my spirit.

Finally sleep comes and when I awake the sun is already much too high in the sky and my companions are fully dressed and eating breakfast by the smoldering fire. I stumble out of my sleeping bag and engulf a delicious breakfast of tamago and ramen smothered in fresh green onions and then, half begrudgingly I pull on my cold and grimy sawanabori shoes.

That day we bring to hand 53 beautiful Iwana (between the three of us) and release 51. That afternoon though the blue skies are replaced by storm clouds and we spend the evening struggling to get a hot enough fire going to cook our two fish. Eventually we succeed and then we dine on Iwana, freeze dried rice, sake,

wine, and whiskey – and fall asleep to the sound of rain, and the occasional massive seeds falling from the trees above, pelting our tent. That night there is an earthquake, or maybe it was a trio of trolls out looking for dinner. Whatever it is I am too exhausted to care and quickly fall back to sleep, with talking beavers and mice dancing in and out of my dreams. Seven weeks later the fishing season is over but I find myself in yet another magical location, this time in the shadow of Mount Fuji, where there is a forest that thrives in a harsh and seemingly uninhabitable landscape. Deep in the mist and moss of this forest though it holds a dark secret while nearby there are waterfalls that erupt from the earth, yet another secret concealed by this landscape. The rivers’ subterranean journey suddenly ends and the cold and clear water escapes the bowels of the earth and leaps into the light! As I take in this landscape and marvel at its wonder my mind begins to wander to past times. While Tolkien’s and Lewis’s writings were a sort of cathartic process for them to sort through the pain of the ordeals they endured during the Battle of Somme, my cathartic process is immersing myself in the serene and beauteous environments of the natural world. They created a make believe world filled with

all that they found good and held dear in the world but I have found a real world that could easily have stepped out of the pages of their best stories! During the course of my travels in Japan I have found river valleys that rivaled Rivendell, a forest that looks exactly how I imagined Fangorn Forest would look like, and skied in landscapes that so closely resembled Narnia during the 100-year winter that I found myself wondering if Aslan was going to come lumbering out of the forest in front of me. Through the power of the pen, and their faith, Lewis and Tolkien began to find solace, peace, and a purpose. How tiny and inconsequential must their writings have seemed to them at the time? Yet even after they had left this earth their stories continued to enrich and enlighten. Much like a tiny bubbling spring our actions today can seem inconsequential but when given enough time and space that spring grows into a cold, clear, and pure mountain stream filled with life and creating life - or it becomes a flood decimating and maiming a landscape… Places like the ones I have discovered in Japan are what give me reason to pause and reflect on how blessed I am to be here, alive and experiencing a side of the world I thought only existed in fairy tales.

In memory of the fallen few who were a few too many, you will not be forgotten. · Corporal Douglas Marenco Reyes - KIA May 18, 2003 · Lance Corporal Gregory E. McDonald - KIA June 25, 2003 · Lance Corporal Jeremy M. Kane – KIA January 23, 2010 · HM2 "Doc" Xin Qi – KIA January 23, 2010 · Sergeant David J. Smith – KIA January 27, 2010 (listed incorrectly as January 26, 2010) · Lance Corporal Carlos A. Aragon - KIA March 1, 2010 · Lance Corporal Nigel K. Olsen - KIA March 4, 2010 · Lance Corporal Rick J. Centanni - KIA March 24, 2010 · Sergeant Major Robert J. Cottle - KIA March 24, 2010


My (Almost)First Year As A Tenkara Angler

Diane Kelly-Riley

Photo: Ti Macklin

"...The kind of woman fisherman I mean is a different breed, a lone, perspiring, hair straggling, mosquito-haloed creature wading up to her whizzle string in rough water, all the while casting like crazy and wearing a beatific expression that proclaims to the world what a ball she’s having."

- From 'Trout Magic' by Robert Traver


I got a bad case of poison ivy on the first trip trying out my new tenkara rod fishing at Mores Creek along Hwy 21 outside of Idaho City. A couple of days earlier, I purchased a Shadowfire DragonTail tenkara rod at Portneuf River Outfitters in Pocatello, Idaho. The salesman sold me a starter package and advised that I watch the various youtube videos that would show me the basics.

A Patagonia tenkara video featuring a Matthew McConaughey look alike guided me through the knots and set-up, and the Tenkara USA site also gave clear instructions on casting and techniques. From Boise, I ventured out toward Idaho City to try out the tenkara rod, and found myself on the banks of Mores Creek in midMay. Little did I know of the adventure that awaited for both tenkara angling and the extended encounter with Toxicodendron radicans (but that’s another story). Let’s just say they’ve both been unforgettable.

In late May, I headed to my 99-year old grandmother’s funeral in the Upper Peninsula (U.P.) of Michigan in the area where Robert Traver lived and wrote. My uncle who taught me how to fly-fish was also there, and I was anxious to show him my tenkara rod. I informed him of my plan to go to Seney, Michigan, the site of Ernest Hemingway’s “Big Two-Hearted River.” There were too many mosquitoes and blackflies in the swamps of Seney, he informed me, as he skeptically tried out the action of the tenkara rod.

He set me up to fish with his brother-in-law, an expert U.P. fisherman who had been at my grandmother’s funeral who might be intrigued by tenkara, and his brother-in-law’s father had either fished with or known people who had fished with Hemingway on the Dead River in the U.P...or something like that...just as good as going to Seney.

First Catch with my Tenkara rod A brookie on the Palouse River, Idaho

We headed out to the Carp River outside of Marquette. Tom was indeed interested by the tenkara rod, but brought along a couple of extra fly rods just in case. The water was brown and high, and spring green ferns carpeted the forest floor of the budding birches. On my second or third cast, the lillian broke off the tip of my rod, and that settled the intrigue for the day. I spent the rest of the day catching little brookies using his fly rod.

The inauspicious start to tenkara angling both poison ivy and a broken lillian - didn’t deter my interest. There was something about it; the simple, scaled down approach supported by an active community that encouraged #getoutandfish. Fly-fishing for me always felt a bit like playing the violin which requires a lot of technique and skill. I had grown up taking violin lessons and playing in orchestras, and I always found myself seated in the back row of the second violin section. I could read and play the notes, but I couldn’t play the music.


Taking up tenkara felt similar to learning to play fiddle - the same instrument as a violin essentially - but an entirely different approach. I started to play fiddle when my son was five years old. The fiddle teacher taught him to play by ear. I told her if she could provide me the music, I could play along to which she replied, “that would be such a bad example for the children!” because he wouldn’t learn how to play the music and get a feel for it. As both boys have gotten older, I’ve learned to play fiddle alongside them, and the structure of the fiddle group is one that invites everyone in and expects them to play regardless of level. In a jam session, there’s always a leader for each song, and the group adjusts to the level of the leader of the song. Your place in the group is reinforced by the fact that you simply play, and the structure recognizes that everyone is in a different place, but the emphasis is on playing.

Tenkara fishing feels a lot like playing fiddle. There’s more emphasis in getting out to the nearest stream or lake and casting in a line. In the last nine months, I’ve fished with more people in more places and have tried more variety of techniques than I ever have flyfishing. After the U.P. trip, my husband, son, and I ventured to Nelson, British Columbia where we fretted about prospects of porcupines that might sever our car’s brake lines at Kokanee Glacier Provincial Park. The hike to Kokanee Lake was breathtaking, and it was a pleasure to toss in a line at the lake even with the danger of the porcupines.

In the summer, I also fished on Lake Chelan, Washington, and in the Puget Sound off of Lopez Island in the San Juan Islands in Washington State. I soon found others who like tenkara too. Jens, a doctoral student in fisheries, showed me how to use tenkara flies, using them to catch small rainbows on the Palouse River and sizable cuttthroats on the St. Joe River, both in Idaho.

This fall, my friend, Ti, had just defended her dissertation, and we went out to celebrate by tenkara fishing the St. Joe. She also had fished extensively with her family in Southern Idaho, and was interested in trying out tenkara. We found a great spot outside of Calder along the St. Joe where I caught a mountain whitefish.

My neighbor, Theresa, was intrigued in my excitement about tenkara, and had found it difficult to find a person who would show her how to fly-fish as well as the time to learn the technique. She bought a rod and we went to nearby ponds, was overjoyed when she caught her first trout on her tenkara rod after only a couple of casts.


Kokanee Glacier Provincial Park

Ti on the St. Joe River, Idaho

Jens & the cutthroat St. Joe River, Idaho



Late December on the Palouse River, Idaho Photo: Michael Riley

Ready for Spring!

These are the kind of diamonds I'm after! Photo: Michael Riley

I fished the Boise River in July catching the largest trout on the tenkara rod so far, and spent the early days of December fishing on the Boise River with my friend, Conrad, who introduced me to tenkara, and who is also my most avid tenkara enabler, encouraging me to try to new tenkara rods (he has eight!) and different lines.

Tenkara has made me approach fishing in new ways. My fly-fishing friends are amazed that I’ve been out fishing in the winter. My friend Meagan says that the fish are still out there, there are just fewer people. I fished on December 27th this year, the latest I’ve ever fished, got a beautiful string of diamonds. On

February 6th, the earliest I’ve ever been out on the river, I didn’t catch anything but had a close encounter with a fisher, Martes pennanti. After nine months in, I’m struck by the joie de vivre that tenkara fosters for me and others. I recently stopped by the Silver Bow Fly Shop in Spokane Valley, and they highlighted (literally) great fishing spots in the Coeur d’Alene River basin and the St. Joe River basin. It felt like someone giving me a map to their secret morel mushroom hunting grounds. Tenkara represents play at it's best: adventuresome, generous, challenging, and forgiving. I’m hooked.


Late Fall in the Shenandoah Mountains Rob Lepczyk

We had been planning this trip for some time. With the weather we had been having and the coming El Nino we didn’t think too much about fishing that late in the season. But the late November winds had something else in store for us. The parking lot at Elk Wallow Wayside was empty as we arrived Friday morning. We got our packs out of the Tahoe and sorted the last of the last and started down the Appalachian Trail.

The first campsite was supposed to be close to where Neighbors Mountain Trail connected with JR trail. It was getting dark and we found a flat spot fitting the criteria for a stealth camp site in Shenandoah National Park. Once camp was set up, we pulled out the rods and had at it. This was both my brother Bryan’s and our friend Kyle’s first backpacking and tenkara trip, so needless to say they were stoked to give it a try. Both had fly fished before, my brother had fly fished quite a bit.

The forecast was for wind gusts over sixty miles per hour and overnight lows in mid-20s. The hike into the river was 10 or so miles around the backway. We could have taken the easy way, but that’s no fun…

We broke for lunch at the trail split for Neighbor Mountain trail…

We finally descended into the Stream That Shall Remain Nameless.

Kyle's first Brook Trout.

We fished for a bit but the dinner bell was-aringin’, so we did that and hung for bit, drinking boxed wine we toted in over the mountain, telling stories, and singing songs about dogs. Soon the hammocks beckoned and sleep overtook us.


The first to arise must get the bear bags… After I got the bear bags, we made breakfast and packed camp. Our goal was to fish our way back stream over the next two days. It is a nice day hike, only about 4.5 miles, but we like to fish a lot, so it naturally takes a bit longer. We walked for a bit, stopped, took our packs off and fished. After a little we came back and picked our packs up and kept going. We had all intentions of hiking at least a mile and half that day, but we found a great camp spot near some great pools on the creek, and set up there.

We fished until it got dark and made dinner, drank more, and fell asleep to a very clear sky and some of the coldest air we had seen yet. We woke to a solid frost and lots of condensation on our tarps. We shook it off, made breakfast, packed camp and prepared to fish our way out. Thinking we had about 1.5 miles to go. WRONG!!! We had 4 miles to hike out, needless to say we didn’t fish as much as we hoped but we did catch fish.

We eventually hiked out and away from the river. Kyle and I got into a groove and didn’t want the hike to end, but it did, and we get back to car around noon.

As we drove out we admired the views from skyline drive.



James Wright

The flies were breaking free of the surface film like a cloud of tan snow falling skyward. Silence. I thought that I was going to skunk out. I thought that inside of an hour, I would be sitting down to a couple of crispy waffles and bacon with eggs over easy, drowning my blues in coffee and maple syrup. I thought...

...but the flash of silver as the rainbow turned with my fly in its mouth brought me stumbling back to the moment.

The fish seemed a literal monster at 12 inches, hearty native of one of the few deep, clear pools on this stretch of tiny head-water. It bolted quickly from the wet, clay bank near which I stood, heading toward the thick stand of hemlocks that lined the far side. It then leaped clear of the water and hovered there, weightless, for a long second of time. I barely had the presence to drop the bamboo rod tip, realizing its intentions. It shook its head and formed a beautifully perfect parabola with its glistening body, twisting agilely first one way then the other, finally dropping backwards through the white foam with a cascading splash. I tightened up on the long rod again, to a dishearteningly empty line. He had thrown my barb-less Killer Bug. I dropped my shoulders


and looked at the crumbling log lying near the bank. Surely that was where that 'bow was now sulking interrupted in pursuit of his breakfast of Caddis. I continued to stare at the empty water as if daring the fish to come out for another round. It was my turn to be startled, as a large Blue Heron glided downstream about 4 feet above the water surface. "Sorry", I said. "Didn't realize this spot was taken."

I carefully picked my way over to the bank and sat down next to a young willow, in the slow process of reaching its yellow roots to embrace a rock near the water's edge. I picked up my fly and examined it closely, almost expecting to find some remnant of the battle that had so much gone the fish's way. There was not a scale, or even a tiny bit of slime to mark the loss. The brown bug just kind of peered at me through its scruffy wool coat. I swear that I heard it chuckle in mock derision.

I must have sat there for 20 minutes watching the morning slowly brighten until I could finally see the first rays of sunlight peeking through the trees turning the drops of dew into diamonds. I watched as the light created a dance of green and gold fingers turning the morning into day. I headed back toward the car. Back to the world.


Photo: Isaac Tait

Brookies & Beer John-Paul Povilaitis

The groundhog, Punxsutawney Phil, a Pennsylvania legend, has called for an early Spring. With the weather warming up and the fish being a bit more active lately, I think he may be right! My favorite Spring pastime is chasing Native Brook Trout here in South Central Pennsylvania while enjoying a nice cold bottle or can of liquid art (beer). Tenkara has de-cluttered my fishing equipment, allowing me to carry a couple of beers in my sling without feeling weighed down by the useless things you need for catching wild trout (like reels).

I must warn you…when you combine hiking, Tenkara, and beer, you might just run into the “Tenkara Sasquatch.” I’ve seen him many times; or was it just too many beers? Either way, I know he is out there, so pack an extra beer for him! They say the water around here is good for brewing, I know it is great for trout! I hope you have the opportunity to enjoy the same experiences I have had here in weird Pennsylvania!

Cheers to Brookies and Beers! @OGTENKARA



Noneofyourdamnbusiness, CO Paul Vertrees

Noneofyourdamnbusiness, Colorado. Population = 0. Elevation = 5,400’ - 12,600’. Where is it? At once, everywhere and nowhere. It’s the place where you hike, fish, and visit… just to BE THERE. It’s very hard to get to…you have to either shoulder a heavy backpack or saddle up a horse, mule, or burro. It’s the place we love to talk and write about, but we never tell anyone its exact whereabouts or mention it by name. It’s our secret fishing spots high in the Colorado Rockies. My surrogate father Patrick and I had longed to poke deep into a central Colorado wilderness to explore the upper reaches of an alpine watershed we knew would end up being mostly off-trail. The faint paths dwindle to mere traces of game trails, the terrain tilts upward at extreme angles, and the day hikers disappear quickly. Patrick and I backpack together a lot, and we fish together a lot. I had recently introduced Patrick to tenkara, and was pleasantly surprised that he so willingly adopted it as his method of choice for fishing the backcountry. This trip was one of the first times he took tenkara on a backpack wilderness trip to Noneofyourdamnbusiness, Colorado. Three miles into the trip the trail disappeared into a thicket of willows and spindly aspen shoots growing out of the 45-degree slope on our side of the canyon. With forty pound packs on our backs we bushwhacked our way through the thicket and found no trail on the other side. We were on the outskirts of Noneofyourdamnbusiness. Rock-hopping talus slides, clambering over blowdown, and


tiptoeing the brown tightrope of downed logs, we arrived in a clearing beside a creek that tumbled down out of multiple avalanche chutes above. Standing above the creek, looking down on a pool below the last waterfall, we could see a dozen or so cutthroat trout suspended above the gravelly bottom, black shadows following their every move. We dropped our packs, deployed our tenkara rods, and silently dropped sparse kebari into the head of the pool just below the waterfall. The trout eagerly took our flies, and we both wondered if they had ever seen an artificial insect, or felt the sting of a barbless hook before. This was only the beginning.

After we had both caught fish, we collapsed our rods, shouldered our backpacks, and looked to the north to a steep half-mile slope that led up to grassy benches and hanging patches of timber above. It would be a thousand feet of hard climbing with full packs, using our hands nearly as much as our feet. Based on our studies of topographic maps, we both knew that up beyond those benches stood another steep slope, with two small tarns above. With heads down and legs pumping, we inched our way up both slopes, resting in the bench between. It took over two hours to climb both slopes. As we topped the final one, we found ourselves in a rocky amphitheater at 12,000 feet above sea level, with a five-acre tarn glistening in the sun before us. Exhausted, we could do little more than drop our packs, drink some water, and lay face-up on the short tundra grass, our faces and bodies soaking up the intense sunlight. I occurred to me that perhaps I should roll over to see if there were any cutthroats in the lake. Easing onto my side, I could easily see trout cruising the shallows of the lake. Even from fifty or so feet away I could see that they were really good trout…really big cutthroats. At the start of the trip we didn’t know if these unnamed high lakes held any trout or not, but our gamble had paid off.

I found the intact skeleton of a male mountain goat lying under a bank of krummholz, curled into a comma-shaped ball. I wondered if he had died in his sleep. It’s always very hard for me to leave such places and return home. Thankfully, the difficult hike down over steep miles of alpine terrain provided me with the needed time and distance to separate myself from these special, secret spots. I needed that time and distance to decompress and slowly return to the civilized world. It served as a buffer between my life in the backcountry and my life in the civilized one (or “syphilized” life, as old Cactus Ed Abbey would call it); a gnarled landscape of protection that keeps the wilderness at arm’s length for the masses and ensures that it remains remote and hard to get to. Patrick and I arrived back at the trailhead, exhausted and fulfilled. I asked him what we would say when questions arose about where we had been and about the fishing. He gave me a sly smile and said, “Just tell them we’ve spent the week in downtown Noneofyourdamnbusiness, Colorado!”

We spent the next three days exploring this lake and the neighboring twin lake, a mile away and at the same elevation of 12,000 feet. Both lakes held some very nice cutthroats, some edging the 20-inch mark. I found myself wishing I could make time stand still so I could watch my fifteen-foot floating line unfurl a #16 yellow humpy just one more time before dusk each night. Late on the second afternoon, while nosing around above the second lake,


What's Your Code? Dave Blackhurst

Lately, while I have been on the river I have been reflecting on why tenkara has been so refreshing to me. I know we all like to get out and land a few fish, but why has this style changed fly fishing forever for me?

I work as the art director for a local magazine and recently we did a photo shoot with two local fishermen about different styles of fishing. While I was taking photos of the fly fisherman, I asked him if he had ever heard of tenkara. He mentioned he had and went on to tell me that he owned a tenkara rod but it was just not his thing. However, he asked me a few more tenkara questions, which gave me the chance to share the reasons I put my reels on the shelf.

I went into detail about the style of tenkara that I have adopted (sometimes I feel like a politician on the stump). I let him know the basics about a fixed line, no weight or


indicator on the line, perfect drifts and the same fly pattern used year round. When I share the simplified tenkara approach, it initially sounds appealing to fly fishermen tired of carrying gear and loading up for the river. However, as the conversation continues, I realize that for some the gear enhances the experience. I let my friend know that for the smaller streams and rivers I prefer, tenkara works great.

I gave him a few kebaris, said goodbye and he went on his way. His approach to our conversation reminded me of where I was several years ago. I wanted a quicker and simpler method to fish mountain streams in Utah. I loved the lighter fly rods and was simplifying my fly box but I felt I could not simplify any more. Magically tenkara came into view. This was the ticket for me. It was everything I wanted.

Tenkara is not magic, but it can be magical if you let it.

What I have learned after being a snooty, stuck-up fly fisherman — loaded with gear — for more than 20 years is that fishing is fishing. Fish don’t know how they are caught. There are as many ways to catch a fish as there are fish to catch. My respect for all fishing styles has increased. Many friends of mine think tenkara is cool, but don’t consider it fly fishing.

Wherever tenkara fits in the fishing world, I like it.

And my conversion does not mean it’s as simple as a hook and a stick. Recently I read a great article by Jason Klass on tenkaratalk.com that mentioned the general rule in tenkara of 12-12-12 (don’t get these confused with the code numbers from the TV show LOST 4 8 15 16 23 42), 12-foot rod, 12 feet of line and a size 12 kebari.

This is a great rule of thumb but I wanted to figure out what my secret tenkara code would be. Two years ago I adopted the practice of fishing only one fly. I tinkered on the vise for a few months, trying different sizes, but still lacked the confidence to commit. Eventually, I realized that when my confidence was lacking on the river, I would always pull out a pheasant tail bead head for trout. I took this into consideration and began tying a size 12 pheasant tail with a reverse kebari hackle. I eventually simplified it even more with a size 14 hook, brown thread, green flash and one Hungarian partridge hackle.

Magically (and with a lot of hard work), my one fly appeared. Next was my line. Many mountain streams in Utah are small. Sometimes I can step over

them. The trout are beautiful but the foliage is frustrating. The 12-foot line and rod just would not work in these places. I needed to dial in my tiny creek tenkara code.

I picked up a Rhodo rod from Daniel Galhardo at Tenkara USA. This zoom rod would fish as small as 8 feet and keep me just under the branches. I had my small creek code now — 8-8-14.

Now I just had one final challenge. Find the code for medium-sized rivers that need a bit more line. The whole point of tenkara is to use the longest rod you can get away with. I absolutely love my Sato rod from Tenkara USA. The zoom ability is great for different lengths but at its longest reach (almost 13 feet) I get all I need. Add 13 feet of line and I’m there. Now I had the final piece to my tenkara puzzle. 13-13-14.

These are my setups. I wish I only had one code but two isn’t bad. They work for 90 percent of fishing situations I face in Utah. Figuring out a code does not take long, but it means more time on the river — don’t worry, your spouse will understand ... maybe.

Fishing truly is about confidence. Find your code and be confident.

Now grab your tenkara rod and get figuring your code. Simple right?



Michael McFarland One of the reasons I started to get heavily involved in Tenkara was its simplicity. Based on the hundreds of people I have met during my growth in the sport, it is fairly obvious that simplicity is a big factor for many involved in Tenkara today. One of the biggest advantages of this simplicity is the fact that you can now lower the amount of gear required to successfully fish. This allows you to become more open to incorporate fly fishing into other outdoor pursuits. Already, I have met a number of friends who take a rod along with them when

readers! For those looking to lighten their packs, open their options for camping locations, and just plain do things differently, hammock camping may be just the ticket.

I was first introduced to hammock camping while searching the web for a more comfortable, lightweight sleep system. I do a lot of camping in the backcountry areas around and within Rocky Mountain National Park. One of the things this park delivers is right in the name, “rocky”. That’s right, the ground is hard and uneven in nearly every viable camping site that you will find. It makes sleeping on the ground, even with sleeping pads or mats, uncomfortable. Enter our trusted friend Google! While searching for a resolution to my problem, I ran across a website that advertised a solution, Hennessy Hammock: hennessyhammock.com.

they hike, rock climb, mountain bike, camp, etc… I am one of these people. In fact, this concept is what inspired me to write this article. I want to add yet one more option to those out there that may not have heard of a particular obsession, hammock camping. That’s right


After much deliberation regarding my biggest concern, side sleeping, I ordered one and started my review. Needless to say, I was sold after only a few trips. I had never camped more comfortably, and the use of a hammock opened up a world of possibilities for location. I now own several hammocks including the Expedition by Hennessy and the Blackbird XLC by Warbonnet Outdoors: warbonnetoutdoors.com.

How does all this relate to Tenkara? Think about all of the great fishing spots you have discovered over the years. Think about the possibilities of being able to camp in those areas regardless of terrain or needing to prepare a site to make it suitable for sleeping. Hammock camping is backcountry camping, simplified. Does this message sound familiar?

I can’t express enough the personal freedom that grabbing my hammock gear, my favorite tenkara rod, and a map to a new area of Colorado has provided to me. I look forward to seeing a few more hangers on the trail this year.

What are you waiting for?

The Tenkara Experience Is Yours Michael McFarland

Tenkara has certainly earned its deserved respect over the last few years. When I first started to explore this method of fishing five years ago, there were multitudes of people who wanted to define what was and what was not considered “Tenkara”. There seemed to be a set of rules surrounding everything from the type of fish I could target to the way I should setup my leader. Fast forward to today, that culture has changed. I no longer feel the same pressure when I speak to other Tenkara anglers. There seems to be an understanding that imagination and experimentation is just as much a part of Tenkara as the traditional view. After all, we are all responsible for developing our own understanding when we step into that lake or stream.

It is our individuality and desire to master our own challenges that defines what we want to take away from our experiences. Some will want to follow a strict allegiance to the traditional methods utilizing a particular standard of rod, line and fly. Others will choose to adapt familiar methods like drydroppers and streamers in an attempt to create their own style. Some will target high mountain streams, while still others will push the envelope on the size of the fish they can land in our popular tail waters. What is the point of all this rambling? Always know you are in control of your experience, in fact, it is one of the few things no one can take from you. Think about what you wish to learn about your craft and get out there and fish. The good news? There is only one way to do this wrong… That is to not do it at all.


O-Ring It

Tenkara Rod Maintenance John Cianchetti

Is your butt cap loose? Having difficulty keeping your Zoom tenkara rod sections locked down? Problem catching fish? We can help with two out of the three problems. Enter the O-ring.

two or more O-rings to lock rod sections in place when fishing at different lengths. A single tenkara rod may have different sized Orings.

Most tenkara rods have at least one O-ring. They are located on the butt cap and have several functions. First, they provide a seal between the butt cap and handle. This prevents water and grit from entering the rod sections.

If your O-rings are dry or slightly cracked try revitalizing them. While in place, simply rub a little nose grease or a thin coat of chapstick on them. Try a drop of WD-40 and help it spread along the O-ring. This may help swell up the O-ring. Be careful using other solvents as they can break down over-swell the O-ring.

Second, they provide friction to keep the butt cap locked against the handle. Lastly, they lock individual sections of multilength (Zoom) rods in place. Zoom rods have




If there is a lot of grit stuck between the Oring and butt cap, your best bet will be to

remove and clean it. Grit can cut into your O-ring and graphite rod sections, sanding and wearing them down. It is possible to crack the O-ring during removal. Try ‘revitalizing’ it before removal to minimize splitting. Once removed, use a clean cloth and Windex or soap and water to clean both the Oring and butt cap. Note that Zoom rods may have special machined grooves in the butt cap to hold the O-ring in place. These edges may be sharp. Use caution when removing, cleaning and replacing the O-ring.


If the O-ring(s) is cracked or excessively dryrotted, replace it. Here comes the challenge. The ‘larger’ O-ring on most tenkara rods can be replaced with one that is similar in size and cross-sectional thickness. Lowes, Home Depot, Harbor Freight, True Value, etc. carry O-rings that should work. For Zoom rods, the smaller O-rings that lock sections in place are typically thinner in crosssection and sized to your specific rod model. If you purchase an O-ring that is too thick, the rod sections cannot fit over them, preventing Zoom rods from being fished in their shorter positions. Some auto parts stores and online specialty shop may have a better selection for these ‘thinner’ O-rings. Lastly, contact the company that you purchased the rod from and inquire about replacement O-rings for your particular rod model.

O-rings are ‘wearable‘ items like brake pads for your car. Give them some TLC and your rod will fish like new.

Photo: Rob Gonzalez

During the development of this article, we came across an in-depth 229 page article on everything O-ring. Thought it was worth sharing: https://www.physics.harvard.edu/uploads/ files/machineshop/epm_oring_handbook.pdf

For more info on cleaning grit from rod sections, See Tenkara Angler magazine, Winter issue 2015-16 - Page 100 - ‘Clean Up Your Act’


Friends of Tenkara Angler







Photo: Nick Cobler

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

Tom Davis

resides in Western New York where he pursues anything with fins. He is in his element sight fishing spring-run steelhead in the Lake Ontario tributaries & has a soft spot for brook trout in the Smoky Mountains. He is the Owner of Tenkara Customs, a tenkara rod building supply company.

Tom Davis is an avid tenkara angler located in Idaho. He prefers to fish small creeks with moderate to high gradient flows for native cutthroat trout. He shares his experiences and perspectives on this most efficient form of fly fishing through his blog Teton Tenkara.

Adam Klagsbrun

Robb Chunco

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

Robb Chunco is a husband, a father and a that's pretty passionate about tying flies of all kinds. If you’d like to see his work you can check it out on Etsy or Instagram.

Sam Larson

Jim Tignor

Sam Larson lives, works, writes, and fishes in Colorado’s Front Range. Given half a chance he’ll shirk responsibility and disappear into the woods for days at a time with his Tenkara rod and a selection of largely disreputable fellow anglers.

Jim Tignor lives in Chapel Hill, NC. He is a relatively new fisherman, but seemingly obsessed with Tenkara. Find Jim's prints at: http:// www.imagekind.com/art/stunning/jim-tignor/ artwork-on/framed-prints

Anthony Naples

Rob Lepczyk

Based in Western Pennsylvania, Anthony has been a voice in the tenkara community since 2009. His blog, Casting Around, features tenkara themed stories, poetry, and original art. He is the proprietor of Three Rivers Tenkara, US seller of Oni & Tenkara Times rods

is a Tenkara USA Guide, is endorsed by Orvis, and works at Great Feathers fly shop. Born and raised in Baltimore County, MD, Rob fishes the Gunpowder River watershed for its wild browns and native brookies. Give him a call if you want to check out some local trout water. 410-472-6799.

Paul Vertrees

Michael McFarland

is Vice President of Zen Tenkara, working with public relations and product design. He also works as a professional tenkara guide for Royal Gorge Anglers, in Canon City, CO, where he lives with his wife and three daughters, five minutes from the Arkansas River. He writes for his personal blog, Tenkara Tracks, as well as various print publications.


has been an avid fly fisherman for 10 years. It’s a passion that started shortly after a day trip to RMNP that quickly turned this historically saltwater angler into someone that has made high altitude fly fishing part of his daily life. Michael has showcased his hybrid kebari patterns at several Trout Unlimited tying clinics, the Denver Fly Fishing Show, and the Int'l Sportsmen’s Expo.

Isaac Tait

Originally from LA, Isaac Tait pulled up roots and moved. Now he chases Amago, Iwana, and Yamame in the magnificent keiryu of Japan. When he is indoors he spends a considerable amount of time sifting through words to try and describe what he has experienced in the wild places of both the world and his mind. Curator of Fallfish Tenkara.

John-Paul Povilaitis

Bart Lombardo

has been an avid fly fisherman and fly tier for over thirty years. He was an early adopter of tenkara and fishes for both cold and warm-water species in his home state of New Jersey. Bart is the author of the blog The Jersey Angler, and recently launched a website dedicated to warm-water fly fishing called Panfish On The Fly.

Rob Gonzalez

Resides In South Central Pennsylvania where he enjoys spending time with family and friends, & sharing beers and stories around a campfire. If he's not at a local spring creek, he's probably in the woods snagging trees.

Rob Gonzalez is an avid fly tyer and Tenkara angler from the central Texas Hill Country. For the past few years, he's has been at the forefront of promoting Tenkara statewide. Join him at www.facebook.com/groups/TenkaraTexas/

Dave Blackhurst

Steven Smith

has been fly fishing Utah streams for more than 20 years. After picking up a Tenkara rod several years ago, he has never looked back to western gear. The simplicity of Tenkara and idea of using one fly brought Dave in like a moth to a flame. Instagram: @tenkarautah

jumped into the world of tenkara is 2011 and fell in love with the simplicity that it offers. He is a lover of all things outdoors from fly fishing to backpacking. When Steven is not in the outdoors he can be found posting on The Silent Pursuit blog or Instagram!

Creative director + art director + designer hybrid living in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. Lover of antiques, typography, layout + design, letterpress, and fly-fishing. #drifter07 nickcobler.com

enjoys exploring the outdoors with friends and family. He believes that Tenkara simplicity can be effectively adapted for almost any fishing, almost anywhere! badgertenkara.com

Robert Worthing

John Vetterli

Nick Cobler

has had a fishing rod in hand for over 20 years. An avid angler, world traveler, backpacker, and wilderness medical professional, he enjoys going off the beaten path to find the best fly fishing possible. tenkaraguides.com

James Wright

Owner of TenkaraFlyShop.com, James Wright has persued trout, studied stream entomology and tied trout flies since 1967 and retired his Western fly gear, taking up Tenkara in 2012. In addition to angling interests, Jim has been a log home carpenter, boat builder, wood carver & antique parts fabricator, forge bladesmith, fine artist and musician.

Matt Sment

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.

Diane Kelly-Riley

lives and tenkara fishes in the Palouse Region of Northern Idaho.

Vito "Tsurikichi" Rubino

has fished since the age of 6. When he met Tenkara several years ago it was love at first sight, he left western fly fishing to embrace Tenkara totally and rediscover simplicity, nature and freedom. Everytime he Tenkara fishes it's like when he was a kid: just a fixed line rod, a fly and all the freedom of the world. You can follow him on www.facebook.com/TenkaraNoKill


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 current events through June 2016 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. Tenkara Campout: Linville Gorge Friday April 8th - Sunday April 10th, 2016 Linville Gorge, Pigsah National Forest, Linville Falls, NC 16th Annual Virginia Fly Fishing & Wine Festival Saturday April 9th - Sunday April 10th, 2016 13111 Dawn Blvd., Doswell, VA REI Austin: Introduction to Tenkara Fly Fishing Wednesday April 20th, 2016 - 6:30 PM 9901 N. Capital of Texas Highway, Austin, TX REI Sacramento: Tenkara - Japanese Fly Fishing Thursday April 21st, 2016 - 7:00 PM 1790 Expo Parkway, Sacramento, CA Friends of Shades Creek Tenkara Thursday May 5th 2016, 6:00 PM Samford Soccer Field, Homewood, AL 2016 Midwest Tenkara Fest Saturday May 14th - Sunday May 15th, 2016 American Legion Hall, 108 Park Street, Coon Valley, WI


Spring 2016

Profile for Tenkara Angler

Tenkara Angler - Spring 2016  

Featuring over 110 pages of content, the Spring 2016 issue of Tenkara Angler Magazine focuses on all of the new angling opportunities that t...

Tenkara Angler - Spring 2016  

Featuring over 110 pages of content, the Spring 2016 issue of Tenkara Angler Magazine focuses on all of the new angling opportunities that t...