In 2019 I was asked to give three 3 different Tenkara lectures at two local FFI (Fly Fishers International) clubs on opposite sides of the state, and the statewide “conference”. I was mocked when giving fishing reports at the local club I belong to but after the first lecture some of the hardcore Steelheaders looking for an alternative to fishing for an increasingly rare endangered species in the Pacific Northwest tried it for trout and began to realize there was something to it.
Fast forward to 2023 and the local club I belong to; they must want to save some money on guest speakers, has asked me to do another presentation. The Ghillie (programs director) suggested "A Tenkara Update; Latest Shiny, Cool Tenkara Stuff” as the topic.
During COVID there was member turnover and a few new members hadn’t seen my presentations and don’t know anything about Tenkara. So I came up with an outline to refresh some history about fixed line fishing with the parallels and divergence of Western and Japanese methods, and a basic description of what I’ve learned about how to rig and fish with a Tenkara rod. Then I will present (edited)trends Tenkara has taken in the “West” and Japan such as, “Tactical-Contact Nymphing”, Honryu, availability (or lack thereof), and new ways - outlets for acquiring gear and knowledge here in the USA. I will wrap up with what has worked well and hasn’t worked so well for me and my local fixed line buddies for the local fisheries we have here (reference my post from the Big water, big fish rod thread).
I’m interested in and would appreciate any thoughts from this community about how Tenkara has evolved over the last 5 years to include in my presentation. I am looking forward to hearing from you.
My knee jerk response would be to say, it has not evolved any more or any differently than traditional fly fishing has. The biggest change is that for many of us, our understanding of tenkara has matured. Much like your notes in the other thread, we have settled into an understanding on how to capitalize on its utility and not use it for what it is not designed. At least for me, the experimentation phase is over and I am now just in the forever task of refinement.
If you turn the question around on traditional fly fishing nothing has changed either. Same pursuit and gimmicks in tackle. Companies try to repackage the the same product to drive sales.
Forr me, i would include that tenkara was a gateway to a fly rod and reel in the salt. I would never consider anything but a tenkara rod for trout on a small river or stream because it is just better engineering to target trout. Efficient and fun.
I think that there has been a noticeable increase in activity from tenkara rod companies in the last few months - the first new rod from Tenkara USA in years, quickly followed by new rods from Nissin, Shimano, Daiwa, Kiwami. Tenkarabum have their TB36 and TB40 back in stock. Maybe the supply problems brought on by Covid have finally been overcome and companies are able to press ahead with their plans…
Thanks for the responses. One obvious trend I’ve seen is what appears to be a lack of MIJ, and especially JDM product availability in the US (and even Japan?). Most glaring to me is Chris’s general stock. Also the Tenkara-Ya homepage “not fully open” message, '72 Fishery’s July 2022 “Gone Fishing” homepage message, and the Tenkara - Fisher Shouetsu Goto interview; I’m a big fan of the Genryu Izakaya YT channel even though I don’t speak or read Japanese. The response to the “growth of tenkara - is it becoming more popular” question caught my attention.
Ditto, though my saltwater experience started with a fly rod & reel. Getting blanked in a location I knew held fish with a fixed line rod for 45 minutes, then hooking - landing a Sea-Run Cutthroat on the first cast with the 6-weight beach rod & reel rig I brought along using the same fly nixed that fixed-line application for me. Like @Gressak I have nice 3-weight 7’ bamboo and 7’9" “traditional action” (think 'glass) graphite rods and single action click-pawl reels for small water, but haven’t touched them in 5 years because fixed-line Tenkara is soooo effective for that.
What I see, and this is just my personal view take it as just that, is that we are becoming golf.
Our social media is pretty much little more than advertising for products disguised as information or entertainment, repetitive videos of “watch me fish” being churned out to feed the algorithms that fund the creator, and a little bit of instruction of only marginal value hidden in a blizzard of words. In other words… golf.
Now, there is good content out there (albeit some is pretty old) but it’s overwhelmed by volume of the other stuff. Tenkara has become business.
We seem to be losing what drew many of us to tenkara in the first place.
A simple, very effective way to fish, that adapts so very well to different situations and our own individual creativity. I think that’s the story we should be highlighting.
Just my opinion.
@Brian_Miller Perhaps that is what is new. There are now seasoned tenkara anglers in the states, where 5 years ago there were not as many. No one in the states is a Master tenkara angler but plenty of us are established enough and monopolizing on the utility of tenkara that can in some instances exceed the effectiveness of a traditional flyrod and reel.
I have not fished for trout since last spring, but went out this morning. I must have caught over 20 fish as I worked the length of the river…where all the traditional fly anglers around me were just blanking. I was only landing 1/3 of my takes because they were taking so lightly. Some asking me what I was doing, and blaming the midge hatch or whatever. Some felt there were not any fish around. I explained to them I was just working the fly in different ways until I found what they wanted…then added my fly was a size 12, so they were not keyed on smalls. Even after telling them exactly what I was doing, they proceeded to tell me that they were going to try dries next…hahahahaha. Sometimes you can lead a horse to water. The fish were on emergers in slow current. I was simply dead drifting and periodically stopping my fly to rise a foot where i thought a fish might be then let it dead drift again. I am pretty sure you could do that with a fly rod.
Really Tenkara exercises discipline. So much of fly fishing is preoccupied in casting form and distance. Distance is out for tenkara so we hone our reading water skills…and we discover fish are at our feet. I only carry one fly form these days, in various tonal values and weights. I am forced to be creative in my presentation. This discipline makes you realize converting fish is often just about presentation and nothing else. I do not need to carry every stage of the caddis lifecycle to catch fish. I do not need to represent any specific species of insect. I don’t need a thousand dollar flyrod or 10 different flylines each for a specific condition/presentation.
Modern fly fishing is illustrated by the folk I found on the river today. Overly complicated with convenient excuses for lack of success. I know there are some really good flyrodders out there, but they are in the minority. Perhaps 1% from what I have seen. I have not been flyfishing long for trout(just short of a decade with tenkara), but it seems like the method forces one to focus on what matters and complete excludes the nonsense.