Tenkara


(Gressak) #1

So, this is my philosophy on tenkara.

I honestly do not know what Tenkara means other what I have been exposed to, and like any history there is interpretation and variance in the definition. There is also flaw in definition. I am 100% sure that my idea of it is flawed but am not embarrassed by that truth. I also will not pretend to know what it means. I think its fair to say that as fishing means different things to different people, so does tenkara or fixed line fishing.

I have witnessed the Tenkara definition change in the community and with friends. I see this a a great thing. We are involved in a metamorphosis. It is an exciting time. We are getting more and more material and history. It is also fair to note, that this western definition is still in its infancy and may even change and be classified and different ways.

With what I know about it and how the tenkara purists define it, I will never be a true tenkara angler. I will never experience the Japanese mountains. I will probably never have the skill of a master tenkara angler. I will probably always have an outsider perspective on what Tenkara is and means. I am ok with this.

My path is to enjoy some Tenkara techniques and principals. I want to learn what I can and improve myself as a fly angler. I like to fish and I really enjoy fixed line fishing…period. As I get more and more skilled I find myself gravitating more and more to techniques, settings, and concepts earmarked as Tenkara. This is my path, it may not be for everyone.

My advise to a new fixed line angler. Consider first yourself as a fixed line angler and open your options to greater freedom. Don’t get hung up on tenkara rules but educate yourself on as many concepts as you can digest. The Discover Tenkara material is great. As are the TUSA, tenkara bum, and a variety of blogs like those provided by Tom Davis and Jason Klass. There is a good mix of Tenkara and just productive fish catching technique out there. All of it is equally valid and helpful to grow you as an angler.

Beadheads, grub, and worm patterns catch fish. They can be great tools to understand fish behavior and where fish hold. Live bait is also a tool. Understanding how to read water and where fish like to hold is a big part of the battle. Without it, many of the advanced tactics will not have context. There is no shame in using these methods to learn. It is money in the bank. You need to learn how to crawl before you can run.

I am still crawling. I am still learning. I am on my fourth season. I have employed some tenkara techniques this season and am just starting my journey to understand a lot of things. It is exciting. I am definitely becoming a better angler, but I am still far from understanding tenkara.


(Mike Kotowski) #2

I’m not sure how long this thread will remain without conflict, but I applaud it.

Personally, I am in the same boat but perhaps even more ambivalent about what I call my fishing. I guess I’d say that “I fish with tenkara rods”. I predominantly fish dry flies, along with nymphs occasionally and very rarely wet flies/kebari. Oh, and spoons…can’t forget spoons.

For me, it’s about the reasons I came to tenkara. I’ve never fished western style. I haven’t fished with “gear” since I was a young child. I came to tenkara through backpacking, so the idea of an ultralight, compact, simple set of gear really appealed to me. It never occurred to me to worry about any definition of what I was doing…until I started reading stuff online. Honestly, the disagreements are off putting to me, and would be a barrier to entry if I hadn’t already fallen in love with “fishing with a tenkara rod” before I realized it was controversial. I love it because it is simple. I totally understand that there can be a lot of complexity to it…but I choose not to let that worry me. I have no illusions of becoming a great tenkara fisher…nor do I care to be one. I like being in the woods, on a stream…maybe/maybe not catching a few wild brookies. That’s all I need. For me, the tenkara rods I have are a perfect tool to do what I want.

I do think there is a fair amount of irony involved anytime an American/European talks about tenkara as if the only “correct” way to practice it is the way the do/did in Japan. After all, the Japanese made famous the concept of “adopt adapt adept”. No reason the Western world can’t take that concept and apply it to “tenkara” in different conditions and for different species. Who really cares what it’s called?!


(Gressak) #3

To keep the peace the first step is not to call it Tenkara, but to enjoy the fixed line fishing we individually enjoy for what it is.

I agree with you and at the same time respect that for some the definition is precise. I think it is fair…and the equivalent of not making trouble on the details of ones religion, no matter what that may be.

I do find quite a bit of merit in what people define as pure tenkara. It is sometimes defined as technique with specific tools, sometimes also about certain geography, and sometimes it is also a specific experience. To be clear, most of what I do is not what could be defined as tenkara.

I wish I had the capability of experiencing Japanese tenkara, but I probably never will. I am with you though Mike. I really dig being in the woods, catching trout, and having fun. There is not much I enjoy more.


(Carl Anderson ) #4

+1000 to your sentiments. I came to find out about tenkara through bike-packing and looking into minimalist fly fishing. Fishing with a fixed line tenkara rod is a perfect fit for the times with I want to go light and simple. There are other times when I feel like swinging and stripping wooly buggers with my 5wt fly rod, but I’m sure as shooting not taking that setup up a trail when hiking or biking.

I would want to avoid falling into such rigid practices of a single discipline. The rigid tradition of English chalk stream dry fly fishing comes to mind: dry flies only, upstream only, no wading fish from a neatly manicured bank only or you’re kicked off the grounds and not invited back to the club. Silly.


(todoroki toshirou) #5

I agree with all the words
What a lovely opinion :hugs:
For me, “tenkara-rod” is a tool for going to Mt.
Playing with fish in the mountain, there is no more joy than that


(Adam Trahan) #6

It’s none of my business what you think tenkara is, none.

It’s none of my business what you think of me.

The definition of tenkara is not a problem for me, not my argument.

The future of tenkara is bright, it is growing.

I like that.

I do not like social media arguments.

Have fun practicing tenkara your way.


(Adam Trahan) #7

It makes me sad to read this.

Elitism is a social malady and has nothing to do with tenkara or fishing. Hate and prejudice are social ills. Greed is a personal issue.

It helps me to personally identify and avoid those social maladies when I run upon them on the information highway.


(Gressak) #8

It could also be looked at in a different way. I hear and understand both of your points, but also appreciate the other side of the perspective.

If you remove the thought of elitism and consider rules of sport then it becomes easier and less offensive to understand.

As in.
I switched from spin fishing with spoons for trout to fly fishing…fixed line.
I switched because it was boring and easy.
Some spoons are absolutely deadly and can draw strikes and competition between trout in a way that is just crazy.

My objective has changed for challenge and sport. There are a different set of rules in fly fishing.

All sports and variations of sports have written rules.

I can understand folk who seek out higher levels of challenge. Dry fly only is a challenge…no wading is a challenge. Fishing unweighed flies, one pattern, and only using tenkara techniques…is a challenge.

It is where angling becomes much more than catching fish, but doing it in a way that is challenging and therefore entertaining.

Do I frown on spin fisherman?
No, I speak to quite a few on the river and also give them pointers and often I learn a thing or two from them.
Am I an elitist because I fly fish. No.

All disciplines are legitimate. English chalk stream dry fly fishing…tenkara purist approaches…spin fishing…bait fishing…your fishing…etc.

I am at a point where I am curious on employing more tenkara purist approaches. My most recent outing I skipped the beadheads and tried to do without them. It is much more difficult…but I still did alright. Its fun!!!


(Adam Trahan) #9

I enjoy practicing tenkara as the Japanese do very early on, dry fly fishing as the English do even longer ago and am a supporter of self made restrictions.

Discipline is not the issue.


(Mike Kookagee Shelton) #10

I just enjoy fishing. I was slowing down on fly fishing some and tenkara rekindled my spirit again.
I have learned a lot from reading, practicing, from you guys, and asking questions. After reading many
of the different opinions, I think it is just important to get outdoors, fish, have great discussions in this wonderful forum that Peder provided, laugh, smile, and enjoy learning more about this awesome activity. This is a great time to enjoy each other and share our stories and knowledge.


(Adam Trahan) #11

How wonderful for you to put it this way.

Me too.

It’s a great way to enjoy the outdoors.


(Gressak) #12

I was fumbling around and read this interview with Go Ishii back in 2013.

Pretty interesting.

http://tenkaratalk.com/2013/07/interview-with-go-ishi/


(Mike Kookagee Shelton) #13

Thank you Adam.


(Adam Trahan) #14

You are quite welcome.


(Joakim Karlsson) #15

The tone in this great thread shows what a good bunch of people this forum consists of. Seen my share of discussions of this kind gone ugly.

I’m taking great interest in this topic because here in Sweden tenkara is not widely spread at all, which is a paradox because we have trout and accessible streams everywhere (almost).
We are three persons who have set out to change that by forming what is best translated as ”The tenkara ’promo’”. When I tried to form some sort of club I quickly found out we where to few and spread out so the community needs to grow!

So we work on two fronts.
Trying to be a source people can turn to for information and comradery, as well as communicating what tenkara is by bringing forth it’s origin (to our best knowledge).
As one can expect, there are misconceptions that basically run two ways;

  1. Tenkara is the ‘simple fly fishing’-style promoted by Patagonia.
  2. Tenkara is DAPPING, with heavy nymphs.

Misconception number 2 is dominant, and the biggest obstacle for allowing tenkara in ‘fly only’-zones. That is also a big obstacle for the general growth of tenkara.

While we within our social media allow members to freely discuss and exploring tenkara their own way, be it fishing for pike or perch or hybrid nymph-rigs, we promote tenkara as a method where the line is the casting weight done with a unweighted(-ish) kebari.
This is the dominant factor in our communication with clubs and organisations that run ‘fly only’-waters.
80(!) % of the clubs/companies (that I have debated with) that formerly had banned tenkara in ‘fly only’-zones have changed their rules. The remaining 20 % are considering it as far as I know.
Some openly admit the ban was based on poor knowledge. These discussions are always conducted in a friendly manner, based on respect not confrontation.
You get what you give.


(Gressak) #16

Perhaps you can reach out to the Paul and John over at Discover Tenkara. They may have some insights on a good path for your group…especially the education aspects.

It is interesting the paths are similar to that of what we have seen here in the US. The notes of misunderstanding and resistance. Funny, I had been fishing in flyfishing only rivers over here…and just this year tenkara was officially noted as an acceptable method in those waters. I had been breaking the rules without knowing it.

Reading Go Ishii’s interview linked above got me thinking about how little I know about tenkara and technique. He notes his favorite presentation describes a skill of controlling the fly that is so far beyond my current level that it is laughable. In some ways I am lucky if I can get my fly into the general area I am aiming…hahahahaha. So much to learn and just exciting to know that I still have a lot of journey left.


(David S Riley) #17

I couldn’t have put it better myself. In late 2014 I had decided to renew my interest in fly fishing and had bought a new rod and reel, etc. However I had barely taken the protective tape off the handle when I came across Tenkara on the internet. Having been a wet fly fisherman all my fly fishing life it was perfect for me. I never did use that new rod and reel, instead I have immersed myself in ‘Tenkara’, although my version is more akin to fixed line fly fishing. I enjoy every minute of it and wished I had come across it about 50+ years ago. In the three years I have practised it my way has changed. I am currently in a ‘midge’ mode and spend my time tying and using flies from #18 down to #24. I am enjoying targeting those irritating little fish that show on the surface when you are trying to catch larger fish but blanking! Regardless of size every fish hooked gives me sport and much satisfaction.

I have never seen anybody else using a Tenkara style rod here in the UK. Admittedly I tend to fish very slow, deep rivers and canals after coarse fish species. Occasionally people show an interest and are surprised at the simplicity of it all and the lightness/strength of the rod.

Throughout my life I have fished in many different styles and places but the simplicity of Tenkara/Fixed Line Fly fishing is the best of all.

David


(Adam Trahan) #18

There are many misconceptions.

I would suggest not discounting the “simple fly fishing” method. Even though it sounds wrong, even though the use of a fly line feels contradictory, there are tenkara anglers in Japan, recognized by the old tenkara community that have taught this method prior to people outside of Japan teaching pure tenkara.

In my world, the truth doesn’t need to be proved.

I did help bring Kazuya Shimoda to public attention outside of Japan through being persistent and researching on my own, the Japanese literature. In the past, Shimoda-san has been prominently featured in “Japanese Headwaters” magazine. Shimoda-san’s books, mooks and voice on what Yvon Chouinard has popularized as “simple fly fishing” even inside Japan.

Although I am a fan of Ishigak’s Level Line practice, and Tenkara USA’s further popularization of this method within tenkara, I am a friend of all the different tenkara methods in Japan. The level line school which Daniel Galhardo is in is more of my flavor.

But there are many flavors, especially when you study the Japanese materials free from outside of Japan influences and even inside Japan.

I have come to a place where I understand that since the beginning, there is a western influence on tenkara even quite a long time ago. It’s not bad, it’s not my spin, it is what it is and it isn’t my spin and I don’t need to prove it because the people that practice and popularize Tenkara in Japan taught this to me.

It is easy for me to share.

Todoroki-san here, he is a wonderful resource here, he is organic to this conversation. He is a great resource.

It’s difficult but if you temper your education of tenkara with kindness and understanding, which will remove many filters rather than add them, that is my suggestion.

“Pure tenkara and purists” DNA includes more mixing than I surmise everyone’s idea of tenkara is.

Tenkara by design was not shared between professionals early on, understandably so.

Bla bla bla…

Joakim, you area nice person, you will figure it out. Simple fly fishing, which is not my favorite school within tenkara, and it doesn’t even sound right, is part of tenkara. It’s important to defend because it is what it is and it helps not to make division within our ranks. It does not divide us to include it, it serves to make us stronger.

…or something like that.

I can provide references for your own further study if you wish. They are out there in multiple formats and many examples.

Take care all.

Have a great weekend.


(todoroki toshirou) #19

I agree with everything
For a pleasant weekend
For your pleasant weekend


(Joakim Karlsson) #20

Great entry Adam. And I do agree.

There’s only one thing, I didn’t manage to make that clear in my first post; I’m not discounting the “simple fly fishing”-thing.
What I’m trying to do is to clarify that that is not the only way of tenkara.

The only article in a swedish fishing magazine I’ve read portrayed that style of fishing, so that is the only image many have. It’s also the only fixed line rods sold by the big stores, that also deepens that image in people’s minds that that’s what tenkara is. I/we want to make it broader than that by showing people how to use a level line and a lighter rod.

So it’s not a matter of dismissing, altough I clearly see how it came through like that, but rather bringing in other aspects/colors of tenkara.

I’ve started a little company providing TUSA gear to make it more accessible here. So that there’s more than just TFO/Patagonia visible to people.