TENKARA+ Or how people consume fly-fishing

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Photo by Jim Palmershime

Photo by Jim Palmershime

by Daniel Galhardo

In the 2nd edition of his book, Trout from Small Streams, Dave Hughes writes, “Tenkara can be an end in itself, but it’s also an excellent adjunct to a day hike, backpacking trip, berry picking expedition, or any other activity that gets you out in the world where you might come across a trout stream.”

While Hughes used tenkara in the paragraph above, the same could also be said of fly-fishing in general. Just like tenkara can show people how simple fly-fishing can be, it also shows those interested in the outdoors that fly-fishing and other activities don’t have to be mutually exclusive.

There is a deeply ingrained perception that fly-fishing takes a lot of time, not exactly to learn how to do it, but to actually do it. One reason people frequently mention as for why they don’t fly-fish is time. It seems like it will take time away from other things we could be doing. When a novice talks to a dedicated fly angler, he will often hear about a weekend set aside for the sole purpose of fly-fishing. Then, he will read an article about a trip that took weeks of planning and a lot of time away from everything else.

I believe this portrayal of how fly-fishing has to be consumed has been a reason many people have stayed away from fly-fishing. We can take care of the perceived cost by offering less expensive equipment; we can take care of complexity by showing a simpler way (e.g. via tenkara). But, something that will take a bit of more effort is letting people know fly-fishing doesn’t HAVE to take a lot of time. And, as they say, “time is the most precious commodity out there”.

I’m about as dedicated a fly angler as you’ll find. I travel the country and the world to fish. I go on plenty of dedicated day-long or multi-day fishing trips. Some take a couple of hours of planning, others take weeks. But, recently I started paying more attention to how I (as a user, rather than a professional) and many of my friends “consume” fly-fishing. I started realizing that as Mr. Hughes proposes, sometimes fishing is an end in itself, we plan and go out; at other times it is an “excellent adjunct” to other activities we’re enjoying.

After years of touting the benefits of simplicity in fly-fishing by introducing tenkara here, I started asking myself why does simplicity matter after all? Is it because I could carry fewer things? Or is it because it is easier/quicker to use? Yes, and yes, but it goes beyond those reasons. The reason why simplicity mattered for me, my friends and many people taking up tenkara was, in one word, liberation. We started realizing we could go anywhere and bring a small tenkara rod, a spool of line, tippet and some flies along and fish where and when we saw a good piece of water.

What I want to propose is that we make it clear that fly-fishing can be enjoyed in any way you want, and with any other activity. Before Hughes’ book came out we started the campaign TENKARA+ Anything, which was a way to say that you can do tenkara plus climbing, or tenkara plus backpacking, plus mountain biking, plus kayaking, etc. It is our way of saying that fly-fishing can be much more spontaneous, less time-consuming if that’s a deterrent.

This week Tenkara USA attended the Outdoor Retailer show, the largest outdoor sports trade show in the world. The vast majority of the show’s attendees and exhibitors have nothing to do with fishing, they are concentrated in the other aspects of outdoor recreation. We shared the concept with buyers, media and the industry association and it quickly became clear that indeed, we can introduce a lot of new people to fly-fishing but keeping it simple and showing that it can be done alongside other activities. Now climbers, kayakers, and biking enthusiasts know they too can fly-fish. Which is not to say I and others will not continue to see fly-fishing as an “end in itself” as Hughes writes.

I know there will be a wide variety of answers here, but I suppose I should ask you: how do you fly-fish? Always stand-alone, or do you mix it with other activities? And, do you have friends who don’t make the time to fly-fish because they are busy doing other things?

Founder of Tenkara USA
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7 thoughts on “TENKARA+ Or how people consume fly-fishing

  1. I mix other activities with my fly fishing, my life. I fish almost everyday but rarely all day. Living in Michigan with all kinds of fishable water close at hand it’s easy to slip away for an hour or two pretty much any time. Like everyone else I have a lot of stuff constantly coming my way. Running a small business with a wife that went through some major health issues resulting in a lung transplant about a year ago can really beat you up if you let it, but so can raising a family, working too many hours and squeezing in some volunteer hours. I highly recommend hydrotherapy over the more clinical type. Actually I find when my personal life is upside down and the creeks are blown out those are some of my best days on the water.

  2. I just got a Sato from Tenkara USA, and I use it almost every day. I’m still learning the basics, but in have about 4 level lines with different flies (kebari, floating flies, and nymphs) tied up, and I have my rod case attached to a small shoulder bag with a collapsible net. I’ve stashed it in my Camelbak on mountain bike rides into some amazing high elevation catch-and-release wild trout waters nearby, I’ve caught a 5″ brook trout in a tiny hatcher-supported stream that passes through my college campus (where I work, between meetings one day), I’ve leaned the rod case against a thwart in a canoe on a lake in a camping trip, and I just carried it into the Chattooga River dsignated wilderness area on my 9yo son’s first backpacking trip last weekend, where he and I spent hours casting in the evening and at lunch on a beach along the river. Also any evening I can bust bream with it in my own trout pond, where recently I accidentally hooked one of twenty or so 16″ rainbows I was leaving alone in the distressingly warm August water. That was exciting, and I landed it on 5x tippet, and I can’t wait to experience that challenge in a river this fall. I’m primarily a bike racer and whitewater kayaker here on the trails and streams of the Appalachians, but this article captures why I chose Tenkara. Thanks for the simplicity and customer service. I love my Sayo, I’m doing my own kind of thing with flies and such, and it’s compatible with the rest of my gear-intensive life, without competing with other priorities.

  3. Tenkara + Lunch break
    Sometimes I get a little extra time for lunch on a slow day. I just keep a tenkara rod and a little pouch with tippet, flies and nippers in the back of my car for these rare times. There is usually a place I can pick up a burrito or sandwich on my way to a stream or up the canyon. I used to just picnic by the water but now I finish my bite to eat with a few bites on my line! Then it’s back to work with a smile on my face.

  4. Received my first tenkara setup yesterday (not T-USA, sorry, Daniel!) & the only reason I bought one was for the complimentary activities part – hiking, biking, foraging, maybe paddling, etc.

    It doesn’t replace my 6/7/8wt rigs; it’s just another tool/activity that happens to be extremely portable & somewhat affordable.

    Perfect example: I went to try it out yesterday, found the water too low, so collapsed the rod & picked a pound or so of blackberries instead. Win.

  5. Generally I am one of those people who go to destinations with fishing as an end in itself. Recently did a 6 day road trip up to Montana just to camp and fish. It was fantastic, but the first thing people said to me when I returned to Colorado was… “You drove all the way up to Montana to fish with all of this fishable water around here? Why?”

    It was awesome, but I have been trying to ween myself off a bit and make it a secondary activity and expand my horizons. Sometimes people joke with me about fly fishing and ask, “is that all you do???” I shrug it off, but I do think its good to have multiple hobbies that you can overlap once in a while.

    Recently I’ve been hiking up to some high alpine lakes to see some spectacular views here in CO, and maybe drop a line if opportunity knocks. It has been a great way to balance things a bit and not be so focused on catching fish.

  6. I like the idea of combining tenkara with hiking or mountain biking whatever , I don’t feel its a good introductory into the larger scale of flyfishing . I guess I’m old school but paying your dues and learning bit by bit I feel makes learning the skills and sharpening them over time that much sweeter . I see the upside to it , but I feel many novises will limit there experience to just tenkara , although the same could be said for anything . I guess it all depends on the individual , as far as Time is concerned , I’ve wasted lots of it waving a $700 stick around in the middle of a stream , all of that time was well spent

  7. Pingback: Tippets: Consumerism and Fly Fishing, Eel River Gone Dry, “Eggie Special” History | MidCurrent

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