On Saturday I attended the Denver Fly Fishing Show which, according to the sign out the front, is the largest show of its kind in the world! There was a huge range of merchandise and services on show, and it was a pretty energetic scene. The show covered all sorts of things, including:
- Tackle (flies, leader, tippet, etc)
- Waders and boots
- Cane/bamboo rods (really impressive pieces of art!)
- Fly tying
There was also a decent presence of tenkara-related stuff (both merchandise and information sessions). I stopped in at 2 tenkara sessions, and saw a few different booths with tenkara gear (including, of course, Tenkara USA). I got the latest copy of Tenkara USA’s magazine (which is just as good as the first edition), and another book about tenkara just to see what it has. I guess I’m hooked.
While I was there, I also picked up a beautiful hand-carved fly-box and a kind-of-matching spool, which both turned out to be crafted by Dave Burchett (based in Boulder, CO). Really beautiful work, and a nice small fly box, perfect for tenkara. See below. All in all it was a fun day, and I saw a bunch of interesting stuff. Some of the trips that people were promoting sounded really amazing (llama-packing, multi-day fishing trip in the Colorado wilderness? AWESOME!). I might eventually hit up Kirk’s Flyshop and get out on one if I’m lucky. It was also great to see my local shop, Trouts Fly Fishing represented with a cool-looking booth (see below also).
As an early Christmas present, Erika got me a 12ft Tenkara USA Iwana rod! Now I’m really psyched to get back out and try it, even if it is cold 🙂 Given that I’m about to leave on a work trip though, I’m not going to get a chance until right around Christmas.
I’ve put in an order for a few things to round out my tenkara kit: line holder, level line, tapered line and a set of Takayama Kebari flies.
I don’t remember where I first came across Tenkara, but I know that as soon as I did, I was quite enamored with the idea of it. In short, tenkara uses an extra long (normally 11 to 14 feet) telescopic rod, with a fixed line and no spool. The line is attached directly to the end of the rod, and you use the length of the rod itself to provide reach/maneuverability rather than reeling out more line (and then stripping it back in again). After poking around a bit I’ve started following Tenkara USA (the first company to bring it to a wide audience in the US) quite closely to see what’s going on.
Tenkara is a very old, Japanese style of stream fishing which was used by commercial fishermen in the mountains. It’s very effective in smaller streams (vs big, wide, meandering flats rivers), and is ideally suited to Colorado-style fishing, where you’re mostly targeting 8-20″ trout. Fishing tenkara has a few other interesting twists, but the biggest (IMHO) is the focus on technique over equipment as far as flies/rigs go. Rather than encouraging complex rigs and continuously switching flies to try to find the perfect deception for where you’re fishing, tenkara encourages the use of one fly (or a small number of flies), and then focuses on different presentation techniques to trick fish into striking. There’s a certain allure to that simplicity, not least of which is avoiding having to buy (and know when to use) a bunch of different flies, knowing how to set up complex rigs, and all the wasted time re-tying things while on the water.
As mentioned in this previous post, I stopped by Orvis in Boulder (who also sell Tenkara USA equipment) to see Daniel Galhardo, the founder of Tenkara USA speak about tenkara fishing. He talked to a small group of us about the history, techniques and equipment, the types of fishing it’s suited to, how it differs from “western fly fishing”, etc. At the end of the presentation, we got to try out casting with a Tenkara USA rod (which is quite different from western casting), and then he also showed us how easy it is to tie a tenkara fly (pretty impressively so!).
Personally, there are a few things that draw me to tenkara:
- Simplicity: I love how simple the set up is, and how it minimizes the reliance on having all the “right equipment”.
- Portability: I really hate rigging up and retying my rod, so anything that can minimize my time spent doing that is welcome. Being able to collapse down the rod and spool up the line to get between fishing holes is really nice as well, and seems like it’d make hiking + fishing much more accessible.
- Technique: The focus on technique over equipment is a nice concept to me — it makes it more about me vs a fish than it does about just putting the right fly on there and hooking something. If I wanted to win that easily, I’d just use bait. That being said… everyone loves to actually catch fish, so I hope I’m up to the challenge. The casting technique of tenkara is also nice, because it seems much easier to master, and while the western style back/forward cast is quite beautiful, it requires a lot of room and finesse that seems a bit overkill.
I’m now angling (pun intended) to get a tenkara set up for Christmas so that I can try it out.
Header image taken from this Tenkara USA blog post.