Essay by: Brad Trumbo
February 7th, 2021. It had been one year to the day that I stood downstream of the rusty, graffiti-tagged rail bridge on the Touchet River in Dayton, WA. The afternoon offered a gorgeous mix of bluebird and cloud-dappled skies, intermittently pummeling the earth with pea-sized graupel. A soft flip of the wrist landed a hare’s ear nymph with a copper John dropper into a flow seam under the bridge, offering potential to hook into a colorful rainbow trout or steelhead at any moment.
The year prior, I stood shoulder-to-shoulder with dozens of city and county residents, mostly strangers, pitching sandbags along the levees in an attempt to hold the river in its quickly vanishing channel. Those that could, pitched in, while those that couldn’t, watched hopefully as volunteers engaged in the fight against the rising waters of an epic flood.
by Daniel Galhardo
It’s a bit of a coincidence that I was in the middle of writing a blog post with a similar theme on tenkara reflection when Mike Agneta’s opinion piece “Tenkara’s Future Outside of Japan” popped up over on Tenkara Angler this week, so I’d like to respond to that a bit here.
I think the pandemic did something to many of us, it forced us to reflect on our lives and what’s important. And as a company we’ve considered how we can best continue to serve our community during this time as well.
The pandemic threw most of us on our heels, and as a small business there was uncertainty around how it might affect us. There was a time last year that our product fulfillment center was in jeopardy of closing because of COVID-19 and we were beyond humbled when so many of you stepped up to order gear from us early in the season so that we could keep our small business and employees afloat.
After those initial economic fears subsided, things changed quickly. With many indoor activities suddenly on pause, it was natural that many people turned to outdoor activities such as fishing. Our National Parks and public lands logged record breaking numbers of visitors, many of them coming with a fishing rod in hand, and based on what we were seeing in our sales through the Summer, many of them were carrying tenkara rods.
I want to believe that what some might think is a lull in the buzz around tenkara, might really be attributed to people spending less time tapping on glass screens. I know that’s been the case for me recently, with so many stressors around in the media I suppose I too became “tired of the omnipresent bickering”. So I shifted my focus away from that and into other areas that help those who want to get into tenkara.
That doesn’t mean I’m no longer fishing, or enjoying tenkara, just that I’m preferring to spend less time online. I’m glad to report I have finally kicked a horrible habit of taking my phone to bed with me and perusing the web for hours, or waking up to my phone first thing in the morning; and I can notice an incredible set of benefits from doing that. I hope many of you have been able to spend more time outside too, and perhaps are choosing to focus less on online arguments, and when you do come online you are looking for good reliable information.
Tenkara has never been about the ‘fad’ to us, it has never been about cashing in on a trend…after all, we started with something that not many people had heard of and there was always a chance it would not go anywhere. We didn’t jump on it with $ in our eyes. From the start, Tenkara USA has been mission-driven, the reason we exist is to introduce people to this simpler Japanese method of fly-fishing, to educate, support, and to inspire people to fish more simply.
I know I can speak on behalf of my team at Tenkara USA when I say that we value our place in the tenkara community and take pride in our products and caring for our customers. We can comfortably say we have been here through it all to continue doing the best we can for our customers in terms of giving information, creating good products, and bringing the tenkara community together when we can.
Over the last 12 years we have created a vast amount of content and other projects to help newcomers to the sport. We have brought stories from Japan through blog posts, shared instructions and adventures through videos, packaged as much knowledge as possible in our tenkara book, brought back to life some timeless pieces on tenkara through the mounTEN ezine, and shared thoughts about all aspects of tenkara through the Tenkara Cast, our podcast on tenkara. We have also brought the tenkara community together in stream cleanup events (which we haven’t held in 2020 due to the pandemic), through the pages of the Tenkara Magazine which we did for a few years and is now available for free, as well as several Tenkara Summit events, the most recent being in 2019.
2020 saw our biggest yearly growth to date, and at times the speed of growth felt a bit overwhelming and put our small team to the test. We didn’t see a significant number of “anglers leaving the fold”, but in fact we saw an increase of nearly 40% in the number of new tenkara anglers compared to the year prior.
I have always served in a pivot role at Tenkara USA, dedicating my time to where it is needed most. When operations are running smoothly, I enjoy dedicating time to creating content. But, when the situation calls for it, I put on my operational hat and focus on other aspects of the business. After last Spring and the initial Covid scare, Summer hit and with the huge influx of new customers I had to shift my focus from new content to other parts of the business that will continue to help anglers on their tenkara journey for years to come.
Last year, for example, we launched a fully redesigned new website. Even working with a talented team, the redesign took a large amount of my time. The purpose for the new site was to make it easier for you to find and access the information you are looking for. At this point we have over a decade of content created, we have largely shared what we needed to be shared, so we focused on creating a better experience for anyone getting into tenkara now or looking for more information.
Another initiative we took was to get rid of plastic in our packaging and we took some big steps towards that goal. Even being aware of the ugly side of plastics in the environment, it was amazing we also got sucked into using so much of it over the years. But, at this point I’m thinking we are about 95% rid of plastic. This is something I’m very proud of and took quite a bit of my time too.
We also worked on our product line quite a bit this last year. Besides a couple of merchandise items (shirts already on the site, a new beanie that will go online in about a week), we continued our tradition of product refinement (the manufacturing philosophy called kaizen) and made incremental improvements to all our rods this year. At the same time we decided to tackle a couple of exciting new products that are soon going to come to fruition. Besides a new rod in the making, we have a new fishing net that we have been working on, and a couple of accessories in the pipeline too. It is taking a bit longer than expected to get our tenkara net completed during this pandemic, as we are shooting for the moon in some aspects of it and doing many things from the ground-up to create an authentic product. But product development is something I intended to take on after our 10th year in business and now we finally get to work more on that – always with the idea of keeping fly-fishing simple and creating only products that will add a lot of value to the life of an angler.
I understand how new content activity and coverage can give the impression of “buzz” and “boom”, but I know we are not even close to a “bust” moment in the tenkara world. Yes, tenkara is a niche, some players may have decided to get out of the market after realizing it would be difficult to carve any share of the market without an authentic offer. But I wouldn’t be so quick to jump to the conclusion that it has slowed down in any way.
We as people have collectively been going through a lot of trauma during this pandemic, on so many different fronts. I don’t know about you, but I find fishing very therapeutic and I know so many others do too. I hope we’re all thinking about spending less time on our screens and more time in the water. And we hope you can see that we continue to put our efforts in helping new entrants to the sport of tenkara fly-fishing.
We haven’t slowed that down, just tackled areas that needed our resources the most. But I do agree, we can always do better, and I appreciate the call for action being put forth. Mike’s letter is the type of reminder of what you, our customers may be looking for us to provide and we will continue honoring what you are looking for.
While some anglers seem to have gone into hibernation and are sitting at their fly-tying vices this time of year, tenkara anglers have some major advantages to get in the winter fly-fishing game. Ice can bring havoc to fly rods, lines and reels, but tenkara rods are perfectly suited to handle icy conditions that traditional fly-fishing rigs cannot. Because a tenkara rod uses a fixed line only attached at the tip there are no guides or reels for ice to collect on, which puts us in the driver’s seat.
Winter tenkara fishing can be a lot of fun if you prepare yourself, so let’s discuss what to expect and we’ll give you some tips that will make your next trip more successful.
Essay by: Joel St. Marie
Local water travels from many places on the Eastern side of the Sierra Nevada Mountains. Small creeks from the headwaters above meander through the meadows, forest, and the high alpine. Icy water runs as the snow melts and is met with the bubbling hot spring water heated by the geothermal cauldron beneath the Earth’s crust. Spring fed rivers snake the open lands of the caldera and carve the deep gorge as it makes its way beneath the table lands and beyond.
I’ve been fortunate to explore the local outdoors on many levels as an outdoor enthusiast; as a climber, biker, fisherman, hiker, photographer, skier and more. Often revisiting the same area multiple times depending on the activity or adventure. The gorge is one of these places I first explored as a climber nearly 25 years ago with one thing on my mind; to climb the steep pocketed cliffs above. The gorge offers miles of exploring other than climbing as well. On bike you are limited to the the few roads that allow access to the gorge. On foot is another option and has its many advantages to exploring this historic destination.
Essay by: Dennis Vander Houwen
Whole wheat bread with a glob of peanut butter on one side and a wash of jelly on the other. PBJ’s never let you down. Adding a banana from the bunch, I grab my water bottle, and load my lunch into my small backpack along with my simple tackle and my Tenkara USA Sato rod and I am out the door. Gone fishing. In about 40 minutes I will see an old friend.
In the car I tap on Colorado Public Radio. Ironically, they are talking about the increase in people taking up fly-fishing in Colorado. It is an interview with a familiar voice, John Gierach. The topic is about the effect of more people taking up fly-fishing than ever before. I have my fingers crossed John will mention tenkara or talk briefly about stream etiquette, but my hopes are dashed. It is still a good interview and he has a new book out that I have now added to my reading list. I shut off the radio. Silence gives me room to think.
We hope you’re enjoying our new website! This year we have been working on improving the way we present you the tenkara gear and content that we create. The new platform is allowing us to organize things in ways to help you make your decisions on what gear to buy, as well as to help you learn what you’ll need to start fly-fishing simply.
One thing we just started doing is organizing collections of tenkara gear based on what you may be looking for. Whether you are looking for a tenkara rod for beginners or for tenkara gear for backpacking, we got you covered. Visit our new Tenkara Collections page.
– Tenkara Rods for Beginners, browse for the gear you will want if you are looking at getting started with fly-fishing
– Tenkara Gear for Backpacking, the ideal tenkara gear and fly-fishing rod for backcountry adventures, backpacking and more.
– Tenkara Gear for Big Fish, if you are often targeting bass with tenkara, or other large fish, look no further. Here’s the gear you will need for catching large fish with tenkara
– Tenkara Gear for Small Streams, are you planning to tenkara fish in small streams with a lot of cover? Here’s the gear you will want if you are fishing small headwaters, streams in the Appalachians and other places.
Tenkara Community Submitted Content
Essay by: Cheri Felix
To be honest, I just started fishing a few months ago. I used to know the exact number of days (it’s been about 60) but that started to get weird. In the beginning, I would go to Boulder Creek twice in one day. I’d go to areas where there are less trees to catch my line on. And then I worked my way up to the more dense areas of the creek.
In the early days, I’d only go with my husband and then gradually I started going solo. I watched the knot tying videos and I tried to actually listen to my husband when he showed me, but I tend to get distracted. Then I realized that in the worst case scenario, I could come home to get another fly tied on if I needed to.
Since then, I’ve cast a wider net (see what I did there?) and ventured to a place below Jamestown and also into Clear Creek canyon and along the I-70 (I know. Sounds so romantic). I’ve learned that tenkara fishing Rocky Mountain National Park isn’t like fishing along the Popo Agie in Wyoming. I’ve tested my patience in Wyoming on a tiny part of the Laramie River and will test it again when we go to Montana in a few weeks.
Living in Lyons, Colorado is a wonderful thing. Walking two blocks to the St. Vrain river to drop a fly in the water is certainly a privilege, and one I don’t take for granted. But the town stretch – like many easily accessible Front Range rivers in Colorado – sees a good deal of pressure, particularly in the summer months. Which means it’s time to head up into the local high country, the Indian Peaks Wilderness.
Tenkara fishing to me is inextricably linked with moving through the mountain wilderness. It is so complimentary to hiking and scrambling around in the alpine, it’s almost silly. Here in the Indian Peaks there is an abundance of low volume, high gradient streams full of trout. And then there’s the high alpine lakes. The tenkara lake fishing is phenomenal, and the whole area is tailor-made for this simple method of fly-fishing.
Trip Report by: Brad Trumbo
Dust billowed as my buddy Derek and I traveled an old gravel road through western Augusta County, Virginia. An interesting feature of many streams draining the George Washington National Forest is the myriad small flood control reservoirs which sever wild brook trout streams, isolating populations to the extreme headwaters in many cases. The water behind one such reservoir was our destination.
Many of these reservoirs are well known and stocked with hatchery trout, our destination included. Yet, the volume of fishermen that frequent this reservoir scarcely acknowledges the disguised trailhead leading into one of Appalachia’s wild brook trout strongholds.
Parking under a canopy of sycamore and maple, a lush carpet of jewelweed and poison ivy greeted us, the trail barely noticeable through the greenery. Embarking on the short hike to the river, we immediately noticed brookies darting for cover as we tramped across a shallow riffle. “It’s gonna be a good day!” I remarked, smugly.