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.
Boulder in Colorado is our home, and we fish all the waters around here frequently. Thus this is a good place to start our, “Which tenkara rod to buy for my region?” series. In this case, “Which tenkara rod to buy for Colorado” focusing on the Boulder and Front Range areas.
Boulder sits right on the foothills of the Rocky Mountains. To the West we have the mountains, to the East we have plains. Going North we can reach the larger rivers of Wyoming, and going into the mountains we can choose to fish small streams or large rivers. The diversity of waters around Boulder is one of the reasons we chose to move Tenkara USA here many years ago.
The variety of waters can also mean a variety of tenkara rods can be used successfully around here. But hopefully this will help you narrow down the ideal choice of tenkara rod to use here.
We are reviving the Tenkara Cast!
After a fairly long hiatus from recording the podcast, the recent circumstances we are all facing made me realize that our need to connect is bigger than ever. We are being asked to socially distance ourselves, but I think we should simply “Distance together” as I may have heard somewhere the other day.
Fly-fishing content will be a refuge that we can look to for to take a break from the anxiety producing news cycle of today. And, of course, there is getting outside and fishing too, although there may be some restrictions on where can, can’t, should or shouldn’t go at the moment.
There are two episodes that just came online. One a few days ago where I talk about socially distancing, and just a little bit of what kept me from recording over the last year. And, today I recorded this episode on finding and exploring new waters. You can click the images below to listen to each of the episodes right within our site, or you can use your favorite podcasting app to subscribe, just look up Tenkara Cast.
I hope you’ll enjoy these, and I’d love to hear from you about what strategies you use to find new waters and if this time of socially distancing is making you explore waters closer to home, whether you have fished a new place or for new species because of covid-19, or simply how you are using fly-fishing (indoors or outdoors) to cope.
How to Find and Explore New Fishing Waters:
Social Distancing, and the Relaunch of the Tenkara Cast:
Due to a potential warehouse closure, we are offering a 30% discount on all our rods and my book to try to move inventory out of our warehouse while we can so that we can get through this with all our staff. And a free hat will be included with every purchase containing a rod or more. We would love to have your support!
A Message from Tenkara USA and its founder
We, at Tenkara USA, have been closely monitoring the situation created by Covid-19. Like all Americans we share the same concerns and anxieties, and our hearts go out do anyone enduring the initial impacts of this crisis. Continue reading
We don’t release new products very often, but when we do it is because we think they need to be out there. I hope you will enjoy the offerings below.
10th Anniversary Ebisu, $175
The classic Tenkara USA rod, Ebisu, improved and released as a limited 10th anniversary edition.
Water bottles, $8/$20
Commemorative bottles, two versions available: 17oz non-insulated bottle for $8, or a 42oz insulated bottle for $20.
The 2019 Tenkara Summit, which celebrated our 10th anniversary is now behind us. It was a blast of an event. In the coming days we will try putting out more videos of the presentations, but here is a quick compilation of the event. Thank you all who came, but also all of you who couldn’t make it but have supported us over the years and have allowed us to be here today!
Today we celebrate 10 years of building Tenkara USA and sharing tenkara outside of Japan. It is an incredible milestone, and this journey has been filled with incredible experiences, milestones we never could have predicted, and a lot of hard work to accomplish all of that. And, of course we wouldn’t be here today without your support for these many years. So, THANK YOU so very much for the continue support, for sharing tenkara, for enjoying it, and for allowing us to be here today!
Little did I know that Tenkara USA would give rise to movement so passionate and that it would bring such enriching experiences into the lives of so many people. When I launched the company, I was not, as the famous fly-fishing author John Gierach wrote in one of his books, “unaware of the difficulties of introducing something small, quiet and simple to a country that likes things big, loud and complicated.” Indeed, the introduction of tenkara outside of Japan had its challenges. Starting at business in the fly-fishing industry in the midst of a Great Recession and betting all my savings into it was quite a bit scary(this was way before the launch of funding websites like Kickstarter by the way). I was also leaving a secure and promising career to pursue something I believed strongly that people should get to know. It is amazing to look back at 10 years of existence, and see how far we have come as a company. That we have not only been able to overcome challenges but create a thriving business has been quite a validation of people’s cravings for a simpler experience in the outdoors.
So much has happened in the last 10 years that I figured the best thing to post here today would be our interactive timeline, which I try as best as I can to keep updated as milestones are reached in the business (and of course, today is the last day of our 10th anniversary sale, so check that out):
The event registration is $40 and includes a catered lunch plus a bunch of great knowledge!
Date: July 27, 2019.
More details will be posted at www.tenkarausa.com/summit as we near the date, but here is what we have so far:
Location: Millenium Harvest House Hotel, Boulder, Colorado. This is the location of the Tenkara Summit a few years ago in the video below. We have a nice grassy area, presentation rooms and Boulder Creek right at the hotel.
Registration fee: $40, includes a catered lunch
Accommodations: Millennium Harvest House hotel, where the event will be held has a great discounted rate of $120/night. Reservations must be made by calling their In-House Reservation Agents directly at 866-866-8086. Please reference Reservation ID#: 1904TKFISH.
There are several other accommodation options around Boulder. You should also checkout our friends at the Adventure Lodge, which is up Boulder Canyon
Schedule: A final schedule will be posted as we get closer to the date. But the event generally starts at 9am, and consists of 2-3 morning presentations, followed by about 3-4 hours of time dedicated to lunch, vendors, clinics, short-format presentations and meeting fellow tenkara anglers, with another 2 or so presentations afterward. In the evening we will be hosting a fly-tying session, which this year will count on the very special live music of Takenobu, who provides a lot of music for our videos.
IMAGE RELEASE: THE TENKARA SUMMIT WILL BE DOCUMENTED IN PHOTOGRAPHY, VIDEO AND AUDIO. BY ATTENDING THE TENKARA SUMMIT, HOSTED BY TENKARA USA, YOU CONSENT TO IMAGES OF YOU AND YOUR LIKENESS, AS WELL AS VIDEOS OF YOU AND RECORDINGS OF YOUR VOICE TO BE USED IN ANY AND ALL MEDIA BY TENKARA LLC AND TENKARA USA FOR ANY PURPOSE AND WITHOUT COMPENSATION. YOU RELEASE TENKARA LLC. AND TENKARA USA AS WELL AS ITS MEDIA PARTNERS FROM ANY LIABILITY WHATSOEVER.
We received word that the fulfillment center we have worked with in the UK for the past 10 years to fulfill orders in the European Union is closing doors and leaving the UK.
Going forward all orders going to the UK and European Union countries will be shipped from our warehouse in the US.
Unfortunately orders will potentially be subjected to customs and duties.
For the next month or so, we will keep the shipping rate at $14.50. This is much lower than the actual shipping and handling costs that we incur on shipments to Europe, but we will work with that for the time being.
Press Release, Boulder, CO
Fly-fishing equipment company Tenkara USA has named industry veteran Patrick Stratton CEO. He will join Daniel Galhardo on the senior management team.
Stratton has held senior management positions at The North Face, REI and Mountain Equipment Co-op, among others. His experience will help Tenkara USA build momentum and grow the brand as it works to expand sales and dealer networks to grow fly fishing’s audience.
“Patrick’s product management and entrepreneurial experience are a perfect match to help take Tenkara USA to the next level, where we can continue to provide the best product to an ever-growing audience of people who spend time outdoors and may want to add fly-fishing to their list of preferred activities,” said Galhardo, Tenkara USA’s founder and chairman.
“I’ve known Daniel for a long time, and have envied his ability to communicate the technique and simplicity of the sport,” Stratton said. “I see many opportunities for the brand and the sport, and I look forward to being able to introduce Tenkara USA to new audiences while maintaining a strong connection with our existing customers and ensuring we tackle the challenges faced by a growing brand.”
Galhardo will focus on product development and storytelling, and will work closely with Stratton and the rest of the Tenkara USA team to continue pushing forward their mission to “enable people to enjoy the benefits of tenkara by sharing the philosophies of simplicity, open-mindedness and caring for the environment while providing the best tenkara information, gear and service.”
Mountain Home, Arkansas
In March, Tenkara USA had the wonderful opportunity to attend the Sowbug Roundup “Celebration of Fly Fishing” event. Daniel, Jeremy and I were on hand to represent Tenkara USA and additionally, Daniel also gave a tenkara presentation and a couple of casting demonstrations.
[Daniel’s note: a new podcast episode of the Tenkara Cast, in which the 3 of us sit down and chat about the finer points of the philosophy of simplicity, is now available via iTunes, other podcast apps, or directly at ]
The Sowbug Roundup is a basically a fly tying show with a selected vendor list chosen to augment the content of the event.
It was quite an honor for me to attend and I do appreciate the welcome that the community gave to us. The tenkara vendors did a great job and we made the front page of the area newspaper.
What follows is a few photographs that I took from the event.
I am a strong believer that companies shouldn’t release new products simply with the goal of loading people with something new. Too often a need for growth rather than customer interest is what drives product releases. But we were missing a product that I feel completes our lineup.
I wanted to create an adventure rod. It would be strong to handle just about whatever was thrown at it in terms of fish; and it would be super portable but not compromise durability or feel. At last that rod is here.
If you are interested in a rod that will fit in your small carry-on when you travel, your daypack when you go for hikes, or your bike’s saddlebag, check out the Hane ($150). It is a great rod to tag along in all your adventures.
The biggest tenkara event – ever! – happened this weekend.
The 2017 Tenkara Summit brought together the largest gathering of tenkara anglers anywhere. Just over 300 people from all over the US as well as Argentina, Norway and Japan attended. Attendees enjoyed a great series of speakers, clinics with experienced tenkara anglers (including Dr. Hisao Ishigaki), vendors, and a very fun fly-tying evening that featured a live band as well as tying contests timed to their songs, plus magic by Dennis Michael.
I am still stunned by the participation. In the past Tenkara Summits we had up to 150 people show up. I was fully expecting this year to count on the same number of people, so when I went to pull the final tally I was shocked to see about 240 people registered and another 60 walk-ins. I had tremendous fun meeting so many people in the community as well as spending time with an incredible crew of staff and volunteers that made the event possible.
After a week of taking Dr. Ishigaki fishing around Colorado, hosting our staff and then working at the Summit I will say that I am pretty beat. In fact, I may even take a nap in a few minutes, which is a very rare thing for me to do. But, I wanted to share a little update as well as post some photos from the event. These are photos that some of our crew or myself took; we actually had a professional photographer shoot photos and video at the event but it may be a few days before we get to process and post some of those.
There were several highlights that stood out for me. One of them was once again spending time fishing with my teacher, Dr. Ishigaki. The Tenkara Summit really started as an excuse for Dr. Ishigaki to come fishing in the US; in 2011 he wanted to fish in Montana but said he wanted to speak at an event to justify the trip to his wife. Since there were no events taking place I decided to put the Summit together. It turned out to be a tough week of fishing, with us visiting several different places that didn’t seem to be “on” (I will have to add “river otters” to my “Excuses to use when not catching fish“).
Another highlight was meeting and talking to a large number of people about how tenkara has had a positive impact on their lives. It always gives me a warm feeling when I hear those stories of how people are enjoying tenkara in one way or another, of how sometimes it gave them a different perspective on some aspect of their lives. And I absolutely loved meeting a few young kids who are in love with tenkara and asked their parents and grandparents to bring them to the Summit.
The fly-tying evening was a pure fun part of the event. In the evening the band Paper Moonshine entertained the audience as people tied flies, enjoyed their beers and whiskey, and shared stories or made plans to fish the next day.
The event was recorded in its entirety and we will be posting some of it online in the near future. More photos to come as well.
We have been on the road for 11 days now. Margaret and I have been enjoying our time together (we actually celebrated our 10th anniversary on the road last Sunday!). Living the “Van Life” is not glamorous, but we have seen some beautiful country, fished some gorgeous waters and enjoyed a few experiences we wouldn’t have otherwise.
Time has been short, and it is going by fast. I have been working on some videos and photography but it’s been hard to find reliable data connection or wifi along the way, so almost no time for writing and sharing things. I have been good at keeping our Instagram posts going when I find a bar or two of service on my phone.
This morning I turned the tenkaravan into a makeshift studio to record a new podcast episode about living life off the tenkaravan and about our very cool experience fishing for smallmouth bass with the fly-fishing author Dave Hughes and his wife Masako. If you’re interested, below is the episode I just posted (more information referenced in the episode please visit the podcast page.