I may say this every year when December 30th comes, but I’ll say it again, “I just can’t believe the year has already come to an end!” So much has happened through one more year of introducing tenkara to the US that a big chunk of it just blurs together. It is a strange feeling. But, luckily we can look back at all our 2013 blog posts and relive the year. Here are the posts that saw the most view and/or most comments this year:
1) The More You Know the Less You Need: Some specific examples of things which tenkara show you you do not need.
2) Tenkara Podcast: If you’re looking for something to listen to while you drive or work, checkout the first Tenkara USA podcast which we recorded with Jason Klass from Tenkara Talk.
3)Tenkara Testimonials: With the Fly Fishing Show season just about to start again, checkout this video we made the last year’s Fly Fishing Show where we asked people what they thought about tenkara.
4) In Search of Tenkara [VIDEOS]: In 2013 I made a series of 3 videos titled “In Search of Tenkara” where I tried understanding more of what made tenkara, tenkara.
5) The Last Commercial Tenkara Angler, Bunpei Sonehara: one of our most popular posts this year was the story written by Bunpei Sonehara, largely considered to be the last commercial tenkara anglers in Japan. We translated the story to give folks a glimpse of what tenkara was like back in the day.
6) The 30-second tenkara pronunciation guide [VIDEO]: This was a fun video where we asked several tenkara anglers in Japan to show us how to say certain words, including “Ten-car-ah!”
7) 2013 Japan Trip, 1st photographs: Every year I go back to Japan to learn more about tenkara and share its story here. This is my first post of this year’s trip. I love the photographs and memories of that trip, which I took with Mr. Yuzo Sebata.
8) Tenkara Flies Map: A map with the placement of some of the most recognizable tenkara flies of Japanese tenkara anglers.
9) Shower Climbing (Canyoneering) and Tenkara: This is probably just my personal favorite as it combined two of my great passions, climbing adventure and tenkara.
10) Tenkara Techniques and How to Cast with Tenkara videos: two of our most recent videos highlighting how to cast with tenkara and 6 main techniques used with tenkara
11) Release of two new rods, the Sato and Rhodo triple-zoom rods: After 2 years of working on 2 rod models, we were finally able to release them. Very proud of their successful launch.
12) Tenkara Magazine: another successful item, we finally created the first magazine in the world dedicated exclusively to tenkara. Very proud of that 2013 accomplishment.
Some Tenkara USA faves:
It started off as a magazine but I’m tempted to say the end-result is much more like a book. This year I decided it was time to add value to the tenkara community by creating the Tenkara Magazine. The first print publication dedicated to tenkara in the world, the Tenkara Magazine™ is a beautiful collection of essays, interviews, how-to’s, and philosophical thoughts revolving around the tenkara lifestyle. The magazine is 112 pages long, printed in high-quality paper, with submissions from talented writers and photographers who have been practicing tenkara.
Get it here
TABLE OF CONTENTS:
Beginnings: A Japanese Story by Paul Gaskell
Tenkara: Me and the Past by Gordon M. Wickstrom
Taking a Chance by Daniel Galhardo
Home by Dinner by Graham Moran
Arctic Grayling Ultralight Tenkara Backpacking in Utah’s High Country by Rob Worthing
A Gal Who Loves to Double-Haul by Aileen Lane
Q&A with Dr. Hisao Ishigaki and Masami Sakakibara by Adam Trahan
I Love the No-Tarin Club by Kiyoshi Ishihara
The Tenkara Summit by Daniel Galhardo
Tenkara and the Beginner by Tom Davis
Ten Techniques for Tenkara by Jason Klass
Finding the Perfect Tenkara Water by Steven B. Schweitzer
Forgiving Boulder Creek by Sasha Barajas
The Basics of Tenkara
The Guide School by Mark R. Cole
Tenkara Guide Network by Daniel Galhardo
Tenkara Brothers by John Vetterli
A Homecoming by Paul Vertrees
A Great Way to Catch Trout by Morgan Lyle
Tenkara Fly Tying: Sakasa Kebari by Chris Kuhlow
Tenkara Flies by Daniel Galhardo
People Who Fish by Tienlon Ho
Small Streams: There and Back Again by Anthony Naples
From the Heavens to the Peak District: A Short History of the
Rise of Tenkara in the UK by John Pearson
Under the Ruins of Nero’s Villa: Tenkara in Italy by Vito “Tsurikichi” Rubino
A Boy, A Bus, Tenkara! by TJ Ferreira
No Need to Choose by Allison Pluda
Uptown Tenkara: A Crappie Experience by Ron P. Swegman
Gyotaku from the Water, to the Paper, to the Plate by Kirby Wilson
Destinations by Adam Trahan, Paul Vertrees, Daniel Hoda, Rob Worthing, Judy W. Cole, and Guillaume Chavanne
The Colors of Tenkara by David Dirks
***The Tenkara Magazine is currently only available for shipping to the USA (or Canada and Australia if ordered with other items as shipping costs are prohibitive.) We are researching our options for overseas shipping and digital publication.
On a recent visit to Japan, I spent time with one of the longest-practicing tenkara anglers in the country, Mr. Yuzo Sebata. One of Mr. Sebata’s students had created a cartoon character after Mr. Sebata: Sebatake Kun (せば茸くん). Mr. Sebata is known throughout Japan for his wild forays in search of fish and mushrooms; he’s both an expert in tenkara fishing as well as identifying mushrooms. Sebatake is a play on words where “take” means mushrooms, “kun” is wizard. So, essentially the character is the Sebata, Wizard of Mushrooms. The Sebata name is already synonymous with tenkara.
Once we posted pictures of Mr. Sebata wearing his trademark dark blue, long-sleeve shirt featuring Sebatake Kun, we were inundated with requests by customers asking where they could get the shirt. So we asked Mr. Sebata and his student for permission to use the character for making some shirts. All they asked in exchange were a couple of the Tenkara USA ITO rods, with which Mr. Sebata had become a huge fan.
Our newest tenkara rods are now in! ***
RHODO – Triple-zoom 8’10”/ 9’9”/10’6” (270/297/320cm), with “Keep your Plug™” system (patent pending) – $215
SATO – Triple-zoom 10’8”/ 11’10”/12’9” (330-360-390cm), with “Keep your Plug™” system (patent pending) – $215
***Ship date: Friday, December 13th for North America orders; Friday, December 20th for European Union orders.
With several years of experience designing tenkara rods under our belt now, and with a lot of great customer feedback over these years, we have been able to develop two of the nicest tenkara rods we have designed to date. Whether you’re an experienced tenkara angler or just about to give tenkara a try, we wanted to give you the best possible tenkara rod anywhere.
The Sato and Rhodo are very lightweight – in actual weight as well as feel – something people have been asking for. And, because sometimes you will want to get a couple of feet closer to the fish without spooking it; and sometimes you will want to stay away from the pesky trees above, we designed them with the innovative triple-zoom system which allow you to fish either rod at 3 different lengths. These rods also have two patent-pending features: a new and more durable system to lock in place the zoomable sections and the innovative “Keep your Plug™” system which allows you to store your tenkara rod plug in the rod while not in use.
Despite its beautiful flowers sometimes anglers find themselves losing flies to the overreaching branches of the rhododendron. We developed the Rhodo, a tenkara rod that can be fished short when things get tight, or longer when the stream opens up. Since we began Tenkara USA people have been asking for a sub-9ft tenkara rod. We felt that a short rod could come in handy in some cases but for the most part anglers would miss the advantage that comes from fishing with a long tenkara rod. So, for years we have been working on developing a rod that could be the best of both worlds: short when you need it, long when you want it!
The Sato rod is named after Mr. Ernest Satow, an avid mountaineer who was the first person to make a written record of tenkara. The Tenkara USA Sato is a compact and lightweight tenkara rod. At its shorter length it is perfect for tighter streams, and at its full length it will be ideal when the stream opens up again or when you find a bigger pool to cast your fly. The average length for a tenkara rod is 12ft long, we like to recommend rods that are closer to 13ft, yet many people are intimidated by such long lengths for rods intended for smaller streams. So, we felt a rod with the 3 most common lengths would be an easy choice: short to ease you into tenkara, long to give you a taste of the advantages presented by a long tenkara rod.
After hearing that no one has ever been able to keep their tenkara rod plug for longer than a year we decided we should find a solution for you to never lose your plug again. We designed the “Keep your plug”™* system (patent pending).
Although it is a very simple solution, Tenkara USA is the first to have designed and incorporated this into its tenkara rods. Next time you go fishing, remove the plug from the top end of your rod and insert it into the hole at the bottom of your rod.
We sold out of the Tenkara Summit 2013 shirts very quickly today, so, here it is if anyone is interested in purchasing them. To make things quick (we’re posting this less than 12 hours after selling out) we’ll be offering the shirts through Zazzle, and yes, it’s a little more expensive. Artwork by Anthony Naples.
Here’s the link to get your t-shirt: Tenkara Summit 2013 shirt
Most of our products go through minor iterations and revisions on a regular basis. We follow the Japanese philosophy of kaizen, or continuous improvement, and are constantly making the rods, lines and flies better. Many of these changes, we will never announce. But, today we’re releasing what is essentially a brand new rod, and worthy of your attention: The 13ft Ayu Series II, a redesign of one of the most popular tenkara rods around. This rod is a direct result of my last trip to Japan, which was followed up by a week spent with our factories and engineers in China to ensure we built the best tenkara rods possible.
The Ayu has gone through at least two different iterations over the last 3 years. We originally changed the handle, which used to be flat, to a contoured and more ergonomic handle. On a subsequent iteration we improved its strength and smoothed its bend. Now, we changed it enough that the 13ft Ayu is a very different tenkara rod.
In creating (and tweaking) a tenkara rod I pay particular attention to four criteria I feel are most important for a good tenkara rod: it must cast well (precisely and effortlessly); it must feel comfortable to be cast all day long; it must set the hook well; and it must play fish well.
For the current version, I wanted to strengthen the Ayu a bit more and make it capable of more easily landing some of the larger fish people have been catching. The previous Ayu, I started realizing, was a bit too soft; this made casting with it a delight, but landing some of the larger fish took a bit longer than ideal – Not that it couldn’t handle good size fish! I also did not want to lose the soft feel of the rod, which was the original vision for the Ayu. It is a rod that reminds many people of a fiberglass rod or a bamboo fly rod, and I did not want to let that go, many of our customers love the Ayu for that reason. We kept most of the original Ayu there, but gave it slightly more “backbone”, and also made it into a 6:4 tenkara rod. This change gives it a crisper feel (it recovers faster and makes casting more precise. Moving to a 6:4 rating also allows us to get away from a rating system that adds complexity into something meant to be simple. Our goal, going forward, will be to have the best tenkara rods, but eliminate too many decision making aspects to trying tenkara.
This photo shows our first iteration of the Ayu
The new Ayu still casts beautifully, effortlessly, but now also with much more precision. It will also handle fish much more easily, yet feel great when a smaller fish is caught. It is not as robust or as heavy as the 13ft 6inch Amago tenkara rod. Nor as light as the shorter Iwana. It is simply a great tenkara rod.
I felt these changes warranted a change to the look of the rod. Typically I like to keep the look of the rod the same. People start recognizing the rods by their stripes. Essentially we start building some “model equity” into them. People will certainly remember the recognizable green stripes of the old Ayu, and letting that go wasn’t an easy decision. But, in the end we also found a finish that would be more durable, and would, as one of the first people to see it said, “look sexy”. The new Ayu has a carbon scrim look at the handle, and clear carbon look throughout the rod. You can see the quality of the rod thorough its entire length. I realized there was no need to hide something that is well done, and you can see the uniformity in the carbon behind the finish and be assured we have taken every step in ensuring the quality is good.
And, lastly, a small detail worth noting that we’ll be phasing in for all our future rods. We’re starting to connect a segment of lillian (the hollow braided material that makes up the tip of tenkara rods), to the plug of the rods. This serves two functions: (1) it makes it easier to keep track of where the plug is, and/or connect it to your shirt/vest/fishing bag, and (2) it can be used for field repairs should you ever break the tip of the rod.
*PLEASE KEEP IN MIND PREVENTING BREAKAGE IS VERY EASY: Just put the hard tip inside the rod and put your finger on top of it as you tie or untie the line.
The Ayu is currently only available for shipping out of the USA (USA, Australia, South America, Asia and Africa), we’ll soon stock it in Europe as well. For those in Europe, we have a great deal going on for the Series 1 Ayu here, until supplies last.
This has been a great year for us here at Tenkara USA. We have far exceeded any expectations in sales and the number of new people taking up tenkara has surpassed our wildest imagination. Although we are a little late for it, we are thankful and this is our way of thanking the streams that allow people to take up tenkara, and our version of a BlackFriday/CyberMonday/GivingTuesday Sale – except that it will last until our supply of the super popular 11ft Iwana tenkara rod runs out.
Without further ado, we present you the Tenkara USA Pay it Forward Sale. Our most popular rod going for only $100 and $50 of that going to organizations that protect fish habitat. We expect this sale won’t last long, so get them while they are available for you, for your brother, for your cousins, for your wife, for your kids, and even for your neighbor!
Please note, the intent is to distribute the money to at least 4 charities and let you pick your own. We’re currently working on lining them up. Until then you’ll have the option to pick whether your money goes to Trout Unlimited, another organization (to be determined) or, if you’re outside the USA, to an organization with international ties.
Some very exciting news and a huge milestone for the introduction of tenkara outside of Japan: Orvis, the 156-year old fly-fishing company starts carrying our equipment today! That’s an incredible nod of approval to the method and irrefutable evidence that tenkara is here to stay. Needless to say I’m thrilled.
Orvis approached us earlier this year, and while initially a bit reluctant I was delighted that every single person there – from their retail stores as well as the corporate office – just got tenkara. They not only understood the potential for introducing new people to fly-fishing through tenkara, but they were excited about the technique and how it worked on streams. They were also interested in promoting the method, which totally sold me on working with them. I recently visited with Tom Rosenbauer (yes, that’s the answer to this question) and we recorded a podcast together that should be up sometime soon (likely this week).
The press release below just went out:
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Orvis to Sell Tenkara USA Products
San Francisco, California
Today, San Francisco based company Tenkara USA announced that Orvis, industry leader in fly-fishing equipment, will start carrying Tenkara USA’s rods, line and flies and helping promote the Japanese method of fly-fishing called tenkara.
Every so often I’m reminded that outside perception is a double-edged sword. When perceived as a small, solely-owned entreprise that is run by one person with a mission, the community respects and rewards the entrepreneurial spirit, the underdog if you will, and roots for his success. When the small, solely-owned enterprise run by one person is rewarded and starts succeeding and growing some people may start perceiving it as a large corporation, “the man” if you will, that is out there for an ulterior motive.
Recently I read a couple of things out there, on the world wide web, that reminded me Tenkara USA may now be perceived by some as a large “Tenkara Inc.” that is out there to dominate the world. The perception of growth in a new market like tenkara can also bring about new competitors, vying to take a slice of the market being created. As new companies try to imitate our products, in some cases trying to market the “tool” while ignoring the “method” of tenkara, I’m reminded that leadership in a product category and growth presents its unique challenges, perception is probably the smallest but most vocal and to me the most personally disturbing.
A few days ago I started going through some of the pages of our website to update content. I noticed I had not updated the “About Tenkara USA” page in quite a long time. It contained a couple of paragraphs about Tenkara USA, what its mission is and the fact that we donate 1% of our revenues to environmental non-profits. I had written that page soon after starting Tenkara USA, more concerned about stating what Tenkara USA is I didn’t concentrate on sharing the story of who Tenkara USA is.
A huge thank you to all of you who contributed with product reviews!
You contributed a total of 218 reviews during the contest period! This is really helping give our products your voice, and hopefully will help those taking up their method make their decision more easily. And, the reviews feature has already been serving as a great way to capture your feedback on our products. Some of the feedback is already making its way into our products, and at least one review prompted me to create some additional instructions/tips for the tenkara line holder.
Of course, we would still very much like to continue receiving your reviews of our products to make them better and help others. Please give us your honest review on our products by signing on and visiting the desired product to comment on it.
Without further ado, here is the table of winners. I’ll be emailing the winners of the complete sets and t-shirts to get more info, but will be mailing the other items shortly. Congratulations and thank you!
We just released a new feature on this site: Product Reviews. But, the reviews are trickling in slowly. We really would like for you to review the products you have tried to help future tenkara anglers know more about our products.
To give you an incentive we’ll be giving out a lot of prizes for your honest review. All you have to do is log on to our site, go to your favorite product, and writeup a review before May 10th.
DRAWING: Every review has an unique id, we’ll use a random number generator to pick the winners – reviews already entered will be included in the drawing. The more products you review, the more chances you have to win though, of course, we only want reviews of products you know. The review should be honest – no special consideration will be given to content.
Ah, “what prizes can I get?”, you ask.
So, we will make this very sweet for you and give plenty of stuff away:
1) Complete tenkara set (two will be given)Any tenkara rod you want* along with a traditional tenkara line, tenkara level line, 2 tenkara line holders and set of flies. *rod subject to availability but all should be in.
2) Tenkara net *(US ONLY) (1 will be given).
3) A new tenkara bamboo fly box valued at $63 (1 will be given).
4) Copies of The Fly Fish Journal with Daniel Galhardo’s article on tenkara and his visit to Japan. (5 will be given)
5) Tenkara Sakasa Kebari T-SHIRT (2 will be given).
6) Tenkara baseball cap (2 will be given)
DEADLINE: May 10th. Winners will be selected within a couple of days from May 10th.
“Producing a catalog is usually not a big deal. But this one is”, says Tenkara USA founder, Daniel Galhardo. “This is the first catalog dedicated to tenkara ever produced. None have been made in Japan, and it is more of a booklet about the method than a catalog per se.”
The catalog is already arriving at the doors of those who have registered on the Tenkara USA website in the past and the responses are pouring in. Long-time tenkara angler Chris Stewart says, “Wow and double wow. Fantastic. That is one of the best promotional/sales pieces I have ever seen.” Mr. Somao Ochi requested a copy for a friend and wrote, “The photos and illustrations in the catalog are amazing.”
A unique feature of the catalog is that it dedicates a significant number of pages that serve as a “how to” manual for those wanting to learn the sport. “We shot for making it a high-quality coffee-table style booklet rich with the philosophies of tenkara, instructions and compelling imagery”, Galhardo added.
The company designed the booklet as a way to add value to its customers. The 56-page booklet lists the entire range of Tenkara USA products, including tenkara rods, lines, nets, flies, and the minimal accessories used in tenkara. But, the products are there as much to illustrate the gear used in tenkara as to serve as a guide to tenkara fly-fishing.
With assistance from his designer, Megan Condict, Galhardo worked on each page of the catalog himself, including taking all but one of the photos. “I love seeing a final, concrete product that I can touch and feel proud of having created”, says Galhardo. “As with all our products, I have aimed at producing something that will be lasting, that people will feel proud to show their friends, to display on their coffee table, and will not throw away like the dozens of holiday catalogs they have received this season.”