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.
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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.
Tenkara USA had its origins in San Francisco, California. San Francisco is by no means a fly-fishing destination, but that’s where I lived when tenkara came to me. The best opportunities for tenkara were in the Sierra Nevada. Every opportunity I got, I would make the drive to different parts of the Sierras, exploring its diverse waters as I tested rods, made short films on tenkara and just all around had fun learning tenkara.
Margaret fishing tenkara, Sierra Nevada, California
Because it is such a huge area, Sierra tenkara fishing is unique and varied, and as such the ideal Sierra tenkara rod might vary depending on the focus of your fishing. You can find small waters choked up with trees along the foothills and in some nooks of the mountain range, but you can also find wide open waters with large boulders and few trees, big rivers with calm waters, and tiny meandering meadow streams. This post can not cover every situation possible, so we will paint the Sierra in broad strokes this time as we recommend tenkara rods to consider to fish in the Sierras. Down the road will narrow it down to more specific areas.
Our main recommendation if you’re in California or Nevada and regularly fish different parts of the Sierra Nevada would be our longer rods. This would especially include the Ito, our longest adjustable tenkara rod if you know you like fishing the bigger waters, or the Sato or Iwana, both great all-arounder tenkara rods that travel well from small waters to big, and targeting small to large fish of the Sierras.
Tenkara USA’s designer, Jeremy Shellhorn, sits streamside and lets nature inspire his work as he takes viewers along his drawing process.
Jeremy’s work beautifully captures the essence of tenkara. One guiding principle in much of his art is “mujo”, the Japanese concept of leaving things incomplete and giving as much importance to what is left out as to what is drawn.
In Search of Tenkara is a series of videos where people capture what makes tenkara unique and what its essence may be.
Our 2-week long trip to Japan is now over. At the end of the trip we experienced the beginning of the rains that have been ravaging Western Japan. In fact, the night before we left we were at a guest house having dinner as heavy rain fell outside. Our hostess came to inform us that there was a chance the river nearby, the Maze, could flood and she explained the contingency plan. It was not likely she said, but just in case there was an alarm they would guide us to the school on the hill nearby.
The Maze, a river we had fished just the day before, didn’t flood, but much of the areas around where we were experienced landslides and devastating floods. The disaster has been hardest felt farther west from where we were. Our hearts are with the people as they deal with the difficulties of yet another disaster. We were lucky to escape unharmed. It has been bittersweet to get to the comfort of my dry home knowing people are suffering. But, as I review footage and images from another good trip to Japan I keep the Japanese people in my heart.
Today I worked on a short film where I was able to capture an epic fight Dr. Ishigaki had with a large rainbow trout in Hokkaido. I wish my microphone was closer to hear his tenkara rod singing, as I am sure it did. I hope you’ll enjoy the short film above.
If you’re interested in helping, here’s some information on relief efforts taking place.
I’m an American tenkara angler that is influenced by Japanese tenkara and my own experiences at home. I initially learned about tenkara nine years ago from Tenkara USA (Daniel Galhardo) and subsequently deepened my knowledge from researching Japanese blogs and web sites. I used what I knew from my own fly fishing knowledge and by researching and interviewing famous Japanese Tenkara anglers. I shared many of those interviews with the community here.
What follows is a basic look into the equipment that I use to wet wade and fish my own home streams and as I travel around North America and beyond.
My primary tenkara rods are the Ito, Sato and Rhodo. I’ve been fishing these rods since they have been available. I own a couple of Japanese brand rods in my quiver but my Tenkara USA rods are my first choices to go fishing in my home streams. I think if I had one rod to choose, it would be the Ito. It is a rod where I can hunt small native trout in wild places and then further down the mountain where the stream flows into the high meadow lake, I can catch stacked up big trout coming from out of the lake. It’s a rod that has length and makes a small fish fun yet I can catch 20” fish with it all day long.
A new episode of our podcast, the Tenkara Cast, is now available through your favorite podcast listening app, or right here on our website. This time Daniel chats with Chris Johnson about tenkara fishing in Texas.
Things are coming together nicely for the 6th Tenkara Summit, which will take place in Estes Park on September 16th. This year we are counting on the presence of Dr. Hisao Ishigaki and Yvon Chouinard who will be speaking at the event, along with Adam Trahan, Jason Klass, Steve Schweitzer. In addition we’ll be featuring clinics and demos on fly-tying, casting and more. This is promising to be a great event, and we hope to see you all there!
You can register for the Tenkara Summit here.
Further details, such as the schedule, lodging, food, etc, on this page.
It’s been a long, long road.
I typed its first words nearly 5 years ago. But, as I continued to learn more about tenkara, continued visiting Japan and meeting more teachers, and continued to look at words I typed with an increasingly critical eye, the completion of the book I envisioned a long time ago just kept getting further away. Yet, (at last!) tenkara – the book has been received at our warehouse and is now shipping!
With the help of Jeremy Shellhorn, our resident artist, I believe tenkara – the book turned out to be even better than what i could have envisioned years ago. It is something I’m very proud of having produced.
This has been a rewarding project. It has also been challenging trying to put all I could think of in pages that wouldn’t feel overwhelming; to give those who are deep in tenkara all they may want to know while also attempting to convey tenkara’s simplicity. I believe that has been accomplished.
With this book I also launched a new division of Tenkara USA, the Tenkara Press™, which will help us accomplish the mission of sharing the tenkara story. It has been interesting to learn so much about the publishing industry in the last several months. From concept, to writing, to designing and layout, and then finally the printing (which was done close to us in Denver and I watched the entire process) and now working out the best distribution for it, this has been quite an experience. I hope to get some other tenkara titles in production next year.
Those who have backed our Kickstarter campaign will be start receiving the book momentarily as we took care of shipping them earlier this week.
This is an update on tenkara – the book, which will soon be arriving.
The book is now in its final stage before we print it and mail it. Thank you for your patience! After seeing the near-final product I can promise it will be worth the wait!
Over the last two weeks I holed myself up and focused exclusively on finishing final text revisions for tenkara – the book. The current version is looking so much cleaner than how it started. I don’t say this easily very often about my own work, but I am very proud of how this book has shaped up.
On Wednesday the book designer and illustrator, Jeremy Shellhorn, flew over to Boulder and we got to work together non-stop on the book. It was 3 long days of doing the final layout, placing the final images and touching up every single detail on every single page we touched. It was quite a amazing experience to see Jeremy do the work in front of me and bring words and photos to life in a way that just feel so…tenkara. We did a Facebook live video when we started working on it yesterday morning where we show a bit of what we have done.
The most interesting thing was our process in this last leg of the journey. We sat next to each other at the office, I would send him sections of text that were finalized and he would lay them out with the suggested photograph. But, because Jeremy knows our photography portfolio and tenkara so well, he would remember images that could be even better in a certain section. I’d find the image and send it to him and we would see how it worked. Other times we explored the text and found better, usually simpler, ways of saying things. This is a big contrast with traditional publishing, where the publisher requests that the text and images be completely done and sent over, then there are some several rounds of back and forth between author, designer, editor. In our case, the instant collaboration on every single page of the book has undoubtedly created a better produce. We can not begin to imagine doing this phase in any other way.
I expect about 5 more days to send the file to the printer, then about 3 weeks for it to be ready to ship. So, we are looking at approximately March 15th at the moment.
I feel embarrassed that I originally promised the book would be in your hands in January and I didn’t get it ready on time. I am not sure I underestimated the scope of this project or whether I just kept finding ways to make it a better book. This has been the toughest thing I have ever done, but I am incredibly excited about how it is turning out. I do apologize for the delay, if any would prefer a refund for me not meeting the timeline, I’d completely understand.
Now the finish line is very clear and we are just about to cross it. tenkara – the book will be something you’ll be very happy with. Next time you hear from me will be to get your address.
My best regards,
A couple of months ago a friend turned me on to the app Storehouse. I immediately started playing with it as a story-telling medium and loved the format. The first story I created with images and videos I have captured was “Tenkara with Yuzo Sebata“. I intend to create a series of stories of fishing and learning from different tenkara teachers. Here’s my story of “Tenkara with Hisao Ishigaki”. Hope you enjoy it.
The “One fly” concept of tenkara – in which it is observed that most experienced tenkara anglers in Japan stick with one fly and don’t change it all the time, and that just about any fly can work – is a difficult one for most people to embrace. It is also a concept that has sparked a fair amount of debate within the tenkara community; some of it by folks misinterpreting the message as “you must use one fly”. But really, all this concept brings to us is a different way of thinking about fly-fishing. It is just like tenkara, it brings us an entirely different way to think about fly-fishing.
When I first learned that tenkara anglers in Japan were only using one fly pattern, it absolutely changed my fly-fishing life. It simplified it by telling me I could reduce my fly choices considerably. And it liberated me from second-guessing what fly to use and from consulting hatch books and locals for what flies I should use. And, that’s why I’m passionate about sharing this concept. Not for sake of purity or tradition, but because I have found it works. At least it works well enough to keep my life simpler and keep me from second-guessing my fly choices or worrying about what fly pattern *might* work a *little* better.
I can not say whether one fly will always work, in fact I have been challenged and talked about that in this video. But over the last 4 years I have fished throughout the US and other countries with some of the most experienced anglers around, and to be honest have not yet seen a noticeable different in the numbers of fish caught.
So, if you’re getting into fly-fishing or have been at it for decades, just know there is a different way to think about fly-fishing, fly choices and fly selection. You can ask yourself, is changing flies and second-guessing your fly choice worth the *possible* marginal benefit it brings over sticking with one fly pattern anywhere, anytime?