by Adam Trahan
Adam: I went through the phase of researching as much as I could from known Japanese masters and through Daniel and Dr. Ishigaki, I began my own training (from afar) of a tenkara kebari “one-fly” approach. I settled on a simple Takayama Sakasa Kebari and used it everywhere varying only the size. I caught fish; more fish than I’ve ever caught on the streams that I had been fishing with lite line fly rods for many many years.
It was crazy.
When I went to Japan, it was still hard to leave the comfort of my little Wheatley fly box filled with my knowledge of the different hatches and fliess that go along with it only to take a odd looking fly box that had only one style of fly. I caught fish all over Japan too.
“What is your approach to fly selection on a small stream? With your tenkara rod, are you just using the same flies or are you in Japanese Fly Fishing mode?”
Dave Hughes: I’m where you were with your little Wheatly: I have a small-stream fly box that I use when “western fly fishing”, and I carry the same box when tenkara fishing. It has a narrow selection of dry flies, nymphs, wet flies, and streamers that I’ve found effective on small streams over many years…now many decades…of fishing them. I’ve never tried to narrow my choice beyond keeping my burden light…my goal out there is to please the trout, which have difficult lives, and I’d like to give them a bit of pleasure.
One fly I’ll add, and its history and description are more thorough in my book, is a Saito-San Special. It’s a parachute pattern, rust brown body and blue dun hackle. I first encountered it when fishing with Megaku Saito, bamboo rod builder under the name Old Crab, near his home in Furukawa. He outfished the heck out of Masako and me. He loaned us a few of his flies–he only used the one, like a true tenkara fisherman, though we were not fishing tenkara–and we caught yamame and iwana on it as well as he did…almost as well.
When I brought the fly home, it outfished my old Royal Wulffs and Elk Hair Caddis here as well as it did there. I’ve been using it ever since.
Another small stream fly that catches lots of trout for me, tenkara or otherwise, is Chuck Stranahan’s Brindle Bug, a parachute dry…it’s on the web, or better yet, order them from Chuck; he’s on the web, too. It’s a great fly in size 12, and if trout only nibble at it without taking, then it’s stout enough to support a size 14 or 16 beadhead nymph of your choice…yes, I do that, too, tenkara and otherwise.
This is a two-part interview conducted as a conversation by Adam Trahan of Tenkara-fisher.com. Both parts in our blog have been abridged.
For complete conversation please visit this page.
Part 2 will run on November 21, 2014
It has been 20 years that I’ve been fly fishing with light fly rods in small streams. During that time, I have searched out as much information as I could; I have an insatiable desire for it. Dave Hughes is always at the forefront when referencing books on small stream fly-fishing. I was pleasantly surprised to see Daniel had met Mr. Hughes and had done some tenkara fishing with him. I was equally delighted in understanding that Dave Hughes has been into tenkara longer than the American introduction that Daniel brought to us.
Adam: Mr. Hughes, thank you for taking my Interview, may I call you Dave?
Dave Hughes: In my youth I commanded 35 men on a communications site on the Mekong River…it’s not a small stream; I didn’t fish it. One day one of my men–Carter, I remember–came up and said, “Sir, you know what we call you behind your back?”
“No,” I told him. It caught me by surprise. I’d been working them pretty hard, and expected the worst.
“Dave,” Carter said.
I laughed. “That’s what my friends call me,” I told him. If we’re friends, you can call me Dave.
Brian and Colby Trow own the Mossy Creek Fly Fishing shop in Harrisonburg, Virginia. They saw the opportunity in carrying tenkara at their shop very early on, embracing it to the extent of having the first dedicated tenkara guide in the country, Mr. Tom Sadler. Rather than seeing tenkara as a threat to the industry or a fad, they saw it as a possible “gateway drug to fly-fishing” or something that would once again excite their long-time customers. I believe what makes a fly shop a great fly shop is that open-mindedness, the ability to embrace diversity in a sport perceived as traditionalist. The Trow brothers give aways their secret here.
Over the years Adam Trahan produced good content about tenkara, particularly in the form of interviews, on his website tenkara-fisher.com. But, while he’s often been the interviewer Adam has not yet been the interviewee. I thought you’d enjoy learning a bit more about who Adam is and where his experiences with tenkara have taken him.
Daniel: Adam, I’ll start by talking to you about Japan. You just put out a nice resource asking a few people who have spent time in Japan learning tenkara about their experiences. This includes yourself, who went to Japan last year and spent time visiting tenkara anglers. It has been very cool to see more people going to Japan with a focus on learning more about tenkara. What made you decide to visit?
Adam: Adventure! That’s the main reason. Going to Japan, a country that I have been pouring over in historical tenkara research for years, sharing time with Japanese friends on Facebook seeing their pictures and information feed, reading about your trips to Japan, I had to go.
There were other reasons too, I wanted to fish with my friend Satoshi Miwa. He is a Western Fly Angler, we met at smallstreams.com We had been conversing about his favorite streams and I came out and asked him if he would help me visit. “Of course!” he said, thinking that I was being diplomatic and not really going to visit. Continue reading
On June 4th I participated in the internet radio show Askaboutflyfishing.com. Roger Maves and I talked about “Tenkara’s Evolution”. We started with the basics of what tenkara is, then moved on to discuss how it evolved from an activity of commercial anglers to a sport, and finally talked about the endeavor of introducing the method here and creating a small revolution in the world of fly-fishing. We also discussed quite a bit the business of Tenkara USA, how I started it, our marketing strategies and more. Take a listen:
This was the second time I was invited by Roger to talk about tenkara in his podcast / internet radio show. The first time was in July 2012. That show is available at Askaboutflyfishing.com for subscribers.
A few weeks ago I arrived back home from a fishing trip. I got home at night time. As I removed stuff from the back of the car I noticed someone crossing the street in my direction. It was dark and hard to see, but I noticed he was carrying a long item in his hand. It would either be a baseball bat and he was coming to beat me up, or it was a fishing rod case. Luckily when he got near enough for my heart to race I noticed it was a fishing rod case. And, not only that I could see it was a tenkara rod case. Cool.
This was my neighbor, Allen, who a couple of weeks prior had bought a tenkara rod. He then noticed my car with the TENKARA license plates and figured I probably liked tenkara too.
A couple of weeks went by and I finally was able to join him for some tenkara fishing. He drove to the spot before I did and gave tenkara a try on his own for a couple of hours. When I arrived I asked him how he’d done. He didn’t sound too happy about it and said he beginning to wish he’d brought his western setup. I figured I would just have to show him a couple of things and he’d be good. And, indeed that’s what happened.
Another couple of tips:
– Stop the rod tip high to fish with most of the line off the water as you get started, as opposed to laying the line on the water and mend. Or maybe put about 10 inches of the main line in the water to serve as an anchor.
– Make sure your line is tight, if it starts getting too slack or close to you, recast. It is very common for people to want to get the longest drift they can, but if the current is not pulling your line to keep it tight, it will be slack and difficult to cast or set the hook. Work with shorter drifts on more likely spots
– Don’t be afraid to cast. Many people coming from a western fly-fishing background are afraid to backcast and want to do a roll-cast or some type of flick. CAST! Just make sure to stop the backcast at 12 o’clock and don’t wait very long to do the forward cast, the casting stroke is quick and short to avoid getting caught up in trees.
(Daniel): Tenkara USA is entering a new era. From the beginning I feel the company has followed the intended vision for its timeline. On our first year in business (2009) the important thing was to introduce and prove the concept of tenkara in the USA. Year 2 was focused on getting our business foundations in place and further introducing the idea of tenkara to fly-anglers. The third year was a year of discovering tenkara and really finding out as much about tenkara as possible and sharing that in more depth with those who are interested(that’s the year I spent 2 months in a small mountain village in Japan). Our fourth year was dedicated to start bringing tenkara to the masses. And, as I had predicted year 5 would be the year when we would start focusing more on innovations and new product development, not to clutter the marketplace but with the intention of simplifying it, keeping it authentic and making it more intuitive.
In preparation for year 5, I have been looking for a product designer that would be the ideal fit for our company.
This morning someone at the Tenkara Anglers Facebook Group suggested that Jason Klass of Tenkaratalk.com and I do a podcast together. Brilliant idea. Everytime I talk to Jason on the phone we have great conversations about tenkara; why not do the same but record it? So, less than 24 hours later, we give you the first Tenkara USA – Tenkara Talk podcast.
As a good follow up to the post I wrote yesterday, the Denver Post is featuring a story on tenkara in today’s paper. It is a well-written piece by Scott Willoughby. Check it out: http://www.denverpost.com/outdoors/ci_22576834/simplicity-is-sacred-japanese-tenkara-technique-fly-fishing
Daniel Galhardo: John, most people we are familiar within the small world of tenkara are those who regularly participate on online forums, write blogs about tenkara, or are engaged in social networking within the community. You are a reminder that the tenkara community expands well beyond the realm of online activity. You have been very engaged with the tenkara community in many levels, attending the first Tenkara Summit, participating in some video productions (not yet released) and more, but most people don’t know you yet. Tell us a bit about yourself.
John Geer: I grew up in southern Illinois. My father and grandfather were coal miners, so I did a lot of fishing on strip pit lakes, and also a lot on area farm ponds. My family would take vacations to Missouri, where my father is originally from and my parents live now, and fish Missouri’s trout parks, which are mostly small spring creeks managed as put and take fisheries. That’s where I caught my first fish and my first trout on spinning gear when I was about three or four years old. We were really more bass people back then and took more of our later vacations to some of the large warm water reservoirs in the Ozarks, like Table Rock and Bull Shoals. Somewhere in there my grandparents started spending thier summers in Idaho near Yellowstone and I got my first taste of western (states) fly fishing.
I’ve moved around a bit since high school, and have lived in Virginia, Colorado, Missouri, and now Montana. It makes ten years here this October. I fish around the Yellowstone region, mostly in southwest Montana, but also in YNP and a little in Idaho on the Henry’s Fork. For the last five years (six summer seasons) I’ve worked for Toby Swank at Fins & Feathers Fly Shop in Bozeman. I’ve been really lucky with who I’ve worked for and with, in fly fishing industry. It’s been a lot of fun and it’s all led me to the point I’m at now, which I’m very happy about. Continue reading
A few months ago I wrote about the visit of Mr. Endo, editor of the Japanese “Fishing Cafe” magazine. I finally got to browse its pages. This issue is primarily dedicated to tenkara, with the profiles of some of the main personalities in the sport (including yours truly). For the last couple of years more and more fishing magazines have been dedicating issues to tenkara, an affirmation of the growing popularity of the method in Japan (by the way, Fishing Cafe is a magazine owned by Shimano). I love the layout of their magazine, with vivid images and text over images.
The cover features an illustration by Mr. Yoshikazu Fujioka, who is also featured in the magazine. Others featured are Mr. Sebata and Dr. Ishigaki.
I will write more about my experiences in the last couple of days after today’s fishing. No gnarly dishes this time, but a cool and new-to-me fishing method shown by the local kids, and some plain fun.
Below are some of the images I just took of the magazine with my phone (this post is being written on my phone as I wait to depart for today’s adventure).
Written by Daniel
In case you have sometime, I recently participated in a couple of great podcasts that you may want to checkout.
A few weeks ago I went to Vermont and recorded a live podcast with Tom Rosenbauer of Orvis. You may have seen the news that they are now carrying our gear and have also gotten into tenkara. You can listen to the recording here (or get it on iTunes). The recording with me starts at approximately 20 minutes into the podcast.
The second recording I did was with D. Roger Maves of the internet radio program Askaboutflyfishing.com. This was a show where listeners submitted questions and I answered them as best as I could. It was recorded last Wednesday and it was very interesting to see questions rolling in non-stop throughout the show. You may listen to the show with Roger here.
Both are excellent programs and really well done. I hope you get a chance to listen to at least one of them – and I would never expect you to listen to two shows with the same person on the same topic, I probably wouldn’t. Thank you.
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.