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.
Run, Fish, Beer! That’s the tagline for the Flyathlon, an event that brings together people to run a race, catch a fish, and at the end of the day enjoy a cold beer…all the while raising money to protect native trout. On August 11, 2018, 60 participants ran the race in a remote location and caught brook trout as well as the native cutthroat of the area. Several of them used tenkara in their race. And, overall, that event raised over $22,000 for native trout conservation efforts too! Talk about a triathlon!
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 testing out a new platform to continue “sharing the tenkara story”. A friend of mind recently turned me on to Storehouse. Here’s a short photo story with Mr. Yuzo Sebata. What do you think?
Direct link to Tenkara story on Storehouse
Sorry I have been very absent from posting recently. Right now I’m in the middle of a very large writing project that is consuming a lot of my time and just about all of my brain power. The business is keeping me very busy when not writing. And, when I can, I have been fishing to support the large writing project and future blog posts. But, those are just excuses! I thought you’d enjoy a few images we captured recently. Some tenkara inspiration in case you can’t go fishing right now. I have been active on our Instagram page, so please follow that if you don’t yet. More blog posts to come in the future, I promise.
A large brown trout is released in healthy condition. Image by Doug Heggart.
A double tenkara hookup in Wyoming.
A rainbow kisses the water
“Elegance is achieved when, having discarded all superfluous things, we discover simplicity and concentration. The simpler the pose, the better; the more sober, the more beautiful.” Paulo Coelho.
Long exposure to fishing is good for the soul
a rainbow tail
fishing among araucaria trees in Argentina
a great fighter caught on the North Platte in Wyoming
My neighbor and tenkara guide Allen Seagraves just came over to show me a fish he had just caught out of Boulder Creek. I figure this should definitely get you pumped for the Tenkara Summit happening this weekend. Allen is one of the tenkara guides in the Tenkara Guide Network, and if you’re wondering, he’s still available on Friday. He was using the Sato, which has been sold out for over a month but is coming back into our stock this week, as well as a tenkara fly.
While on Saturday the event mostly consists of presentations and demos, Sunday is a free and not organized fishing day. We will be encouraging everyone present to fish up and down Boulder Canyon, and throughout the day a group of experienced tenkara anglers will join you in different parts of the creek to help with any questions you may have. This will be a great weekend.
Was out filming with a TV crew this morning. We had a 6am start, yikes (contrary to popular belief, not all fishermen like starting that early). Caught plenty of fish today, but couldn’t take picture since we were in the middle of filming again. But as I brought this fish in I couldn’t resist but to pull out my cell phone. The film crew wasn’t particularly appreciative of me stopping to take photos, but I believe you will understand why I had to do it. This is an amago, a Japanese trout, one of the prettiest I have caught I’d say.
I’m currently on my 6th annual pilgrimage to Japan. My schedule this time is way busier than I have ever had it when visiting. There are many people I wish I could see but won’t be able to this time. Right now we are in the middle of filming for a Japanese TV show. It has been very difficult as the area we are visiting now, Kaida Kogen, is experiencing a lot of rain. We had to wait it out for most of the day today. Finally the weather have us a break and as the film crew got ready I caught a couple of fish that I was able to photograph. To my luck they were Iwana but of two different kinds: Yamato Iwana and Nikko Iwana. Wanna guess which one is which? I will post the answer here in a day.
Top one with whitish spots is the Nikko Iwana, bottom is Yamato Iwana, though David’s comments and links are definitely worth a read!
This is a picture of the Japanese trout called “Amago”. Our friends John Pearson and Paul Gaskell of Discover Tenkara, just returned from their trip to Japan where they went to spend time with our teacher Dr. Ishigaki and other well-known tenkara anglers. They captured some beautiful images of the Japanese trout. We’ll share them with you here and I’m sure you’ll see them in their blog pretty soon too.
We don’t always share news about some of the larger fish people catch with tenkara. After all we are some of the first to admit tenkara is not designed for targeting large fish. But, hey, we won’t stop anyone from doing it.
Here is a superb pike caught by Shaun Lezotte on the Tenkara USA Ito rod. Shaun is a guide at our dealer Dakota Anglers and Outfitters in South Dakota. And, no, he didn’t throw his rod in the water!
When I caught this trout three years ago I was ecstatic. It was my first visit to Colorado. I had heard they had a very exquisite trout that was native to the state and could only be found on a few streams and lakes here. It was the greenback cutthroat. So I went looking for them. I found a stream that was known to have them and must have caught 20+ “greenbacks”. It felt good to know there was a thriving population of those fish. They were gorgeous; and, to me they served as a physical reminder of one reason Tenkara USA exists, which is to help care for environments where trout are found.
Lo and behold it turned out these were not actually greenback cutthroat as I and everyone else thought at the time. Through recent genetic testing it was discovered that the trout I caught on that trip were actually West Slope Cutthroats, a fish that, to the naked eye is actually identical to the greenbacks (which is why it took so long to discover this).
The fact they were not greenbacks did not diminish my memories nor the beauty of these fish. But, what I later discovered alarmed me a bit: there are only about 750 pure greenback cutthroat left in the world! And, they can only be found on Bear Creek, which has been called a “pity of a stream” due to the real threats it faces with erosion-prone soil, poor trails, and real human threats.
I would like to ask you for your help in protecting these 750 fish left in the wild. An Indiegogo campaign was just launched with the aim of raising money to work directly on protecting these fish. Tenkara USA has taken particular interest in this cause because it is a fish native to our new home of Colorado, but this should not mean that if you don’t live in Colorado you shouldn’t help. This project is being undertaken by a Trout Unlimited group called The Greenbacks, but I think it serves as a great example of the things that can be accomplished in protecting fish and fish habitat anywhere. It is the type of project that serves to inspire groups in other parts of the country and could be a model to future fish habitat and protection projects.
Please visit the 1of750.com website for more info and check out the Indiegogo campaign to pledge some money. You can get a Tenkara USA set (I’ll be changing my donation from the Iwana that is advertised to any Tenkara USA rod, including a new one that will be released soon); a Vedavoo pack with the Greenback patch, or a trip with me.