In this episode, Daniel discusses his philosophy on rod development and the struggle that comes in trying to find the balance between the pull of simplicity and the push for innovation in terms of new tenkara rod releases.
Music used in this episode:
Light the Flame, by Takenobu
I think this would be frustrating issue for you. I tend to lean on only making new rods when its needed. Right now its not needed, your stuff is the best. What if, instead of releasing totally new rods you added some brighter color schemes to the rods you already have. It seems like fly fisherman these days are loving brighter colors on their rods. I personally like the colors you have but this way your not always rethinking a new rod and you could do some cool colors from time to time (special editions) just to keep the dealers, fisherman and trade shows with “new” but the same rods. Sometimes color options is all people and social media need to keep things alive. I would also love to see a couple of specific TenkaraUSA outerwear pieces. Maybe a vest, lightweight waterproof jacket or wet wading gear. Just ideas…
Hey Dave, great suggestions. I have been noticing that recently.
By all means, stay the course and stick with your philosophy of simplicity. New rods are not needed every year, unless they address a specific need.
You could, however, introduce new accessories that meet needs. The “Keeper”, for example, isn’t completely necessary, but it’s excellent design has made my experience far more enjoyable.
More content, too, is helpful. Have you considered “live” content beyond trade shows and the conference? Perhaps Tenkara schools or courses would be valuable.
Keep up the good work and keep it simple. We appreciate it.
Hey Kevin, I have been thinking a bit more about the community events I have done in the past and was thinking of doing more of that this year. Glad you enjoy the Keeper! Thanks for the comment.
Wow Daniel! Really excellent episode! I appreciate how honest and vulnerable you allow yourself to be here.
I love your philosophy of simplicity in life, generally, and in fishing, specifically. I have applied the philosophy of “tenkara” to many areas of my life and have found that I enjoy life more, as a result. In addition I have never enjoyed fishing as much as I do since finding my own personal “tenkara.”
I normally would not venture to give unsolicited business advice to anyone. I know how incredibly irritating it can be for every person you meet to tell you how to make your business better. However, since you asked for insight, I feel comfortable offering a few thoughts. I own(ed) several business and have done some product development in the past–I have not been responsible for sparking a global movement, as you have, so I realize I am not your peer in that respect. I have an undergraduate business degree and a law degree emphasizing business. I only tell you this to help you understand my perspective.
The first thing I appreciate about this episode is that you are being true to your philosophy of simplicity and have only added a rod to your lineup if it was substantially different. The rods you offer are simple, high quality, no frills, fish catching machines. I have to confess that I own rods from several companies. The Sato if really the only rod that I need. It is superb quality and can be adapted to every river and stream I fish. However, the Sato is not the only rod that I want. Accordingly, I have purchased other rods, which I like to use occasionally even though they offer nothing better or new. I tell you this so you understand the mentality of your customers. To be honest, most of us who converted from western fly fishing to tenkara are still infected with the bug to buy more, “different” products and if you don’t offer them other companies will (and do).
By not offering customers more selection, I have concerns, as it appears you do, that you are giving way too much market share to some of the companies who are offering flashier, more “innovative” products.
I know you are being true to the core principles of Japanese tenakara, which I personally appreciate. However, I have some doubt concerning whether the philosophy can sustain a business in a competitive, specialized market like American tenkara. You have a stronghold on the market and I assume own most of the market share. People trust YOU and your brand, so it shouldn’t be hard to keep your share if you listen to your customers and give them what they want (even if it is not what you personally want or need). There appears to be a call for “American tenkara” afoot. People like the concept of simplicity, but not to the extreme of Japanese tenkara’s one rod, one line, one fly philosophy.
One last thought. Your rods are superb quality. My brother, who I introduced to tankara, has a number of tenkara rods, none of which are TenkaraUSA rods. When he first used my Sato, he was amazed at how comfortable, light, and easy it was to use. He had no idea there was such a difference between the tenkara rod companies’ offerings. When shopping for a rod he saw a bunch of rods that looked the same (black with a little red or green or blue) and appeared to do the same thing (according to the companies’ claims), so he went with the cheapest of these apparently similar rods ($80) and liked it until he tried the Sato. His thought was that he could have three rods for the price of one, which makes financial sense, all things being equal. \
I tell you this because your rods carry a premium price tag (as far as American tenkara rods go), which I feel is fully justified. However, I’m not sure TenkaraUSA has fully marketed the high quality and substantial differences between their rods and the cheaper rods offered by competitors. Your rods are substantially different and your potential customers need to know that. You are doing an unbelievable job promoting tenkara, but many potential customers are enjoying your podcasts and videos for free, are getting on board with the philosophy of tenkara thanks to you, and then go elsewhere to purchase cheaper, lower quality gear without knowing what they are missing.
I hope you are not offended by anything I have said here. I love TenkaraUSA and am a huge proponent of your products. These are just a few thoughts I have had on my journey into the world of tenkara and in watching many of my friends and family follow me in converting from western fly fishing to tenkara.
Best of luck. I look forward to your next podcast/video.
th the bug to buy more, different products.
P.S. Sorry about the length of this post. It got longer than I planned.
Hey Kade, really appreciate your comment in all its length. Awesome insights here and I enjoyed reading it. Some very good stuff to think about! Thank you very much for taking the time to share!
I thinks that you’re on a good way keeping your product and selection simple. It’s much easier to trust a brand that can keep the same products for years. For shure, there is easy money to make releasing new products twice a year but how can we trust poducts that become obsolet 6 month after there purchase. It’s also an ecocompatible way to buisness. Actualy all the gear you find seems to be created to work less than 2 years.
I asume having purchased 4 differents rods but each have it own reason, bringing friends or my sons fishing, having a rod in backup. owning the ito rod for big rivers and having the sato to goes fishing that small stream under that messy canopy And even trying carpe fishing with the yamame. But yet its ok for me.
Like Kevin says it’s rater a question of making the brand living trough accessories, activities and why not the release of a special product if the need seams to grow.
Keep it simple but efficient. We appriciate you’re high valuable custumer service. It’s too rare these days to find a new compagny that assume a good service like and old and venerable brand as Frost River or Old town.
After 33 years of fishing I do rediscover the joy to learn to Fish with Tenkara.
Best regard from Switzerland
Fabrice, awesome feedback. I like the mention of eco benefits from not having a bunch of rods of obsolete models and making what we need to make.
Thanks for saying hi and sharing your thoughts. Really appreciate that.
I’m glad to understand more of your philosophy on the company rod line up. I purposefully keep my quiver small, if I want a new rod, I have to get rid of one, I keep my quiver at 8, I only need three (Ito, Sato and Rhodo) to go anywhere I choose and be ready.
You, your company is what made Tenkara so interesting to me. Once you introduced it, I researched more and more. I realized many things but you remain true to the old soul of Japanese mountain stream fishing.
I appreciate that.
As I move forward into the future with Tenkara, I look forward to the information stream that Tenkara USA provides. It makes sense, just as your rod philosophy does here at this podcast.
Do what you do, you do it well.
Take care and have a great new fishing season.
Adam, we should talk about that for the podcast too!
I just found your podcast on iTunes and plan to order an Amago in a few weeks. Since I haven’t even seen, or used, a TenkaraUSA rod I’m coming at this as a total Tenkara newbie…..but I have a few years as a “western” fly fisherman.
That being said, I have a few suggestions that might help:
1). After listening to the interview with Allison Marriott, is there a market for a Tenkara rod designed specifically for women? Maybe a more slender handle? Or a rod in a soft purple hue?
2). How about a kid size rod with a slightly lower price point? Seems like most of us start fishing when we’re 5 or 6 years old, and a lot shorter in stature and muscle development. I’m not sure that I could have even handled a 9′ rod by the time I was 10. Maybe combine the shorter rods with a basic stater kit to get the kids going in the right direction.
3). Besides “the keeper” are there any small fly boxes that could be marketed?
4). I plan to get an Amago because you mentioned in one podcast that it was recommended for larger trout….up to 20 inches or so. Fly fishing for pike and musky seems to really be taking off in the northern US and Canada. Maybe consider a longer, stiffer rod to offer in this niche market. This would also give an avenue for an even larger fly size and maybe more color schemes.
Hope this helps!
Hey Daniel, glad you found us. Thanks very much for taking the time to comment with suggestions!