Tenkara & Project Healing Waters

On August 14, 2012
Comments (9)

written by Jason
Project Healing Waters Orientation

Before fishing, a little roll call

This weekend, I was invited to give a tenkara demo to a group of soldiers from Project Healing Waters.  If you’re not familiar with the program, it’s mission is to provide a form of therapy for disabled veterans and active military personel through teaching fly fishing and holding ongoing outings, events, and education.  I not only thought the concept was great, but that tenkara was a perfect fit so, naturally, I was enthusiastic to participate.

Large rainbow on tenkara

Nice rainbow caught on a Tenkara USA Ito rod & sakasa kebari

This particular event was held at Red Draw Ranch, just outside of Edwards, Colorado.  The venue has two small ponds with Rainbow trout.  I was a little reluctant to teach the soldiers tenkara on such small stillwaters (especially with the number of people we had) but it all worked out in the end.

There were several other guides from Orvis and various other local fly shops who also volunteered to help out.  It was funny because most of the guides seemed to have absolutely no interest in tenkara.  A couple were curious and asked me some questions.  And one really got into it.  He spent a fair amount of time casting my Ayu, asked a lot of questions, and pretty much decided he was going to get a tenkara rod.  I think he just “got it”.  And as a former guide who wished he knew about tenkara back then, it wouldn’t surprise me if a good deal of his interest came from the idea that it would be much easier to get his clients into fish with tenkara rather than a Western rig.

Western Guide using a tenkara rod

Western guide using my Ayu. I think he’s hooked!

The diminutive ponds definitely didn’t reflect the size of the fish they held.  The smallest fish I saw caught that day was maybe 18″ and I’m pretty sure at least a couple of guys landed fish over 23″.  Here’s a quick video of a nice rainbow being landed on my Tenkara USA Ito–confirming it as a rod that is able of handling decent sized fish (remember, this guy is a beginner):


I had two rods rigged up:  an Ayu with a 13 ft. furled line and an Ito with an 18 ft. level line. In general, it seemed that everyone preferred the Ito with the level line.

Tenkara Rods


I was stationed on the lower pond and had people who were interested in tenkara rotate through all morning.  Some weren’t interested but those who were immediately saw the benefit.


Tenkara fishing with veterans

Tenkara fishing on the lower pond


The upper pond


I was happy to meet some of the people behind the project such as Mark Heminghous and Mike Oros who I had been in contact with a lot prior to this event.  We’re currently talking about how we can incorporate tenkara into future Project Healing Waters outings as soon as September.

Jason Klass & Mark Heminghous at the Red Draw Ranch

Jason Klass & Mark Heminghous at the Red Draw Ranch


One of the coordinators of the outing commented that they like to treat the soldiers as “rockstars”.  And from what I witnessed, that was certainly the case.  After a morning of spectacular fishing, they treated everyone to a great barbecue for lunch.  All politics aside, these guys have been through hell and back and they’re people.  I think they deserve a little pampering and was very impressed with the lengths the project is willing to go through to give a little something back.

Project Healing Waters BBQ

Project Healing Waters BBQ


Nice fish on a Tenkara USA Ito

Nice fish on a Tenkara USA Ito


Overall, it was a good day.  If I just got one guy with PTSD or some other trauma to take a break and enjoy life for a few minutes, it was worth it.  Judging by the smiles on their faces, I think it did.  And tenkara really helped.  I want to do more of this and I encourage all of my fellow tenkara colleagues to reach out and do the same–not just for vets, but for anyone who can benefit from the fun and ease of tenkara.

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9 Responses to Tenkara & Project Healing Waters

  1. Anthony says:

    Thanks for sharing Jason – that’s great. I hope you were able to pass on on the joy of tenkara to some folks that can really benefit from it.

  2. […] questions, and pretty much decided he was going to get a tenkara rod. … Follow this link: Tenkara & Project Healing Waters – Tenkara USA ← Strong Knot | Fly Fishing Knots Echo3 7130 Spey Rod | Why We Like It […]

  3. Zack says:

    Kudos for supporting the troops!!
    Any insight on why they were preferring the Ito? Rod action, or leader?

    • Hi Zack. Part of it was rod action but mostly I think it was the fact that I had a longer 20 ft. level line on it. For the guys who already had a little fly fishing experience I think the extra weight made it easier for them to feel the rod load and unload so they were able to figure out the timing more easily.

  4. Thanks for sharing! What a great program. How nice to be able to give back with sharing tenkara.

  5. Jason, loved your latest blog!
    But, to quote one of the greatest villians of all time…”Why so serious?!” Look at your pic # 8, Mark is smilin but you?, again:why so serious?! Even your blog intro. pic is serious, I really enjoy your blogs but, SMILE man, this is FUN stuff!!!!

    • Hi Tim, thanks. It is fun stuff but my teeth are kind of messed up so I’m a little self conscious about smiling in pictures. I know I look a little stoic but I was definitely happy to be there! I just prefer to express my enthusiasm via social media posts rather than dental catastrophes. Ironic emoticon: :)

  6. A BIG HOO AHH to you Jason!
    That’s Army talk for Great Job!

  7. Jason, thanks for being so upfront about teeth, my aplogies my friend! I to am in the same boat as you, kids and wife first, no $ left for me and my teeth, and WAY TO EXPENSIVE!!!

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