Kauai Trout

The Hawaiian islands are a great destination for adventure! You can do anything from a lazy day at a pristine beach to a crazy night in a busy international city. I’ve had the wonderful opportunity to have visited the islands many times over my lifetime. I lived there for three years and created many adventures on land, sea and in the air but I’ll keep this on the ground, toned down and target just one single fishing opportunity.

Mountain stream trout fishing in the headwaters of Waimea Canyon

For those of you that have not been to Hawaii, I will review the islands and give a little history of the trout there and what to expect.

The research for this adventure and my story was created using the tools of a modern traveling trout fisherman, the Internet, local knowledge, guide books and satellite mapping. I wrote the research and preparation on my iPad before the trip and kept a written diary during my experience and edited the story in the evenings after it happened.

The Hawaiian islands were originally inhabited by Polynesian sailors and voyagers in 300 to 800 A.D. the islands were later visited by the British explorer Capt. James Cook in 1778. In 1893, a group of American sugar cane planters overthrew the ruling Hawaiian monarchy. Soon after, the US marines came to protect the plantations from retaliation. The Hawaiian Islands became the 50th state in the United States of America in 1959.

The state of Hawaii is comprised of 8 islands that make up the group collectively known as Hawaii. There is the big island of Hawaii which is aptly named because of its size, Maui, O’ahu, which is where the famous North Shore of surfing is and Honolulu on the South shore which is the capital of Hawaii , Kahoolawe, Lanai, Molokai, Kauai and Nihau together make up the state.

The islands of Hawaii are the most remote islands in the world. Located in the middle of the Pacific Ocean, 2,390 miles from California and 3,850 miles from Japan, the Hawaiian islands are the furthest from any landmass. Consequently, the Hawaiian chain of islands are 1,523 miles long making them the longest chain of islands. Kauai, the subject island of this story is among the rainiest places on the earth with more than 450 inches annually each year for the last 100 years. The highest point is on the big island of Hawaii, Mauna Kea at 13,796’ with the lowest point being at sea level along the coast lines. 

The trout of Hawaii

Trout are not native to Hawaii. They have been introduced. There are trout on at least four of the islands, O’ahu, Maui, Kauai and the big island. The original stocking of the streams in Kauai are well documented and were studied over a hundred years ago. At this time, there are at least three streams on Kauai that contain trout. The trout in these streams are “wild” trout naturally reproducing from the original stocking in 1920. At that time, 50,000 rainbow trout eggs that originated from Montana and Utah arrived in Honolulu harbor on a ship that carried them from California. The eggs were then transported to Kauai were they were taken to a hatchery to hatch the trout fry for introduction into the headwater streams of Waimea Canyon.

There is a commercial rainbow trout farm on Maui and a fisheries hatchery on Oahu that serves for stocking Hawaii’s public fishing lakes. I have heard from local fly fishers that there is a wild trout stream on the big island that takes a couple of hours hike to get to. Perhaps a target for later trips but for now, we will stay on track with the wild trout on Kauai.

This trip was a year in the making and I have had help from fishermen that wrote about their experiences in Kauai online. Three had been there and have caught wild trout. One of those people have been instrumental in the logistics of my trip and the other two have simply helped with their experience. Another angler passed on maps and notes about hiking in the area. If you are serious about catching the wild trout in Kauai, you will run upon at least a couple of people who have previously written about their own adventures. Out of the few angler/authors that I contacted, most have been enthusiastic about sharing their knowledge. I will join them and add to the knowledge base however, you will have to put the pieces together to build your own picture of adventure.

Tenkara fishing

As with all of my travel, I put together a minimal pack list for fishing the mountain streams. I am a tenkara fisher that enjoys the effective minimalism in tenkara. The equipment of this simple method of Japanese fly fishing can be succinctly described as “rod, line and fly.” Japanese tenkara is a form of fixed line mountain stream fishing for trout and what I’ll be doing in Kauai fits the description perfectly. I have quite a bit of travel experience using a tenkara fishing kit that is easy to pack inside of a small backpack. The rod is telescoping and the line is fixed to the end of the rod and it is lightweight yet easy to pin point cast. Tenkara is perfect for travel and I have pared down my kit from experience and use a tiny fishing bag that holds a little fly box, three card spools of different lines and a nipper as well as a Derf needle driver (forcep) for removing deeply swallowed flys.

The logistics of my equipment and travel to Kauai

My flight is direct into Lihue from Phoenix and I will be renting a economy car to get to the area where there is trout. I found a beach hostel in Lihue for about $30 per night. I only need a shower and facilities in the morning before I drive to fishing and back in the evening to clean up so this cheap and efficient alternative was a welcome find.

My fishing trip is before our family vacation so I have two full days to drive the hour and a half to the trail head and hike a couple of miles to get to my target. Having spent lots of time in the jungles of the islands, I know what to expect. I create a pack list and follow it closely. I will be catching up with my family on the big island after the Kauai leg of my vacation so there is more to my pack list than pure mountain stream fishing.

The freshwater fishing regulations for Kauai require a license. This can be purchased online and if you are camping in the area at one of the few remote campsites, you will need a permit. I could have just camped but the logistics of my vacation did not support taking my camping kit. The cheap economy rental car will get me close enough to the streams and I can park and hike the rest of the way. If I am successful in catching the trout on day one, I can use day two for exploring the island. I’m equipped for hiking and snorkeling too and there is a lot to do in Kauai.

I enjoy the “plan your work and work your plan” method for my adventures. This helps me stay focused on my goal with room to make dynamic decisions based on the conditions of travel. The target area is rainy so I chose a lightweight rain jacket and a rain skirt for my kit. I also use a compact daypack and keep my things in a dry bag. The area of trout is epic for hiking and photography so it is my intent to catch a few trout in a couple of the streams and move on. I want to sample fishing in the streams, enjoy Kauai, and move on to the family portion of our vacation.

The trip

I flew straight into Lihue. Its a six hour direct flight from Phoenix. I arrived at the airport, shuttled to the rental car, found the hostel and then a place to get a refreshment. There is a Kauai location of my favorite restaurant close by, I’m having a drink in paradise before I turn in. I’ve gone from extremely hot and dry climate to nice and misty rain, it’s time to relax and unwind, I’m on vacation and it’s just getting started.

I set the alarm early, 5a. Sunrise is 6 and it took about an hour and a half to get to the area up the canyon. I stopped at a lookout for a photo and finished out the drive. It was clear, sun out and clouds in the canyons on the lee sides. My notes were impeccable but I still made a major mistake. The TOPO did not distinguish a power line trail from a road and ten minutes into my 2+ mile hike and I’m in dense jungle and soaked from mist and dew. Mother Hawaii is making me work for it. I persevered and drop into the dirt and mud road that I was supposed to be driving on.

Nothing was going to stop me (except me)

I had my GPS on the phone and it took me an hour plus to get to my destination. The pack comes off, I rig and rest. The stream is choked with a thorn berry plant, sticky sharp wiry vine type tanglefoot and slick mud slopes, volcanic rocks here and there but I can see the trout in the coffee colored stained water. I thread a cast and drift a half second and STRIKE! On my first cast! But I miss him, and several others. I know I’m going to catch fish but when? I try to move along the stream but I’m tired and tense. I finally catch one, then two, falling into the rhythm of a tenkara angler.. I catch about a half dozen trout in this section.

It is pretty straight forward catching trout in Kauai. The guidance is there, clues here and there but you won’t get the cake from me.

You have to cook it up yourself from your own recipe. The people that helped me will help you just like I am helping you here.

I’m back on the beach now, finally on vacation. Research, make a plan and execute it. See what you have but be careful, you could make a huge problem for yourself just bushwhacking in the jungle. Make sure you know what you are doing and more importantly, draw limits for yourself and stay within them.

List of useful links

Good luck and mahalo.


My Kauai Trout pack list

Travel Documents

Flight reservation info (to Lihue)
Rental car reservation info (Lihue)
Beach hostel reservation info
Fishing license (printed)
Camping permit (printed)


Pack List

Travel Duffle/Pack
Sling Bag
Stuffable backpack
20L stuff sack
Travel pillow
Travel blanket
Aloha Shirt x 1
Rain Skirt
Hoody Rashguard
Travel pants x 1
LS t-shirts x 3 (camouflage - raglan)
Track pants x 1
Lounge shorts
Shorts x 2
Surf trunks x 2
Travel underwear x 4
Hiking boots & socks
Flip flops
Sleeping Mask

Bathroom kit

iPhone + case, charger/cord
MacBook + charger/cord
iPad + case, pencil, charger/cord
Nikon waterproof camera kit


Tenkara list

Micro Pack
lines x 3 ea
5x tippet

Fishing license

Stuffable backpack
13L Dry Bag

Genryu Fishing of Japan #40

Photo by Uberto Calligarich
Ezoharu Zemi

by Keiichi Okushi

Ezoharu Zemi is a small cicada with a male body length of about 3 cm. In our main genryu fishing field Tohoku region, they occur in the broadleaf forest such as beech from late May to July. In Japanese, Ezo means Hokkaido and Haru means spring, so the meaning of the name of Ezoharu-zemi is “a cicada telling the spring to the north country”. What a fascinating name it is. The Ezoharu-zemi’s echoing in the forest tells us the arrival of a full-fledged genryu fishing season. In such a season early June we go on the first genryu fishing trip of the year.

This year, we went on a genryu trip to North-Tohoku, Iwate, on a group of 6 people. Our normal size of the group for a genryu fishing trip is 3 or 4 people, but this time we had 3 new friends joining in the group. One guy was Go Ishii (Go-chan). I met him about 2 years ago on a short genryu trip that we went with 2 American friends. We often saw from that trip and Go-chan wanted to join our genryu trip. Another guy was Uberto (Ubi-chan). He is an Italian who lives in Osaka. I got to know him when he came to the event with Yuzo Sebata last year. Last guy was Matsuzawa-san. He is a friend of Tsurumi-san (Tsuru-chan, my best genryu friend) from the school days.

At 21:00 on Thursday, we gathered at Shin-shirakawa station in Fukushima where we always meet and parked some cars at near -by parking, then we headed to north on Tohoku motorway to Iwate. We got off the motorway around mid-night and drove general road for about 30 minutes, then drove into a dirt forest road. In about 15 minutes we arrived at the end of the forest road. There was no car parked before us, and we felt a luck. The first day was rainy weather forecast until around noon, but fortunately it was not raining. We laid a blue-sheet and made a toast with beer celebrating a safe arrival into the mountain. Then we drunk about 1 hour while talking about each other 's current situation, and we had a nap for 2-3 hours until the morning.

In the morning, I woke up with the sound of rain that beat the roof of the car. It became steadily rain when it became bright. Okay, departure was unfortunately in the rain. We wore rain jackets and quickly packed the baggage. The departure was 6 o'clock, rain was strong, but today's over mountain course time is about three and a half hours. As we planned to pick up bamboo shoots and wild vegetables on the way, so I estimated that we would arrive at the tenba (campsite) in around 4 hours.

Ten minutes after we started walking out, the mountain climbing trail became very steep. Matsuzawa-san and Go-chan seemed to suffer for climbing over the mountain as it was their first time. Ubi-chan carried 20 kg of luggage, but he continued to climb further with young Italian power. I also became feeling little sick because of lack of sleep and chilling due to rain. I climbed a steep climb in about 20 minutes with slower pace than usual. Then there was a huge snow bridge laying over the route. This year the snow bridge looked much bigger than usual year. I thought there should be more and bigger snow bridges in genryu area.

We had a rest after climbed over the snow bridge, but there was bit windy and rain was still strong. We thought we should not stay there for a long time because We worried about getting cold out of our body. So we continue walking through the pass and arrived at nemagaritake-bush where we planned to harvest nemagaritake(bamboo shoots). We decided on 15 minutes harvest time, and we were divided apart. There seemed to be few people who came here for bamboo shoots this year, and enough amount of bamboo shoots could be harvested in 15 minutes.

Soon after we arrived at the peak of the mountain after harvesting nemagaritake, but all the wonderful scenery was in the fog. Well, raining started to fall little by little when we started going down to the target river. By that time, our body got used to walking and earned a good distance. When we went down the mountain path, we arrived at the first small stream. From there to the mainstream we walked while harvesting wild vegetables such as koshiabura, Taranome and udo. Trails had no footsteps of predecessors, probably we thought we were the first anglers this year and fishing would be great.

We arrived at the tenba (camp-site) around 10 o'clock. It was a wide, flat 5-star tenba on a river terrace that we could overlook the river. I felt happy thinking that we could enjoy a good camping and good fishing for two days. Tsuru-chan and Ubi-chan set up the rope for tarps quickly. Then everyone worked keenly to set two tarps and spread blue sheets under the tarp, we got a completion of a comfortable river house. I took off my wet clothes and put dry clothes on. My body got warmed and I finally got comfortable. We had light lunch before the noon, and as it was still raining a little, I took a nap under the tarp. It was the time of bliss.

The rain stopped before 14:00 and the little muddy flow in front of the camp site became clear little by little. When a quick minded Hama-chan and Ubi-chan started casting a rod alternately in front of tenba, Hama-chan caught a good Iwana of about 27cm in a while. The weather forecast said it would sunny forecast for next 2 days. Our main fishing day would be 2nd day. We planned to fish and wade the mainstream altogether up to one big tributary and split into 2 groups from there.

Early in the evening we made a bonfire and started drinking while preparing dinner. The menu of the day was Hama-chan’s Tempura of wild vegetables, Go-chan's Grilled hormone and Tsuru-chan’s pork miso soup. The bamboo shoots burned with bonfire was also excellent appetizer. Our cold bodies were warmed up from the core with grand bonfire and hot pork miso soup. We enjoyed drinking until 9 o'clock and slept in sleeping bags. When I awoke in the midnight, I saw a bright big moon from among the trees. I fell asleep again praying for nice weather for the next day.

I woke up after 6:00 in the morning. The sun was already rising, and a wonderful blue sky was spreading. Some of the members were already awake and a bonfire was buring to prepare breakfast. Ubi-chan made pastas of tomato sauce. This was the best pasta we ever ate in genryu. It was very cold when I touched the river water to wash the dishes. So I felt that it was better to start fishing after the sun would be high in the sky.

Photo by Uberto Calligarich
Hama-chan had a rod and headed upstream at 7:30. At 8:15 the sun has risen high in the sky, and Ezoharu-zemi started shrilling in the forest. Temperatures also got higher, we got ready and walked upstream at around 8:30. Hama-chan was fishing slowly waiting for us, so we caught up with Hama-chan in about ten minutes. Because the water temperature is still low, the activity of the fish was not high, but Hama-chan, Tsuru-chan and Ubi-chan fished nice size Iwana.

We reached the main part of mainstream around 10:30. The temperature has risen high and the activity of the fish also got higher at once. The stream started to have some run-off, but it was not the level to affect fishing. We fished Iwana fairly and reached the confluence point with the tributary around noon. We had lunch by the river. Then the sunlight was already very hot.

We had been divided apart after the lunch. Go-chan returned to tenba. Hama-chan, Ubi-chan and Matsuzawa-san went into the tributary. Tsuru-chan and I headed to upper part of main stream. Fishing was just great after that too, but We were blocked our way by the snow bridge to clog the valley. We checked the climbing route, but it was not easy. Time was also getting tight, so we decided to finish fishing and went back to down-stream. Collecting Nemagaritake on a way back, we arrived at tenba at 15:00. Go-chan was gathering firewood. Hama-chan group returned about 1 hour later. They said they had excellent fishing in the tributary too. “I have been fishing a lot since I came to Japan, but today’s fishing was just like another world. So great. I have never had fishing like today.” Ubi-chan said smiling. 

Photo by Uberto Calligarich
It was fine weather on that day, so we made a bonfire just beside the river and began preparing dinner. The menu of the day was my miso-soup of bamboo shoots, Ubi-chan’s spaghetti Ario Orio Peperoncino Anchovy, Hama-chan's Iwana with marinated kelp, yesterday's remaining hormone grill. Then we grilled 6 Iwana for the souvenirs for Tsuru-chan and Ubi-chan. We call this unseasoned grill way “Shirayaki”. We make Shirayaki when we would like to keep Iwana for several days. Knack of Grilling Shirayaki Iwana is to grill slowly over long hours with a far-fire. On the second night in the genryu everyone got back physical strength and had the best time. We talked about fishing, about mountains, about memories of a young age. Many topics came out from one to the next, a party with laughter continued late into the night.

Photo by Uberto Calligarich
The morning of the last day also started under fine weather. We enjoyed a slow breakfast surrounding the bonfire. Matsuzawa-san's Harusame-don(Vermicelli rice) with Nemagaritake shoots was so good. We cleaned tenba and the bonfire just like we came before, and we left tenba around 9:00. A long climbing continued to the peak on the return trip, but as our bodies got used to for two days in the mountain we all climbed at a good pace. Early summer sun shined strongly, but hardwood forest blocked the heat. From the peak we were able to fully enjoy the beautiful scenery of the mountains of the Ohu Mountain Ranges.

Photo by Uberto Calligarich
In this fishing trip, we got new genryu friends as Go-chan, Ubi-chan and Matsuzawa-san. Hard climbing over the mountain in the cold rain on the first day, a heavenly fishing under the beautiful blue sky surrounded by green forest, drinking good sake by the bonfire, all things seemed better than usual because we had them. Go-chan and Ubi-chan said they would participate in the fishing trip next month again. Matsuzawa-san promised resumption. Thus, a full-fledged genryu season started up this year. While I was thinking those things, we got close to the Parking place. We were slowly walking down the trail in the forest where Ezoharu-zemi’s shrilling was echoing.

Genryu Fishing of Japan #39

Seasons of Keiryu Fishing

by Keiichi Okushi

Now it is end of March. Opening day of the keiryu fishing season of our areas is around the corner. It depends on the area, keiryu fishing season opens at middle of Feburary or beginning of March in some prefectures, but for us living in eastern Japan, opening day of keiryu fishing is mostly 1st April. We had very cold winter in 2018 and had lots of snow falls in the north and north west coast part of Japan. I just pray for not having snow anymore and warm spring because the overflowing snow slows down the fishing season.

In early April it is time for our area to celebrate the full bloom of cherry blossoms, a symbol of spring in Japan. Cherry blossoms in full bloom dye cities and towns with light pink color, people walk in parks or street lined with cherry trees looking at the cherry blossoms. The cherry blossoms at night, especially the fantastic atmosphere of the lighted up cherry blossoms is also very beautiful. Cherry blossoms bring the spring to towns, but even in low mountain ranges where we go for keiryu fishing, the trees just start to bud, the mountains are still in winter's dress. Needless to say, the deep genryu is still under the deep snow. However, for us who have been away from the mountain stream for half a year, fishing even in the stream in low mountains and casting the rod in the clear flow is a great pleasure. This time of the year, the trees still have no leaves and the entire river is bright and wading through the stream is nice feeling. We get excited looking at the beautiful body of Yamame. It is the time when we feel the joy of coming spring.

In late April the mountains are started to wrap in fresh green at last and the mountain cherries bloom like patchworks on and around the valley. Sometimes the cherry blossom petals fall to the river like snow fall when we wade through the mountain stream. It is a breathtakingly beautiful moment. One day, when I fished one yamame with the beautiful body like that jewel and released her to the river, few cherry blossom petals flew away from somewhere by gentle breeze. I felt the beauty of the spring that is just passing away.

Spring of keiryu as well as the flower of the mountain cherries is over by the beginning of May, then season of early summer comes. There is a consecutive holiday called Golden week in early May in Japan, and a lot of people go out for travel and outdoor activities. This time of the year, the mountains are fully wrapped in light fresh green, and the wisteria flowers bloom all over the valley and amuse anglers' eyes, but full-fledged genryu and high mountains still have snow, and fishing is more difficult due to the influence of run-off. However, it will be possible to enjoy fishing at a region with less snow and genryu in low altitude mountains. We go out to the mountain stream where Iwana can catch from beginning of May. Still we enjoy fishing based on the campsite downstrem of the genryu areas or we just go on a day fishing trip. It is also starting season for sansai picking. We pick many sanaei and taste sansai cuisines at camp. I love the fresh green forest. I feel excited when I think that the season full of life sense will come and we can enjoy genryu fishing in full swing soon.

May is the season for planting rice. In the middle of May, rice planting is done in mountain villages where we drive through on the way to the streams. Once when we were on a way home from fishing in the evening, rice fields were filled with water to plant rice. Then, the rice pads were mirroring the moon and stars of the night sky like a mirror. I stopped the car and just looked over the scenery without words.

Depending on the amount of snowfall in the year, we go to the first genryu fishing camp of the season at the end of May or early June. We climb over the mountain listening to the cry of Ezo-Haru-Cicadas to the genryu. The mountain streams in high mountains still have influences of run-off, so we normally go to the genryu in the mountains of the Pacific Ocean side with relatively low snowfall. At this time, many mountain vegetables and bamboo shoots can be taken in the mountains of the Tohoku region, and we can enjoy these mountain vegetables dishes at camping. Regarding fishing as well, the Iwana, which still have few anglers yet in that season, have low vigilance and shows a very good response to the fly we cast. Sometimes it is impossible to go to very upstream by being blocked by the snow-bridge, but it is a wonderful season that you can enjoy the pleasant fresh green forest, wonderful fishing and delicious wild vegetables.

In June, mountains and forests are completely covered with dark green color. Then the rainy season comes to the Kanto region where we live and to Tohoku region later in 10 days. Since the camping in the genryu struck by rain can not be said to be comfortable, camping fishing in rainy season should be careful of the weather. Rainy season is a hard time for outdoor activities, but on the other hand this rain raises crops and rice.

July still continues to be the season of the rain, but the temperature rises steadily and mid-summer comes. It is a season where you can enjoy a wonderful genryu fishing if the weather is fine. Every year, we go genryu camp fishing trip for 3 days after middle of July when the rainy season ends. In this period, the effects of snow are no longer even in the genryu of fairly high mountains, we can go to the genryu of full-fledged high mountain. If the weather is blessed, the temperature is high under the summer sun, and it is a time when you can enjoy exhilarating fishing by actively entering the river. We are fond of challenging to the rugged and beautiful genryu of the Asahi mountains such as Miomote river at this time. However, in the year when the rainy season has prolonged, it is necessary to pay full attention to the rapid rise of the river due to precipitation and sudden heavy rain.

In July after fishing in genryu, when we park the car to buy juice for resting in the mountain village in the evening, we listen to full of frogs' barking sounds coming from the rice fields. It tells us the arrival of mid-summer. It is also beautiful at night when fireflies flying faintly around ridges and irrigation canals by the rice fields.

Normally by about 20th July, the long rainy season ends. The schools are on summer vacation, and real summer heat comes. It is the best season to escape the heat town to the cool mountains, but on the Japan Sea side in Tohoku regions which are the main fields of our genryu fishing, large amount of blood sucking horse flies “Mejiro-Abu” occurs from this time. It is impossible to do fishing while being hit by a horde of Mejiro-Abu. Since Mejiro-Abu is active until the end of August, we go to the genryu in Pacific Ocean side or in the pretty high-altitude genryu with low temperature where there is no Mejiro-Abu.

The season for genryu fishing in our fields is from April to September for 6 months, but due to, the remaining snow in April and May, Run-off in early summer, and Mejiro-Abu in mid-summer, the comfortable fishing period in the genryu is only about two months in fact. However, it can be said that primitive nature, the river and the fish living there are being protected because the period of this fishing season is extremely limited.

As mentioned, in this hopeless Mejiro-Abu season, we go to the genryu where Mejiro-Abu do not live for example in Pacific Ocean side. Camping in genryu of this time is best if there is no Mejiro-Abu. In August, the hot weather exceeds 30 degrees centigrade every day and we have sleepless tropical nights day by day in towns. However, in the mountain villages there is a comfortable coolness that you do not need air conditioners at night.

Mejiro-Abu who rages in the summer disappears to somewhere at the end of August. In the beginning of September, we go on an expedition to the genryu that we were most looking forward to during the season. It is the easiest time to enter the tough valleys with high water volume such as Miomote river in Asahi mountains or Kurobe river. Iwana shows a wonderful response to the fly in the genryu, because there was nearly no angler during the mid-summer due to the outbreaks of Mejiro-Abu. Keiryu fishing season ends at the end of September in most rivers. So, in middle of September, as many anglers enter the river to enjoy the last fishing in the season, the nature and the fish 's vigilance becomes stronger, and fishing becomes difficult.

From July to September, although we sometimes have typhoons, the weather is reasonably quite stable, the temperature is high, you can enjoy comfortable fishing and camp life. However, at high altitude genryu areas, once the weather collapses the temperature goes down considerably, the bonfire in the camp is essential, clothing needs to be warm enough. Yes, in the mountains, autumn comes over sooner. In the middle of September, you can harvest a lot of mushrooms in the forests along the streams or in the mountains on the way to the genryu.

Especially the mushrooms called maitake is the best mushroom that can be found in the forests of genryu areas. We are sure Maitake is the most delicious mushroom that matches any dish such as tempura, miso soup, maitake rice, baked mushroom and any other dishes. Some friends are crazy about searching for Maitake around this time.

Iwana lay eggs from October to November. In the latter half of September, we can see Iwana which have already started pairing in various places in the stream such as in the deep pools. Then they move upstream day by day for egg laying. I think that we should not disturb the Iwana at this period. In late September, when the hardwood trees of the genryu forests gradually color, I end up fishing and leave genryu having a feeling of gratitude in my heart.

Autumn signs also come to mountain villages in the end of September. Rice fields have reached fruitful season, they rain ears of rice and wait for the harvest. The rice fields in the sun is just like dyed in golden color. We dive home from the last genryu trip of the year through this golden rice fields.

I am already preparing for my first fishing of 2018 in the stream near my home-town. I am excited about what kind of fishing trips I will experience this year.

Interview with Jeremy Shellhorn

Most of the time when I am interviewing or having a written conversation with a person, I ask them for a couple of paragraphs to tell me who they are. I meet Jeremy at the 2017 Tenkara USA Summit and he and his wife are super nice, like all the people that I have meet in Tenkara USA. I knew he was an artist and a family man but beyond that, I did not know much about him. So I asked him if he would pen a brief “about me” so that I could develop a deeper understanding of his interests to develop our Interview.

What caught my attention in his response was not the things that I thought I needed, it was an actual fishing moment describing resting a pool. He brought me there with his words.

I’m excited to have a chance to share a conversation with Jeremy with you as he is an interesting and aesthetic loving individual.

Adam: I’m not sure I discussed the process of these Interviews with you Jeremy so I will do it here. I write the thing in one single whack and send it to you. You fill it out and send it back. When I create the document, I think about the subject and then bring out his or her interests and hopefully get them to build a picture, a interesting inner view of who they are.

Your answer to my request about fishing, spooking a pool and then sitting down and drawing, waiting for the pool to resume it’s peace struck a cord with me. I was taken to one of my own streams, I have been fishing it for 50 or so years. There are distinct pools that always have dinks flitting about chasing flys on the surface. If you approach too quickly, they scatter for the undercut or the log. But if you sit down, have a drink, check your fly, lay back and relax for about 10 minutes or so, the trout slowly come back to their feeding and playfulness.

“You have obviously been fishing for a while so let me thank you for taking this interview and sharing with us a little bit about you.”

Jeremy Shellhorn: Thanks for interviewing me. Yes, I guess I have been fishing for most of my life. I am glad my Dad took me when I was young. My family has always encouraged me to pursue the things I love to do…fishing and design. I am very very fortunate.

Adam: You write very well, it is obvious to me that you are educated and practiced in word composition. You are an artist as well. I’ve had many discussion with artist who prefer to be called “skilled craftsmen” and still, to this day, my opinion is that a craftsman that is skilled creates art. A bamboo fly rod for example can be a thing of beauty, a work of art. I’ve been strongly told that it’s a craft and nothing more (I don’t think it is only a craft) and that’s it.

“Do you see your work as a craft or is it art?”

Jeremy Shellhorn: Hmmm. To me that doesn’t really matter much. I am trained as a graphic designer, so I tend to look at most of what I do as design, but to me there is a craftsmanship to it for sure. The materiality, the way elements work together, the spaces, the moments, the details, the colors…I look at those relationships as crafted and I make sure each one is considered much like a bamboo fly rod maker would…the taper, the finish, the wraps etc. they all add up to a whole.

Hopefully that whole is greater than the sum of the parts. Kinda like tenkara….I just read this passage from The Tea Ceremony by Sen’o Tanaka. In the foreward Edwin Reischauer writes about the tea ceremony much like some might write about tenkara: 
Neither of us studied how to make or serve the tea, but we did learn how to play our role as participants in what became increasingly a deeply felt aesthetic and spiritual experience. In a sense we moved into a different world in time and space. There was no schedule. Everything moved at a slow pace quite detached from the rest of our lives. Our attention focused down to just a few objects of beauty, again quite removed from the world of overflowing abundance outside. There was a sense of sinking deep within one’s self, of being at harmony with nature, of finding all in very little.
Wow, I guess I just want to make something that conjures that feeling…design or craft or art.

As far as whether my work is art or not, well that is a lot about context and what the audience thinks. (Up to you!) Some things I make to express something coming from myself and my experiences…I guess that could be art, but most of what I make there is a specific communication goal in mind, a desired effect or change in mind, a specific audience and a specific place that audience will experience the work….to me I think of that as more design. But it doesn’t really matter. To me each thing I make asks a question. “What if?”

Adam: In my line of work, I meet all kinds of people. I test everyone from the poor to high profile sports personalities, lawyers, police, firemen, housewives and because I was born and grew up in the area where I work, I test my friends. It’s a great job, a little stressful but I meet a wonderful and varied public in my line of work.

I remember testing a prominant NBA basketball player, established, very good at what he does and I often ask people, “what do you do besides what you do?” The answer came back from this young man, “I collect art.” NBA players make a lot of money and I know this guy is paid well so I was thinking to myself, I wonder what artists he likes. So I just went through the art that I enjoy. I’m almost 60, I was a young man in the 80’s so I like street art from New York, Andy Warhol, Keith Haring and Jean-Michel Basquiat. 

So I told him that.

“You like Jean-Michel?”

Yes, I do.

“We must talk.”

We walked outside and had a beautiful discussion about his art collection for about 20 minutes. I am so oposite of this young milionaire popular sports personality. But for 20 minutes, we were together, talking, entertaining each other with our common love of this artist.

Jeremy, I love art and especially Jean-Michel Basquiat’s work.

“Can you tell us a story about sharing your love of art?”

Jeremy Shellhorn: I have taught design for about 15 years so I have had the privilege to share my love of art and design a lot to amazing students. It’s pretty amazing to introduce a student to an artist or designer’s work and have them get excited and inspired to do good work. But probably my favorite stories of sharing art are the times when folks have shared art with me or we have seen things together. I saw an Andrew Wyeth retrospective when I was in high school at the Nelson Atkins Museum of Art in Kansas City. My parents took me and to see someone like Wyeth pursue his art for so long, in such detail and for it to have such a clear distinct visual language that is so clearly theirs. You definitely know a Wyeth from the paint, the light and shadows to the subject to the color palette. An amazing drawer. Also something so bittersweet about the work…kinda like the midwest/plains in the fall or early spring.

Another important art sharing moment was when my wife took me to see the Charles and Ray Eames Retrospective in St. Louis for my birthday one year. I was inspired to be a design educator that day or at least go back to school and get my masters degree. They looked at design with a capital D, they designed everything (furniture, films, exhibits, graphics, houses) and that exhibit made me realize that design is a powerful process not just a thing. More importantly it is a verb.

Adam: I understand you are a graphic artist. I’ve worked with a few to develop logo’s for projects I worked on. From working with these guys, I understand that the graphic artist listens to the person he is working with to come up with the work that appeals to the request which appeals to the target audiance.

“Is that how it works? Will you help me in understanding this process from your perspective?”

Jeremy ShellhornYes that is pretty much it. But I will go into the weeds for a bit. (just like my fishing and hey, I am a professor, so I like to talk about this stuff. Sorry in advance.)

Design at its most basic definition is about change. It is the process from turning an existing situation into a preferred one. So everyone is a designer. As a graphic designer I give meaningful visual form (what something looks like) to content in a variety of media: on screen and in print, from very small hand held experiences to interactive 3D environments, from logos to books, from posters to websites. But what identifies me most uniquely as a designer with expertise in visual communication or graphic design is my ability to communicate specific messages to specific audiences through the thoughtful and artistic manipulation of that visual form: words (typography) and pictures.

So the process is really about finding the goodness of fit between who wants to say what, to whom, in what context and with what effect.

So in your example of the logo…it needs to identify an organization, communicate something about that organization, be able to work across lots of different situations and also be visually memorable. Fun stuff.

Adam: I have an extensive library of old Japanese tenkara books. I’ve been fortunate to have the help of many tenkara anglers in Japan from many regions help me with my collection. I gathered them together to learn about tenkara. The contents of the books are amazing and I don’t even read very much at all in the way of Japanese written word.

But I do understand pictures, diagrams and art.

There is a particular writer, Soseki Yamamoto who illustrates many of his books prolifically with tenkara subject art. Beautiful pieces between chapters that serve to deepen the context of the subject.

I see the same thing when I see your work. Your eye for aestheticism is amazing. You have a knack for conceptualizing the term, the more you know, the less you need in your art. Some of quite minimal yet that minimalism does not detract from the subject and beauty of your scene.

“How do you do that? How do you take a few lines and put it together to give it such great meaning?”

Jeremy Shellhorn: Soseki Yamamoto sounds amazing. I would love to see these pictures! Please share.

In the afterword for the book In Praise of Shadows by Junichiro Tanizaki,“ Thomas J. Harper writes, One of the oldest and most deeply ingrained of Japanese attitudes to literary style holds that too obvious a structure is contrivance, that too orderly an exposition falsifies the rumination of the heart, that the truest representation of the searching mind is just to “follow the brush.”

So I like to think I just sort follow the pencil. I draw a lot in my sketchbook. Most of the ideas kinda form as I go. Searching. Moving. Connecting to things I see on the water. Just playing. I like to draw on the stream bank, underneath a shady tree, in the mountains catching my breath on a hike…thinking about the places our minds wander to when we are fishing. Then I like to go back to things I have drawn in the field, revisit those ideas I had and try to distill them down as simply as I can.

Adam: I love to travel for tenkara. I’m starting to think of other places than Colorado to explore with my tenkara rod. In the next six months, I will go to Kauai and head up into the mountains and find a couple of streams that were planted with rainbow trout a 100 years ago. The streams are self sustaining and I’be been told that more people that have climbed Everest than have caught the rainbow trout in this stream.

“Have you travelled with your art?”

Jeremy Shellhorn: Yes I have been fortunate to travel a lot. I have gotten to travel a bunch with Daniel Galhardo and Tenkara USA, TJ and John. Whether it is a fly fishing show, or during the book tour as the designer-in-residence of sorts for Tenkara USA I love getting to meet folks that have seen my work and enjoy it. Sometimes I will bring along some prints and display those too.

As a design professor I have gotten to travel to Germany, Italy, England, Taipei, New Zealand, Switzerland and all throughout the states…a few of those places I brought a tenkara rod with me too. I felt like Izaak Walton when I caught some brown trout outside of Sheffield England after a Design and Healthcare Conference at the university there. Had a good afternoon on the river then walked to a pub to celebrate.

I will be traveling to Japan this summer for the first time on a research trip for a tenkara book project, so definitely looking forward to that. Would love to meet some tenkara anglers over there, especially any other art and design sympathetic ones for some fishing and drawing.

Adam: I live just a few miles away from where I was born. I travel quite a bit but I always end up in Phoenix, my home. My favorite stream is about a two hour drive away, another is 4 hours. That’s 2 and 4 hours of driving on a freeway and an Interstate highway. Both are in two different directions of the compass and in very different types of geology.

“Can you tell us about your favorite streams?”

Jeremy Shellhorn: As a flat lander in Kansas I don’t have any local streams I fish. I do have some wonderful farm ponds I get to fish, but I need to drive a bit to get to some cold water streams. My in-laws have a house in the Ozarks, so I have gotten to explore Missouri trout streams quite a bit and love the smaller spring creeks there. Perfect Rhodo and Sato water.

My students and I work get to work with Rocky Mountain National Park through my Designing Outside studio I teach and between that and working with Tenkara USA & the Tenkara Summit I have been fortunate to fish in and around Boulder, Estes Park and some other places in Colorado’s front range quite a bit. I love to fish the high gradient streams in the park on the way up to those pristine alpine lakes. Tenkara really shines in that water and if you are willing to walk you get rewarded with quiet places full of hungry wild trout. Fish on the hike up, take a break and have lunch by the lake, then fish your hike down. That’s a good day.

I was able to fish the Driftless area of Wisconsin last spring with Daniel, Ed Engle and Jason Randall and I really love those streams. It was like I was on a farm in Kansas, cows and all…but all the sudden there is this meandering crystal clear creek with big brown trout in it.

Adam: We got a chance to talk just a little bit at the Summit last year. I remember around the table in the house, we began to talk about Takenobu. I like it how Daniel has Takenobu as his background music in his videos, narrating about what he does and then we arrived at the Summit venue and the same music is playing. Instantly my memories where taken back to those videos, the music stiched together the memories.

Now it’s all memories whenever I hear Takenobu.

Daniel is very aesthetic and he does a fantastic job.

And now you are doing art for Tenkara USA and I am begining to see that same stitching together with your graphics, the book, Tenkara USA.

Without going on about it, I really am glad to see your work like this.

“Any thoughts on what I just wrote? The stitching together, the consistency?”

Jeremy Shellhorn: Great. I love Takenobu and sometimes listen to him while I am sketching stuff. I am so glad you see the consistency and the common visual language stitched across the Tenkara USA brand. Daniel and I have worked hard to create something unique, that expresses that paradox of tenkara…a complex simplicity of sorts. Hopefully when someone sees the white space, the line drawings, the graphics, packaging, marketing materials, the book etc. they know it is coming from Tenkara USA.

Adam: Music imprints memories for me. I remember listening to a Frank Ocean album that came out on my neighborhood walks. I walk a few times a week to stay in some sort of shape. I listen to music and my mind drifts. It helps me escape to another place and I end up pushing myself a little on my walk or hike in the hills in Phoenix. I ended up listening to this same album as I walked through the streets of Tokyo on my last trip.

I had listened to another album from Frank Ocean (one of my favorite artists) on my first trip to Japan and I wanted to imprint those memories. This imprinting, I remember where it started, down in Mexico on a beach fishing trip watching the sunset…

“I’m wondering from your perspective if you have this sort of imprinting from creating your works? Do you imprint a time and place where you come up with a idea for a drawing?”

Jeremy Shellhorn: Oh yes, that imprinting as you call it happens a lot. That is one of the joys of a sketchbook or a diary is being able to go back to it and re-remember that hike or fishing trip…it takes you back for sure. I listened to Yo La Tengo's album Summer Sun on repeat while I was finishing my thesis at North Carolina State University. My wife took me to see them play a few years after I graduated and honestly it was kinda weird to listen to that music years later in a different place. It immediately transported my back to my time in grad school.

I’d love to do more commissions where I go fishing with folks, sketch during our trip and refine those sketches for them to have as keepsakes/prints for their homes. I think it would be a good way to relive days on the stream. It’s just a different way to document a trip…in some ways it seems more tenkara-like.

Adam: I have made a few things out of wood that I really enjoy. Radio control sailplanes, bamboo fly rods, I love working with wood. It is rare but once I made a rod that came out much better than I had invisioned. It was a complex rod that did not have a cork handle but instead a swelled butt of bamboo and wood. 18 pieces of wood had to come together in a single point and I remember the music I was listening to at the time.

“Have you created any work that came out even better than you thought it would?”

Jeremy Shellhorn: Yes. Although a lot more work doesn’t come out as good as what I am envisioning in my head!

Recently I wanted to give my self some parameters and experiment with not using any line in my drawings, so I just used torn paper. I am working on some collages and I am liking how they are turning out. I had no idea or expectation and just wanted to make a path by walking. It’s kinda like the one-fly method…it forces you to be creative and try new things.

Adam: I think my best teacher that I have ever had was failure. I’m not alone in this. Failure is inevetible in some of the things I have done. But it is this failure that gives me insight to what I want to accomplish. It helps me to have respect for what I do and it provides me with the humility that makes me who I am.

I still feel that I am a failure at writing. The thoughts in my head and what comes out on paper and the overall effect of what I do, I’m about 50%. A lot of people enjoy these interviews and there are some that say that I suck, to put it bluntly. Early on I’ve learned that it’s not possible for me to make everyone happy.

“Have you ever had someone reject your work? If you have, how do you look at failure?”

Jeremy Shellhorn: Ah failure. As an educator I appreciate failure. The design process is really about failing early and often and learning your way to the best solution. IDEO a U.S. design firm has a saying that goes something like this: Enlightened trial and error succeeds over the planning of the lone genius. I love that saying. I fail a lot, but I fail on purpose iteratively to learn what design works, looks good, reads correctly and then I refine.

I am sure people reject my work all the time, but I am too busy making new work to notice :)No seriously if they reject it and let me know about it in a constructive way, then I try to just consider it feedback and then ask how can I learn from it. It is also important to have trusted friends that love you and will give you an honest opinion for back up too.

Adam: Although I am not classically educated, I was sought after by a medical university for the work I do. My director was a pioneer in his field and I had worked with him in the past. Together we created a high fidelity teaming platform that is cutting edge in the field of heart surgery.

Eventually I had to quit, working for professors was difficult, they are constantly improving the process and at one point I was talking to a German software engineer, an American software engineer and a biomedical scientist and a demanding professor trying to get a heart lung machine to mesh with data logging software. I was able to get the job done but my compensation was not commisurate with the amount of stress that I was going through to do my job. 5 years was about all that I could do.

“Has your education helped you as a graphic artist? Your fishing? Is art a process of practice at an experinced level?”

Jeremy Shellhorn: Yes! I have had great teachers that have taught me well. I am really grateful.

Design has taught me a lot about fishing…they can be looked at similarly. In both Design and Fishing you read the stream (situation), see what is happening, make some goals, problem solve possible solutions, test them out, get feedback (any bites?) and start the process all over again. What I love about tenkara is that the equipment stays pretty much the same, it is the constant and the creativity is in how I am using what I have: rod, line and fly.
The simplicity is freeing. Much like in design…its just as important what isn’t in the design and what it is the design.

Art is a process, just like learning. I am a curious person, I enjoy the search, so I love the process and usually have a bunch of projects going on at once, without getting stressed too easily. If you don’t enjoy the process then you probably don’t like fishing…its all about the process. That’s why it isn’t called catching right?

Adam: I think it is important to ask some tough questions. It’s where the good stuff lives.

Jeremy, tenkara is becoming a way of life for me. Not like religion, efficiency. I have learned efficiency through my introduction to tenkara and the study that I have done from it.

I now filter much of what I do on a daily basis from learning about tenkara.

“Do I need this or do I just want it?”

“How can I accomplish this task in the most efficient way possible?”

“Has tenkara or this efficiency affected you in any way? In your art?”

Jeremy Shellhorn: For sure. I think I have probably shown that in my previous answers! and I am working on a book project that speaks to this.

10 Colors : Tenkara By Design will explore how tenkara is a wonderful model for designers; a process for creating a goodness of fit between a design solution and the context in which it is situated in. The book will also illustrate how tenkara fisherman from their earliest invention of the method to its current practice have designed smart fishing tools that are effective as well as having crafted beautiful visually-rich artful objects worthy of examination and documentation. Early tenkara anglers fished for sustenance, and made their living by selling their catch; contemporary tenkara anglers fish for entertainment and release their fish back into the rivers and streams they recreate in. But for both anglers I believe tenkara is greater than the sum of its parts (rod, line, fly and fish). There is an experiential aspect to tenkara, a mystery below the surface. A connection to nature through moving water. The feeling of casting and hooking a fish—the pull, the fight, the beauty of pulling the fish out of the water, the anticipation, and the waiting. The hike into the mountains, the stream side camp, the sounds. An old Japanese tenkara saying states that if you ask 10 tenkara anglers to show them the fly they use and they will show you ten different tenkara flies. Thus, in a play of words, it is often joked that “tenkara has ten colors”. Tenkara originated and existed in Japan for hundreds of years before being introduced to the U.S. in 2009, since then it has more “colors” than ever before. This book looks at the “colors” of tenkara: the art, design, crafts, ideas, and objects from its past and its current practice; trying to paint a beautiful picture for the reader. I think it is a visual arresting way to fly fish and hope the book expresses that.

Adam: Thank you so much for your time. I love your art and your work with Tenkara USA. I appreciate who you are from meeting you and I hope we get to spend some more time together in the future.

“Please use this opportunity to write anything you would like to say.”

Jeremy Shellhorn: Thanks Adam for the opportunity! I appreciate the kind words and look forward to fishing and hanging with you again soon.

To see examples of Jeremy's art and design work please visit www.jeremyshellhorn.com and or shoot him a line @ shellhorn@tenkarausa.com

Yamamoto Soseki illustration

Yamamoto Soseki illustration

Yamamoto Soseki illustration

Yamamoto Soseki illustration

Yamamoto Soseki illustration

Yamamoto Soseki