Packrafting Glen Canyon (March)


March is a time of unsettled weather. Fast moving fronts move through the area. The thousand foot cliffs will funnel wind and create standing waves on the river, unable for a packraft to make progress back to Lees Ferry.

The weather is very important to consider when planning a trip in the canyon.

Everything I take upriver, I have to bring back on my raft.

Packrafting is a exercise in minimalism and March is going to be interesting with the cold and possibly windy weather. Two weeks before our trip, we had a powerful storm front that affected the state with record snowfall. But at this time, the weather is warming clearing and there is a warming trend, it's looking good so far...

On this trip, Siegfried Forester will be joining me. He and I bought our packrafts about the same time. He is in town and March is a little early for me but I want to guide him upriver the first time and also spend time fishing with him. I meet him at a Tenkara USA Summit and he is a really nice guy.

Last September, I sat there sweating, cowering under the small tree from the intense heat radiated and focused on me from the giant lens of the river bend horseshoe, I began to look at my excess equipment, shit that I brought that I just didn’t even use or need. It wasn’t a big mistake but it did not add to the experience, it was taking away. I have to stuff, pack and paddle it back.

I’m not going to make that mistake again.

On the very iPad that I generated the first pack list, I brought on that trip and used to trim the first list at my camp on the river, I am typing this note at home, I’ll be leaving the iPad at home, only what I need...

It’s hard for me, I am a minimalist. My pack list is under constant scrutiny. This process is augmented by actual usage and on-site follow up.

I don’t need stuff, I only need what I need for a light, fast solo trip.

There are special considerations depending on the season. The temperature can swing from snowy in the morning to a sunny afternoon in a t-shirt. It can be super hot during the day, check. Freezing at night, check. Surrounded by clean cold water, I do not need to bring more, I need to trust my equipment and filter my drinking water. I don’t need to bring extra plastic along.

Pack rafting back out of the canyon is fun. The trip back is through time, literally through unfathomable depths of a deep sandstone canyon. When I do relax and focus on my craft, it is affected by the weight of all the extra stuff I didn’t need. The raft wants to swap ends in the gentle breeze, the nose is weighed down and I’m reminded of my inefficient planning.

I’ll get good at this through practice.

Go through the list again, you are not allowed to add to it, only take away.

I could leave the headlight at home but at night, I need to see. The solar light is a must, it provides a small but comforting circle of light. I need a back up source... Ok, my iPhone has a flashlight, take away the headlight!

Dinner, check the Mountain House web site, beef stew sounds good.

Check your notes again, ok. I need to inflate my boat before I am backhauled. I want to drop off my bundles of firewood and continue on upriver to do some fishing then float back to my camp. I don’t want to wast time upriver blowing up, this will save some time for fishing.

Thinking it through, on the backhaul, how does my kit get moved? All camping gear in the waterproof bag, my cooler, pad, paddle and firewood are loose, that’s ok, firewood, waterproof bag (all camp goods) get dumped off at 9-mile and I’ll go a couple more miles upstream to fish and fool around before paddling back to fish and to set up camp.

That’s good.

I wanted to do this last time. The logistics are doable.

Figuring this stuff out is fun. It isn’t overthinking. My travel is all downstream. I can’t paddle upstream, the current is too much. So thinking about how to maximize my ride upriver is a big part of my route planning. I only get one ride up, don’t blow it.

Photographs, I didn’t get any of my packraft last time. No big deal but I want a few for my friends here this time. I will set up the Nikon on the tripod and do it that way. I’ll have to make a note for myself to do that.

Check.

Almost here, counting down the days...

I remember really enjoying watching a movie on my phone. I didn’t remember to check the uploads, they got moved to the cloud, let me check the phone now and pull one down to watch or rent. Upload “The Force Awakens” looks like I’m watching a Star Wars movie!

I’ll add to this tomorrow and the next couple of weeks before I go. For me, trip preparation is fun and almost as important as the trip itself.

Glen Canyon Weather for March: Expected daytime highs 60, lows 37


Packraft, paddle, stow bag and pfd

Tent, sleeping bag, pad, chair, cooking, water, light and food

Clothes and personal items

Fishing boots, waders, fly and tenkara rod with pin soles and fishing kit

Pack list for March Glen Canyon camp and packraft x 2 nights

Sawer filtration kit
Platypus 1 & 2 liter

Fat wood
Firewood x 4 bundles
Fabric sink

Stove - Gas Cartridge x 2
Snow Peak Table
Long Spoon
Sierra Cup
Cook Pot

Pack Raft
Inflation Bag
Paddle
PDF
65L WP bag
String Attach Kit
Bow Bag
Patch Kit

North Face Tent
Pad - Quilt - Pillow
Monarch Chair
Solar light

Hat, Buff, Fingerless gloves, sunglasses
Wading boots
Waders
Tent booties
Pants
Capilene baselayer top and bottom
Liner Socks, mid weight socks x 2
R-1 Hoody
Puffy jacket
Rain jacket
Umbrella

Medicine bag
Baby wipes
Small Towel

5-weight fly rod
Fly box pack

iPhone - extra battery
Monocular
Stuff backpack

Dinner (rehydration meal plan) x 2
Breakfast: scrambled eggs, coffee x 2
Snack: trail mix

Notes: Strike through are items that I brought but did not use or could get along without.

Tenkara-Fisher: Packrafting - Salt River - Glen Canyon 


We used Lees Ferry Anglers backhaul service. Terry Gunn's fishing guide service has been operating there forever. They love the river, their customers and they care us. Although I know the river well, Terry knows so much more than I can imagine from working within Glen Canyon for decades.

Our trip was in-between rain and wind. We had perfect weather for the entire trip.

Our paddle back was quick and without event.

I used the honryu 5m rod and caught a couple of fish, my five weight western rod, I hooked into and played one for a while and it shook the hook.

We hiked and enjoyed our stay at 9-mile and I will be back soon with more friends and family.


Motoring up river with Lees Ferry back haul services in style

























Other Tools for Tenkara Fishing, a Minimalist Approach


I quit fly fishing about ten years ago to learn tenkara. The web site you are reading represents my research, what I found out then, what I practice and new discoveries in my tenkara. When I quit fly fishing small streams, I did not forget the things that worked for me, where the fish were, the knots I used, my bits of equipment that worked to release the fish, forceps, nippers, rigging skills, that sort of thing.

I read a lot about tenkara in all types of media. I research the practices of modern Japanese tenkara anglers as well as the American and other enthusiasts outside of Japan. I compare and contrast against my own practices and I am constantly self reviewing what I use and how I use it.

There are a few things that have not changed in my core practice of tenkara, here are a few of the tools that I have been using for many decades.

For reference, here is an article I wrote about 20 years ago called "Minimalist Approach"

In review, I carry far less items than I did back then and at that point, I was very unique. Small stream fly fishing was not popular and a minimalist fisherman? Only my counterparts in Japan did this and it was normal, no one differentiating, certainly no one there wrote about it...

Here are some other things you might be interested in...

Line Rigging and Rod Repair Kit
Travel Tying Kit
Tenkara Minimalist

Interview with David West Beale


David West Beale is a fishing artist that paints with his words. He has the ability to create pictures filled with feeling from a fishers perspective. The stories he builds are descriptions of his interests in tenkara and fly fishing. They evoke memories that I have had, complex memories of a fisherman that bring those skills to life even with the layman. The knack he has with his writing reaches deep, not just your everyday description of fishing, although he writes of that but things that we may not pay attention to, he writes about things that create moments of importance from things overlooked.

Without going on about his work, I hope we are able to share the magic of those moments here.

Adam: Thank you so much for accepting my invitation.

“Is there anything you want to say before we get into the conversation?”

David West Beale: Hello Adam. I want to say thank you for inviting me. I’m truly humbled and delighted to be asked to speak in such good company. I’ve been aware of Tenkara Fisher for quite a while and have enjoyed quietly dipping in and out of site. What strikes me is the generosity of spirit found in the pages here - both from your contributors and from your good self in gathering and curating what has become a wonderful resource. So thank you for including me, it really is my pleasure. I would also like, if I may, to ask a question of you.

Through your journey along the path of tenkara you have gathered much knowledge from classic sources in Japan.

“How has this influenced your emotional experience of fishing tenkara?”

Adam: Emotional experience… Let me think about that. I’m from Phoenix, Arizona, 5th largest city in America, busy, dusty, spread out, 100 miles across city and my city borders the Sonoran Desert. I go outside and the mountains are rock, brown, black, cactus and trees with tiny leaves. The flora and fauna of the desert is the exact opposite of the pine forest of my home streams. It’s a contrast to the desert, fishing those streams, dreaming of new experiences, planning, executing the plan, doing it again.

I go from a super big ugly city to quiet beautiful mountain streams filled with clean air and beautiful wildlife traveling through everything between.

I explore the mountain states around Arizona and share the enthusiasm for tenkara with a global community. My friends in South Africa, Russia, Canada, Europe and where tenkara developed in Japan and I travel there. I travel to Hawaii and catch fish there in Waimea canyon, tenkara is mountain stream fishing and there are mountain streams in Baja, Mexico. Sky islands surrounded by gnarly deserts. My fishing is a dream compared to where I live.

Emotions come from changing the scenery, meeting distant friends, realizing my dreams.

Back at you.

“How do you write so well?”

David West Beale: I’m not sure that I do - you should see what goes in the trash!.. but it’s very kind of you say so. I do write a little about tackle and techniques but above all I’m a story teller, and my stories are from the heart and as honest as I can make them. I think that’s what my readers at tenkara tales respond to.

This endeavour we call fishing is fertile ground for the story teller, and while we are all individuals, as anglers we share a common experience too. This is what I am trying to convey. Not the biggest fish or the most fish (although a few monsters do swim through the pages), but the magic that is waiting there for all of us if we have an open heart and eyes to see.

I try to bring the experience of being there to the page. Little cues can bring a scene to life with a resonance that feels familiar to the reader. Sounds, smells, textures, colours, changing atmospherics, all of these things are a part of how we experience the external environment. So I try to bring my own experience of these things into my writing. Psychologically, our ambitions and insecurities, our successes and our failures all play out on stream, so really the stories in this way write themselves.

Adam: I’m not classically read regarding fly fishing. My research into tenkara is historical. My interest in fishing is research and review of the experts and their techniques both fly fishing and tenkara. There are quite a few classic books on fly fishing yet I choose books by Gary Borger and his nymphing, Gary LaFontaine and his entomology. John Gierach and his stories, I’ve read a few but I prefer his story lessons on small stream fly fishing.

Soseki Yamamoto, a Japanese Keiryu writer and author of many fine books on our subject has written stories about fishing as well as books on technique. I’ve had a couple of books translated that were more about the people, equipment and techniques that were not well received. Sure, there were a few people that enjoyed them but for the most part, there are not that many people that study deeply into the rich history of tenkara and the tenkara secrets found within these books.

Here in the English reading world, we are thin on books about tenkara. There are a few and in those books are vignettes, short stories about tenkara but this type of story lesson writing is practically non existent.

For me, it is enjoyable to read your stories. You do both western fly and tenkara which I find desirable.


“In your view, how does the two go together, tenkara and fly fishing?”

David West Beale: The one is seasoning of the other. When I discovered tenkara I learned that now I could do all of the things I’d wanted to do with western fly fishing but couldn’t, at least not as easily or effectively. I’m talking about ultra-finesse presentations and fly manipulations. These things unlocked for me the secrets of the river which until that moment had remained hidden and unknown.

But it isn't just the tenkara method of fly delivery that has opened up my fishing, just as important is the Japanese philosophy of kebari design. Form defined by function. An escape from Victorian entomology-based fly design, codified into the ‘matching the hatch’ approach. I believe that we seldom if ever really match the hatch. Those types of flies are an aesthetic conceit of the fly tier. Don't get me wrong, I love the craft involved, but I’m something of a heretic because I believe most if not all takes are induced. Dr Ishigaki’s work on the limits of trout vision gave me 20/20. A revelation.

So more than anything, kebari design has been the biggest influence that’s crossed over into my western fly fishing. That and the understanding of previously overlooked places - tiny places - where it turns out that fish can be. It’s been said before and it’s true - tenkara makes you a better western fly fisher.

On the reverse of the coin, tenkara has made me appreciate the joy of fly line casting and the simple pleasure of feeling a rod load and laying out long tight loops with a western fly rod. The biggest contrast is the way I now have to revise down my catch expectations for those I times when I’m not with my tenkara rod and kebari. But I believe in matching the right tool to the right job. I love all forms of fly fishing, so if for example I’m chasing pike then it’s an eight or nine weight western fly rod with big streamers. I must admit I’m a sucker too for good design and engineering, so I love a nicely machined reel and a finely made rod. These things bring me pleasure whether I’m catching or not.

Adam: My fly fishing small streams before tenkara consisted of long rods and lite lines. When I found tenkara, the rods got longer and the lines lighter, steps I enjoyed in a direction that I liked. I initially learned Japanese tenkara from Kazuya Shimoda. He promoted a method that the simple fly fishing of Yvon Chouinard follows now. History is not always kind, “Simple Fly Fishing” will be attributed to Yvon and Patagonia but the fact of the matter is, Shimoda-san was doing this type of tenkara long ago. For the most part, people do not know about the history of fly fishing in Japan. “Headwaters” magazine (Japanese) detailed the timeline by its content through the years starting in the mid 90’s. Sort of interesting, this type of tenkara is how I learned but many tenkara purist Americans would not call this tenkara!

I’ve always said since day one, “tenkara is easy to learn, hard to master” and the more I learn, I realize that there is still so much to learn from the Japanese.

As I gained a little knowledge, before I knew about the different schools in Japan, I thought the level line school of Hisao Ishigaki was it. That everything else just didn’t reach the level that Ishigaki sensei had developed. I was so naïve to think I had it figured out but I should have known, I knew just enough to be dangerous.

I think that is where we are at now in the general tenkara community outside of Japan, naïve. Arguments within our ranks of what is and what isn’t tenkara.


“What do you think about John and Paul’s direction with Discover Tenkara and the Japanese that help them tell the story?”

David West Beale: Discover Tenkara has undoubtedly brought a great deal of quality content out into the light of day here in the West. I love John and Paul’s passion for tenkara. Most interesting to me is Paul’s insight into fish behaviour and fly design from his perspective as a freshwater biologist. I do have some of the Discover Tenkara instructional material but I tend to stay away. That’s more a reflection on me than on Discover Tenkara. As my friends will attest, I’m something of a contrarian and like to figure things out for myself on stream. For me this sharpens the instinct and sweetens the taste of success. It is fun though to dip into their instructive texts once in a while and find out that the little wrinkle I just figured actually has a name!

Adam: I have not read the complete works of the Discover Tenkara guys. They enlist the help of the Japanese experts and I appreciate that. Daniel at Tenkara USA has exposed a couple of different schools, the level line of Hisao Ishigaki and Eiji Yamakawa that represents Harima Tenkara Club and the school of Hiromichi Fuji with his tapered multi strand lines. But both teachers (Tenkara USA and Discover Tenkara) outside of Japan have largely missed out on the excellent work of Shimoda-san. I don’t think anyone did anything wrong, I’m not pointing fingers, nothing like that. I just think the field of view in tenkara that the community places on it isn’t so small, it’s much more broad in scope. Patagonia and Yvon Chouinard are actually doing a good job with their methods. Although that is not my school, it is tenkara and Patagonia is very popular in Japan.

I believe as more and more people research the history of tenkara inside of Japan, we will find that tenkara, as small as it is, there is a much broader scope of practice.

“You are a talented fly angler and I enjoy your expertise in tenkara but does any of this matter?”

David West Beale: It matters if it matters. We all have different perspectives. For the practioners of those schools and those who study and celebrate them, I have the utmost respect. It is vitally important to celebrate the pure essence of our sport and keep its flame burning bright. At the same time, any cultural export is liable to local interpretation, evolution, dilution even. This will sound contradictory, but at this time I follow no school of tenkara but I’m so happy that others do. I’m completely in a bubble of my own making, but the bubble is permeable.

Adam: Fly fishing has roots in your area. I’m afraid I have only scratched the surface in researching its history. I’m a little embarrassed about it but I understand enough about it to be able to hang in there a little. My research is into the history of the fly fishing rod! I’ve had the wonderful opportunity to handle some of the oldest fly rods made. Beautiful, gorgeous wood and bamboo fly rods from your area.

“Do you have any interest in fly fishing history or bamboo fly rods?”

David West Beale: I’m no great collector but I do have a few cane fly rods, and I love fishing with them. They feel alive in a way that only an organic, artisan-made rod can. I have one old cane rod that I fly fish for pike with - there is something wonderfully earthy and gothic about that. When it comes to fly rods my taste is for a slow action, and cane, I think, does this best of all.

I am interested in the angling heritage of the British Isles, more so in fact as the years advance, and some of the foremost works on fly fishing originated here. In the 1600’s, in The Compleat Angler, Charles Cotton describes casting simple hackle wet flies to trout in upland streams, using long fine lines fixed to long flexible fishing rods. Sound familiar?

Earlier still, in 1496 a Treatyse of Fysshynge wyth an Angle was published containing fly recipes and advice on how to fish them using fixed line fly rods. I’m sure that if we could build a time machine and go back to visit these anglers, our tenkara gear wouldn't seem that unfamiliar to them. So for me, tenkara, as well as providing a wonderful window into a sublime Japanese fishing method, has also given me a means to explore the near lost tradition of fixed line fly fishing here in my homeland. Perhaps that’s why it felt, the first time that I fished with a tenkara rod, that I had reconnected with an old friend. Such resonance is important, I think, to our wellbeing, whether we know it or not.

I’m very fortunate to live close by to some of the rivers talked about in the works just mentioned. So for me, when I take my tenkara rod and fish the river this way, the river that Charles Cotton fished, the river is made of time and we are connected. Tenkara gives me chance, in modern terms, to fish as my forbears did and share something of their excitement and the challenges they conquered.

Adam: I’ve read about English chalk streams and gillies that take care of their beat. In your area, this is where fly fishing has really developed and moved outward from there.


“Can you tell us a little bit how tenkara is received in your area?”

I don't know about other countries outside of Japan, but I will say that in comparison to the U.S, tenkara here in the British Isles is very much a fringe pursuit. To put this in perspective, we have a population of around 66 million and angling fraternity of around 3 million. The last time I looked on the British Tenkara FB page there were just 286 members and many of those are from overseas! Similarly the UK Tenkara Forum has an online membership of just 180. So I believe it’s fair to say the British tenkara angler is a rare animal indeed, even possibly an endangered species.

Those putting themselves at the centre of our small stage could do more to remove the perceived barriers to participation in tenkara. I hope that, in small ways at least, my writings help, and I’m always delighted when a reader asks me for advice on getting started with tenkara. I have no skin in the game, no vested interest other than my hope that if I inspire others to enjoy and love their rivers as I do, then nature has more people on her side, and that those people will be happier anglers for it.

As to how tenkara is received by the wider angling community here, this is a double-edged sword. On the one hand I don't think we are a big enough blip on anyone’s radar for any prejudices against tenkara to have really taken hold. On the other hand, If you are a gregarious tenkara angler then it is a lonely existence. As to how my own tenkara has been received by other anglers, well it’s varied from being politely humoured, to being the subject of mild curiosity and even to outright ridicule. That is until I start to out-catch the doubters! However, personally I’ve never been received by any river keeper or other controlling authority with anything other than the warmest of welcomes and in many instances I have been positively encouraged to bring my tenkara along. So I’m saying that the low uptake of our sport in Britain has little to do with any lack of good rivers to fish, in fact we have an abundance.

Adam: It’s interesting, I have a friend that was fly fishing before we knew each other. I taught him tenkara and he really likes it. He reads social media and sees what I share with the community, he is acutely aware of my participation but he does not participate.

Not his gig.

But he does talk to me about it.

It’s funny, he teases me about the whole thing.

“David, do you have friends you fish with that read your work and know what you do?”

David West Beale: I fish a lot on my own but I have regular fishing buddies too. Yes, they read my work, some more than others..and yes like you I sometimes come in for a bit of good natured ribbing.. I can get my own back by writing about them though! I have also made one or two good friends amongst my readers, and we sometimes meet up and fish.

Adam: Over the years of fishing, writing, traveling and sharing common interests, I’ve found myself wondering, “Where am I going with this?” Even as I write the content for my book on tenkara, I still find myself wondering, “Why?” I read very few English language books or magazines any on headwater fishing. I think the renaissance period of small stream fly fishing is over. Yet tenkara is filling the void and it adds in a new dimension of badassery. Is that even a word? (laughing) The kind of climbing and fishing that Sebata-san, Kazuya-san, Okushi-san and many more people that I have not mentioned from history and the groups of people doing it now.

That’s the draw for me, there is a steady stream of this in social media. Those people, their groups, they want to share what they are doing yet the type of terrain they have is unique to their area.

On my last trip to Japan, I was taken on a pretty mellow adventure and there were a couple of times where I was thirty feet up on a vertical wall of dirt and mud held together by grass roots, shrubs and trees. On a thin path, starting to slip and everyone had to go up and up forever, might as well been forever and we all had heavy packs on… drenched. It was intense.

If I lived there, I would be in the thick of it with them pushing it but I was a visitor and nearly over my head on a pretty easy fishing adventure miles up a wild Japanese stream valley, all in possible self rescue mode if someone fell.

Only canyoneering in America approaches it and in all of my research into that here, I haven’t read any canyoneering people doing it to go fishing.

You have to go to Japan to understand that grade of adventure fishing.


“Any thoughts on genryu fishing? Do we have to do that in order to be good at tenkara?”

David West Beale: Yes and no, but there again my reality is just that - my reality, not someone elses. I have no experience of genryu fishing so I have to use my imagination here and a little experience I have from younger days when I climbed mountains in Cumbria and Scotland.

So, I think back to those times and think too about the adventures in Japan of Yuzo Sebata and others that I have read about, and what I imagine is this: the visceral experience and excitement of overcoming physical and psychological challenges to access new and remote places to fish must in some way heighten the experience of fishing and imbue those moments with a different meaning. Would I be doing the extreme stuff if I were younger and physically there? Yes I would if I could.

But do these things make you a better tenkara fisher? Well ‘better’ is a subjective, relative and qualitative description. So I’ll limit my answer purely to the technical aspect of fishing tenkara and on this level - yes and no.

Yes, in the sense that, if through genryu fishing you encounter unfamiliar fishing scenarios and/or different types of fish than are available to you lower downstream, then this new challenge will undoubtedly expand your technical repertoire, should you be open to that.

But qualifying that with a ‘No’, in that all rivers are different and the requisite skills that could be gained through genryu can doubtless be gained on some rivers in some places at lower elevation. But I see the attraction of genyru and I’m open to that seduction. Isn't it a natural impulse in the angler to be drawn ever upstream in search of enlightenment? It’s certainly something that’s been calling to me with a louder voice of late, and I have plans of my own here at home to address that.

Adam: I don’t think so. I do think that with anything we do, there are going to be people that push the limits of adventure. In mountain stream fishing, I think the Japanese are leaders by far. I think the guys I have mentioned, their friends and peers are the stand outs.

“David, I understand you are on point with the fishing you do in your area, can you describe a sporty fishing trip?”

David West Beale: For a variety of reasons time has been quite limited over the last year, but on the other hand I like best to fish tenkara on rocky, high energy rivers and streams. Living in a lowland area this means I have to drive to a different type of geology.

So a typical jaunt for me is mostly there-and-back-in-a-day road trips - up at 4.30am, drive three hours, to say for example the Peak District National Park, on the water by 9am and fish through to 5pm with hardly a break. Then back in the 4x4 and home by 8pm. It’s quite a gruelling schedule, especially as I’m usually so excited the night before that I stay up late and don't sleep!

But hopefully in the middle of all this will be some time wild brown trout, sometimes some rainbow trout (yes we do a have a few wild ‘bows over here) and maybe a few grayling. On the way home I’m already planning the next trip.

Adam: I’m in my late 50’s, a little overweight but still hike and enjoy a several mile jaunt up a steep mountain stream. I figure I have a few seasons left where I can feel comfortable in pushing it a little.

I’m taking it a season at a time trying to write checks with my head that my legs can cash.

I do a little pack rafting on rivers with some fly fishing thrown in. I have plans to visit a friend in New Mexico to do some bike packing to tenkara in the mountains.

“Do you have any other disciplines that you mix in with your fishing?”

David West Beale: I like the sound of all of that. I will be pushing my limits the next couple of years too, searching out mountain trout so I’m starting training for that. It will be hiking and scrambling and climbing and camping wild, with just bare essentials and of course a tenkara rod and a few kebari. So yes, genryu fishing in an English kind of way..

Adam: I’ve done quite a bit of fly fishing in streams, rivers, lakes and in the ocean.

“Do you do any salt water fly fishing?”

David West Beale: The short answer is no, I’ve never cast a fly into the salt. Which is strange for an island dweller who fly fishes. I can’t explain for sure why that is but it is definitely something I will get around to. Rivers though, wild rivers, that’s my passion and time is so limited that other types of fishing get pushed aside I guess.

Adam: My work is in cardiology, I do all kinds of testing on the heart for a group of cardiologists.

“What sort of work do you do to pay the bills?”

David West Beale: Well in comparison to that, maybe something less meaningful, but I design and build gardens for private clients - big, beautiful English country gardens. It’s something I’ve been involved with for almost twenty years, and last year I launched my new design business which is going really well. But it’s like an infant that needs constant feeding, so I’m still trying to get the work/life balance right.

Adam: David, I really appreciate what you do, your writing.

“What is next for you?”

David West Beale: Thank you, that’s very kind. I plan to take my tenkara to ever more remote and wilder places in the British isles, and rest assured I will be blogging about that! One project I have in mind is the pursuit of the highest altitude wild brown trout that I can find in England, possibly land-locked Arctic char too. They were stranded in some of the hill corries (mountain lakes) here after the last ice age retreated. That would be a tough gig but pretty cool with tenkara. I also have a couple of ideas for novels based around fly fishing if I can ever decide whether it’s two stories or three I have rattling around in my head.

Adam: Thank you so much for your participation. I appreciate who you are and what you do.

“Is there anything else you want to add in before we close?”

David West Beale: Well yes - thank you for having me over, Adam, it's been fun. Looking forward to your future posts here. Learning that you too may have a book in the pipeline, I’d like to wish you every success with your project and look forward to the fruits of your endeavour. Respect.

David West Beale web site, "Tenkara Tales"

Fly Line "Backing Type" Lines for Tenkara

7m line made from Spectra 30lb backing
Tenkara is the simple method of Japanese style fly fishing using a rod, line and fly. From years of researching the history of modern tenkara in Japan, I have found that the line type often differentiates the anglers method even more so than the places they fish. You have the community of anglers there but often they are only differentiated by the type of line they use. Hiromichi Fuji uses a tapered braided multi line configuration. Yuzo Sebata makes his own tapered multi strand lines (available HERE) for his style of tenkara. Dr. Hisao Ishigaki (Ishigaki sensei) uses a line that has the same diameter (Level Line) the whole length constructed as a woven level line. Kazuya Shimoda popularized custom making a floating line from PVC fly lines.

I know more than a few tenkara experts in Japan that use fly line backing for their "secret lines" which is the reason for this page. Making your own line is a tenkara skill that many people overlook because of marketing.

Manufactures picked up on the lines that the experts were using and marketed them for sale but in essence, the original tenkara experts constructed their own lines for the style of tenkara they developed.

Many of the different lines are made from materials that are readily available. If you can not afford the lines on the market place or you want to custom make one yourself, please do. This is how tenkara got started, anglers rigging their own equipment to suit their style in casting.

I recently made the line above for a 5m single hand rod that I am using. It cast very well. The line is limp, no memory and it casts even better when it has wetted out on the tip. It casts like a weight forward level line which is what it becomes with the tip wet. It is readily available in different thickness to custom tailor your line to the rod you are using.

As time allows, I will add in the backing type lines that I have made in the past and lines that I create in the future.

You can also read more about other types of custom multi strand lines by looking in the Contents page.


Fujino Soft Tenkara Long Type


Fujino makes great tenkara lines. I use the Straight Line and now I am using the Soft Tenkara Long Type. I've read in some circles that the 10m was a good line to practice casting with. That if you were practicing and able to straighten the line, you were doing well. I bought one and it is easy to cast, I'm wondering why people say to use it to practice casting? I'm using the 7m for fishing and I have a river in mind where I will use the 10m.

I rig in a tippet ring to the tip of the line. It comes pre-rigged with a stopper knot. The tippet ring is easy to tye in and I use "Knot Sense" to lock the knot.

This line has memory and straightening it is necessary before fishing. It does not take much, just run it through your fingers stretching it gently. It straightens out nicely and the taper is nice at the tip. This line drapes well and I recommend that you try it if you are looking for an easy casting long line. 

For those of you following along, below you will find the Fujino company links and also Christophe' Laurent's "Tenkara Enso" blog. I have read a couple of reviews on the Fujino lines and Chrisophe' and I seem to agree closely, our styles of tenkara are similar.





Gamakatsu Multiflex Suimu EX 5m









I use a couple of different lines with mine. A Fujino Soft Tenkara Long Type 7m, a #3.5 Oni Pink with a .5m clear fluorocarbon tip, and a Backing Type 7m line, all lines terminated in a tippet ring.

This rod really shines with a 7m line.

Dr. Tom DavisTeton Tenkara - Gamakatsu Multflex Suimu 4.0m Review
Tenkara-Fisher: Gamakatsu Multiflex Suimu 4.0m - Suimu EX 5m
Gamakatsu Multiflex Suimu
Gamakatsu Multiflex Suimu (English translated)











Interview with Michael Agneta


I’ll just cut to the chase, Michael has been practicing tenkara as long as anyone here in the states. He has been following along tenkara-fisher since day one and for anyone that has been doing that, you know quite a bit about the rich history of Japan and all about the American tenkara experience. Early on, I helped him one of the first Japanese tenkara rods imported at the start of the first wave of interest, the Sakura Kongo, and it has quite a Japanese pedigree. 

Collectively, our entry into tenkara is nearly the same. We found out about it from Tenkara USA and quickly gravitated to open our approach to the Japanese and all that they offered but I want to be clear, although we are both Americans, we are individuals and our tenkara experiences are individual. In no way is this negative, it is what it is and I think that’s what makes the world of tenkara go round.

Diversity.

When I asked Michael to sit for this interview, he said something to the effect of yes, but,”I am a vanilla flavor of tenkara.” I’m not sure what he was thinking when he said that. Now that he has been producing “TENKARA ANGLER” online magazine, I am happy to expose his vanilla flavor of tenkara through my lens.


Adam: Michael, I’ve made enough mistakes with these “one piece” interviews to know, getting straight to a question isn’t the way to go. I’ve tried that and nearly all the responses have been, “Thank you for asking me to…” so instead of getting right to the questions…

“Is there something you want to say first?

Michael: I suppose like those before me, I’d like to thank you for considering me for an interview. As you’ve mentioned, I’ve been following along with the content on Tenkara-Fisher for quite some time, I always find the interviews interesting. I hope I live up to that precedent.

Adam: I’m still hung up on the vanilla comment you made to me. Let me explain. Being an editor is not easy if you are putting out a quality publication.

You are doing a great job and I appreciate what you do.

It’s important to remain grounded, be free from the politics of whatever you are reporting on, know your subject and understand the direction and current trends. I’ve always questioned “marketing” since day one in my fly fishing, part of the reason I enjoyed tenkara so much in the beginning. There were no magazines, nobody tilting at me for my money., That forced me to research what it was in the country of origin. Marketing seems to be such a big part of a selling point. I don’t see “TENKARA ANGLER” “marketing” anything.

I see it as a sampling of the community.

Anyway, I think you have done well with TENKARA ANGLER.

I see you aren’t forcing an editorial direction. If you are focused on one aspect, specializing in it, you will miss the other flavors. Tenkara is comprised of many colors, sorry for the cliché yet for the lack of a better term, it is wide open for interpretation. I read the “experts” and how they know what it is but they miss the mark every time. This is in short because they missed the many different experts along the way In Japan. Tenkara teachers that have come and gone and their students that are still practicing. Tenkara is a little more than what all the experts outside of Japan say and a lot more. The sport of tenkara in Japan encompasses the common man too and there is a lot more people that practice it than there are tenkara masters, the few that are in the Japanese media now.

Michael, having a Western, vanilla view, its a positive attribute for an editor in my opinion.

Hopefully my point will get across here, in the long run, it doesn’t matter.


“Can you help us to understand your position on presenting TENKARA ANGLER, your online magazine?”

Michael: Sure, I’ll try my best. I may meander a bit, so bear with me.

First, let’s address “vanilla.” When I mentioned that I view myself as a “vanilla” subject for an interview, it was because I’m just a normal guy who works a 9 to 5 and gets out fishing a few times a month. I’m not a guide, I don’t design tenkara rods, I don’t have a ton of great fishing stories, I don’t consider myself even an above-average angler, and I’m not particularly outspoken in social media. There are a lot of vocal, Type A personalities in our sport, I’m more of a Type B. I suppose if I have a “hook” that people might find interesting, it would be my long-running fishing blog, and of course Tenkara Angler magazine. So let’s touch on those now...

Going back quite a few years (2011) on my blog, Troutrageous!, I wanted to begin to create a place where I could tell the stories of my fellow early adopters, the “American & European tenkara anglers” in their own words; what they were up to, where they were fishing, what they were learning about, that sort of thing.

I reached out to several “personalities” in our fledgling tenkara community and surprisingly received quite a few replies. Responses from many names you’d still easily recognize today. Jason Klass, Anthony Naples, yourself... and those posts became the first installments of what I coined “Tenkara Tuesday.”

I was hoping those guest posts would gain momentum and I would need to do less solicitation of content in the future, but they never really caught on. I subsequently repurposed the “Tenkara Tuesday” moniker for semi-regular posts I’d personally make on the topic, timed to (almost) every Tuesday.

Fast-forward to Fall of 2015 and I was playing around with some self-publishing software on my computer I had downloaded for my daughter, and the thought popped into my head about trying to revive the original concept I had for my blog, but more in an online magazine format. At the time Tenkara USA was publishing an annual, physical “Tenkara” magazine, but in doing so I felt there was a bit of a content gap, not only in frequency of publication, but also in the need for the content to be non-brand centric.

From there, Tenkara Angler took shape. The first issue was a simple repurpose of “Tenkara Tuesday” posts previously published on Troutrageous!, but at the same time I put out a call to action for independent, “crowd-sourced” content. There’s so much good information and storytelling out there, but it’s all very spread out across (mostly) the internet. Facebook, Instagram, blogs, forums, it’s not the easiest thing to consistently or conveniently consume.

I was hoping by providing a common platform for the community to express themselves freely about whatever topics they wanted, (given they were tenkara or conservation themed), I’d be able to harness many of those loose ends in one place. Both seasoned and new tenkara anglers, (along with competing retailers and brands), would have the opportunity to share their experiences with an equal voice, with the side-effect being the general documentation of what was going on in the evolving tenkara community both inside, but primarily outside of Japan.

It must have struck a chord, because Tenkara Angler is now a quarterly publication with fairly large reach and is on issue #14 of 100% tenkara community-submitted content. I’m also proud that can all be consumed for free by our readers online. It’s the community’s magazine, I try not to impose my personal views on the selection of any of the material.


Adam: We are about 10 years into it. I’m a “plan your work and work your plan” sort of guy. I quit fly fishing to learn tenkara. I did that until recently, after nearly ten years, I’ve decided to pick up fly fishing again. It’s really my time to get back to what I am, a fly fisherman with a specialty in tenkara.

My perspective in anything I do, pick out the best teachers that I can and go from there. To that effect, I have done well.

But what I have learned in tenkara is that it is varied in equipment, a broad scope but still quite limited in numbers of people that are doing it. It’s small, tenkara at its best is a niche of fly fishing in Japan.

Without going any farther in that direction, “what do you think?”

Michael: I’m not certain I fully understand the question. I’ll assume you’re asking me about my thoughts on tenkara in general, so I’ll go there.

I really enjoy tenkara as a small-stream fly fishing tool. I think any water you’d normally fish with a 3-weight fly rod or lighter also excels with a tenkara rod. Over the last nine and a half years it’s been fun to grow as a tenkara angler in all senses of the definition. Fortunately, I’ve been documenting a lot of those experiences on my Troutrageous! blog, so it’s easy (and sometimes cringe-worthy) to look back in time.

For the first 2 or 3 years of fishing with my tenkara rod (my first was an 11’ Tenkara USA Iwana) I used a furled line, some sort of beadhead nymph, sometimes in tandem with an elk-hair caddis that served as a top-water indicator. I lived in Pennsylvania, and was able to fish for wild trout regularly. It was a blast.

Over the years, as tenkara grew and information exchange did as well, I’ve been able to learn both online and in person from many different people. Each one of them - from Daniel Galhardo to Paul Gaskell to Yuzo Sebata to Robert Worthing - have had an influence on growing my knowledge base and subsequently, the way I fish.

It could be small things like swapping out that furled line for a level line, or perhaps the Copper John nymph for a Takayama sakasa kebari, to bigger concepts such as learning casting or fly manipulation techniques and the situations when it might be best to use them.

Tenkara has presented a whole new world of opportunities to my fly fishing, not to mention enriching the quality and quantity of my life spent in the outdoors. It’s taken me places I had never been and created new friendships I intend on maintaining over the long haul. I’ll be forever in debt to Daniel Galhardo for introducing tenkara to the United States in 2009, I have a feeling my life would be very different without it.



Adam: I have a book of Sebata-san that is about fly fishing. Many tenkara books have fly fishing in them. I could write about how tenkara in Japan is practiced along with fly fishing.

I’ve started reading some of the Discover Tenkara material. The fact that these guys are fly fishers and have studied Japanese tenkara is enjoyable for me. Fly fishing and tenkara go together well and I hope to see more of the two co-exist together.

Already I’ve seen Sage, a prominent American fly fishing rod manufacture use simplistic tenkara wording in their advertising, “rod, line and fly.”

Anyway, I’m so excited to be fly fishing again!


“Do you do any (western) fly angling?”

Michael: Absolutely! I live in northeast Florida and quite honestly prefer using my tenkara rods to chase trout in the mountains of Georgia, North Carolina, (and when I’m lucky) Colorado. So when I’m not doing that, I have a collection of “western” fly rods I use to locally pursue bass, bream, and on occasion saltwater species such as sea trout and redfish.

One of my favorite local trips each year is the annual shad run that takes place in central Florida in late January and early February. The shad travel up the St. John’s River, and there’s an excellent place to catch them (somewhat) near Orlando. I suppose you could try to fish the run with a really heavyweight fixed-line rod, but between the frisky shad and the occasional (and powerful) Sunshine bass bycatch, it’s best to have (at minimum) a 6-weight rod and reel with a solid drag. It’s simply the right tool for the job.

Plus, I’m not going to lie, the things I miss while fishing tenkara are the tactile actions of peeling off line, stripping in streamers, hearing the audible “tick, tick, tick” of a nice click & pawl reel… I’d go batty if I didn’t break out that sort of tackle every now and then just to scratch those itches.

Adam: In Key West, I’ve caught juvenile tarpon under the lights of a dock after drinking, deep into the night. It was an amazing adventure, my wife and I were not married at the time and she was just excited to watch me fly fish in the ocean, at night, after drinking at Sloppy Joe’s. I love Florida for other species too. I forget where it was but somewhere near the “Mosquito River” where I caught my first Redfish. Florida is the bomb for SWFF.

In Colorado, we meet for the first time. I’ll have to apologize, we did not get to spend much time together. I was overwhelmed by the proceedings at the Tenkara USA summit. 


“What do you think about this type of gathering?”

Michael: I really enjoy gatherings such as the Tenkara Summit, and I’ve been fortunate to attend quite a few over the years. I’ve attended four Tenkara Summits - Colorado twice, Utah, Virginia, three Midwest Tenkara Fests in Wisconsin, two Tenkara Jams in North Carolina, and the first Tenkara Bug Out in Oregon. Not to mention a few informal get togethers thrown in there for good measure.

While the scheduled programs are really well executed at these gatherings, and all of the organizers deserve a ton of credit and respect, I really don’t go for the presentations or “classroom” style lectures anymore. The real reason I enjoy attending these events is to put faces to names and spend a little bit of real time with all the people I’ve “met” virtually online over the years. Online friendships are great, but there’s no replacement for shaking someone’s hand, exchanging a few flies or stories, perhaps sharing a drink or meal, or even better… time on the stream.

While the turnouts to these events are typically good, our community is fortunately still relatively small and very approachable, helpful, and friendly in person. It’s just too easy to meet and chat up just about anybody you’d like. “Hey, there's Jason Sparks… is that Matt Sment… can you introduce me to Karin Miller… what's Adam Klags like in real life…” All of those questions are easily answered if you’re outgoing enough at these events.

Plus, they give me an excuse to travel to fish waters I know I never would under normal circumstances. I mean how often does somebody fly from Jacksonville, FL to Coon Valley, WI or Oakridge, OR?

Tenkara gatherings of any size are a win-win in my opinion and so many positive and lasting relationships have resulted from attending.

Adam: I’m seriously considering attending the Oni School. I want to practice with a Japanese expert that will critique, talk about and spend time with up close and in a personal setting without having all the hassle of communicating for months, expensive tickets and lodging, time off from work, all things that must be done in order to get the instruction over in Japan.

Masami Sakakibara and the Tenkara Guides are really doing us a service and I appreciate that.


“What do you think about the Oni school?”

Michael: The Oni School is probably the only major U.S. tenkara event I haven’t attended, and I would like to get to one in the future (if time allows). It’s one of those things I’ve shamefully taken for granted, thinking, “oh, I’ll go next year,” and still haven’t. I really need to smarten up, because who knows how many more years Oni will be making the trip to the United States.

When you really think about it, it is such a rare opportunity to get personalized, one-on-one teaching from a Japanese tenkara “Master” such as Masami Sakakibara without traveling to Japan. If you take being a student of tenkara seriously, you have to strongly consider attending one these sessions.

Not that it’s anywhere near the same, but back in 2012 at the Tenkara Summit in Utah (also hosted by the Tenkara Guides) I got to spend about 10 minutes fishing alone alongside Dr. Hisao Ishigaki. (I actually got to net a fish he caught too). I simply thought watching somebody of his casting and fly manipulation skill for even that short amount of time was an amazing learning experience, I can’t imagine what spending a day or two interacting with Oni & the Tenkara Guides might be like in a setting with like-minded anglers. 

 
Adam: There is nothing like having all that experience guiding your cast, it’s amazing.

“Michael, what do you do? Can you tell us about your day job?”

Michael: I’ve worked in e-commerce for almost twenty years and it’s been a wild ride to watch the industry grow & change so rapidly. Besides Amazon.com, it’d be difficult to name too many popular websites that are still around from when my career started in 1999. Back then Netscape was still a widely-used browser and Alta Vista was a popular search engine… that is if you weren’t on AOL or checking out Lycos.

For the last 10 years, I’ve been the Divisional Merchandise Manager for a company called Fanatics, who is the largest retailer of licensed sports merchandise in the world. (Think t-shirts, hats, and jerseys of your favorite sports teams). I oversee our NFL & NASCAR businesses. I’m in charge of the buyers who create the apparel assortments you see and shop on prominent websites such as NFLShop.com, Fanatics.com, or FansEdge.com.

Being in the licensed sports business can be very interesting because much of your sales success is at least partially dependant on the on-field/court/ice performance of the various teams, which can be extremely unpredictable. As such, you find yourself watching games differently than most; rooting for teams you’d never traditionally pull for, or for that rookie to win the starting job over the veteran player (so you can being selling his jersey). When a player or team emerges out of seemingly nowhere (like the pre-season trade of Khalil Mack to the Bears which took them from 5-11 in 2017 to 12-4 and Division Champs in 2018), you have to be extremely quick and agile to try and maximize the opportunity and make the fans (our customers) happy. There’s always that “super fan” who wants that new piece of merchandise first, and fortunately, one of Fanatics’ major strengths is speed-to-market.

Being somebody who grew up loving sports and goofing around on computers on the early internet, I consider myself fortunate to have landed in the place I did professionally.


Adam: Hey, you have been following the “tribes” since day one. I think that’s a good way to look at it. Being an editor, receiving content from all the different people, the tribe members.

“Do you have any interesting stories in making the magazine? Something interesting or funny?”

Michael: I can’t say that I have a ton of funny stories producing the magazine, it’s usually just me pecking away on my computer when I have spare time at night or on the weekends. A lot of people call me “Mr. Agneta” when they turn in their articles via email. I know it is just folks being polite and a type of formality, but I still find that sort of funny. Little do they know I’m probably sitting on my couch in sweatpants and an old t-shirt reading their email.

I will say it has been an absolute joy working with the various contributors over the past few years. The tenkara community is one that is extremely talented both on and off the water and I really look forward to reviewing the yield of each quarter’s “call to action” for material. They honestly make my job as (amateur) editor really easy, as the quality is typically high as-is, I don’t have to really change much or turn many submissions away.

One of the things I didn’t expect when I started the magazine was the inherent responsibility related to how the articles and information within were presented to the reader. As the issues went by, I noticed that more and more of the content being submitted was centered around fly fishing with tenkara rods rather than tenkara fishing. There’s a small, but noteworthy distinction there if you pay close attention to the semantics.

I only mention this because as the editor of what might be the only independent, regularly published tenkara-themed magazine in the United States, I need to make sure that I’m presenting the differences between what would be recognized as tenkara the sport (fixed-line fly fishing for trout and char in high-gradient mountain streams) and “tenkara” the homogenized marketing term used in the West, which has evolved to represent basically anything and everything someone can do with a fixed-line rod.

Before I ruffle any feathers and re-ignite the “definition of tenkara” debate, I have absolutely no issues with how anybody uses their tenkara rods. They can toss streamers for smallies, cast foam bugs for panfish, or even take them into the salt and target bonefish if they’d prefer. Today, I live in Florida and use my tenkara rods to catch largemouth bass in warm water ponds and it’s a blast. Tenkara Angler has featured articles about all of those subjects in past issues and definitely wants to be inclusive and celebrate everything taking place in the larger fixed-line fly fishing community.

As such, I’ve started dividing the magazine up into segments so “Fixed-Line Fly Fishing” has its own spotlight aside from the traditional trout & mountain fly fishing techniques that would be recognized as “tenkara” in Japan. Based on this, I will also commonly make small edits to articles when an author turns in copy that reads, “...using tenkara to catch bass...” I’ll change it to say “...using a tenkara rod to catch bass...”

When you’re publishing a magazine called Tenkara Angler, one that you hope people take seriously, you owe it to the readers, especially those that might be new to the sport, to portray what people are doing, and what your magazine is championing accurately. There’s no judgment taking place, it’s not snobbery, just simply a distinction to help educate and inform the readers. I truly hope nobody takes offense, because in the end, we’re all part of the same larger tribe, even if we use our tenkara rods in different ways.

Adam: As I said, I enjoy what you do, Tenkara Angler is a neat thing to look forward to.

I’ve spent so much time and effort collecting Japanese “Headwaters” magazine. It took so much money and time collecting, researching, buying, but I always look forward to each issue.

“Do you think you will ever break out farther with the magazine that what it is now?”


Michael: Oh man I love Headwaters magazine. I have my own collection of issues sourced through Keiichi Okushi (tenkaraya.com) and only wish I could read Japanese to get their full benefit. Even without that ability, the photography is stunning and you can learn so much by studying some of the simple diagrams within. Headwaters was one of the inspirations for Tenkara Angler, hence the quarterly format.

I think there are two directions I’d eventually like to take Tenkara Angler. The first relates to content, the second is more commercial in basis.

Ideally, I’d love if Tenkara Angler evolved to be a little less trip report, gear, and “how-to” focused, and more of a lifestyle based, story-telling magazine. There’s nothing wrong with the occasional instructional article about “How to Catch Big Fish With Your Tenkara Rod,” but I really get excited when people turn in essays about their experiences out on the water while fixed-line fishing. If you’ve ever consumed content from The Flyfish Journal, you’ll understand what I mean.

Read any essay from regular contributors such as Melissa Alcorn, Brittany Aäe, Isaac Tait, Adam Klagsbrun, Sam Larson, or Brad Trumbo and it will become clear that great storytellers can romance the sport like no other. They take you along with them, to familiar yet foreign locations, and while they write a little bit about the actual act of fishing, the articles are mostly about their thoughts, surroundings, and the overall context of the experience. Heck, even the “Ratskin Canoe” guys turn in great short stories and photos about their group campouts... and of course, brookies & beer.

Commercially, I’d eventually like get to a place where I can make a profit on the magazine and pay the contributors for content, even if it’s only a small sum. It kills me that Tenkara Angler is built on the back of uncompensated content.

I currently make a little bit of money (about $3) for every on-demand print issue sold or PDF copy downloaded through Tenkara Angler’s Blurb.com store, but that all goes to offset the costs of web hosting and publication. Since the preferred method of quarterly delivery will always be via the free online flipbook on Issuu.com, selling advertising is really the primary opportunity to create a revenue stream under this business model.

The main issue I’m running into is that the tenkara industry is still relatively small. I could attempt to charge all of the tenkara brands for ad space in the magazine, but let’s face it, they are all already well known within our community. Does Chris Stewart (TenkaraBum) really need to pay for advertising in Tenkara Angler to create awareness for his retail site? What would be his return on investment?

I think the next step might be to craft a proposal with a clear value proposition and reach out to some of the companies from the larger fly-fishing industry to see if they have any interest in advertising with Tenkara Angler. Everybody in our community may already be buying their rods from Tenkara USA, TenkaraBum, Badger, etc… but who are they buying their fly tying supplies from, or wading boots? What lodges or guide services are they using when they travel? I figure if I could get a dozen paid advertisers an issue to chip in a nominal fee I would have enough critical mass to begin compensating contributors in some fashion. I’d really enjoy being able to do that someday.

Oh, and I’ve been thinking of extending the magazine to a podcast. Seems to be the trendy thing to do these days...

Adam: Michael, I have so many other interests besides fishing and tenkara. I really enjoy when I get to mix two of them together. I think my favorite is “travel and tenkara.” That would be, picking out a destination, researching it, creating a plan, getting on the plane, and executing the plan. After that, I really like packrafting and biking.


“Do you do anything else with tenkara like I have mentioned?”

Michael: As previously discussed, I do a ton of traveling with my tenkara rod. Living in Florida, there are no real local opportunities to fish for trout. There is simply no appropriate cold water sources and no mountains in the Sunshine State; the closest wild trout habitat in Georgia is about 6 hours away by car. It takes real effort and scheduling to find time to fish for trout, so I make it a point to set aside time to travel about a dozen times a year to cold water locales. Plus, it’s just too easy to bring a tenkara rod and a small fly box along on a business trip if I know I’ll have some downtime.

One of the good things about where I live in Florida is that it’s relatively flat and it’s extremely easy to get around (via bike lanes) for cyclists. As such, I keep a tenkara rod tube tethered to by hybrid bicycle at all times. It’s a fun activity to take a morning or afternoon and just ride around from retention pond to retention pond looking for bass and bluegill and getting in a little bit of exercise at the same time. It’s far from the hardcore fishing I do when I go on a dedicated trip, just a bit of fun and a different way to get a line wet.

Adam: Tenkara-Fisher in it’s last form was attacked by a malicious hacker. The site was run on software that was always having to be updated and patched. Finally, someone planted code and no one could fix or find it without spending a lot of money. For me, it was a money pit. The community took care of that but I don’t like asking for money…

You asked me if I wanted help.

What ended up happening was that you really streamlined the site, helped me put it back together.

I really appreciate your help with that, probably more than you know.

Thank you.

“What do you think about forum based sites, blogs and social media in the tenkara community?”

Michael: First off, you’re very welcome. I really enjoy playing around on the computer and building things. I think it sort of fills the creative gap in my life. Be it Tenkara Angler, Troutrageous!, the Tenkara Calendar, whatever, I’ve always found those projects very fulfilling. I built my first website back when I was in college in 1996, so by now it’s somewhat second nature. Plus, while I don’t really participate in forums much anymore, I really value the way they catalog and categorize content. When the opportunity popped up to help you preserve some of the compromised Tenkara-Fisher database, it was a no-brainer to get involved in some small way.

Back to your question… I don’t think there would be an awareness for tenkara today if there weren’t forums, blogs, and social media. Let’s face it, when larger media outlets occasionally pick up on tenkara, they all do the same page or two “introductory” story on roughly what it is and that it came from Japan, and that’s about it. I’ve yet to see a major fly fishing magazine or website, something that could influence anglers in a large way, do a deep dive into tenkara. In a vacuum, the closest thing to mainstream coverage was when Patagonia did PR rounds to introduce Yvon Chouinard’s “Simple Fly Fishing” book and TFO-built line of rods in 2014.

In my opinion, tenkara is successful in its niche solely because of social media. Tenkara USA started (and grew organically) on the back of self-produced YouTube videos and a website forum that was “the” destination for early discussion and discovery. Sales were initially e-commerce based only.

The initial excitement from the first rods in hand and forum chatter gave birth to the initial batch of tenkara-specific blogs such as Tenkara Talk and Tenkara on the Fly. Heck, even TenkaraBum started out as a blog that reviewed different rods before it became retail site, much like Tom Davis does on Teton Tenkara today.

While blogs and forums still exist, most have given way to the popular social media of the day, be it Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, you name it. No matter what the format, social media is extremely important because it’s the place where “we” can all gather and learn about tenkara. It’s where we “meet” the Japanese masters, it’s where we learn the history of the commercial fishermen that laid the foundation for our sport. It’s where we exchange kebari patterns that have become ubiquitous such as the Ishigaki kebari or the Utah Killer Bug, it’s where we discuss techniques and ask “do you even Tomizuri, bro?” It’s where Jason Klass can “invent” using EZ Keepers as on-rod line storage almost ten years ago and have it become commonplace. it’s where you can organize meet-ups, Summits, and Fests. Without social media, there’d be no efficient way to rapidly spread and exchange tenkara knowledge. Just the occasional magazine article or perhaps book.

The only peril, much like the one I face with Tenkara Angler, is social media content is all crowdsourced and unfiltered. People can just as easily spread bad information or unintentional mistruths and there’s nobody to play the role of editor or arbiter to keep us all honest. Those that try are usually met with aggression resulting in arguments, infighting, and all the ugliness that can come with social media exchanges gone awry. While it’s not the norm, the tenkara community is not immune to this, and has seen far too many unnecessary flare ups over the years.

I also wouldn’t discount that social media is also an inexpensive way for many of our smaller tenkara brands to effectively market their products and create a brand presence almost overnight. WIthout the ability to spread their messages socially, you probably wouldn’t have as many tenkara gear options to choose from as you do today.

Adam: “Do you have any questions for me?”

Michael: Yes, I have few questions for you.

You’ve been into tenkara as long as I have, just about ten years. We’ve followed somewhat similar paths in creating and curating content along the way. What do you think of the state of the tenkara today - be it the quality of the new products that brands are bringing to the market, or even the quality of discussions and information exchange that are taking place in our social media? And where does what you call #untenkara fit into the equation?

Adam: Tenkara outside of Japan grew because of Tenkara USA popularizing tenkara online. When Daniel started selling rods, we bought them, started using them, we shared our experiences together in this tight little community that had a really nice feel. It was fun and I enjoyed it.

But that changed.

The business of tenkara stepped in and we started to fragment and divide into the tenkara clans.

Depending on your perspective, tenkara could be many things, traditional Japanese fly fishing or simple fly fishing or it was an American guy standing in the river with a Japanese robe and hat in front of a video camera talking about tenkara and or everything in between. Tenkara grew into sub-communities and it divided.

Quite a few rod sellers followed the formula that Tenkara USA used to sell their own goods. Many of them replicated the best parts of different companies and created their own brand. People bought this equipment without knowing the timeline that you and I have watched unfold.

This type of growth is not unique to tenkara. It happens all the time in other sports, same thing, same nice people getting things started, same business people doing what they do.

From my perspective, the current state of tenkara isn't anything like what it started out. 

Do a search of "tenkara" on google and post your findings on social media and what do you get?

As I have said before, tenkara in of itself is this enjoyable way of fishing a mountain stream. The techniques work in other waters too and it's a lot of fun. 

Social media? 

#untenkara?

The term #untenkara was coined by a guy I know to differentiate mountain stream tenkara and fixed line fishing using tenkara equipment and techniques by tenkara anglers in non-tenkara water on tenkara social media.

Michael: The second question I have for you is probably a bit out of left field, but it has to do with your collection of Japanese tenkara books. I know you own or have owned quite a few over the years. I think there’s a wealth of information out there we still haven’t tapped into yet, just waiting for somebody to unlock with the ability of translation.

In particular, I’ve always heard a lot about Soseki Yamamoto being one of the primary people who popularized tenkara as a sport in Japan, sort of reintroducing the old techniques to a modern generation of anglers back in the 1970s & 80s (I hope I have that timing more or less correct). He did this through writing books and placing articles in popular magazines on the subject that not only explored the “how to” side of tenkara, but also romanticized it through tales of the outdoors, mountain life, and even (for those interested in cryptids) tsuchinoko.

While I’m certain a lot the information contained in his technique-based writings have been passed down to the modern “Masters” we learn from today, I’d still love to read his collection of stories and essays someday.

How many of your books have you had fully translated, and what do think about this concept in general, especially when it comes to the “rediscovering” of authors from the prior generation such as Yamamoto?

Adam: I've had two Soseki Yamamoto books summarized here. The books are historical Japanese tenkara interpreted by an expert Japanese angler. It takes an incredible amount of time for the interpreter. 

The summary translations were pretty much overlooked.

Moving on.

I know that my interview with Jason Sparks went long, I had a lot I wanted to discuss with him, the same goes for you but for your sake, lets wind this up.

“Michael, thank you for being who you are, I appreciate you. I dig Tenkara Angler and I wish you all the luck in the world with it.

Please use this opportunity to close the interview.”


Michael: I’d just like to close the interview by thanking you for finding my flavor of “vanilla” tasty enough to take a larger bite. This was really fun, hopefully I wasn’t too wordy, and I hope we’ll be able to share a little time together on a trout stream in the future.