Interview with Karin Miller

The personal letter in the box of rods read, “I’ve opened my soul to you and barred it all. I just ask that you have an open mind, remember the joy of fishing when you first learned, and play.” There is a lot in that sentence and I’m doing my best to share it with you here.

I live in Arizona, far from any big fly fishing opportunities like the famous western rivers or lakes famous for cold water trout. Although we do have many warm water lakes filled with many species of fish, I don’t target them but Zen Tenkara and Karin Miller offers rods that you CAN go after those fish.

I requested a sample of Zen Tenkara rods to familiarize myself with. Soon after, a big box of rods was sitting in the field of view of my video doorbell. I waited till I had an hour to go through the box and open the rods as I would open one of my own upon first receipt. I was sent six rods, the Suzume, Zako, Sagi, Suimenka, Taka and the Kyojin II. In the kitchen I sat as I inspected each aspect of the rod, shaking it, reading the corresponding material on it and closing it and moving on to the next rod. All exhibited the same attention to detail, uniformity in components and storage but each with a personality, uniquely designed by Karin and her team.

In that humble box of rods is a lot of experience and work. As I read this, Karin is in Costa Rica targeting exotic species with the several different rods from the Zen line up including the Zako and the new Dual Action 2 Tip/4 Length Suimenka for machaca, the Suzume for Tico trout and the redesigned Kyojin II for surfcasting for trevally, milkfish and a number of other saltwater species.

Adam: Karin, thanks for sending the rods. I appreciate what you do.

Karin Miller: You’re very welcome Adam. I hope you can appreciate both the diversity and innovation that came packaged inside that box.

Adam: As I write this, you are in Costa Rica and have sent me a message about the rods and fish you are targeting and catching.

“Can you tell us about your equipment and catch?”

Karin Miller: Certainly. Costa Rica is such a diverse country. It offers a plethora of fish species and experiences both fresh water and salt. We were collaborating with a great team there, Release Fly Travels, with the intent to scout locations, species and various fishing opportunities for future tenkara focused destination trips. Since we really wanted to experience Costa Rica and all it’s tenkara possibilities, we covered a broad range of water, climates and fish species. This meant packing a variety of rods and lines, so we’d be prepared for most anything. When you’ve never fished a place or country before, it can be tricky to choose gear. We got into everything from small, robust trout, high in the cool-water, mountain streams of the cloud forest, to primitive, aggressive, teeth baring, machaca in crocodile filled low-land rivers near the border of Nicaragua. We even got to surf cast for crevalle, milk fish, jacks and several other saltwater varieties from rocks and cliffs on the southern pacific side just to round the trip out. Different rods and setups were used in each situation but with tenkara gear packing down so compactly, it’s still lightweight and minimal compared to traditional fly fishing gear and equipment. Basically, we focused on 4 rods during this trip: the Zako and our new Suimenka for machaca and guapote, the Suzume for Tico trout and the redesigned Kyojin II for surfcasting and what I like to call “saltwater surprise”. 

During our machaca quest we paired the rod with heavier lines as a result of the presentation we were striving for – a shorted cast with an aggressive, hard hitting popper to the surface of the water that resulted in a “plunk” sound. For this species we were attempting to mimic fruits and seeds dropping into trees that hung over the river banks. The results were fantastic.

When we were in the Talamanca Mountains fishing for trout in the cloud forest, we fished more traditional tenkara with ultra-light tenkara lines, 6x or 7x tippet and dry flies, Sakasa kebari and small nymphs patterns. Pools, pockets and edges… The plunge pools were exquisite, the water – some of the cleanest on the planet. All this, while surrounded by colorful birds singing, lush greenery and beautiful bromeliads. This location was tenkara nirvana…. truly tenkara heaven on earth. Just perfect for that delicate, pure, tenkara experience.

Lastly, we had a chance to get salty. We spent an entire day casting off of rocks and cliffs into the ocean for, well, whatever came up. Jack crevalle, ladyfish, leatherjacks and milk fish were plentiful. I used the Kyojin II paired with a 12wt fly line and a Skagit head, plus leader. Using a reverse and double reverse spey cast, it was pretty easy getting line out to where it needed to be. I was casting big clousers and minnow-type patterns. Those saltwater guys are ravenous carnivores. They want protein!

It was just such a special trip because each fishing scenario was so unique and different from the next. And it all worked so well on our tenkara rods. At no point did I wish I had a reel or feel like the job would have been better suited for a traditional rod and reel set up. Costa Rica really is a great tenkara destination. Who knew?

Adam: That is awesome!

I really enjoy picking out a place to fish, studying it and going after the target species. To date, I have done pretty well with my own adventures.

I’ve always travelled quite a way for the places I love to fish. At home it’s either two or four hours’ drive. Pushed out farther, it’s eight to twelve hours drive and beyond that, I get on a plane and go. At my destination, I either meet friends or I’m literally bushwhacking and figuring it out myself which leads me to my next question.

I rarely hire a guide. I don’t believe in missing the lesson. I have hired a guide less than the fingers on one hand in forty years of travel and fly fishing. I’m not against guides, I personally believe in figuring it out on my own, I find value in that.

“What do you think about guides?”

Karin Miller: I’m a problem solver as well. I enjoy figuring the puzzle out myself. Often there’s great reward in doing it on your own. However, when you’re fishing in a completely new location or country, and targeting species you’ve never gone after before, and you have limited time and limited opportunity, a guide is indispensable in my opinion. It’s always a collaborative effort. They know their water and their fish. I know my rods. We work together to figure out the best approach to be successful. I get to learn about a new species, and they get to learn about tenkara, fixed-line fly fishing and how to fly fish with out a reel. When we land fish, it’s a joint celebration and victory! I like the partnership that develops during the process. During these trips and particularly during the scouting adventures and training trips, we’re both learning and sharing knowledge and our experience. That often leads to new discoveries and lots of excitement – and of course, lots of laughs and stories. I’m very, very competitive, but I never forget how to laugh at myself because I continually make mistakes, goof up, behave like a child and am a dork. We can’t take ourselves too seriously while fishing. If you can’t laugh, something’s gotta change.

Adam: When I travel to a new area, if I am meeting someone, they usually act as my guide so as much as I don’t use guides, I end up fishing with friends in a new area which is like having a guide.

“When you travel, what goes through your mind to go fishing there?”

Karin Miller: Usually it’s the species that drives me. I become fascinated with a fish, its habitat and environment which it lives and the challenge of landing it. As I mentioned before, I’m competitive. I’m drawn to the challenge, to difficult species that are respected for their power, their strength and their beauty. The location is the cherry on top. I was inspired by Costa Rica. The Maldives Islands blew my mind…. That’s a saltwater destination that’s barely touched as a fly fishing destination but is an incredible, breath taking beautiful fishery. It’s just takes a real commitment to get there because it’s so far away. Costa Rica, easy peasy. Alaska, easy peasy. Mexico, easy peasy.

Adam: I often travel to a spot for family or vacation and I hear about trout there so I start to study and figure it out.

“Where is your next destination after Costa Rica? Where is the place you really want to fish and haven’t been?”

Karin Miller: My next destination as this article was being prepared is/was the Maldives Islands in the Indian Ocean east of Madagascar, south of Sri Lanka and west of Australia, just below the equator. It was simply the most beautiful place I have ever been. I thought the water in the Bahamas was incredible. The Maldives blows their water away. Plus, the climate is mild, minimal wind, no bugs or mosquitos and no other anglers (except for the occasional commercial fisherman on the ocean side)! The Maldives are untouched and may not be there in the future with rising ocean levels. The highest point in all the Maldives Islands is 2 meters above sea level. I am thankful to have experienced such an incredible place on this planet. Even better, I got to fish there with the best “extreme tenkara” guide ever, @Guidedfly. “Geordie” also guides in Alaska at Rapids Camp Lodge which is Zen Tenkara Endorsed. He’s landed huge chum, sockeyes, silver and king salmon with me on tenkara. So, to fish with him for salt in the Maldives was just wonderful. He knows Zen rods, he knows me and we fish hard together.

As lucky as I am to have fished both Costa Rica and the Maldives, I do have a bucket list fish/destination (head and eyes lowered, hands crossed in lap, feet tapping, I’m a 4 year old at heart). I really, really, really, want to go after Golden Dorado in Bolivia. I have wanted and dreamed about casting to that fish for several years now…. of landing it and just having it there beside me for just a moment to admire it. Golden Dorado are magnificent. That is the fish I dream of and want on tenkara.

Adam: Wow, that’s cool. I love travelling and fishing. I carry a minimal tenkara kit with me where ever I go. I have found that a lot of my fishing is opportunistic. I meet someone at a destination, they are a fisherman, the next thing you know, “Hey, I have my stuff with me!” and we are off on a fishing side trip.

“Do you do anything like this?”

Karin Miller: I’m kinda at both ends of the fishing spectrum Adam. I love the collaboration of fishing with someone when on an expedition, targeting a specific species or venturing into unknown countries and places. But at home, I’m kinda a loner. I’m usually on hyper drive. When I fish at home I do it for the solitude, for the quiet focus it brings to my brain and for the grounding and centering it provides. When I fish with friends we often separate on the river and fish together, separately – if that makes sense?

Adam: Karin, you fly fish and use your telescoping rods on the same trip, I sometimes do that too. The Japanese experts that I have come to understand do that too. That’s cool that you do it that way. We have spoken on the side about my using one of your rods to target carp. You suggested a 10-weight line cut for the rod.

“Can you tell us the way you line your Zen rods? How do you transfer fly line weight to your telescoping rods?”

Karin Miller: Adam that’s a big homework assignment! It’s not a simple one-fits-all recipe. You have to take into consideration multiple things: what you’re targeting, where you’re fishing the ideal cast distance for the species, the environment or conditions where you’re fishing, the rod your’re using and what type and size of patterns you’re throwing. What I can say is Zen is unique in that we talk about our rods using similar language as regular fly anglers. We have assigned a FRAE Rating to each of our rods for the convenience of anglers and fly fishermen/women alike. FRAE stands for “Fly Rod Approximate Equivalency”. It’s our olive branch to the fly fishing community and it gives anglers a better idea of the rod’s capability and capacity and helps them make a more informed decision when choosing a tenkara rod. We’ve had great feedback and anglers really seem to appreciate the FRAE Rating.

Zen small tenkara rods which include the Suzume and the Zako can be lined with traditional furled or braided tenkara lines, tenkara level line or my favorite, the Zen Floating Lines which I use with kebari, dry and nymph patterns. The Sagi rod is very versatile. It can be paired with any of those lines and will cast delicate presentations, but it can also cast heavier weighted fly lines anywhere in the range of 3wt up to a 6wt/7wt. My favorite line weight for casting long 30+ft lines is a 6wt level fly line on that rod.

The new Suimenka is extremely versatile too, particularly because it has dual tips. A nymphing Tip and a Dry Tip. Change the tip and completely change the feel and action of this rod. The Nymphing Tip handles a heavier setup and can cast a heavier line. I like the furled or braided lines including the Kevlar lines with this tip as well as a 5wt up to a 7wt fly line. When you’re using the Dry Tip, the rods casts braided or furled lines, Zen Floating Lines or 4wt - 5wt fly line really well. Length depends on location and species. In tenkara and fixed-line fly fishing, the line and its length is what the game is all about, and of course having a rod that can handle the situation without breaking.

The Taka pairs well with a 6-8wt fly line and the Kyojin II needs at least an 8wt fly line to perform. In some situation, I cast up to a 12wt fly line on that rod. It just depends on a number of factors. Zen is in the process of making lines for these bigger rods, grain weight matched for optimal performance and rod load, complete with connection loops. Think about a 30ft, weight forward, 10wt tenkara line! LOL! Crazy, I’m talking craaaazy. Makes my heart pound just thinking about it.

Hopefully I answered your questions. I’m certainly willing to talk more about it and answer specific questions but what you asked is a mouthful.

Adam: I am packrafting my favorite river, the Colorado in Glen Canyon below the dam. We are backhauled up and camp, then we blow up and float back the 9 or so miles back to the put in and drive home. Upriver, I use a 5m single hand rod with a 7m clear line to catch nice river rainbows. I like the direct connection to the fly, sasoi, dead drifting, midges, all kinds of tenkara techniques as well as known fly line type presentations. I do a hybrid fly fishing and tenkara for my honryu fishing.

“How do you like to fish big rivers with tenkara techniques? What rod and type lines? What techniques? What’s your favorite way to take river trout?”

Karin Miller: More are big questions! I prefer long rods on big rivers, 13+ft. I usually take my Sagi Rod for Colorado big rivers…it’s my favorite rod. The Sagi is 13.6’ and I’ll put on either a 15ft, 18ft or 22ft Zen Floating Line plus some tippet. Depending on the season and river, I’m either doing a dry dropper or doing a straight nymph pattern with either mono or fluorocarbon tippet. Since our line has built-in hi-vis line at the end, I don’t use any kind of indicator. Depending on where I’m fishing, and what I think will hit, I choose tippet size accordingly. If I know I’m getting into big cutbows, 22” and up, thick and beefy, I’ll up my tippet so I can land quickly and efficiently without breaking off. I dissect the water starting with what’s closest and working my way out. I have a bad habit of overworking a section, particularly if I know there’s a fish there that hasn’t hit me. I’m bad at moving on. I love fishing dries like everyone else because its so fun to see the take, to see the fish smash the fly on the surface. But I’ve come to love nymphing and setting the hook by feel alone. Tenkara rods are so sensitive. I like to put my index finger on the base of the rod blank and feel every little tic. Big rivers add excitement because you really have to manage your fish - they have so many places to run and can scream downstream. I enjoy the challenge of steering the fish, guiding it to calm water and not just pulling a 5” brookie across a stream bed.

Adam: When you are on the river, are you thinking of your company or is it the other way around or is it both?

“What drives your company?”

Karin Miller: I think that’s two separate questions. When I’m on the river am I thinking of my company? Yes. And no. When I was fishing in Costa Rica I was absolutely thinking about my rods and the circumstances and how it all transfers to the customer’s experience. Are the rods effective? Would others enjoy this? Is this practical? Its is fun? Can people be successful at this? Does it offer a gratifying and enjoyable experience? Can my rod handle this? But at a certain point, (particularly when my rods are handling it and I think others would enjoy it and be successful, I forget about my company and I’m just fishing…in a beautiful location with fantastic people and I feel so very thankful for being right there at that very moment. On my home water, I’m there for the quiet, to escape the office, social media, emails, phone calls, fears, self-doubts, all that stuff. That’s when I’m outside, on a river, just being me, not Zen.

What drives my company? Probably the shortest response to that question is me, or rather, my passion. I hear that often from people….that I’m passionate. Maybe it’s just a nice way of saying something else, but people often comment on my passion. I’m a believer in “if you’re going to spend the time doing something, do it well.” I ventured into uncharted waters with Zen. Some days its like a drug that provides the most incredible high ever. Other days it is down right hard. Like really, really, really, freak’en hard. It exposes you. Puts you up in front of the world for scrutiny and criticism. The business of tenkara is tough. I’ve learned to always listen to people and hear them out, hear their thoughts, but believe in yourself… and listen to your own gut. True, real friends are precious. They’re the people who really want you to succeed, want Zen to succeed. I respect competition as long as it’s respectful competition. I believe in giving credit where credit is due. I want to treat people, my competitors and my customers the way I’d like to be treated. Bottom line, no one needs our products. No one needs fishing gear. We’re offering an indulgence and we should be grateful for every sale. We’re not selling air or water. I want to feel proud of my products and proud of our company. I always try to take the perspective of the customer and if I was buying this, how would I feel.

“Can you tell us how Zen Tenkara came to be?”

Karin Miller: Zen Tenkara is a rebirth of Zen Fly Fishing Gear, a company I cofounded with my ex-husband about 10 years ago. I drew the Zen logo out on a cocktail napkin while drinking martinis. We actually took a vote in the bar for the name of the company because there was one other name that really spoke to me (I can’t disclose it because I love it and can still see it as an entire line). I drove sales, did all the marketing and slowly became the face of the company. I took over the company completely when we separated and then eventually divorced. It was like a phoenix rising from the ashes…sappy analogy but accurate. The Sagi was the first rod I did completely on my own. Maybe that’s why it’s my favorite. It was a passion project. (There’s that word again.) The Sagi is strong, lean, elegant, yet can fight fish like nobody’s business. I just love that rod. It’s cool too - I may be the only 100% female owned fly rod company in the world. I’m pretty sure I was the first, but as a tenkara fly rod company, your status it’s quite the same as other traditional rod companies. Regardless, it’s an exciting time to be in the industry, as a tenkara company and as a female.

Adam: I met you online like many of the people that I do. I met my wife at eHarmony and many great relationships, life-long friends from social media but I’ll be honest, I get really burned out on it at times. I don’t want to reflect on the negative, but it is there.

“Can you tell us about some of the positives that you have meet with your online or social media contacts? Any cool stories?”

Karin Miller: Oh gosh, lots of positives, lots of contacts and several very cool stories. Let’s just say that Costa Rica happened after the owner Tom Ederlin and I connected on Facebook. We talked and played with ideas for over a year before making that trip happen. Many connections have been born through introductions on different social media venues. There will always be people who talk smack – it’s just life. I try to stay out of it. Occasionally I let a little loose and give my opinion, but I try to respect everyone’s view and experience and hope they will do the same for me. I just hope for open minds….on the subject of tenkara or anything else. Rarely in life is anything black or white. Most of the world is in the gray tones and extremists on any end of the spectrum can be hard to swallow. But here again, that’s just my opinion and may not be any one else’s. There can still be a lot of negative stuff flying around about tenkara. The fly fishing community is much more accepting of the method than it used to be. I’d like to think I had some very small part in that. A lot of what has driven me to target these big species like shark, permit and bonefish is to show the fishing world that tenkara isn’t “fly fishing for dummies”. It takes a skill set, knowledge, and experience to fish without a reel. And its highly effective. I absolutely love meeting people at fly fishing shows and events that I’ve connected with on Facebook or Instagram. I also get tons of emails from people asking questions. I really enjoy that personal connection and always take the time to respond directly. I get to share in their experiences. It’s very special to become a part of someone’s life and I get to do that through Zen. It’s not just about selling a product, it’s about offering experiences and becoming a part of someone’s leisure time and life.

Adam: Most of my cool stories involve friends I’ve meet online. I travel somewhere to meet them and then in my travel, I am invited to meet other friends and the friends I’m with meet friends and become friends. Or something like that…

“Any interest in going to Japan?”

Karin Miller: I would love to go to Japan! Some time ago I was being interviewed and quoted as saying I had no interest. That shocked me and was extracted from a comment and taken out of context. Frustrating. Yes, I would thoroughly enjoy fishing in Japan and fishing with traditional Japanese tenkara anglers. There is always something new to learn and discover. I can’t image anyone who wouldn’t love that experience.

Adam: I used to think it was necessary to go to Japan to learn a a high level of tenkara. At the time I thought this, it was but now that there is so much good information outside of Japan, techniques, history, good equipment, it’s not necessary now. That does not mean someone should go or not go. Everything about tenkara is now outside of Japan except Japan. When I went, my trip was to go to Japan to learn about it but it was more about experiencing the country, the people. Japan in of itself is the reason to go. Tenkara? Yes, but only if you want that experience.

Now Colorado? Where you live? I think the Japanese need to go there. I’m not an angler without regular trips to Colorado.

“Karin, tell us what you love about fishing in salt water so much. I know, but maybe other people that don’t fish the salt, don’t know why we love fishing the sea so much.”

Karin Miller: Well if you know anything about me it’s that I’m a native Floridian. My father lived on a boat and one of my two best childhood friends had a home on Long Key. I was born of the salt. The ocean is my home, and when I moved to Colorado, as beautiful as it was, I missed water. My need to be near and on it brought me to fly fishing. No oceans in Colorado and lakes lacked motion, movement, and sounds. The rivers had those things. Saltwater will always course through my veins though. Rivers are predictable. Water flows change up or down, different hatches happen throughout different seasons, but it’s predictable. When you really think about it, rivers flow with cyclical, minimal change each year. If I go to any number of rivers in Colorado I’m catching trout. Maybe a cutthroat, a brookie, a rainbow or cutbow. Maybe a brown. But generally, always a trout. I know what’ll be at the end of my line, attached to my hook everytime. What varies is size.

Saltwater fly fishing, saltwater tenkara is unpredictable. The species are countless. You might be casting to a trigger fish when a barracuda comes out of nowhere and slams your fly. On the Maldives trip we were targeting GT, Giant Trevally. Right at the end of the strip when we were pulling in the last of the line, disappointed that nothing rose, nothing moved, nothing hit, a shark hammered the fly and everything shot into hyper-speed in a matter of a micro second. You’re standing on the bow of a flats boat casting to bonefish when suddenly you see a permit coming in. Hyper-speed again! You’re tracking the fish, setting up your cast, trying to not get tangled. You have probably only one shot. The challenge is incredible and we’re talking about seconds, the opportunity is counted in seconds, not minutes. Nothing can be happening and then in the blink of an eye, everything is happening all at once and every moment, every movement, is critical. It’s like getting an EpiPen injection of adrenaline stuck in your thigh that keeps your heart pounding for 20 or 30 minutes after the incident is all over and the water is quiet again. I find saltwater addictive. The fish are predators. They’re fast. They’re powerful, they test everything you thought you knew about fishing and humble you. They’re incredibly beautiful and you’re vulnerable out there in the middle of what often feels like nowhere, standing on the bow of a boat possible facing off with a 20-80lb fish or wading on the flats, casting at blue fin while a tiger shark swims silently, stealthily by. That’s cools. You’re in their world. It makes landing something, in my opinion, that much more special. I guess saltwater is just BIGGER in every way. Don’t misunderstand me. I’m passionate about trout. But my love of the ocean and saltwater species is just an undeniable part of who I am.

Adam: I’m a fly fisherman first or, that’s how the story goes. I learned on a small stream as a child while fishing farm ponds with a cane pole. I’ve always fished a long rod and a fly rod. Before I grew older, fishing a cane pole stood for pure childhood memories. Super simple and fun yet too rudimentary for my interest to do in many other places besides our farm ponds. I wanted to make a split bamboo cane pole and started to ask around for the taper, the math, the numbers to set my planning form and was quickly answered to check out tenkara. There was no way that a graphite pole was going to upset the very core of my idea of fishing but that is just what it did.

Moving forward…
I’ve fished the mighty Colorado River in Glen Canyon for decades, hard core trips with many Simms guide type men that would have no part of fishing there with a cane pole. But now I prefer fishing there with one. It can do nearly everything a fly rod can and is much more like bow hunting for pigs than say with a semi automatic.

Once you know you know and unless you know, you don’t.

Again, I learned the techniques from the Japanese, but I hone them myself by doing. There are Japanese anglers that specialize in certain techniques, they are written about and they write about their techniques, one of them is Koken Sorimachi.

“You talk about one of your “tenkara rods” as being a two hand spey rod. Can you get into that a little?”

Karin Miller: I love the “ ” around the words “tenkara rods” that you typed. I’m not sure how to interpret that but I’m guessing there is skepticism and you’re affording me leeway with a raised eyebrow, because a tenkara spey rod is an oxymoron of sorts. I appreciate your open mindedness and I respect the care you’ve been taking during this interview when referring to my rods. It hasn’t gone unnoticed. LOL! What would you like to know about the Kyojin II Spey Tenkara Fly Rod? It is a redesign of one of our oldest designs and the second rod Zen produced. It’s unique and a first of its kind. It was the first “big fish tenkara rod“ on the market, casting to and landing 18lb carp back when tenkara folk thought a 12”-15” trout was a big fish to land on a tenkara rod….and when we were told you couldn’t use a tenkara rod on a lake. Ahhh, the good old days. I was laughed at a lot for that rod. But the Kyojin continues to sell, to land fish, to perform. I’ve never had a warranty claim on the rod in more than 6 years. It’s been referred to as the whale shark rod and called a baseball bat. But that rod has landed bonnet and hammerhead sharks, chum salmon, redfish, tarpon, bonefish, carp, etc. It’s awesome for surfcasting. Say what you will. It cast super accurately, even when throwing 25-30ft of line plus leader or even a Skagit head plus leader. Put in the right hands of a skilled angler and it performs magnificently. It casts between an 8wt and 12wt fly line and has been shipped all over the world to pursue all kinds of exotic fish in exotic locations. When I announced a redesign, I had a small uprising from people who objected to changing it because they loved it the way it was. It’s a badass, super strong, super lightweight fixed-line, tenkara style fly rod that I’m super proud of.

Adam: I choose only two rods for my fishing, one of them is a single hand 5m rod. I find it very versatile fishing rod.

“What do you think about long rods?”

Karin Miller: I like long rod and think they offer many benefits. But, in some places they simply don’t work. I had wanted to produce a short rod a few years before we came out with our tri-zoom Suzume which fishes at 7.7’, 9.3’ and 10.8’. Many people in the tenkara world talked me out of it, advised me against it, said tenkara was all about the length, the reach, the stealth factor, that was the advantage. I would lose all that with a short rod. I often fished Rocky Mountain National Park and Indian Peaks Wilderness Area in streams that were only 5ft across and shrouded in willows and trees. Casting in between the branches was difficult with a 12’ rod. There was nowhere to cast, no way to extends or maneuver your line. But I managed and dealt with it. When we finally produced the Suzume and I fished the pro-type up in the park I remember thinking, “Why the hell did I wait so long? Next time, I listen to my gut.” So, long rods are great, but so are short rods. It’s more about using the most practical tool for a particular job.

Adam: Karin, I often ask who ever I am interviewing if they have any questions for me.

Karin Miller: (Place your questions here)

Did you fish any of my rods? 

Adam: Not yet. I am not a fan of the spring blow out (it is the end of April as I write this) and we have had record snow fall and subsequent blown out streams. I primarily switch to Honryu and packrafting at this time.

If you did, which one/s did you use? 

Adam: The Kyojin II has got my attention.

How did you set it/them up? 

Adam: I think tenkara is an extremely personal form of fishing allowing us to use what we know to catch trout in the stream. That being said, it is my intent to use a rod as the designer made it. So I asked you for line advice for the Kyojin II which you sent. You suggested a 10-weight line which is a big line! I've caught many fish on a 10-weight in the ocean. I know what it is like to see and feel the backing knot go "dit dit dit dit dit dit..." through the guides and on out the tip top. So I searched out a 10-weight line in white, a double taper and cut 16 feet, rigged the tippet end with a braided loop, made a clear intermediate head with loops on the end for loop to loop and fixed a backing loop on the other end to attach to the lillian. I can cast this 20' line (sans tippet) one handed pretty accurately and well. As soon as I get some time with casting this line and the rod, I'll go longer with the other end of the fly line. At this time, I'm using it one handed.

Where did you use it/them and what were you targeting? 

Adam: We have a big canal system in Phoenix, hundreds of miles and they are stocked with big carp, 1 meter carp to eat the aquatic vegetation. I've been wanting to catch one for so long. I bought a giant net and I'm finally ready. The problem is, they empty the canals for a month or so for maintenance, to clear out any shopping carts, dead bodies and such. The canals are silted out but clearing. My fishing for these guys will be sight fishing.

Did you land any fish? 

Adam: At the time of this writing, I am about to start fishing the Kyojin II. I will fish it for several days till I catch a bunch of these guys and know what I'm doing.

How did you feel when you used it/them? 

Adam: I haven't fished them yet. But I do have about an hour of yard casting with different rods and line set ups with my target system. It wasn't hard to figure out your rods. They are nice and do what you say they do.

Do you think my rods are tenkara rods? 

Adam: If I'm using them in a mountain stream or even down in the mainstream for trout? 


Is the Kyojin II a tenkara rod? I don't think so but I'm excited to use tenkara techniques with it.

How did you come up with the questions you asked me? 

Adam: I continue to read your contribution to the tenkara community, profiled you (not judging) and thought of questions that would flow together that might show a little more of what you are about.

What, if any, insights have you gained from this interview? 

Adam: That you are a far more gifted angler than I imagined.

Adam: I try to live in the moment while having a plan. I’ve always said, “Plan your work and work your plan.” and that has served me well. I like structure but I also enjoy living in the moment.

“Where do you see yourself in 10 years?”

Karin Miller: Throughout my life I’ve been asked that question several times and I’ve concluded that I’m rarely where I thought I’d be. I’m not sure if that’s good or bad. What I can say is, I want to continue learning and improving both personally and professionally. I hope that Zen and tenkara continue to gain respect in the fly fishing industry. I want to continue to make strides with our products and positively impact the industry. I hope that I am lucky enough to continue traveling and exploring this glorious planet and experience fishing in amazing locations. I hope I finally get to chase a Golden Dorado, and land one, at least one (maybe two) on a Zen Tenkara rod. Like many people, I hope to somehow, someway contribute and be respected for what Zen has done and accomplished in this industry and to the lives we’ve touched and the anglers we’ve sometimes helped created.

Adam: I’m pretty content with who I am and the life I have lived. Besides going fishing in Colorado, I just want to travel more with my family and steal away to do a little fishing on my family trip. I want everything, friends, family and fishing. That’s what I like to do.

“What is your recipe?”

Karin Miller: Hmmm. My recipe? Live life. Love my family and friends. Work hard. Play hard. Be nice. Take chances. Face fears. Be sincere. Whatever I do, do it well. Embrace my passion. Appreciate small moments. Occasionally, pause. Be my best. Nurture and love myself. Stay connected with the 4yr old inside me.

Adam: I really enjoy who you are, I like what you do. I appreciate your contribution to tenkara. I wish you all the success in the world with Zen Tenkara and your own fishing

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

Karin Miller: Thank you very much Adam. It’s been a pleasure getting acquainted with you through this interview and our communications. I’m truly flattered by your desire to interview me and your real curiosity about who I am, what my company is about, and my quite nontraditional approach to and interpretation of, tenkara. Thank you again for your open mindedness and interest in Zen Tenkara. We are humbled and appreciative of it all. I wish you many happy days of fishing (how ever you want) and hope you always remember to laugh, play and occasionally be that little kid, catching a fish any which way.

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