Ketchum, Idaho

I have old friends there. Mother’s, fathers, snowboarders and skiers, carpenters and shop keepers, locals and friends. They’ve been telling me to visit and in a moment of opportunity, it all came together...

“Noah, you want to go to Idaho?”

“Sure Dad!”

Trying to find a flight in was not easy. Or reasonable. Hailey has a airport but it isn’t populated with common jet airliners, when we drove past, there were six private jets and one small Delta commuter. Boise and Twin Falls are a couple of hours drive and a rental, I tried for days to work out a plan.

So we decided to drive. Phoenix to Salt Lake City, 10 hours and in to Ketchum was another 4.

Rolling through Flagstaff, the Museum fire was only 10% contained. It was putting out a lot of smoke.

The mighty Glen Canyon Dam was awesome but we wanted to keep going, we wanted to get there. There is an amazing tour through the dam and I wanted to take Noah on it, next time.

I asked Noah to look at Google and see if there was anything he would like to do.

“The Shoshone Ice Cave, I want to go there.”

It’s a big lava tube just shy of Hailey out on the flats as you approach the the valley that leads to the “Gateway to the Sawtooths” mountain range, Hailey and Ketchum. The ice cave tour was so much fun and interesting. I’m glad Noah picked it out.

We rolled into Ketchum and went to Lost Rivers Fly Shop where Laura works. She took care of us getting our license and opened her home to Noah and I. Chris, her husband was working too so Noah and I went to Lefty’s to get a beer. It’s where the locals hang out and I know a few.

Later, Chris joined us and it was nice to finally close the gap, the last time I saw him was like 30 years ago at his brother’s wedding.

We went to his house and Laura was there with Charlie, his son. Noah and Charlie grabbed the Nerf guns and Chris and I grabbed our sticks and bags, we headed up canyon to a little wild stream filled with wild (native) rainbows. I tied on the wrong fly and in a couple of casts, I was into trout. We hopscotched up the stream while I listened to Chris narrative catching fish along the way.

Last year I sent Chris a tenkara rod. He is a lifelong fly fisherman living in Ketchum, Idaho. A land of fly fishing as religion passing it down from generations but when Chris showed interest, I wanted nothing more than to plant that seed.

In Ketchum, as I thought, Patagonia had their tenkara rods and at the rich people’s shopping store, they had Daniel’s rods. Things settle as they do, as it should be. The locals not grasping on to tenkara.

Why would they?

This is a fly fishing neighborhood.

I think Yvon Chouinard has a much better approach toward the hard core embedded fly fishing areas. He teaches a simple fly fishing method with a floating fly line. It’s much more palatable to people that only know fly fishing. He also targets fly fishing supporting it with waders and specialized gear and he doesn’t push his tenkara rods by telling people to sell their fly fishing gear. I think “rod, line and fly” doesn’t go over that well to people that only know fly fishing.

(click on the pic for a vid, you can see the fish I caught finning on the inside corner)

While we were fishing, Chris pointed out a rainbow finning the inside corner of a bend. Darting in and out feeding on nymphs, he told me to catch ‘em. I crept into position and that’s exactly what I did, I sight caught that single fish.

The Furaibo bent both of us hooting.


The next morning was mine, it was mid week and everyone had to work. I drove two minutes to the river and stretched out my Suimu (5m Honryu rod) with a clear 7m line. I think it was 5 or 6 casts, Noah said it was four and the big rod was deeply bent. It took a few minutes to land the 20”+ trout. Noah getting the pic, “Nice fish dad.” And that was enough for the morning, we folded it up and headed over to Sun Valley to ride the lift and do a little hiking.

We went fishing afterwards to a beautiful area where they filmed a Clint Eastwood western. Later, we all meet at “the ranch” where I was a guest at a private disc golf course in a special place filled with legendary stories of vintage opulence as we moved from one hole to another in a course carved out of the woods.

Back at Lefty’s more local friends and a little talk about tenkara. “Look guys, it‘s a tool in the box, it’s easy to dissect a stream with stealthy pin point accuracy. They knew I had caught fish. They knew my experiences but what they were interested in was my experiences with my Japanese friends. I told them about Japanese culture of respect, the gasso style homes, steep mountain valley streams, the tenba, the assist ropes and iwana sashimi and shioyaki. I told them about this badass, and Yuzo Sebata that came to this area of the USA to show the locals about tenkara a long time ago, when all our fathers were killing it on the streams.

There isn’t anything wrong with learning fishing with tenkara. I’m not talking just learning to catch fish but learning to live the lifestyle of a fly fisherman. But tenkara’s roots are firmly embedded in Japan and Americans are not Japanese. There is no generational American tenkara experiences in the USA, it's all new and what little culture there is, what do you think it is? It's an Internet small community and there are people that do it without the internet. I see a lot of head butting of tenkara vs. fly fishing, nasty memes, Internet culture and I understand why. So many new people to fishing in fly fishing water catching fish, instant experts. Fly fishing is often earned hard.

Experience always tells the story and experiences also bridges the gaps. That’s how it always is, skiing, snowboarding, surfing, hang gliding and paragliding. The new kid on the block is going to meet the old guy...

I saw a sticker, “Lefty no tenkara” Even when he poo pood on tenkara, I still liked Lefty. I learned quite a bit about fly fishing from him. I understand what he meant but he came around before he left us. I like that sticker, I gotta find one. I was at a old fly fishing trade show in Arkansas (Sowbug Round Up) and one of the guys that ran the show said to Daniel and I, he was looking at me, “Oh, you brought the sage.” I laughed understanding him, my friend? Not so much.


My expensive five weight stayed in its case. I didn’t need it but I brought it though and was even excited to use it. During the trip, my two tenkara rods got quite a workout in Ketchum. Chris, as experienced as he is learned some new techniques but he’s already experienced and now even more with tenkara. He also caught a pretty big fish on his Amago. He is the tenkara fisher in Ketchum. He will tell the story there.

I had trouble at one stream with my wrong fly. I wasn't hooking up. Chris came over talking about a yellow insect that was hatching. All I had was a little Sebata-san magic. Zenmai dubbing that he had tied up himself and gave to me. I always have a few of Sebata-san kebari and a little box of Jun Maeda-san dry flys. That zenmai kebari saved the day for me.

Chris had some zenmai, I gave him a small bit after receiving a batch from Sebata. He took that zenmai, tied up some soft hackles and railed trout with it.

Laura, you are the best! Thank you for opening your home to me (Chris, you too) and Ron? Thank you for the best day disc golfing with Jayce and your brother. It was awesome to see DK and Dana at Lefty's. I really enjoyed meeting Mariah and Josh too. I'm bummed I didn't get to see Mike Muir, maybe next time.

The trip pegged the fun meter. The round trip milage was 2,090 miles. It was a long drive up and back but I really enjoyed myself. I got back this morning, Sunday, uploaded the photo's and pecked out my thoughts. 

I hope you enjoy my little adventure.


  1. That's a great little getaway, get in the car and go! Happy to see you had a fun time, not only bending the tenkara rods on trout, but more importantly with your friends old and new, and son. Adding the Ice Cave to "the list" should I ever get out that way. Wonderful photography by the way.

    1. Thank you Michael, you are a gentleman. You will like the Ice Cave, it's worth the stop.

  2. I spent along time up in Sun Valley and some stories have I got some stories about Chris "Theo" and our fishing adventures. I'm heading back to Idaho in a few days it's almost October lookingvfor ward to hopefully visiting alot of my old fishing grounds and I'm going to hopefully try and find Chris it's been over 22 years since I've went a line with him.