|Photograph by Adam Klagsbrun|
This interview is long overdue. Chris Zimmer supports the tenkara community with his craft. I use quite a bit of the equipment he offers and his brand rivals the best in the business for what I chose to use in my tenkara fishing. I met Chris at one of Tenkara USA Summits, I’m not sure but I think he won the fly tying contest, I believe I placed third behind him and Adam Klagsbrun. I have worked with Chris to design my version of my tenkara bag, the Kaizen and it was super easy and Chris gave me props at his site.
|The backpack that started it all.|
|Photo by Rob Lepczk|
Do we really need all that expensive equipment?
|Photo by Isaac Tait|
Adam Trahan: I just bought a new Subaru Forester! I’m super excited about it. I am going to use it for this next part of my life as I cut back my work and travel more to fish. I no longer fly (as a soaring pilot) and traveling by car is so enjoyable for me. I really enjoy the destination at the end of a long drive and my car and what I take with me is how I do it.
“What type of car do you drive and how does it play a role in your life?”
Chris Zimmer: I have a Subaru Outback. What can I say, the tires make contact with the road and get me to where I want to go. With Ohio not having the most trout rich waters, I do spend a lot of time driving to Pennsylvania, Maryland, West Virginia or up to Michigan in search of trout. I just love the feeling of setting out on a fishing road trip. Your mind racing with thoughts of what you might have forgotten, or thinking about what the water conditions are going to be like. After a long car ride there is no better feeling than stepping out of the car and taking in that first breath of stream side air! The fresh air just soaks into my soul and I feel happy!
Adam Trahan: Traveling to adventure with friends is just the best feeling or taking your family on a trip and being able to explore, and to do this with your stuff, car trips are the best.
To look at it in reverse, my little pack that I carry my fly box, spool and lines, that is what makes it a tenkara adventure, the sling pack and backpack allow me a little more comfort in the way of bringing a stove, a chair, a meal. Past that I have a backpacking pack that I overnight out of, then comes the car. Distance, budget, time, planning, the sweet spot is travel by car. When I travel by plane, I’m making decisions that are more costly in the fact that when I get to a destination, I’m having to consider lodging, further travel, do I bring my backpack and overnight gear? My point here is that the good you offer are pieces of equipment that I use to make decisions on what I’m doing. Your packs, bags, the gear you offer solve a lot of questions and I appreciate what you do.
“What goes into the process of designing your equipment? Are you solving your own questions or do your customers request solutions or a combination of both?”
Chris Zimmer: In the beginning, it was mostly just making gear that solved problems for myself. All the pieces I make are all things that I heavily used at one point or another. I didn't always need the same kit for each trip which is what led me to making items that can be used together or individually. This allows me to carry exactly what I think I am going to need for that specific trip. These days I have customers come to me with issues they are having and I try to solve those problems by either tweaking a pack I already offer or by coming up with something totally new. It is a lot of fun working with other people and trying to solve whatever problem they are having. It has helped open the door to new designs and features. I am now able to see a different way of accomplishing a goal that I was not aware of before. There is no “right way” to do any of this, just because some things are the norm doesn't mean another way won’t work as well. It's fun discovering those other ways of doing things and seeing it help someone have more success out on the water.
|Adam Klagsbrun ~ Adam Trahan ~ Chris Zimmer|
Adam Trahan: I meet you at one of the tenkara summits! I know you were busy and so was I but we did spend a little time in the tying room. I think I got third, I believe you won the contest. It was a lot of fun and I really enjoyed those summits.
“Can you tell us a little bit about your tying?”
Chris Zimmer: Yeah, that was a fun night! Klags topped us both and took first. He ties some really nice flies. I remember that was the one contest I had my eye on winning, the two top prizes were a couple sets of flies that Yoshikazu Fujioka had tied, and I really wanted one. That is a really cool set.
I love tying flies. That is what actually got me into fly fishing more than anything else really. I was 9 or 10 years old on vacation with my family and came across a fly shop and went in to check it out. I was just drawn to all the different furs and feathers and seeing all the different flies that you could tie, I just thought that was the coolest stuff ever. Today, I don't get to tie nearly as much as I would like. I always feel guilty that I am not working on someone's order. For tenkara, I use to try and match the hatch or tie some fancy looking fly but over the years I have figured out all I need is a size 14 with a peacock herl body and some brown hackle and I will more than likely have success wherever I am fishing. I love making stuff so fly tying is just another outlet for me to do so.
Adam Trahan: Any questions for me?
Chris Zimmer: On the subject of flies, are you a one fly guy or do you like to use whatever fly is in your box on your tenkara adventures? If you could only use one fly, which fly would you use?
Adam Trahan: Great question!
When I first started tenkara in 2009, I was reading the information stream from Daniel Gahlardo. “One Fly” was his interpretation of tenkara, and subject to whatever he chose to report on. After a while, I began to see a pattern that supported the direction he took in marketing. He wasn’t lying or anything like that, he was picking and choosing content based on his interest and marketing direction. “One Fly” from his perspective was reported on as “literally only one fly” by a couple of the experts. I did not have enough intel on tenkara at that point and I could not find anything about it in old or new Japanese literature.
I decided to try it and picked out a Sakasa Kebari and tied a few. I also had a friend tye several dozen for me. I began a year of “one fly” and ended up catching more fish that year than I ever had in fly fishing the same streams. I even went to Japan with my one fly yet when I started asking around, “one fly” wasn’t the one fly it was reported on.
It was a minimal fly box and behind that was the methodology of tenkara.
The fly was secondary to the knowledge of where the fish were and accurate casting to get the fly to them.
I considered everything when reducing fishing to one fly. In the past I used a stomach pump on fish when I was studying entomology in fly fishing. Everything I found in that trial was about a half inch and brown. I used what I knew in studying fish vision and behavior. I looked at the history of tenkara and the rods and line I used and came up with my version of the fly that covered all the bases. Black body for outline, soft brown feather for buggy movement, a red head to appeal to the aggressive nature all on the Japanese keiru hook that was designed and evolved with nesting rods.
I have since abandoned my one fly choosing only to start with it everywhere I go. It still ends up being the most effective pattern not because of it, because of the whole of tenkara.
I still suggest trying a season of one fly to anyone because it supports the improvement on learning where the fish are and getting the fly to them. I suggest it along with the accurate casting game, the two go together.
All of that has nothing with entomology or matching the hatch being a wrong choice. That’s one of the reasons why I say that fly fishermen by far are better tenkara anglers. They already know most of the good info. Tenkara is just the method that strips away all the necessary equipment and practice that goes along with western fly fishing and gets straight to the point of catching fish, fast.
Adam Trahan: Chris, I want to thank you for taking my request to sit for this interview. If it isn’t evident, I want to thank you for all that you do. Your craft is important to the adventures I cook up and the fishing that I do.
Please use this opportunity to close.
Good luck in your business, your family life and all that you do.
Chris Zimmer: Hey, thanks for having me, Adam. I appreciate your appreciation! I would like to take this opportunity to give a huge THANK YOU to anyone that has ever bought and/or used a piece of my gear. I truly appreciate everyone's support and I feel so fortunate to be able to have a job this fun and rewarding. Thank you so much to each and every one of you!