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.

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