Interview with Morgan Lyle

It’s 3:34a and like most of the things I do, there is a quiet, calm about my surroundings. The house is still except for the white noise of the space heater next to me. It’s winter here in the desert southwest of Arizona and it feels like the autumn of my fishing career so to speak. The high spot of the season has come and gone, the fishing is still good yet the winter closes in and I know that my interest becomes less.

Satoshi Miwa would say, “I have x amount of seasons left in fly fishing life…”

“How many more seasons do I have left?” is what I say.

I’m going to keep at it as long as I can, fishing and writing Interviews. I think this one is 44 or 45 or so.

I sit back and read the opener of this interview and ask myself if this is the way it is?

I don’t know.

I do know I love fishing and more importantly, the places it takes me.

At this time, my craft is taking me to Morgan Lyle and my interest is in this talented angler (let me check social media to see if I have this correct) from Brooklyn, New York. I want to interview him to find out more in my own way, just what he is about.

Adam: Morgan, thank you for taking this interview. Without being presumptuous, I want to set up who you are conversing with.

I am about 60 years old, I started out skateboarding as a child and that’s really all I wanted to do until my older friends turned me on to surfing around 15. At that time I was skateboarding empty swimming pools, surfing at Big Surf in Tempe and traveling to California and Mexico to surf. In the summers, my father would take us to Hawaii where I could really see the power in the ocean. My first experiences with big waves. During a surf trip to San Diego, I was surfing a place called “Blacks” near Torrey Pines and that’s where I saw hang gliding for the first time. I looked that up back home and found out the local hill had a group of guys hang gliding from it. For a 15 year old, I was pretty busy trying to figure out what I wanted to do, skateboarding, surfing, and wanting to fly a hang glider. I got my license to drive and soon I had my first hang glider and about that time, I found out about snowsurfing.

At an early age, my Mom introduced me to music. She liked the Beatles but she also liked the music of Led Zeppelin, Deep Purple and Pink Floyd. Pretty cool when you can chalk up skateboarding, surfing, hang gliding and edgy music to your mother. She didn’t do that on purpose, I just watched and learned…

I’ve been early into most sports or things I do. Wait, that’s true but it’s true with a caveat. I’m new to a sport but a pioneer to a lot of revolutions. At this time in the mid seventies to early 80’s I was also into punk rock. I didn’t get that from anyone, I got that from myself finding the music as a place I could find my own vibe. The music took me places and bands like the Sex Pistols, the Clash, 999, Devo, Fear and many others started to form my attitude towards all the things I did. I didn’t really give a fuck what people thought, if it felt good and I enjoyed it, I was going to do it.

Fishing had nothing to do with any of this.

I didn’t fish much during this time of my life, I did as a kid, but as a teenager, the forest just didn’t allow me to be who I was. There was no punk rock music, just the pines, the wind, the gentle sound of the stream, birds, the wind in the top of the trees and it was something calming. That attitude in my youth just didn't want calm, I wanted a fight! As I grew older, the forest always took me back to my youth but without the attitude, it just left me as a playful, innocent child.

Funny what the forest does to you.

But the blacktop of the city, the powerful blue of the ocean and sky? Yes, and I took that music with me.

Morgan, I’m not sure how old you are but I know you enjoy the music of my era. I know you have an opinion and also an attitude about you. I know you fish, I know you have written a couple of books which I have not read or own, no offense, I am focused on the Japanese aspect of tenkara and have only recently started to open up my focus to include other authors such as Paul Gaskell and John Pearson. I got started with Daniel Galhardo and his introduction of tenkara but I’m finding out that my journey is taking me away from his circle of tenkara and I’m back on my own path heading in my own direction and it feels good.

I write the above few paragraphs to give you license to be candid, frank and raw. Although I enjoy the prose of fishing, certainly I’ve learned that there is room for people to be who they are and write what they want. Magazines and books are really not how I do it, although I do have books and I enjoy writing for magazines, that’s more about changing things to what I want, not what the man wants but what I want.

Morgan, what do you want?

Morgan Lyle: Adam, if only I knew what I wanted!

I’m writing at my little dining room table in yes, Brooklyn, and my Daiwa Kiyose 43M is sitting in sections on the table, drying out. I walked down to Prospect Park this morning to do a little fishing for panfish or bass. It’s a rainy day so there weren’t many people out. During this pandemic, I only fish on rainy days, and only on foot. Gusty wind made fishing a pain in the neck so I wasn’t out long, but I got a little exercise and fresh air.

Adam: With these interviews, I make the same mistakes over and over. I don’t really give the person a place to go, “hey, thanks adam for having me and bla bla bla…” I really do need to do that more but I have become successful at doing what I do, the way I do it.

I have people that influence me, people like my wife, my Mom, my father and moving outward, people that I enjoy reading their words or being in their presence. I carry a lot of people with me when I do the things I do so I’ll do it now.

I want to apologize for not having your books in my library. Let me purchase them from you and if you don’t mind, could you inscribe them for me? That would be very cool, thank you.


“Thank you again and very much for taking my interview. This is the opportunity for a more normal opener.”

Morgan Lyle: And thank you for interviewing me. And I’d be delighted to sign your books. Thanks for that too.

Adam: Maybe it’s a control thing with me, I don’t want to control anyone, I enjoy going with the flow.

I’ve always thought I was a square peg in a round hole until I spent some time with psychiatrists and psychologists asking them questions as they asked me why I feel the way I do. I’ve been through a divorce and have been depressed a couple of times. Things that are human, people deal with these sort of things in many different ways. Some ignore their emotions, others try to control them, I just know that my experiences make me who I am.

I am a professional, I have a job testing people’s heart. My career spans decades, something like 35 years of cardiovascular repair and testing. I believe in working hard and playing harder. But being who I am. My job is not who I am, I do not allow it to be my identity. If I were pressed, I am a husband, a father and a friend, that’s who I am. That does not mean I am not dedicated to my job. Getting up my whole life at 5:30a to go to help others, that is enough alone to define my dedication.

Only later on in my life I have learned that it just isn’t my business what people think about me. None of my business. As a professional, I give my all to my work, I am completely dedicated to it and my one and only word that I would like to have people think of when describing me would be, integrity.

I think I have a pretty good idea of what you stand for in your life, what your interests are by your own words.

“With much respect and admiration for who I think you are, who is Morgan Lyle?”

Morgan Lyle: I’m a middle-aged guy who is fortunate to be a parent of two amazing human beings and husband of another. I’ve been ridiculously lucky all my life. When I went to college in my late 20s I discovered I have a knack for writing and have made my living that way ever since, as a newspaper reporter, college PR guy and now copywriter for a retail business. All that time there have been people willing to publish my writing about fishing, which has been a delight.

Adam I know you’re a very serious angler but I must say I really admire all the other stuff you’ve done too, surfing and skateboarding and hang gliding and so forth. I’ve really never done anything outdoorsy except fish. But even more than that, I really admire your work at Your interviews with Japanese (and non-Japanese) tenkara experts are an incredible resource.

Adam: If you haven’t already noticed, this is what I do.

I’m dedicated to tenkara. So much so, I have a tattoo of a friends Takayama, Sakasa Kebari. Yoshikazu Fujioka san’s kebari is on my left forearm. That’s just some ink, anyone can get a tattoo.

But I am dedicated having spent quite a bit of money that I could have spent on my family on trips to Japan, time that I could have invested with my family, away with friends fishing tenkara or alone chasing dreams in foreign mountain valley streams.

I take it back here to the screen, pecking out my thoughts through the keys, trying to capture what it is to be a tenkara fisherman.

I’m quite proud to have discovered that it is quite alright to be who we are, like the music we like and to be so diverse. I had to get on a plane and travel half way across the globe to find this out on my own.

Fly fishing could’t do it, tenkara did it in short order.

I started writing about fly fishing small streams in the mid 90’s during a time where it was just not as popular as the big fish guys in the rivers around the world. Blue water fly fishing for marlin or whatever, I liked small streams and I did that but I tried to fit in as a fly fisher and it just didn’t work for me. Fly fishing was molding me and it took quite a few years of tenkara to put it in it’s place and then, understand, that the tenkara was helping my fly fishing experience.

I had made several bamboo fly rods from bamboo ever before tenkara but quit all that to learn it.

Tenkara was perfect for me.

“What is perfect for you?”

Morgan Lyle: Maybe the same as you: rushing, stony stream with lots of trout. Big flat rivers bore me, even if they hold big fish. I took up fly-fishing around the same time as I took up writing and fished mostly in smaller streams in upstate New York. My favorite stream is actually kind of large, but it’s got a lot more riffles than pools. Exciting and beautiful. I lived in Long Island for 10 years, and for much of that time never tied a single trout fly – I became completely obsessed with fly-fishing the beaches and inlets for striped bass and bluefish. At some point, my inner trout fisher re-asserted itself, and while I live much closer to the salt water, I’d rather drive upstate to fish for trout.

Adam: I’ve been to Japan and have fished with some very talented tenkara fishermen there. We would put together a plan for my visit and then I would get on the plane and execute our plan. It’s one of the ways I enjoy tenkara. The other way is by car. I think a two day drive is about all that I have challenged myself with over the years. That’s a lot of windshield time across flat lands into distant mountains, more flatlands on the other side and to the mountains beyond. Although I do enjoy getting on a plane and flying to distant mountains, I much prefer the act of driving my own car to get to where I want to go. Although I am a minimalist, I like the freedom of having my own car.

“Morgan, how do you like to do it? It being, what is your preferred method of getting to where you want to go?”

Morgan Lyle: One of the nicest feelings is when you check to make sure you have your keys, close the trunk of your car and set off for the water – that feeling of possibility and potential. I don’t travel much to fish and have barely traveled at all internationally, for fishing or anything else. It’s just how things have worked out. I do enjoy travel and I have a brief bucket list of places I’d like to visit and fish. We’ll see. Meanwhile I have a ton of fishing within a few hours’ drive.

Adam: Most of the time, I fish alone but lately, I have been sharing my adventures with a couple of friends. A companion is always interesting. I’ll be frank, it is a distraction to the fishing but it is always fun to share the experience. I would say that my best fish have been caught with a close friend somewhere near by but I have caught a lot of big fish alone.

“Do you enjoy fishing alone? Who do you most enjoy fishing with?”

Morgan Lyle: I do like having some company when I fish, but I usually fish alone and I think most other people do too. I guess it’s just easier. The solitude can be very nice, of course.

Adam: Alone, inside my head, thoughts swirling around, introspection on my experience, figuring out problems, sometimes I like to mute all those things and replace them with music.

It’s spring now, I have literally walked away from fishing and writing about it. I’ve found myself in a funk, maybe I’m depressed, I don’t know but I have a reason to be freaked out. I saw on the news that they are burying people in mass graves in New York state. The Novel Coronavirus has shut much of the earth down, social distancing, quarantine and isolation.

Music often helps me get through the ebb and flow.

Nine Inch Nails just came out with two new albums. Both dark and intense. It’s a fight fire with fire thing for me. It’s doing the trick for me, helping me crawl out of my depressive state.

“Morgan, can you tell me about you and music, I know a story is there”

Morgan Lyle: I too loved the exuberance and the fuck-you attitude of punk. Pistols, Clash, Ramones, along with their inspirations like the Velvet Underground, Iggy and the Stooges, New York Dolls, etc. I took up the guitar as a teenager and played in local bands, doing all our own songs. In recent years, some of the guys I knew back in the day asked me to play guitar in their band, and it’s been so much fun to reconnect with music.

Adam: Can you tell us more about New York?

I live in the trout capitol of America, Phoenix, Arizona. It’s the fifth largest populated city in America and it is surrounded by desert. It’s huge, we are not on top of each other here. The city is 100 miles across. It is comprised of Phoenix with surrounding cities laced with a freeway system that now rivals the congestion of Los Angeles.

My wife suggested I ask you about New York.

Wow, New York city. One of the top cities of the globe. Mega city. Five boroughs, an island, a big park, world class sky scrapers, CBGB history (smile) and well, everything.

“Morgan, can you tell us about New York and how is it to be a tenkara fisherman there?”

Morgan Lyle: Well, for one thing, New York City played a major role in the development of American fly-fishing. It was anglers from NYC who journeyed to the Catskills starting in the 19th century, and many of them wrote about their experiences in books or magazines published in Manhattan. The city’s massive network of upstate drinking water reservoirs has also had a major impact: the rivers that fill the reservoirs, and their many tributaries, have been very carefully protected from development, to preserve the quality of the water, which has also preserved trout habitat. Meanwhile, downstream of the reservoirs, water released from the dams has created cold, clean fisheries with amazing mayfly hatches and big wild trout. Although most of them are flat, boring rivers.

New York City is also home to, which should be very familiar to your readers. The city has a couple of very nice fly shops. The city’s Trout Unlimited chapter and those in the nearby suburbs are big and active, and there’s a long tradition of fishing clubs, including a few that are very swanky and own their own waters out in the country. So there’s lots of fishing, including tenkara fishing, in New York. There’s lots of everything in New York. I love living here. I grew up upstate, and the Big Apple was where the action was. The music, the sports, the gazillionaires. All those Bugs Bunny cartoons set in New York. All those movies. The Odd Couple. I ride the subway to work (or I did Before Corona anyhow), and my office is right around the corner from Macy’s and Madison Square Garden.

Adam: I have not ignored you or your books. My interest is sort of through a tunnel. I’m only focusing on one thing, Japanese tenkara. I’m doing it now but I know your books are either influenced by where tenkara came from or I just don’t know.

I know a few of my friends say your books are good. I’m an island and I really keep focused on Japanese tenkara from my Japanese friends. I'll find out soon enough.

“Please tell us about the books you have written. I am pretty sure I will enjoy mine when I get them, especially after working with you on this interview.”

Morgan Lyle: Thanks for asking Adam. My first book, “Simple Flies,” was inspired by the Killer Bug, which many of us learned about early on from the TenkaraBum, Chris Stewart. I discovered it right around the launch of Tenkara USA, which was the first exposure to tenkara for most of us. I was amazed that such a simple fly, with no tail, no rib, no wing case, no hackles, and not even tied with thread could be so successful. As I began looking into the subject, I learned there had been a long-running discussion in fly-fishing about whether a fly should have as many details as possible or by impressionistic. People were talking about this in the 1800s. So I interviewed several people about why such simple patterns are effective, and what they had to say was quite interesting.

My second book is “Tenkara Today,” published last fall, and it tells the story of how tenkara became established in the U.S., as well as explaining how it all works for readers who aren’t familiar with tenkara or fly-fishing. I couldn’t interview everyone, but the folks I did interview shared many interesting details of how tenkara came into their lives and how they in turn shared it with the public.

Adam: What’s next?

Tenkara has boomed, the lustre is gone, for me, I’m after the patina of age. That’s where it gets interesting to me.

When I learned about tenkara from Daniel Galhardo, I knew if it were Japanese, there was this whole body of work to be explored. My first forays into tenkara history, how it came to be in Japan where some of the first lessons that I received from my own research and from my Japanese friends.

In the first few months of Daniel’s discovery and subsequent spreading of tenkara via the Internet, already I had a good grasp of the tenkara history and development in Japan. Where it came from, how it spread, the different schools, the authors, the experts look at authors, the whole body of it.

It was not rocket science, it was a lesson that was taught to me by my Japanese friends and the Japanese tenkara books I bought.

I learned that there are many Japanese people just like us, they like the same music, they came to tenkara organically but they want to help us understand it like they do.

So for me, it hasn’t really lost it’s shine, it’s just how I fish now.

To get better at it, I only have to do it.

I’m after the patina

I don’t want new paint on top of old paint, I don’t want anything other than my experience and sharing others. There is nothing next for me except continuing to do what I've done and to distance myself from influences outside of Japan, I want more of my own experience utilizing what I've been taught, Japanese style mountain stream fishing.

“Where are you at? What’s next for you?”

Morgan Lyle: Good question. Don’t know. I have some vague ideas about transitioning away from the 9-to-5 to a patchwork of writing, guiding, fishing and loafing. Who knows what’s next for anyone in April 2020?

Adam: Lately, I’ve been asking the person I’ve been interviewing, offering them the opportunity to ask me a few questions.

I think that’s fair.

Morgan Lyle: What has been your experience in reaching out to the Japanese masters for your interviews? Have they been eager to share tenkara with the West?

Adam: It's been a great experience. In the old days, I wrote letters and e-mail to famous author fly fishermen to help me build the small stream fly fishing Internet site. I used the same formula to make friends with my Japanese friends. Social media, become friends, start commenting, they comment on my writing, my pictures, links. 

We become deeper friends.

Many approach me, "Adam, can you assist me..."

"Heck yeah!"

And I make plans to fish there, get on a plane and go. I've spent about a month total fishing many watersheds in Japan in two, two week trips. 

It's quite an adventure to save up a bunch of money, pack a backpack and get on a plane and go meet people you have never meet in person. Drink all kinds of drinks and get drunk halfway across the globe with new friends like you have known your whole life.

The Japanese people are very cool.

Pretty much that's what I have done.

Write a nice letter, that's where it starts.

Morgan Lyle: Where do you think tenkara is headed in America? Has the initial interest peaked?

Adam: I haven't thought about it much.

Very few people have not heard about it now.

I could be wrong, I doubt it.

Personally, I'm not a fan of "fixed line fishing." I do it now and then but it isn't tenkara, it's untenkara. It's ok if you want to call it anything you want, I'm not the mind police. 

But that old saying, "you are what you eat" comes to mind, you are what you read and consume.

I've pulled back from social media, forums, chatter. There is enough good information out there for people to choose on their own, what version of tenkara they want. I'm back to doing my own thing at Tenkara-Fisher, sharing my experiences and working together with my Japanese friends.

I don't get a check, no money, it's not about that.

Want to know what's going to happen in the future? Look at things that have happened in the past.

Again, Japan went through a period similar to where we are at now, about 15 years ago. But we are not Japan and now it has escaped Japan. 

I'm not sure how many more waves tenkara has left.

Adam: I purposefully avoided politics here. I enjoy your political lean. I appreciate who you are in Social Media. Thank you for keeping the light on there. I hope to glean some magic when I receive your books, knowing for a moment that you allowed me your time. Thank you so much.

“Please take this opportunity to say anything that you would like in closing”

Morgan Lyle: Adam, my name will certainly be out of place on that long list of tenkara experts who have shared with Tenkara-Fisher, but I’m grateful to you for this interview. I think we tenkara anglers have been lucky to discover and enjoy a fun and interesting discipline that the mainstream doesn’t quite understand. 

A lot like punk, no?


  1. Yup, not many of us would understand that.

    Jun Maeda and Keiichi Okushi will.

    Thanks for the interview.

  2. Adam, another great interview. We are going to have to hook up for some fishing sometime, somewhere.