So many have said so much about fly fishing- so much for this “quiet sport”. -Glenn Smith
This is what went through my mind while fishing for bass in the Florida “chain of lakes” region. No matter how much I try, my heart and soul belongs to fly fishing and not so much of the “crank-bait”, scented rubber worms and such.
The internet is or can be a wonderful thing. Most the time it’s “redunkulous”, as the kids say, but then there is content out there worth digging for. It must contain great info, be well produces and not include a single cat or some dude being hit in the privates with various objects, but if there was a video of a guy being hit in the nuts BY a cat, well that is a different CATagory, Ha!
Please enjoy this find on Tenkara and wet flies.
On a side note, I will be posting my take on fly fishing how to and the Zen of the art here very soon!
Best and tight lines
There is a new kid on the block that seems to be shaking up what we “dyed in the wool” fly fishermen hold sacred. It has us questioning our technique, our skill, our pride of years of practice of becoming seasoned anglers. This “Kid”, this trend, is called Tenkara.
Tenkara is not a kid at all; in fact, it is very old. It is a fishing technique that originated in Japan hundreds or millions of years ago, when a pole, a short line and a lure were all you needed to catch a fish. A fishermen back in the day would take this basic combination tool to their streams, catch and keep some fish, and live happily ever after.
Now let’s fast forward a bit. Fishing has become a sport. Fish are caught for the enjoyment of the chase and the fight, and then they are put back in the river for the next fishermen to catch. The equipment has evolved as well. We now have micro-technology rods with specific line speeds and weights, made with exotic woods and sterling silver. Reels that have more engineering involved than the first lunar module and fly lines that float and sink at our will. And a selection of flies for sale that the shear number available surpasses the actual number of living insects. Amazing. Evolution is grand.
Tenkara is here to put a bit of perspective back into our primal needs. It is here, I think, to stay. John Gierach is behind it, Yvon Chouinard is an advocate, and guess what, I think I will follow suite.*
*By no means completely
If you have taken anytime to read some of my other blog posts, you will understand why I would gravitate towards Tenkara. It sums up my deepest personal values in a compact, retractable, graphite package. Please let me explain.
I have spent my entire fishing career pondering exactly why I love fly fishing. As you would expect, there are countless reasons: the hunt, the riddle, the fish, the surroundings, the peace and quiet, mastering my skills, showing up my friends, the stories, and simply, being part of an exclusive club. After a hiatus away from the river, it became clear that there was something I was missing. It was the religion of fly fishing I enjoyed, the Zen of the process I loved, the unity between me and my environment that keeps me coming back. Then, enter Tenkara.
A few years back, Daniel Galhardo of TenkaraUSA set up shop ( I will provide the link to his site to explain his history). My good friend Frank, a fishing and motorcycling buddy of mine, who, also in fact, seems to be in the forefront of undiscovered cool, introduced me to this new style of Japanese fishing. The equipment is simple – it is a smallish telescoping rod, some nylon line, a bit of tippet and a Tenkara fly, which is a sparse wet fly. There is no reel and no ferrels. Think Huckleberry Finn meets the 20th century.
I was intrigued. I asked Frank if he would let me use his Tenkara rods/pole/graphite sticks or whatever you want to call it, and go fishing. He excitedly said yes and made plans to meet at my shop. Frank shows up right on time carrying what appears to be a short metal tube that looked more like an extra long holder for a “Churchill” cigar, one small flybox and a 3-inch custom looking spool wrapped in multi-colored filament, and that’s it.
I have all of my gear which is a 5-weight rod and reel, and a fully stocked vest as well as a lanyard…just in case. I placed my rod in the back of his truck, carefully feeding it through the back window to protect the tip. He stuck his Tenkara rod in his back pocket. I have a similar feeling when I go skiing with my snowboarder friends; I carry my boots, poles, and skis. They wear their boots and toss their board in the truck. Very easy, unincombered, and very Zen.
So we take a drive up the Frying Pan looking for some good water to try out this new technique. Frank is pretty easy about where we go and was open to my suggestions being that is what I do for a living. We stop near the 7 mile marker where there is a great mix of pocket water and good runs, it was perfect.
Frank brought two of his new fangled rods, each of different lengths and flex. He hands me the “soft” one then proceeds to give me a short tutorial on how to set this thing up. It is a series of simple slipknots from the tip to the fly. The Tenkara flies are sparse; a hook, some thread, a forward facing hackle, again, simple. When I looked at them, it all started to make much more sense.
He had a process that he liked to follow. Keep the rod retracted and tie on the end of the line, then slowly extend the rod as you carefully unwind the line from the spool. Deliberate, thoughtful. Then we chose a fly and tied it on in my traditional way, a modified clinch knot. We put on zero weight, you fish these flies more like a wet fly, not so much as a Dry or a Nymph.
We hit the river and away we went. The way you fish this rod is as if you are high-sticking pocket water. Sharp, laser-focused casts with emphasis on the action of the fly and less focus on line control. Up to this point, there were very few differences between Tenkara and fly fishing, but this is one of them. There is no “ten to two” motion, more like “ten to noon” motion but curt, prompt, decisive.
At first, I wasn’t really loving this. It seemed rudimentary. I felt amateur, like a kid with a long stick and a leader on it hoping something possibly will take my “bait”. Then, suddendly (and finally) I had a strike. My focus changed. My thoughts went from the rod and awkward process to wondering why I got a fish to take that fly. On my next cast, I stuck him; instinct set in and I reached for the reel, but there was no reel to be found. Calmly panicked, I lifted the fully engaged, beautifully bent rod above my head tin attempt to lead the fish to calmer water. I maneuvered the rainbow to the nearest eddy, carefully grabbed the line and brought him to my net. Grabbing the line this way is taboo in my world as a guide but I apparently common in the Tenkara world. Funny thing is, this is the part I fully enjoyed. It made me realize that I need to take ALL variables into account: where I stand, what I am going to do when I get a fish, looking long term at the short term process and recognizing problems and solutions before you need them. I couldn’t just horse him in or let him run into my backing, I had to antisipate where and what he was going to do with only 12 feet of line attached. I had to think of my positioning and my next ten steps. Nothing is more Zen, becoming exclusive with your environment, simple process for a complicated task. Pretty cool.
I will say this, I will not give up any of my rods and gorgeous reels and replace them with Tenkara rigs, but I will for sure have them as part of my routine as a refreshing change of pace. One thing is for sure, you will find me on any day that the hatch is going strong with a single short line and a long rod pulling fish off the top looking as if I had reached Nirvana. It is that cool.
Be sure to look me up at Taylor Creek Flyshop if you are in the Roaring Fork Valley if you are interested in learning Tenkara and enjoy another level of river philosophy.
The topic of ethics can be a very touchy subject. Depending on whom you are discussing it with, it has always come down to the “Who made you king of the world?” or “Is this right or wrong for the greater good?”
I think about the challenge of ethics often, probably more than I really should or need to. In my life timeI have had many debates and arguments, discussions and disagreements about all kinds of ethical issues. Be it agreeable to others or not, I enjoy the various points of view and the passion this topic evokes. Whether or not you have a strong opinion on a ‘standard of conduct’, or you really don’t care either way about how people “feel”, it comes down to the breadth and depth of how important ethics play in our lives and everyday social behavior.
Ethics can touch us in every part of our lives. There are business ethics, legal ethics and life ethics. People try to live by The Golden Rule: “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you”. All in all, good advice.
As fly fishermen, there is a code, an ethic model that we all SHOULD follow….How to be respectful to the fish, the environment and other fellow fishermen. Again, this is solely my take
I have featured a photo of a sign that is posted prominantly on the first big ‘pull out’ on the Frying Pan river, in my beautiful stomping grounds outside of Basalt, Colorado.
Giving thought to the message that the DOW is hopefully conveying, I expanded this list with my translations that can be brought from the river to your everyday life.
Fishing Ethics Brought to Life
*Use barbless hooks and a landing net Transl: Choose your words carefully, don’t be hurtful and handle with care.
*Land fish as quickly as possible. Don’t play it to exhaustion Transl: Be concise, be clear and do not labor your point. Brevity is the soul of wit…
*Keep the fish in the water as much as possible when handling and removing the fly or lure Transl: Understand that everyone will always thrive in their own environment when difficulty becomes present.
*Wet your hands before handling fish Transl: Understand that others should always be handled or treated with care, physically and emotionally.
*Remove the hook gently, trying not to squeeze the fish or put your fingers in its gills. If it is deeply hooked, cut the line. The hook will corrode or dislodge within a few days Transl: People will always get hurt. Take time, listen and help if you can. Remember that sometimes the best help is time and patience.
*Release fish after it has retained its equilibrium in quiet water Transl: Be thoughtful, be caring and not in haste. People and fish benefit greatly from a compassionate attention to detail.
Everyday I’m on the river, I pass that sign and wonder if the Department of Wildlife knew that they have also laid out a pretty decent list of ethics and philosophy for living a pretty decent life.
Next weeks blog will take on the gigantic task of how a Zen Buddhist justifies my love of catching fish.
Here is Kirk Webb’s submission for my Sunday “Fly-fishermen and their quiet companion” photo contest. Kirk is a true man of skill and talent, he has taught a dog a many new trick. As one of the “Big Men on campus” at Taylor Creek Fly Shop in Basalt he is truly the best in knowing what’s happening on the river.
Be sure to send me your favorite photos of you and your dog to be featured here on my blog. Hashtag and/or tag @artofflyfishing or #artofflyfishing on Instagram or Twitter or sent them vis email email@example.com
Every Sunday I am going to post the best photos of Fishermen and their animal companion. Dogs, cats, snakes and so on. I regularly fish with my two girls whenever I can, I think it makes their day and I know it makes mine. So if you are like me and love to fish with “a Quiet Companion” and want them to be featured on this page, and Instagram, please send them my way.
I will give photo credit, as well as link to your site or Instagram!
There are 3 ways to submit your photos;
Send to firstname.lastname@example.org
Post them on Instagram and hashtag and/or tag with #ArtofFlyFishing @artofflyfishing
Or, Just send them to me through messaging on my Facebook page, Glenn and The Art o Fly Fishing
I am looking forward to a long standing tradition of highlighting ‘The Angler and their companions.’