Pennsylvania Fly Fishing (www.paflyfish.com) recently conducted an interview with Tenkara USA founder and CEO, Daniel W. Galhardo. The interview helps shed some light on what tenkara is, how Tenkara USA came about and where it is heading. You can read the whole interview at Paflyfish.com
Dave: What was one of the most interesting or surprising things that you learned when traveling in Japan about tenkara?
Daniel: Two days before departing for our trip to Japan I learned about a region in Japan where fly-tying and rod-making are designated as official traditional crafts. In the city of Kanazawa we visited a family that has been tying flies for 20 generations – over 430 years – from the same shop. They started as needle makers and soon were making flies for Samurai to go fishing. Later I learned those rods and flies are actually for “Ayu fishing” not tenkara. Nevertheless, this was still extremely impressive. Japan has many very narrowly defined methods of fishing, and though some are very similar at a first glance they have important distinctions. Ayu fishing for example, uses flies and long telescopic rods, but is not really considered fly-fishing as casting is not required to get the fly to the fish, it’s a bit more like dapping. They also have cane-pole fishing with telescopic rods for carp, and stream fishing with telescopic rods and bait. All rods and equipment are very different and highly specialized. Among all these methods, tenkara is the only real fly-fishing.
Dave: What makes tenkara so appealing to someone already fly fishing in the traditional [western] style?
Daniel: In May of this year, Dr. Hisao Ishigaki, one of the leading authorities in tenkara fly-fishing in Japan, came to give a presentation and demonstration in the Catskills, at an event hosted by the Catskills Fly Fishing Center and Museum. We spent a lot of time together, and the two reasons he says he likes tenkara are: 1st simplicity, 2nd it’s about focusing on your technique and presentation not the gear, and whether you catch fish or not is up to you. For what I see simplicity is drawing most people to try it, and the technique is making sure people stick with it. I would also add it’s a very effective way of fishing, and in Japan it’s commonly said that tenkara outfishes western fly-fishing 5-1. Lastly, tenkara provides the most direct connection between fisherman and fishing; though he’s not talking about tenkara, to borrow the words from angler and writer Ed Engle, “What I like most is catching a trout in the most direct way possible. My most memorable fish have been the ones where there was as little between me and the trout as possible.”
Dave: Tell me where do you see the future of tenkara going?
Daniel: In these first few months in business we have seen a very large and growing following despite our “zero-marketing-budget”. I wanted to see the interest for tenkara growing in a completely organic way, where anglers learned from other anglers about its simplicity, effectiveness and other reasons to do tenkara fishing. I believe anything good is spread by word of mouth. I didn’t want ads to convince anyone to do it and have it become a fad. Tenkara is nothing new, it has been around for hundreds of years and is still practiced in Japan for a reason. It is always going to be a small-stream fly-fishing niche. But, much like Spey casting was introduced for anglers pursuing large fish in large rivers, tenkara deserves its place for anglers pursuing a different angling experience in small streams. There is a very passionate group of people that got into tenkara in the past few months and I believe may soon retire their reels; I expect that number will continue to grow with people who will find the tenkara simplicity, “refreshing”.