Interview with Mike Willis
by Adam Trahan
I asked Mike to sit for this Interview with me based on a small group of anglers that I have been following from afar in social media. Over the years, we have had conversations on our interests centered on tenkara. I know Mike has an interest in bicycle moto cross like Christophe’ Laurent and I. Like many anglers that I meet, we all have varying interests but Mike and I seem to be on the same page on many fronts.
Adam: Hello Mike! Hopefully this Interview will not be awkward for you as we have had some discussions about how I manage the process. Actually, it may help you with your own development in that skill having been the target of it. We have had some conversations about my Interviews and you and I have similar interests.
With many of the Interviews that I do, the story of how we get into fishing and ultimately tenkara is always interesting. I would like to start our Interview that way.
“Mike, how did you get into tenkara?”
Mike Willis: Sup adam?! Sup Tenkara-Fishers?!!!
I found tenkara in September of 2012. I was searching the internets for information about western style fly fishing and looking to buy a new rod. I’d recently bought a house next to a bigtime western fly fisher and he’d been after me to expand my quiver from a 7 1/2′, 5wt. L.L. bean special and the ultralight Ugly Stik I kept in my trunk. My fly fishing experience to that point had been a trip to the west walker river and a couple float tube excursion to mountain lakes – all with my neighbor, Doug. Doug has been fly fishing most of his 65 years. He’s fished all over the world, and he knows his poo. Doug and I would often have long conversations about the sport, but when I’d ask what I should get for my “next” rod, he’d always reply with, “Well, what do you want to fish for? Where are you going to fish? How much do you want to spend?”
Interview with Thomas “TJ” Ferreira
by Adam Trahan
I already have meet TJ (online) from my own web site and Tenkara USA circles. He is a super nice guy and I want to start off by apologizing to him because this Interview was delayed. I had planned to ask him because he is such a nice guy and really enthusiastic about tenkara. So I did ask if we could do the Interview and not kidding, the next day I got a letter asking for a couple of writing projects. The detail of finishing those projects was that they needed immediate attention in order to time the different parts to get done. I had to ask TJ if we could delay his Interview. As I thought, “No problem Adam” and all those projects got done and here I find myself pecking away, thinking about TJ.
So, TJ, I apologize that it took so long, thank you for your patience.
I’ve have been wanting to do this interview with you since I found out a little bit more about you on Facebook. You are a VW bus enthusiast! Still! I dig that. Some of the best times I’ve ever had on the road have been in my 1971 bay window, VW microbus. So let’s just start from there.
Adam: “So what is in the stable? What kind of buses do you have?”
T.J.: Hi Adam… hope equally you don’t mind that my answers to this interview come slowly. LOL.
My stable of VWs has changed over the years but today I own 3 Volkswagens. 2 older Air-cooled and 1 Water-pumper. My 1st VW is a 1960 Single Cab. I still have this but between money and laziness and time, it sits in my garage after I pulled the engine and started brake work. That was like 8 years ago . I have other running VWs that I soaked my money into instead so figure the 1960 Single Cab may not run again until I retire (yeah right!) and have time for a full restoration. My next VW is my favorite… a 1967 Westfalia Camper. I enjoy driving this one to local VW shows and to our local VW clubs Ice Cream socials. Then the granddaddy of them all is a 1987 Syncro Vanagon Camper. This is a 4×4 camper that VW only made a few of. This is the one that gets the most money and time. We camp in this yearly and take it on 2-week camping trips. Nice to have more comfort in the dual beds and more room to get around. I have owned more and over years sold them to get what I have now. It seems to be a never-ending cycle but I think I am now locked into these 3 and hope to have them forever. I would not mind though getting a Karman Ghia convertible one day. Oh and another VW Thing. Oh and a… you get the picture. LOL
It has been more than a week now and I’ve had a chance to digest my experience at the Tenkara USA 2017 Summit. Meeting Daniel, Margaret and the rest of the crew, my dream had become real. So many years I’ve been assisting people to learn tenkara and now, I am with the company and helping the person, the company that got me started.
I was a part of the Summit, now, part of Tenkara USA, one dream realized and another just beginning.
Flipping through the hundreds of photos I took, the one above is my favorite. All those rods bought by this couple, destined for tenkara fishing. I stopped them as they walked across the convention center floor, “can I take your picture?” Those rods will be gifts for the holiday season. Perhaps some will be used as a first rod, all I can think of when I see this picture is that Daniel is like Johnny Appleseed…
The Summit opened up with a dedication to Doug Heggart. Doug had recently passed and was a big part of the Colorado tenkara scene. I wish I was able to get to know him but he was well represented and many spoke of his kindness.
As I moved around the hall taking pictures, I had a pretty good idea on my own just how large Tenkara USA had grown the Summit. I counted chairs, 12 wide, ten deep on each side of the isle. There were several 10 seat tables, most were filled, it was 300 or so people attending.
Daniel began telling the story and I looked around the room, everyone was listening, paying attention carefully. I had been dreaming of this moment for a long time, two years since the last one and it seemed like the time just flew by.
The rod line up was there, rods for sale and many were now into the hands of young and old, new and experienced tenkara anglers. The rod on the left was a new version of the old Hane, the Hane 2, quite a departure with its white color, petite foam grip and soft tip.
On September 16th, 2017 over 300 people watch Mr. Yvon Chouinard talk about the threats facing our planet and more specifically our rivers. He argues that we “protect what we love” and that “we need more people to love rivers”, and the best way to do that is through tenkara. Here’s his full presentation where he talks about the environment as well as his approach to tenkara.
The biggest tenkara event – ever! – happened this weekend.
The 2017 Tenkara Summit brought together the largest gathering of tenkara anglers anywhere. Just over 300 people from all over the US as well as Argentina, Norway and Japan attended. Attendees enjoyed a great series of speakers, clinics with experienced tenkara anglers (including Dr. Hisao Ishigaki), vendors, and a very fun fly-tying evening that featured a live band as well as tying contests timed to their songs, plus magic by Dennis Michael.
I am still stunned by the participation. In the past Tenkara Summits we had up to 150 people show up. I was fully expecting this year to count on the same number of people, so when I went to pull the final tally I was shocked to see about 240 people registered and another 60 walk-ins. I had tremendous fun meeting so many people in the community as well as spending time with an incredible crew of staff and volunteers that made the event possible.
After a week of taking Dr. Ishigaki fishing around Colorado, hosting our staff and then working at the Summit I will say that I am pretty beat. In fact, I may even take a nap in a few minutes, which is a very rare thing for me to do. But, I wanted to share a little update as well as post some photos from the event. These are photos that some of our crew or myself took; we actually had a professional photographer shoot photos and video at the event but it may be a few days before we get to process and post some of those.
There were several highlights that stood out for me. One of them was once again spending time fishing with my teacher, Dr. Ishigaki. The Tenkara Summit really started as an excuse for Dr. Ishigaki to come fishing in the US; in 2011 he wanted to fish in Montana but said he wanted to speak at an event to justify the trip to his wife. Since there were no events taking place I decided to put the Summit together. It turned out to be a tough week of fishing, with us visiting several different places that didn’t seem to be “on” (I will have to add “river otters” to my “Excuses to use when not catching fish“).
Another highlight was meeting and talking to a large number of people about how tenkara has had a positive impact on their lives. It always gives me a warm feeling when I hear those stories of how people are enjoying tenkara in one way or another, of how sometimes it gave them a different perspective on some aspect of their lives. And I absolutely loved meeting a few young kids who are in love with tenkara and asked their parents and grandparents to bring them to the Summit.
The fly-tying evening was a pure fun part of the event. In the evening the band Paper Moonshine entertained the audience as people tied flies, enjoyed their beers and whiskey, and shared stories or made plans to fish the next day.
The event was recorded in its entirety and we will be posting some of it online in the near future. More photos to come as well.
It is with a very heavy heart that I must share that a great friend and positive influence in the tenkara community, Doug Heggart, has passed away.
I am absolutely devastated by the news of Doug’s untimely death. Doug was an incredibly generous and kind person. We shared some great times on the water and on dry land. Doug was a super positive individual who was ready to share fishing with all in the community. Doug always showed a tremendous disposition to help; his energy and enthusiasm was always contagious when I spent time with him. I will really miss him, and my heart is with his family.
A memorial service will be held on Saturday, August 19th at 11am at the Odd Fellows Lodge, 434 Main St., Longmont, CO
This video has no fishing in it, at all.
But I thought you would enjoy the video I just created. Yesterday morning, at the last day of our 3-week long book tour, I woke up in the tenkaravan next to a gorgeous forest. Those who know me will remember foraging is right up there with tenkara in terms of things I love doing. As I had coffee I felt inspired to go foraging and to film it all. Hope you enjoy it.
We have been on the road for 11 days now. Margaret and I have been enjoying our time together (we actually celebrated our 10th anniversary on the road last Sunday!). Living the “Van Life” is not glamorous, but we have seen some beautiful country, fished some gorgeous waters and enjoyed a few experiences we wouldn’t have otherwise.
Time has been short, and it is going by fast. I have been working on some videos and photography but it’s been hard to find reliable data connection or wifi along the way, so almost no time for writing and sharing things. I have been good at keeping our Instagram posts going when I find a bar or two of service on my phone.
This morning I turned the tenkaravan into a makeshift studio to record a new podcast episode about living life off the tenkaravan and about our very cool experience fishing for smallmouth bass with the fly-fishing author Dave Hughes and his wife Masako. If you’re interested, below is the episode I just posted (more information referenced in the episode please visit the podcast page.
Yesterday part of the Tenkara USA team (myself, my wife and our husky Shiso) hit the road for the first leg of what I expect to be several road trips in the new tenkaravan. On this trip, which will last three weeks, we’re making stops in Oregon, Washington and then Montana at several different events primarily focused on book signings.
The full schedule and details are kept up-to-date in our events page but for now here are our next stops. I hope to see you at one of these stops.
July 19 – Book signing and Q&A at Central Oregon Fly Fisher’s Club – Bend, OR at 6pm
July 20 – Social gathering and a quick talk + book signing at the Fly Fisher’s Place in Sisters, OR 4-7pm
July 21-23 – Tenkara Bugout, Oakridge, OR
July 25 – Book signing and talk at Creekside Fly Shop, Issaquah, WA
July 26 – Book signing and talk at Wayward, Bellevue, WA
Augu 4-5 – Fly Fishing Fair in Livingston, MT
It’s amazing to have looked at our schedule and even with 3 weeks not be able to hit a bunch of other places I wanted to stop by. I have already been getting a bunch of messages on social media about whether we are stopping in other places along the way or other parts of the country, and while we are not at this particular tour it makes me feel that I need to spend more time on the road. These 3 weeks will show whether I’m cut out for the vanlife lifestyle.
We should be easy to spot now, so keep an eye out for us! Yesterday we had the first person come say hi to us right before we drove into the Flaming Gorge/Green River in WY. Soon after we had our first peak at the not-so glamorous vanlife lifestyle…I’ll tell you that story next time I login!