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Here is a slideshow of the majority of my collection of tenkara flies. Most of these flies were gifts from tenkara anglers in Japan, and a large part of this collection was tied by Mr. Yoshikazu Fujioka who recreated historical tenkara flies he learned about in books and through hearsay.
After 2 decades of using an improved clinch to tie my fly to tippet, I decided to give a new knot a real try. This knot was taught to me by Dr. Ishigaki a couple of years ago, but being so used to tying the improved clinch it was difficult to change. Then, while doing some instructional filming for an upcoming DVD and trying to find ways to simplify tenkara instructions , I was inspired to use this knot. It seems to be a slight variation of the Scaffold Knot, with two loops rather than 3, I will call it a “double-loop slip knot”. It is the exact same knot as tippet to level line, and very similar to the level line to rod tip knot. It is very quick to tie, and as I have found out it is a super strong knot. I have not yet lost a single fly to poor knots (that includes fishing with one fly and not replacing tippet at all for 2 1/2 days of fishing on a backpacking trip where I caught over 40 fish on it, and a subsequent trip with multiple 18-22″ fish).
If you’re looking into a new knot, or are new to fly-fishing and want a simpler set of knots, give this one a try. It has become my “one tenkara knot”.
I’ve been working on a project that will take me a while to complete, I actually started it almost two years ago, inspired by Mr. Yoshikazu Fujioka’s website (my tenkara flies teacher) and incorporating flies from people I have met in Japan. It is starting to look cool. It is a map of Japan with tenkara flies from different areas. As I learn of new flies, and go through the flies gifted to me in my travels to Japan, the map will become fuller. I hope it will serve as a useful resource.
Had a terrific evening of tying tenkara flies and talking about them with Gordon Wickstrom at the Tenkara USA headquarters. This is the beginning of working on Volume 2 of the Tying Tenkara Flies DVD, the conversation was fantastic. Gordon has decades of tying knowledge and has been interested in tenkara for sometime, the back and forth was certainly one of my favorite conversations this year.
This video was too funny not to share. The Tenkara Guides, based in Salt Lake City, UT, outdid themselves in this fly-tying video. I can see it going viral in short order. The commentary is quite hillarious, though I wish we could see their faces and figure out how they were not cracking up when narrating this good fly-tying video. It’s R-rated only if you’re an adult with a dirty mind, but you can have kids in the room, no problem.
For more fly-tying videos by the Tenkara Guides visit their site, or their Youtube page.
If you’re like most fly anglers, you like flies. Small and large, dull and shiny, reversed or “normal”. As we have introduced tenkara outside of Japan, we have focused on telling the story of tenkara, on sharing the fascinating layers of a method that has been practiced in Japan for centuries. I have gone to Japan numerous times and have spent a lot of time with multiple tenkara masters to learn the method as a whole. I did that to learn things that I couldn’t have learned otherwise, and to share the story with anyone who is interested.
This weekend Tenkara USA is attending the Winston-Salem Fly Fishing Show in North Carolina. Yesterday I had the pleasure of meeting Loften Deprez, someone who has been contributing to the forum and whose name I was slightly familiar with. What I did not know was that he is only 15 years old and a tenkara fly-tying talent to watch.
As it turned out, Loften had secured himself a spot as a fly tyer at the Fly Fishing Show and was demonstrating to folks how to tie tenkara flies. I came by to watch him and shot a short video of him tying a fly that had caught my eye. As he finished his fly someone asked him why he made the eyes of the flies like that. I watched with great pride as Loften started giving the person the long version of the answer. He described in great detail not just the question at hand, but what tenkara is. He pulled a rod and began, “well, let me tell you about tenkara…” Later that day the gentleman was seeing walking out of the show with a tenkara rod in hand. Loften did a great job at introducing a lot of people to tenkara, and for that we thank him. You may checkout Loften Deprez’s company at www.latackleflies.com
For the last 14 years, just about half of my life, I have thought of getting a tattoo. I know it is a permanent thing, so I certainly never felt the need to rush it. Yet, I knew when the time was right I would get a permanent mark, and it would be something that would mean a great deal to me.
For the last 4 years I have been dedicated to introducing tenkara outside of Japan. As I turn 30 (today), I feel that I have accomplished some important milestones in my life. And, I have also reached some very significant milestones for Tenkara USA. These milestones have been made even clearer over the last few weekends attending Fly Fishing Shows, where I have been reminded that tenkara has actually meant a lot to so many people. Just watch this video, and this other to get a glimpse. So much in fact that two folks got tenkara tattoos before I did.
As I anxiously anticipated my thirtieth birthday, I decided it was time to just do it. As the year turned, I started to constantly think about the design and placement of my tattoo. I thought of getting a drawing of Boulder’s Flatirons to mark moving here and getting a new home. I thought of getting the Tenkara USA logo done. And I have thought of a bunch of other things. It should be noted here, too, that my very first design concept came when I was 16 years old and I personally drew a rainbow trout that I wanted done on my back – so even the theme didn’t deviate a whole lot.
As of yesterday evening I still didn’t have a clear idea of what it would be. I had resigned to the fact that it wouldn’t be on my birthday.
Then, this morning I woke up with a very clear idea. It would be a “sakasa kebari”, the iconic tenkara fly that is simple to tie, pulsates when you twitch it, and to me also symbolizes how tenkara went in the opposite direction of the rest of the industry. And, I knew exactly which fly to do, it would be Mr. Yoshikazu Fujioka’s illustration for the cover magazine of Fishing Cafe, a Japanese magazine in which I appeared.
As the day wore on, and I tried to meet some important deadlines, it was becoming less and less likely that it would happen on my 30th birthday. But, I figure, I’ll at least go meet the artists and see what they say. As I’m leaving home, at 5:15pm, I tell my wife, Margaret, “I’m stepping out for a bit…er..gonna get a tattoo.”
“REALLY?” – Yes, as of this afternoon she didn’t know whether I’d finally get it done or not. “Oh, I have made plans for us at 7pm. Can you be back by then?
“Oh…sure. I’m probably just going to make an appointment for tomorrow.”
I arrive at the very nice tattoo shop (Rising Tide, in Boulder, actually the classiest and coolest tattoo place I have seen), and tell them I’d love to get this done today, but understand if they can’t. And, to my surprise they had one guy available (Adrian Holcomb), who could do it and really liked the idea.
Ah, and the placement, it would be on my forearm. One reason I had been hesitating about getting a tattoo is that most hot-springs in Japan do not allow guests with a visible tattoo to enter. I absolutely love the onsen, and did not want to give up on them. A tattoo on the forearm would be pretty easy to conceal.
Plus, there was another, more important reason for this placement. I wanted my tenkara fly to pulsate, like the real thing. I had first thought of having the fly drawn right at the bend of the elbow. But, as I talked to the artist I realized that would be (a) super painful, and (b) it would not hold up well. As we played with the design and exact placement, it became clear that we could accomplish the exact same motion by placing the tattoo right below the elbow. And, it worked. So, I give you a moving tattoo:
How do I feel about it? I love it. Love that it was a small, simple yet meaningful fly. Love that it marks some important milestones achieved. And, love how there is a great, and quite long, story to tell from this one little drawing.
After going through the highly turbulent political times of the election campaigns – phew, so glad that is over – and after months of being bombarded by highly divisive politics, the image above came to me today (and, yes, I recognize it would have been more timely a few days ago!).
For years I have noticed some themes when it comes to tenkara flies: there are three types of perceptions about tenkara flies, and there are three types of personalities when it comes to choosing the flies. These could be described as: conservative, moderate, and liberal.
A very common question we receive is: “do all tenkara flies have the hackle facing forward?” The answer is no. Some tenkara flies’ hackle is brushed back against the body of the fly as a soft-hackle wet fly. Some will have a hackle that sticks out. And, some will have a very pronounced forward hackle. Most people coming from a western fly-fishing background to tenkara will perceive the reverse hackle as a bit weird. The conservative option will have the hackle in a more standard posture. With a little explanation the hackle facing forward a bit can be understood as the “moderate” option. But, don’t make it too big with the hackle drastically forward-facing!
Most folks versed in western fly-fishing tradition will think of small flies are an important part of their arsenal. If the fish are rejecting a fly, switch to a smaller size. If the fish are not biting, try something smaller. Thus, from a western angler’s perspective the more “conservative” option will be the smallest fly with hackle that is not as pronouncedly reversed. A size 12 fly for trout is an acceptable, “moderate” size. A size 8, with reverse hackle? You have to be brave, progressive, “liberal” to try that!
The fly box of an angler may well demonstrate which camp he will fall into: there are those who dip their toes in tenkara in a more conservative fashion – using only western flies and changing flies regularly. There will be some people who embrace many of the concepts in a moderate way, keeping their western flies and floatant, “just in case”. And others who are very liberal when it comes to adopting tenkara into their lives and go all the way.
All I may suggest here is, don’t be afraid of changing your stance a bit. Get outside your comfort zone sometimes. If you think all the fish are interested in are tiny flies, consider that I have been fishing size 12 or 8 flies almost exclusively for the last 2 years throughout the country, and whether the state was red or blue, the flies worked. In my opinion, if the fish are coming to check out my fly and refusing it at the last second, the fly is working fine, my presentation not so much – I don’t go for a smaller size fly in these cases. I am pretty liberal when it comes to flies, and really enjoy starting my day with a large fly to see what is working. If the fish start coming to that right away I’m golden for the rest of the day. I also enjoy using the flies with a hackle that drastically faces forward as I can give them lots of action. But, if the fish are trying to take my fly and not getting hooked, maybe there is something else at play then, and I may go a bit conservative with a small fly.
Of course, these are all just broad generalizations. Anyone willing to give tenkara a try has already demonstrated a very open-mind and the willingness to try something new. And, unlike in politics, here we can all be friends and get along and share insights and experiences and learn from each other. There is absolutely no right or wrong – just perspectives and interests.
What has been your perspective?
Although this post was inspired by the political discussions of previous weeks, it is important to note that the terms “conservative” and “liberal” here have nothing to do with “social”, nor “fiscal” conservatism, and they have no other political connotations. At its root, the term “conservative” denotes someone who desires to keep things the way they are/were. These are dictionary definitions – not wikipedia definitions. Further, they are applied here from a western perspective – using the larger size flies with reverse hackle will be the most common and thus more “conservative” approach by tenkara anglers in Japan.
Forum user Acheateauxhad a brilliant idea: the Vagabox. The Vagabox is a traveling fly box that will be “bringing surprise, intrigue and fishing stoke with it wherever it goes. You fish with the box, enjoy it’s humble offerings and post up some stoke here.” Since our post on the Vagabox back in July, the box has enjoyed a journey to a few new spots. Here’s the updated map, you can click on the faces to see what the Vagabox experienced in each of the places it has visited.