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TROutreach was started with the intent of teaching physically impaired individuals how to fly fish – INDEPENDENTLY – through the elegance of tenkara. While the program is still in its infancy, TROutreach is gaining steam every season. This is a program supported by Tenkara USA.
They teach tenkara to amputees, polytrauma Veterans, and others who find themselves in a position that makes it tough to enjoy the outdoors through fly fishing.
During my lunch time I enjoy watching fly fishing shows that I have recorded on my DVR. One of those shows is Fly Rod Chronicles with Curtis Fleming. Often this show has coverage of Project Healing Waters events and the show I watched today included an elderly war veteran that went blind after a car accident 6 years ago. The nice thing about Project Healing Waters is this group helps veterans fly fish even if their accident was not during combat or when they were enlisted. What a great group supporting this noble cause.
As the story unfolds, this blind gentleman greatly enjoyed fly fishing, but after his accident was unable to fish because he no longer has eye sight. The show moved me as I watched this gentleman enter the water with assistance and start fly fishing to catch trout. Must admit a few tears trickled down my cheeks as I saw the smile on this gentleman’s face when he hook set and landed a trout.
After the show I started to think about how tenkara has already been working its way into Project Healing Waters events and many veterans are getting to enjoy fly fishing once again or even for the first time. Not only are they fly fishing and catching fish, but they are doing so despite their disabilities. In the case of the episode aired today, by using all his senses this gentleman did not have to use indicators or anything special to catch fish. As Darth Vader would say, “use your senses Luke.”
Tenkara is a fairly simple way to fly fish and there really is no need to over-analyze or complicate the way we enjoy fishing. I see posts of folks adding floatant to this and that, adding weights to the line, using multiple flies. To me, all these things overcomplicate fly-fishing and tenkara. Why not try to perfect our techniques and use every available sense we have to catch fish? Why not use our senses of touch, sight, taste, smell, and hearing when we tenkara fly fish?
Now I am not telling you to go lick a fish or anything, although I am sure many of us have taken that magic picture of kissing a fish we have caught and you sure know uncooked trout does not taste that good. But… I feel we can work on better using the light touch of a tenkara rod to detect that very slight take when a trout is going after our fly; or work on better using our sight to see the rise of a fish going after or taking your kebari. We can also envision the great taste of a hard-earned fish in that camping trip. And, we can sense the smell of victory after landing that larger-than-expected-trout in our small 9″ net. And, of course, hearing: hear that rise away from where you’re looking, or later hear your own voice telling great fish stories to your buddies around the campfire.
Here is a little exercise I will be trying this 2013 season. I will try to fish closing my eyes for a few casts. I will line myself up at a target, close my eyes, and ever so briefly feel what this gentleman on Fly Rod Chronicles was feeling. I will enjoy feeling a Tenkara USA rod in my hand, using a very soft touch while casting a line, feeling and hearing the rod work for me rather than overpowering the cast, feeling the fly drifting. Hopefully during the drift I will get a strike so I can feel better with my hands and not my eyes a subtle take of the kebari. All this time I will try to listen for the flow of the water to sense how fast the water is and how far the fly should drift. Hopefully my other senses will kick in and help me fish this way for just a little while.
The goal of this blog post is to just make sure you try all your own 5 senses to their full potential before resorting to “add-ons” that supposedly make it “easier” to fish. I would have to say, don’t make it easier with doodads on your rod and line but practice using all your senses instead in hopes you become a better fly fisherman using the very basic tenkara gear.
Soak it all up and make sure to use all your senses while tenkara fly fishing and I am sure you will go home feeling great joy even if the fishing was not great that day. I know I will!
Tenkara has opened the doors to fly-fishing for a lot of people, and it has proved to be a great conduit for plain old fun, no matter the ability of the user. It is moments like this (and like these other trips) that make me very proud to promote a simple method of fly-fishing. And, it makes me very proud to know and work with the Tenkara Guides, Erik, John and Rob, as they pursue introducing more people with disabilities to fishing with a fly. The video was shot and edited by Sam, “The No Handed Bandit”.
The Tenkara Guides (based in Salt Lake City, Utah) are really eliminating any limitations people with disabilities may have felt when it comes to fishing. They bring an interesting mix to the table as Rob is a doctor who focuses on rehabilitation therapy through recreational opportunities and John and Erik are great tenkara guides with extensive experience in engineering. All I can say is, “nicely done guydes!”
This weekend, I was invited to give a tenkara demo to a group of soldiers from Project Healing Waters. If you’re not familiar with the program, it’s mission is to provide a form of therapy for disabled veterans and active military personel through teaching fly fishing and holding ongoing outings, events, and education. I not only thought the concept was great, but that tenkara was a perfect fit so, naturally, I was enthusiastic to participate.
Nice rainbow caught on a Tenkara USA Ito rod & sakasa kebari
This particular event was held at Red Draw Ranch, just outside of Edwards, Colorado. The venue has two small ponds with Rainbow trout. I was a little reluctant to teach the soldiers tenkara on such small stillwaters (especially with the number of people we had) but it all worked out in the end.
There were several other guides from Orvis and various other local fly shops who also volunteered to help out. It was funny because most of the guides seemed to have absolutely no interest in tenkara. A couple were curious and asked me some questions. And one really got into it. He spent a fair amount of time casting my Ayu, asked a lot of questions, and pretty much decided he was going to get a tenkara rod. I think he just “got it”. And as a former guide who wished he knew about tenkara back then, it wouldn’t surprise me if a good deal of his interest came from the idea that it would be much easier to get his clients into fish with tenkara rather than a Western rig.
Western guide using my Ayu. I think he’s hooked!
The diminutive ponds definitely didn’t reflect the size of the fish they held. The smallest fish I saw caught that day was maybe 18″ and I’m pretty sure at least a couple of guys landed fish over 23″. Here’s a quick video of a nice rainbow being landed on my Tenkara USA Ito–confirming it as a rod that is able of handling decent sized fish (remember, this guy is a beginner):
I had two rods rigged up: an Ayu with a 13 ft. furled line and an Ito with an 18 ft. level line. In general, it seemed that everyone preferred the Ito with the level line.
I was stationed on the lower pond and had people who were interested in tenkara rotate through all morning. Some weren’t interested but those who were immediately saw the benefit.
Tenkara fishing on the lower pond
The upper pond
I was happy to meet some of the people behind the project such as Mark Heminghous and Mike Oros who I had been in contact with a lot prior to this event. We’re currently talking about how we can incorporate tenkara into future Project Healing Waters outings as soon as September.
Jason Klass & Mark Heminghous at the Red Draw Ranch
One of the coordinators of the outing commented that they like to treat the soldiers as “rockstars”. And from what I witnessed, that was certainly the case. After a morning of spectacular fishing, they treated everyone to a great barbecue for lunch. All politics aside, these guys have been through hell and back and they’re people. I think they deserve a little pampering and was very impressed with the lengths the project is willing to go through to give a little something back.
Project Healing Waters BBQ
Nice fish on a Tenkara USA Ito
Overall, it was a good day. If I just got one guy with PTSD or some other trauma to take a break and enjoy life for a few minutes, it was worth it. Judging by the smiles on their faces, I think it did. And tenkara really helped. I want to do more of this and I encourage all of my fellow tenkara colleagues to reach out and do the same–not just for vets, but for anyone who can benefit from the fun and ease of tenkara.
On this Veteran’s day Tenkara USA sends a special thanks for all men and women who have served this country. We have been very proud to fish with you in the last few years – showing tenkara fly-fishing to you has been a great honor.
Fly-fishing is one of the most therapeutic activities around, and tenkara’s simplicity perhaps even more so. Since the inception of Tenkara USA, we have been approached and supported numerous organizations that work with war veterans and people with limited arm mobility. Tenkara, with no reel, no unnecessary amount of line to strip, no bells-and-whistles, has proved to be a very effective tool in helping people that would otherwise have difficulties, give fly-fishing a real try. It’s not the only tool around for adaptive angling, but definitely a fun tool that also provides some additional independence to those who want to fish with a fly. A fishing method made for fishing with one hand.
Tenkara removes the complexities that were added to fly-fishing over the years and makes it a fun, and above all, simple and intuitive method of angling with a fly. Not having to pass line through the rod guides, strip line to cast, and going through a complicated series of knots, mean that tenkara allows for greater independence in his fishing. Imagine you only have one able arm and want to setup your rod and fish, yourself, for a bit. A rod with a reel by default ask for two hands, frustrating, I’d imagine. As I witnessed, a telescopic tenkara rod is a rod, made for one-handed fishing. It can be held under one’s arm as the plug is removed and the tip is exposed with the able hand; the hand, which in turn quickly makes a girth hitch on hisline and tightens it against the rod tip. And, finally telescopes each segment of the rod out and proceeds to cast, an intuitive cast with no 2-handed stripping needed. These are the few steps needed to setup and fish with a tenkara rod when the fly is already tied on. I was extremely proud to see a tenkara rod, one which I adopted from a foreign country and introduced to the US, serve as much more than a simple fishing tool.
Walking around the banks of this lake, with his western fly-rod already rigged but mostly inside the reel, the war veteran – not only a war veteran but a western fly-fishing “veteran” of 3+ years, who, through a special reel, a special stripping device and some ingenuity – spotted a very good fish. With no time to spare and go through the process of getting his line out of the reel to cast, I gave him my tenkara rod, which I kept rigged for the occasional cast. Not yet fully used to casting with a tenkara rod, his first cast piles up a bit, but it’s no problem, the line is so light the fish was not disturbed. On the second cast the fly didn’t turnover completely, but went far enough, maybe 15ft out, to attract the attention of the feeding fish. In a few seconds it was fish on. A healthy and very feisty 14″ rainbow. Not his biggest, nor his first, but his first on a tenkara rod, maybe the first that provided such a fight he thought he may not actually land it, the first that perhaps felt like an equal adversary. But, also the first fish he had full control over, who didn’t take line, because he couldn’t, and after a very strong fight just surrendered because he realized he couldn’t really run anywhere. He was hooked. The simplicity of it, the fact that he could simply cast when he wanted to, and the won battle – All worth it.
A HUGE THANK YOU TO ALL VETERANS AND THOSE WHO SACRIFICE SO MUCH FOR THEIR COUNTRY!
One of the main reasons most anglers are attracted to tenkara fly-fishing – whether a tenkara veteran such as Dr. Ishigaki, or any of the recent adopters of tenkara – is, simply put, simplicity. That draws some to add it to their repertoire, and makes others leave their reels behind permanently. That is also the reason we have fallen in love with tenkara fly-fishing to begin with.
Now the fishing that remains to us– I’m going to call it “The New Period”– will be marked, I think, by greater simplicity of gear, technique, style and purpose. It will be done closer to home, more impromptu and with less media attention. It will be gentler, more elegant, and less aggressive — in some ways more old fashioned…
There’s my new friend in San Francisco who is introducing the tackle and practice of Tenkara, an ancient Japanese method of fishing the fly with a long, reel-less rod and short line.
It is a method of the same values as we envision for our new national life … For me, Tenkara is a sign of the times.
From the beginning, the vision behind Tenkara USA has been to show the simplicity inherent – although long forgotten – in the art of fly-fishing. We have not yet ellaborated much on our philosophy, but, in sum, it is:
Yesterday, Tenkara USA went tenkara fishing with outdoor columnist and outdoor show host Cork Graham. Cork is the author of best selling book The Bamboo Chest, and is currently conducting a donation campaign to help US war veterans.
We went up to the Sierras for a day trip, and settled to fish on a beautiful creek. We had heard the creek had some larger fish, and were a bit hesitant…
Though tenkara is really a style of fishing for smaller fish, Cork hooked and landed a beautiful 15 inch rainbow trout using our Yamame rod and a Sakasa, reverse hackle fly. It was a beautiful fight, and Cork landed the fish without a problem.