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In case you have sometime, I recently participated in a couple of great podcasts that you may want to checkout.
A few weeks ago I went to Vermont and recorded a live podcast with Tom Rosenbauer of Orvis. You may have seen the news that they are now carrying our gear and have also gotten into tenkara. You can listen to the recording here (or get it on iTunes). The recording with me starts at approximately 20 minutes into the podcast.
The second recording I did was with D. Roger Maves of the internet radio program Askaboutflyfishing.com. This was a show where listeners submitted questions and I answered them as best as I could. It was recorded last Wednesday and it was very interesting to see questions rolling in non-stop throughout the show. You may listen to the show with Roger here.
Both are excellent programs and really well done. I hope you get a chance to listen to at least one of them – and I would never expect you to listen to two shows with the same person on the same topic, I probably wouldn’t. Thank you.
Ishimaru Shotaro, an 89 year old tenkara angler in Japan, offered to give me some of his tenkara flies. He opened the box and out came an unexpected tenkara fly pattern. Why unexpected? For most of my fly-fishing life I had come to somewhat expect the look of a fly to improve in proportion with the time an angler had been tying it. Mr. Shotaro has been tenkara fishing for over 77 years and is the longest practitioner of the method I have met. Yet, his flies were, for lack of a better term, the sloppiest I have ever seen.
I don’t know how many of you have seen the short video Daniel made of my 6 year old son Jack practicing casting his 11’ Iwana and tormenting our cat. That short video was the first time Jack had cast with his new tenkara rod.
I have learned some valuable lessons from teaching my 9 year old daughter Sage and 6 year old son Jack how to fish with tenkara rods. I want to share these lessons because like most tenkara anglers with kids, I immediately saw the potential for bringing my kids into the tenkara world for a lifetime of fun and learning. Read the rest of this entry »
Stenonema fuscum, Stenonema vicarium, or Stenonema ithica? Does it REALLY matter?
Where I grew up, knowing aquatic entomology was considered just as much of a necessary skill in fly fishing as casting. In fact, being able to identify insects (by their Latin names of course) was a sign of “stream cred” and if you could state the number of tails a nymph had on demand simply upon hearing it’s Latin name, you were instantly seen as an expert angler. Read the rest of this entry »
Some very exciting news and a huge milestone for the introduction of tenkara outside of Japan: Orvis, the 156-year old fly-fishing company starts carrying our equipment today! That’s an incredible nod of approval to the method and irrefutable evidence that tenkara is here to stay. Needless to say I’m thrilled.
Orvis approached us earlier this year, and while initially a bit reluctant I was delighted that every single person there - from their retail stores as well as the corporate office - just got tenkara. They not only understood the potential for introducing new people to fly-fishing through tenkara, but they were excited about the technique and how it worked on streams. They were also interested in promoting the method, which totally sold me on working with them. I recently visited with Tom Rosenbauer (yes, that’s the answer to this question) and we recorded a podcast together that should be up sometime soon (likely this week).
The press release below just went out:
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Orvis to Sell Tenkara USA Products
San Francisco, California
Today, San Francisco based company Tenkara USA announced that Orvis, industry leader in fly-fishing equipment, will start carrying Tenkara USA’s rods, line and flies and helping promote the Japanese method of fly-fishing called tenkara.
Zoom section of the Tenkara USA Ito showing its different lengths
Anyone who has followed my writing probably already knows that my tenkara rod of choice is the Tenkara USA Ito. First and foremost, I love the action (I generally prefer softer rods) but my second favorite thing about it is that it’s a zoom rod.
If you’re not familiar with zoom rods, they are rods that can be adjusted to different lengths by simply sliding a section of the rod. For example, the Ito adjusts from 13’ to 14’ 7”. While tenkara rods are long by nature, they are already versatile enough to handle a variety of situations but zoom rods offer two unique advantages that I have come to really appreciate.
In his website Ryan Jordan says of tenkara, “If you think roping a bull in a cattle chute with a piece of dental floss sounds totally cool, then you’ll really like tenkara fly fishing”.
I was finally able to visually exactly what Ryan was talking about when I watched the video below. This video has been around for a little over a month, and although we have shared it on Facebook and Twitter I just noticed we never shared it here on this blog. Our main post for today is on how to choose a tenkara rod, and though we make it clear tenkara is not made for targeting very large fish, we have designed two rods with larger fish in mind.
Below is a must-see video of Guillaume Durand, a tenkara guide in France, catching, fighting and landing a beautiful 7lb brown trout in New Zealand. He was using our Yamame tenkara rod. The video was shot by another tenkara guide in France, Mr. Yvon Zill.
The number one question we are asked by new tenkara anglers is, “which rod should I get?” It certainly can be confusing since tenkara rods come in different lengths and actions. We always like to tell people that they really can’t go wrong, any rod will work just fine. But, in order to assist you with understanding what our rods are designed for, we have put together the video below with Daniel walking trough the entire lineup of Tenkara USA rods. We have also put together the chart below the video, which we hope will help with the decision making process and some pointers about the key aspects of tenkara rods.
Since all Tenkara USA rods will work for most trout fishing and smaller fish scenarios it’s hard to pin each one down to a specific use or to match your exact preference. Further, we believe people will just grow into the rod they get anyways.
It was never our intent to make things more confusing, nor necessarily for people to buy multiple tenkara rods when we developed the 6 rods that are in our current lineup – as a small company things would be MUCH simpler if we only had to worry about managing inventory of one rod model. But, each of the rods in our lineup were developed to fill a specific niche or preference. However, there are certain applications where we believe each model shines and the following table attempts to simplify the rod selection process:
These rods are very easy for us to recommend, with the other rods in the lineup being considered more “specialty” tenkara rods.
The main difference between the Ito, Ayu and 12ft Iwana will be their length. So, if you fish wider streams and are looking for an excellent premium rod the Ito will be a great choice. If you’re fishing wider streams but don’t want to spend as much money on the rod, the 13ft Ayu is a great option. And, if you fish a mix of stream sizes, the 12ft Iwana is a great no-brainer.
If in doubt: just get the 12ft Iwana.
Bigger Fish – two more choices
We have developed two rods with more backbone if you’re always catching fish that are 17″ (43cm): the 12ft Yamame and the 13ft 6in Amago have more backbone and make landing the larger fish a bit easier. The main difference between the two is their length, with the Amago being a better rod for larger and more open streams, and the Yamame being the best tool for smaller streams.
Smaller Streams – one more choice (erhh, two actually)
The last choice in our lineup is if you’re fishing pretty small streams all the time. In that case we offer the 11ft version of the Iwana. You’ll have less reach, but if you’re fishing tighter streams that will be a good choice.
Actually, if you get the Iwana, you also have the option of purchasing a separate add-on handle to transform your rod into its shorter cousin. We only recommend you take advantage of this option after you have been fishing with tenkara for sometime and REALLY wish you had a shorter rod. In our experience it just takes a little getting used to the longer rods, but once you’re used to them they will likely work well.
Some further thoughts on what how we make our recommendations
Length, start here
The first question you should ask yourself is which length is right for the majority of fishing you plan to do. Generally speaking, we always recommend using the longest rod you can get away with. This will give you more reach, help you keep more line off of the water and give you more control over your fly (one of the main benefits of tenkara).
A 12ft (360cm) tenkara rod is a very standard length for tenkara. But, if you live near pretty small streams with low, overhanging branches, then a shorter tenkara rod (say 11ft / 330cm) might let you cast more easily under the canopy.
In either case, you should target your rod choice toward the waters you’ll fish the most. AND, keep in mind a longer rod will have the added versatility of giving you reach in more open sections of a stream, while having the ability to be “fished shorter” by holding the rod above the handle and potentially even collapsing one segment. Further, pairing a long rod with a short line is a very effective combination in smaller streams. Both Jason and I usually fish a 13ft tenkara rod (even on small streams) and you might be surprised how well it fishes in pretty tight quarters.
Action, this is more subjective
Action is primarily a personal preference. Some people prefer stiffer rods, while others prefer softer actions. There is no right or wrong here.
We tend to prefer softer rods (5:5 or soft 6:4) because they load easily, making for very effortless casting. Softer rods will also protect tippet well. Our rods will lean towards the softer end of the scale as we believe they are the best tool for tenkara. Two of our 6 rods are stiffer. The stiffer rods will often have more backbone to put pressure on large fish and will be better at precise casting at short distances (though this can be made up for with technique and practice). The Yamame and the Amago, are both stiffer and also have a good deal of backbone and were designed with larger fish in mind.
Tenkara rods are relatively soft compared to western fly rods, and all our rods have soft tips to assist in casting very light lines. So if you’re used to a fast-action western-style fly rod, you might prefer a slightly stiffer action tenkara rod like the Iwana 6:4, the Yamame 7:3 or the Amago 6:4.
Fish Size, last consideration
All tenkara rods are made for the average trout and other smaller species of fish: 8″ – 18″ (20 – 45cm).
All tenkara rods will handle the occasional 20+ incher (50cm +). So, if your targeted fish size is within those ranges, fish size should have little bearing on the rod choice: ANY ROD WILL WORK FINE.
If you’re constantly catching fish that are over 17 inches (43cm), then we have two tenkara rods that have more backbone (stiffer and with more mass): the Yamame and the Amago. We consider those more specialty rods and they sell very well in places like Montana and Idaho.
With each rod being so versatile, it would be hard to make the “wrong” choice. Hopefully, the chart and video above will help. If you’re still struggling with which rod is right for you, feel free to post here, or email Jason at Jason@tenkarausa.com. He will be happy to help you make the best decision on your first tenkara rod.
But, here we are writing about one more person who fell in love with tenkara enough to get a tenkara tattoo! This time Kevin Brooks out in Alabama decided to get the katakana characters for tenkara (テンカラ) on his left arm. I asked him about the story behind the tattoo and he replied: “I have been thru a lot the last three years with my health and for sometime had a hard time fishing cause it hurt so bad. So when I tried tenkara, it did not hurt my back as bad and I could fish longer. Man talk about a blessing! So I read everything I could about it and when I read FROM HEAVEN I wanted it where I could remind myself where my blessing came from.”
I feel like it’s a great honor to see the ink on their skin symbolizing tenkara. It’s just way too cool. But, it does put some responsibility on us to ensure Brian and Kevin never regret having the tenkara name permanently etched on their skin.
My wife and I were reviewing pictures from a recent fishing trip we took with two friends who are new to fly-fishing. I mentioned how it was funny that I needed to remind both our friends to “show me the fish!” After struggling to hold the fish, they would proceed to hide most of it with their hand. I personally couldn’t understand why they were doing that. And then my wife remarked that, “most people will try to grab a fish like this…” as she mimicked the motion we use to pick an apple off a table for example, “that’s how we naturally do it”.