Tenkara net making may be a good summer activity for kids. But, it’s probably best to start early because of the long drying period – though you can get away with a short drying.
When I met Kyosuke in the Japanese mountain village of Maze, he saw the nets I made. They are a traditional Japanese craft that may be at risk of dying. He had seen nets before at the museum and with other anglers but never saw them being made until I found a branch and started working on one. When he arrived to spend the month with us here in the States, one of the first things he asked me was if I could teach him how to make a tenkara net. Yesterday evening I finally had the time to take him out to look for the perfect branch. We hiked for nearly an hour, I showed him what we were looking for (he doesn’t speak English, and I’m trying my best to speak only in English to him, so we had some challenges, but he got it).
We found several branches that could work but were not good enough to cut. Some had an arm that was thicker than the other and would be hard to splice, others didn’t bend into a circular shape very well. I kept pointing out trees with good potential but told him we would only cut a branch if he was the one who found it, by himself. I found a couple of very good branches but we let those be. After about 2 miles of hiking, looking at probably 30 trees with potential, and just as night darkness started approaching and we’d be forced to return home, Kyosuke started looking at a tree. A couple of minutes later he called me, “Daniel, come.” I rushed over and was surprised he had found a branch with great potential. Not only that but that one branch actually had two nets in it. I passed him the saw and told him where to cut it to get the two nets.
It was dark well before we got back to the car. I had a headlamp in my pack but chose not to use it, remembering one of my childhood memories of fishing alone till it got dark and I had to walk back in the dark; it was terrifying but a memory worth having. We were also treated to a nice spectacle of several owls communicating with each other. Too-woo woo woo they called, and I taught him how to call at them too. We couldn’t see them even though we knew they were near, until one finally took flight to meet another at a bare tree. It was a huge owl, and you can just about make out their silhouette in the grainy photo. We spent a good while just watching them and another pair nearby. I guess that’s the type of thing that attracts me to the woods in search of branches more than the final nets themselves.
We got home and I told him to remove the needles by cutting them (rather than pulling which causes the branch to reveal small holes. He woke up and resumed work, and then I showed him how to remove the bark and finally how to tie it into it’s desired drying shape. He is now on step 3 of making his own net and now it’s mostly waiting before steps 4-9. Scroll down to read the steps for tenkara net making.
Here are the steps for tenkara net making:
1) go for a hike, find and cut the ideal branch (not Y-shaped, but more like trident or + shaped). Focus on only the best branches, you’ll spend a lot of time crafting your net later and don’t want to waste it on a branch that is sub-par.
2) remove needles and secondary stems, and remove bark while it is green (you do not want to let bark dry as it will be super difficult to remove later. When it is green it almost peels off like a banana with some cuts and and there.
3) bend into circular shape, use cord, sticks or a wok-holder to shape it into as best a circle as possible. A circle is the strongest shape for a net, especially where it will be spliced. I highly recommend trying to achieve a circle as the net will last much longer that way.
4) let dry (3 months to a year or more depending on how dry your area is)
5) steam bend to perfect circular shape in areas that are difficult. Putting the area you want to bend over a hard-boiling kettle for a few minutes is the easiest way to go here.
6) splice ends and glue to form hoop (hardest part)
7) carve and sand. Use progressively finer sand paper, up to a 400 grit at least.
8) apply finish, we suggest 8-9 coats of tung oil finish when starting off. There are many ways to finish wood, I have found this to be one of the most beginner friendly.
9) connect mesh bag to net.
Learn more at http://www.tenkarausa.com/make-tenkara-net
We often underestimate kids and what they can do on their own. At least I think I do, and sometimes I forget what I was doing as a kid too.
My wife and I are currently hosting a family from Japan for a month. We don’t have kids ourselves, but now we have a full house with a 1 year-old, a 9 year-old and their mother. I met the 9-year old Kyosuke a couple of years ago when I was spending a couple of months in the small mountain village of Maze, a town of 1,400 people. Kyosuke is a river boy, he likes to spend all his time in the water, and he loves fishing. When I first met him I taught him about tenkara, and also how to tie tenkara flies. But, in the small mountain town of 1,400 he doesn’t get a lot of exposure to the outside world. So, his mom decided to show him there are different cultures to learn from. But, as always, it goes both ways and we’re learning a lot by having them here.
A couple of days ago I woke up relatively early and went to make my coffee. I found the mom with her 1-year old having breakfast, but Kyosuke was absent. Very nonchalantly she told me he had gone fishing at a lake about 2.5 miles away. Wow, that’s cool was my first thought, and I tried to keep only that thought in my mind, but worrying thoughts very briefly popped in my head “is he gonna be ok?” “Will he get lost?”, “He doesn’t speak a word of English, what will he do if he gets lost”.
Coincidentally, just 3 days earlier I was having dinner with our staff and at one moment we chatted about how our childhoods were shaped by spending time in nature and how our parents just let us go do stuff outside on our own, and nowadays it seems like that doesn’t happen. Fear.
And, then, two days before Kyosuke took off on his own my Facebook news feed greeted me with these two articles: How parents go arrested by letting their children play on their own in two separate cases, and a TED talk about “5 dangerous things you should let your kids do”. And I have seen a couple more articles come up about the topic since then. Is that a trend? Are parents waking up to the fact that sheltering kids from dangers and the rest of the world may not benefit them? I have no idea. But, the experience of waking up to see a 9-year old gone and off on his own to play outside (tenkara fish nonetheless) was one I needed to share.
When I was 9 years old, 22 years ago so not many generations ago, I was playing outside on my own and with friends of my age a LOT! And, I should mention I grew up in a big city in Brazil, which never gave me the impression of being particularly dangerous but I’m sure many could disagree. I would go off into the woods and parks, pretend to build shelters and try to make bows and arrows, with a pocket knife and everything. I can’t remember how old I was, but I have one of my fondest fishing memories come from that around that age when my younger brother and I rode our bikes to a nearby lake to catch some panfish (interestingly using telescopic bait rods, which were the easiest to carry in our bikes). I’m very grateful my parents let me go off on my own and play outside. It gave me a lot of confidence to face the world outside of home on my own, it allowed me to be a fairly resourceful person, and of course, it inspired my great love for the outdoors.
My wife and I waited a couple of hours and then took the dog for a walk to the lake to see how Kyosuke was doing. Funny how she and I were a little worried while his mom was not even thinking about it, she’s used to being on his own. Kyosuke had ridden his scooter to the lake with a tenkara rod (which he’d proudly bought on his won a few days earlier) and ready to find some fish. I’d imagine this will be a fond memory of his eventually and like myself, he’ll be grateful he was allowed to play outside.
Brian and Colby Trow own the Mossy Creek Fly Fishing shop in Harrisonburg, Virginia. They saw the opportunity in carrying tenkara at their shop very early on, embracing it to the extent of having the first dedicated tenkara guide in the country, Mr. Tom Sadler. Rather than seeing tenkara as a threat to the industry or a fad, they saw it as a possible “gateway drug to fly-fishing” or something that would once again excite their long-time customers. I believe what makes a fly shop a great fly shop is that open-mindedness, the ability to embrace diversity in a sport perceived as traditionalist. The Trow brothers give aways their secret here.
This is a guest post kindly provided by a tenkara enthusiast about tenkara and his time with his family. Enjoy it! I sure did.
By Adam Dailey-McIlrath
I love living in Hawaii. We are surrounded by water, and therefore surrounded by fish. Within fifteen minutes I can be hunting for bonefish on the flats, whipping into the waves for trevally or casting my tenkara rod into tide pools for brilliantly colored reef fish. But about once a year I start to dream of the water of my youth, of cold, clear, mountain streams sliding and splashing their way down canyons, pooling and rolling through valleys. It is water that stirs the passion of every fisherman who has held a fly rod. And so I am very fortunate that my family still lives in central Oregon, near the confluence of the McKenzie and Willamette rivers and the countless miles of trout water that flow into them.
However, fishing while visiting family can be a challenge. Like so many of us, I can fill a water bottle, grab a couple of snacks and disappear upriver for six or eight hours at a time. Time just slides by. Plans and schedules are swept up and float away on the current. This is difficult for non-fishers to understand, and can be frustrating for them. So instead of just disappearing to fish alone I have always tried hard on these visits to combine family with fishing – but this presents it’s own set of challenges.
We always say that tenkara is much more about the experience rather than gear. I suppose we mean that literally in every way.
The other day I was talking to a friend who recently took up tenkara. Tenkara has been her first experience fly-fishing, Then she went out fishing with a group of anglers using reels.
The other anglers caught fish that day (1 or 2 each); she didn’t.
As she proceeded to tell me the story she said, “maybe the other kind of fishing would have been better there.”
The point of this post is that our natural tendency will always be to blame the equipment, yet with more actual experience one can distinguish what really is important. Read on for what led me to reflect on this.
Over the years Adam Trahan produced good content about tenkara, particularly in the form of interviews, on his website tenkara-fisher.com. But, while he’s often been the interviewer Adam has not yet been the interviewee. I thought you’d enjoy learning a bit more about who Adam is and where his experiences with tenkara have taken him.
Daniel: Adam, I’ll start by talking to you about Japan. You just put out a nice resource asking a few people who have spent time in Japan learning tenkara about their experiences. This includes yourself, who went to Japan last year and spent time visiting tenkara anglers. It has been very cool to see more people going to Japan with a focus on learning more about tenkara. What made you decide to visit?
Adam: Adventure! That’s the main reason. Going to Japan, a country that I have been pouring over in historical tenkara research for years, sharing time with Japanese friends on Facebook seeing their pictures and information feed, reading about your trips to Japan, I had to go.
There were other reasons too, I wanted to fish with my friend Satoshi Miwa. He is a Western Fly Angler, we met at smallstreams.com We had been conversing about his favorite streams and I came out and asked him if he would help me visit. “Of course!” he said, thinking that I was being diplomatic and not really going to visit. Continue reading
Today I received a copy of the new edition (2nd) of his book “Trout from Small Streams”, a classic book that certainly helped inspire my love for small mountain streams and some of my own philosophies on fly-fishing.
He had told me the new edition of the book contained a chapter on tenkara. Yet, I was not prepared to see such great content about tenkara in the latest version of his book. There are 21 pages devoted to tenkara. The tenkara chapter is part anecdotal with his stories using tenkara, part philosophical, and part instructional too.
In this chapter Hughes describes the experience of learning tenkara from me, writing, “[fishing with Daniel] turned out to be an education in a couple of ways. The first was in the simplicity with which Daniel lives…The second was my first in-depth, rather than shallow, instruction in the art of tenkara fishing. Daniel has gone to Japan to learn from traditional experts there and has obviously become one himself.”
Dave Hughes is one of the American legends of fly-fishing. In fact I can say I owe much of what I have learned about fly-fishing to him. Yet, unknown to many is the fact that Dave Hughes has been tenkara fishing for many years, longer than I have actually. Dave’s enthusiasm for the method can probably be attributed to the fact that he’s a big fan of fishing small streams, he’s also an open-minded inquisitive angler unafraid of trying something new, and his wife is Japanese and so they have been going to Japan together for many years. In one of those trips he picked up a tenkara rod and started playing with it, teaching himself some of the concepts of tenkara. Yet, he recognized there was a lot more to this simple method of fishing than first meets the eye. So, a few years ago we connected, and I had a chance to teach him what I had learned about tenkara from teachers in Japan (and, yes, I also have a hard time with the fact that I could teach Dave Hughes anything) .
Even I can find myself with a broken tenkara rod tip in need of repair. The odds implied that it was bound to happen. After about 6 years of tenkara fishing and opening and closing tenkara rods thousands and thousands of times, this weekend I was fishing in the Pacific Northwest when I broke the tip of my tenkara rod, for the first time ever not on purpose. It was my fault, I hurriedly tried to pull the line out and didn’t heed to my main advice: always keep the hard tip of the rod inside the handle segment while pulling line out of the spool.
Still, even though we were almost done for the day I tried to make the best of the situation by making a field repair of my tenkara rod tip with some spare replacement lillian I had on the rod. It was my first time attempting a field repair of the tenkara rod tip out of necessity. Watch to learn what to do if you find yourself with a broken tenkara rod tip.
The words below are one of the nicest testimonials about how our Tenkara Care program is ensuring customers use our rods more often than any other, because they know we “have their back”.
By customer Jacob Johnson:
“I love companies that stand by their products. Tenkara USA is such a company. I break a rod on the weekend. I post a photo of a big fish and a broken Tenkara rod. John Geer from Tenkara USA sees the photo and figures out what is broken on his own. He then contacts me to confirm his findings and magically a day later the part shows up and my rod is back in business. That is customer service, that is quality, that is awesomeness in action. I have dozens and dozens of Tenkara rods. They look cool but I am afraid to fish them frequently or chase the “Monsters” because I know that if I break them, some of them would be impossible to get fixed. Tenkara USA rods are functional pieces of art, that I know I can rely on even if I am rough on them and put them through their paces. The Tenkara USA team has my back.”