It has been some years now since I’ve learned about tenkara, an efficient form of mountain stream fishing. Through my experiences using this simple, old style of fishing, I have found that I can apply principles of minimalism to nearly everything I do. I’ve learned about efficiency and different ways of looking at everyday challenges. In applying these concepts, I have come up with a formula that works for me. It can be summed up with the following sentence.
The more you know, the less you need.
For this installment, I will approach traveling and using what I call, the tenkara lifestyle, to promote efficient travel.
In my own experience, I have realized that nothing is better than experience to realize just what you need. Packing for a trip shouldn’t be difficult. There is some homework involved if you are new to traveling light but as you reduce the contents of your pack, you will realize that each component of your travel kit becomes more important on its own and as an integrated system.
Key to the concept is to check the weather where you are going and make a pack list for up to a week. If you can get through a week with your packing list, you can easily live for two weeks or a month or longer. Packing for one week, I have a comfortable pack size and I am able to be prepared for just about any activity. Hiking, fishing, going out to dinner, hot springs or lounging with friends or distant family. At the end of the week, I’m going to do some laundry whether it be washing my clothes in washer or in the shower, bucket or near a stream and hanging them to dry but I’m ready for another week.
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.
Simplicity is a choice. It is easy to make many things in life complex, but these complexities don’t usually add to our experience. Even when we learn that we don’t truly need a lot of flies we can choose to carry multiple fly patterns with us “just in case”. We can carry multiple line weights and change them any time winds change. We can carry accessories to indicate the presence of fish when we could have kept an eye to line to do that. It may seem like carrying additional items in our fishing kit will make fishing easier or more effective. Often it does not.
Tenkara shows us there is a different way of thinking about fly-fishing – and often about life too. It shows us we can leave the unnecessary behind. But, we must choose to do so.
This is short excerpt from tenkara – the book
In this latest episode Daniel, who has been described as a “rock-climber disguised as a fly angler”, but sometimes as a fly angler disguised as a rock-climber, discusses how he found his two big passions in life, rock-climbing and tenkara fly-fishing, as well as how they fit together and have inspired him to start Tenkara USA. Without knowing where the episode was going to go, Daniel concludes that one shouldn’t dismiss an activity after a quick glance as you may get hooked when you actually try it. And, that some activities are great complements to each other and bring us balance.
Referenced in this episode:
Daniel brings up the newly published book by one of his climbing heroes, Hans Florine: http://onthenosebook.com/
Giveaway campaign: http://onthenosebook.com/contest/ (the Tenkara USA giveaway will be on the week of September 19th).
The Fly Fish Journal with Daniel’s current story on combining climbing and tenkara fly-fishing: http://www.theflyfishjournal.com/issue/8.1/8.1
by TJ Ferreira
Sometimes it takes a nice relaxing camping trip to give my mind respite. A time to look, listen, and learn. Although camping can be a bit of work, the down times are a wonderful way to recharge one’s mind and body.
My wife and I camped this past weekend at a very small and remote PG&E Campground in Northern California. This was one of those “tenkara +” moments for me. The goal of this trip was rest, eat, sleep, talk, wander, listen, look, learn, and sure… some tenkara too.
It is probably true that tenkara never sleeps for me. I mean, I work for Tenkara USA so my job is to talk about tenkara all day long. Not a half bad job. Then comes the weekend and what do I tend to gravitate to? Fishing. LOL! Tenkara fishing that is.
Do you all carry tenkara gear in your modes of transport? I do. I aways have a pack with a tenkara rod or two, lines, flies… the basics. I am always on the ready if I see a pool that entices me or extend my second rod to a stranger inquiring about what I am up to.
This camping trip was no different. I chose this campground as it was near a creek, and I had read it was once a great fishery but has since died off. A mix of California drought and a growing population of otters have made fishing at this creek very difficult. But I knew fishing would be possible so I went prepared.
Upon our Saturday arrival we set up camp. Once done, the wife and I were lazy bones. Never did my mind stop thinking of tenkara. Waiting for that dusk awakening time for my best chances of catching a few trout “in the style of tenkara”, as a buddy of mine Mike Willis calls it. Most the day was spent listening to sounds from the forest, looking at wildlife that meandered by, bugs and flying insects that have no clock and they seem to work 24/7.
I only fished about one hour on Saturday but did catch a nice small wild brown. I was happy as the creek that skunked me a few weeks prior (when I went there on a recon outing). A nice pat on the head and off the brownie went to serve someone else “hello” in the near future.
Sunday was another day of laziness, listening and eye-balling mother nature at its best. Dragonflies on parade, yellow jackets and meat bees hovering around you every time you decide to snack (this is diet control for sure), but all day I was waiting for was dusk. Dusk tonight meant I would hit this creek much harder than the day before.
Mounted up with wet wading gear I hit the creek for two hours this fine Sunday. The creek only yielded me one more brownie, but a little bigger today. This creek was most generous as it tries to rebuild on the past, slowly but surely, even when the odds are stacked against it.
Sneaking like a tenkara angler has to learn to do, I heard some crunching in the weeds near the creek. I stood motionless as an otter swam within one foot from my feet as it worked its way down river. How cool was that!
I could tell the locals in charge of this area are trying to re-grow the fishing here. A few 4×4 posts with survey boxes were at the creek and each night I was proud to fill out a form to tell them thanks. Every day I caught myself a little extra energy boost, that I know will make my tenkara grow even more after this fine trip.
So what did I learn on this trip?… patience for sure. This creek was very poor in quantity but the quality and wildlife were rather spectacular. I went camping to chill with my wife, and that I did. Tenkara + patience was at hand on this trip and for that I am thankful.
Even if one does not catch double digits of fish, remember there is much more to tenkara than just fishing. Look, listen, and learn. Each trip you can bring something wonderful home if you head out with an open heart and open eyes.
Much like a forest that never sleeps, neither does my tenkara. It has become part of my being. I am living tenkara +.
** Remember to listen for new sounds when out in nature. I told my wife that these sounds were made by a Velociraptor: https://youtu.be/LXyfFX3EGAw. Hehe.
by TJ Ferreira
Having just recently turned the big Five O-no, I glanced in the mirror the other day and what I saw what was an aging, graying, balding shell of what I once was back in my 20s and even 30s. I wake every morning with a few more aches and pains, a few less hairs, but I have a purpose in this life so I get to my daily routine day after day.
Where have all the years gone? Time sure does fly! Both sayings you will hear older folks mention as we age. There are days I feel down. There are days I feel up. I am human after-all. But, I tell myself I have things pretty darn good so it keeps me going. And really, 50 is not that old, but sure, I am well past my ½ way point.
The way I look at things, I have another 20 to 25 in the business world working for a living. Another 30 to maybe 40 fishing tenkara, and if very lucky, another 50 on this earth. At least that is what I am praying for.
On Monday I awoke to another normal Monday, one that I happen to have off. Wife woke up around 5:45AM to get ready for work and I dragged myself out of bed around 7:30 to start my day. Now that may seem rather late for some, but I don’t sleep well. I am somewhat nocturnal, go to bead in the AM, toss and turn all night, with a brain that will not shut off I keep thinking of things all night that keep me awake. Needless to say I am not a morning person. I find that I finally doze off around 5AM and although I keep waking every 30 minutes, I feel snuggly in bed and get my best rest in these hours.
So no, I don’t like to wake at 5AM to go fishing. Therefore most my trips I am a solo fisherman, beating to my own time and my own drum. Not on a groups time schedule or have to be there at a certain time. Although, every now and then I enjoy fishing with my friends, and I rather look forward to the friendships I have made over the years getting to know them all. It is rewarding to fish with them, to watch, to learn, and to have fun.
On Monday I fished a High Sierra river in NorCal and it was a great day. Geared up wearing my favorite hat, when I walked up on the river I looked down and saw my reflection in the river. I saw a 25 year old, my legs stronger to take on the rivers current, my arms more precise in their movement back and forth, and my heart pitter patters with a youthful spirit again.
The Rivers Mirror does not lie, it holds many unknowns and rejuvenates an aging heart making it young again, and with every cast, and every trout, I am 25 again.
I caught many many trout on this fine Monday. Too many to count on my two hands. It was a great day and what has become the purpose of my tenkara, to enjoy life with a new spirit every day. Going after the unknown of what lurks under each riffle or behind each rock, makes me feel like a kid all over again, for every fishing trip I am learning something new, just like when I was a years ago.
A long drive home I am welcomed by the howling of my two dogs, happy to see their papa. I stroll in the house and pet each of my 4 cats, and as I walked by the mirror, I saw an aging man, gray hairs, balding, but with a smile on his face, and as happy as one man ought to be. The mirror does not lie. The mirror showed a boyish grin with a beating heart and desire for tenkara, and longing for his next adventure on the River’s Mirror.
Before I discovered tenkara I had been fly-fishing for nearly 13 years. I picked up western fly-casting fairly quickly, and because of that I thought I was at least adequate at fly angling. But, I could not consider myself a good fisherman. Indeed, casting is not all there is to fly-fishing. I wasn’t bad, but I think for too long I focused on the wrong things. Thinking back about my fly-fishing career, and especially looking at my last 6 years practicing tenkara, I know I have learned much more than 6 things, but here are 6 things that immediately come to mind and may be helpful to you right away:
Lately I must have been giving too many flies away (and sure, a few were “given” to trees too!). Yesterday I went fishing with some friends and this was what my fly box looked like when I arrived. I had only 7 flies to use for the few hours I would be fishing, and each one was identical in size, color and shape. Size 8 Oki kebari.
Four years ago (WOW! Typing that just made me feel like time is flying way too fast…pun totally intended), I wrote a post about finally letting go of my “just-in-case” flies. It was a turning point for me. After 12 years of being indoctrinated in matching-the-hatch, and one year after learning that I could use one fly (or, rather, any fly), I was finally gaining some confidence in the approach.
It had nothing to do with tradition, rather, it was a step I saw toward liberation. How cool would it be to learn how to use my fly and not worry about hatch books or stopping by a shop to ask what to use? On that post, I also posed the question: “If you only had one fly pattern in your box, could you still catch fish? If you ran out of your “go-to” fly pattern, would you feel okay and continue fishing, or would your day be ruined?”
My 1st Kotsuzake….. been waiting 4.5 years for this. It ended up being a solo adventure and that was probably how it was meant to be.
In almost 5 years since becoming a tenkara fisherman, I had never taken the life of a trout for edible enjoyment. I happily released each trout go to be caught another day. But… my tick-tock clock been ticking for a while now and I knew soon, even after all these years, I would do the deed.
This morning I decided to explore new places to fish along with hopes of finding a nice mountain lake where I could take my wife for some Fall kayaking fun. I was a bit all over the place, driving around a lot, but with little fishing…. but I still did fish and caught a nice Brownie right off highway 49 in Northern California. I did eventually find a cool mountain lake to take my wife to this coming weekend. So my efforts were being rewarded…but I still needed to get some serious fishing in as most the day I had been putzing around in the FJ Cruiser.
Around 1:30PM I decided it was time to head to my secret Mountain Meadow, which I have written about before, in hopes to catch a few brookies. So off I went figuring I would be fishing again around 2:30PM and could get in at least 2+ hours of solid fishing. I went prepared with the normal goods…. Sato, Rhodo, 3.5 Orange Level Line, Salt & Pepper Sakasa Kebari, some snacks and drinks. When I arrived out came the Rhodo and I went to work. Continue reading
Occasionally I’m asked what it’s like to run a business where a long-time passion and work intersect. “Do you get tired of fishing?”, they ask. No, I don’t. I love fishing now as much or more as I did 17 years ago when I caught the bug. But sometimes it feels different.
It’s not that I get tired of fishing or like it less, but there is a difference between fishing for sake of creating content, teaching others or taking people fishing and fishing for sake of fishing. Continue reading
I have never considered fishing to be a sport, at least not the way the word is used by most people. Perhaps the best way to put it, in my opinion, is how I once heard a comedian say it, “fishing is the only sport where the opponent doesn’t know he’s playing” (I believe this was said by Brian Regan, but can’t find the joke right now). But, at the same time I’m not sure there is another word that really encompasses what fishing is. It’s a leisure activity, it’s a hobby, it’s a way to experience and commune with nature, and yes, it can certainly feel like an outright sport sometimes. Even if the way I fish often involves climbing gnarly boulders or hiking for hours, I continue to hesitate on using the word “sport” to describe fishing. However, today I realized that an angler and an athlete have a lot more in common than I had thought. More specifically, I realized how the three pillars of an athlete’s life: sleep, diet and training, also affect an angler’s performance. Continue reading
I love how the Japanese have terms like “shower climbing” and “forest bathing”. The second, forest bathing, or shinrin yoku, is a new one to me, but it has been one of my favorite activities for as long as I remember. As Doug Schnitzpahn of Elevation Outdoors describes it, “In Japan the term shinrin-yoku refers to the act of getting out and simply walking in the woods and breathing in—both metaphorically and actually—the healing aromas of the trees. The term roughly translates as “forest bathing,” or, more romantically, as taking in the essence of the forest, walking quietly, aware.”
Yesterday, late in the afternoon, I went forest bathing. Continue reading
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. Continue reading