Below is an essay by Brian Lindsay and his fishing journey, which eventually led him to tenkara. Hope you enjoy the reading.
My father never said much. He was a quiet man. He lived a full life in secrecy. It was the nature of his work, and his life, until he passed away quietly. He left me with many mysteries to discover for myself, including his love for fishing.
This first thing I remember in my life was the smell of bacon frying at a campsite. I started my first year of life on a fishing trip through northern Canada. We camped and fished a lot when I was young. I was aware of it all. My mother tells me now, that my father, an “avid outdoorsman,” was fishing one day while being irritated by my noisemaking habits. I was running my toy cars back and forth on the bottom of his aluminum boat. He recalled later, and throughout his life, that he had never caught more fish than on that day.
As I grew up my father, a systems engineer, experimented with all kinds of various tackle to find the best possible options to catch a fish, wherever we were fishing. He simply tossed me whatever extra rod he wasn’t using, with a yellow jig attached. Throughout all the years of watching my father and others struggling with decisions on how to catch fish that particular day, I would just grab a rod, attach my yellow jig and fish the same way I had mastered, and sometimes catch more than all the others during a day’s catch. I guess I just wanted to fit in with the other guys. I didn’t know all their tricks. Nor was I interested. But my string was full everyday… I even mastered the art of unhooking my jig from logs and twigs in the art of saving my precious jig. I fished for shark and rock cod through college with great success, accompanied by cheap beer. Shark filet grilled open face with butter, garlic, salt and pepper, can become addictive. The skin peels right off. The cabezon were very ugly, but also quite good.
One trip I remember my dad taking me on was made flying First Class from San Francisco to Michigan, (where I was born) then driving up across the Mackinac Bridge to the Northern Peninsula, and through Thunder Bay in Ontario, Canada, north, to Lake Caribou. I was back to the yellow jig to keep up, and caught the same amount of walleye and northern pike as the other fishermen. Limits everyday… Good eatin’…
My first experience with fly fishing was brief, but momentous. I hooked up with a guy in trade school who thought he was Brad Pitt in the big fishing scene, in that fishing movie. You know. He took me to a place on the border of California and Nevada (can’t remember where, it was a long drive in the middle of the night). I used my dad’s oversized wading gear and cast some fly I was given (that part is a blur) back and forth with a 10/2 pattern (I saw the movie). It was peaceful and beautiful. Then out of nowhere an F-16 buzzed the river and scared the “bleep” out of me. I honestly don’t remember it being before or after, that I caught my little 5″ prize. I was told later that it is unlikely for someone to catch a fish their first time fly fishing. I was happy. I didn’t fly fish again for almost 20 years.
After my father’s passing and going through his stuff, I found his hidden secret. He had a passion for fly fishing. (Maybe I just wasn’t aware of where he was going with his fishing.) I was intrigued… He had an old vise and a collection of store-bought flies in his things. I became obsessed with my lost father’s interest. After 50 years of Top Secret aerospace work, I knew nothing about him really accept for his love of fishing, hunting, yard work and cooking. The rest is a mystery…
So I set out to find him, and myself. I started tying flies, but I didn’t fish. I couldn’t afford to buy flies, so I tied them before I could afford a fly rod. After being overwhelmed by all the options in fly tying, I had made myself a new goal. I was going to make an original fly and catch something on it. I started six years ago and it took me three years before I reached my goal. After researching and fantasizing about fly patterns I’d seen, and what seemed practical, I reached my goal. I call it “the Skeeter.” My first catch was a small, green panfish. I was happy and satisfied. I was bitten by the fly fishing bug. I started looking at fishing completely differently. The goal now was to enjoy each moment of this new experience, and soak it all in.
Then it happened… For some reason I was attracted to these swarms of carp constantly swimming upstream against the flood currents of the downtown Houston bayous. I have always been premeditated in all of my projects. I think things through to completion before I execute. After intense research, I discovered the folklore of how carp fisherman would come from other parts of the globe to fish these carp! I thought to myself, “Really…”
I had a new source of passion. I must catch a carp. Not on a piece of hotdog, but on a fly.
I embarked on this journey three years ago. The thought process and stalking of these carp filled my spare time. I initially used a regular fly rod and tested many traditional fly patterns. To my dismay my efforts were non-fruitful, and quite discouraging. I gave up on the quest for a while. I fell back to going out and fishing with a friend and basically using a jig to catch sea trout and redfish. Good fun, but it was still not satisfying my obsession. In the interim period I studied many different types of fishing, when I accidentally stumbled across tenkara. Not able to afford a new rig yet, I asked many questions, and got a lot of open answers, and useful information, from the tenkara community.
The tenkara community as traditionalists, boasted a “one fly” strategy. I was confused. I thought fly fishing had to do with all these fly patterns you had to know to catch a certain type of fish. Now it all made no sense. I finally got my first tenkara rod, attached everything needed with the correct knots, then tied on the “one fly” I had received from Tenkara USA. I fished, caught nothing and was even more frustrated. I had never been so unsuccessful at fishing in my life. I started going around and around with different patterns, trying them all… Nothing… I sucked at fishing.
It dawned on me through more research, that I wasn’t listening. It’s all about presentation… With what? The “one fly.” So, back to the drawing board. Now for such a smart guy, I was being really stupid. I had to go back, and refocus. I reattached the first “one fly” I had received with my rig and started to cast, and cast…and cast. Then it happened…in the exact same spot as I had cast “the Skeeter” three years earlier. Three years… I had gone around in a circle. I caught the same tiny, little green panfish, I had caught three years earlier. Boom! I was there. I had done it.
What? What are you talking about?
I had learned again, what I already knew.
All of those years of fishing throughout my life had taught me that using “one jig” would catch me almost every kind of fish all over North America. Why not “one fly?” It made perfect sense. I had conquered fishing without catching hardly any fish.
Any kind of “one fly” will work. It’s like playing a musical instrument. You have to learn every song possible with just that one musical tool. The basic principal is to take the time to master the tool, whatever it is. I support the “one fly” concept. It works, if you work it…
The carp are next…
My father would be smiling…
I struggled throughout my young life attempting to achieve happiness. Trying different things, experimenting, researching, learning about spirituality and consciousness. Being obsessed with the search. At times my conscious mind has tried to convince me that I must do certain things to obtain this certain level of bliss called happiness. (When all the time my subconscious mind grins in amazement at how much effort I spend chasing what I already inherently know.) As I travel in life, the more I let go of my preconceptions, the easier I stumble across moments and glimpses of natural bliss. The more I pay attention to my instincts and stop thinking, the more I absorb. I find comfort in just letting things happen the way they should.
My reasoning in traveling to Colorado in August, 2013, for the Tenkara Takeover, was to let go. Give myself a chance to “play it by ear.” It’s funny how my logical mind, now, has been retrained to transport my subconscious mind to places and situations to allow it to enjoy my life. I can’t say that was the case earlier in my life…
Catching the “Happy Endorphin” has been a lifelong fantasy of mine. Taking me on many adventures to discover new, as well as traditional manners of obtaining this elusive capture. If just for a moment… Fishing has always served for me as a time to slow down and enjoy the reason why I’m here on this earth.
To Realize… To Enjoy…
Being plagued with a very active mind my entire life, tenkara gives me a method to relax and focus. Tenkara employs my keen senses to focus on a single goal, the enticement and gentle capture of a fish…and then release it in anticipation of a greater catch…
At this moment, the Happy Endorphin is released…
In a busy world, peace is at a great premium. I have been plagued since birth with an overactive mind. Always trying to figure things out, to the point of exhaustion. School was impossible to focus on when I was young. It was as if they were trying to feed us the information as slowly as possible. This process made me impatient, throwing me into a world of being a daydreamer. I spent my growing years experimenting and trying new things one after another, searching for solace in learning.
In my young adult life I starting working with computers. As we (myself and the companies I worked for) built the Internet and all of its functions, I was challenged with a world that was exciting and unknown. Spending all of my time at work, I lost track of my world, including relationships and money. By the time I realized it, they were all gone. As time traveled on I would lose friends, family members, and my own life. Only to return and try again. As these stressful times grew, I was internally not happy, or peaceful. This struggle had consumed my being.
I reached out to something I treasured as a child, an activity that was precious time spent with my now passed father. It sent me on a quest for peace. After several years of research I accidentally stumbled into Daniel Galhardo online, and the rest of the early tenkara community establishing itself in North America. I found a different kind of people, interested in a single goal. Catching fish the simplest way possible, and releasing them with respect. My first impression was a lasting one. Simply fishing. Simple people.
As I embarked on the task of learning a simple skill, I had no idea where it would lead me.
But, I was game. It couldn’t hurt to try. At first I was frustrated. My mind seemed to be getting in the way. Too much static. I decided to stop trying so hard, and just give in. I would just go down to the shore and try to relax. The more I gave in, the more I would experience something new. As I gave into this new feeling, I starting noticing more things around me. The plants had color, the birds sang, the nature around me was magnificent. I was at peace.
As I continued to fish, my approach was now peaceful. I had lost my criticism toward my ability to catch fish. It just didn’t matter anymore. I was involved in a new experience for me, called peace. The more I relaxed, the more I became in tune. The more I became in tune, the more fish I would catch…one, after another, after another. I have fished tenkara now, for a couple of thousand fish. Each time I take my rod to the shore, I am at peace.
I have been known for using the phrase, “Peace and Tenkara.”
Now you know why.
Tenkara is my peace.
My father and I never argued. When I made mistakes he would simply smile at me and ask, “Well Brian, what did you learn from that?”
If I could talk with him today, I would tell him that I had learned where he was going with his life, and his fishing. To find a simple way to relax, and restore your batteries. To find a way to clear your head to work another day, balancing responsibilities that are important in contributing to your life, and to the future, in a peaceful and meaningful manner.
My father Smiles from Heaven…