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In Search of Tenkara, part 3 [VIDEO]

On April 6, 2013
Comments (15)

A writeup about In Search of Tenkara Part 3 is below. In case you missed parts 1 and 2:
In Search of Tenkara, Part 2:

In Search of Tenkara, Part 1:

About “In Search of Tenkara, Part 3″:
Let me get this out of the way first: I used non-tenkara flies, split shot and even a bobber! Let me explain (and I cover this in the video too).
Over the last couple of days my “one fly” (technique over gear) approach was really challenged. For over 2.5 years I have chosen to stick with one fly pattern and focus on refining techniques, as my teachers in Japan have taught me, to see how far I could go with using one fly pattern.
I once said to a class that “the one fly approach works…until it doesn’t”. In streams, spring creeks and rivers thorough the US, in different seasons, the approach has so far always worked. However, I have been waiting for a moment to be shown that it does not; and when the moment came I would not be above changing flies. I thought this finally would be the time where “one fly” would be proven to not work everywhere.

In order to make the most of our time shooting for the show, I adopted the rig and flies shown to us by our local guide. For the first time in over 2.5 years I have tied on a fly other than a sakasa kebari. And, for the first time in my fly-fishing experience I have actually fished with split-shot. YES! I admit it, and am not ashamed of it. Though I wish now that I had spent more time figuring out the river and what its fish wanted.
It was a hard thing for me to do, and it was hard coming to sense with it. The reasons why one fly should work, in my mind, were solid. And, I had this nagging feeling that perhaps my technique was just not up to par with those fish. The several fishing guides I met in this trip explained the Eagle River was a very difficult river, with not much diversity in bug life. They also told me in no uncertain terms that they thought my tenkara fly would not work there.
As we wrapped up the filming for the show, I stayed on the water. I really took my time to figure out what could trigger the fish. The conditions hadn’t changed, there were no rises or hatches, the weather was the same and the fish, the river and the bugs in the water didn’t change either. But, I really worked on my technique. After some 20-30 minutes I believe I ran into the trigger: a couple of dead-drifts over a good-looking spot, followed by a bit of holding the fly on the surface. In fact, the scene in the video above where I hold the fly on my hand and then cast and catch a fish, I had just let my fly dead-drift over the spot and then decided to drag it over the same place.
Being able to take my time without the pressure of a film crew behind me paid off handsomely with what I believe was one of the best fishing experiences of my life.
The combination of an “Eureka” moment, the beautiful scenery enhanced by the “golden hour” light, and spectacular fish takes followed by holding beautiful [and large] fish allowed me to find a part of tenkara in this trip.

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15 Responses to In Search of Tenkara, part 3 [VIDEO]

  1. Adam says:

    Tenkara is a fishing method. It is a great way to introduce people to fishing. It is also a way for the advanced angler to further hone his (or her) skill and everything in between. There are detractors that will speak poorly about the “one fly” method. That is their lack of discipline speaking. There is no shame in giving in to what you know, however, what is the lesson in that? Tenkara is not fly fishing, it is Tenkara. It is Japan’s contribution to fly fishing. Daniel, that is a genuine smile earned through confidence in the method. Your video is an advanced lesson that supports the method of Tenkara. The self discipline of one fly is rewarding on many levels and is not an artificial culture.

  2. Adam says:

    Even a broken clock is right twice a day…

    I appreciate the video (message) you sent.

    It captures the lesson and good timing too.

    Good one.

  3. Eric Philipp says:

    Awesome video Daniel! I have fished the Eagle many times, it can be very tricky. I cannot wait to get out to Colorado and do way more Tenkara fishing and I have thus far. I have Tenkara fished in the Blue River out of Silverthorne and had great luck and I plan on Tenkara fishing in the Frying Pan once we complete our move to Aspen. IT would be amazing to fish with you sometime! I just did a Tenkara presentation at the fly tying club that I belong to here in Minnesota and really peeked some interest in this style of fly fishing! I am thinking there are going to be a few more Tenkara anglers in the next few weeks because of my presentation. Thank you for these videos and for bringing Tenkara to us in the USA.

  4. Daniel this makes me think of two things – firstly a quote by Thomas McGuane in his book The Longest Silence. In one story he talks about how when you’re fishing and catching nothing – often you “accidentally” catch a fish. He say this is the river’s way of telling you that you were reading it wrong. Sounds like that’s what happened to you. I love that you went back to listening to the river and finally heard what it was saying.

    Second some things you said at the end made me think of a Zen idea that Paul Arnold clued me in to – and that is Shoshin – meaning Beginner’s Mind. A quote from Shunryu Suzuki “In the beginner’s mind there are many possibilities, in the expert’s mind there are few.” I know I try to have that beginner’s mind – and in fact – though I wouldn’t have called it that at the time- the concept of shoshin may be a big part of why I got into tenkara and current my one-fly quest.

    • Anthony,
      These are beautiful references and really make me reflect upon my experience with a new perspective. The “accidental” catch of a fish happens, but it is the consistency that really provides clues on whether something is working or not, I think.
      Also, I love the reference to a beginner’s mind. I didn’t think about it that way before, but I think it will be more important for me, going forward, to always approach the stream as a beginner again. It is easy to think I got it figured out, but extremely valuable to have a river’s reminder I’ll likely never figure it out.
      Thank you!

  5. mike says:

    i really enjoyed this video daniel. like i was telling my students recently, i know i can catch fish with worms, but there is something about finding just the right technique when using tenkara, and in life, that makes the process worth while.

  6. Corbin Haugen says:

    Great part III, way to be open about trying new things… I never thought the ever-so-famous Daniel would tie on an egg and a split-shot! HaHa. whatever works right?! I completely agree with you that once we stop learning and trying new things, we might as well stop. I feel the same way. I don’t understand the appeal of using the same tried and true method every time. That’s why I tie flies, so I can tie up my biggest fantasy and catch fish on it.
    Oh an great footage of that brown. I love browns. Most beautiful fish, just above the Brookie.

    • Hey Corbin,
      Thanks for the comment. Indeed, tying an egg and split-shot (and even a thingamabobber for a while) took some convincing myself. In the end the “it’s just fishing” and the memory of growing up using those things won out, and I have absolutely no regrets 😉

  7. Christine says:

    Daniel, thank you for these great videos. I am brand new to Tenkara and unfortunately, my first attempt with it was on the Eagle. I don’t feel half as bad now! I walked away fishless, but knew I would be OK with that as part of my new learning experience – I enjoyed a beautiful sunny day with snow lined stream banks which made it well worth the effort.
    I have since caught a couple of fish (by accident), as I am going through my learning pains but I can always walk away with the beauty of my surroundings.

    • Christine,
      I remember the first few trips I took for trout, took me a little while to get into them. And then it started happening. Beginning in the winter (sounds like its what you did) and a large river like the Eagle is tough. You should catch more fish as it warms up; pocket water is usually easier too.

  8. jeremy (achilles38) says:

    Great videos! What is the pant and boot set up you guys are wearing? You can hike comfortably and wade for what looks like several miles. I’m trying to find a way I can do that in Montana and Wyoming this summer.


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