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One fly

On August 20, 2009
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Following up on Dr. Hisao Ishigaki’s visit to the Catskills in May, we just posted a movie preview of our upcoming movie on Dr. Ishigaki’s visit marking the introduction of tenkara to the US.

During his visit, Dr. Ishigaki did a fly-tying demonstration of the one and ONLY pattern he’s used for almost 10 years, a “sakasa” fly pattern (reversed hackle). He first learned about this fly in a shop in Japan, and after some years of fishing several different patterns was quickly attracted to its simplicity,sparseness, and soon its effectiveness. It’s a very simple and quick fly to tie.

This one-fly approach puzzled many of the present guests, particularly since he expressed his philosophy and theories in an area known for its fly-tiers and the invention of a multitude of fly-patterns. A doctor in the field of vision studies, Dr. Ishigaki bases his theory on the fact that a fish’s vision is very poor, and it will go for anything moving nearby, and also on the fact that despite of only using one fly-pattern he’s continued to catch as many fish as he ever did when using several different patterns. The instincts of a trout won’t allow it to waste an opportunity to grab food.

As Dr. Ishigaki says, in tenkara “it’s all about technique; whether one catches fish or not is entirely up to him, not the gear, not even the fly.” The main appeal of tenkara to Dr. Ishigaki and many other tenkara anglers is its simplicity. He fully embraces the simplicity in fishing with only a rod, line and a fly. But, he takes it further than many dare.

The idea of limiting yourself to only the most basic elements of fly-fishing and fully dedicating yourself to technique and presentation is appealing! This experience really got me thinking, what if I could only carry one fly? Would I still be able to catch fish? It is hard, VERY HARD in fact, to stick with only one fly. I have been trying it, but it takes a level of confidence, or discipline, I don’t yet have.

John Steinback once wrote, “It has always been my private conviction that any man who pits his intelligence against a fish and loses has it coming”. Maybe intelligence also involves selecting the right fly, but, maybe switching flies is just…the easy way out.

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