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.
Schlepping all of my fishing gear 2500 miles on the plane and two and a half hours on a bus, coupled with the fact that this visit to Oregon is usually my one annual opportunity to fish for trout, I arrive with a pretty serious investment in catching fish. My family understands my passion and their reservoir of patience for my obsession runs deep, but it is not endless. By the time I have geared up, reconnoitered and hooked a couple of fish I can sense people getting antsy. Stomachs are rumbling, mosquitoes are biting and the shifting sun has left people chilly in the shade. If I have actually landed some fish I’ll break down and pack up with minimal resignation, but if I have been hooking and losing fish then it is hard not to leave the river without a sense of lingering frustration and disappointment. Even though these negative feelings are not directed towards my family they definitely affect my mood and consequently my personal interactions.
Tenkara has pretty much resolved this dilemma. There is so much less gear, fewer knots to tie, and I can use the same set-up on a tiny mountain stream and a fully grown river. Consequently I feel less investment, and less pressure. Tenkara has enabled me to complement and enhance my family time with fishing rather than putting the two at odds.
Years ago my father introduced me to fly fishing with a copy of The Curtis Creek Manifesto. He then spent countless hours, first teaching me to cast in the yard and later to tie my own flies. So it has been great fun to introduce him to tenkara. As a fisherman I cannot help but appreciate the
simplicity of tenkara for practical reasons. But my father is an artist, and watching him cast a tenkara
rod for the first time I think he appreciated it’s simplicity and beauty even more than I do.
My mother is a voracious hiker and we always take to a stream-side trail at some point. I can
easily bring my tenkara rod along and, with just 15 or 20 minutes, while we are stopped for a rest I can
rig up and fish one or two likely spots. And if I find a fish I like to think it provides a little additional excitement and enjoyment for everyone.
My wife, having grown up in the tropical climes of Hawaii, is obsessed with the variety of berries available during an Oregon summer. We’ll often make a berry-picking trip (or two!) and stop along the river on the way home. While everyone enjoys our bounty, relaxing and picking out the choicest blackberries, strawberries or blueberries, I can work the bank, probing log jams, checking the shadows of overhanging brush and drifting my fly around submerged boulders.
On our last visit I was pleased to take my younger brother fishing on my favorite creek. I picked him up early and with warm beverages in hand we headed for the mountains. He has a light spinning rod and the plan was to teach him to fish using bait and split shot, but after the first stop I told him to leave the worms in the car. I grabbed the tenkara rod and we snuck down the bank and crouched behind a boulder. I showed him how to cast into a riffle and then, keeping the rod tip high, drift the fly downstream. He learned quickly and for the rest of the morning we took turns fishing riffles and holes. Together we laughed while fruitlessly fighting clouds of no-see-ums until the warm summer rain finally cleared them from the air. I was delighted when, at the head of a deep blue pool, my brother hooked and landed the fish of the day. We released the native fish and took a brace of hatchery fish to eat. At home that evening, with my family around a small dining table, in a room full of memory, we ate those tenakara-caught fish together. They were the most delicious thing I have ever tasted.