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The creation of a new product categoryTenkara fly-fishing in a graph

On January 3, 2011
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Tenkara USA created a brand new category, a new market, in the fly-fishing industry: tenkara (you may also call it “simpler fly-fishing”, “mountain stream fly-fishing” and a “great fly-fishing method for backpackers”). I suspect tenkara has probably been the most blogged about fly-fishing topic since our inception, and definitely one that has created a lot of discussion (sometimes pretty heated) among fly anglers. I can say that because I have a good finger on the pulse of the industry and, as a former market analyst, I have done a lot of research on my end (before I left my previous job and as I continue to grow Tenkara USA). But, hard data that I can share is hard to come by. As a proxy, and for something I can share with you, I decided to take a look at the historical searches on Google for the terms “tenkara”, and “fly-fishing”. I knew there would be virtually no searches for tenkara before we opened our doors, and wanted to see what kind of impact we had in creating this brand new product category.

While I’m typically not one to brag, it’s really cool to see how we have indeed created a new category in the fly-fishing industry and how the awareness of tenkara is slowly growing through our efforts and through the word-of-mouth of passionate new tenkara anglers. Before we “opened our doors”, tenkara was virtually unknown outside of Japan and the term basically never searched for. Few people even knew about it in Japan (see our radio interview with Tokyo radio station). Now, the number of people searching for the term “tenkara” is steadily growing. Take a look at the graph above for a search pattern graph, please note, this report only shows search patterns on a scale of 0-100, not the number of people searching the terms. Timeline: I first learned about tenkara in early 2007, and learned that “Tenkara Bum” Chris, was researching it at about the same time (thus the little bump in 2007 on the graph below). I then started seriously studying and developing Tenkara USA in September/October 2008 (suppose it takes at least 2 people to register on the search patterns). And, then “opened the doors” of Tenkara USA in April 2009. At this point I started working very hard on increasing the awareness of tenkara, and educating the public on the method. Bloggers have really taken an interest in tenkara and contributed much to its introduction. The big peak on the graph was in September, 2010, when an article on tenkara was published in the New York Times.

After seeing this graph I became curious to see how the searches for “tenkara” would compare to “fly-fishing”. Of course the absolute numbers for tenkara searches are a tiny fraction of the searches for “fly-fishing”, but it’s widely accepted the number of fl-fishermen has been declining. Do you want to see something very interesting? Look at the longer-term searches for “fly-fishing”. Research by one of the major fishing companies in Japan (which produces equipment for all types of sport-fishing) has shown that fishing in general has long been in decline in Japan just as it has been here, but tenkara has been the one category to have actually grown in Japan in the last few years. Through tenkara we hope to introduce many new people to the simple sport of fly-fishing.

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6 Responses to The creation of a new product categoryTenkara fly-fishing in a graph

  1. TenkaraBum says:

    Very interesting report, and probably just about what one would expect. Tenkara has to be the biggest thing to hit the US fly fishing market since Czech nymphing or Spey casting, and it’s only just begun.

    (Wanna guess who did all those searches in 2007?)

  2. Hello Daniel,
    Been following the Tenkara story with interest. Simplicity seems to be the theme with this style of fishing. Interesting stats, also the way social media is becoming more important in creating new markets and interest in new products. I have developed a fly fishing system which also can be fished without the reel attached to the rod. We need different options to attract more people into fly fishing as the numbers seem to be dropping over the last decade. You should check out the history of fly fishing at http://www.flyfishinghistory.com when the fly line was attached directly to the top of the rod like in Tenkara many centuries ago.

  3. Mark Cole says:

    Daniel, What do the numbers on the Chart represent? Are they numbers of searches in thousands? Or thousands per some unit of time?

    Thanks for the explanation for the bump in 2007. I was woundering what that was all about.

  4. Jack says:

    It’s interesting to contrast the seasonal cycles of “fly fishing” searches compared against “tenkara.” “Fly fishing” peaks during the spring-summer fishing season (as we expect) while “tenkara” continues to grow through the winter months. This indicates to me that the interest of a slowly decreasing fly fishing population waxes and wanes through an annual cycle. On the other hand, tenkara is in the very early stages of new growth whether it’s fishing season or not. Later, when searches for “tenkara” start to cycle with the fishing season, then we will have an early indication that the established population of tenkara fishers might have started to stabilize.

    Daniel and Chris, both of you are pioneering explorers who are bringing tenkara to the West. Thank you.

    -Jack

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