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Tenkara, trout, the environment, and Zen

Trip reports, findings, events, and general experiences with tenkara fishing. Tell other tenkara enthusiasts about your tenkara experience

Tenkara, trout, the environment, and Zen

Postby jbenenson » Tue Feb 16, 2010 6:27 pm

So far in this forum the emphasis on Tekara fishing has generally been about the simplicity of the equipment and the portability of the gear for backpacking, etc. I want to offer another type of Tenkara experience.

I have fly fished for over 50 years and own a lot of equipment. In addition, I am a guild-certified custom rod builder. I have built bamboo, fiberglass, and graphite rods of all types and descriptions for a variety of customers and also for myself. I have everything that I need for fly fishing from bonefish to small native cutthroats, and I'm still adding to my collection. My most recent additions have been two Tenkara rods: a Yamame and an Ebisu (as well as the beautiful Tenkara wallet).

Why did I buy these additional rods? Because I want to fly fish in its purest, most elemental form. There is nothing simpler than a Tenkara outfit: the only thing between me and the fish are the basic essentials needed to catch one, and nothing more. Putting my other complex equipment aside, I can go to the stream unimpeded physically and mentally by extraneous (and essentially irrelevant) paraphernalia.

I consider trout to be among the most beautiful and graceful animals that have ever existed and, combined with the scenery and aura of a clear, cold mountain stream, produce an experience in which I am both honored and humbled to be a participant. I become one with the fish and the environment, totally immersed in an unparalleled spiritual gift from our planet. The Tenkara rod and line, because of the intrinsic design philosophy, contribute to being one with the gift in a way that no other fly fishing equipment can.

I thank those unknown fishers who have gone before and those participating today for making Tenkara fly fishing a unique Zen practice.
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I would like to have the modest contact with the nature in hope of continuing the beautiful streams forever

Yoshikazu Fujioka
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Re: Tenkara, trout, the environment, and Zen

Postby statikpunk » Tue Feb 16, 2010 7:50 pm

I have not ordered my tenkara rod yet (but i will soon) you hit the nail on the head jbenenson as to why i am seriously looking to tenkara.
I love flyfishing in the mountains but often times i get flustered with all my line and flies, untying knots and unhooking my line from willow trees. often times i will take my ultralight spincasting setup just because i dont feel like dealing with my fly rod, even though I prefer flyfishing. i think tenkara will give me that uninterrupted tranquility of fishing that i enjoy so much.

at the risk of sounding like a hippy "simplify man!"
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Re: Tenkara, trout, the environment, and Zen

Postby jbenenson » Wed Feb 17, 2010 8:35 am

What's wrong with sounding like a hippy? ;) I was a "hippy freak" in the 70's and part of that still remains. Check out my hair length in the San Juan photo.
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Re: Tenkara, trout, the environment, and Zen

Postby Daniel @ Tenkara USA » Wed Feb 17, 2010 9:30 am

I guess Tenkara USA is a " hippy 'simplify man!' " :P
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Re: Tenkara, trout, the environment, and Zen

Postby jbenenson » Wed Feb 17, 2010 12:40 pm

What about the Zen experience? Does anyone have something to say about their emotional/physical/spiritual feedback from Tenkara fishing?
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Re: Tenkara, trout, the environment, and Zen

Postby statikpunk » Wed Feb 17, 2010 8:01 pm

ha ha ! uh oh. I started a hippy revolt :D dont have a "sit in" on me okay guys :lol:

I dont know about zen but what I like about fly fishing is that when i do catch fish i have a much greater sense of accomplishment, as apposed to regular fishing. fly fishing has a harder set of challenges and advanced skill sets required to catch fish, thus making it more rewarding for me.
I also hunt, and for these same reasons I enjoy hunting with archery tackle, its simpler, and more challenging. I think whenever someone uses, simpler and more challenging equipment, it makes them work on becoming a better fisherman (hunter) internally, which drastically increases the amount of "enjoyment".
i think a lot of people fish for "entertainment" but when one limits themselves, you change that into really "enjoying" yourself. your connecting to something bigger than just "catching fish".

I watched a great movie at http://www.hulu.com/watch/126230/messner on Reinhold Messner he was one of the greatest mountain climbers there was. he often spoke about why he climbed mountains, he likened it to a spiritual journey. he felt that everytime he challenged himself anew, that he was not just scaling a mountain but learning something new about himself. he was the first to climb everest without bottled oxygen, and then he decided to climb it by himself! without oxygen!

i think tenkara just takes fishing to the next level. I think that tenkara will find a home with many people that have gone beyond the desire to just catch fish, and want to improve the quality of "how" they are catching them. when you get rid of all the distractions and get down to whats really "needed" to fish it makes it easier to hit that zone where you are one with nature and truly a hunter. I guess that could be called zen :)
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Re: Tenkara, trout, the environment, and Zen

Postby jbenenson » Thu Feb 18, 2010 6:48 am

One of the main principles of Zen is losing awareness of self by becoming one with the external world. It's a great way to get rid of ego and to connect with what's really going on, and what I've always felt while fishing, and especially hunting. The more I connect with the world of nature the better I like it. :idea:
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Re: Tenkara, trout, the environment, and Zen

Postby Stephen McGowen » Thu Feb 18, 2010 7:03 am

It is inappropriate to attempt to link Zen Buddhism to tenkara. Fishing and hunting are the antithesis of Zen.
One means to happiness( through Zen) is the conquering of desire. Whole lot of desire on this thread, methinks.
No offense meant to anyone.
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Re: Tenkara, trout, the environment, and Zen

Postby Daniel @ Tenkara USA » Thu Feb 18, 2010 10:15 am

I love these philosophical discussions on tenkara. Really! This one, in particular, has been interesting to read as it covers many things I have thought of before.
It is inappropriate to attempt to link Zen Buddhism to tenkara.

You're right in this, as a friend of mine pointed out, he doesn't know of any Buddhist practitioner that would willingly hurt a fish for pleasure. Nevertheless, we do see the common elements of awareness (self, and surroundings), and the meditative and spiritual nature of fly fishing simply. In meditation, and likewise with tenkara, our goal is inside ourselves, it's to get rid of the load we carry. Yvon Chouinard, founder of Patagonia and a tenkara angler, likens certain things he does with "Zen Archery" (I don't think he's likened tenkara specifically to it), where, in a few words, knowing your target but not focusing on it, but rather focusing on each step of the process and being fully aware of your technique and self are important elements. So, tenkara, in my view, may not be like Zen Buddhism, but it's like Zen Archery, thus we may call it zen fly fishing, why not?

For some reason when I started reading the post I thought of my rock climbing experiences and a discussion I had with a friend about climbing/fishing. In rock climbing I have often experienced a very deep "tunnel vision/zone" where I seem to see and hear nothing around me except for the piece of rock right ahead and my movement. I have been caught in these trances and friends have pointed out that I looked like I was completely in the "zone". I then brought up to a friend that I have never experienced something like that in fishing, to which he said I was probably looking for the wrong thing since fishing and hunting are probably the opposite. Instead of getting in the "zone" your instinct makes you become hyper aware of your surroundings. That's the predator inside of us: spotting a tiny ripple in the water, seeing a tiny bug flying up in the sky, and even "hearing" a leaf falling on the water. Now, here's the thing, I may have experienced "zen moments" with western fly fishing, but too often that was broken up by the noise of my reel, by a line getting tangled, by changing flies, by worrying about drag and having to mend, by tightening/loosing my drag... With tenkara, I have experienced the calmness and relaxation I had been earning, unbroken, undisturbed. I have heard a leaf falling on the water.

On a side philosophical note, I like what Mr. Messner said in the video,
The whole evolution in climbing [fishing] has to do with the mental approach to the possible; if you fill the impossible with technical equipment, climbing [fishing] will be gone forever.
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Re: Tenkara, trout, the environment, and Zen

Postby Stephen McGowen » Thu Feb 18, 2010 10:25 am

I think what most people feel is that "connectedness" for want of a better word. We often forget that we are a part of the universe and not a particularly special part , despite what the world's religions like to say. It feels good to fish..... to be a part on that small "world" . We are simply taking our place in the grand scheme. I feel it is more elemental, more basic than a man-made system of beliefs or ideas. We evolved on this planet and are simply a part of it...for better or worse.
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