by TJ Ferreira
What a great couple of months! The experience at all of the fly fishing shows these last couple of months left me thinking of adopting the name TJ “Kebari” Ferreira, or TJ “FLY” Ferreira.
As some of may know, Tenkara USA had a booth at almost all of the Fly Fishing Shows throughout the USA, and for the first time we also had a booth at the International Sportsman Expo held in Sacramento, CA. All in all we attended 6 of the 7 Fly Fishing Shows and 1 ISE show. What a whirlwind tour for myself, Daniel, John, and our guest helpers. We really enjoyed being able to spread the joys of tenkara to the masses.
If you do not like a long blogs, you can stop reading here knowing we all had a great time. But… if you would like to come on a little trip with me, hop in my 1967 VW Bus for a little ride, a little chat, and lets get this tenkara peace pipe smoking!
At these shows we helped spread tons of tenkara cheer and the Tenkara USA booth was reportedly the busiest of booths at the shows we attended. Tenkara is becoming more popular every day, and most people are just “getting it” now and helping spread the word. Take a look at this fun video Daniel shot at the Somerset show.
The word fad is so 2011, it is no longer associated with tenkara for the 99%. Many folks have learned that tenkara is a unique fun way to fly fish. Because of that tenkara continues to stir so much interest, and our booth was always hopping with many people wanting to check the gear out.
Having just ended our main trade show season last weekend in Pleasanton California, I thought it would be nice to re-cap my experiences as seen from this little “kebari on the wall” named TJ. 😎
If you are not familiar with the Fly Fishing Show, it is a series of fly fishing specific expos held every year in various states east and west starting the 1st week of January and winding down at the end of February. For 2 to 3 days every weekend we called places like Denver, Marlborough, Somerset, Winston-Salem, Lynnwood, and Pleasanton our home. Pheww! What a busy busy time.
To start at the beginning, soon after all the Christmas wrapping had been taken out to the recycle bin and our brains de-fuzzied from all the excess drinking on New Years Eve, John and I headed to Denver, Colorado to man the Tenkara USA booth from January 4th thru 6th.
Ironically, just when Daniel moved near Denver, he had to miss that show, instead going to Brazil for the holidays. John and I did the fun deed of getting the show season started. Not only was the show tons of fun, I finally was able to meet fellow TUSA employee John Geer for the first time.
We are a very modular company, working from many different locations throughout the world. Very unique, very cool, and I must say very effective. 😎
I should lead into this blog post a little by saying I am not an avid flyer. As a child I flew all over the place. I was raised in Rhode Island up until I was 7, then my family moved to Northern California, where I have been since. For a few years after the move we often flew back and forth; but as I aged, that flying thing became less and less.
The last time I had to fly in a plane was about 6 years ago when I purchased a 1967 VW Camper Bus from, amazingly, Colorado. I found out that my 1st time back on an air-o-plane in a very long time would be to Denver once again. That trip had me picking up an old 60s Volkswagen Bus and driving it by myself back to NorCal like a hippie. Water drenched bandana on my forehead keeping me cool on an 4th of July weekend, super hot, in an old toaster oven VW Bus. Fun but a crazy trip it was!
This time though I was flying out for something a little different, to a Fly Fishing Show, both business and pleasure at the same time. So off I went, this little kebari being cast around to play tenkara for the weekends.
John and I hit it off right away. Since I had been working with him virtually for some time, it felt like I already knew him well. I quickly found out he and I shared much in common and often spent time after the show laughing at this sillyness we call life.
A unique thing we do at Tenkara USA is invite passionate local tenkara anglers to volunteer in manning the Tenkara USA booth at the shows. For Denver, we had Jason Klass of TenkaraTalk fame and good friend Jim Lionberger. Another Colorado local, Graham Moran (Tenkara Grasshopper) showed up for a little while to say hi and answer a few peoples questions.
My one gripe at Denver (as well as many other Fly Fishing Shows) was the ridiculously low ceilings, which made casting at the casting ponds a bit difficult. The rafters above them were kebari- and line-stealing beasts. One really needed to cast a bit sideways when we were showing tenkara enthusiasts how to cast a tenkara rod. It made for semi-real small-stream situations, however, unlike most streams, we had a low canopy covering the entire area, and instead of flexible branches we got caught on rigid metal beams. But we made it work.
I forgot to mention before that at most of the shows we were supporting our dealers, such as Rigs Fly Shop in Colorado, Fly Fishing Specialties in California, and Mossy Creek and the Bear’s Den out East. At shows like this where we have a dealer, Tenkara USA does not sell product direct but ushers customers to our dealers booth to buy all the goodies. Needless to say we sent oodles of customers to them to buy their tenkara gear and we enjoyed working with them the whole show.
After Denver I flew home to get ready for the ISE show in Sacramento, CA. The ISE is a HUGE outdoor show where anything hunting and fishing related is promoted. This show had it all. Daniel was now back in the fold, fresh from Brazil. He, Masaki and I ran the ISE Sacramento booth. There we had Justin Chaussee help us at this show. Justin is a cool local dude that I hope to fish with this year since he is near where I live. Of course, since I told him about my secret spot on the Bear River last year and he went in and caught all my trout, I need to have him show me one of his secret spots now so I can, well you know! hehehe
ISE was a great 4 day show from January 10th thru 13th, and since these are all-day and later-night shows, the 4 of us were pooped by the time this show was over. The crowds were massive and we introduced many to tenkara that may have never experienced it since some were hunters and probably not attending fly fishing-only shows. I look forward to attending this show again next year.
After this show Daniel flew back east to Marlborough MA. for the Fly Fishing Show back there to help a local dealer run their booth. This show was held January 18th thru 20th at the Royal Plaza. At this show we did not have our own booth but Daniel was there in a supportive role. Daniel often does casting demonstrations and tenkara seminars at all of these shows so in Marlborough he was busy often showing the masses what this tenkara thing is all about.
After the Marlborough show it was time for Somerset NJ, from January 25th thru 27th. This is the biggest Fly Fishing Show of them all and in attendance was Daniel, John, myself, and two guest helpers, Lance Gurney and Ed Baldridge. What a blast I had at this show. Shared many laughs with all the guys, had tons of foot traffic and customers at this show, and enjoyed good vittles and beer with the guys after the show. One thing to note, DAMN was it kkk-cold at this show. It snowed one day with all days down in the teens at night and barely getting above freezing during the day.
At this show I shook so many hands and spoke to so many people that I came home with my 1st nasty flu of the year. We did learn the lesson and bought a huge bottle of hand sanitizer that now travels with the booth. Took me 3 weeks to get over it. Still, it was worth it, as I had a great time. We had two dealers at this show, Bear’s Den and Mossy Creek Fly Fishing. We alternated sending and walking customers down the aisle to their booths to equip them with all needed to get started tenkara fly fishing. Both dealers did very well and had great shows from what we hear.
If you are back east, do attend the Somerset show. It is the largest of all the shows, very well attended, and I bet you go away with a huge smile on your face. Lots of good info to go around at that show and I now have more tenkare folks I can call friend because of attending that show.
Luckily after Somerset I had a couple weeks to rest. The Lynnwood, WA show would be my next. This nasty flu knocked me out but luckily for me Daniel and John were handling the Winston-Salem NC show from February 9th thru February 10th. The guys tell me it was a great show and Mossy Creek was at that show also as a dealer supporting our customers.
On February 16th thru 17th, Daniel and I headed to the Pacific Northwest for the first return of the Fly Fishing Show to the Seattle area. The show was smaller than all of the other shows but nonetheless busy for us. Often we were situated right next to the casting ponds at these shows so we could easily escort customers wanting to check out our fly rods so they could cast for a few.
In Washington Daniel and I were helped by Craig Hardt and Lex Story. Not only did we have fun at the booth all day spreading the tenkara love, we enjoyed a night at a local Korean BBQ where Lex showed off his culinary skills cooking the meat to a perfect melt in your mouth temp. These two guys rocked-it in the booth and I look forward to seeing them again up north. Since we had no dealers in Washington, the 4 of us sold Tenkara USA gear at our own booth. Daniel’s little iPad with credit card swipe on it was worked, and worked hard it did. Washington embraced tenkara and we are excited about how tenkara will spread up north.
The show season now had an end in sight for us. I returned home back to Cali for the upcoming Pleasanton show. Now my travel would be by car, driving to Pleasanton instead of flying. The flight back was a little sad, but a bit happy at the same time. It had been sooo long since I flew, being frisked at every airport (I swear, really, I have nothing in my pocket TSA!), it became a little adventure for me on each trip. Now I feel like an old pro at flying, and little TJ Kebari looks forward now to the Summit being held back east so I can fly once again and be a kebari on the wall at the summit.
Pleasanton is probably my favorite show… well at least tied with Somerset. I enjoy Pleasanton because this was the 1st Fly Fishing show I did with Tenkara USA last year and has a little sentimental value to it. The Pleasanton show just ended this last weekend, held February 22nd thru February 24th at the Alameda County Fairgrounds. Great 3-day event, just tons of customers being sent over to Fly Fishing Specialties once again. This time we had, and really realized that we needed 6 people to help at this show. Along with myself, Daniel, and Masaki, we had customers Troy Meadows, Trevor Segelke, and Austin Smusz help us man the booth.
If you have never manned a trade-show booth before, as much fun as it can be, it can still be quite a bit of work. One must keep on their toes ready to answer questions and show customers what tenkara is. All the guys did a great job on this and we had so many customers going away with smiles on their faces loaded up new rods inside their new Tenkara USA Backpacks we gave out at the show.
It was amazing that at Pleasanton, Fly Fishing Specialties told us after each of Daniel’s casting demonstrations or tenkara seminars, people would flock to their booth and form a long line to buy Tenkara USA gear. If I was a fly fishing dealer, that would tell me something! You just do not see lines forming at these shows to buy other gear but yet with tenkara, it is an all new ballgame and folks are just seeing something in tenkara that brings back the joy of fishing into their lives. Needless to say the Tenkara USA booth at all the shows is swamped most of the time.
As I write this blog now the early 2013 shows are all over for us, and now we rest up for the Tenkara Summit coming in May. What I can take away from this experience is how much passion tenkara enthusiasts are injecting into the world of fly fishing. Just yesterday I had a call from a new customer I met at the Pleasanton show that had many kind things to say about us. I showed him all our rods at the show, sent him away with one of our informative catalogs/booklets, and he promised me to give me a jingle sometime this week. I received that call yesterday and I remember this person very well, super nice guy, and I felt he left our booth super charged about about fly fishing. During this call he purchased an Ito with all the trimmings and ended the call with “this tenkara has really got my fly fishing juices flowing and I look forward to fishing the gear soon!”.
Tenkara moves me, moves Daniel, moves John, and moves so many thousands and thousands of people worldwide. I am so happy to be a little kebari hanging on the wall at Tenkara USA. From this little kebari to all you little kebari out there, enjoy the ride with us and thank you all for making tenkara take off!
AND, A NOTE FROM DANIEL: A HUGE THANK YOU TO ALL OUR VOLUNTEERS! We could not have made the shows the success they were with your passion and energy. We were extremely lucky to have so many hugely talented people volunteer their time, their valuable weekends, to spend time with us. This moves me, in big ways. Your energy and self-less devotion to tenkara was inspiring and energizing. I look forward to connecting with many of you again soon.