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Mike Jones - KEEPING UP

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Friday, June 15, 2018
West of the Pecos
Friday, June 29, 2018
A Cautionary Tale


Simply Zen
As a child, I routinely annoyed my parents with the same question. It didn’t matter if we were on a jaunt around town or a vacation road trip, if I saw a body of water larger than a puddle, stained or still, bubbling or brackish, I wanted to know “Are there any fish in there?”

To this day, I still think the same thought.


Unfortunately, I never took the time to fish enough of those smaller waters. I grew up. I moved on. I left behind the little bass and the little bluegill and the little trout. And, like most all of us, I couldn’t wait to complicate my life.


giveandtake
GIVE AND TAKE — Tenkara rods are delicate in some respects, but strong in others.


Then again, the complications that fishing brings to us are generally of the most welcomed variety. We like our stuff, even if it happens to be stuff that worked only once or merely promises to work at some future date. Misunderstood by some, laughed at by others or rued by spouses wanting to reclaim a smidgeon of garage space, there is something to be said for owning a tackle box that hasn’t been opened in a decade.


I get it. Guilty as charged. I too like my stuff. That is, until I start thinking how wonderful it might be to be a minimalist. You know, get back to the fishing part of it where it’s just you and the fish and somewhere this side of a thousand choices — just like that kid with his nose pressed against the window of the car.


So, what would you say about a rod, a few yards of line, one lure and no reel? If your first thought evokes images of Huckleberry Finn, you’ve at least got the simplicity part squared away. Enter Tenkara. If you haven’t heard of it, you’re probably not a fly fisherman. Even among the fly casting ranks, the concept of a rod and noreel sounds foreign, especially when one considers how the single-hand and spey cadre – perhaps more so than any angling discipline – seem fixated on the minutiae. It may also sound foreign because, well, it is.


At least 200 years ago, subsistence fishermen in remote, mountainous reaches of Japan refined a devilishly effective method of using a simple bamboo rod and fixed line to catch the local fish. The waters were often small, fast-moving streams that demanded more in terms of presentation than in deception. Instead of focusing on the lure itself, it was all about the accurate and repeated placement of those lures. Most were Kebari-style flies with forward-facing hackles that plumb the water column and go against the western mindset of trying to precisely mimic specific insects, instead being satisfied with the mere illusion of realism. Technically, to a strict Tenkara traditionalist, you only need one fly pattern. I wouldn’t go quite that far, but then again I treasure any day when I don’t have to change lures or rigs. It’s a feeling of owning the moment, of having figured things out.


tenkararods
TENKARA RODS CAN handle fish much bigger than this one, but if you connect with something that challenges 5-pound test, you might want to consider breaking off or dropping the rod and following it downstream.


This fixed line, simplistic approach was virtually unknown in America until 2009 when Daniel Galhardo opened Tenkara USA after becoming captivated with the technique and experiencing it first hand in Japan. His advocacy for all things Tenkara has subsequently given rise to a mini-cluster of related businesses and adherents who sing the praises of simplicity. Admittedly, it is a mere trickle of the fishing industry mainstream and one that metaphorically — and literally — targets the small and often forgotten fisheries at our disposal.


Is it worth your time? Well, in the interest of full transparency, I bought a Tenkara USA Sato rod to find out for myself. Weighing in at less than three ounces, this carbon fiber model is what they call a “zoom” rod, which, in my world, is essentially a very delicate flippin’ stick for lack of a better comparison. It extends to three different lengths – 10’8”, 11’10” and 12’9” – to accommodate various conditions. I don’t think I’d want one that wasn’t adjustable. Limited to the length of the rod and an 11- to 14-foot leader, you will be looking for close-quarter opportunities of which I include every pond, lake or puddle I pass. The fly-rod quality, metal tube measures just under a car-friendly 25 inches and ever bit of tackle required can slip neatly into a pants pocket. To me, a Tenkara rod addresses the hassles and complicated components of travel rods I’ve owned in the past. This one is simple and can honestly be rigged in a few minutes.


Aside from addressing the potential soul-crushing situation of visiting your Aunt Mary, who lives within walking distance of a sweet golf course water hazard and not having a suitable rod, Tenkara may have an even greater calling. Although its delicate construction might negate youngsters still in the Snoopy Rod category, it could be a workable option for older kids who need to understand the difference between fishing and catching. The emphasis here is on presentation, concentration and not a lot of distractions in terms of tackle. The overhead casting stroke should come easy to anglers of any age or experience level. Moreover, size doesn’t matter. With a Tenkara rig, even a small fish feels like a big deal.


abackpack

A BACKPACK IS actually overkill for a Tenkara fisherman, unless you need it for a lunch, water bottle and jacket.


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