There’s a new book out about tenkara fishing, and it’s a good resource for anyone who’s heard about this unusual form of fly-fishing and would like to know more.
It’s also helpful for anglers who have already taken up fixed-line fishing — there’s lots of great advice and food for thought from the people who know more about tenkara than anyone outside of Japan.
The book, “Tenkara Fly Fishing: Insights and Strategies,” is by my friend, Dave Dirks, outdoor writer for the Times-Herald Record in Middletown.
Dirks and I were both early tenkara adopters — which is to say we’ve been at it for about four years. Tenkara is still quite new in the United States and Europe.
Even so, it’s surprising that “Tenkara Fly Fishing” is only the second English-language book on the subject. (The first was “Tenkara: Radically Simple Ultralight Fly Fishing” by Kevin Kelleher and Misako Ishimura, published in 2011.) I doubt it will be the last.
Dirks’ book reads like a round table of tenkara experts: he presents an introduction to each chapter, then lets the practitioners hold forth on the topic.
I’m one of the experts he interviewed, but fortunately, others who know a lot more than I are quoted much more extensively throughout the book.
And so we hear from Daniel Galhardo, the young man in San Francisco who had the capacity to imagine that American fly-fishers might like Japanese-style fixed line fishing, and had the guts to give up a lucrative corporate career and launch Tenkara USA. Galhardo has since moved himself and his company to Boulder, Colo.
We also hear from Galhardo’s rival, Christopher Stewart, who gave up a less lucrative career as an independent stock trader in his late 50s to run TenkaraBum.com from his small apartment in New York City. Stewart began by tying and selling flies and tenkara lines, and today sells a wide variety of imported tenkara rods, along with accessories, fly-tying materials, etc.
There’s Jason Klass, formerly of western New York, now of Colorado (one of the tenkara hotspots), the author of the best tenkara blog, Tenkara Talk, who hasn’t fished a rod with a reel in years. There’s Anthony Naples of Pennsylvania and Chris “Kiwi” Kuhlow of Long Island, both of whom also write blogs. There are Erik Ostrander, John Vetterli and Rob Worthing, who operate Tenkara Guides LLC in Salt Lake City, and Tom Sadler of Virginia, an environmental lobbyist, tenkara guide and member of the board of the American Fly Fishing Trade Association. And there are others.
These knowledgeable folks discuss rods, lines, flies and techniques. The concept of using one fly, all the time, no matter what’s hatching, gets plenty of discussion, although only Galhardo himself is really committed to it.
We tenkara anglers value simplicity and consider presentation more important than pattern, but we like our flies, too, so the book includes a nice assortment of “kebari,” as trout flies are known in Japan.
Tenkara is generally bug fishing, but Dirks contributes an interesting chapter on mini-streamers and bucktails, tied as sparsely as sparse can be on size 12 and 14 hooks. You can’t strip in long retrieves with a tenkara rod, but you can certainly dart and swim a streamer for a few yards, and very often, that’s all you need.
“Tenkara Fly Fishing” is a great introduction to a fun and effective way to fish for trout, and may inspire current tenkara fishers with new ideas. It’s available at Amazon.com.