Friday, April 20, 2012

How Tenkara Got Its Hook In Me

An online acquaintance of mine, Karel Lansky, recently had a contest on his excellent blog, Tenkara on the Fly.  He was looking for a winning story about, among other things, how anglers discovered tenkara.  I didn’t participate in the contest, so I thought I’d write a bit about how tenkara got its hook in me.

First, I need let you know that I’m a backpacker, of the lightweight variety, verging on ultralight.  I’m a backpack hunter who totes both a rifle and a traditional bow.  I’m a backpacking fly angler, and before that, several decades ago as a teenager, I backpacked my way into the Colorado backcountry carrying a yellow Eagle Claw Trailmaster pack rod.  It’s always been that way for me, hauling my life around on my back.

There are really two men to whom I credit my discovery of tenkara.  Back in 2009, when I read Ryan Jordan’s stories about tenkara over at, I was immediately interested in tenkara.  I took a good look at what Ryan was writing and posting in some videos, and I thought “HEY, I GET THIS!”.  I already held Ryan I very high regard as an ultralight backpacking expert.  About that same time I also noticed Daniel Galhardo’s writing, and climbed on board his website at Tenkara USA.  Shortly thereafter, I got my first tenkara rod, the collaborative project that Ryan and Daniel put together to produce the Backpackinglight/Tenkara USA Hane.  And that was it.  That Hane rode in my pack all over the Colorado backcountry and I’d hate to put a number on how many cutthroat, brown, brook, and rainbow trout it has taken.  Later, I stumbled upon the likes of Jason Klass, Karel Lansky, ERiK Ostrander, and others, who have really taken my knowledge to new levels.  Recently I had a chance to fish with Jason Klass and Daniel Galhardo in Rocky Mountain Park, and meet tenkara anglers from all over the Centennial State.

Along the way I found a hunger to tie my own tenkara flies, and I’ve since found it to be an extremely rewarding way to expand my knowledge of tenkara.  Taking a big brown from a tiny stream with a fly you’ve tied with the deer hair from last year’s buck is just simply amazing!

All told, I don’t really know if I discovered tenkara or, in a long and winding way, if tenkara found me.  It fits so well within the muscle-powered, lightweight, low-impact, minimalist ways I was already living in the high country.