I'd seen the adds for Tenkara USA in the fly fishing magazines for several months. I thought it was an interesting way to fish- simplistic. Just a telescoping rod and some line with a fly. I read a story by Geirach in Fly Rod & Reel about using the telescoping poles and saw the owner Daniel Gallardo post about his company on the LinkedIn forums. I didn't think I'd ever have a use for one.
I started fishing my home lake with friends after school in 1984 with varnished cane poles with some mono tied on the end. White bread for bait. It was fun. The first time I saw someone fly fishing they had this long line off their rod. The guy was casting poppers toward me (standing on my dock on Lake Audubon) in Reston. He was on a pontoon boat. I was intrigued.
I went home and took one of the old poles from my grandfather in the garage. I tied on a long piece of monofilament to the tip and tried casting some old floating hula poppers from my grandfathers tackle box. It was fun. Didn't catch anything. I eventually got a fly rod and the rest is history. I figured Tenkara was the same thing, just splatting or dapping a fly into some water in front of you.
I was in Oahu a year or so ago and saw a local dude dapping pieces of white bread for some fish along Waikiki beach. He put each fish in a plastic bag and took them home. I asked someone where, maybe him, I can't remember, were he got his telescoping pole. I was told the bike shop in town. I went there and got a 'wonder pole' made of plastic and from China for $13. It was 12' long and I fighred I now had a Tenkara style rod and wouldn't need to shell out for a real pole as I had seen in the adds with Daniel the owner.
That telesoping pol sat in my closet for a full year before I took it out. I had intended to dap for bluegill with come clients. Never came to fruition. Why would I need a rod to fish small streams and dap to brookies when I never get up to the mountains.
Flash forward to January 2012 and the Fly Fishing Show in Somerset. I follow @TenkaraUSA on Twitter for a while. Tom Sadler goes by @TenkaraGuide on Twitter too. I hear about it. Daniel posted a picture of his booth at the show on Twitter so I knew where and what to look for. I found him and he put one of the telescoping rods in my hand. It was so lightweight. Nothing like the plastic wonder pole in my closet. He put on the line and I was able to cast about 20+ feet. I had always assumed you just dap a fly in the water, I was immediately educated on the fact that you could cast a fly some distance. I was sold. I told Daniel I had seen one rod on my local stocked stream, it was collapsed. I started to think I wanted one of these rods but didn't need one. He gave a great interview you can hear in Itunes. Its the S02E03 about 10min in .
A week later the wife tells me we are going down under for the month of May. I was thinking ahead of what rods to bring. I immediately thought of the Tenkara rod. It is so compact its silly. It would fit in my day pack's avalanche pole pocket. In addition, I was planning to drive to Colorado in a few weeks. I wanted to take the baby fishing but didn't want to deal with a shoulder bag of flies and a reel, and all the hassle of other gear. The simplicity of the Tenkara was just what I needed. I went to the website and purchased the rod. I picked the 12' model.
The rod showed up just a few days later. It came in a small plastic tube. An instruction booklet and two bumper stickers were included.
I packed the rod for my trip to Colorado. Today I went fishing. The baby hung out with grandma. I got to the Blue River and set up the rod. I tied on a bead head pheasant tail and a mysid shrimp. I put on a tiny thingamabobber. I walked down to the water and began to cast. What fun!
I was getting some of the BEST DRIFTS I have ever gotten. The flies drifted between boulders and down chutes. I was able to cast to the other side of the river! No guides to ice up, no line to get tangled around my boots. No reel to deal with. Such a simple idea. Fly fishing at its basic roots.
I worked my way downstream. I was convinced I was going to get skunked but I was having too much fun. Just casting overhand and roll casting. The accuracy was spot on. There were two other anglers staring at me. They had no idea what I had. The one who I spoke with had no idea what Tenkara was. I showed him my rig and he was interested. He had only been fly fishing for a few weeks so he nodded his hat and went on.
I waded along the river and spotted that red band of a healthy and fat Blue River rainbow. One that feeds heavily on mysids. I cast and cast to it but nothing. I switched to a tiny Mercer poxyback nymph of size 18 or so. I got a tangle and by the time I got it done I lost the fish. Might I remind you that this was the first time I have been trout fishing since 2009. I forgot what crystal clear trout streams looked like. No litter. No brown water. The fish was gone so I moved on and across the hole. I came across 3 rainbows pushing the 20 inch range. Turquoise backs with the red band. Too much for my rod. I wan to hit them with streamers tomorrow. I waded down and drift the rig through a riffle.
Forgot to mention that I showed Tom the rod in his driveway yesterday and he was dumbfounded. Has Tenkara not made it to the the mile high city?
So I drift the nymph through and the indicator goes down. I lift the rod and there is a dink of a trout. I was not sure how to bring it in. I pointed the rod up to the sky and the line came back to me. The dink flew to my left and hit the water. I lifted the rod and it bounced off the water and was gone. I shouted "I caught a trout with Tenkara". I fished a bit more and then headed back to the car. The rod was collapsed with the line on its spool over the rod. So simple.
Can't wait to use it again out here, in Australia, and back home.
I hope my first of many stories convinces you to get out with one of these rods. It really is a lot of fun and brings us back to the original method of our affliction.
The rod will also help me teach those who don't have the abilitly to fish with both hands or able to work a rod and reel together.