The Evolution Of A Tenkara Grasshopper

The Evolution Of A Tenkara Grasshopper

by August 28, 2013 0 comments

Recently I put up a post entitled, Why Does One Become A Tenkara Angler?, and it was short and sweet. What maybe could have added just a little more to the whole thing was evolution of a Tenkara angler following some of the ennumerated points found in that post. So without further ado I give you The Evolution Of A Tenkara Angler from the point of view of yours truly, the TenkaraGrasshopper himself.

I have been a fisherman literally my entire life, but my life as a fly fisherman and in particular a Tenkara angler has been just a little shorter. I was in a boat from the the age of about 2 fishing with my grandfather, Thomas Graham, on Fence Lake located in northern Wisconsin. My grandparents owned a cottage on the shores of Fence Lake near the communities of Lac Du Flambeau and Minocqua. To this day I still vividly remember the fishing boat my grandfather owned and used virtually every day of every summer for as long as memory serves me.

This was no tricked out bass chasing boat that you will find at the Bass Pro Shops or Cabela’s around teh country nowadays. Oh no, this was a working man’s fishing boat, a 16′ Alumacraft single hull watercraft with aluminum bench seats and powered by an Evinrude pull start 25 horsepower motor mounted to a piece of plywood on the back of the boat. By far the most distinctive feature or features that stick with me today are the 30 globs of epoxy filling the same number of bullet holes. Those bullets holes are a whole different story for another time.

Using this boat, grandpa and I spent virtually every free minute we had sitting out on the crib, otherwise known as a pile of dead trees anchored together and piled on the bottom of the lake artificially providing habitat for the fish found in the lake. We were either throwing worms threaded onto a hook or maybe a Mepps spinner with a treble hook. The rod and reel of choice tended to be a 6′ to 8′ spin casting rod mounted with either an open or closed bale reel with a minimum 6 pound monofilament line. Alas, let us not forget the overloaded tackle box filled with lures for panfish and even some lures for the more aggressive and predatory fish like muskies and northern pike. It was also not uncommon to find 1 or 2 saltwater lures for good measure since you never knew when that Blue Marlin might present itself to you even though you are on a lake in northern Wisconsin. Like the Boy Scouts of America (BSA) say, “Be Prepared!”

As you might gather, I started out with a spinning rod and reel with a hook and worm and the ever present red and white bobber. My first few fish were typically panfish like bluegills, crappie, and perch. As I got older and stronger, my interest in bigger,tougher fish grew at an alarming rate. I started targeting bass, both smallmouth and largemouth, walleye, muskie, and northern pike, but sadly, no Blue Marlin.

Each and every summer I spent at the cottage with my grandparents with the rest of the family when they came up on the weekends. Like I said before, all my free time was spent on the lake with grandpa, and each and every time I learned a little more from him. The best part was that I never seemed to exhaust his encyclopedic knowledge of fish and fishing. This continued for almost 14 years and that’s when the first evolutionary adaptation occurred in my fishing.

While visiting Colorado one summer, after my aunt and uncle had purchased a home in Summit County, Colorado I was asked by my uncle if I would like to join him and my grandfather for a few hours of fly fishing on the river off the edge of my uncle’s property. Eagerly, I said yes even though I had never held a fly rod before. I was overjoyed to get the opportunity to go fishing with these two heroes of mine feeling confident in my own mind that fly fishing was going to be a breeze since I had read The Book aka A River Runs Through It by Norman Maclean. Oh how quickly one becomes humbled when you discover you have no idea what you are doing. After tangling and untangling my line a few times along with losing virtually every fly to either a tree on shore or a rock in the middle of the river I gave up and decided to watch the two men I was with cast to and catch a number if beautiful Colorado rainbow and brook trout with grace and apparent ease. Watching them land each fish ignited a fire in me that has not dimmed to this day.

When those few hours came to an end I asked grandpa and my uncle to teach me to fly fish. Enthusiastically, both agreed to teach me what they could whenever we were together. Did they ever teach me, and because of this I am now the fly angler that I have always wanted to be. Grandpa jumped at any chance to take me out and work with me on my casting, my fly presentation, and when everything finally came together, the landing of my first trout on a fly rod. In 20/20 hindsight, I can say that grandpa was an extremely tough task master but in the end I could not have asked for a better fly fishing mentor.

My uncle Mike also took me out on the river a number of times and worked with me on my casts and presentations as well. It still shocks me to this day how much humor and patience he had while working with me on my technique or lack thereof. And to this day I have never forgotten that nor will I ever forget it. Because of it I now owe all the time he gave of himself so freely to me back to him and I am super excited about that. Look for something about this in the very near future as I am working on a post in regards to that.
During this learning period I read every book I could on fly fishing vorasciously and was always thirsting for more. While reading each and every book I always had a notebook and pencil nearby so that I could write down those nuggets of wisdom that seemed like keys to doorways to my advancement as a fly fisherman. I am not sure where those notebooks are but I know they still exist. Whenever I read about a new technique or theory I tried to incorporate them into my fishing sometimes with great success and sometimes with absolute failure. Either way, my ability to fly fish improved exponentially as did my catch rate. I have been on this road since I was 16 years old and it continues to this day.

And then one night, a month or two after a major personal tragedy occurred in my life, I was flipping through a fly fishing magazine and came across an ad for Tenkara USA (TUSA). I was stunned by the image of who I now know as Mr. Daniel Galhardo, the owner of Tenkara USA, holding an incredibly long fishing rod with apparently no reel attached. I stared incredulously at the image trying to grasp what I was seeing before reading the rest of the ad. In one simple, concise paragraph I was introduced to the essence of Tenkara, Simplicity! Intrigued by what I had read in the ad, I turned on my laptop and navigated to the TUSA website and started reading more about Tenkara. I continued delving deeper into the website until I came across the TUSA forum. Suffice it to say, after registering as a member of the forum, I got no sleep that night because I read every single thread in its entirety.

As I read each thread my heart rate increased along with my level of excitement. I even contributed some of my thoughts to a few of those threads and was amazed at the responses I got back. What shocked and amazed me was the prompt response to my comments as well as the prevailing positive tone of those comments. The amount of knowledge that I found on the forum was truly awe inspiring. I also found a blossoming Tenkara community in the Denver Metro area. Like the rest of the contributors on the forum, these individuals also offered up their opinions on Tenkara. Additionally, they offered up the opportunity to go try Tenkara with them. Two individuals in particular stand out as the epitomy of what I now know as the consummate Tenkara angler, Karel Lansky and Jason Klass.

With opinions offer by both Karel and Jason I made the decision to order an 11′ TUSA Iwana, a 10’6″ furled line, a spool of 5X and 6X tippet, and 3 Ishigaki kebari. Then the pain and agony of anticipation set in until the box arrived on my front door. Lucky for me I didn’t have to wait long because of TUSA’s exceptional customer service and order fulfillment.

tenkara usa iwana 12 foot

Tenkara USA Iwana 12″

It did not take long for me to tear into the box and lay out my new purchase. I studied each item in detail, even down to the electrical danger sticker afixed to the rod just above the cork grip. The essence of Tenkara, its simplicity, was readily apparent in the rod, line, tippet, and fly. And yes, standing in my living room I fully extended the rod after reading the directions included with the furled line and promptly attached the line to the lilian. I wanted to try casting but the weather outside was rather frightful so I collapsed the rod and got back online and added a few new threads to the TUSA forum. One post in particular was about where to break in my new rod and a response came quickly from Karel asking if I wanted to join him on a local stream. Happily, I agreed and we scheduled the trip for the following Sunday. And the best part was, we had never met face to face before. It seemed like an eternity for Sunday to arrive even though it was Thursday when the trip was planned.

Finally, Sunday arrived sans sleep for me due to my level of excitement about breaking in my TUSA Iwana. I was on the road early and arrived at our meeting place just a bit early, if 45 minutes is considered a bit early. I was already rigged and ready to go when Karel arrived at the parking lot. We headed down to the river after Karel was completely rigged up. He was nice enough to point out a few spots where he knew fish were located and I started casting to one spot in particular. Within 2 casts I hooked into my first fish on a Tenakra rod and knew without a doubt that Tenkara was my new style of fly fishing.

That first fish on my TUSA Iwana made me a believer in Tenkara and its simplicity. Since that day I have not used anything but my Tenkara rods to catch fish for the last two years. As time passed and I continued to delve deeper into Tenkara it did not take long before that morphed into the physical form now known as TenkaraGrasshopper.com. This site is that form with a few minor deviations from its original intent and for that I apologize. But, in the future you will find more Tenkara specific gear reviews as well as more trip reports.

To conclude, the evolution of a Tenkara angler must start somewhere like mine did in an aluminum boat in Northern Wisconsin. And just as evolutionary change takes time, the same thing occurred to bring me to this point in my fishing career. I am happy to say that there will be no stop in my evolution as a Tenkara angler. Keep an eye out here and you might even see some of these changes occur right before your very eyes.
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