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Simple Fly Fishing With Tenkara Rod

Remember those good ol' days when you were a child ? Life was simple. Our needs were simple. If we wanted to go fishing, we'd whittle a tree branch, attach some line, dig up a worm, and catch some dinner!

Modern-day fly fishing, like much in life, has become exceedingly complex, with high-tech gear, a confusing array of flies and terminal tackle, accompanied by high-priced fishing guides.

Yvon Chouinard, a noted fly fisherman, climber, surfer, environmentalist, and the founder of Patagonia teamed up with Craig Mathews and Craig Mathews to spread the word of the minimalist tenkara setup — telescoping rod, fixed line, no reel — and its message of simplicity that resonates to other sports, too.

Recently, I had a great opportunity to attend a fly fishing clinic organized by Patagonia Seattle and Emerald Water Anglers to learn more about the book and the Tenkara rod.

It's been awhile since I got to try fly fishing last summer in CleElum, WA. Even though I learned the basics, got hands on experience in fly casting, and even (almost) caught a fish (!), I still left puzzled with a  lot of questions about this new (to me) outdoor activity.

Before attending the clinic, I really hoped it would make it easier for me to break into this captivating sport. Instead, I realized that simplicity was not always ... simple.

Not a surprise that it was my first time learning about tenkara rod. From what I was told, just (about) five years ago virtually no one had heard the word tenkara. Now, 5 years after the method was introduced outside of Japan it has become a part of the fly-fishing vocabulary.

Tenkara is the simple Japanese method of fly-fishing where only a rod, line and fly are used. The main difference of tenkara rod is that it doesn't have a reel. Originally the rod was simply a bamboo/cane rod, which was cut and treated. Because of its light weight, Japanese anglers were able to use very long bamboo rods and reach as far as needed without the need to develop reels for the short rods developed in the west.

During clinic, we a had a chance to use and compare both tenkara rods, and traditional western ones. Since this blog is not about fly fishing, I won't focus on the details, differences, advantages/disadvantages of western rods vs. tenkara rods. Before the clinic I thought I'd just learn about a new fly fishing rod, instead I learned about a whole new fishing method ! From what I see,
the biggest thing tenkara brings to the table is a different mindset, a different way of thinking about fly-fishing.

As they say : "Like anything simple, it can be easy to do, yet challenging to master". I would like to believe that fishing with tenkara is as simple as I was told, but there is much more to the sport of fly fishing than just the gear. The best way of learning something is by doing it.

Hope I will have more opportunities to get out and learn about fly fishing so I can make it even simpler for folks who are still confused and intimidated by the complexity, elitism, and expense of the sport.

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