I was taught to fly fish by my father who was taught by his father on small creeks (pronounced cricks). Our equipment was short broken and repaired bamboo rods equipped with simple; drag less, reels wound with natural fiber line and 4 lb. test monofilament leader. Fly fishing was about nature, being part of it, reading the water, understanding fish feeding and fly presentation. Fly fishing was also about food and survival. My grandfather and father were raised in the Rockies, grandfather in Colorado and father in Northern New Mexico. Here they experienced the depression, one as an adult the other as a teenager. Trout to eat was a necessary part of life for them. In later years I would accompany them on camping trips into the Sierra Nevada’s. Most evening meals were planned around having fresh trout as the main dish. We wore blue jeans and hiking boots, keeping a few extra Royal Coachmen and Gray Hackles in our shirt pocket. Setting out in the morning fishing until there was enough for dinner; hunger was never part of the trip.
I cannot remember a day my father didn’t catch all he wanted. There were no long casts, in fact, a back cast would hook you a tree, no drag to play a fish, and you guided the trout to you or lost it. Fly fishing was no big deal; you just did it and caught fish. Tenkara is this experience. No hours of learning to cast, a couple of fly patterns and two or three knots. You just start throwing the fly in the water and catch some fish. You learn as you go without all the tangles and snags. You concentrate on the water and where fish might be, not the technique. The technique comes naturally the more you fish. The simplicity of the rod and line pushes you to learn to fish not make pretty casts or fly selection. My father is now 95 he can still walk out our backdoor with his old brittle fiberglass rod and one fly landing a fish in under ten minutes more times than not.
My story is not unique. Fishing is fun if you catch fish. The wife of our outfitter didn’t like to fly fish with him until Tenkara came along. With Tenkara she was able to have fun, catching fish and feeling confident within an hour. She didn’t have to wait around for him to undo her tangles or rig the tackle. Now she is a fishing phenom with both Tenkara and Western Style fly fishing. When you catch fish you want to learn more to catch more.
Tenkara is the ideal way to learn to fly fish and fly fish well. Remember that Tenkara started with commercial fishermen in Japan not sportsmen. It takes fly casting down to the absolute basics of catching fish. It is simple and straightforward. It catches fish in spite of your lack of skill. It is inexpensive; a first class Tenkara set up is under the starting price of Western Style outfit. If you want to learn to fly fish or teach someone to fly fish Tenkara is a great answer. For those of us who already fly fish we will learn about fly presentation and feeding habits at a graduate level, we will also rethink the need for all those flies in our box. Grab a rod tie on a line, tippet and fly and start catching trout.