TENKARA THERAPY

“The ability to simplify means to eliminate the unnecessary so that the necessary can speak.”

-Hans Hoffman

Every June for the last three years, I have flown to Colorado to spend a few days fishing with my brother Shawn.  In March of 2015, I purchased my plane ticket before knowing  big changes were heading my way.  You see, I’m an attorney by profession and I had been with the same law firm for twelve years. I had been considering making a change during the last few years and going out on my own, but the timing had never felt right.  However, everything came to a head during June of 201 5 when I realized that it was now time to cut ties with my old firm and be the captain of my own ship.

Even though I knew the job change was the right thing for me, I experienced terrible fear of failure and stress, so much that it made me sick to my stomach.  I even thought about canceling my trip to Colorado and said to my wife, Kristin, “Maybe I should stay home.  How can I even enjoy myself with all this turmoil in my life?”

“You already have your plane ticket.  You should still go.   Fishing with Shawn will be good for you and will help you deal with the stress.  I know you and Shawn will have a good time .Everything here will be fine.”  My good wife reasoned with me.

With her encouragement, I decided to keep my plans.  I brought my Badger Tenkara Rod along for the trip.  On our first day, Shawn and I fished a high mountain lake in the Sangre De Christo Mountains and a beautiful, nearby mountain stream.  I enjoyed myself that day, but worries of the future were never far from the forefront of my mind.

On the second day, Shawn and I traveled over into new country for me.  First thing that morning we fished a small river I’ve dubbed “Buffalo Creek” (though that it is not it’s real name).  I wrote about this awesome river in my last post, “Tenkara Humble Pie.”  I really enjoyed fishing with my tenkara rod on this technical brown trout river and caught four trout that morning.  On the other hand, Shawn got skunked so we decided to explore.

Shawn drove us to a tributary to Buffalo Creek that I will call “Pine Creek.” Shawn turned off the main road onto a two-track that led us to a creek bottom.  Pine Creek is a meandering, willow-lined meadow stream.  By this time, the sun was bright overhead and the surrounding young foliage was verdant green.  With the runoff, the flows were over the banks, but the water had just cleared enough to be fishable.  At first, Shawn and I thought the creek might be too high to fish well, but we decided to look closer.

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Pine Creek was perfect for tenkara.  

 

As we walked upstream, we observed numerous big mayflies dancing over the water’s surface and less graceful stoneflies helicoptering around us.  With the tenkara rod, I cast to a likely looking run with a Stimulator and a nice trout readily rose to it, but I missed.

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Green Drake Spinner.

“Andy, those are Green Drakes, Pale Morning Duns and Yellow Sallies!  We should stay awhile!”  Shawn exclaimed.  With the multitudes of bugs flying around us, it didn’t take Shawn and I long to figure out we were experiencing something truly special.  All of my worries of the present and the future seemed to fade away.

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Fish on!

 

Shawn and I fished together taking turns at each likely spot.  The rule was that you got to fish until you caught one and then it was the other guy’s turn.  Together, we caught twenty or so browns and brook trout in every likely run, all on dry flies.  These fish were much bigger than the ones I had caught earlier on Buffalo Creek.  With the tenkara rod, I had to give chase to some of the bigger runners, which was a rush (no pun intended).

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Chasing after a nice one!

 

We fished as far up the creek as we could before our progress was blocked by beaver dams and flooded, boggy meadows.  We walked back to the truck all the while talking about how epic the experience was.  This is the type of moment every fisherman hopes to experience every time they go out.

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Beautiful Brook Trout.

 

 

This glorious moment made me so glad that I had come, even though everything in my life seemed tumultuous at the time.  Suddenly, the difficult changes that lay before me did not seem so daunting and I felt like things would be alright.

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A brown trout and a smile: It’s amazing what a little Tenkara Therapy can do!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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TENKARA HUMBLE PIE

Every June since 2013, I have taken a trip to Colorado to fish a few days with my brother Shawn.  We fish Shawn’s home waters, which he knows and fishes well.  There have been a few times when he has wiped my eye with his fishing skills.  Regardless, we always have fun together.

Last year was the first time that I brought only a tenkara rod for the trip because its smaller case makes it perfect as a carry on for the flight. Also, my experience with tenkara was limited to a few days on a tiny mountain stream near my grouse coverts in the fall and one spring afternoon on the Henry’s Fork.  So I was excited to see what I could do with the tenkara.

In 2015, Colorado received so much precipitation during the winter and spring months that many of the rivers we typically fish were blown out.  So we had to try and locate fishable waters.  Shawn had told me many times about a small brown trout stream he loved which can be technical.   The creek is named after the Native American word for a low point in the mountains where the buffalo pass over between the valleys (that’s the only hint I’m giving you!). We’ll call it “Buffalo Creek.”

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Cattle have replaced the once abundant buffalo of the area.

Early Friday morning, our second day, we traveled over the Sangre De Cristo Mountains to Buffalo Creek.  The mountains surrounding Buffalo Creek are not as high and majestic as the Sangre De Christos, but are rounded and pine crested.  The lowlands are covered in sage brush.  The area reminded me of my home turf in Southeastern Idaho, so I liked it from the outset.

As we traveled, Shawn made it clear that he was not a fan of tenkara.  He told me a crude, but funny, “Dirty Johnny Joke” (which I hesitate to tell you because this is a family friendly blog).  The joke begins with Dirty Johnny cursing and stomping on ants calling them “worthless.” Mother Theresa happens to see Johnny doing this, chastises him and asserts that “Nothing is worthless.  Everything has its purpose.”  As punishment, Mother Theresa tells Johnny that he has to try and think of three things that are completely worthless.  When she comes back and asks for Johnny’s response, he replies: “Boobs on a nun, balls on a priest, and those freakin’ ants!” And, to make his sentiments on tenkara clear, Shawn added, “And tenkara rods!”

“We’ll just see about that!” I responded with a laugh.

Buffalo Creek is a meandering meadow creek about ten feet wide in most places.  With all the rain Colorado had been receiving, the creek was high and a bit off-color, but fishable.  I opted to fish downstream with my tenkara rod while Shawn fished upstream with his little blue fiberglass rod I have dubbed, “The Limp Blue Noodle,” because it is super flimsy and hard to cast.  Why Shawn loves it, I really cannot say.

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Andy fishes downstream with tenkara.
Little did I know that the tenkara rod would prove to be the perfect rod for Buffalo Creek.  I fished downstream using a Stimulator with crossing rubber legs and a chunky nice brown soon rose for it along the right bank right where I thought he’d be. The fish was much bigger than the ones Shawn described as we earlier discussed Buffalo Creek.

As I worked my way downstream, I caught a few other browns, but in areas outside of the heavier current.  All the while the sun was high and bright overhead, which is not the best condition for brown trout fishing.  One nice brown took a dropper nymph in a eddy alongside the creek’s left bank.  I fished all the way down to the bridge and started to walk back to truck, but Shawn drove up before I could even reach the main road.

“How’d you do?”  I asked Shawn.

“I got skunked!”  replied Shawn.  “I didn’t even see a fish rise.”  I then told him about my success with tenkara.  Shawn’s only response was, “Really?”

“Yep.”  I stated with a smile thinking back on Shawn’s earlier joke.

Shawn and I then drove over to a tributary to Buffalo Creek about half its size. Let’s call it “Pine Creek.” We found a full blown green drake hatch and we fished together taking turns catching numerous fish.  I’ll write more about this experience later on the blog.  However, I will say that on this small creek, Shawn and I were pretty evenly matched with our different rods.

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Andy works Pine Creek during a green drake hatch.

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Green Drake Spinner.
After lunch, we went and fished the Taylor River with limited success.  As we headed home, Shawn wanted to fish Buffalo Creek as our last hurrah for the day.  I think he hoped for a chance at redemption.  Of course, I opted for my tenkara rod, but this time fished upstream with Shawn.  I used one of my Dad’s Red-butted Double Renegades and, though it was hard to see on the water in the failing light, I got hits regularly.  The eleven foot tenkara rod made it nice because I could keep most of my line off the water.  All said, I caught six browns in the last light of the day.

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Buffalo Creek in the evening.
On the other hand, Shawn continued to use the Limp Blue Noodle and, though he had one strike, he ended up going home with the essence o’ Pepe Le Pew.  The problem?  I’m convinced that his rod was too short making it so he could not cast far enough for those spooky brown trout.  Also, with the Limp Blue Noodle, Shawn couldn’t keep his line off the water and he was spooking the fish.

On the way home, Shawn told me “I am humbled.  You kicked my butt tonight!”  While he didn’t admit it, I know that Shawn gained some respect for tenkara that day.  He still refuses to give it a try, but maybe a rematch at Buffalo Creek this June might change his mind. Loser buys the milkshakes and has to fish a whole day with tenkara or the Limp Blue Noodle!    What do you say, Shawn?  Ready for another slice of Tenkara Humble Pie?

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Browns on Tenkara and a smile.

 

 

 

NEW FRONTIERS

“Our life is frittered away by detail. . . simplify, simplify.”

-Henry David Thoreau

Greetings all!  My name is Andrew M. Wayment and I’ve been a fly fisherman for over 20 years now, but I am relatively new to tenkara fishing.  For those of you who don’t know, tenkara is a form of fly fishing developed first in Japan hundreds of years ago on mountain streams using a rod of 10 to 14 feet with 15 to 20 feet of line attached to a piece of fabric at the tip called a “Lilian.”  With tenkara, there is no reel as in western fly fishing.

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My friend Matt Tower first introduced me to tenkara fishing.
I received my first tenkara rod from Badger Tenkara back in the fall of 2014 and have been hooked ever since.  I love the simplicity of it.  Since I started fly fishing twenty years ago, it seems that the equipment has become more and more fancy and expensive.  Don’t get me wrong, I love a good fly rod, reel, and all the gadgets as much as the next guy, but there is something to be said about getting back to the basics and simplifying things.

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Simplify, Simplify.
I want to make it clear from the outset that I am not strictly a tenkara angler.  I enjoy it immensely, but I cannot say that it is the best technique for every situation.  I will say, however, that there are times when tenkara is as effective as any other type of fly fishing, maybe even more so.  I’m excited to write about my explorations in this new frontier and I hope you will enjoy taking this journey with me.

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My daughter Eden trying out tenkara for the first time.
Since I started blogging about tenkara on my Upland Ways blog and discussing it on social media, I have been totally astounded at the negatively and hate it stirs up. I’ve read arguments that tenkara is hurtful to the industry because new anglers are not buying traditional rods and reels.  I’ve read criticism that tenkara is not even fly fishing, but is nothing more than cane pole fishing.  Surprisingly, many of the attacks became personal.  I found it hard to believe that other anglers would be so hateful towards another form of angling different than their own. As a practitioner in both western fly fishing and tenkara, I really can’t understand why this is.  To me, they are both forms of fly fishing.  Despite the negativity, I was not dissuaded in the slightest.  Rather, it fueled my fire for tenkara.

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River Jewel.

Another recent development in my family has further stoked the flames.  My oldest daughter Emma just received her call to serve a mission for our church in Tokyo, Japan and her mission covers Mount Fuji and some of the mountainous regions of Japan where tenkara was born.  While her primary mission is to teach the gospel, I gave her the secondary mission to learn more about tenkara fishing while she is there and to teach me about it.  So, for me, tenkara is a way to connect with my daughter while she is in the Land of the Rising Sun for 18 months.

From the tenkara books that I have read, one thing that really stood out to me is the meaning of the word, “tenkara,” in Japanese.  The word means, “from the sky” or “from heaven.”  While I don’t yet fully understand why the Japanese named it this, I’ve always personally felt there is a deep spirituality about fly fishing.  I even wrote a book about this entitled, Heaven on Earth: Stories of Fly Fishing, Fun & Faith.  So the word “tenkara” resonated with me from the get go.

While I don’t know where this journey will take me, I’m excited for the adventure.  I hope that the readers of this blog will enjoy my Tenkara Wandering.