“Jane of all trades, master of none.”
I’ve always used this classic phrase to describe my participation in sports. I’ve dabbled in so many different activities, gleaning skills from one and transferring them to the next. Fly fishing has always been on my mind, but never something I thought I could try. The buy-in seemed too great — waders, fancy side packs, a knowledge of fly hatching schedules, patience. Fly fishing also had this mysterious allure, complete with slow-motion casting and pulling a fresh catch, water cascading from its speckled belly, above the water and examining the prize. But that was for someone far more skilled and with far more knowledge than me. Maybe.
I’d run into Tenkara rods a few times in the past and was familiar with claims that they were simple, great for backpacking, and easy to use. After three years of living in a van and camping near streams more often than not, it was time to swallow my pride, push down my fears, and try out some fly fishing. Tenkara USA is the original tenkara brand in the US. Tenkara is a simple type of fishing that originated in Japan. It focuses on the art of catching the fish, instead of complicated equipment, using just a rod, tenkara line, and fly, to enjoy the sport.
Ben and I had gone fly fishing ONE time before with a guide and used their equipment. After that single introduction, we fell in love and knew we needed to dive in. We started with the Hane and Iwana, two rods that are great for beginners and Colorado streams. We also used the Tenkara USA kit which provided everything we needed for our first trip out. We grabbed two friends with prior fly fishing knowledge (but not Tenkara knowledge) and made our way to the river. Our friends had a net (which isn’t necessary if you handle the fish carefully), we wore river sandals, shorts to wade into the cold water, and stuffed supplies into our pockets.
We had big plans to watch a ton of the informational videos Tenkara USA has on their website to help us set up the rods (we watched them after the fact, they are super helpful, but not a necessity). After years of working outdoors, you would think we are used to losing service and needing offline plans. We are not. With just the instruction booklet tucked into the Tenkara USA kit, we dove into our newest hobby.
We learned the knots on-site, figured out how to set up the rods next to the rapids, and …wait for it… we BOTH CAUGHT FISH. Take that ‘slow-motion casting in pristine remote locations with a copious amount of line pulled out.’ These two guppies were able to learn the knots, attach the tapered line and tippet, tie on the fly, and trick a fish into thinking its food. With the help of our friends, we were able to learn the correct procedure for keeping the fish safe and letting it go. A great success for a morning on the water.
This sport is far more accessible than I previously thought. We have so much more to learn about the sport, but it IS possible to dive in and be successful on your first go. The simplicity of the Tenkara USA rods and equipment made the process of starting a new sport so much easier. Don’t forget to grab a fishing license, always use caution around water, respect the environment, plants, and animals, and leave no trace.
***We want to be totally transparent. We sought out Tenkara USA to write this article. We were interested in the sport and had no idea where to begin. When we learned about the simplicity of the rods and how helpful Tenkara USA was with beginners, we contacted them. They supplied us with two rods and a starter kit.
There is one way for this tour to be a reality– our sponsors! Sending a thank you shout out to all of our awesome sponsors that make this tour happen: Sea to Summit, Mountain House, Lowe Alpine, Leki, Big Agnes, Stio, Roofnest, and Franklin County, VA. For more info on our sponsors, check out the post, “Live Outside and Play is Back!”