Last month, team WETSOX was lucky enough to travel to Maine where we learned the art of tenkara – a method of fly fishing that originated in Japan – from one of the first tenkara guides in the US.
Tenkara, for the uninitiated, is a very unique style of fishing, which many consider to be a simplified version of fly fishing. The rod is telescoping, there is no reel, and the casting motion is a simple up-and-down motion. With less gear to carry, tenkara has quickly become a favorite method of fishing for backpackers.
After our weekend with Daniel, we wanted to learn more about this sport and what drives him to venture outdoors:
Daniel: I grew up in Maine and have been fishing as long as I can remember. I live on the Sebasticook River which gets the largest Alewife run in New England, and is an amazing smallmouth bass fishery.
I was six when I first climbed Mount Katahdin in Baxter State Park, and it has had a special place in my heart ever since then. My ideal day on the water consists of working my way up the headwater streams in Baxter State Park.
I first saw the tenkara style of fly fishing in Field and Steam magazine in 2011. Tenkara USA, the company which provided the rods being reviewed, was the first company to introduce tenkara into the United States. Their website was informative and they had a great warranty, so I bought a rod in 2011. By the end of that year I was fishing exclusively tenkara, and had been ever since.
When I first started fishing tenkara, the Tenkara USA website was basically the only source of information (in English). A lot has changed since then and their are now books, magazines, blogs, websites, and even fishing guides specializing in tenkara! While casting a tenkara rod is very intuitive and can be picked up rather quickly, having someone there with me when I was learning how to cast one of the thinner lines would have been incredibly helpful.
The one thing that I wish someone had told me is this: there is no right or wrong way to fish tenkara. There is a traditional Japanese way to fish tenkara (which is Japanese), but the style has been adapted to fit with how we fish here and what we fish for. Some tenkara rods are designed to be fished in a more traditional method and some are designed to throw bigger flies and land bigger fish.
The craziest thing that has happened to me while fishing, well, let me start by saying from April – September I wear flip flops. In the summer I do a lot of wet wading and often it is spur the moment when I drive by a spot that looks good to fish. One day I was fishing a small steam in western Maine when I felt an itching feeling on my foot. I stepped up onto a rock to find a two inch leech latched on to the side of my big toe. Leeches are gross but not uncommon to see in the water and I have had them on me before.
What was different about this encounter however, was the fact that when I pulled the leech off, I saw what looked like millions of baby leeches under it. I went to find a place on shore to assess the situation and by the time I got there, the babies had spread in between all of my toes and were even crawling under the nails. I spent the next half hour picking them off one by one with my hemostats. I stopped counting after 100. The unfortunate part was that this happened again the next year, although on a different stream.
I still wet wade in flip flops, I just make sure to wear my split toe WETSOX.
You can follow Daniel’s fishing adventures via his Instagram, and if you’re near Benton Maine, and interested in learning about tenkara, we highly recommend hiring Daniel to guide you.