When I saw the photo below posted on a popular social media website, my first thought was, “That should be an album cover.”
The photo had 54 comments, well over 160 “likes” and at least 16 “shares” at last glance. And for good reason. After all, the composition is excellent, and what’s not to like about three friends geared up to do a bit of fly angling? Good, wholesome fun.
The fact that nearly all the comments were from men comes as little surprise, however. Men are predictable animals. Not all men, mind you, but most. Gotta be careful about generalizations. Post a photo of women fishing and the guys come out of the woodwork.
Some critics will accuse me of shamefully posting a photo of three beautiful ladies for the sole purpose of getting hits on my website, and to those I would say, “I resemble resent those remarks.”
First of all, I am a blogger of integrity and would never post any content just for the sake of increased traffic. And personally, when I look at this photo all I see are fly fishermen—just three people—period. I am gender-blind.
So let’s keep the criticism to yourselves.
Just three fly fishermen, period.
Featured in the photo may or may not be in any particular order or lack thereof: Rebecca Garlock of the Outdooress blog, Rachel Morgan, and Aileen Ellis of MK Flies. (Photo taken in Idaho by Anonymous. While requested, no GPS coordinates were provided.)
I don’t pretend to know much about it, but for those who know even less, allow me to offer forth a nutshell description: Tenkara is a form of Japanese fly angling developed centuries ago, using a long rod, a section of line, and a fly.
What Tenkara does not use is a reel, and it’s easy to understand why: reels probably weren’t invented at the time early Tenkara came to be. And the art hasn’t evolved much since then, save for modern, telescoping graphite that has superseded the original bamboo rods; and monofilament or fluorocarbon that has replaced the original woven horsehair lines.
As our world grows more technologically sophisticated and dependent on gadgetry, many people long for simpler times, harkening romantically back to the good old days before electricity, life-saving vaccinations and fishing reels. Because of this, Tenkara has enjoyed a resurgence, or perhaps more accurately it has gained a certain following in the Western world in recent years. Tenkara USA is an authority on the matter, so if you’re interested I recommend you check them out. Don’t come here looking for any helpful information because I know nothing about it other than what I’ve read. I’ve never seen a Tenkara rod, nor have I observed a Tenkara angler in action. It’s all Greek (or, Japanese) to me, but here are a couple of Tenkara videos to help you familiarize yourself.
So why, you may be asking, am I even taking the time to discuss Tenkara here? Well, it all came about innocently enough. A while ago I commented over at the Lunker Hunt blog. The blog topic was These People are Liars, and the discussion dealt with the reasons why people fish. It was stated, in the first sentence, “From time to time, I hear people say they don’t fish to catch fish. They’re out there soaking up the sun, unwinding, enjoying scenery, building friendships, exercise…that sort of thing. Catching fish is unimportant to these people and I’m here to tell you these people are liars.” Essentially I agreed, by leaving the following comment:
I’m not saying I don’t agree with you, but when you come out west and fish for native winter steelhead, you’ll come to realize that not everyone fishes to catch fish, because these are mythical creatures akin to Bigfoot and unicorns. It’s the love of standing in a cold river while rain beats you into submission and you get better at casting. But yeah, I call B.S. too.
Still, nothing about Tenkara. But then my comment was responded to by none other than Troutrageous! himself:
Kirk…you folks out West need tenkara rods. A most excellent tool especially devised for catching Bigfeet & unicorns.
To which I replied:
I am not opposed to Tenkara specifically, but I am opposed to fishing without a reel. Once I took an afternoon off work and drove a fair distance to fish in seclusion on a beautiful afternoon, only to gear up and realize I’d left my reel at home. Never again.
That was not some sort of conscience-cleansing statement intended to reduce a certain burden of guilt I’d been carrying around with me for a long time. On the contrary, I outed myself publicly after said incident of slack-minded stupidity here. Furthermore, on a steelhead trip last winter with my son, Schpanky, the Unaccomplished Angler left behind not one, but two reels. I came clean about that, here.
So you see, I don’t attempt to hide my imperfections (it would take a warehouse to store them all). As a matter of fact, the Unaccomplished Angler is more than willing to profess his many shortcomings (after all, if I run for public office it’s all going to be dredged up anyway). And there’s another benefit to admitting when one does something insanely stupid–it affords one the perfect excuse for not catching fish: “Hey, I didn’t have a reel!”
And that is why I am not likely to take up the way of Tenkara anytime soon. If I were to be stripped of all but a rod and line (and my clothes–I’m not giving up those, either), there would be little to blame for my angling unaccomplishments other than lack of skill. With Tenkara, it’s just you and a rod and some line waging battle against the fish.
I don’t like those kinds of odds.
Disclaimer: I have every reason to trust Aileen Nishimura of MK Flies that the Japanese characters used above actually mean Tenkara (“in the heavens”) and not something socially inappropriate. I recommend you check out Aileen’s fly tying artistry.
One of the best lines ever delivered in a movie came from Clint Eastwood’s famous character, Harry Callaghan, in the 1971 hit Dirty Harry. Looking down the 8-3/8 inch barrel of his Smith & Wesson Model 29 at a fallen, would-be bank robber, Detective Callaghan inquires:
“You’ve got to ask yourself one question: ‘Do I feel lucky?’ Well, do ya, punk?”
While I do not appreciate being addressed as “punk”, I would like to field the question and respond with a resounding, “Yes”.
Recently I took the bait dangled by an associate on a particular social networking site (aka Facebook friend). This individual was doing what many of us bloggers do, and cross-posting of a blog topic to drive more traffic to their blog. And I’m glad they did, because otherwise I would not have known of the Clif Bar giveaway taking place over at Fly Fishing and Tying Review. I played along and left the following comment:
“I’ve enjoyed Clif bars in the past and I would like to continue enjoying them by winning an entire box.”
And I did not embellish for the sake of schmoozing the makers of Clif Bars: I often buy them to take with me when I go fishing. They stick with you a little longer than a candy bar and are better for you than a bag of beef jerky (not that I have anything against candy bars or beef jerky, mind you).
As luck would have it, my comment was randomly selected as a winner and I became the recipient of a box of Clif Mojo Bars. Now this may not seem like much to some of your luckier types, but I’ve never considered myself much of a lucky person. Seldom if ever do I win raffles and the like, and certainly luck evades me when fishing (even when wearing my lucky fishing hat). Lately, however I’ve been on a roll, winning the Clif Bars and before that a free subscription to Flyfishing & Tying Journal courtesy of a giveaway at MK Flies. I feel like I’ve hit the jack-pot.
With my recent and abundant luck, I’m not going to tempt fate and willingly stare down the barrel of a loaded gun, but maybe I should get on a plane to Vegas. Or better yet, go steelhead fishing.
Thanks to Fly Fishing and Tying Review and MK Flies for making my day.