Be a Heron!

Dr. Ishigaki Tenkara Fishing

Dr. Ishigaki on Cottonwood Creek

When I fished with Dr. Ishigaki at Last year’s Tenkara Summit, the first thing that struck me about his style was his laserlike concentration. As soon as he locked his sights on his target, you could practically feel being shut out of his world. His focus was so intense, I felt like I didn’t exist–like some force field had emanated from him and erased me from his reality. He was completely in the moment. With the constant chatter that fills our minds today, that kind of concentration is difficult to achieve. But I think it ‘s what makes a expert angler. And, I think tenkara helps.

Have you ever watched a heron stalk a fish? Their gaze is unbreakable. Every move is calculated and deliberate (as is the speed of every move). Nothing will break its concentration until it gets its fish. That is the type of concentration Dr. Ishigaki has and it is amazing to witness. I call it “being a heron”.

Concentration is an important skill in any type of fishing but I think that tenkara actually facilitates concentration. Mending line is a distraction. Changing rigs is a distraction. False casting is a distraction. By eliminating so many of the distractions, tenkara let’s me concentrate. I can be a heron.

Of course, it’s not just gear that can distract you. The mind is usually the main culprit. As a case in point, I was fishing a pool a little upstream from Dr. Ishigaki. I didn’t catch a thing or even have any strikes. After a little while, Dr. Ishigaki came up from behind, made a few casts in the same pool, and hooked into the nice rainbow below almost immediately!

Dr. Ishigaki with a Nice Rainbow Trout

Concentration has its rewards!

One could argue that the reason he caught that fish and I didn’t was because he’s more skilled than I am (which of course is true) or that it was the fly, the presentation, etc. But I really believe it was concentration. You see, the whole time I was fishing that pool, I was mentally distracted. I kept turning around to see if there was a good photo op of Dr. Ishigaki. I was thinking about the blog posts I would write about the Summit. About what types of videos I should get. In fact, one could say I really wasn’t really fishing at all. I was daydreaming on a stream. I wasn’t a heron.

I’m sure we’ve all had the experience of not paying attention for a couple of seconds, only to have a fish strike. Suddenly, we’re jolted back into the present when we see the flash or feel the tug on the line but by then, it’s too late. That’s an empirical lesson on the importance of concentration. It’s a lesson Dr. Ishigaki indirectly taught me that day.

One of the things tenkara anglers place a lot of emphasis on is the idea that skill matters more than gear. As Dr. Ishigaki says, “you can’t buy skill in a fly shop”. And to me, concentration is just another skill we need to hone if we want to be masterful tenkara anglers (or any type of angler for that matter).

So the next time you’re not catching fish, ask yourself–are you paying attention? Really paying attention? Are you a heron?

Author: Jason Klass

Jason is an avid fly angler and backpacker. As a former fly fishing guide originally from Western New York, he moved to Colorado and became an early adopter of tenkara which perfectly suited the small, high altitude streams and lakes there. He has not fished a Western-style fly rod for trout since.

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  1. Great article and so true. I know if I go out and am even slightly distracted I don’t seem to be in the now.

  2. Great blog Jason.

    BTW, did you know wives have this same level of HERONess?

    I know once I say something stupid, you know fella’s when your lips are faster than your mind and you say that one thing you should not have said, and then your wife becomes the HeronQueen!

    That death stare, nothing else matters around them, their hair can be on fire, but that does not stop that concentrated stare, the one that pierces our chest and serves their purpose of scaring the daylights of us hubbies worldwide.



  3. LOL this needs a big LIKE!

  4. Great observation. My limited experience fishing Tenkara has given me the most fun I fishing I have had in years. My very first day fishing Tenkara was this past summer and yielded one of the largest fish I have ever landed. It was also the most intense fly fishing experiences ever. The focus, stalking, target casting and playing the fish in order to land it was nothing short of pure concentration and focus.

  5. Muy buen post.Como siempre,estoy en un todo de acuerdo.Gracias por compartir….

  6. Gerardo,
    Gracias y me gusta tu blog tambien!

  7. Lol TJ. I know that stare all too well!

  8. Great article, Jason. I noticed the same things when I fished with Dr. Ishigaki at the first summit. I’ve never seen anyone pick the water apart so precisely and thoroughly either, which is probably also tied to his excellent concentration.

  9. Jason, this is a great post and I so agree with “Being a Heron”. I have experienced being a heron and not being a heron many times. Keep up the awesome posts.

  10. Great post Jason. I know what I fish with a fellow once or twice a year when he is on the water he has tunnel vision. Sometimes he does not even hear you when you talk to him. By far the best fisherman I know. There is a lot to be learned just watching those people fish.

  11. Great post, Jason.
    I prefer fishing in solitude.

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