I’ve never seen any discussion of tenkara where the word “simplicity” didn’t come up at least a few times. It’s true that simplicity is an easily identifiable attribute of tenkara but this seems to put gear addicts like me in an interesting dilema.
Is our love of gear antithetical to the intrinsic nature of tenkara? Does owning a dozen rods, piles of lines, and countless boxes of sakasa kebari mean that we just don’t get tenkara and we’re missing the message?
This post was inspired by a recent post on Twitter I saw by Anthony Naples of Casting Around. A Twitter post might seem an unlikely thing to spawn a blog entry but sometimes, 140 characters can paint a thousand words. Here is the original tweet:
What struck me about it was the line, “It’s more than gear, it’s a method”. I like this line and having said that, you might assume that I would think being a tenkara gear junkie is indeed hypocritical. On the contrary. I unapologetically maintain that there is absolutely nothing wrong with indulging in (and even hoarding) tenkara gear. Here’s why…
Maintaing the purity and simplicity of tenkara happens on the water–not in the gear closet. As long as you’re fishing simply on the stream, how many rods you own or how many different tenkara lines you’ve got stashed away in your gear bag at home doesn’t matter. To me, “keep it simple” refers to how you fish in the moment–with a single fly and no complicated terminal tackle like split shot, strike indicators, etc. It’s about having the simplest, most direct connection to the fish and the water. A line, rod, and a fly.
I think it’s true that tenkara is less about gear than method, but you also need gear to do the method. And this means trying different gear and experimenting to find your own preferences and style. For example, after more than two years of experimentation, I have recently come to favor softer action tenkara rods and level lines. I wouldn’t have been able to hone in on my own preferences without trying out different combinations of gear and so I’ve collected a lot during that time. But when I’m on the water, I’m fishing with the combination I’ve narrowed it down to–I don’t bring everything I own. And, to me, that honors not only the simplicity, but also the humble curiosity and commitment to self improvement of the tenkara angler. I highly doubt the tenkara masters in Japan didn’t do their fair share of experimentation before settling on their own systems. And neither should we.
Finding your own tenkara “voice” requires that you experiment with different tools. You might try a variety of gear and like some at first that fall out of favor later to be replaced by something that works better for you. And that’s OK. It’s an evolution. To me, it’s just another facet to the sport that I enjoy so much.
So, if you’re a gear addict like me and have ever felt guilty for owning “too much” tenkara gear, don’t. Buy up, play around, and have fun. All it demonstrates is your passion for the sport and a love of discovery. And that can hardly be antithetical to the spirit of tenkara.
Good read and thanks for sharing.
I think you and I and a few others need to go to TA….. Tenkara Anonymous! 😎
I am so addicted I even do customer support for the product now. hehehe.
At least I can tell my wife I need to have all models so I can better understand the gear. 8-)~~
“Hello, my name is Jason and I’m a tenkaraholic.”
There are no rules. I have 4 rods myself, and would have more if I could. I have recently watched the aaron jasper euron-nymphing videos, and he keeps it very simple. It just made me realize that it’s not rocket science. I’m not a gear junkie, I never have been – I’m too cheap. I am a fly junkie though. There is no right answer. I just want to make it clear to the new folks, or those considering gettiing into if that fly fishing and tenkara especially, can be be very simple, and doesn’t need to be complicated. If someone enjoys gear and all that, it’s cool, but it can be easy and simple too.
Well put Anthony! I think that message is important for people just getting into the sport to hear. LOL, now that I think about it, it’s funny. Depending on your perspective, the amount and type of gear you possess can either validate you or alienate you. Oh well. I just fish the way I want to fish, play with the gear I love, and write about my experience. I’m pretty happy with that arrangement. 🙂
Yes. Actually I’m glad to know that there’s anybody out there reading my tweets. Hey, I’m a believer in indepent thinking. Even Rick Santorum has a right to his wrong opinions. The only real value in fly fishing or tenkara is personal enjoyment. Get it however you can.
Hi Anthony, I try really hard not to get into politics on this blog and stay focused only on tenkara but I appreciated your zen-like tweet. Thanks for that. I think you were spot on and it’s a mantra we all should keep in mind.
Rick used to go to my wife’s childhood church. So you know…i too try not to mix politics and fishing. Sorry if you’re a Santorum fan. If so don’t look santorum up on the urban dictionary.
Jason, well put.
It’s not hoarding, it’s called being ready. Also, it’s not obsession… it’s called focus!
Actually the more gear we have the more people we can take fishing and introduce tenkara to. 8-). Tj
All kidding aside, I want to be very clear that I would never pretend to tell anyone else how to enjoy their fishing. It’s a silly thing to begin with, once it is removed from the pursuit of sustenance. No, silly is not quite the right word. Frivolous maybe? Anyway, what I want to say is if you ever want to make your life simpler and get rid of some of that extra tenkara baggage…I know a good home for it.
I feel like that little tweet has been blown way out of proportion…sheesh maybe I should be less angsty. I blame it on the music that I listen to.
I would enjoy reading a article by yourself or Anthony on keeping Tenkara simple. It would be good to see what others see as simple.
Tenkara is simple. Even if you have several rods and several lines, and a vest with no empty pockets, it is still a simple method. I think we tend to confuse simplicity with minimalism.
Even beside that, simplicity is not the only thing I like about tenkara. I really like the direct connection of playing a nice fish without a reel and drag. I also like that the rods are supple enough that even a smaller fish puts a bend in the rod. Plus, I like catching fish and I catch more fish now than I did before I took up tenkara. I really like the portability of the collapsed rod. Having different rods for different fishing locations and different lines for different conditions doesn’t change any of that.
Well said Chris. Especially the point about minimalism vs. simplicity.
I try to keep my kit light so my wife won’t kill me for spending too much cash on a hobby, but I see the appeal of having a bunch of rods and lines and knowing what kind you prefer to fish with. Right now I have a 12′ Iwana, that’s it. Who knows, I might really like casting an Ito with a horsehair line.
Chris – Confusing simplicity with minimalism – that’s the ticket. My idea of simplicity doesn’t really have much to do with more gear or less gear. It has to do with getting caught up in the details over this diameter line or that diameter, this hackle or that hackle, this hook or that hook, etc. etc.
I have really had my fill of that rat race. I think people need to know that they can pick a tenkara rod, get a line, and a handful of flies and be set for life (well maybe you’ll need to replace the flies from time to time). The focus of the successful fly angler, in my opinion (at least lately), ought to be on technique. Same goes for tenkara. It should be easier for the tenkara angler to focus on technique simply because there is less necessary gear. Successful anglers are successful technicians, I think. Give the “right” rod, line, leader, strike indicator, floatant, nippers, pack, flask, uv-knot sense, snake river mud, emergency whistle, wading-staff, etc. to a bad technician and he’ll still be a bad fly angler. Give all the wrong stuff to a good technician and he’ll manage some fish. I have no problem with anybody that likes to have gear (gear is fun) and tinker with all the details of line design or whatever, but I think that we have to be careful not to put the cart before the horse. It can be very easy to become enamored of those type of things and forget that that stuff is all window dressing. It’s like all those bad amateur guitarists out there with $1000 PRS guitars – and then Jack White nails a board to his porch with a single string and a pickup and makes superior music.
I’m sure there are as many reasons to become a tenkara angler as there are tenkara anglers, but a big part of it for me is the way I can simply grab my altoids tin of flies, my simple hand made line, tenkara rod and go catch me some trout. I think that’s cool – and not worrying about all the other stiff frees me up to post on Tenkara Talk!
In the very least there will be a core of people who have personal knowledge about most all Tenkara gear, so when one Tenkara fisherman meets another or someone who asks “what kind of rod is that” knowledge of the simplicity can be shared.
The dictionary gives this definition of recreation: “a pastime, diversion, exercise, or other resource affording relaxation and enjoyment.”
Tenkara is wonderful recreation, whether we are wading a stream, dropping a fly in pond for bluegill, tying flies or making new lines, or reading Tenkara blogs, it is simple, relaxing and enjoyable. If you enjoy collecting rods, flies and lines go for it, it is all good recreation in one of it’s most pure forms. We are not competing here or practicing one-up-man-ship, we are all enjoying it together. That is why I love Tenkara.
Harold, I don’t have emoticons on this site but if I did, I would give your reply a “thumbs up”.
Too much gear and way too many words.