This should be interesting. Tenkara USA, the upstart company that shuns all but the essential tackle of fly-fishing, will be an exhibitor at the world’s biggest fly tackle shop — The Fly Fishing Show in Somerset, N.J. in late January.
Alongside vendors hawking expensive reels and fly lines, Tenkara USA will assert that neither is necessary for trout fishing — only a long, telescoping rod with what amounts to a 15- or 20-foot leader affixed to its tip.
Tenkara USA founder Daniel Galhardo will also be present at the booths of the few brick-and-mortar retailers who carry his rods at The Fly Fishing Show in Denver Jan. 6-8 and Marlborough, Mass. Jan. 20-22. But Somerset will be the first show where Tenkara USA has its own booth. (Galhardo won’t sell tackle so as not to compete with his authorized dealers at the show. “The booth is for me to do what I like best, which is talking to people about tenkara,” he said.)
And don’t think the fixed-line fly-fishers will shy away from the casting ponds because they can’t cast 100 feet (or even half that.) Galhardo said he looks forward to showing how a tenkara rod can easily hold 20 or 30 feet of line off the water, resulting in for superb presentation that reeled rods just can’t achieve.
“That’s been my primary request (to show organizers), to give me time on the casting ponds,” Galhardo said. “What I want to do in the demoonstration is to show people that tenkara is not dapping, there’s casting involved, and show there are even some things that you can’t do with a western fly rod that you can do with tenkara.”
Right from its launch in April 2009, Tenkara USA was a fly-fishing iconoclast, cheerfully declaring there’s no need for a reel, a 90-foot fly line and 150 feet of backing — or, for that matter, any real need to match the hatch. A relatively short line affixed to the tip of an 11- to 14-foot rod, with a simple wet fly on the tippet, caught lots of fish for commercial anglers in the mountains of Japan in the 19th century, and does the same today for the small but vibrant tenkara subcultures in Japan and, now, the U.S. and Europe.
There have been a few haters who grumbled about “crappie poles,” but most American fly-fishers have at least given tenkara a respectful hearing, even if they don’t get the appeal. Others are mildly intrigued, and a few thousand are now zealous tenkara-heads. (Count me in the last group. I don’t fish my 5-weight very often these days.) Tenkara has been helped along by ringing endorsements by some fly-fishing luminaries, including John Gierach, Ed Engle and Craig Mathews. In September, tenkara angler and guide Erik Ostrander came in second in the Utah Single Fly Event on the Green River, losing only to competition angler lance Egan and thus, as his guide put it, finishing “first among mortals.”
The Fly Line hears Christopher Stewart, proprietor of Tenkarabum.com, may also be on hand at Somerset, and if so will undoubtedly have a trove of tenkara lines, flies and accessories available. UPDATE Dec. 17: Yes, Chris will be there, but won’t be selling gear, per the organizers’ rules.
The Somerset show runs Jan. 27-29 at the Garden State Convention Center.