Daily Gazette article
Thursday, February 2, 2012
Fly-Fishing: Tenkara is more than a curiosity
Tenkara USA founder Daniel Galhardo demonstrates fixed-line fly-fishing tackle during The Fly Fishing Show Saturday in Somerset, N.J. -(Morgan Lyle)
The 20th annual Fly Fishing Show in Somerset, N.J., is now in the books, and most people seem to agree it was a good one.
As always, it offered 54,000 square feet of everything a fly-fisher could want: rods, reels, waders, fly-tying supplies, clothing, books, videos, watercraft, travel services and art. Big-name celebrities were on hand, such as A.K. Best and Lefty Kreh.
The Capital Region was well represented: Bob Mead of Scotia, Pat Cohen of Cobleskill, Jay “Fishy” Fullum of Ravena and Bill Newcomb of Copake were at their vises, tying flies, while The Fly Shack of Gloversville had several booths and owner Mike Bokan of Charlton stayed busy tending to customers all weekend. Author Mike Valla of Ballston Spa signed copies of “Tying Catskill Style Dry Flies,” and tied Catskill-style dry flies at the Stackpole Books booth.
Naturally, there were casting demonstrations, master classes with experts (for a fee), and seminars on fishing everywhere from Maine to Montana, Alaska to the Bahamas and, of course, the Delaware River.
A fly-fisher at Somerset is a kid in a huge candy store. The candy is pretty much the same every year. But this year, there was a new flavor: fly-fishing with no reel.
Tenkara USA made its fly-show debut at Somerset, with a booth that was appropriately spare — a small display case with five rods and a couple spools of line. It was purely informational; the company didn’t want to compete with its two authorized retailers with booths at the show.
Hanging from the ceiling was a big, cylindrical sign, dubbed “the spaceship” by the T USA crew, which was visible from most of the room. No other exhibitor had anything like it.
Tenkara USA had been burning up the Internet in the week before Somerset. Company founder Daniel Galhardo had attended the Marlborough, Mass., stop on the Fly Fishing Show tour and rode an elevator with Kreh. “I think tenkara is a fad, and it won’t last long,” Lefty told him. “That is just my honest assessment.”
Galhardo turned the diss into a publicity bonanza. He wrote a post on his blog that quickly went viral, spawning comments on dozens of other blogs and forums and even moving Field&Stream.com to do a piece.
Time will tell whether tenkara is a fad, but Galhardo entertained a steady stream of curious anglers at Somerset. No one scoffed, but then again, skeptics probably wouldn’t bother visiting the booth, anyway. I’m told there were “industry” people among the visitors. At the food court, I chatted with a guy from Pennsylvania who had a new Tenkara USA 12-foot Iwana in his backpack and couldn’t wait to fish it. I ran into David Dirks of DirksOutdoors.com and the Middletown Times Herald-Record, and found out he’s hooked on tenkara. Magazine articles are starting to refer to it without explaining what it is.
Three years ago, almost no one outside Japan had any idea that fixed-line fly-fishing even existed. Today, there are several thousand rods in use across the U.S. and in Europe. It’s hard to say how big it will get, and no one expects tenkara to replace rod-and-reel fly-fishing, but it’s no longer a curiosity.
Or as my friend Christopher Stewart of Manhattan, proprietor of TenkaraBum.com, put it, “Tenkara is on everyone’s radar now.”