Tenkara: Orvis is In, TFO Ain’t Saying

From the start, tenkara enthusiasts have wondered whether the established fly-fishing tackle companies would get in the game.

No need to wonder anymore. Orvis now carries the Tenkara USA Iwana – quite possibly the first time it’s sold another brand of rod, and certainly the first time it has offered a fly rod that doesn’t use a reel. (And yes, it’s a fly rod – you cast the line and the fly goes along for the ride.)

Orvis Marketing Director Tom Rosenbauer has described tenkara as a good introduction to fly-fishing, with a learning curve that’s “nowhere near as steep.” Of course that’s true, but tenkara also resonates with many (though certainly not all) highly experienced fly-fishers. In fact, Rosenbauer himself said a tenkara rod seemed like a fun way to fish a small stream as far back as September 2009.

Meanwhile Temple Fork Outfitters had a prototype tenkara rod on display at ICAST, the annual show by the International Convention of Allied Sportfishing Trades, in Orlando July 11-13. One observer reports the rod is called the Soft Hackle.

TFO executive Brandon Powers wouldn’t comment on the prototype or whether the company plans to introduce tenkara tackle. The Fly Line broke the news back in January that TFO was considering selling its own tenkara rod.

Tenkara USA founder Daniel Galhardo Galhardo said he’d been approached before by big-box retailers, but turned them down because he doesn’t like the idea of tenkara tackle being sold by people who don’t know the tenkara method of fishing or its history. He sensed that Orvis executives took the Japanese fixed-line trout fishing seriously.

“Every single person in their org­anization at the retail level, people [Orvis staff and dealers] at the fly-fishing shows that had booths, every single one was excited about tenkara, was cur­ious about it,” Galhardo told The Fly Line.

OK, so Orvis & TFO. Who’s next?

Chris Stewart, author of the TenkaraBum website and online tenkara tackle shop, sees the Orvis move as a toe-dip. “At the least, they’ll know if their customer base will buy enough tenkara rods to justify making their own rods,” he writes. “If they sell well, look for Orvis tenkara rods in a couple years – and then all the majors will jump in.”

2 responses to “Tenkara: Orvis is In, TFO Ain’t Saying

  1. I suppose Chris Stewart is talking from his own experience, following the development of Tenkara USA as a “toe-dip”, and then trying to jump in. I applaud Daniel’s courage in getting something like “movement” started from scratch while others would not have the gut to do it without him. I got to meet him a while ago as I live not far from a casting club we belong to. His enthusiasm was contagious, but most importantly his earnest and pure interest in the method itself. Working with Orvis is a great move on his part, IMO.

    • Chris didn’t call it a “toe-dip,” I did. I applaud Daniel’s courage and commitment too, but Christ Stewart is every bit as earnest and has been fully committed to tenkara from the start. He too has studied tenkara in Japan. To suggest he’s “jumping in” is just plain wrong. As for Orvis, I’ve been a fan all my life (just bought an Access switch rod in fact), and I’m not surprised to learn that Rosenbauer & co. “get” tenkara, both as a business opportunity and a great way to fish.

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