Moving beyond the "drama" - an idea

I thought I would start a new topic post, as to not distract from the conversation about long line fishing and because I now have authorization to start a topic (ya!).

On suggestion from a few people in the forum, I decided to digest the collection of comments and view points from the discussion about the Tenkara “drama” in a more objective way. I have come a better understanding of the drama and maybe a suggestion to help the community move beyond it.

Before going into my thoughts, I just want to preface this by stating my past comments about being new to Tenkara have come from a place of respect, being a humble person, and partially in jest. I wanted to start that I am not completely “new”, where I know “nothing”. Though I live in a location that does not have many Tenkara users and I have not travelled to learn or fish with more experienced practioners, I have put A LOT of effort into my education. I have read books, conducted email correspondence with numerous people, reviewed all forums, read materials from Japan, studied TONS of videos, studied most blogs, practiced a lot (both lawn casting and on the water). I am not saying my form of education is even close to the impact of direct education from experienced practicioners, I am only stating that I feel I have a pretty solid foundation of understanding and far from knowing nothing.

Thought Adam K’s discussion about Camp A and Camp B, I had made some realizations and corrections in my thinking. I have come to the conclusion that the separation between both groups and the continuation of “drama” is partially culturally-based and historical in context.

It is common knowledge that elements of Japanese culture is more traditionally-orientated, than compared to North American (European-derived) cultures. Yuval Harari (in Sapiens) spoke about the European orientation towards innovation and change, which accounted for the magnitude of development that European countries have influenced over time. His rationale was that Europeans were not more intelligent that individuals from other countries that exhibited less growth, but there was a cultural focus on innovation. A lot of other authors/philosophers/scientists have also written about the “genealogical history on innovation” and how its been culturally based (Skinner, Kuhn, Godin). Godin outlined that most human pursuits develop the dichotomy of tradition versus innovation - Tenkara was not immune to this.

Fortunately or unfortunately (based on your view point and orientation), when Tenkara entered North America, it was eventually swept away by individuals focused on development and innovation, and now its too late to change its course.

Adam K stated that those who focused on development and innovation (or not practicing Japanese Tenkara in its absolute form) were either lazy, arrogant, shameful, etc. I absolutely do not believe that is the case. I believe a lot (maybe not all) of these individuals learned the foundation of Japanese Tenkara and have decided to branch out to additional areas or utilizing some different techniques. I do not believe that the act of innovating (evolving) something should not be seen as a disrespect. Following the people responsible with the development and innovation of Tenkara in North America, these people started with a solid understanding and foundation. They might not have known everything there is to learn, but they do have an understanding. To what degree someone learns the details about the original technique before venturing out is very subjective. Sure, there are some people who just pick up a Tenkara rod and start figuring it out without the effort to learn foundational methods and have no interest in learning tradition, but that exists in everything everywhere. I do not think that those to learned the foundation and innovated should be put in the same camp as someone who just grabs a rod and states, “look, I am Tenkara-ing”.

I do agree that there is now a distinct division between those to are focused on Japanese Tenkara and those who have taken the principals of Japanese Tenkara and applied innovations. Therefore, my idea (which might have been floated around before) is to now use two terms to describe two distinctly different forms and focus on Tenkara. I think that if we begin to use the labels “Japanese Tenkara” and “American Tenkara”, a lot of the confusion, arguments, drama, etc. would effectively be eliminated. For example, there would be no need for “Tenkara police”, no debates about what someone is doing is actually “Tenkara”, and all the back-and-forth I have read or witnessed would be redundant.

People would have the opportunity to develop their interest and skills in either or both forms, without having to face the judgement from the other. This discussion seems old, impacts the community, and should be dropped to help introduce new people to either or both forms of Tenkara.

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I would argue the use of the term “devolution”, not “evolution” of tenkara. American tenkara is anything but innovation.

And that’s the beauty (or curse) of it Jay, its all opinion.

Oh, and thanks for using the term American Tenkara, I realized quickly what you were talking about and there was no confusion. Worked!

Interesting thoughts on it all Jason. To me it doesn’t seem binary between an American or Japanese Tenkara. I think the Japanese style of Tenkara can be broken into different styles and I don’t know what an American version is. In my own use of Tenkara gear I will sometimes fish using methods I learned from Masami. Other times I will use a tight line nymphing style, which is another debate on what that means. Other times I will use more western style methods such as a dry fly treated with floatant and a very imitative pattern dead drifted.

We as humans like to categorize things, but in reality I think it’s messy. I guess it would be nice to define things, and that’s where a style seems to make sense in my head. If I’m doing something like euro nymphing with a Tenkara rod maybe I’m doing that style. If I’m using a reverse hackled fly that looks like something Masami might tie and I’m fishing it the way I learned from him, I’m doing that style.

You can find plenty of Japanese Tenkara anglers that have been fishing a long time and are using bead head nymphs in a tight line style watching for strike indication with the end of the level line. Is that Euro Nymphing with a Tenkara rod, I don’t know, but sure seems similar.

I don’t think I’m saying your approach is wrong. I think it gets more complicated than a country specific style of Tenkara.

Very good points Chris. Maybe I was looking too macro at the whole issue. I do like the distinction based on styles.
I think the big picture for me is moving to a point where people are okay with things being done differently by others. If that means different labels (but maybe that complicates it or becomes too generalized or restrictive) or different styles, I am fine… as long as people move towards acceptance and get rid of the negativity, judgments, pretentiousness, etc.

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If you like fishing deep with a nymph, swinging/dead drifting a wet fly or skating a dry on the surface it can all be done with a tenkara rod line and kebari for wild mountain trout/char, that’s the beauty of the gear and techniques. I don’t need to continually change fly, lines, shot etc. etc., just work the angles a little differently, positioning, rod angle and presentation are all I have to think about the fish let me know how I’m doing. The first couple seasons I used the dead drift most of the time with western flies, the last 4 have all been with kebari of various size and color combined with pulsing and dowm stream techniques, I still laugh out loud when I pull a nice fish out of a salmon hole on one of my favorite streams. It’s a rush when I work the currents just right and hook a nice rainbow in 7ft of heavy current with such a simple set up, wouldn’t have it any other way. I’ve taken the little I’ve learned from youtube, forums, blogs and communication with others not to mention years of river steelhead and salmon fishing, put the time in learning to cast and applied all this stream side to good success. In the end the best way to learn is through experience, I believe the Japanese masters as they’re called learned by doing, spending thousands of hours stream side perfecting their craft they invented the gear, flies and presentation techniques that we use today, it seems only fitting to show appreciation for their efforts and willingness to share. For me its simply the best way to catch fish on a mountain stream and it gives me the perfect excuse for spending time there, it’s as close to Heaven as one can get this side of the grass. If you haven’t tried it you truly are missing out, IMO anyways.

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Many of us have already attempted spreading the use of “American tenkara” (Amerikara in jest). It doesn’t stick.

lol, Amerikara has such a good ring to it. Surprised it did not catch on!

It’s like Groundhog Day, that movie where it’s the same day over and over but for me?

I’m ok with it.

I am no longer concerned with guys talking about tenkara in the salt or using their tenkara to catch bass.

It is no longer an issue.

Keiichi is penning another genryu article. I’ve got a bunch of stuff to write about and detail and I’ll continue to collect focused tenkara content and get it out there.

I was approached by a tenkara angel today offering a Karasu 400 to try.

I might just have to break my self imposed ban on new equipment!

Just have fun and everybody gets to be who they are and life is good.

You want to call tenkara in the salt tenkara? or bass, bream or what ever?

I call that #untenkara.

I am not the tenkara police.

Never was.

Go right ahead and feel free to do as you please.

Not my problem.

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This topic and general issue has been covered quite a bit. Very hard for me to even respond.

Trying to put this as simple as possible.

Regarding the Drama:

Typical rift between the have and have nots.

This is not economical but having or not having access to a knowlege base / mentor, experience, and headwaters with wild trout.

The two groups will never see eye to eye. It is a communication problem.
This is not an elitist thing either.
If anyone knows me I am pretty low brow. Fishing is after all, a hill billy pastime…we are all fishing brothers…addicts, social outcasts with this debilitating disease.

I think it is fair for @Adam_Trahan and all of us to embrace the ten colors of tenkara in the spirit to support eachother and our passions. Most of my fixed line fishing is in tailwater for stocked trout. I practice my tenkara techniques mostly in that water because it is in my back yard. I try to find water the mostly resembles headwaters in its dynamics. High gradient runs… But in comparison to the real water and being in the mountains…all of that is just pretending. It is a substitute. Like fishing in a trout pond and pretending that it is nature.

The engineering of tenkara and its classic methods are intertwined with the behavior of wild trout in the setting of headwaters. To understand it and to perfect it …the setting is equally as important as the skill. I dont have that kind of access. At best I might make it out there a few trips a year.

People might say I am wrong, but they are either in denial or just have not fully understood aspects of tenkara. It is human to make the best of something and try to rationalize what we are doing is the best or that we are skilled in our pastimes. I am a realist. Most of what I do is not tenkara but I am trying to spend more effort in getting to headwaters, seeking the wilds, and only using tenkara techniques.

Can you use it for other things and environments? Yes, but the utility diminsishes.

Can you mix tenkara with other angling techniques? Yes, but those dont become tenkara techniques.
Like, are is it tenkara if you fish a worm on a hook with a tenkara rod?
The same argument can be made with certain fly forms.

Can you catch a lot of fish without knowing proper technique? Yes you can!!!
That is the joy of fixed line fishing. It is so much fun and effective especially if the fish are actively feeding.

Can you improve by really mastering legitimate tenkara technique? You bet your bippie!!

Can I enjoy my current skill level and just enjoy what I do even if it isnt defined as tenkara? Yes…I do!
Most of what I do enjoy is just being outdoors. Witnessing the spectical of nature! It is awseome.

For me fishing is about fun. Enjoy your fishing!

If you do want to learn and understand tenkara, Hike up into the mountains and fish for wild trout. Hone your tenkara techniques. The more time you spend up there. The more you may connect the dots. Tenkara to me is more than just catching a trout on a fly. It is the whole experience.

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I practice one heck of a lot of fixed line fishing. As I have warm water access minutes away, I’m fishing about every other day from April-October. Nowhere near that much “Tenkara”. Which to me personally means fixed line, unweighted wet-fly fishing for salmonids in moving water. If I ever use the same method to fish for Grayling, well I’ll call that Tenkara too.

If I’m using a #3 nylon level line and an Elk Hair Caddis with my Nissin Zerosum for trout, well that’s not really Tenkara is it? It’s certainly very close, but no cigar. It’s just fixed line fishing using a fly as the lure. Go further from traditional Japanese Tenkara, as in well weighted wet flies or nymphs, or for panfish, or in still water, and it is much closer to Euro-nymphing using very long rods with a fixed line. Which by the way, a lot of the original Czech and Poles were doing in competition a couple decades ago. No reels, just tie the line to the tiptop of the 9’-10’ rod. No lillian needed.

At any rate, I really don’t think there’s all that much drama. But maybe I’m just blind to it. I’m just out fishing. Whether it be chucking Senkos for bass, Clousers on Western tackle for the same, Keiryu inspired fishing for Sunfish, or traditional Tenkara for wild trout. It’s all good. Heck, get me out to the ocean and I’ll shoot a fish in the head while freediving. Water + fish = fun

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