Though new to the realms of Tenkara am I, there are a few things now–axioms, yeah even philosophical extrapolations–that have already begun to solidify in my mind.
One of the first was that answer to the latent question, will I ultimately abandon my standard rod/reel combo with all the accouterments implied therein?
In short well, er . . . no.
That’s not to say I haven’t already carved out a sort of categorical or genre-related frame-of-mind that will accompany my expedition. Or, for that matter, that I will not have my scarlet letter brought into relief by a buddy fishing alongside me by telling passerby that I’m going commando. it just means that I’ve already discovered too many symbiotic things to do something as extreme as give up the form of the sport that takes me to the edge of perdition every time a wayward snag and erstwhile recovery turns my two-fly leader into a Gordian knot. Oh I get it: The minimalism is addicting.
That said, I’ve never exactly steered away from extreme forays; mindless presuppositions; horrible miscalculations; cordless bungee-jumping in to the abyss of hypothesis and quadriplegia. And that’s just my writing.
Which is why I’d prefer my non-committal, public tirades about Julius Ceasar than actually crossing the Rubicon myself. A while back, my wife and I were in Barnes & Noble, ordering coffee in the half-light Starbucks they set up in the rear of the store. As we went up to pay, he young girl asked for my card. As I handed it to her, I noticed a promotional bag of coffee next to the register. It was called “Komodo Coffee.” I asked the girl, “Is that coffee called Komodo because the name implies it is a strong blend?”
The kid smiled, and said “Yes, I think that actually is the reason.”
I said, “Yes, but does it contain the 61 deadly, paralyzing and necrotic bacterial toxins contained in the saliva of a Komodo dragon?” I then stared at her as if I was a cyborg.
The girl paused and said uncomfortably, “I . . . uh, I don’t know, sir.”
My wife looked at her and said, “And I don’t know him.”
And that explains why I picked a sport that, essentially, puts me outside. By myself.
But Tenkara fishing, aside from offering me rank simplicity, minimal setup times, and some genuine insight to fishing I seemed to be missing, does not make me a nicer person to late-teen booksmith baristas handicapped by a cathartic interrogation of monitor lizard trivia. I’m still usually by myself, or in tandem with one of only a few good friends. Most of them will come to categorize my Tenkara pursuits the way Annie Sullivan mitigated the fits and turns of Helen Keller: They’ll just deal with it until I stop throwing my food dish.
But I won’t have to, because I’ve already improved my dead drift on my standard rig by 50%, I’d say. And maybe I’m imputing metaphysical value to fishing. Maybe I’m trying to see Mr. Miyagi and the fly-arresting chopsticks instead of visualizing just me negotiating a spicy Hamachi tuna roll. Maybe I’m tempted to troll the works of Henry David Thoreau and see if he weighed in on soft hackle and tried necromancing Isaac Walton with a Ouija board. But I do know that just two days ago, I handed my 12 foot Yamame rod to my buddy, and as he was hooking up for the first time, I took his five weight with a floating line and a poly-yarn indicator, and cast it into an outer lane not obtainable* by my Tenkara rod.
After three days of Tenkara fishing, I simply knew the onus was on me to make sure my Mercer’s Psycho Prince fly was drifting DEAD. I simply knew that fly was as organic in its approach as possible. I could see it in my head. I could also see the subtle indicator pause that merited an 18-inch horse. That part I was able to see out of my head, and with my own eyes. Call me crazy, but I was trying to make my long drift match the short-spectrum Tenkara presentation.
And you know? It worked. Not because of any similarity in technique, but because of the equivalency of burden. The presentational standard is there, no matter how you fish.
And THAT–is why I will not forsake the latter for the former. There is no need for me to do so.
* Which is, of course one of the principal arguments against Tenkara: That the inability to adjust to feeding lanes outside the leader limit makes this a throwback; that allowing trout to run downriver is part of the game. I agree. But the same plaintiffs in these cases will immediately board a drift boat on the Lower Sacramento River and essentially high stick with standard gear. I could get all “e=mc2” about the ratios of fish that don’t break off because of sympathetic drifts and the fact that trout don’t head upriver very often when hooked, but I won’t.