by John Evans
(San Antonio, TX)
Give Yourself Time. The Rewards are Worth It.
I haven’t told anyone this. In fact, the only other person who knows the story is my wife, Robin. Several years ago I tried tenkara fishing for the first time and totally hated it. I mean Hated it with a capital “H”. I had no fly-fishing experience, but I thought a tenkara rod would be fun to try. I purchased an inexpensive setup off the Internet and immediately visited a nearby river. I could almost hear other anglers snickering at me. What a disaster!
The harder I tried to cast, the worse I did. The line whipped me in the face or piled up at my feet. I worked myself into a lather and still hadn’t delivered the fly ten feet into the water! The only way I could have caught a fish is if he’d jumped on the bank. My first thought was, “What nut dreamed this up?” My second thought was, “What a waste of money!” And my third thought was, “Where’s the nearest trash can?”
I drove in a straight line home and chunked ALL of my tenkara gear in the garbage. A more wretched experience on the water I couldn’t imagine, and I just wanted to put it as far behind me as I could.
When Robin arrived home, she could see I was upset. I related every tortured detail to her, and she didn’t say anything at first. Why stick your hand into a hornet’s nest? Later that evening, after I’d calmed down, she suggested gently, “John, I wonder if you gave it enough time? Maybe there’s a learning curve.”
Hmmm . . . A learning curve? I thought about it that night and slept on it. Robin has the knack of saying just enough, but not too much. The next morning I fetched my tenkara rod out of the trash can before the garbage men arrived. I also watched several videos on the Internet to learn how to cast. I resolved to do one thing: One way or another I would catch three fish on my gear before giving up, and then I’d make a decision.
So, I went to my favorite fishing hole—one with lots of panfish and small bass in it—and brought along a container of worms. This time I made sure the wind was behind me, and I stuck one of those worms on a beadhead nymph. Through trial and error, I finally delivered the bait to a likely spot.
And a large, green sunfish nearly ripped the rod from my hand. He tore into that worm like it was his first meal in three days. The rod, even though it was only a cheap one, came alive. “Oh . . . Oh . . . I have to try that again!” That morning I caught a couple of dozen panfish and one or two Guadalupe bass. Eventually I left off the worm and caught a few fish on the fly only. I was amazed that fish would strike a bit of yarn and tinsel tied on a bare hook. Since that morning, I’ve never looked back. How close I’d come to giving up too soon!
The moral of this story? Give yourself time, especially if you have no experience with any kind of fly fishing. If you feel yourself becoming frustrated, take a long, slow drink from your canteen. Or maybe just sit down and think about it a little. At least adopt the “three-fish rule.” My guess, after the first and second fish, is that you’ll be the one hooked.
Return to Your Tenkara Stories.
“The bitterness of poor quality remains long after the sweetness of low price is forgotten” - Benjamin Franklin
"Be sure in casting, that your fly fall first into the water, for if the line fall first, it scares or frightens the fish..." -
Col. Robert Venables 1662
As age slows my pace, I will become more like the heron.
The hooks are sharp.
The coffee's hot.
The fish are slippery when wet.
Beware of the Dogma
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