Back in the home office at Zen Tenkara I’ve spent the day writing emails and sorting business cards. I’ve also spent time reflecting on this past week at the IFTD Show in Denver. It was quite a big deal for the International Fly Tackle Dealers Show to return to Denver and separate from the larger ICAST Show held annually in Orland Florida. Zen attended ICAST in the past and when I say it’s HUGE, I really mean HUGE. It’s on the scale of the Outdoor Retailers Show but focuses just on fishing – not just fly fishing but every type of fishing there is. Which means a lot of bass fishing. Zen was the only tenkara company to exhibit back then and it was a little…lonely.
The IFTD Show focuses solely on fly fishing and is a whos-who in the industry, and I have to say, tenkara had it’s showing. With a total of 4 different tenkara companies exhibiting, “lonely” was a thing of the past. Clearly tenkara is here to stay and making an impact. I will say too, that people were warm welcoming. No more fly fisherman snarls or jokes about tenkara. Serious conversations were had and respect and admiration shown for the work we’ve put into the industry as a whole. I even had a gentleman in the industry come to my booth and say “Okay, I’ve been kinda a snob. People come into my shop asking about tenkara and I don’t know anything about it. I need to learn.” That takes courage to admit and bravery to say out loud. We laughed and had a great conversation. I’m certain he’ll be a long time customer.
During another conversation with two reps from a big reel company they were surprised by the different species I could list, caught on Zen Tenkara rods. Just as one rep was momentarily called away, the second rep leaned in to my ear and said softly, “I own a tenkara rod, shh.” I smiled at him mischievously and replied, “Shh, I own a reel.” We both laughed out loud but offered no explanation for our deep chuckles when the first rep returned. That’s how friendships are made and bridges built. And truly, that’s what Zen has been trying to do for several years now. Not only build our brand, but more importantly build the sport and admiration and respect for tenkara in general. At Zen, we try always to be ambassadors for the method first and promote our brand second. Hopefully, this encourages dialogue and goodwill between all anglers.
Bottom line, it’s about having fun. And it was just that seeing friends in the industry and stand proud along side of Tenkara Tanuki, Tenkara Rod Co. and Tenkara USA. We’re here and doing what we do. Customers support and encourage us everyday to continue. And, the best part of IFTD was hearing those same words of encouragement, support and admiration from traditional rod and reel companies who no longer refer to us as a fad, but are finally realizing that we contribute positively to the fly fishing industry and to the angling community at large. Thank you IFTD 2019, for stoking my fire, refueling my energy, making me feel welcomed and reminding my why I love what I do so very much.