Bringing It Home

As you may or may not know, our tag line for Zen Tenkara is “defining American tenkara”. I’ve been asked exactly what that means and where we’re going as a company. Well, in this moment, I’ll attempt to tell you. We are anglers, fly men and women, passionate about what we do, how we do it and as it were, where we do it. That my friend, is America. We are American and for the most part, fish on American waters. We are not imitators in fact, we are inventors. Creative and exploratory in nature. We are rebels in our heart of hearts. And, we’re proud of that.

We saw the usefulness and effectiveness in the tenkara method. We embraced it. The difference is, now listen up because here it comes, we saw its application and decided to push its limits and see just where this fixed-line method of fly fishing could take us. Our discovery was, it could go far and, be applied to numerous situations, environments, species and waters. In fact, it rocked! It was addictive and so clean and so simple and so straight forward, that we embraced it. That’s our story and that’s how in our time, as a company, we began to define American tenkara.

We are not transporting Japanese culture here, we are learning from it and writing our own story. We did begin with a traditional tenkara rod, the Zako. But from there, nothing has been traditional. Our second rod, the Kyojin was a rod designed to target big species like carp, salmon, pacu, dorado…. The list goes on and certainly not what people think of as tenkara targeted species. Our third rod, the Baichi, is a nymphing rod and a transition rod for western anglers. They love the familiar feel of it and the nimbleness is offers compared to their home-sweet-home 9’ 5 weight. This rod opened the door that had been closed shut to tenkara and fixed-line fly fishing due to an initial purist approach that was preached early on. The Baichi is an easy invitation to western anglers that lets them explore the possibilities of tenkara without throwing away everything they know and love. That’s why that rod was produced. A peace offering of sorts, an olive branch if you will. And, it works great for large species like large-mouth bass, muskie and pike, and big trout 24” and up. Love it or leave it that’s our story.

Now Zen is committed to bringing it home all the way. We had hoped that we’d be able to show off our newest rod at our Tenkara Winter Series 2016 event in early March. So it happened, we weren’t ready and decided that holding back to get the rod as close to freak’en amazing was critical. It’s almost here though and as excited as we are, we’re taking our time before introducing it to the world: The first 100% American made tenkara rod – blanks, material, components, the whole hotdog – USA made. And we’re proud of that, and know, we’ll be setting the bar from this point moving forward. Kinda a big deal, at least in our heads.

That being said, we were able to showcase our second 100% American made product: our Crosscurrent Chest Pack. This pack is trim, slim-lined, simple, but highly functional and as durable as a pack can be. It was made to be passed down through the generations. To your kid and their kids. Because we envision tenkara, fixed-line fly fishing and fly fishing in general, to experience a resurgence. We’re adapting and designing for a new breed of anglers.

This pack was made in Colorado, true cowboy land. It’s hand-sewn and built tough, but it’s clean, trim and smart. Remember, it’s about “finding balance on the water” (our other tag line). But just to give you an idea, here are the specs:

Specs:

Handcrafted in Colorado, USA

462 cu in capacity

500 denier Cordura shell

Heavy duty #8 YKK zippers and hardware

Mil-spec webbing

Mil-spec thread

Closed-cell foam padding provides limited flotation

Fold-over zipper storm flaps

Full Velcro interior wall and front Velcro accessory patch

Low profile, easy-adjust, X-back harness with net attachment and front pull-down straps

Internal storage pockets

Bottom adjustable straps

Multi-purpose rear sleeve

Top grab loop

And Zen won’t stop there. We’ll soon be rolling out a new line of American Made, Colorado Made, Eco-friendly, tenkara lines for all your rods.

Stay tuned for the roll-out of our dynamic new rod. Get your hands on our new pack to feel the integrity of it and keep your eyes out for some hot new, but very green lines.

All 100% USA Americana. Bringing it home my friend, bringing it home for all to enjoy! So for all of you that have recently discovered you can catch more than small brook trout on a tenkara rod, welcome aboard the crazy train we’ve been riding from the beginning. Welcome to Zen.

4 Comments

  1. Hi Karin. We trust you had a successful I-cast experience in Orlando last month. Had been checking to see if you had written any comments about the Expo. We wish you much success and am hopeful the exposure will generate a lot of sales for you. Hope you made some videos you can share. Good luck. Ed

    • Hello Ed – how nice to hear from you! ICAST was great fun and also good business. I met some interesting people and made some good contacts as well. Even picked up a few new shops. The week after ICAST I went straight into the Outdoor Retailers Show for another 4 day expo. Also picked up a few new shops there and again, made some great contacts. It’s been a fantastic summer so far as I also managed to squeeze in a trip to fish in Mexico and Alaska. We have been working on making some videos – they aren’t spectacular but are definitiaely informative. We’ll me posting them to our website and our YouTube channel. Stay tuned!

  2. Karin: I just reordered 2 grab and go kits yesterday for raffle prizes. Today is the first time I read “Bring it Home” and it raised a few questions.
    1) I have all of the rod models that Zen offers but I have not previously heard of the Baichi. What became of this model? Did you rename it?
    2). Are any of Zen’s rods made in the USA? I know that it your desire but you told me that none could meet your quality standards. Admittedly this was a 2016 article.
    3) I didn’t know that you had offered the crosscurrent chest pack. What happened to that? Did you just find that some other manufacturers offerings were more to your liking? I saw in some of your blogs that you featured them.
    I see that ZenTenkara is planning on being at the Edison, NJ show. I also plan on attending so maybe I will finally get to talk to you.

    • Hi Raymond – let me do my best to answer all your questions:
      1) I have all of the rod models that Zen offers but I have not previously heard of the Baichi. What became of this model? Did you rename it?

      The Baichi was not well received, at least not by tenkara anglers. Regular fishers actually really liked the fee l of this rod. We took it out of production and put it on the back burner to allow the tenkara community to “catch up to our vision”. And I say that in a kind way. We were ahead of the industry with the Kyojin and we were ahead of the industry with the Baichi…and even the Taka. People still only seemed to want that traditional soft and delicate feel to their tenkara rods and the idea of targeting bigger fish was not yet accepted. But as tenkara evolved and anglers began to be more open to using tenkara rods for nymphing, casting regular fly patterns and setups, etc., we began to get inquiries from people looking for the Baichi rod. It was time to bring the rod back. I wanted to make a few changes and began thinking about an interchangeable tip to change the action of a rod and give the anglers more options and a way to “customize” their rod action. So, we upgraded the carbon fiber – which we had already done with all our rods, played with the flex, mostly kept the same general specifications as far as length, diameter and taper profile, but changed the rod to be able to accommodate the two section softer tip that was our Standard Zen Tip Section – and started to re-rolled blanks. The Suimenka was born. The short answer is the Suimenka design came from the Baichi, but it is a different rod and performs differently – The Baichi was its foundation.
      2). Are any of Zen’s rods made in the USA? I know that it your desire but you told me that none could meet your quality standards. Admittedly this was a 2016 article.

      This question is a true heart breaker. We so so so wanted to produce our rods in the US….and worked at it for a number of years and learned a lot, but it became a project that after a number of years, seemed to be going nowhere. To begin, it was very difficult to get a reputable rod maker interested and onboard. Someone with real knowledge and expertise. Most people/companies with the ability to do what we were looking to do, didn’t want anything to do with tenkara. They didn’t take it seriously, didn’t think the method would stick around, and didn’t think there was any money to be made at it. When we finally found a company willing to get involved, they were confident and thought it would be a fun and easy side project but not high on their priority list. To shorten my response and cut to the chase, two years later we barely had anything to show for it. A few prototypes that were barely worth acknowledging and flex, weight and strength were way off. Rolling a tenkara rod blank was a completely different process than rolling a regular fly rod. They were struggling wit the method, stuggling with the rolling method, struggling to work with hollow blanks. It was much more technical and difficult than they had anticipated. In 2017/18 I had them throw out the specs they were using and attempt to just copy the Sagi rod. Can you reproduce this rod? They were also experimenting with different materials and composite materials. We came very close but continued to have problems with the tip sections. Assuming we would eventually have success we started to take a hard look at numbers. They were so far off from where the market was we stopped right there and had to do some deep reflecting. I wanted this so badly but it would be a bust. The cost was prohibited and there wasn’t a big enough market for it. We abandoned the project and resigned ourselves to producing overseas. The work we had put into the American Rod Project was long – a number of years. But the blanks alone were coming in high and that didn’t even include the remaining components needed to actually complete the rod (all USA made). I still really don’t think the market is quite there. We learned an incredible amount and it was an incredible experience. Maybe one day we will re-approach it.

      3) I didn’t know that you had offered the crosscurrent chest pack. What happened to that? Did you just find that some other manufacturers offerings were more to your liking? I saw in some of your blogs that you featured them.

      We did! Again, they were expensive to make locally, no retailers would carry them because they were already inundated with Simms, Fishpond, Umpqua and the likes of big name fly fishing gear producers. The mark up was tight because they were so expensive to make and while they were extremely well made packs and very functional, we just didn’t sell enough of them to tie up so much money and resources in their production. As a small company you have to pick and choose.

      I see that Zen Tenkara is planning on being at the Edison, NJ show. I also plan on attending so maybe I will finally get to talk to you.

      We are attending the show – as long as it happens and isn’t canceled. WE committed to the Virginia Fly Fishing and Wine Festival, The Edison, NJ Fly Fishing Show, The Denver Fly Fishing Show, and IFTD in Utah. We canceled our plans to participate in the Atlanta Fly Fishing Show but hope to do it the following year. I hope we’ll get to meet. The shows and expos are such a fun opportunity to connect with people and enjoy those face-to-face encounters. Typically I present and often do demos – we’ll see how the shows go and hope we are at a point where people feel comfortable enough and safe enough to come on out and share in the events. Fingers crossed!
      Thank you so much for asking such thoughtful questions, and for your continued support and interest in Zen Tenkara. I hope I answered them thoroughly.
      Karin

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