Tenkara Taking Off With Fly Fishing Fans

By Dennis Smith

Posted: 02/18/2015 08:03:38 PM MST

TV news anchors have nothing on fishermen when it comes to stretching the truth.

More than 70 years ago, humorist Ed Zern observed, “Fishermen are born honest, but they get over it.” And just last year, fishing writer John Geirach titled his latest book, “All Fishermen Are Liars.” In fact, anglers are so accomplished at fabricating fishy-sounding whoppers that only politicians and used car salesmen surpass them when it comes to making stuff up.

But as good as they are at telling tall tales, fishermen are even better at complicating everything to the extreme. Take fly fishing for example. A quick pass through any modern fly shop with its blinding array of rods, reels, lines, leaders, tippets, waders, vests, do-hickeys and gadgets — never mind the thousands of flies — is enough to make a would-be fly fisherman’s head burst into flame.

But there’s hope. Enter Tenkara: an ages-old style of fly fishing stripped of the endless confusion of high tech rods, reels and gadgetry to its barest and simplest necessities — a single, long rod with no guides or reel seat, a short, fixed length of line, and a fly. Or more simply: a stick, string and a bug.

Originated by Japanese market anglers who developed it to take fish from small, brush-choked mountain streams, tenkara found its way to America less than a decade ago and is rapidly becoming an option that appeals to high country, small stream anglers, backpackers or anyone intimidated by the apparent complexity of traditional fly fishing.


Not surprisingly, a number of traditional rod manufacturers and Internet marketing companies have jumped on the tenkara bandwagon, but time will determine which of them succeeds.

Zen Fly Fishing Gear in Loveland definitely figures to be one of them. While the company has been selling high-quality tenkara gear on its website for two years and has retail displays in Elkhorn Fly Rod and Reel as well as all of Jax Outdoors northern Colorado stores, its strong suit may well be customer service.

An ardent tenkara enthusiast, licensed fly fishing guide and IFFF-certified fly casting instructor, company founder, Adam Omernick and Karin Miller are passionate angling educators eager to share their knowledge of tenkara with anglers of all stripes.

This Saturday evening, Feb. 21, they’ll be hosting the second of a three-part winter series on Zen Fly Fishing at the Fountains of Loveland, La Quinta Inn, 1450 Cascade Ave., at 7-9 p.m. They’ve invited respected industry leaders, educators and innovators to share their knowledge, expertise and personal experiences of tenkara fly fishing and its place in the angling arena.

This week’s guest speaker will be Kirk Deter, angling author, blogger, editor of Trout Magazine, and Field & Stream editor-at-large plus photographer and tenkara advocate Anthony Naples, a featured artist who captures the magic of angling, and the incredible environment that surrounds us.

Admission is 20 bucks. That gets you in the door, a free microbrew, a door prize entry and a shot at raffles for tenkara gear. Zen is donating all profits from the event to Trout Unlimited and the Greater Thompson Watershed Coalition to help fund restoration projects on the Big T.

I recently asked Steve Schweitzer, backpacking fly fisherman and author of two highly acclaimed fly fishing guides to Rocky Mountain National Park and the Indian Peaks Wilderness Area, if he owned a tenkara rod. He answered very simply, “I wouldn’t fish the high country without one.”

I know he’s a fisherman, but I don’t think he was lying.

Dennis Smith is a Loveland outdoors writer and photographer, and his freelance work is published nationally. Smith’s Home Waters column appears on the first and third Thursdays of the month. He can be reached at Dsmith7136@msn.com.

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