Appalachian Tenkara Jam - A Tenkara Awakening!

You love Tenkara, don't you? You love grabbing a rod and getting outside, right? You love the simplicity of rockin' out with your rod out, huh? Oh wait, you don't know what Tenkara is? Well you are missing out!

I discovered Tenkara through, ahem, a guy. At first I resisted picking up Tenkara because Rob, my husband and Tenkara Guide, had found it first. But I was secretly interested. For those of you who don't know, Tenkara is fly fishing with just a fly, line, and rod. Don't freak out, but there is no reel. It is an elegant and wonderful way to get outside and catch fish. The first place I started researching Tenkara for myself was on the Tenkara Bum and Tenkara USA websites. Tenkara Bum was developed by Chris Stewart, and Tenkara USA was founded by Daniel Gallhardo. Both were early adopters of Tenkara, and responsible for introducing it to the USA. I was happy to meet both Chris and Daniel at the Tenkara Summit in 2012. However, at that time I was still suppressing my interest in Tenkara. I would occasionally go fishing, and when interrogated by my husband would comment, "I am having an okay time," or, "This is fun, I guess." Here is a photo from those dark times of Tenkara in my life:

Then, in 2014, something changed. Maybe it was was love, or maybe it was pure hate and the desire to out-fish Rob. Or maybe it was a personal quest to stop avoiding new chances and trying new things. Whatever it was, it made me come out of the Tenkara closet.

Rob came to me in September and asked me if I wanted to have a Tenkara weekended together in October. I jumped at the chance! I pictured a romantic weekend of camping and fishing as I schooled him in the art of Tenkara. Then I found out it was the Appalachian Tenkara Jam (ATJ). I thought to myself, "Even better. I can ditch Rob and meet other Tenkara fans." So we packed up the car and headed to the beautiful mountains of North Carolina for the first ever Appalachian Tenkara Jam!

Day one of the ATJ was packed full of interesting presentations, vendors, and fellow fisher men and women!  I was happy to see so many vendors in one place, like Badger Tenkara, Tenkara Customs, Riverworks Tenkara, Zen Fly Fishing, and old standbys like Tenkara Bum, Zimmerbuilt and Tenkara USA sold by Mountain Tenkara. I was also impressed at the lengths the ATJ founders, Jason Sparks and Lance Milks, took to make sure you felt comfortable joining in the fun and learning new techniques. I loved all the presentations and took away an important unified message from all of them - make Tenkara yours! What I mean by that (and what I think they meant) is that you should pick the rod that you like, the fly you prefer, and the line you want and just get out and have fun. Tenkara isn't about a perfect combination of rod, line, and fly but is more about what works for you.

For those of you who missed out here are a list of the presenters:

Jason Sparks - gave a great introduction to Tenkara for all of us beginners, and I was able to learn more about Tenkara's history.

Adam Omernick - Zen Fly Fishing Gear - Lines!

Lance Milks - Kebari (fly) - He may have inspired me to tie some flies - maybe.

Tom Sadler - Mossy Creek. Now I want to become a Tenkara pirate. Enough said.

Al Alborn - spoke about the wonderful organization Healing Waters and his favorite fishing in VA.

Matt Sment - Badger Tenkara. I learned about fishing in Wisconsin and reading the water to find fish. Also, Wisconsin has a major cow problem :)

Robert Worthing -  Not sure about this one... I kinda fell asleep. Just kidding, interesting presentation on landing big fish!

I particularly enjoyed learning how to build your own Tenkara rod with Tenkara Customs.  I enjoyed it so much that I bought my own Tenkara rod kit as a gift for a family member, but have since decided to keep it for myself. I can always buy another. 

Day two of the ATJ provided a chance to see Tenkara in action with casting clinics and on stream help. Matt Sment from Badger Tenkara took the time to show me and some other beginners how to rig the line, tippet, and fly to the rod. This was important to me so I could be independent on the water. Matt was also a great teacher when showing me how to cast and land fish. After day two, I felt truly self sufficient and even went on to catch three fish that day!

Overall, I had a great time at the Appalachian Tenkara Jam. I feel confident that I can go out to any stream by myself and fish Tenkara. I hope to find some streams in my home state of Kentucky to fish and have more Tenkara posts in the future.