Somewhere in the depths of hell, near the same corner where all the unmatched odd socks collect there is a second pile of lost items known exclusively to tenkara anglers around the world. Yup, a pile of rod caps. Its amazing how important these things are but also how quickly we lose them. Once you have lost one you realize quite quickly how actually expensive they are to replace. Today I want to teach you a quick DIY solution using just some basic tools that you probably already have in your garage or that can be purchased inexpensively at a hardware store. The instructions that follow are given with the express warning that any craft project has it's hazards. Please be careful when making your end cap and use common sense so that you still have fingers to tie your flies on with.
Step one: Collect some wine corks
You may have a cork or two already living in a junk drawer in your house but if you don't start saving them from your favorite bottles of vino. If you don't drink wine then your next best free source is to ask the bartender at you local restaurant for a few. They usually have a bucket of them behind the bar. If you want to throw some money at the problem, then you can go to a hobby store and buy some there. You want a good selection to choose from as, the quality of corks varies. Corks come in different densities. While for the most part, any wine cork will work for this project I prefer the more dense cork. These are the ones that seem like they are made from lots of teeny tiny pieces of compressed cork. You will want a cork that isn't damaged or have too much damage done to it from the cork screw when it was pulled from the bottle.
Step Two: Sizing your drill bit
You will want to pick a drill bit that is about the same size as your rod end. Don't worry if you go too big or too little at first, but get it pretty close to start.
I use a "forstner" style of drill bit but you can use a standard bit as well. The forstner bit has a unique blade design that lets you drill smooth sides and a flat based hole. Once you have selected a bit. Mark the center point on the end of the cork with a sharpie. For the next step, put on some gloves or better still clamp the cork in a shop vice.
Using a hand held power drill, slowly start drilling a bore into the cork. I said "SLOWLY" ...and I mean it. Don't rush as you will risk drilling all the way through the cork or worse still, out of the side of the cork and into your hand. Let the drill bit do the work. The slower you do this the more finished the hole will be. Alternatively, if you are lucky to have one, do this on a drill press. DO NOT DRILL ALL THE WAY THROUGH. Stop a little short of going all the way through the cork. Drill down so that about 1/4" (at the most) of the cork isn't drilled.
Step Four: The finishing touches
Certainly you can decide that you are happy and now done with the cork cap at this point. BUT you may also want to kick it up a notch and sculpt it a bit. Cork sands very nicely. You can use a piece of sand paper to shape your cork cap a little too. Sand a bevel on the top end of cork or sand off the the printed design on the cork so that you can put your own personalize marks on the cap. Color the cork with a marker or stamp your initials onto the cap. I have found that it is a nice touch to put a piece of cording or rawhide on the bottom end of the cork near the hole. This can help add just a touch more tension to the opening and create a better grip of the cap onto the rod. To do this you should use sand paper to make a groove around that section of the cork for the cording to rest in. Once that groove is made you need to put the cap on the rod and then carefully put the cording around the groove and then cinch it down just lightly enough to make the cork contract slightly around the rod tip.
That is all there is to it! You will also love that this rod cap is easy to keep track of and is also a great way to dry flies.
Be sure to let me know if you try this DIY hack in the comments below. I am also happy to answer questions.
I have been fishing tenkara for almost a decade now. Over those years I have continued to meet and become friends with like minded people who I consider to be "my community". These are people who share my passion and have that knowing look and grin when we talk about tenkara. I am grateful for my early days and about the relationships I have made over the years. I have been witness to tenkara making its place in the United States. We have seen it recognized and validated, and we have watched it grow. I have so many fond memories of my early days in tenkara. To be at the forefront of anything new is exciting. Things had gone so well and the future looked bright.
There came a day though when the news arrived and to borrow a line from Star Wars, "I felt a great disturbance in the force."
The heart and foundation of what I felt was the roots of my tenkara community was very likely going to be changed forever. Tenkara USA was being sold.
I think many felt a real and justified sorrow when Daniel Galhardo announced that he was selling his company, Tenkara USA. I think collectively many of us knew that this was the end of an era for tenkara as we had known it. Tenkara USA wasn't so much a rod company to many of us as it was a personal connection we had to tenkara. Tenkara USA felt less like a company and perhaps more like a club. We looked forward to the Tenkara Summits, were we could immerse ourselves in lectures, meet up with each other and occasionally meet a modern tenkara masters and get on-stream instructions. We were at the cutting edge of something amazing and unique in angling. We took jabs from the haters and stuck together though it all and now the place that we rallied for was about to change hands and inevitably heart.
We all knew deep down that the ripples of that sale would mean the end of an era. I think we all kept checking to see what was going to change and how much would still be retained by the new ownership. Inevitably though we knew that this place for our community had lost the magic as a place for community to rally. The business and rods were all still there but the spark that gave the community life and direction had faded. That is the way of modern commerce perhaps? Many businesses operate without that human connection to their market these days. I have a different respect for businesses that get to know their customers and see them as people and not consumers.
Don't get me wrong...
I am not writing this out of bitterness. I am happy for Daniel. I wish him happiness. He gave it his all for over a decade and really created something special. I consider him a friend who I hope continues to be happy and adventurous. Equally, I do not hold any grudge against the new owners of Tenkara USA as a company. They remain a good company you can count on and that may still surprise us in the years to come. I know nothing about the new owners who have taken more of a quiet approach to operating the company. Let it be clear that I love their rods and that my Sato is still the first rod I grab most days. I am thankful that the customer service there remains the best in the industry. The good people who work there, behind the scenes, I very much consider "dear friends."
I will continue to purchase rods from and recommend Tenkara USA to others. I only lament the life that is gone and no longer part of all that I associated with the company. We will always have our memories of the summits to look back on. Until then we can make our own gatherings.
Enter Tenkara Angler Magazine, the new community catalyst.
Let me speak hopefully now. I think the tenkara community has found a new nest to call home. I am grateful for the work of Tenkara Angler Magazine. Through Tenkara Angler I have been able to find my sense of community again. I can stay in informed and in tune with the goings on across the country and the world with tenkara. Tenkara Angler Magazine has taken up the job so very well as a glue for the community at large. Perhaps in some ways they are an improvement on the original model of community. It is good that they are not beholding to any one brand or company. They speak to the community about the community and watching them grow has been a real encouraging thing to see.
The next generation of tenkara anglers is here.
The tenkara community continues to change and grow. We as a community are alive and well. We are thriving and there is a happiness we feel when we see others on the stream. We are perhaps connecting more on line and at local events. It is always refreshing to see tenkara represented in magazines, fly tying events and fly fishing shows. Tenkara continues to be a progressive approach to fly fishing. Which is ironic in itself as it's roots are firmly grounded in one of the oldest forms of fishing with a rod, a line and fly. These new faces are bringing some really wonderful insights and takes on tenkara. Youth breaths passion and life into tenkara's longevity.
We will continue to grow.
The potential for the tenkara community to grow is a wonderful thing. We have the ability to set ourselves apart in a very positive way. We certainly are a different breed of angler. Maybe we love the intimacy of being on the water and connecting with a fish in a way that is perhaps less "predatory?" We appreciate the simplicity of the gear, the practicality of the mobility of tenkara. And while certainly we can and occasionally do catch larger fish with tenkara, I have found that most tenkara anglers are just happy to be fishing and are intensely appreciative by just the beauty of a fish more than it's size.
Tenkara is a participation sport
I would like to ask you to give some thought to what a tenkara community could be. Consider how you can embrace and participate in the community in your area. We all have the ability to set up a local group of fellow tenkara anglers to meet up for fly tying, or to organize or attend a trip out to do a stream clean up, maybe set up a group day hike and fishing in an area with a meetup afterwards to tell personal adventures from the day. We accomplish more and make these things happen when we gather and connect. Get a few people involved to help make the event happen. I know I will be working with anglers here in Colorado to make a few events this year happen.
I hope that as you are reading this you are aware of the tenkara community that is out there right now waiting for you. Know that you are welcome in the community and that your presence and participation matters and does make a difference. We need live interactions. Social media is a good place to make connections but those connections need to be lived outside of the virtual landscape. Make an effort to meet up with others in person. We all have a part to play in being the breath of the community and keep it alive.
Each month check in and learn something new.
Have something you want to share? A cool hack? A recipe or trick you use when out in the field?