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.
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