With the mandatory social distancing and rules varying from country to country, state to state, county to county and city to city we are all doing our best to maintain a level of normal in our lives in spite of it all. I have been hesitant to write about anything since the virus took a role in all our lives. We have hunkered down in my house and there have been some unexpected rewards in doing so. More wood shop time to make spools and bobbins, more time at the vice, some quiet walks with family, some great meals and some bread making too.
As I eek myself back into writing posts for this blog I decided that I would try just a simple list of things you can do to keep busy and still participate in the “Renshū” of Tenkara. (Path of Practice). These are things you can do that will help you connect with tenkara in some way. Some of these you probably know and just need to be reminded of. Other things are going to depend on how well you can get out and do while still practicing social distancing.
1. Clean and streamline your gear.
This can be a big project or a small project depending on the amount of gear you have accumulated. If you need help with this give my blog post "To Have Nothing to Add." a read and learn a little more about downsizing your gear. You can apply these same techniques to reducing your fly-tying materials too. How many spools of red thread do you need? Why have you been keeping those size 4 hooks again? And while you are laying out all your stuff… It is always a good idea to give your gear a little maintenance every now and again.
2. Read a tenkara book and make notes.
If you are like me you have several books that you have read or partially read sitting on your shelves. Now is a good time to really crack open a book and put your mind into a place of learning or “dentō no michi”. (Path of Traditions) Make it your independent study. Don’t just read a book take notes and write down your thoughts, dreams and ideas you want to experiment with when you do get to go out. Who knows, maybe you have a poet hiding inside you, or an artist? Sketch flies, landscapes, write poetry. Tenkara is about doing and living through life with depth.
3. Practice casting in a park.
I hadn’t done this in a while, but I think it is a great activity when you can’t get out to the water. Get a dinner plate or even a paper plate and start casting to it. Watch out for overhead lines. I suggest going to a neighborhood park. You can count the lookie-loos who think you are insane. Go all out if you want to and even wear your waders. When people ask how the fish are biting tell them you have caught almost a whole box of fish sticks so far. Seriously though, today I went out and had some fun. I just took my rod and a spool. I used the spool as a target. It was really nice to practice casting this way. With the little breeze that picked up I was able to practice adjusting my cast to different wind conditions too. Seriously, this is good practice time.
4. Tie flies alone or have a fly tying party with friends on line.
You can always tie flies of course. But now when you sit down you can do it with a very specific pattern or patterns in mind. Look at the tying as creating art. Play with colors, material and techniques . I set up a Zoom conference call with a bunch of people who I don't usually get to sit down with and we all had a ball. We tied flies, talked about the upcoming season, how we were coping, etc. It was good to feel like I had my community near me. At the end of it all I also designed a new fly that I absolutely love. It was relaxing and fulfilling.
5. Find a small pond or stream. (if you can)
OR Start scouting out new places to visit (if you can't)
To borrow from the song…”If you can’t be with the one you love, love the one you’re with” revamped into “if you can’t fish on the stream you love, fish the one you can.” From golf course ponds to a suburban neighborhood ponds found in parks. While tenkara is designed for streams it can be used in still water situations too. Of course, you should always make sure that you are not trespassing or breaking any laws by doing this. We have a stocked pond in a small town near me that is exclusively for children to fish in. If you can't get out then break out your maps, guidebooks, and google earth and start exploring. Eventually you will be able to leave your home and get out. (Knock on wood again). I can scour maps and books looking for new places to visit for hours on end. It gets me excited to explore.
I know these times are tough and they only seem like they are going to get tougher down the road. Maintaining our mental soundness, happiness and connection to the things and especially the people love and care about is so important. I know people who are separated from family and friends during this time. It is important to stay connected some way or another. Reach out to your friends and family members who may be alone during these times. Share a joke or tell a story.
I feel fortunate that I can be at home with my family during this time. I know that not everyone is as fortunate. Wherever you are in your life it just takes a few minutes to break the monotony and do something for yourself. Until my next post, I wish you and your family safety, health and happiness.
Dennis Vander Houwen lives in Colorado with his patient and supportive wife, talented artist son, a smart dog, a new river puppy, and a very lucky cat.