Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Cane-pole fishin'

There used to be a guy that fished the Missouri trout parks and he always seemed to catch the biggest fish. I’d see him silently stalking along the far bank, weaving in and out of the underbrush and overhangs...places that few of us would dare to tread for fear of snakes and the glares of our fellow fishermen. He’d quietly drop his fly right on the nose of the biggest trout in the creek....the ones that were only occasionally noticed by those of us fishing from the “right side” of the stream. Unseen by the fish and using such a short line that only his leader touched the water, this guy would invariably land the big ones. He didn’t mess around with the average “stockers.” Also, I never saw him make any sort of cast for distance...he “dappled,” if you know what I mean. On any given day he caught more trout...and bigger ones...than anyone else, and he did it with far less effort. This guy was a meat hunter.

Last summer, feeling that my granddaughter Gracie was in need of new rod to replace her Barbie model, I was trolling through Wal-Mart looking for good priced Zebco, (more on that later) when I came upon an unusual fiberglass outfit. To call it an “outfit” was a stretch. It was a telescoping thing of probably twelve feet in length, with no reel seat, no handle and only one guide on the far end of its very delicate tip and it got me to thinking. You know those very wise and spooky monsters that hang out under the trees in the Davidson...the ones that Joe Humphreys would have trouble getting a fly in front of? Well, I was thinking that this new fangled cane pole might just do the trick, and with it costing just a few bucks, I might give it a try.

Then I did some more thinking. I couldn’t imagine myself wading out across the stream in full view of the other well outfitted anglers with my black cane pole. I imagined the scorn I would feel, and decided that although I knew it would work...I just couldn’t do it.

Then along comes Tenkara! Have you heard of this? It’s the traditional Japanese method of fly-fishing and it’s the latest craze of the “I’ve got to have the latest and greatest” crowd. It’s been featured on a number of national websites and blogs and its getting the attention of fly-fishing’s trend setters. What is it? Well, you can check it out for yourself, but it appears to me to be an exotic and expensive version of my Wal-Mart special. And though I am by no means one of those “trend setters” let me say right here and now that I know this thing will work! Now, the dilemma: Do I fork over $150 for the Tenkara or a ten spot for the black cane pole?


  1. Hi Alan,

    I just read your posting on helping our wounded warriors by using tenkara. Someone just recently contacted me with the same thought and I'd like to support as I can. Can you send me an email so we can talk about it (daniel at

  2. Alan, nice post! I am one of those guys you see slinking along the banks with my "dappling" rod. I've been using a traditional loop rod (the type of rod used back in the 1700s and earlier. I was introduced to tenkara a few weeks ago - in fact, I drove 4 hours each way to see and hear Dr. Ishigaki speak and demo at the Catskill Fly Fishing Museum and Center! I've been using my 12' tenkara rod on local small streams and another in Ct where I caught 2 nice rainbows - both from the bank and both would have passed up a wading angler! (you can read about it on my blog -

    I just want make a couple of comments!

    1) NEVER worry what you think others may think of you or your fishing! Fly fishing is a personal adventure. Be confident and explore & experiment. We ALL advance by those who do.

    2) While there are those who will try tenkara because it is the latest craze, there are lots of us out on the streams using stealth techniques that will appreciate tenkara and use it to augment our arsenals. I know, I bump in to them in the underbrush every once in a while!

    3) I've tried casting a fly with one of those fiberglass telescopic rods, not an easy thing to do! But a tenkara rod is supple and casts beautifully. But in all honesty, that $10 black rod probably casts better than the loop rods I make from ash and hickory! But for $150, tenkara is quite inexpensive when compared to a traditional rod, reel and line. And you can collapse the rod, through it in a backpack and take it mountain biking or backpacking to places you might be hesitant to take your $300 (or greater!) outfit.

    Michael aka EclecticGuy