It is May 18th, 1878. Your name is Ernest Mason Satow, able linguist and British diplomat. You are in the Mt. Tateyama foothills, accompanying a group of locals to the mountain's summit. In these gentle hills, you encounter countless streams, gullies and gorges - and what you discover on these tricky waters and fast flowing currents is truly exceptional. Soon, it would be known in the west as 'Fly-Fishing' , the new fishing revolution.
Ernest Satow was truly bewildered by the precision, craft and tradition with which the Japanese exploited their small mountain streams. Using fly imitations, the locals deceived the fish countless times, testing the strength of their thinly cut bamboo rods to the extreme. This 'art' of catching fish using insect reproductions spread as early as the 15th century in Japan and was highly valued among the Samurai for it's patience-testing qualities during times of peace.
Ever since then, Fly Fishing, has evolved and spread around the Globe to great success. The original technique that developed in Japan now involves the use of a reel, line loops and much, much shorter rods. Casting distances have increased with the development of carbon fibre blanks and heavier flies can now be cast to greater effect. The result; more aggressive techniques leading to bigger yields.
Nonetheless, the true fly fishing experience requires a bond to be made between nature, and the fisherman. In essence, the traditional Japanese fly casting method exhibits this bond. With this approach, success requires respect and appreciation of the natural environment. With new, modern approaches, the very fabric used to catch the fish is ultimately detached from nature. The techniques used remove you from the direct contact with nature.
Tenkara , the Japanese approach, is effectuated using rods that are crafted from natural, pure bamboo. The techniques used require respect towards nature; using stealth and appreciating fish tranquility, before being able to contact the specie in question. This fishing experience brings you all the more closer to nature via the absence of a reel; an element of modern fly-fishing that distances the fishermen from the physical, real aspect of the water and its environment. Tenkara also requires ubiquitous attention as the fly is cast closer, and with a greater focus on detail and presentation.
If Ernest Satow realised, in 1878, the wonder to which he was attesting - he certainly would not have considered this wonderful art disappearing altogether from common practice. Today, over two thirds of all fly-fishermen have never heard of, let alone witnessed Tenkara.
" The past defines our present, and without doubt will define our future. Without knowledge of the past, our current context is irrelevant." C. Huet
We cannot allow the true spirit of fly-fishing to unnoticeably dissolve into what is now modern fishing. As such, I sincerely remind all anglers to foreground the true purpose of fly-fishing when practicing this magnificent art; to bond with nature to better understand it, and thus respect it.
Tight lines everyone,