vendredi 23 décembre 2016

Interview with Adam Klags

I have never met Adam in person but we have many common connections in the Japanese tenkara community and I have been following this tenkara passionate's blog since the beginning. Tenkara is becoming more and more popular in the West and some people such as Adam, who transmits through his blog what he learns from Japan, is taking part in this growth. I have had the same approach with Tenkara Enso since the very beginning. Good reading!

Christophe: Hello Adam! How are you doing? We are friends on social network like a lot of us are in the worldwide tenkara community but we have never met so can you please introduce yourself?

Adam: Sure Christophe, thanks for having me for an interview! My name is Adam, but many people just call me Klags, my last name shortened. I have been an outdoor enthusiast since my first childhood memories. Currently I am a wholesale wine salesman in New York City for a fantastic importer/distributor of fine wines. I really love wine, but my passion is mostly the outdoors. While most people identify me by my job and career, I prefer to identify myself through my passions in life, like fishing, backpacking and beyond.

When I discovered tenkara thanks to Masami Sakakibara's videos and blog I decided to experiment tenkara first and it was so cool to finally discover the exact technique I had been waiting for so long that I decided to start a blog to share this experience and help other anglers to discover tenkara. You have been editing the "Of rock & riffle" blog since the end of 2014, how did you discover tenkara fishing? What is your background as an angler? Have you ever edited a blog before "Of rock & riffle"?

My background as an angler is mostly based on fly fishing. Of course as a young child I started fishing with a regular spin-casting setup. My first rod was a fisher price plastic kid's rod that I used to catch catfish and bass in our little country house pond in upstate New York. Soon I graduated to a nicer small stream and reel, but it wasn't long before I got into fly fishing.
I discovered fly fishing when I was about 12. The local shop wanted me to try it out, and I was immediately intrigued. My father bought me a beginner's fly fishing kit from Redington and a very basic fly tying kit from Orvis, and I was hooked!
I spent a few years exploring the Croton watershed in New York by bike as a young teenager, and began to bring my fly rod along more and more often. Soon I managed to get a pair of waders gifted to me, and then I was truly able to embrace fly fishing...But it wasn't until I started worrying about my pack weight for backpacking that I found tenkara. I was looking at for information on gear and ways to reduce the weight of my pack. I had a knee injury that was never really properly looked at and "fixed" and it had been bothering me on longer hikes. During one of those conversations, someone recommended I trade my western fly rod and reel for an ultralight backpacking "Hane" rod. I later found out that this rod was a sort of one-off collaboration between a newly minted Tenkara USA and 
I navigated to the TUSA website and bought an Iwana immediately. From then on I began to fish only tenkara, using it to truly learn how to fish, where I had never really quite understood it this way before. Tenkara became my portal into the world of successful fly fishing. Before tenkara I never understood why a floating line or sinking line mattered, why my tippet and leader were a certain length, what the strengths of a short and long rod were, where the fish were living and eating, and most importantly, how to catch them!
I realized that instead of throwing spaghetti at the wall to see what stuck, I could just cast to specific places and drift my fly in certains ways, and then catch fish!
Since then I have tried many styles of rods, learned about Keiryu fishing and finally re-focused in on Japanese style tenkara, or tenkara by its actual definition. What a fun trip it's been getting to this point!
Around 2012 I discovered a blog called "Small Streams Reflections" which was (and still is) published by Alan Petrucci of Connecticut, USA. In many ways, he is my inspiration for my blog. In 2013 I started engaging with the blog and in 2014 I decided to start my own "tenkara version" of a small stream fishing blog, and "Of rock & riffle" was born.

Originally I just wanted a place to keep an electronic journal for myself, organizing my photos and experiences online instead of on paper. However it appeared that people found the blog and began to read it, so I kept going. Its a lot of fun writing and posting about these adventures, but it is even better to be able to share them this way with other people. This was my first experience blogging or editing a blog, and it felt really natural to me from day one.

When most non-American people think about fishing in the United States they think about Colorado, Utah, or Montana but only a handful would think about New-York but it seems to be an error as a kind of tenors community has emerged in the New-York state. Can you please introduce us to the the New-York tenkara community?

You really hit an interesting point here, Christophe! Its true. Most people think of these expansive states out West, like Wyoming, Montana or Colorado. And for good reason! The number of fish per mile in those rivers, and the abundance of clean, clear, high-mountain, glacial-melt water creates an extremely ideal food supply and healthy living situation for cuntless numbers of fish...and many big ones too!
However, New York is the birth place of dry fly fishing. The Catskill mountains , just a couple of hours from almost any location within NYC is a true fly fishing gem. While there are no glaciers or snow-cappedpeaks to melt out year-round, there are many springs and aquifers that bring cold, clean water to the surface, creating an abondance of both hidden overgrown spring-creeks, and tumbling mountain creeks that hold wild brook trout, as well as some brown and rainbow trout where the State stocks them. The key here is the brook trout, which are native of the East Coast, and which are in such danger of being wiped off the earth from modern development, pollution and careless actions on our behalf.
These creeks, as well as a few main rivers like the Beaverkill, both branches of the Delaware, the Willowemoc, and others help to boster the scene here with opportunities of bigger fish, deeper water, and more lively insect hatch cycles. These rivers have helped to define not just fly fishing in New York, but fly fishing around the world. There's a lot of history to learn about the region, but the Catskill's claim to fame is that the dry fly fishing was created here. I won't waste pages of text here telling these stories but I recommend you read one of the many books published about the topic. What you will discover is that essentially the East coast, not the West Coast, is where fly fishing took off, and NY is where it was born.
Beyond the Catskills, NY state has tons of great fishing that is both overlooked, and over-crowded! The Adirondack mountains were once populated with more trout than the Catskills but we quickly destroyed their environment with the industrial revolution. It wasn't until well after 1990 and the "clean air act" that we finally were to help bring fish back. Today there is finally the first stages of recovery under way. Meanwhile, the large rivers of that region are stocked and full of holdover brown trout of 12-21 inches, as well as some wild brookies, and stocked rainbows.
Additionally, NY state has a large population of salmon that swim up from the lakes and into the rivers in the nothwest of the state each fall and spring. These rivers are mostly not textbook tenkara water, although there are a few of those mixed in too. The salmon run is extremely popular fishing, and is often way too crowded for me to want to partake. I have tried this a few times and it really is fun but its not the kind of fishing I enjoy.
Basically what you will find in NY is many of the same things you find in those other states...just shorter mountains, less wilderness, more population of people, and less fish. I wouldn't trade it for anything else though, there's something special about NY that these other states don't have. Or maybe that's just the New Yorker in my talking? ;)

Thank you for making this portrait of the New York area as a potentially great tenkara fishing area. It is really more interesting than the usual cliché such as the average "Big Apple", "concrete jungle" and the likes! Your passion for tenkara has brought you, like some of us in the West, to travel abroad and meet foreign tenkara communities. You have visited some tenkara tribes in Italy and Japan so my question is this one: Have you ever imagined traveling so far to meet other anglers? And most importantly, how is it important for you to involve in this kind of experience?
That's a good question...first off, no I never imagined I would travel to meet other anglers around the world like I've done over the last few years. I actuelly didn't used to like traveling. I found it to be exhausting, expensive and time consuming. The real issue was that I just didn't like traveling on other people's time restrictions and plans. I'm not very good at pretending to enjoy things I don't really like to do...and for many years I just ignored traveling because my first impressions were not really helping to make travel appealing. However, more recently, I discovered some better motion sickness medications and began to travel on my own. Making my own choices about where to go and when was really the changed the entire experience from feeling dragged around tourist attractions and never really experiencing anything on personal level, to being able to immerise myself in the travel experience and really enjoy it. I realized that I liked fishing, why the heck would I travel to Paris and walk around museums when all I would be thinking about is the river and the mountains? A lightbulb lit up in my mind and I realized I just needed to do the things I do here in other countries. After that I just started doing it...its not really hard. I connected with the people I found and in some cases already knew online, and plans came together. I wrote about this for an article in Tenkara Angler magazine in more detail, and I think that might do a better job of really getting into the details. To summarize...just go do it. You won't regret it.
In terms of how it affected my tenkara exprience, well, that may be even harder to sum up in an interview but I will say this: perspective is everything. It's one thing to sit in front of a computer and see people's comments online, read their articles, watch their videos and try to make decisions about rods, how to fish, what fly to use, which line, etc. But that is totally without value if you don't go out there and really truly learn about WHY these different things matter. And you cannot do that without other perspectives and other people to show you things that they do, things they do not do, and WHY they do or do not do those things. Then you will be informed enough to make decisions and to develop you own styles, patterns and ways of fishing, if you will. The key is to educate oneself. To listen to other perspectives. Learn definitions. Apply that to what you do now. All of this helps to alter perspective. Once you understand other perspectives, it can help you develop your own.
Traveling to Japan for tenkara was really the peak of all of this for me because it helped me create more context and a better perspective. Talking about that what want to be " real" or think lmight be "correct" online does have some value, but its not based on logic and personal experience alone. You must seek to understand the history, the culture, the whole context if you are to truly understand tenkara. Tenkara is Japanese, it is not American. It has a definition and much cultural history behind it. Understanding and accepting that is the first step to becoming an effective and informed tenkara angler.

I have recently read the reports that you have shared about your second trip to Japan during which you have met Yuzo Sebata. I have been lucky to meet him as well and I have been really impressed by this man; he is a living legend in tenkara fishing as well as shower climibing, he is a prized author, a famous sansai cook but still the most humble man I probably ever encountered. How do you think your encountering with Sebata-san, and his community, may influence your tenkara experience? Sebata-san has his own fishing technique, developed from the Nikko Tenkara technique, but he also has a philosophy about relationship with nature, minimalism; what aspect of Sebata-san is according to you the most influential?

Where to begin with this's almost difficult. Sebata-san was a truly interesting and wonderful man. I feel I barely got to know him in our short time together and look forward to hopefully visiting him again and learning more. He is a gentle and deliberate man who brings people together with his generosity and spirit.
I really liked hearing about some of the wild plants he had picked to serve us, as well as the mushrooms. I like to look for wild mushrooms too, and I'm still learning how to identify most varieties myself. Sebata-san had some wonderful milky-caps and some other wild mushrooms he found. Those were sautéed. The next evening he made some Maitake tempura that I believe Keiichi-san had found, and it was incredibly good. I line in NYC, and it's not like I haven't has these things before. As a wine salesman I'm lucky enough to be at some of the finer restaurants in the cities around the world and so I hope that people can appreciate it when I say this was one of the best maitake tempura's I've ever had in my life. I'm sure part of it was the location and the experience, but that's what good food is all about, really.
One of the most fun moments for me was late at night on the last night, when everyone was gathered at Tadami Bansho around Sebata-san, watching his old videos on VHS video format. I watched the videos but I also tried to watch Sebata-san as well. It was a joy to get to see him re-living those adventures with us in that room. I felt like it was a very special moment.
Sebata-san has so much knowldege about fishing, but I think the thing that makes me so in awe of him is his abilities navigating the steep gorges and raging rivers in the high mountains with so little. I don't know that its so much about intended minimalism vs what is just the way to be that made sense to a keen adventuring mind such as Sebata-san's, because I did not get to discuss it with him. I hope to do that in the future. But I can't say enough how impressed I was in the way he moved and the methods he used.
At one point we watched intently on the small TV screen as he swam across a turbid pool of rapids, somehow finding the slower moving line of water and almost drifting his way across with his hat bobbing just above the surface. Another moment, we watched him tie a rope around a rock and toss it into the rapids, catching it on the far side of another rock, locking it into place with both the weight of the rock and the strength of the flowing water, then using this rope to cross some rapids between a couple of waterfalls. Wow! Throughout all of this Sebata-san would be climbing these steep and seemingly inaccessible gorges with just his pack, some rice, basic fishing gear and a rope and a will to explore.
I was also in awe to learn about this method of Genryu (headwaters) fishing that he pretty much created in which the fisherman climbs up one Genryu, over the top of the mountain it flows form, and then down the other side, then fishing down and descending the headwaters of the river valley below. The word "epic" comes to mind watching these videos and thinking about what those trips must have been like. I'm looking forward to seeing those videos released to the rest of the world in some modern formats soon.
So why do I bring all of this up to answer the question? Because all of this has influenced me a great deal in my understanding of different tenkara anglers and their styles and equipment, as well as having influenced my thinking about how to push my own tenkara and exploration to the next level.

Tenkara fishing is all about technique, the people we call "tenkara masters" such as Sebata-san, Masami Sakakibara, Dr. Hisao Ishigaki or Hiromichi Fuji are the ones who have developed their own techniques and the fishing tackle to practise these techniques so as you perhaps guess I would like you to tell us what is your favorite technique and gear. Is it a goal for you to fish in you own way?

Tenkara has existed for generations. Recently I've noticed a somewhat disturbing side-trend in American and other foreign Tenkara enthusiasts groups. I've noticed that people everywhere are starting to use the word "tenkara" to refer to all fixed line angling, for any kind of fish. While there's nothing wrong with fishing whatever you'd like to catch with a tenkara rod that is absolutely not "tenkara". Tenkara is fishing for trout only, in tumbling mountain streams that run cold and clear.
The reason I bring that definition and distinction up is because you would never learn to fish tenkara for bass from a Japanese tenkara angler or "master". Why? Because there are already other rods, other styles, other tackles for bass. Tenkara is its own thing with its own place in history. For that very reason, I do not value "my own" style of fishing, at least not yet.
Six years may be a long time to some, but to me, that's nothing in terms of tenkara's history. Six years of part time study with the Japanese methods doesn't give an angler the knowledge and understanding of tenkara on a level high enough to teach much, in my humble opinion. So until I have been able to learn and master the styles of other lifetime tenkara anglers from Japan, or "masters" as we often call them, no, I will not value my own way of fishing tenkara.
Now that I've said that, I think it's fair to point out that I am confident in the way that I fish, in my abilities to find fish, present flies and see the takes that follow...but I would never let that confidence turn to overconfidence or ignorance. I will always see Tenkara as someone else's style that I learned, and I'd find it difficult to imagine that an average angler like me would have much to add to tenkara's style and already existing methods. Maybe I'll end up being wrong, but I don't think so.
Another reason I bring this all up is because I would hope it would serve as a lesson to other beginner Tenkara anglers. Spend some time reading about the history. Understand the styles ans the cultures that tenkara is built around. Respect its definition even if you intend to fish for other species with your tenkara rod. Respect where tenkara comes from, and the people who brought it to us. Respect yourself by being open minded to learning about these truths before going out and doing your own thing. If you do, then whatever your own thing is will be all that much more rewarding for you later on.
Now back to the easier part of the question: gear! My favorite tenkara rods are always full flex rods, such as Oni Type III and the Shimano ZL Keiryu-Tenkara. My favorite flies tend to be simple soft of stiff hackled wet flies in th eold school fashion...spiders or kebari, depending on how they are tied. My favorite lines are always level lines, as Japanese fishing methods never allow for any line on the water. I usually carry a Mankyu net, a Zimmerbuilt guide sling pack, a knife ans as little extra gear as possible. For wading I'm only in waders during the winter, using typical Japanese wet wading gear, and being sure no to step into the water unless I absolutely have to.

Thank you for these very interesting answers about your perspective on tenkara! I have noticed that tenkara passionates, the ones one can probably call the "diehard", have also other hobbies to which they are totally devoted and have been pioneering like BMX, skateboarding, hand gliding, etc. Have you other hobbies than tenkara?
I do, yes. I really enjoy hiking and backpacking, which is really what brought me to tenkara in the first place. I tend to spend a lot of time in the Adirondack mountains in NY, and I really love the White Mountains as well. I'll be hitting a number of new places next year so you can expect a lot more from me then! While I'm out fishing and hiking I tend to look for mushrooms too but I only know how to ID a fe varieties at the moment.
I also like mountain bike although I haven't been doing this very much since I moved to the city six years ago. I hope to get a chance to spend more time riding again because I used to really enjoy it. I remember when I used to go out even in the cold winter, much like I still do with fishing, and ride my bike down some really gnarly trails in Peekskill and all around upstate. In the summer I would train with time trials in our local mountain biking park and I even took a trip out to Utah to ride in Moab, Zion, Salta, Fruita, Park City/Deer Valley and many more amazing places. It was quite an experience, and I hope to return to some of these places to ride again.
I guess it would make sense for me to mention how much I enjoy drinking Chinese teas as well. It is a pretty daily habit more than a hobby, but finding tea is a hobby in and of itself. I have a whole setup with a gaiwan, a tea table and a few cups that I bought from different places around the world. Tea is calming, healthy and the process itself is very meditative and soothing.
Finally, my work is I would be totally off base to leave that out. While work has in some ways tempered my passion for wine, it still intrigues me and keeps my interest, and I enjoy opening a few bottles with good company or having a glass while I tie some flies.

Thank you for answering my questions Adam! Feel free to conclude as you like.

It's been great to have a chance to do this with you, as I've been reading your blog and following your adventures for a while too! You know, something that means a lot to me right is the idea of really understanding tenkara and what defines it. I think that in all the international excitement about this new sport being introduced around the world, somehow the original styles and message maybe have been lost in marketing somewhere along the way.
I have been focusing a lot on trying to re-connect with what that definition of tenkara is, since my first trip to Japan two years ago. We got tenkara from Japan. It didn't come from the USA where we now make mostly stiffer rods that don't flex very much like most tenkara rods do. Companies in the West don't have tenkara mandrels to study the taper of, or to experiment with by wrapping with different thicknesses and weaves of carbon fiber on them, before releasing rods that are touted as the next best seems that most of the companies making rods in the western world right now are just not really basing them on anything in terms of tenkara, and I's like to see that change. You can't design something if you don't know what the end goal of the design is supposed to be, can you? It's just mind boggling how we have this knowledge available to us and yet many don't choose to engage.
Much of what people think they will be doing for the first time here, they will have to discover on their own, has been done already in Japan. Before we as active members of this niche sport of tenkara, attempt to change the sport and its definition, we must first become experts, or masters, if you will, of the knowledge that already exists. We must resist the urge to be ignorant westerners and to just decide to things "as we please". It's not the right way to think. Tenkara is a name for a sport that is a niche within a niche. Trying to define tenkara as " whatever you want it to be" is not only incorrect for tenkara, it is disrespectful to the Japanese who created these techniques and serves only to damage the effort and time spent by the masters in creating this niche sport.

Hope to see you in the states for some fishing!