jeudi 8 février 2018

Interview with Adam Trahan

 In my tenkara experience I have been lucky to encounter some of the most eminent teachers in Japan and also a handful of the best ambassadors in the west. Adam Trahan has made for several years a great work in studying the tenkara techniques and history and he has made a great job in sharing his knowledge through his Tenkara Fisher Forum that has now become a blog.
I have known him through social media for several years and I have always appreciated his viewpoint about tenkara so it is a great pleasure for me today to publish his interview on my own blogs.




Christophe: Hello Adam! Many people in the tenkara community know you as you managed the Tenkara-Fisher Forum which was one of the very first website in the west dedicated to tenkara but as in the whole internet universe very few of us have ever met you in real life. Can you please introduce yourself? 

AdamI started fishing as a young child, my Grandfather, who didn’t like fishing, taught me with a cane pole. He knew that a young boy needed to know how to fish. This is the reason why I look at fishing with a pragmatic view. I’ve always fished my whole life also doing many other exciting sports along with having an interesting and intense career path. 

In 1995, two things happened that would alter the course of my life. I quit cross country hang gliding and I started creating a web site on small stream fly fishing. I used my love of fishing small streams to ignore the call of the sky. I dove into creating the best web site on this type of fishing with the help of many great anglers. My story of helping tenkara along comes from this same desire. 


Christophe: I have discovered tenkara through the Youtube videos of Masami Sakakibara and it was a kind of revelation. I realised quite fast that tenkara was exactly the fishing technique that was really what I was looking for. How did you discover tenkara and what was your reaction then?

Adam:I knew about tenkara long before most of the people in America but that is not when I discovered tenkara. About the same time I began writing my web site on fly fishing small streams, Yoshikazu Fujioka started to make his. He and I began our online friendship then. Fujioka-san is a fly fisher that also does tenkara but his site started with fly fishing his favorite small streams. 

I learned about fly fishing as a boy of about 10, it was really simple for me, not the simple of today’s tenkara, simple in that I was not taught to shoot a line. I wasn’t given instruction so I just gripped the line in my hand and fished with the line about as long as the rod. That pragmatic approach to fishing is what I used to teach myself fly fishing as a boy. 

When I quit hang gliding, I was learning as an adult all the aspects of fly fishing, to really wring out the performance of a fly rod. I was learning about entomology, the history of fly fishing, about bamboo fly rods but focused on small streams as Fujioka-san was. 

In 2009, I was deep into making bamboo fly rods. I I was learning from some of the best modern makers through another web site I created, www.grassart.net I was looking for a recipe for a long rod that I could create to fish like I did when I was a child. Tom Smithwick, a fellow bamboo fly rod maker suggested that I contact Daniel Galhardo. He was selling tenkara rods. So I called him and he set me up with an Ebisu. 

I found out about Masami and Ishigaki-sensei through Daniel but in my own research online, I found out about Kazuya Shimoda. He is a genryu tenkara angler and he produced many videos on tenkara. So I began to follow him as well as the people Daniel was introducing tenkara outside of Japan. 

I knew about tenkara, genryu and sawanobori 23 years ago but it wasn’t until I got my own rod that I understood the precise performance in a short range tenkara rod. 


Christophe: You have traveled to Japan to meet Masami Sakakibara and Yuzo Sebata as well as their own "tenkara tribe"; how do you think these journeys have influenced you in your tenkara experience? Do you think that the people in western countries will ever be able to reach such a level of involvement in their own tenkara community? And also asuch a deep understanding of what tenkara can be for some people such Masami Sakakibara, Yuzo Sebata, Hisao Ishigaki and the generation that follows them. From my own experience I think that it will only exist on a very small scale gathering only the passionate tenkara anglers who will not jump in the wagon of the next fad in fly fishing world.

Adam: To answer your question quickly but with meaning, I learn about the Japanese people and their culture more than anything else when I travel to Japan. For me, Japan and the tenkara anglers there will always be a part of my tenkara. 

With all due respect to all my friends and acquaintences, tenkara is now outside of Japan and the same passion can be found in France, Italy, America or South Africa. There are other countries too, passionate ambassadors. Tenkara is growing outside of Japan with the help of a lot of people around the globe. 

Perhaps they will find their way to the Japanese mountains and the anglers there as you and I have and to the mountain streams in their own country. 




ChristopheI am also a fishing gear minimalist and it does not only make my tenkara better, it also allows to carry some other kind of gear such as a camping stove, a reflex camera, a bottle of good beer. This equipment is useful to prepare a lunch break and also taking pictures of animals, mushrooms, etc.

What is the typical non fishing gear you carry on a tenkara fishing trip?

Adam: I have a few “types” of tenkara fishing trips that I take. 

It’s important to remember that tenkara, not the fishing method but the look at why tenkara is so appealing, this simple approach, the minimalism works in many different areas of life. Because I live in a city, the areas where I fish are diverse and the types of trips I take are also varied. 

For fishing the local ponds during the winter in my city, I take only my fishing gear. 

When I travel by car to the streams in our state, if I do a day trip, I often only take my fishing gear if I am only fishing less than two or less miles of stream. I might take a repurposed PTE bottlefor water and a knife. 

For a day trip, I might take a daypack or a sling bag and in that, I might take a stove, cook pot, a repurposed PTE bottle of water, ramen, my little emergency essentials ditty bag, a sit pad and my Sake flask. 

For a camping overnight trip, I will take my pyramid style tent with netting, a efficient sleep pad, my quilt, dehydrated meals, stove or lightweight grill, a small folding saw, a lightweight “sink” for clean up and fire dousing, a micro table, a small headlamp, and a few personal effects as well as stuffable down puffy jacket.When I travel by plane to a destination, my gear is not the same as my camping gear. I do not want to appear as a camper in my destination city. I use gear that is designed for multi-purpose. I use a backpack that has no outside pockets, it is easy to stuff into an overhead bin or under a seat. It is maximum legal airline carry on, I do not check my baggage. So my backpack is airline friendly in that it has handles on each side and the comfortable straps are stowable. My pants have a durable water repellant finish and do not hold water or odors. I use merino wool, performance clothes that can go a few days without looking dirty or worn. If I am camping, I use the tent, pad and quilt, the same utilities for eating. My tenkara gear changes once I get on a plane, I use very compact rods so that I can put them inside my bag and forget them until I am fishing. 

I’ve learned very much about what I don’t need with a minimalist view that I found out about from learning tenkara. 




Christophe: In your tenkara experience you have tested a whole lot of gear as some of us also have; do you think that it has brought you what you were looking for?  What is your favorite tenkara gear set today?

Adam: For a while, I made it a purpose to learn the different tenkara experts style by using their rods and setting them up the way they used them. Rods by Masami Sakakibara, Hisao Ishigaki and Yuzo Sebata.


My “work rods” are the Ito from Tenkara USA, that and the Sato gets used hard. The Rhodo is a tight quarters casting rod that I beat against the trees, that is a really well thought out rod. I use these because they are rods from a friend and from the company I learned tenkara with. They are also the rods I suggest to new tenkara anglers.

Sometimes I use my Sakura Sekirei because it has been around for a long time and is my first rod from Japan and excellent quality. I really like it.
 



Christophe: I have seen your reports on your blog and I had not imagined this state had these beautiful mountain meadows and forests, what is tenkara fishing like in Arizona?

Adam: Arizona has a stigma for being a desert. The Grand Canyon, spaghetti westerns, media associates Arizona with cactus and deserts. The thing of Arizona, we have mountains and snow! Our highest mountain is nearly 13,000’ and we have several mountain ranges above 7,000’ and a great portion of the state is above 5,000’ which is about the elevation that sustains a cold water trout stream. We have the largest ponderosa pine forest in the country! Our forests are varied, blue spruce, aspens, all kinds of trees and we even have a world famous for fly fishing tailwater river that carves canyons through solid rock, Lees Ferry in Marble Canyon, part of the Grand Canyon complex of the Colorado River!If you don’t mind, I would like to back up a little. I learned about the *Rosgen Stream Classification System decades ago. It is a system that classifies the different types of streams. In fly fishing and tenkara, there are many enthusiasts that struggle to understand stream types so I use the Rosgen system, it seems to work pretty well.




Some of my favorite alpine streams are in meadows high on a mountain. These high mountain flat bottom valleys promote tiny streams that meander slowly winding back and forth on itself. Sometimes changing course completely over the course of a season. These streams are just a few feet wide and half as deep. Undercut banks with grass lining the stream. These streams go through open areas and then get pinched off by the steep sided valley, drop in elevation in these pinches then open up again.

Typically, these streams breed trout (brook or brown) that were planted long ago. The game and fish organization often changes the population of a stream to meet the needs of their studies. Lately there have been efforts to grow the population of our native species, the Apache and Gila trout which are not my favorite. My favorite being brook trout, the reason being, they refuse to live in ugly places.

Oak Creek, one of my favorites is managed as a put and take rainbow trout fishery. It is a stream that I have been fishing for about 50 years off and on. It runs through Sedona, red rock country and I can get there in about an hour and a half. If it is 115 degrees in Phoenix where I live, I can drive up before the sun rises and bask in the 50 degrees of the deep canyon, catching the wild brown trout to 20+” and then turn around and be back home by early afternoon. I do this a few times over the course of the year, it’s one of my home streams and if I am catching the browns there, I’m doing well. I have helped many people through to the next level in their fishing by showing them the gentle and generous side of Oak Creek.



20 years ago I went through a decade of explore the high mountain streams phase that took long drives and then long hikes to get through. Secret streams that weren’t so secret, a fly fishing snob I was, knowing I held the key to being a expert. It’s so funny, I now fish the stocked ponds in Phoenix in the winter! Sometimes those damn fish have beat me! I drive 10 minutes a couple of times a week and chase these hatchery trout, some of them very big. I love fishing now, more than ever and I’m not beyond that scenario for fishing with a good friend or teaching a new angler.

Arizona has wonderful fishing opportunities year round. Cold water, warm water, 3.5 hours south we have the Sea of Cortez, a world class salt water fishery. We have fishing, you just need to use the windshield time in your car to realize it.f trees and we even have a world famous tailwater river that carves canyons through solid rock, the Grand Canyon! 


Christophe': Do you plan to travel to other places than Japan in the future for your tenkara experience? I know that you are a wine amateur, especially Bourgogne wines, so perhaps you would appreciate to discover France for its trout streams and of course the gastronomy? Or perhaps Italy and the people who keep the legacy of valsesiana style of fishing alive? 

Adam: I do. 

I’ve been to Japan three times now, twice for fishing, my funds are limited for travel and a big trip like this is years in the planning for me. I do have plans to return but not as I have done in the past. I really want to visit Yoshikazu Fujioka and Yoshida Takashi and go through his day one school. He is responsible for many many people learning tenkara in Japan and his voice is largely missing here. The same with Kazuya Shimoda, I would really like to visit him too. I love visiting Japan but it is difficult as I have friends all over and I want the experience of visiting the big circle of friends, not just the same ones over and over. With respect, I like the community aspect, not just one single group, all of my friends there, I want to visit. My style of Japanese tenkara is not one group, it is community, a broad range of styles have influenced me, not just one group. 

I was invited to go to South Africa to give a talk to an old club there when I was fishing small streams with a fly rod. I kick myself for not taking that offer up. I want to go to South Africa like nobodys business. The quality of streams is outstanding there, the community is old, focused and keen. I have friends there and helped get tenkara started in this country. I will go there in some fishing and tourist capacity one day. I’m going to do it, I missed my first chance but I will make that up. 

I would be careful how you approach me about visiting France. This is how my trips start, with a mention in a conversation, that spark grows into a fire that burns hot inside of me. Yes, you know I love Jadot and yes, I want to visit France, those those mountain towns where many of the dreams you see in crazy sports are being lived by focused extreme athletes. It is my TARGET for the next adventure. Are you inviting me? 

Christophe': Tenkara has been spreading in the west since 2009 and now there are tenkara anglers in real unexpected places such as Brazil, Iran, Israel, Morocco, South Africa (and many others) but tenkara remains a controversial topic in the fishing galaxy. 

What is your idea of the development of tenkara in the future? 

Adam: Good question Christophe’ 

As you know, I enjoy creating these interviews such as yourself. I create them just as much for myself, to learn from my subject and I share them if people what to read them. 

In 2012, I interviewed Masami Sakakibara just as I interviewed you in 2015. I ask questions that I want to know about so that I learn and share with whoever wants to learn with me. I asked Masami what his definition of tenkara is and he responded with the following. 
Masami Tenkarano-oni Sakakibara: I think Tenkara is about fishing in the beautiful mountain stream of Japan, for our beautiful native trout which inhabit them. Yet today, Tenkara seems to have spread to the US, Europe and more. I’m sure that they too have beautiful rivers and streams, with beautiful trout or other fish which inhabit them. Hence once Tenkara has left Japan, or it enters another country and culture, people who pick up a Tenkara rod there have the right and obligation to decide what Tenkara is for them. It is certainly not for me to decide.
I’m an American living in the Southwest portion of the USA. Although I travel to Japan and I practice tenkara, which I call Japanese style fly fishing out of respect to the Japanese and their contribution to the whole of fly fishing, I am not authentic. 

Unless I live in Japan and fish the streams there with a rod, line and fly, I’m just doing it my way. 

That’s what I love about tenkara, it is a simple but effective form of fly fishing. This is also why I say that “tenkara is easy to learn, hard to master and fly fishing is hard to learn, easy to master.” 

Tenkara is outside of Japan. 

Consumerism is part of the Japanese and American society. Marketing is part of the tenkara fishing community. For my example, I learned about tenkara from Tenkara USA. This new form of fishing fit perfectly into the evolution of my fishing. As a fisherman, already I was developing interest in the method that Yvon Chouinard has made popular now, “simple fly fishing” and I wrote about that long before the marketing that Yvon and Patagonia have used in bringing their rods to market. This simple fly fishing was what I was doing on small streams only, not in the ocean and certainly not on tailwaters. 

Daniel Galhardo is a kind and gentle person and his marketing techniques are oddly brilliant. He shows you in his way what tenkara is with a soft touch and an aesthetic that is what what I want in my fishing. He also educates anglers on the background of tenkara through the voices of the Japanese anglers sharing their methods. Daniel’s demeanor in sharing tenkara is kind, softspoken and he creates a gentle community, perfect for learning tenkara. 

Recently I have experience the wrath of tenkara marketing and I if I was mean or hateful, I would expose it here but I am not. I know that I have a tendency to overthink and I am human and often make mistakes. So I will not write about what I think is wrong, I’ll keep centered on what is right. 

Unless you are Japanese, practicing tenkara with a rod, line and fly, catching fish and selling them, you are not doing authentic tenkara. In my understanding from Japanese anglers, journalists, enthusiasts, books and media, this is where tenkara was formulated. Everything after that is an interpretation, even in Japan. In Japan, the tenkara community is a small portion of the whole of fly fishing there. In the Japanese fishing community, there is a western influence just as there is a Japanese influence on tenkara as it is practiced outside of Japan. 

When a person picks up a tenkara rod, line and fly outside of Japan, it is his or her decision on how to practice it, NO ONE ELSE. It’s a choice. My choice is my way, as an American, sharing and supporting tenkara in the fashion that you read here. It is your choice to do it as you please. It is your decision where to get your information, it is your decision on how to practice it. In no way do I want to place my own “spin” on tenkara. That’s why I quit fly fishing, I didn’t want tenkara to be “simple fly fishing” for me, and that is what it is to some and I respect that. To me, tenkara is mountain stream fishing for trout, I also use it for still waters for trout and down in the cities and desert areas I use it for trout in season and panfish out of season. 

This is the tenkara I practice. From my understanding, from traveling to Japan, interviewing tenkara anglers from all over Japan, not just one area, I’m getting a good version of it and I’ve developed my own practice of it from this method of self teaching. I promote Tenkara USA as the equipment and education for people that I teach because from day one, Daniel Galhardo got it right. His methods have created a very kind and gentle community which I find appealing. If someone wants a Japanese rod, I will help them with one from Sakura, the old rod shop and brand that has supported tenkara in Japan from day one. They chose me to help them promote their craft outside of Japan. Sakura rods are one of the oldest tenkara brands in Japan and I am proud to be a part of them as an ambassador to that brand. I sold many early adopters of tenkara back in 2010 on, their first Japanese rod. 

If someone wants another Japanese tenkara rod, I suggest they visit Keiichi Okushi of Tenkaraya. He is a life long genryu angler and knows all the equipment and techniques from Japan. He approached me to help him with his shop which on it’s own was one of the highlights of my tenkara. That and getting my first rod from Tenkara USA, meeting many of the Japanese teachers and being invited to fish many of the central mountain areas of Japan. 

So my idea of the development of tenkara in the future has not changed since day one because tenkara in Japan has changed very little. But once tenkara leaves Japan, as Masami has said, it is up to the person practicing it to do it as he or she pleases. 

With the help of tenkara ambassadors such as yourself, Isaac Tait and other kind people above as I mention, tenkara will live as a gentle way to explore the waters we enjoy. There are many others that promote tenkara that are kind and gentle, too many to put into this interview which has already very long. 

Christophe: Thank you very much Adam for your very interesting points of view about everything Tenkara; you are one of the most passionate Tenkara ambassador out there. I let you the freedom to conclude this interview the way you will. 

Adam: The pleasure is mine Christophe. If you choose to visit my area, you are welcome in my home.

I want you to know that I have enjoyed your participation in tenkara in social media and on the internet since you have begun doing it. You are a kind soul, the world in general needs more people like you. 




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