Article by Stephen Myers
What do you get when you combine some of the most progressive individuals in fly fishing with hot food, cold beer, and the best wild trout streams in North Carolina?
Welcome to the 2016 Tenkara JAM!
The “Tenkara Jam” is an annual event hosted by the Appalachian Tenkara Anglers, a group of over 1400 tenkara fisherman that organize and mobilize via Facebook for one mass gathering every year, led by the group’s founder and spokesperson, Jason Sparks.
This year’s JAM, the 3rd annual, was held in Cherokee, North Carolina and surrounding waters. I’m proud to say that we had over 170 attendees, six rod builders, and 11 gear vendors attend this year’s show, drawing members from as far as Nova Scotia, California, Colorado, Wisconsin, Indiana, Florida, and more. The event featured a “jam” packed lecture series on topics like tenkara 101, focused fishing, minimizing frustrations on the stream, and even how to practice proper catch and release principles. Intertwined between speakers were a fly swap, rod demo’s, how to’s, gear showcases, mingling, and of course shopping from walls lined with the newest products from industry leaders.
The event ran from 8:00am to 5:00pm on Saturday and 8:00am to 2:00pm on Sunday, serving lunch daily, and still leaving enough time to explore local waters such as the Oconaluftee River, Bradley Fork, Ravens Fork, and many other streams on the Cherokee Indian Reservation and in Great Smoky Mountain National Park.
It seems like it’s said every year, but this year’s JAM will really be the benchmark of excellence to model future events from. Big camp fires, late nights, new friends, and early mornings on the water set the stage for a terrific weekend. I can’t imagine being part of something that brings me more joy than this group of folks. While on the ride home back to Florida, I can’t help but to have even higher hopes for next year’s JAM, all the while feeling like this weekend passed by in the blink of an eye. This year’s JAM was a truly unique experience that I won’t soon forget.
Members were asked to share a few thoughts on this year’s JAM. Here’s what they said:
“My favorite moment was meeting so many nice people and watching a tiny trout leap out of the water across the river.”
– Ben Giacchino
“I liked learning to tie flies and meeting all of the tenkara celebrities.”
– Hugh Hill
“I liked the lack of stuff. I have gone to so many fly fishing shows and been overwhelmed by the gear. I love the simplicity of tenkara.”
– Kenny Brower
“The seminars were very interesting. I always learn something.”
– Dani Long
“Hands down, my favorite thing was the community. Tenkara would not be what it is without the people.”
– Joe Deppe
“I really enjoyed meeting with folks. It was great to see old friends and meet new ones.”
– Anthony Naples, Three Rivers Tenkara
“My favorite moment was getting my first tenkara rod, then bringing some nice brown trout to hand 30 minutes later.”
– William Yowell
If you’re interested in learning more about tenkara, we would love to have you join us as future Appalachian Tenkara Angler events, and on Facebook at: https://www.facebook.com/groups/appalachiantenkaraanglers
Stephen Myers is an environmental scientist/writer and fishing guide currently living in Colorado. He has been practicing tenkara since 2014.
This article originally appeared in the Winter 2016-17 issue of Tenkara Angler magazine.
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