Accessories Art Tenkara

Jean Santos’ Line Winders

Article by Isaac Tait

Jean Santos hails from the quaint countryside on the outskirts of Avignon, France. Besides enjoying tenkara fishing in small mountain streams he is also a very talented artist and metal engraver. A few months ago, Jean contacted me with an offer to make me my very own custom engraved titanium tenkara line winder. After a flurry of emails discussing design and several weeks of eager anticipation I received them in the mail!

Isaac Tait - Jean Santos Line Winders - Isaac's Set

The detail in each of his winders (there are two) are exquisite! They are quite small, so much so that I am sure Jean must use a microscope to complete some of the finer details. The color he is able to impart to the winders by anodization is striking. I have temporarily mounted (with small rubber bands) my line winders to my trusty companion, the Tenkara USA Ito Rod.

However, I am currently building a bamboo tenkara rod under the tutelage of my Edo Wazao sensei Masayuki Yamano-san. Later this year, once the bamboo rod has been completed I will more permanently mount them to this rod using clear thread and lacquer. I think these works of art will perfectly compliment the natural beauty of the Hoteichiku (布袋竹), Yadake (矢竹), and Hachiku (破竹) bamboos that I am building the rod with.

The Design of My Line Winders

Early in my tenkara journey I was enamored with fallfish so my fishing partner started calling me Aki Sakana no Oni. Originally, it was meant to mimic our tenkara hero Masami Tenkara no Oni Sakakibara. Eventually though the name morphed into a second meaning. You see Oni in Japanese actually has two meanings – Demon/Devil and Ghost/Phantom. When using Oni (鬼) in the context of demon/devil it communicates Shutendōji (酒呑童子) a supremely wicked and powerful Japanese mythological being. When using Oni in the context of ghost it communicates Yūrē (幽霊) or a specter, apparition, or phantom. It was the second meaning that I was after…

When I lived in Maryland and had just started tenkara-ing (a neologism that I think should be widely adopted) I preferred to fish rivers without trout. There were only a few rivers close to where I lived that held trout year around. Due to the close proximity of Washington D.C. these rivers were always crowded and consequently the fish were difficult to catch. The rivers without trout though tended to be wild, un-trampled, and offered solitude; however, they were loaded with fish of the pan variety (e.g. bluegill, sunfish, etc.…).

Sometimes I would go several days only catching these panfish (now there is nothing wrong with panfish they are just a little too easy to catch sometimes). Consequently, I craved the excitement of a larger quarry. So, I sought out fallfish. I studied their habitat, feeding habits, and mating rituals so that I could increase the odds of enticing one to my fly. They were an elusive quarry though because pollution and habitat decimation had driven them from many of their native rivers. 

Hence the idea was birthed in my mind that fallfish were elusive, a phantom and this only served to heighten my fascination with them.

The No between Sakana and Oni is actually a Japanese particle that implies ownership or possession. “Effectively, No converts ‘I’, ‘you’, ‘he’, ‘she’ and ‘they’ into ‘my’, ‘your’, ‘his’, ‘her’ and ‘their’, respectively.” In other words, the No in Aki Sakana No Oni indicates that Aki Sakana, or the fallfish possess the quality Oni

I think Jean perfectly captured my river name Aki Sakana no Oni in the design of my line winder (even though I have since come to learn that to a more developed Japanese speaker the name makes no sense…). Of course, no Japanese line winder would be complete without Mount Fuji. We also included the Kanji (正) for my son Tadashi to remind me of him when I am away in the mountains, with the hope it would make me rethink some questionable decisions I typically make, such as climbing waterfalls and cliff faces without ropes while attempting to access ultra-remote keiryu.

Isaac Tait - Jean Santos Line Winders - Tenkara USA Ito

If you would like to see more of Jean’s superb artwork be sure to check out his website: http://gravure-couteaux.info


Isaac Tait is an angling and outdoors enthusiast who has spent time fishing across the world. He was fortunate to have spent an extensive residency in Japan, where he chased amago, iwana, and yamame in the magnificent backcountry keiryu. He recorded many of those experiences on this website Fallfish Tenkara.

This article originally appeared in the Spring 2017 issue of Tenkara Angler magazine.

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