Interview by Tom Bayly, Tenkara Adventure Outfitters
Carlos Andre Blatt is a native of Brazil and consistently posts a vast array of fish that you would not normally consider pursuing with a tenkara rod. On top of that, he frequently uses what many would consider a small stream rod, a Tenkara Adventure Outfitters U.N.C.
Carlos graciously accepted our offer to discuss his adventures with us.
Tom Bayly: Thank you for agreeing to talk with us. Maybe you could start off by telling us a little about yourself and your history around fishing?
Carlos Andre Blatt: Hi, I was born 1970 and raised on a farm until my teens (Iguaçu Faĺls reservoir area, Brazil, for better reference) so fishing and outdoors is as natural as breathing for me. Naturally, I was surrounded by bigger rivers and fish. However, as many kids do, I had a tendency to stalk smaller species in the small canopied tributaries. As I grew up I lived in the Amazon area and battled many large trophies. However, that sweet tooth for light tackle fishing never left me.
TB: How long have you been practicing tenkara? What brought you to this method of fishing?
CAB: My approach to tenkara has a nice twist. I was a fly fisher for about ten years when I first heard of Tenkara (April 2009), but I’ve literally dreamt of a fishing tenkara years before I came to know about it. In a reoccurring dream, I was always holding a whip like rod where the line was melted to the tip section so that both were a perfect continuation of each other. When I first watched that iconic video from Tenkara USA I immediately knew that was what I was looking for. As a result, I almost immediately ordered a TUSA rod for myself.
TB: How popular is tenkara fishing in your country? Are other forms of fixed line fishing used outside of tenkara?
CAB: Tenkara is mostly unknown around here as much as fly fishing was 30 years ago. But the internet is helping to spread the word and there’s huge room for it to grow and prosper. About other forms of fixed line fishing, there’s an old tradition in the Amazon called “pindá-siriricá” still practiced by local Indians. There’s another one derived from that called “chia.”
TB: Are you familiar with those native ways of fixed line fishing? Could you share what that gear consists of and how it’s used? I assume it’s a more primitive approach with the equipment being fashioned from naturally occurring materials?
CAB: I’m not much familiar with “Pindá-siriricá” but, yeah, I know the fly is made of vegetable fibers loosely tied around a hook and it is mostly thrown and retrieved by hand. (Just imagine fighting a 10 pound peacock bass almost bare hand!)
“Chia” has the same principle for fly but uses a bamboo cane to cast the fly. In my area chia is somewhat popular in the backcountry and is used up to this day. There has been some changes to the fly and now is mostly made of a white cotton rag tied to the hook.
TB: It looks like you have a diverse habitat to choose from. Could you discuss some of the habitats you get to visit Which ones are your favorites?
CAB: Nowadays I live at the seashore of a semi-deserted area on north east Brazil with no mountains and almost no streams. My environment is composed by lakes (some natural, some not), mangroves and hundreds of miles of sandy beaches and reefs. Mangrove is definitely the most challenging and rich of all and the habitats I like most.
TB: You have caught so many species on the tenkara rod. Baby tarpon, peacock bass, squirrel fish, and so many more I don’t know the names for! What are some of your most popular species to chase with a tenkara rod and why?
CAB: I have caught over two dozen different species on tenkara and I like them all. The most common are peacock bass and snook, simply because they are the most readily available.
TB: Tell us more about the peacock bass? They look like so much fun and you can find them in Florida here in the states. Positively on my list!
CAB: I describe it as a cooperative and fun fish. It is not fly (or even boat or fisherman) shy. It is like a dog always ready to chase a stick you throw. Very explosive on top water fly! Also, very beautiful colors and they fight like a champ!
TB: It looks like some of your flies are perhaps your own creation? Could you elaborate on your process and what you are looking for in a fly?
CAB: I’m not a fly tier. I tie mostly because there are no fly shops in my area to buy flies from. If shops existed, I probably would never sit at the vise again. My thing is fishing and I don’t really think much about what I tie to the tippet. But I try to figure out what the fish likes most so I experiment a lot. That is probably why my flies are not very conventional. I mostly try to keep them small and shiny because that’s what has seen to work best here.
TB: Could you discuss some of your preference in equipment? Lines, tippet and so on? Why the U.N.C.?
CAB: I have tested a lot of lines and currently I stick to 20 lb. soft nylon (about #5 or #6) 90% of the time. This is what works best for me. On the other 10% I may switch to a running PVC line. I stick to nylon because it is cheap, comes in various colors, and I can experiment a lot by cutting, elongating, furling and doing whatever comes to mind without the worry around cost.
Tippet goes from 6X to 3X depending on conditions and the fish targeted. Also, sometimes I may use a bite tippet of 10 inches between fly and tippet.
I wasn’t sure at first that I liked the U.N.C., but as time went by it grew on me and is now one of my favorites. I began with 12 and 13 foot rods but soon discovered they are a pain to use in 18 knot wind gusts. As a result, I began to drop the length of the rod as my presentation is quite different from that in a trout environment. I don’t need to keep the line off the water all of the time, (I mostly twitch the fly sideways), like you would on a trout stream. A longer rod really doesn’t play much of a difference around here.
TB: Interesting, in windy conditions we typically think about the type of line used and not the type /length of rod. What else have we maybe not discussed you would like to share with our readers?
CAB: Maybe tenkara fishing from a boat/kayak/tube. I’ve tried all of them over a long time. It’s fun and very productive, try it!
TB: In closing, are there any blogs, organizations, or individuals you would like to recognize at this time?
CB: I love the work Tom Davis (Teton Tenkara) and the guys from Discover Tenkara do for the community. I’m always thankful to Daniel Galhardo (Tenkara USA), Chris Stewart (TenkaraBum), Michael Agneta, Jason Klass, Anthony Naples, and last but not least, Matt Sment and Mike Lutes for their support and good quality info. Also, for always kindly answering my annoying e-mails.
In general, almost everybody involved with tenkara are great people and do an amazing job!
TB: On behalf of myself and the readers, thank you Carlos for taking the time to do this interview.
Tom Bayly is based in the Midwest and has been fishing tenkara for more then a decade. He is the owner/operator of Tenkara Adventure Outfitters and continues to sell and service the rods originally established by Badger Tenkara. Tom loves bringing new tenkara anglers into the sport by promoting greater adventures through simplicity.
Carlos Andre Blatt fishes both the salt and freshwaters of Brazil. A multi-species angler, his count is impressive, including many saltwater fish one might not deem appropriate targets for a fixed-line rod, including snook and tarpon.
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