Stories Tenkara Trout & Char Video

NorCal Goes to Japan

Article by Nick Feller

Before anyone gets too excited, I did not go to Japan myself. Hopefully one day I can make that happen, but for now it’s just a dream. However, thanks to the help of Roman, from Ikari Gear, I have been able to get some of the kebari that I tied overseas. 

Before we get into that, I’d like to introduce my two friends Shohei and Mimi. If you don’t already, I highly encourage you to check them out on Instagram (@tenkaratabi). A young, fun, van-life couple from Japan, with a passion for tenkara fishing. I found their Instagram account though the hashtag #tenkararodco. Mimi uses the Sierra rod, and as this was my first rod also, we bonded over fish stories.

Fast forward a few months, and I’ve now begun selling limited quantities of my kebari in “Fly Drops” for Ikari Gear. As we prepared to release them for sale, I had an idea. Maybe I could send a pack to my friends over in Japan. Suddenly my idea tuned into a dream. Could my kebari be used to catch the fish that tenkara was originally designed to catch? I had to know!

Without question, Roman agreed to ship a pack overseas. This was a first for me. I was still in disbelief that my kebari were going all over the United States. Now, they were heading to the home of tenkara. I could hardly wait for them to arrive. Fortunately, they made it through customs quickly and they were soon in the hands of Shohei and Mimi. They returned the favor with the most adorable unboxing video.

A whole three days later, Shohei was on the water and putting them to work. After a couple missed bites, he landed the first Japanese fish on my ‘Houdini Weave Killer Kebari’. An iwana, or white spotted char. That same day, Mimi caught another iwana while using my ‘Futsū Kebari’, both from Fly Drop 1.

Later, they told me that the iwana they caught were Gogi iwana, a rare subspecies of iwana found only in a few parts of Western Japan. As if my first Japanese fish couldn’t get cooler!

A couple months went by, and the next video I received from Mimi was of a new “tenkara-only” section of water that they were visiting. Sounds like heaven to me. In fact they said it’s “the world’s first tenkara only section”. I was honored that have my kebari fished there, and it was my ‘Futsū Kebari’ that he tied on first. This time, he caught a yamame, a salmonid native to Japan. Similar to an amago, only lacking the bright red spots. The soft, almost pastel tones of these fish are unlike any I’ve seen. I can only hope to catch one myself and see it with my own eyes one day.

My final update of 2021 came in early October. By this time, I had released my second and third “Fly Drops” with Ikari Gear. Like the first, I had a pack of the third drop sent out again to Shohei and Mimi. They quickly returned the favor again with another video. This time, Mimi started things off with my ‘Grizzly Futsū’. After missing a pair of fish, Shohei took his turn. He tied on my ‘Copper John Kebari’ and went to work. With a stealthy approach and casting almost from a prone position, he got one. And what a one he got. A 32cm amemasu! An amemasu is a sea-run, or lake-run, iwana. 

With the 2022 season just starting to open up now in Japan, hopefully I’ll be seeing some more action soon. It’s hard to describe how much joy it brings me to see people catching fish on my creations, and getting to fish vicariously in Japan through my friends overseas has been an incredible experience for me. Social media may have its draw backs, but it also has the moments where it really brings people together. That’s what keeps me coming back. 

So please, if you have a kebari from someone else (not even necessarily me) get out there and use it, try to catch a fish, and send them a picture. If you’re not big into social media, you don’t have to post it. But still send it to them. You might make their day. I know it always makes mine.

Nick Feller found tenkara while going down the rabbit hole of ultralight backpacking and fell in love. Follow Nick’s tenkara adventures on Instagram @norcaltenkara.

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