Article by Amanda Hoffner
Moving over four hours away from my home state of Pennsylvania has been an adventure. I enjoy exploring new land and uncovering new blue lines to toss kebari into. I have always enjoyed shopping local as much as blue lining for brook trout in the Northeastern part of the United States. I’ll drive as far to fish a blue line as I will to frequent small businesses as they are usually dedicated to their community and customers. A quick google search led me to the Bear’s Den Fly Fishing Company about an hour away from me in Taunton, Massachusetts.
The Bear’s Den is listed as family owned and operated since 1989 which is impressive! Over 30 years of business! Yes, 1989 really is over 30 years ago. So, I took the hour-long drive to Eastern Massachusetts and I was not disappointed. Not only did I not hit Boston traffic because it was a Wednesday at midday, but it was the most organized, full of products fly shop I had ever ventured into.
Although being neatly put together and with friendly staff, I was not expecting much on tenkara as I have found very few places (let alone fly shops) carrying tenkara products on the East coast. However, as I rounded the corner from the entrance past the wading gear, I was struck with a door full of Tenkara USA and Zen Tenkara merchandise!
I was totally thrown off and was honestly only looking to purchase some fly tying supplies. This was quite the surprise, and I was happy to look at their offerings.
I have been to Maine’s Kittery Trading Post and seen Tenkara USA rods, flies, and line sold there so I was not as surprised to see this as I was to see Zen Tenkara. I was thrilled to see not only one company but two represented on the East coast in a fly shop. To me, without exposure to the rods and items offered, there is no use in trying to sell to American western style fly anglers. There is little to no understanding of the concept of “just a rod, line, and fly” even though it is just that…
Of course, selling these rods can be a challenge for the staff because of possibly their lack of knowledge of the art of tenkara as well. There were easily 10 times as many western fly rods in the store as there were tenkara rods. So, I can see the selling of these products to be difficult if not enthusiastically pushed to customers…
With that being said, as I looked over the rod selection, I saw something out of place. There was a black rod with a white stripe in the holder where the Hane should be. Being relatively new to the tenkara scene I was curious and looked. It was the Ebisu 10th anniversary edition without a single scratch or mark of use, even from sitting out.
I turned away not only because I was overwhelmed by there not only being tenkara products in front of me but because of the sheer size of the literal (what felt like) warehouse of fly tying supplies and fly fishing gear. There were fishing books, every fly tying supply you can think of, vises, waders, boots, bags, on and on… But, after I took two hours to peruse the store and pick up some random fly tying things I did not need, I circled back to the tenkara door.
I stared at the rod again and had to ask how much it was and if there were any more in the back. I assumed there were not since there was no holder on the wall for the rod. It took them 10 minutes to realize they did not know the price and had to call Tenkara USA headquarters to inquire about the price. They told the staff at Bear’s Den that not only were they limited edition, but there would be a discount for it being discontinued…
While this 10 minute wait was going on, I, of course, wiggle tested and played with the rod against Tenkara USA’s other 12’ rod, the Iwana. Man, did it wiggle. And, man, did I buy that rod so fast when he said I could have it and that it was the last one in the store. I looked down in excitement and there was also a Tenkara USA wooden tamo net. I guess it was a good day to treat myself to some local business shopping and the drive an hour away to support them was definitely worth it.
Who benefits more though? The family behind the den or the woman behind the (Ebisu) rod?
Amanda Hoffner, a half Japanese angler from Pennsylvania, began her tenkara passion when researching fly fishing methods from Japan. She can be found deep on a blue line in the Northeast of the United States fishing for native brook trout. Her Instagram name is @ladytenkarabum.
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