Article by Brook Blahnik
I often read on the internet and hear in fly fishing conversations about the importance of supporting your local fly shop. About the inherent goodness of supporting, with your dollars, the businesses and people who lend you their expertise and provide you with local fishing knowledge. The thinking goes that these local businesses help to foster a healthy, vibrant community of people who enjoy the pursuit of fly fishing – through guiding, events, workshops, etc… As a bonus there are usually some cool stickers (okay that last bit is mine).
Point being… I agree with these sentiments. I think there is truth to all of that and I do, in fact, support my local fly shops. While it’s not with every dollar I have, I do try and stop in from time to time, purchase at least a few flies and get the low down on what’s new, what’s different and what’s up with the streams in the area. This is a very easy thing to do. It makes me feel good and I usually learn something too.
I want to extend this logic and make an argument in favor of American tenkara rod companies. While they may not be local to you, they are local in the sense that they are American businesses with their company operations in the US (even if their products are manufactured elsewhere). They too are part of fostering a healthy, vibrant community of people who enjoy tenkara or tenkara-esque style fishing in the US.
Additionally many of these companies are putting out educational and instructional videos and/or supporting YouTubers and bloggers who also help to create community. Sure, some of these same videos might help them sell products – but so what? That’s what I call a win-win. A rising tide floats all boats.
I have absolutely nothing against rods from Japan (or anywhere else for that matter). I know that tenkara is attractive to people in part because of its origin and rich history. Japanese rods get a lot of attention partly as a natural extension of people’s curiosity with tenkara itself. I’m fine with that. And it’s certainly true that many Japanese rods happen to be excellent in both quality and craftsmanship.
However, if we want American rod companies to survive and thrive, if we want their help in continuing to grow and build a community of tenkara in the US, then it seems to me it would help to throw just a bit of business their way once in a while. I don’t consider this charity, some of these rods are pretty darn good and very likely deserve a spot in your rod bag.
Additionally, the fact you can get a rod or a replacement part when you need it and it ships domestically to your door is worth something too. If you break something it’s a $15 dollar 7 day problem versus a $200 dollar 7 week problem. American rods are practical to own when you happen to live in America.
I’m not suggesting you only buy American rods, nor am I suggesting you should give up your dream of getting that Oni Type I someday – I’m just suggesting that you may want to include an American rod or two in your collection if you don’t already own one. You might be surprised by the quality and customer service, and hey, it’s easy and it will make you feel good too!
Brook Blahnik is an avid outdoor enthusiast. He spends as much time as he can boating, sailing, camping, hiking and fishing. He grew up salmon fishing on Lake Michigan but has a new found passion for small water tenkara fishing. He fishes what he can, where he can, when he can – mostly in the upper Driftless of Wisconsin.
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